Distilled Water

As we left my sister’s house around 11:30 pm, I realized that I needed to pick up distilled water. We stopped by CVS. I ran in and looked at the water section. Another man was also looking and he asked, “Are you looking for distilled water?” I replied, “Yes.” He said, “Me too. I needed it for my CPAP tonight.” I replied, “Me too. Let’s ask if they still have it in stock.” He asked the receptionist and she said, “If you don’t see it on our shelf, we ran out.” He asked, “Do you think Walgreens might have it?” She replied, “No.” As we walked out of the store, he said, “Oh shit!”

I went back to our car and told my wife what happened. She quickly looked up Walgreens and it would be closing in 13 minutes. As we headed over, the neon lights started to shut off. I parked the car and ran in quickly. I spotted the same man I encountered earlier carried four jugs of one-gallon distilled water. He told me, “There’s more on the shelf.” I ran back and grabbed one jug.

Even with our masks on, we looked at each other at the checkout with a sigh of relief. I wished him a great night of sleep as we parted. It occurred to me that I am now depending on distill water just like drugs. I dragged my wife and my sleeping children to the store to get my drug. I should have listened to my wife and bought one earlier in the day. I procrastinated until the last minute.

By the time all of us showered and brushed our teeth, it was almost one in the morning. The kids were knocked out, but I was still wide awake. Even the CPAP didn’t really help much.

Sleeping With a Mask

I hesitated to conduct a sleep study because I didn’t want to wear a mask to sleep every night and maybe for the rest of my life. Even though my internist insisted that I didn’t need it, my wife pressured me to do it. She couldn’t stand my snoring even though we have been sleeping in separate rooms with our doors closed.

I brought the issue with internist again and she recommended the Neurology Center of Fairfax. I chose Dr. Cho based on the positive reviews I have read on Google. He turned out to be great. We did a Zoom meeting, in which he asked me a punch of questions. I also asked him about my concern of sleeping with a mask. I am sure he had received this question from patients over and over again. His response was that many of his patients wouldn’t want to sleep without it after they get used to it.

Dr. Cho wanted to conduct a sleep study in the office so he could get a comprehensive diagnosed, but my insurance denied. My insurance wanted me to do a home study first. I went into Dr. Cho’s office to pick up the test machine and one of his specialists provided me detailed instructions for setting up the test at home.

The sleep study machine was uncomfortable, but I got through it. My apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) was 8, which is a mild case for sleep apnea. an AHI of 30 would consider high risk. Dr. Cho wanted me to go into the office to get further testing and my insurance denied again. It wanted me to go ahead with the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Dr. Cho’s staff referred me to the Bay State Medical. Last Wednesday, I went into its office to pick up Philips’s DreamStation 2 Auto CPAP Advanced. A sleep therapy specialist went over the machine with me in details. He also showed me about half a dozens of masks to choose from. I picked out Fisher & Paykel’s Vitera Full Face Mask.

The specialist warned me that the first two weeks might uncomfortable. If I could use it for an hour a night in the first few nights, that would be find. After that I have to use at least four hours in order for the insurance to pay for the equipments. On Wednesday night, I started using the machine immediately. I was surprised how comfortable it felt. To distract myself from the machine and the mask, I read for half an hour before dozing off. The mask kept my mouth closed so I breath mostly through my nose. I don’t think I was snoring anymore. In the first two nights, I felt the pressured kicked in a few times while I was sleeping. The last three nights, I didn’t feel much as I am starting to get used to the machine. I have been using the machine from 6 to 8 hours a night. My AHI is 2.1, which is lower than 5. This is definitely a good sign. At the same time, I am now depending on this technology for a while or maybe for the rest of my life. Scary isn’t it?

Xuân’s Progress

Xuân wrapped up his ice skating lessons for the Tot 3/4 level. He did well on the test. Instead of going to Tot 5, I signed him up for Alpha/Beta. He can swizzle forward and backward. He can glide forward on one foot. I taught him forward crossovers and he can do them as well. He is ready for Alpha/Beta.

I wanted him to skip Tot 5 and go to Alpha, but I signed him up a level and a half higher so that we can have lessons on the same day. His new instructor will be the same as my current instructor. Although she is a great coach.

In the past few months, I had always been looking forward to Tuesdays so I can take Đạo, Đán, and Xuân to ice skating lessons together. I spent half an hour with Đán while Đạo and Xuân took their lessons. I read while Đán played some games on my phone or we observed how Đạo and Xuân were doing. Although their classes were at the same time, they were at different levels with different instructors. Then all four of us skated for 20 minutes before my and Đán’s classes began. Although it seemed mundane, I really enjoyed our time together.

I am already feeling a bit sad that Đán might not continue taking lessons after he finishes Gamma/Delta. He is not interested in figure skating. He wants to go into hockey. I asked him to give the Jackson Freestyle figure skates a try, he skated two times around the rink and gave up. He wanted to get back to his hockey skates. He had no patience and gave up too quickly.

I am enjoying Gamma. It is less stressful than Beta. I will take the next level, which is Delta, but not sure if I will continue into Freestyles after Delta. I am not sure if I can handle all the jumpings and spinnings. I am also still looking into switching my skates from hockey to figure.

Đạo has started the transition and he seems to do fine with figure skates even though he still prefers hockey. He wanted to go further into Freestyles. That’s good for him.

As far as expectations, my wife and I disagreed on what we have for the kids. She wanted them to have goals or make some achievements. She wanted them to work toward joining a hockey team or competing in figure skates. For me, I do not have any expectations. If they want to join a hockey team or compete, I will definitely support them. Otherwise, I am fine with them just skating and taking lessons for recreation. As long as they get off their butts and out of the house, I am satisfied.

A Great Deal on Jackson Freestyle

Đạo is taking the Gamma level for his ice skating lessons. He needs to make the transition from hockey to figure skates if he wants to continue into higher levels. He will need the toe picks to do the jumps and spins.

I wish the coaches went over the differences with us when we first started lessons. Đán has refused to give figure skates a try because he is so used to hockey skates. After his Gamma/Delta lesson he will stop. He wants to go into hockey.

Đạo, on the other hand, has been enjoying his skating lessons and picking up new techniques. We had been looking into figure skates for him. My wife bought him two pairs and he didn’t like them. Because they were brand new, they hurt his feet. He needs to give them time to break in.

I have been doing some research to find a good pair for him. I ruled out the beginner skates. I had my eye on the Jackson Freestyle, but it cost $265. I had been browsing Facebook marketplace, which I had never used before, to see if something would come up.

Yesterday I found a pair of used Jackson Freestyle listed in DC that matched his size. I contacted the seller immediately and we drove to DC for the first time in years to pick it up. The boots were still in good condition. The seller only has one kid and he quickly outgrew it. Đạo tried it on and he liked it. I noticed that the boots come with the Superfeet Carbon Pro Hockey Insoles, which cost $55. The brand new pair would have cost him $320. He re-sold it for $25. What a deal. Đạo asked me how much we saved. I’ll let him do the math.

Since this is a used pair of figure skates and they come with insoles, Đạo should have an easier time to break in. Now I need to find myself a used pair of figure skates as well. I am not sure if I can continue my lessons after Gamma; therefore, I just want a used pair to try out.

Skating Through Spring Break

The kids’ spring break comes to an end. I took a week vacation to tidy up the house. The first day went well. I reorganized the living room. For the rest of the week, I failed miserably. I was overwhelmed with the things we had accumulated, thanks to the one-click purchase and two-day delivery. I took the kids to ice skating, read, and just hang out. That’s a good staycation for me. Other than spending money on skating admissions and food, we saved a whole lot not renting a beach house.

Speaking of ice skating, we’re now having lots of interest. My nephews are taking lessons. My wife and her sister are starting out as well. On Friday, I booked 10 admissions for all of us. We took up 12 percent of the rink’s capacity. Its COVID restriction had increased from 65 to 85 skaters. With private lessons and 85 skaters, the rink is getting crowded. Practices have been a challenge.

Xuân is a natural skater. He just started out, but he skates well. I showed him how to glide on one foot and he could hold for 10 seconds. I showed him the cross-over. Instead of bringing his right foot over his left, he made a hop. I would fall on my face if I tried that.

Đạo is doing really well with his lessons. He started Gamma last week, but he can already do hockey stops, 3-turns, and Mohawk by watching me practice. He just needs more practice to perfect them.

Đán is doing Gamma/Delta. Last week, his instructor taught the class the bunny hop, which required the toe picks. He couldn’t do it because he’s using hockey skates. He tried out figure skates, but he refused to use it. He is now too comfortable with the hockey skates; therefore, he kept tripping over on figure skates because of the toe picks. He can’t take anymore ice skating lessons if he doesn’t want to make the transition over to figure skates. He wants to go into hockey instead.

Đạo and I will be making the transition over to figure skates. The break-in period will be painful, but we’ll try. It took me months to break into my hockey skates and now I have to go through it again. I am not sure yet, but I might be finished with lessons after completing Gamma. I am too old to do the jumps and spins. Then again, I kind of like the challenge.

At the beginning of Gamma, I was having trouble with the 3-turns and the Mohawks. Through determination and practice, I have overcome them. Our instructor threw a whole lot of techniques at us, but I only focused on one at a time. I practiced one technique over and over again until I could feel the flow for it before moving on to the next one. What I loved about ice skating is that once it clicked, it felt so natural. I don’t have to force myself to do it.

As for rollerblading, the kids seem to lose interest. As the weather is getting warmer and nicer, the skatepark is also getting crowded. One of the reasons the kids don’t like going to the skatepark is too much swearing. They are right. These teen skateboarders and even young scooters around my kids’ age cussed like sailors. Most of the time, I focused on skating and zoned out the noise around me. These days I noticed more and they cussed so much. I let my kids stay home and I went myself. I fell once in a while on the curved ramp, but my arms and butt were no longer in pain like before. I am also working on a backward swizzle. Other than that, I haven’t done much. I need to set up some kind of goals for rollerblading.

I still love these two sports, but I am leaning much more into ice skating. I still like to keep my options open. These days, skating is the only form of exercise that I am doing.

Đạo and Đán Continue to Skate

Đạo and Đán took their ice skating tests on Tuesday. Đạo received perfect scores once again. He’s a careful skater who follows instructions and practices what he had learned. He performs the techniques with ease and he enjoys the lessons. He will be transitioning from Beta to Gamma next week.

Đán didn’t get perfect scores, but he did well. Unlike Đạo, Đán is an adventurous skater. He learns new techniques by doing them. He isn’t afraid to fall when trying out new tricks. He only does things he likes instead of paying attention to his instructor. He doesn’t seem to be interested in the techniques his instructor taught him. He can do them, but not with the finesse he invested in. He will be transitioning from Beta/Gamma to Gamma/Delta next week, but I am debating whether he should take private lessons instead of group lessons.

Xuân seems to enjoy his group lessons. He follows direction well. He is not as careful as Đạo, but he is also not as carefree as Đán. He will be good if he continues to take lessons.

I am reaching my limit at Gamma. I am struggling to do the techniques. I tried to practice today, but I was not in the mood. I ended up skating slowly and mindlessly. It was quite therapeutic, actually. I think I’ll bow out after this level. I am too old for jumping and spinning. I’ll get back to skating recreationally.

Stay Young

Xuân and I started our first ice skating class last Tuesday. I enrolled Xuân in the second level for toddlers. He did really well even though he didn’t take the first level. He followed his coach’s instructions and he was able to do forward and backward swizzles. He enjoyed his first lesson with three other kids around his age. They looked so adorable and made ice skating look easy.

I began the Gamma level with the same instructor from the previous class. Two fellow classmates returned, but one lady didn’t. We had two new ladies join our group. On the first day, our instructor threw a lot at us. We had to skate on our edges (left and right, inside and outside, forward and backward). Then she launched into the 3-turn technique on one foot. I could barely turn 180-degree on two feet.

On Wednesday, I took Đạo and Đán to practice and spent an hour and fifteen minutes on just trying to do a left-180 turn with both feet. I didn’t get too far. I kept on tripping. I went home, searched up on YouTube, and found a video from coach Mary Dung Nguyễn. Her instructions were easy to follow and she demonstrated the 3-turn with effortlessness.

After a long day of work on Thursday, I went to the rink myself since the kids went over to their cousin’s house to play. I practiced turning 180-degree with just my right foot. After about half an hour, I found my groove and it just worked. What I have found fascinating about ice skating is that your body just goes with the flow once you get it. I also discovered that my left foot is even better than my right foot even though I always started out with my right foot. Once I have the right foot down, I can easily transfer over to my left.

I hardly walk or jog anymore. I am not the type that workout in the gym; therefore, skating is my form of exercise for the moment. I still have a lot to learn and I like the challenge. I am the oldest student in the group and probably even older than my coach. Like Art Blakey said, “I’m gonna stay with the youngsters. When these get too old I’ll get some younger ones. Keeps the mind active.”

To Continue My Ice Skating Lessons

After some contemplation, I have decided to continue my ice skating lessons. The main reason is that I was able to recruit Xuân to join us as well. It is convenient that all four of us will have lessons on the same day. Đạo and Xuân will start at 6:50 pm. Đán and I will start at 7:40 pm.

Xuân will begin the Tot ¾ level. He will learn to push and glide strokes, prepare for snow plow stop, dip, skate forward and backward swizzle, push right and left T-position, stop with one-foot or two-foot snow plow, and skate backward wiggle. He will have fun at this level.

I will begin the Gamma​ level with the same instructor. I will learn to do the three-turn right and left forward outsides, the Mohawk combination right-foot and left-foot insides, and the hockey stop. I know how to do a bit of the hockey stop, but I have no idea about the three-turns and the Mohawks. I am looking forward to the lessons.

Between the group lessons for four us and countless public sessions for us to play and practice, we are making quite a bit of an investment into the Fairfax Ice Arena. I am now taking on freelance web design and development projects to cover it. I am wrapping up a fun, useful site for the Mural Arts Philadelphia. If you need a small website for your business or passion, hit me up.

Completed the Beta Level

This evening I wrapped up my seven-week ice skating lessons. Beta was a challenging level for me because it focused on backward skating. I struggled to keep up. Every week I took half an hour of lesson time, but I spent at least five hours practicing in public sessions. I was a bit stressed out because we had to take a test at the end of each level. We had to pass the test in order to move to the next level.

Before taking the test tonight, I took a practice session to make sure I would pass. The test went well. I scored 49/50. I got perfect points for stroking, left T-stop, right T-stop, and left-over-right crossover. I got a 9 for my right-over-left crossover because when I crossed my right foot over, I also slid my left foot to the opposite side. It was a natural instinct.

Overall, the hard work paid off, but I am still debating whether I should take the next level, which is Gamma. I want to learn ice skating just for fun and having to take the test puts more pressure on the whole learning experience. Maybe I am just taking it more seriously than I should.

My coach always wore a beanie all the way to her eyebrows and a huge black mask that covered her entire face. Revealing only her eyes made her both mysterious and a bit intimidating. She appeared to be tougher than she was. She was an excellent teacher and I learned quite a bit from her coaching.

Safety’s Always First

I am an old-ass father who loves to skate with his kids. Whether on ice or on the street, I always wear my helmet and my protective gears. Although I don’t do anything crazy, I don’t want to put myself at risk even for minor injuries.

Đán wears his helmet, but he refuses to wear his protective gears when we go ice skating. He banged his knee against the wall real hard. He was in pain for a week. If he had his knee pads on, he could have protected his knees.

One time, we witnessed a woman break her wrist and an ambulance was called to take her to the hospital. She wore a helmet, but if she had her wrist guards on, she might have prevented the injury.

I had seen several adults fall and hit their head on ice, and yet not too many people wore helmets. At the skateparks, I rarely saw any skateboarders wearing helmets. From what I have read, wearing a helmet makes a skateboarder appear weak. I am at the age where that type of pressure doesn’t get to me. I explained to my kids that I rather look weak than the possibility of getting a head injury.

In retrospect, I put my life in danger on several occasions when I was a teenager myself. I hadn’t seen a coffin; therefore, I hadn’t shed a tear.

In high school, I rode with my best friend at the time who was into car racing. Once in a while, I sat next to him in his little red Acura Integra as he was doing 100 to 120 miles per hour on the highway racing against other friends with cars. Neither of us had our seatbelt on. What the fuck was I thinking? My life was in his hands.

A gun incident at a friend’s house still gives me a chill every time I think about it. The friend’s stepfather was a gun enthusiast. He had guns around his house. Another friend picked up a shotgun on the sofa and aimed at my head. They both knew the gun was not loaded. I suspect the gun was not loaded, but I told him it didn’t matter. I looked in his eyes and said that I didn’t want him to pull the trigger. He did anyway. I felt the chill air passing by my head. He thought it was just a joke, but I was dead serious. I didn’t need a friend who put my life in danger so fuck him. I never went back to the friend’s house again.

A boating accident still leaves me devastated even though it happened decades ago. A handful of us rented two canoes at a state park. None of us wore life jackets. Being dumb teenagers, we stood up on the canoe, which caused it to capsize. I could barely swim. Luckily, I was able to grab onto the boat. We flipped it over and climbed back on. We thought everyone was safe until we realized one of us was missing. He was a good friend of mine. We couldn’t find him. He was gone. If we had our life jackets on, he would still be here today.

In the time of the global pandemic, wearing masks could stop the spread of the virus. If wearing a mask could protect each other and save lives, it is not about freedom, but about responsibility. It is an individual freedom to not wear a mask, but it is not a freedom if the individual could affect others. If we had done our part, the death toll could have been less than 500,000 and my mother could have been alive today.

Maybe I am getting old; therefore, I am getting much more cautious. I take precautions over preventable risks any time. I have the responsibilities not just for my family, but also for my community and for my country.

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