Fruit cutting = love

I was having a Zoom chat with two of my friends yesterday night, and one of the topics that came up was fruit cutting, funnily enough. We were talking about our lack of social lives given the pandemic, that Zoom chats were the real “out” of conversing with our partners. And I told them that I’ve prepared lunch every single work weekday for Chris and me, not to mention daily fruit bowls.

“I have probably prepared about 370 fruit bowls for both of us since this pandemic began!” I exclaimed.

One of my friends responded that her boyfriend is obsessed with having fruit cut for him, too. When they were in Bali years ago where they had a helper who would prepare meals, he explicitly requested a fresh fruit smoothie and a plate of a variety of cut fruit every day. She thought it would be nice for her to cut him some fruit one day after the trip, so he asked for papaya. She went to buy a papaya and realized how annoying it was to peel and cut the fruit, so she gave up, and he ended up having to cut it!

“If he wants fruit, we can go on vacation again, or my grandma can cut it for him!” she said, laughing. She said moving forward, she would cut him a fruit bowl once a year… on his birthday.

Chris has no idea how good he has it….

Grocery shopping items – me vs. my husband

While Chris does admit that he can be controlling when it comes to deciding on trips, even where we are going on our Saturdays exploring New York City, he is also quick to point out that he rarely decides what we are eating since I do 99 percent of the cooking, and thus I usually decide what we eat and let him know after I’ve started prepping. I mean, to be fair, if he says he feels like a certain type of food, I am happy to accommodate it, but he rarely does.

But the really funny thing that always happens whenever we go grocery shopping together is comparing what I put into our cart vs. what he puts into our cart. For the most part whenever I go grocery shopping, regardless of what store/market I am in, the bulk of my purchase is always fresh, perishable foods, which translates as primarily fruit and vegetables (if we’re at Costco, I’ll purchase meat to stock our freezer quarterly. Costco is the primary place I buy meat at, and occasionally at Whole Foods. I buy almost all my seafood at Whole Foods). Occasionally, I’ll pick up a whole grain or whole wheat bread, some tortillas, and of course oat and/or cow milk and juice when we are running low, but fruit and vegetables are my primary purchase. So when we are loading items into the cart, I’m mostly adding fruit and vegetables, or some pantry staple like dried beans or rice. But when Chris thinks about grocery shopping… he’s mainly thinking about a few categories:

  1. Juice (no orange, ever)
  2. Milk (cow or oat; he gets upset if he sees that I’ve purchased almond and/or soy)
  3. Chocolate (he prefers Aussie or British chocolate, but occasionally likes to try chocolates imported from Belgium or some other chocolate renowned country)
  4. Mixture or banana chips (if shopping at a South Asian grocery store, or some kind of ‘to tide you over’ snack pre-dinner time)

This is why I jokingly have told him many times that not only he is my baby, he’s a baby when it comes to grocery shopping: he likes to pick out the “non-essential” items that are more like snacks and treats rather than the “real food” for our diet. 😀 He’s like the kid who accompanies his mom during grocery runs, adding in the “extras” like random snacks and sweets covertly while mom is busy checking items like vegetables or fruit or grains on her shopping list.

Stimulus checks and their recipients

My mom called today to let me know that she was surprised to receive a $600 check in the mail from the government. Apparently, she qualifies for a stimulus check because of her disability status. She was obviously super excited because… well, who would NOT be excited to receive $600 when they were not expecting it at all?

I haven’t read much about the way the stimulus checks work, especially since I know I don’t qualify for any money, but that is rightly so. I was reflecting over the last year of my mom telling me that she’s had nearly daily food deliveries, plus free produce and canned foods from some local provider for senior citizens, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt that something seemed off. My parents have no money problems. They live a comfortable life and it’s their choice to live frugally. Why do they somehow qualify for all this free food when I found out my former high school teacher, actually living on a tight, fixed income, qualified for nothing?

Yvonne meets Food + parents

When I first started my YouTube channel, my dad was encouraging of it because he saw that it could potentially be a future profession if I worked hard at it, and he embraces the entrepreneurial spirit. “You will never be fulfilled working for someone else,” he’s repeatedly said to me in many ways over the years. My mom thought it was cute but silly. “You already are at a computer all day long for work, and now you want to spend MORE time at a computer!” she exclaimed. She was worried for my health, that I might develop carpal tunnel and get further eye strain from more time in front of a screen. She said that I don’t know how to rest (takes one to know one, Mom). They watched some of my videos in the beginning, but I could tell my dad wasn’t too excited about the content, and my mom seemed to think I’d eventually give it up.

Then came the pandemic and the fact that they could no longer have me visiting as often as I used to. This means that they had no idea when they would see me next. So when my mom would see her friend, they’d watch my YouTube videos on the big TV screen and comment on my cooking or what I was saying. My mom was finally regularly watching ALL my videos. This was her way to “see” me.

Chris sent them Yvonne meets Food shirts, and they actually arrived today. My mom got super excited and called immediately when they arrived. “How did you DO this?” she asked, super curious and thrilled. “It has your NAME on it!”

“That’s my YouTube channel logo,” I explained to her. “Doesn’t it look familiar? And it has a mango in the middle of it!”

“WOW!” she exclaimed, looking over the logo. “I like this red color, too! Your Daddy says that I have to wear it now. We will both wear them! It feels soft, too.”

My parents will be wearing my Yvonne meets Food shirts. I smiled to myself, imagining them walking around San Francisco with matching shirts, advertising their daughter’s YouTube channel.

I wonder how many new subscribers they will get me.

Cash as a gift in Asian households

When I was young, I always thought it was a bit odd that family members, other than my aunt who lavished gifts on me constantly, always gave me cash as gifts. It didn’t matter if it was Christmas, my birthday, or Chinese New Year (well, Chinese New Year is always cash…), but I always just expected to get cash. In my white friends’ and more Americanized Asian friends’ homes, everyone always gave… you know, real physical gifts as presents. They’d choose a shirt, a sweater, a piece of jewelry, a toy… something that they thought the receiver would like and appreciate. I always wondered why my parents didn’t take the time to think about some thing that I could potentially like and give it to me.

Looking back now as a thirty-something adult, I realize that this thought was truly immature and lacking perspective. I had no idea how good I had it then… at all. As an adult, I am still, until this day, given cash by my mom and my dad. My dad would just give it to me (he’s a man of few words, just actions, as you can tell). And my mom would just say, “Well, I don’t know exactly what you like, so you can choose something you like when you want.” It is such a privilege to be given… MONEY. PERIOD. It gives you freedom to do what you wish with it – spend it on something you know for sure you will like and appreciate (or need… hello, groceries and bills?!); save it for a rainy day; invest it to make the money grow. It is a privilege to have family and friends of enough means who actually are capable of giving you money. I don’t know who you are as you are reading this, but how many times have you received an actual gift that you thought was absolutely hideous, or just didn’t fit what you wanted or needed at that time? Isn’t that pretty much all of us? Doesn’t that high potential end up leading to a lot of wasted time, money, and actual objects that would ultimately get wasted and likely thrown into a land fill?

But money? Money never fails. It can always be used. No one will ever throw it away.

I thought of this today as I received a check in the mail from my dad for Christmas. He wrote a short but sweet note, wishing us a merry Christmas in New York. I haven’t seen my parents for Christmas since 2011, but it hasn’t been a big deal since my parents don’t really celebrate Christmas anymore with my mom being a JW. Plus, since 2013, I’ve been coming home at least three times every year. For some reason, this time when I received this gift, I just felt a little empty. I definitely do appreciate the gift. But it made me wonder when I’d actually see my parents in person again with this looming virus and no end of this pandemic in sight.

Grandma’s staple dishes

Stir-fried tomatoes and eggs: a classic Chinese dish no matter where in China you are, or no matter what Chinese household you are in. It’s a simple dish that requires just tomatoes, eggs, salt, pepper, oil, and maybe some scallions or fresh garlic if you’re feeling fancy, but at its core, it’s a simple, humble, easy dish that sings with the right amount of salt and pepper to season it. When I was growing up, my grandma did a lot of cooking, both simple and complex, and tomatoes and eggs or tomatoes with beef stir fried were always one of our simplest but favorite dishes. A lot of people would never guess this was a classic Chinese dish, but ask anyone who grew up in a Chinese household with Chinese home cooking, and this is considered simple comfort food.

When I moved out and started living on my own after college, many nights I’d come home from work with few things ready to eat, so I’d quickly stir fry some tomatoes and eggs, toss them over rice, and call it my dinner. Fast food wasn’t much of a thing unless it was a treat at my house growing up, and so we always valued home cooking above all else — not just because it’s relatively inexpensive, but it’s frankly just healthier.

It’s not a sexy dish. It’s also not a dish who someone who is not Chinese would normally get excited about. But for me, it’s comfort food in all its simplicity, and it reminds me of all the fond memories I have of my grandma cooking and preparing nutritious food for me and my brother.

Comedians on death and loss

I’ve seen Chelsea Handler on and off on a few of the shows that we watch, including The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, but I never really thought much of watching her standups or shows until she talked about how she had a therapy session and came to the realization that she lacked empathy and needed to build it. I’ve occasionally heard her reference her brother who passed away, but I had no idea how he passed or what her relationship was to him.

The other day, we watched one of her standup specials that was filmed this past summer in New Jersey. She talked about her older brother Chet, and how he used to come home from school and she would try to “take care” of him by “serving” him a big bowl of his favorite cereal. They were close and had a special relationship. He was leaving for a hiking trip in Wyoming, and he promised that they’d spend time together when he came back. He never came back because during his hike, he fell off a cliff and died. She was only nine years old, and he was 22. As soon as she heard the news that Chet had died falling off a cliff, her immediate response was to take all the cereal boxes in the kitchen and throw them away.

As soon as I heard this, I just immediately started crying. It was like an automatic response to this awful shock and tragedy that she and her family had to face. Through work with her therapist, it was unclear whether she was more traumatized by the fact that he died, or rather that he made a promise to be with her again but never came back, or maybe both. Every time I hear stories of sibling deaths and siblings’ reactions to the deaths, I can barely handle myself. It’s just too much raw pain and trauma. His death happened over 30 years ago, yet it stays with her until this day and continues to shape how she sees the world and deals with life events.

I guess that’s also me, too, with Ed. Others don’t really get it until it happens to them.

41

Today, Ed would have turned 41 years old. If he were alive, I’d likely make fun of him and tell him that he was old. Since he’s not, I guess I can’t make any stupid jokes about his age. In life and in my mind, my Ed is forever 33, just three weeks shy of turning 34. I’m 34 now, which means… in my head, my brother is now younger than me. As odd as it sounds, that may not necessarily be far from how I saw my brother. Even though he was seven years older than me, in many ways, I saw him as though he were a younger brother. He’d never really fully matured and been self-sufficient. Many reasons exist for why that is the case, but I frankly think a huge part of it was due to our parents.

In the last few days, I thought about random articles, books, podcasts I’d listened to and read that reminded me of Ed. One of the ones that stood out to me was Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. If you are familiar with this play, I feel about Ed the way the character Tom feels about his awkward, unstable little sister Laura. I love him because I know him deeply, have lived with him, and thus I know his quirks and multiple facets. But the outside world, unfortunately, is not as forgiving and patient, and they never gave him as much of a chance to be known and seen and understood deeply, and ultimately to be loved. That’s the way the world is: other people will always be harsh on you; only a small, small inner circle of people around you will actually see you and really love you for your best qualities. Everyone else will superficially judge you for what is on the outside.

It’s like this podcast I was listening to that talked about how you generally will remember and think of someone only in the context you knew them, and that in itself will form your opinion of them. For example, if a colleague once berated you in public and never apologized to you for it, you will likely only have that to reference him by and won’t like him, nor will you have anything positive to say about him. It wouldn’t matter that literally every other person in your organization thinks he’s the smartest, kindest, most generous person. It wouldn’t matter that he devoted every Thursday evening to serving meals for the homeless or spent $10K every year on donations to support cancer research or suicide prevention. None of that matters because your experience with him was bad. We only see the bubble that we are in.

I want to say that I wish Ed were still here, but I know I would not be honest in saying that. He’d likely still be living at home, under the constant tyranny of my parents, who would criticize him nonstop and accuse him of causing them shame and embarrassment, even though it is really the opposite that is true. They’d never accept that they had any fault. They would only look to blame Ed himself. He would never be allowed to grow and truly become an adult as long as he were to live under their roof. With them, he’d never be capable of experiencing true, unconditional love, because our parents have no idea what that is like, as they live and thrive on criticizing others. He’d never know what it is like to feel real encouragement, to be told that he is smart and can and should do what he wants, and should trust his gut. We just weren’t raised that way. And above anything else, all I wanted was for my brother to be free of pain and hurt, to feel loved. If he can’t feel that in this life, maybe he will feel it in the next.

A true test of whether you think you are doing something “appropriate” to another person is whether you feel comfortable saying or doing it in front of others. Once you are scared to do it in public, shouldn’t that be a sign to you that probably, that’s not the right way to treat someone? It’s too bad our parents never realized that. Ed deserved so, so much better than he got. Sometimes, it feels like he died in vain because ’til this day, it’s like nothing about our parents’ lives have changed for the better. It’s like a pathetic existence that just continued and only got worse.

I feel angry today. Really angry. COVID-19 hasn’t helped this… because all I could imagine at the beginning was my brother stuck under the same roof as our parents nonstop and how that in itself would have driven him to suicide.

These are not great thoughts. But they are real thoughts.

When you help your family in a different way than originally intended

I originally cleared my calendar today to help babysit my cousin’s son while my cousin and his wife were supposed to move. They’re in the midst of moving from the Upper West to the Upper East Side, so I figured I’d be a good family member and help out. Well, it ended up not being what I thought. I arrived, and my cousin said that his wife’s mom actually came earlier than they expected, so she’d stay with the kid at the old apartment while they moved with the movers to the new. Wait, I said. What does that mean I’m supposed to do here? And he suggested that I go over to the new place with him via his rental car and watch the movers to ensure they did not get a parking ticket. Their mover had already gotten one parking ticket at the old place and really did not want to get a second one. Well… that’s just great. I ended up standing around the front of their new building, appearing like a random loiterer wearing a dragon-fruit face mask, keeping my eye out for the cops. In the end, I did see one police car drive by, but they were clearly out for someone else totally unrelated.

They all thanked me for helping. I really didn’t feel like I did anything other than perhaps offer some moral support to the both of them. But maybe that’s what they really wanted me there for. They both looked like they had aged years and years since the last time I saw them. They’re also so paranoid about the virus that they are literally disinfecting every single new thing that comes into their apartment. I think my entire head of hair would be white if I did that, too.

30-minute masked visit

My cousin who lives in Sunnyvale drove all the way up to San Francisco to see his mom, my aunt, and my parents yesterday. After not seeing them since pre-COVID-19 lockdown in March, this was likely my oldest cousin’s longest period of not seeing his mother. He calls his mother literally every single day and reports nearly every single thing he does to her every single day. She likely knows more about his life than his own wife does. So when I hear that he’s finally come up to the city to see her after over five months of no visiting, I think, great. Now, my mom’s going to be thinking, “Yes, that’s what a good child does — visits their aging parents during a pandemic!”

He and his wife stopped by a Chinese bakery, picked up some baked goods, and brought them to the house, all masked up. They sat in my aunt’s living room for 30 minutes with everyone wearing a mask except my mom (why am I not surprised?). Then, they left to drive all the way back down to Sunnyvale. How did he communicate this to me? He texted me a selfie of them all sitting around in the living room together.

My dad emailed me two months ago, asking when I would be visiting San Francisco again. I genuinely just do not think it’s responsible for anyone to be flying right now unless it’s a true emergency. Why would I want to risk other people’s lives just so that I could travel and enjoy myself? This pandemic has truly revealed exactly how selfish Americans are, in addition to how beyond moronic this federal government is. I see all these posts on social media of people flying across the country, flying to Montana to hike in Yellowstone and Glacier. And all I can think in my head is, “Why are you all such selfish fucks? FUCK YOU ALL!”