2023 – A Truly Transformative Year

I’m currently writing this blog post in the bed of our camper van Olive in Baja California, Mexico with yobo, Boo-yan, and Carp and there isn’t a place where I’d rather be right now. I’ve reached a wonderful equilibrium point in my life where everything seems to be where they should and where I would like them to be. This feeling of balance is occurring in all the major pillars of my life: family & loved ones, physical and mental being, finances, and vocation. I’m truly blessed to be at this point in my life at such a “young” age so that I can maximize, what I hope to be, a long life. My mother-in-law talked about how she’s noticing that her patients were “waking up” and really acknowledging their surroundings and other beings. I feel like this year did that for me where I have woken up and realized the important things I needed to focus on, and what my purpose is in this wild, precious, and singular life that I have. I think Elsie de Wolfe said it best, “I am going to make everything around me beautiful – that will be my life.”

A Life Changing Experience in The Olympic National Forest
Yobo travelled to Nashville for a bachelorette party and flew in/out of Seattle because it was a cheaper flight so I thought I would make a trip out of it by spending a few days in the van but I had no idea where. I recall wanting to visit the Hall of Mosses but never realized that it was in the Olympic National Forest where is basically right in our neighborhood so I decided that was the spot and loaded up the van with myself, Brooks, and Carp for a little fur baby adventure. It worked out perfectly that there was a lot of spots available at the nearby Sol Duc Hot Springs so I decided that was my home base for the trip while I went around to explore the Olympic Forest. I got the visit the Hoh Rainforest where the Hall of Mosses trail was and I was absolutely awestruck by the old growth forest with the towering Western Hemlocks and the abundant, lush, and vibrant mosses that hung from every limb – it was a moss-lover’s paradise. I felt so at-peace and a sense of belonging and warmth – I could spend years there. My most transformative experience occurred when I went to the Sol Duc Falls where I loaded up on some mushroom pills before and smoked a joint at the top followed by some wine and the culmination of my surroundings and the different mind-altering chemicals allowed my being to explore and see things I don’t think was possible otherwise. I remember reading works by John Muir in the van and his quote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” really hit home with me and I realized the interconnectedness of this world. To continue with the Earth theme, I had previously downloaded David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet and watched it that night and it felt like he was speaking absolute truths to me with the most poignant being that if we wanted to maintain a sustainable life then we need to eat healthy foods. This encouragement helped me change my dietary ways and I try my best to be as conscious as I can about what I put in my body and how I can use my choices to shape what I want the world of food to become – less meat, more vegetables & fruits, regenerative agricultural practices, and treating all life forms in a humane fashion. Lastly, I read a passage from John Muir where he talks about his beloved family horse that died and that illuminated my love for Brooklyn and I came to terms that night that she was eventually going to die and it absolutely devastated me. Since I was by myself with nobody but Brooks and Carp, I let it rip 1000% and just bawled my freaking eyes out and holding Brooklyn and telling her she was the best dog and that I love her so much – she probably had no idea what was going on and scared for her life lol I seriously felt like Gandalf the Grey after fighting the Balrog and leveling up to become Gandalf the White so I went into the Olympic National Forest as Khang and came out as an entirely different person, one who is entwined with nature and the voice of the forest, I became a Kodama.

Je Suis Viva La France
My 3 years of French in high school finally paid off!! lol jk all I basically could say was oui and merci and left the speaking up to Beth who is fluent and the catalyst for the trip since it was her 30th birthday present. France was an amazing experience because I only know Europe from the movies and internet comments and it all made it seem like the French hated Americans but I found everyone to be very friendly, helpful, and accommodating. I also don’t know why I thought the Europeans were less “sophisticated” in terms of technology than the US but their public transportation system freaking blew ours out of the water, it wasn’t even comparable. Albeit, I’ve only had a few experiences with the US public transportation system in Oregon, Washington, California, and Pennsylvania. We visited a lot of great places like Paris, Nantes, Domme, Arles, and the Pont-du-Gard. Nantes was where Beth studied abroad and my favorite city that we visited – I would love to be able to live and work there. It was a dream city for me where the restaurants were incredibly delicious, the walkability of the city was fantastic, the people and culture was extremely pleasant, and there were people hanging out at the train station!! I can’t even begin to imagine people wanting to hang out at Union Station in downtown Portland, you definitely try to spend the least amount of time as possible at Union Station unless you want to get robbed or stabbed lol My time in France opened my eyes to what life could be like when you can don’t have to worry about the hustle the whole time, the entire place had a “college feel” where people walked and biked to places they needed to go and spent the afternoons chilling with their friends. Of course this was me with my le vie en rose as a tourist but it let my imagination sore of what life could be like in a city. We ended the trip by flying out of London and I got to visit Stamford Bridge!! It was the stadium of my favorite football club Chelsea and it was so cool to see the plaques of all of my favorite players like Zola, Drogba, Lampard, Terry, Cech, Cole, but no Jose Mourinho sadly. The last event we did on this trip was go watch Mammia Mia! and it was bloody brilliant!! The cast as out of this world and we had such a great time listening to the wonderful songs and getting to sing at the end with the crew – highly recommended!
Not sure why the images are so tiny lol

Olive – Our Millennial #VanLife Dream Come True
We first got the notion that van life could be the thing for us after renting a camper van from GoCamp and traveling down the west coast on the 101 for our honeymoon. It was an incredible experience and we loved every minute of it. We were already used to spending every second together because of Covid and our living situation where we live in a 500 SF studio basement where we work right next to each other – we are one now and know no boundaries lol We did a lot of research and bit the bullet and put in an order for a brand new Ford Transit which we received in June 2022 and finished the build in March of 2023 in time for a trip to Lake Havasu to spend time with Beth’s dad and his wife. That van build tested the limits of marriage and we rarely fought before the van but man did we have a lot of fights while building it! There was one fight that occurred during a dog walk where Beth got so frustrated at me that she threw down the dog leash and started to walk home and I knew I had to follow her back instead of continuing on the dog walk if I wanted to remain being married and building this van lol Literally every screw in van was put in either by me or Beth and we felt such a strong feeling of accomplishment when we were done and celebrated with a very nice dinner at our favorite restaurant Ok Omens. The meal was a celebration of the completion of the van but most importantly that we did not kill each other lol We’ve taken Olive on so many adventures and this is definitely going to be a time that we look fondly back on as our “hippie” days when we traveled across the country living out of our van with our dog and cat. The part that blows me away the most is that we had a dream and we were able to bring it to fruition, literally. Every time we do a trip in it, I’m blown away that all the things still function and we were able to do all of it ourselves; DIY = Do It with YouTube!! Just this year we took the van to Lake Havasu, Las Vegas, Joseph, La Grande, Olympic National Forest, Mt. Hood, Baja California, and of course our cross country trip to Vermont for a friend’s wedding. Olive has brought so much joy and adventure in our lives and I’m really happy we had the courage to take on this endeavor and it has really helped take our marriage to another level.

Alexis (Ren) Becoming a Musician
This was the year that Alexis and us really started to share her love for music because we went to so many concerts together including ones that she played in with her school orchestra and band! It brings such a smile to my heart knowing that she is able to pursue something that she really loves and enjoys. Beth and I are both big fans of music and the arts so it’s been fantastic learning about new artists from her like BeaBaDooBee, Laufey, Men I Trust, Steve Lacey, Tyler the Creator, Yves Tumor, TXT, and so many more! She is also becoming quite the playing musician with her work on her violin along with the electric bass guitar that we got her for her birthday – she is also taking private lessons and I think that has really helped her get deeper into the music because I definitely do not have the skills nor knowledge to answer her musical questions lol I’m so excited to see her music skills blossom as she continues the practice and I look forward in supporting her every step of the way.

Parents Retired!!!
My Mommy and Ba retired this year after working ever since they were kids in Vietnam!! I’m so happy that they are able to have this moment in their life where they don’t have to work and can truly enjoy their life together with no worries of an occupation. Most importantly, they were able to get to a spot financially where they are comfortable to live within their means and it brings me great joy to see them become much happier versions of themselves. They gave and taught me the work ethic I have today and I would not be here without the sacrifices they made for our family by working crazy hours when our family needed them to. I’m forever grateful for everything they’ve done and extremely proud that they are able to retire so they can live their best lives into the future. It is magical seeing them nowadays as they are always beaming and truly enjoying the fruits of their life’s work and labor – I’m beyond happy for them! If you’re reading this Mommy and Ba, I love you very mucho and thank you for all your sacrifices and enjoy your retirement!

Green Roofing 479: Oregon Stonecrop and other sedums

You want to put mother eff’ing PLANTS on top of your ROOF??? You cray.

Yeah, that’s what I constantly heard when we talked about green roofs but sometimes you gotta look at the science and see if it’s an overall add or a delta and depending on your perspective and research, you pick the one that confirms with all your values, and of course the codes lol

First I had to build the foundation which was basically 2×6’s on those preformed rhombus-prism concrete looking things. Then the flooring was just 1/2″ green plywood and then I started the framing which was regular 2×4’s @ 16″. Then the part that you came for… THE GREEN ROOF!!

I might have both over-engineered and over-worked the green roof like I went through and made sure there was absolutely nothing sticking up. Like I sanded the whole damn plywood sheathing. After that, I put on filter fabric for further protection of the pond liner and used permanent weather tape to seal it all together. Onwards, I put on the 20 mil ponder liner and cut a hole and waterproofed for the downspout (this was extremely stressful lol). I then added on a layer of 1″ washable HVAC air filters as my drainage layer. My thought was that it will allow for the same capillary action that a typical commercial drain mat would have. The next step was to put on another layer of filter fabric to act as a root barrier and also to keep the soil mix from clogging up the drainage layer. After that I carried up buckets of the planting mix which was 75% perlite and 25% potting soil. Lastly, I planted the roof with as many species of sedums and stonecrops that I could. I believe I bought the entire stock of Oregon stonecrop at Portland Nursery lol

The TriForest

My Top 3 Lessons from Corporate America

Can you imagine having something be a major part of your life for the past 9.5 years where you spend at least 8 hours a day having it affect your life somehow and all of a sudden VANISH?!?! Well that’s what happened to me when I decided to leave my first post-college job and explore if the grass is greener on the other side.

I worked at Turner Construction for 9.5 years and was so grateful to them for hiring me straight out of college at the tail end of the Great Recession in 2012. As fate would have it, I got the offer on the last day before I had to make a decision on my only other job offer. Luckily, I didn’t have to travel down the “how my life would have unfolded if I lived in Texas” multiverse. Throughout my time at Turner, it was surreal to see what Corporate America was like because I’ve only seen it through movies. All of my family worked blue collar jobs and nobody had a white collar job so this was all a new experience for me. The onboarding was amazing!! It was also very thoughtful that they gave us a book that taught us etiquette’s of the corporate world like not drinking from the finger bowl. I remember taking a “business dining” dinner at Oregon State and when we had our first lunch meeting, we were all just chilling and eating with our hands! Also the first time I ever heard of or tasted a Wedge Salad. It’s literally just a wedge of lettuce with Hidden Valley on top of it. Although it did help me when I advanced to the level of “networking dinners” and that’s where that bougie class was helpful.

I can write about so much about my time in the Corporate World but I got a bout of inspiration and decided to choose some life lessons as a post idea. I’m just going to get to it!!

Lesson #1You have to ask for what you want.

This one seems pretty easy right? I do it all the damn time at Taco Bell! Steak soft taco please and a Cheesy Roll-up for Brooks. But the person who told me this said I would be surprised how often people don’t express about what they want. My question that prompted this response was, “Should I tell the OM that I want to be on this specific project or should I let him decide?” So with that piece of wisdom I was able to get on my “dream” project and I really think that propelled my career. For the majority of my career, I was able to tailor my resume to how I wanted it to read rather than let someone else do it.

Lesson #2 – Relationships define project success.

We were hanging out, drinking beer, and shooting the shit in the Yellow House kitchen when I heard this little knowledge nugget. Our awesome project was coming to an end and we were reminiscing about all the good times and one of the Owner’s rep said that one of the ways he defines project success is if he wants to work with that person/company again. He brilliantly replied that he would want to work with our team again lol I’ve taken this to heart and treat all my projects on this level of emotional intelligence. Your industry is extremely small and you will always run into someone from a past project. So make sure they’ll greet you with a hug and not a middle finger 😉

Lesson #3 – Freedom from Work is through Personal Finance.

I was a closet nerd for 18 years of my life. Back in the day it wasn’t cool to like gaming, comic book characters, and pretty much anything cool now. I loved personal finance from an early start because my family was poor and I knew that I did not want to be poor when I grew up. Spending time in Corporate America took my personal finance game to the absolute next level. The freaking smorgasbord of money goodies that popped up right before my eyes like a 401(k), an HSA, and the ability to max my Roth! I started to do Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and that ultimately led me to the life I have right now.

In Conclusion

Wow, I haven’t written “in conclusion” since college. Can you imagine if someone had to write “in conclusion” in a work email? Like how freaking long is your email if you gotta add an “in conclusion,” You should already know that I stopped reading 2 bullet points ago. Anyway, Corporate America has given me so much and I’ll forever be grateful but I’m not gonna lie, if I just got paid and didn’t have to work I would be okay with that lol would you?

My Wedding Vows to Beth 10/10/20

My dearest yobo, I love you very much and I hope that I can convey to you on our beautiful wedding day in words how you make me feel every day. 

Over these past several years together, I have grown to love you more and more each day and you continue to blow me away with all of your amazing attributes. I’m so lucky to get the privilege of waking up every morning to your gorgeous eyes that shows the vast deepness of your soul, your beautiful freckles that shine with the glow of a thousand splendid suns, and your smile that expresses the kindness of your heart.

Your kindness is one of the things I love the most about you because of all of the small and big things you do for your loved ones. When poor Olly passed away and we had a burial for her where you included her favorite gifts and then you beautifully sang her a song that melted my heart – it showed how much love you can give and I’m truly blessed to receive it.

I love how strong-willed, smart, and ambitious you are. When you have your eyes set on something, I believe with all my heart that you will achieve it and I’m grateful to be your partner to help you reach your goals. You will never have to do anything alone. Whether it’s becoming a shareholder at Geffen Mesher or trying to bathe our crazy dog, I will forever be your +1.

So, you always say that I forget every song’s lyrics but I promise that I won’t forget these following lyrics to the soundtrack of our life together.

I promise to always be the number 1 fan of your career. I’m so proud of how you’ve grown as a professional over these past few years with your promotion to audit manager and then being the driving force behind Forward Slash. I love talking about your amazing accomplishments to everyone I know and I vow to always go to any business event with you where I’ll only occasionally wear my Crocs.

I promise that I won’t ever let us go to bed angry because I believe there isn’t anything we can’t talk through with enough time, late night coffee, midnight snacks, and depending on how big the argument is maybe the occasional snuggle or two.

I promise to continue and develop our self-created love language which comes in the form of words like yobo and batch, randomly dancing and hugging while we make dinner, and singing all kinds of songs and replacing the words with different names for Carp and Brooklyn Bandito. I love that we can be weird together but not too weird, just the right amount where others might think we’re crazy but we definitely know we’re not crazy… right?

I promise that I will continue to date you. I love our Friday date nights where we can unwind with some nice food, good wine, and then go to our personal make-shift spa at home. I will keep buying you flowers not because it’s a special day but because it’s a Wednesday and I felt like you needed flowers.

I promise to take care of you through the peaks of good health and through the valleys of sickness. You’ll always have someone at your side when you’re vulnerable and you’ll never have to worry if you’re inconvincining me with your requests because we are one and I can’t be healthy if you’re not healthy. 

I love you with all of my being and even though I keep buying lottery tickets at 7-11 and we talk about what we would do if we ever won, I know that I’ve already won the biggest jackpot by getting to be your husband.

The Girl That Glowed With a Thousand Splendid Suns

Being wanted is a feeling that is innate and borne into us as soon as we leave the womb and feel that loving embrace from our mother, someone who truly and unconditionally wants us… most of the time. I have completely forgot what it felt like to be wanted after being stuck in a relationship for almost a decade where our relationship was devoid of emotional connection and I truly believe neither party “wanted” the other. There are tonnes of baggage, disappointments, and sadness that has festered and allowed to stew to create a horrendous cyst that was drained every now and then but always kept growing back because the root was never removed – and I personally did not think it could be. We stayed together for so long because of our daughter but the Universe finally said enough is enough and gave me a sign to move on and my gut has taken me so far in this world so I decided to proceed. This story takes place one month after the separation and is another fulcrum moment in my life that I will always cherish. This happened on Friday and it’s currently early Tuesday morning therefore I wanted to get my feelings down of what I felt before my memories and emotions start to blur and it’s not as poignant. My hope is that I can look back on this post when I’m in a spot where love has left me and I’ve become callous, that it can remind me that there is love out there and it’s the best high you can get. Warning – major cheese ahead, proceed with caution and eyeballs ready to roll backwards.

A Going Away Party at Suki’s Karaoke Bar
A member of our MBA cohort was leaving back to his hometown so we all got together for one last time at this bar which I use to drive past all the time when I worked out in Hillsboro but have never noticed. I walked in around 9:30 PM or so when the party started at 8 because I was busy watching LeBron James try to come back from a 3-0 Finals deficit. I enjoyed the atmosphere because there was a diversity of folks – a group of cosplaying friends, the long-term couples in the back, the college kids in the corner, and the creepy old guy right in front watching the drunken Asian guy sing Amish Paradise. There were eight of us with six being part of the cohort and the other two girls being friends. Things started uneventful as I just went to the bar to catch up by drinking summer shandys… I can’t help it but they’re delicious. After about three of those I was ready to karaoke!!
Focus is Great but Learn to Look Up Once in a While
During this time, I had taken an interest into one of our cohort members and spent the majority of the night talking with her. My plan was, as corny as it sounds, to sing “As Lovers Go” by Dashboard Confessional to explain to her my feelings – I know right, what is this? High school? But the plan was foiled by the DJ not having that song so I settled for some “All You Wanted” by Michelle Branch which is an awesome melody in itself but didn’t quite get the message across, but it was also a super fun song to sing. So after the song, and a few more beers, I went to talk to my cohort member some more and came off way too forward. Like when you take that leap with your crush and you wish you can get back on the ledge but that train has choo-choo’ed away. Anyways, she was not interested. A quick detour in the story but I tried to see if it would work over the weekend by messaging her but she was not having it – I was almost about to buy her a gift/flowers and have it sent to her but before I did I googled “when to know when to stop trying to get someone who is not interested” or something like that and found this absolute gem of an article by Love Panky: here is the link. First and foremost, I do not blame her for anything. I completely understand that everyone has their preferences and clearly I was not her type and it was hard for me to understand that at the time but the article helped me overcome that mindset. Anyway, I had spent the entire night focusing on someone who had absolutely no interest in me that I did not notice the stunning girl sitting across the table from me.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
I honestly don’t recall how it happened but we ended up drinking canned Tecate at a table all to ourselves. The alcohol was flowing and we ended up starting to get closer and closer then I had flashbacks to middle school of playing the “nervous” game where you would creep your hand up until the other person said they were nervous – we were as nervously close as could be. When the orange musky bar light illuminated her face, the first thing I noticed was that her face was kissed with hundreds of freckles. They were generated randomly yet somehow in all the chaos of genetics, their beauty was undeniable. The first thing that popped into my mind when I first saw those freckles was that it made her face radiantly beautiful and bore the glow of a thousand splendid suns. Now whenever I see another freckled face, hers will always be the golden standard that I would set all else to.
Living in the Moment
It all started with her hair being all frizzy on one side because of the humidity I guess, not sure since I don’t have long girl hair. As soon as I reached up to fix her hair, to her great surprise, I felt a strange surge of warmth that was mixed with desire and acceptance. She asked if I did that to truly fix her hair or if I was just trying to touch her and I replied both, and she whispered that she liked it. I repeated the kind gesture a second time but this time she reached up to hold my brushing hand and gravity pulled us together in a delicate embrace. It was the first time I kissed a different woman in almost a decade and it was life changing. I cannot speak for her, but for me, it was so eventful for me because I was currently in a state where I was unsure of myself. Was I attractive? How am I going to recover from being in such a long relationship? What if I’m a terrible single person and no one wants to date me? Should I just go back to the safety of my ex and forgive? But her kiss showed me that yes, there is more than one girl in this world. When our eyes entwined, I saw something that I haven’t seen in many, many years… my longing for that person being accepted and then mutually reciprocated. The Universe has a great sense of humor if you haven’t noticed, how do I know? Because for the brief moment that my ears became lucid, I heard some drunk dude signing Mirrors by Justin Timberlake and among many other things, that song will forever remind me of her. It was a beautiful experience in my life because for that brief moment in time, I was utterly and completely lost in her soulful chocolate eyes. I felt like Leo and his wife in Inception where they had already spent a lifetime together in what amounted to just a fraction of time in reality. I didn’t care that the night would eventually end, I didn’t care if there were people staring at us, or that I will probably never see her again after tonight. For once in my life, I was in the moment and not thinking about the next step. I will forever be indebted and grateful to her for giving me an experience that I will cherish it for as long as I need it.
Be Patient, There is Love Out There and It’s Beautiful
In our marketing classes, we saw a TedTalk with Drew Dudley talking about lollipop moments where an insignificant event in your own personal life makes a profound impact on somebody else’s. In his case, it was telling a shy guy to give a lollipop to the girl standing in front of him in line, that small ice breaker led to the two being married several years later. Once again, I can’t speak for her and this might just be another drunken random make-out session in a bar but to me it was an epiphany and a reminder that there are people out there who are interested in you and are more than willing to reciprocate your love. I have nothing but complete admiration for her, I feel as if she was an angel sent down to help lift my spirits and all I can pray for is that I made her feel happy in our short moment together.

How I Cut the Cord and Got Rid of My Cable Bill

My favorite part of Gardetto’s Original Mix is the roasted garlic rye chips and I would only eat those if I could but nope! Gardetto’s makes you buy the entire bag with all the other bull crap and won’t let you pick out those rye chips by themselves. This is exactly how I feel about cable packages. They bundle all this crap together and make you pay for it but you really only want ESPN, TNT, and BeIn Sports!! And it has been this way for decades with no other place to go but just like how Gardetto’s finally got wise and made the Special Request: Roasted Garlic Rye Chips bag, somebody has finally come up with an offering that fits YOUR wants rather than what THE CABLE COMPANY wants and what works best for THEIR contract agreements. Join me on this journey to learn how I cut the cord and custom fitted my TV entertainment to what I wanted and ditched a $170.92 cable bill from Comcast.

A cable bill just like everyone else’s
Yup you read that correctly, $170.92. This was the Xfinity Premier Double Play with DVR and 2 extra boxes and 100 mbs internet. Sure it was pretty great having 200+ channels but when you’re only watching 5 of those, it’s quite a big waste of money! Just thinking about how much myself and other people have spent on unwatched channels just makes me sick, $170.92 * 12 months = $2,051.04 per year!! You can take a pretty solid weekend vacation for $2,000 bucks! That’s a lot of clothes! A lot of drinking! A lot of restaurant time with the people you love! But nope, it’s getting spent on things that are of no use to anyone except for the cable company. Going through my debt-free journey, I’ve learned to be INTENTIONAL with my money and this was clearly a monthly payment that was not.

Step 1: Deciding on what Internet package to get
I could have stayed with Comcast and reduced my package down to just internet but I’ve quit from DirecTV before and if you want to have constant phone calls and letters about why you quit and if you want to upgrade your package then please go this route. I wanted a CLEAN CUT. I considered it a white lie when I told Comcast that I was cancelling because I was moving overseas. This was the best part, they asked if there was someone who could keep using the services I set up or if I knew of someone I could transfer my package to… wtf do you even mean! I HIGHLY recommend telling them the reason for cancelling is that you’re moving overseas because I haven’t received one phone call or letter from Comcast where DirecTV still calls and sends me letters when I have told them repeatedly to fuck off, just like that bad ex.

I decided to go to with Frontier because I had them before so I knew they were reliable and they were also cheap at $40/month for 30 mbs speed. Since I didn’t game anymore and we have a fairly small household, this was the perfect package for me. The worst part? Having to take a fucking day off so that they could hook-up my internet which took 15 minutes because I was a previous customer. Yes, let’s make our CUSTOMERS wait for us to install OUR shit and don’t let them pick a time, just tell them we’re going to be there sometime between 8 FUCKING AM AND 5 MOTHERFUCKING PM… what a joke. WHERE IS GOOGLE FIBER?!?!


Step 2: Tailoring YOUR entertainment package
I NEED SPORTS!!! This ultimately led me to have the package that I currently have along with what makes my parents happy as well. Although one sacrifice I had to make was giving up my soccer matches because I couldn’t find a good alternative and I didn’t watch that much anymore anyways. So here is what my subscription/software package entails:

Netflix = $9.99/month
I feel like this is an absolute must for that price. There are not many things that cost $10 that give me as much entertainment value as Netflix. Just think of all the great shows available on there: OITNB, Stranger Things, Marco Polo, Narcos, Master of None, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and so many great movies. This is the bare minimum.

Sling TV = $13.99 (T-Mobile Discount, usually the price is $19.99/month)
This is also a necessity for my situation because it gives me the Big 3 of ESPN, ESPN2, and TNT (for NBA basketball – LeBRON JAMES!!). It also gives me the Travel Channel and CNN which I really don’t care for but my parents love.

Amazon Prime = $99/year or $8.25/month
I mostly got this because of the free 2-day shipping but they also have movies and music available to stream. Not gonna lie but I haven’t watched a Prime movie or show since I’ve gotten it, however, my parent’s like the foreign movies on there so at least someone is using it. Once again, this is essential not necessarily for the entertainment value but that 2 day shipping is unbeatable, freaking LOVE IT!!!

Total Monthly Subscription = $9.99 + 13.99 + 8.25 + $39.99 = $72.22 for a total savings of $98.70!! WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH AN EXTRA $100/MONTH??!!?


Mohu Leaf 50 = $49.92
If you’re a sports fan, then this is another piece of cutting the cord that you can’t escape. The Mohu Leaf 50 lets you pick up the local channels but why is this important? COLLEGE FOOTCHIE BALL, THE NFL, AND THE NBA FINALS!! WHAT MORE DO I NEED TO SAY? But be sure to check what kind of channels you can expect to pick up with the Leaf – here’s the FCC website. It’s kinda funky because I get ABC, NBC, CBS downstairs but not FOX, however, in my parents room upstairs, they get ALL of the Fantastic Four channels.
Amazon Fire TV = $64.99 (Refurbished)
This Fire TV itself is not that amazing but paired with Amazon Prime and Kodi, the Fire TV has no rival. You can also use the Fire Stick which works just as well but cheaper. I would talk more about Kodi but let’s just say that the first rule of Kodi is that you don’t talk about Kodi. It’s kinda like Pirate Bay but except with streaming, and that’s all I have to say about that. Kodi is what will fill all the gaps in your entertainment needs, believe me.

Total hardware costs = $49.92 + 64.99 = $114.91 => ONE TIME COST TO GET THAT STUPID ASS CABLE COMPANY OUT OF YOUR LIFE!!! Except for the internet… still no solution to that oligopoly. COME ON GOOGLE FIBER!!!

So if you’re like me and so freaking tired of dealing with the cable companies bullshit then cut the cord!! I’m not going to lie, I was afraid at first because what am I going to do without my OPTION of 200 channels?!?! Well It’s been 6 months now and I’ve never been more happy with my entertainment package. I do hear some cries from my mom because the soccer matches are a lot harder to find but everything else is copacetic.



What It’s Like Owning Your Dream Car

A Ferrari Enzo? How about a Porsche 911 Turbo? Maybe a Lamborghini Aventador? Perhaps a Lykan HyperSport? NO THANKS!!! My dream car is a Honda S2000 and I have loved every minute that I have owned this wonderful, beautiful, and absolutely kickass car. It was love at first sight when my virgin eyes were forever changed with the most exotic thing I’ve ever seen – a black Honda S2000 with them sweet ass decals and that NOS absolutely decimating poor Jesse’s VW. And of course those iconic words coolly whispered by Johnny “House of Ogedei” Tran, “Too Soon, Junior.”


Since that moment in time, I knew that someday I would have the privilege and honor of owning my own Honda S2000 and luckily that day came sooner rather than later. In the year of my quarter-century, the tipping point came when Tiffany got herself a new Honda Fit and I got bit by both the jealously bug and the S2K centipede (why a centipede? well if you’ve ever seen one move, it’s sexy as hell and very intriguing – just like the S). I began the search and found a completely stock one at CarMax with only 45k miles and one previous owner – it was one that I just couldn’t pass up! And to sweeten the deal, it was a free transfer from California! So I got a loan from LightStream and next thing you know my dad was teaching me how to drive a manual transmission in the Lowe’s parking lot! The car has been an absolute orgasm to drive and I’ve learned a few things from not only owning my first car but my DREAM car!


1. Driving Can Be Fun, Especially If It’s Manual
I’ve always looked at driving as getting from point A to point B although I knew how exhilarating going fast can be as I drive my motorcycle in the summer but those are two completely different categories, it’s like comparing lamb and tuna fish – it just doesn’t make sense. I never thought the acceleration of 1st gear and then shifting into 2nd could put such a fat-ass smile on my face, I literally screamed out-loud because it was that awesome. And then hearing that awesome roar of VTEC when I hit 6.5k RPM, I don’t think I felt that kind of an adrenaline rush since I jumped out of a plane. And the incredible thing is, I still get that feeling every time I drive that freaking car! I also met a great group of people who also enjoyed driving their S2000’s and the group showed me there are fantastic roads to push the limits of your S2K – I highly recommend joining the enthusiast group of your dream car, everyone shares the same love that you do for the vehicle.


2. It Feels Different When You Have the Title and OWN the Car
This might have to do with me going through my debt-free journey with the car payment. I had the constant battle of should I sell this car so I can get out of debt faster because at the time I could basically sell it and not lose any money. But, I decided to stick through it because I didn’t want to be one of those guys who had to sell their beloved cars because they got in a financial bind and it gave me extra motivation because this was the first car I bought and also my dream baby. I kept and car and cleared my debts and as soon as I got that title the car just started to sound different and handle differently. This is MY CAR, not the banks’, not the lenders’, nobody’s but MINE, MINE, MINE! It was the first major personal asset I had and it felt absolutely incredible to own it outright.


3. You Don’t Give a Shit About What Other People Are Driving
I was a little envious of my peers driving sweet ass cars like BMWs, Audis, Subaru’s, Lexus’, and of course my girlfriend’s brand new Honda Fit! But one thing I learned about this dream car process is the horrors of having a car payment and how many people are throwing away money in a depreciating asset where they can “afford” the payments. I read an article that said the average car payment in the US was $457/month!! That was believable to me since my own car payment was $267/month and my mom’s was $650/month for her 2013 Honda Pilot. So instead of putting that $5,500/year into a Roth IRA, you’re putting it in an “asset” that goes down in value with every single mile driven. I daily a shitty 1999 Toyota Camry and feel completely fine with that because I know I got my queen in my garage and when I look at these new cars, I just feel sorry for the buyers and their monthly car payment.

If you have the opportunity to purchase your dream car, DO IT!!!! But only if you can do it with cash and avoid that car payment! I don’t ever plan on selling my car because it has too much sentimental value tied to it and I don’t foresee myself ever being in a financial pinch where I’m forced to sell it.


How I Got Debt-Free!!!!

I’m not special.

I don’t come from a wealthy family, I didn’t win the lottery, and I don’t have a 6-figure income, nor am I a genius.

I’m your typical Millennial that graduated college with student loans, although I’m in the STEM field with a decent income for a recent graduate. My goal is to help inspire Millennials and other generations that debt is not a way of life, not everyone has debt and there is a plan to help guide you through the process. Below is the story of my financial paradigm shift from a typical American to a Debt-Free believer.

Living Like Everyone Else
The initial point of my debt-free journey occurred a few weeks after my 26th birthday on a February Sunday in 2015. Up to this point, I was extremely comfortable with my life and thought that I was financially secure. I graduated from Oregon State in 2012 with an engineering degree and had a job already lined up at graduation making $56,000/year which is something that was unfathomable to a broke college student like I was. Fast forward to 2015 and here I was saddled with student loan and credit card payments and to my great chagrin, a car payment because I felt that I could “afford” my dream car (a Honda S2000). I also got wrapped up in a bad video game addiction that had been haunting me all my life since I got a Nintendo Gameboy. My life was falling into a rut where I was blinded and falling into a deep, deep hole. I would go to work, go home, play video games, pay bills, sleep, and repeat the process. The video game addiction was starting to interfere with my personal life where I would spend my weekdays when I got off work and more than 20+ hours on the weekends playing games. It also started to seep into my work performance and that’s when I knew that things were starting to get bad.

Dave Ramsey and a Cold Turkey
I’ve always been a fan of personal finance with my interest starting at a young age where I asked my parents at 16 to help me open a Roth IRA so I could see what it was like to purchase stocks and mutual funds. I had a credit card with my mom at 15 and had a checking account along with a savings account therefore I considered myself “financially savvy” for my young age. Now as an emerging adult, the name Dave Ramsey came up a few times through my forays into the personal finance space of the internet but I never really paid him any attention. My coworker introduced me to podcasts and I downloaded a few episodes of the Dave Ramsey Show on my phone but didn’t listen to them – I was too addicted to the Serial podcast! Little did I know, the planets were already aligning to open the gate for my Debt-Free journey.

On a Sunday night in early February after a 16 hour bender of video games (DotA being my drug of choice) I stumbled like a zombie back to my room that I share with Alexis (daughter) and Tiffany (girlfriend) – we sleep on a bunk bed 😀 As I climbed the short ladder to the top bunk, Alexis’ butterfly night light illuminated both of their faces perfectly and flashed an epiphany in my mind. I heard a voice asking me if I loved my video games more than my family and why I couldn’t see the unintentional pain that I was causing them. Rather than spending time with them and putting them to sleep, I was in the other room wasting my life away in an unforgiving virtual realm. My inner eye was finally opened to the potential repercussions of my current path: losing my job, alienating my family, destroying my other relationships, and extinguishing any potential I had in this life. As I lay in bed, I made a vow that I would quit playing video games and I would refocus my energy to better my life. As corny as it sounds, I shook my own hand because I’ve always believed that a man is only as good as his word and that was a principle that I lived on.

The following morning I deleted DotA from my laptop along with the back-up file I had in my external hard drive therefore I had no way of getting the game again without considerable effort. I know I needed something else to latch on now that I didn’t have video games preoccupying my time. That same morning on my drive to work I decided to listen to my downloaded Dave Ramsey episodes and the rest is history…

Battle of the 5 Debts
I put pen to paper and listed my debts from smallest to largest to visualize how big and mean this monster was that I had to vanquish. The evil horde consisted of five demonic debts:
1. Phone Bill – $432 (I bought my mom a new iPhone for Mother’s day on a payment plan)
2. Credit Card – $1,645 (Remaining debt of my vacation to Florida TWO years prior)
3. Student Loans – $15,034 (I received my BS from Oregon State in Construction Engineering Management)
4. Car Loan – $18,968 (My beautiful Grace, a 2005 Honda S2000 with 45k miles)
5. Parent PLUS Loans – $44,052 (My parents sacrificed so much to put me through college therefore I wanted to repay them by taking over the loan payments)

Total = $80,131

The Debt Snowball
Dave Ramsey’s recommendation to getting out of debt is using the “Debt Snowball Method” where you list your debts from smallest to largest regardless of interest rate and work your way up the ladder. Once you pay off a debt, you use that monthly payment and add it to the snowball so that when you’re on your final debt the snowball resembles an avalanche! The debt-snow ball is a simple equation:

Debt Snowball = Income – Expenses

To increase the rate of paying off debt there is only 2 variables that you can modify, either increasing your income or lowering your expenses. I did as much as I could to change both variables so that I could finish this journey ASAP! I was making too much money to be so broke, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. My initial timeline showed me completing the journey in 26 months.

The most important thing I learned about getting debt free is that it’s not your weekend 5k fun run, it is Forrest Gump running across the country!! It requires 100% commitment from you physically, mentally, and spiritually – you will not succeed unless you get “gazelle-intense” and take it seriously.

Increasing Income
I knew I had to increase my income if I wanted to tackle this debt and Dave talks about getting a part-time job with pizza delivery being his go-to job recommendation. I didn’t think being a pizza delivery boy would work for me because A) I had a full-time job and the hours could potentially conflict B) my hours would vary from week to week. Therefore I searched for part-time jobs on Craigslist and found a perfect one! I was going to be a garbage man!

ZipEco (formerly Ecommunity)
The job was from 8-11 PM every day of the week except for Tuesday and Friday nights which basically meant that I would have to skew my work/life balance to the extreme. The other dagger was that it was in Vancouver, WA therefore I had a 40 minute commute each way to get to work. Fortunately, the pay was good and I had a fixed schedule that I could work with.

The apartment complex I was servicing consisted of 188 units and the tenants would leave their trash and recyclables in containers in front of their doors. My job was to carry these items from the door step to a centralized area that included a trash compactor and recycling bins. It was a physically demanding job but I was not scared of doing manual labor because I’ve spent many summers doing those types of jobs. Another odd thing was I never complained or felt angry about doing this job because I was doing the job for a greater purpose. I was “living like no one else so that later I could live like no one else.” That was my life for 12 months, I would work at my day job as an engineer till 4:30 PM, go home to eat and usually take a quick nap, head off to my part-time trash job at 7:00 PM, get home at 11:30 PM and then wake up at 6:00 AM to lather, rinse, and repeat. Adding this part-time job helped me reduce my journey by 9 months!

Additional Income
I did various things to increase my income as much as possible including:
• Driving for Uber
• Selling Plasma
• Selling everything I could on Craigslist
• Liquidating my stocks ($10,000) and decreasing my savings account from $15,000 to $1,000
• Taking out all the money that I had saved for Alexis’ college fund ($5,500)
• Selling all my silver at a 60% loss (never buying commodities as an investment again!)
• Eliminated my CarMax warranty (I didn’t even know you could do this until Dave mentioned it on his radio show)

Lowering Expenses
The greatest expense reducer I had was being able to live with my parents – if you have this option available then I highly suggest moving in with your parents to help boost your debt-free journey. Of course, make sure everyone is on the same page with a goal in mind of when you’re going to move out and what expenses you’ll be helping with. I am an only child and in the Vietnamese culture it’s not odd that children live with their parents for a prolonged time period – my grandma is currently living with my aunt and has lived with us as well for several years. I don’t pay rent but I do pay utilities to aid my parents in their household expenses and I also promised them I would take on additional expenses once I’m finished with this journey. Living with my parents has been a tremendous boost to me getting debt-free because they gave me support and have helped me cover so many typical expenses that I don’t have to pay for like laundry and groceries. I could not have done this without my parents.

Public Transportation
Another aspect of reducing my expenses was no longer driving to work but taking the public railway and even better my company pays for 50% of the public transportation costs! Another added benefit was now I get to read books instead of sitting in traffic. I usually spent around $20 on gas a week and countless wasted hours but now my commuting cost was $12.5/week which equates to almost $400 a year – this doesn’t include the wear and tear on the vehicle and of course the decreased probability of getting in a traffic accident which is astronomically higher due to Oregonian’s terrible, horrible, no-good driving abilities.

Bringing Lunch from Home
I started to bring my own lunch instead of going to fast-food restaurants. Typically, I was spending around $6 for lunch every day and eating non-healthy foods – the simple math shows that I was spending $30/week or $1,560/year on eating out at lunch. Bringing my own food allowed me to eat healthier and eliminated a big expense that I never really thought about.

No Social Life
A sacrifice I made was that I rarely, if ever, went to any entertainment or social events with friends and family. I didn’t go out to dinner, no movies, and no more nights out to the bars and clubs. This made me miss going away parties, birthday parties, celebratory parties, and all awesome parties in general! I was okay with making this sacrifice because it was only a temporary pause on my social life, I only needed 2 years to complete the journey and then I could enjoy myself without charging a big night out and then paying for it in monthly installments.

Stopping 401(k) Contribution
This cut was probably the moment I knew that I was fully committed to my Debt-Free journey. I loved investing in my 401(k) but I was diluting my goal by spending potential debt money into an investment. I was basically borrowing debt to be able to invest and that was not a smart move. I did a calculation on what I was giving up from my company match by not investing in the 401(k) and it was around $1,500 a year but to get the match I was also “sacrificing” $3,000 of income. I decided that I was diving into this thing 1,000% and changed my contribution to 0% and didn’t look back! Of course, when I get debt-free I will bump my contributions back to 15% as taught in Baby Step 4.

I’M DEBT FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!
This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. It required me to be fully committed to a goal that demanded my body, my mind, my relationships, and every inch of my life. I had to do a complete paradigm shift of my thoughts about money and how I viewed debt. I literally lived like no one else and now I can finally live like no one else. I sacrificed and took every principle Dave offered to help me through this journey. I was able to pay off my $80,000 of debt faster than I imagined and finished in 12 months! It’s really amazing how the universe starts to help you when you’re on this journey. I had money coming in from unexpected places and opportunities opened up that allowed me to get additional income. Break the chains that debt has on you because the borrower is truly a slave to the lender! I hope my story gives you inspiration to start your own debt-free journey because the view is magnificent from the top and when you don’t owe a single penny to anyone!!

There were two quotes I kept repeating as I went through this journey:

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse” – Jim Rohn

“Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else” – Dave Ramsey

I sacrificed a year of my life for an eternity of freedom and I would make the exchange again EVERY TIME.

Transferring a Title of Property from a Person to an LLC

Working in the construction industry has allowed me to meet a lot of individuals and fellow coworkers who own rental properties because they’re in the real estate industry every day whether its commercial or residential therefore it’s a perfect synergy. I always thought that rental property was something that only rich people have but I came to see that was not the case, however, the majority of them still had mortgages on the property. This is how I found out that some people created an LLC and transferred the title over to the company to protect their own personal assets. I then discussed the topic with my parents and this is also something they wanted to do to their commercial property and asked me if I would help them. Of course I said yes and it was an awesome learning experience setting up the LLC, writing the quit claim deed and then getting it recorded with the county clerk. Here is my post about the process but it’s tailored to Oregon/Multnomah County so you might have to just exchange the websites for your own state and county.

Step 1: Verify with your Mortgage Lender
I found out through my research that there are some mortgage lenders who have a “due clause” written into the mortgage contract that if the title changes hands then they have a right to demand that the full mortgage amount becomes due. Therefore, it is imperative that you check with your mortgage lender that they’ll allow you to transfer the title from your name to an LLC before you do any of the steps below.

Step 2: Creating an LLC
In Oregon, they have an electronic filing system to register your company therefore it makes things a lot easier – it took me less than an hour. You register your company through the Oregon Secretary of State and follow the prompts. During the process, they’ll also make you sign up with the IRS and get an Employer Identification Number for tax purposes. Once you complete the process, you’ll get a confirmation from the SoS with your “Articles of Organization” and can print out a “Certificate of Existence” to display on your company’s premises – I believe the total cost was $60. Here’s my LLC’s CoE and this along with the AoO will be important documents in the next step.

SCAN0001Step 3: Business Checking Account
The next part is to create a checking account under the name of your business. This will help uphold the “Corporate Veil” where there is no mingling between your finances and the company’s. Any monetary transaction for the property needs to go through this account and that includes rent, improvements, salary (if you decide to pay yourself or someone else), misc. expenses, etc. The majority of banks and credit unions have a business checking option and you should shop around for which best fits the needs of your LLC.

Step 4: Transferring the Title with a Quit Claim Deed
Using a Quit Claim Deed, you’ll be able to transfer the title of the property from you to the LLC. There are specific requirements from your county’s recording office on how these need to be drafted and what information is required. These are the recording requirements for Multnomah County in Oregon:

recording_standardsYou can draft the Quit Claim Deed yourself or look up the public deeds at the Recorder’s office and create a similar one – this is what I did. It’s all public information and the county had a nice option where you can just search for Quit Claim Deeds – all you have to do is pay a few dollars to get it printed. Here are some examples that I copied for my own Quit Claim Deed:

SCAN0004It’s very important that you include all the information required by the Recorder or this could mess up your documentation. Luckily, the clerks are very helpful and they helped me a lot through this whole process. Also, if you’re trying to minimize costs then you can limit it to a single page like the first example because each page was a $5 cost and that can add up quickly.

After you get all your documents completed, you just submit them to the Recorder to enter into the public domain and the transfer is complete! The property is no longer under your name but the LLC and if someone decides to sue you then only the assets in the LLC are at risk. I believe this is a very important tool that everyone who owns rental property should look in to. The overall cost of the process was $180 for me and didn’t include my time but it was a great learning experience so I enjoyed every minute of it. If you don’t want to spend the time then you can have a lawyer complete this for you but I guarantee there won’t be one who will complete if for less than $200. If you can find a lawyer who will do this for $200 then message me and I’ll PAY YOU to get it done!

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Disclaimer: This is for general information purposes only. I recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice.

Why I want to get an MBA

I’ve always wanted an MBA since my days in high school because I thought it distinguished yourself from others but now that an MBA degree is no longer as “sexy” as it was before my reasoning have definitely changed. One of my goals was to get accepted into a top 10 business school, MIT being my focus, but the reasoning behind it was a little naive and selfish. Part of me just wanted to go through because it was MIT!! And also a top 10 which the big Wall Street companies love, apparently. As I’ve gain more knowledge I can see that the opportunity costs are not worth it and now that I have a family, do I want to sacrifice 2 years of watching my daughter grow up to chase a goal that was built on a weak foundation? Also, the end game would most likely result in an increase in my salary but also, most likely, a substantial increase in my hours. With my certain circumstances, I’ve found a perfect solution in pursuing a part-time MBA at Portland State University. This will allow me to stay with my family and also continue working for Turner at the same time, who happens to have a tuition reimbursement program. But the question still remains as to WHY I want to get an MBA and HOW it will benefit my company and my career. It’s also good to write things down so this is my thought process and reasoning behind those prompts.

Here at Turner we don’t sell a product or tangible assets, what we sell is the knowledge, abilities, experiences, and skills of PEOPLE. Therefore if you can improve your staff then you’re only increasing your potential for profitability and ability to sell work. There are a lot of things you can learn on the job and from training but there is also a tremendous amount to learn through course work and interaction with professors and fellow peers in an academic environment. I want to take the holistic approach and add the regiment of academic study to my lessons on business behavior and how a business is ran. By learning about strategies and business theories, I believe I can apply this to my company to find ways we can innovate and improve our processes. The data has shown that construction grows a lot slower than other industries and gaining further knowledge of other sectors and businesses can only help to set my company apart. I believe the knowledge I gain through a graduate business education will give me more perspective and tools to increase the profitability and potential of my company.

Business Relationships
One of the biggest part of business is building relationships and strengthening them because it’s always more fun to do business with someone you know and like and gives you ability to brace and plan if you’re going to do business with someone you might not like so much. From my short time in the construction industry, I quickly found that eventually everybody will know everybody – it’s a small world and there are only a few big players. Being a business class will give me the opportunity to create business relationships with people outside of the construction industry and most likely we’ll be in upper management at our respective companies over the dozen years. Who would you trust building your $40 million office building? Someone who you studied with for countless hours and shared beers with or just some general contractor off the streets? When at business school I’m going to try and create as many relationships as I can because it’ll make the experience more enjoyable and memorable along with providing with a great sound board for the future.

Public Speaking
Without a doubt, if you want to be a big shot at a company then you will need to be a veteran and expert in public speaking. For example, the general manager at my business unit is an amazing public speaker. He never has unnecessary pauses, flows eloquently, uses his hand gestures perfectly with the words, and speaks crisply, cleanly, and very coherently. Every time he speaks I take mental notes to what he does and how he does. I’m sure other people can relate to when you see and hear an excellent speaker talk in front of a large audience – it’s truly a skill that one must master and practice over many hours. Pursuing an MBA will give me many opportunities to practice public speaking whether it’s in large or small groups and will be invaluable experience in my future business career.

Exploring Other Business Industries
My undergraduate degree focused on construction and civil construction and I never really had a chance to learn about other business industries. The MBA’s curriculum will give me a taste into other business industries like finance, private equity, business logistics, global business, product manufacturing, and so many more. I’m very happy being in the construction industry however I would love to delve into finance and private equity a little bit further. I’ve always loved all aspects of business and I think the education will make me more well-rounded by giving me a glimpse of how other industries handle processes/procedures and perhaps I can translate those into the construction industry. I’ve heard many people get an MBA to switch careers but that is not one of the focuses on why I’m getting an MBA – I just want to see what else is out there and if anything else sparks my interest.

These things are what I’m striving for when I go to pursue my MBA – my plan is to apply to PSU before the February deadline and then begin taking my first classes in September 2016. This will also include studying and taking the GMAT which will be difficult with my the current schedule I’m on trying to get debt free but if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way! I also plan on discussing my goal with my supervisor and upper management this week to get their buy-in for the tuition reimbursement program. The plan actually flows quite smoothly as I’ll just be done with getting debt-free as I enter business school.