The Yans – A Score & Ten

THIS PAST JUNE, my parents celebrated their 30th anniversary. I haven’t given them many gifts in the past, since they live simply and are content. But this year was something special, and I knew this year had to be different.

I wasn’t sure what to get them at first, but then it dawned on me. Inside my parents’ house sits a picture frame with a family portrait that we took at Sears about 13 years ago. Aside from random pictures in wedding photo booths, we hadn’t taken many pictures together since. Why not take new family portraits? I thought it’d be a nice way to commemorate their anniversary, so I pitched the idea to my sister Cat.

As it turned out, Cat was planning on flying back to LA on a weekend in late June after a business trip to Seattle. She was planning on surprising my parents. And, well, she did. The next morning, after I had dropped her off late the previous night, Cat told me that Mom had awakened from her sleep only to see a dark figure in the hall. It took her nearly a minute–and only after my sister chuckled and said “Hi Mom”–to realize that it was my sister. Cat said it was like she had seen a ghost. Mom would later explain, “No, I just thought your brother had brought home a girl.” I chuckled when I heard the story; I didn’t know what was more believable.

I called my good friend Steve to see if he could set up an impromptu shoot for our family. I had initially tagged him to do it, but he had planned on heading up to SF that weekend. Fortunately for us, his trip got canceled last minute, and so it worked out. I told my parents to bring out their Sunday’s finest as we were celebrating their anniversary with a photo shoot in Chino. Mom was delighted. She said it was the perfect gift as she had also been thinking about updating our family portrait. God has a funny way of working things out.


My pops said that back in the day he used to look like Chow Yun Fat. I replied that he still does, but with a bit more emphasis on the FAT. We swap a lot of jokes between us–and advice about ladies, too–but when it comes down to it I love this man. I didn’t agree with some of his decisions when I was younger, but I’ve come to a better understanding as an adult. Throughout the years, he’s dropped a lot of nuggets about being street smart, dealing with hardships and how to man up. I can say that as we’ve grown older, we’ve arrived at a place of mutual respect and appreciation.

“Remember son, if all else fails, marry a rich girl.” Much respect, Pops.


Whenever my dad was gone, working late nights at the liquor store out in South Central, Mama would rule the house with a stick and spatula. She’d be the one to discipline me with that wooden, feathered stick, only to serve me a hot bowl of rice and veggies moments later. I thank her for that. Love isn’t letting stuff slide. It’s saying I care about you enough for you to learn the hard way now, rather than the harder way later.

Of all the people in my life, I don’t think I’ve ever known a more considerate and selfless person. It’s not rare for her to go out of her way, even to her own inconvenience, to ensure friends and family are taken care of. When my friends used to come over during the school year she’d often cook up a storm of ribs, shrimp, fish, and “green sticks.” Her cooking was legendary in my circle, and she might very well have been responsible for half my friendships.

Mama, I’d sing a song for ya but I think Tupac already did it well: “There’s no way I can pay you back, but the plan is to show you that I understand–you are appreciated.”


One day back in high school, a group of friends ran up to me all giddy during lunch. They told me they had spotted a girl who looked just like me, except with long hair. “Yeah, we followed her around and called her Martina!” I asked these fools if they were talking about my sister, to which they replied in disbelief: “What! You have a sister?!” One of those fools happened to be our photographer Steve. How fitting.

As you can see, a decade has passed and my sister has more than blossomed into her own. She’s cool, hip and beautiful without trying. At present she’s carving her own niche out in the bright lights of New York. I haven’t been a good brother; I don’t call or pray for her as much as I should, but I love her and am proud of her all the same. Sometimes when my friend Chris and I are hanging out, we’d bring up the topic of our sisters and how much cooler they are than us. Yep, I’d say, she’s one incredibly cool cat.

The Happy Couple

This is probably one of my favorites in the bunch. It was a candid moment, after my pops said something funny (both gross and endearing) and they were busting up. I like it not just because it’s candid but because it captures what I believe is an honest glimpse at their marriage. They’re not perfect by any means and they’ve had their share of struggles, but in the end they learned how to give and take and make each other happy. She helps him put his life in order, and he knows how to make her laugh and smile. They share a lot of great memories, but they don’t come without sacrifice, compromise and commitment. Love takes work.

That’s my family

My sister and I often talk about how blessed we are to have such a close family–parents and cousins and aunts and uncles to walk with together in this journey. Listening to my sister talk about how much she misses us, especially all the milestones and moments, reminds me to not take the people whom I love for granted. True, some people are separated by distances and time zones, but it’d be a real shame if it is our heart that keeps them away.

I don’t know how many days I’ve spent chasing or toiling for things that don’t matter. There’s always more money to make, more achievements to reach, more demands on your life. But in the quiet moments, when I reflect on moments like these, it becomes clear as gold: loving God and loving people. I can stake my life on these two things and it will not be a wasted life.

Thanks for reading!

Raise Dem Glasses

My cousin Galvin got hitched this past weekend… (Congrats to him and his lovely bride Alicia!) The ceremony was held outdoors on a hill and the reception was inside the fine banquet hall at the Diamond Bar Center. It was a gorgeous site.

They had also rented a photo booth, nowadays a popular staple at weddings. Here is the madness that ensued (because of the “ghetto” nature of these pictures, I have requested my good friend and rapper T.I. to write special guest captions):

Yo this be yo stand-up guy T.I. fillin’ in for mah boi Ma-in. First picture check it. Dis crazy mess right herre be Marty Mar’s couz Karen (aka Da Killah) commin’ from NY to represent. Special shout-out to Queens, Eastside! Werd. She holdin’ it down, cuttin’ loose on da goose. Pops be feelin’ on da JD. CY special guest appearance at da end, ya heard??

We be talkin’ bout dem Bonnie n’ Clyde in dis right hurr. Ma-in and his partna-in-crime K be keepin’ it real. Girl know how to conversate n’ got dem moves on tha dance flo. Girl got sum mad game too–a chick even asked fo her digits! She da GOAT–greatest of all time–plus one.

Awww naah….ya’ll ain’t ready fo dis one mang. We talkin’ bout some family biznazz. We got Ma-in, CY, Pops, and Mama Yan her bad self! Look at Pops wit da blond wig tryin’ to be Lil Kim or somethin’…but instead he be lookin’ like B.I.G. wit his quadruple chins n’ all (cop dat last frame). Dem dollar signs screamin’ bout dat paper trail! Check dat… Ain’t nuttin’ but luv like fam man… YEAeAAEHHH OKKKKAYYYYY! (Mah bad folks, Lil Jon dun took my mic for a sec, playa be trippin’…)


Yup…so that was my weekend in a nutshell. In all seriousness, I am blessed to have these wonderful people around me and I am super glad to welcome Alicia to the family!

Seniors Appreciation Night

It was a weekend I will not soon forget. Just the previous night, I was out with a bunch of twenty- and thirtysomethings celebrating my cousin’s bachelor party. Then Saturday afternoon rolled around, much sooner than I would have liked, and I had to prepare to serve senior citizens. My day and night could not have been more different.

I had only a few hours of sleep before my alarm went off, telling me to get up. A part of wanted to stay in bed, but I really had no say in the matter. I had to re-up my strength to prepare for that special day, for it was a day that would feature a full-blown event to celebrate the wonderful and ever-young grandpas and grandmas of our church. No matter how tired my body was or would be, my spirit would be revitalized at just the thought of the privilege I had to serve this amazing group of people, a group that holds a special place in my heart.

A couple from our church, Drawlon and Daisy, hosted the event at their home. They, along with several adult volunteers, would prepare everything from the food to the decorations to even the surprise entertainment of the night (hula dancers!). I would be simply assisting with whatever it was that they needed. That day, several of the adults ran around to cook, coordinate, decorate, serve, and bless the twenty or so seniors that appeared before us.

From an outsiders’ perspective, it is easy to conclude that the work that went into the event paid off. The food was spectacular–it was like something straight out of Top Chef–the games and entertainment were top-notch, and the fellowship was meaningful. And I could spend hours just writing on the details of those things alone.

But it ultimately wasn’t about the show. It was about seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing the laughter come from people who have learned to appreciate every second, every breath of life. It was about experiencing the joy of expressing to them their value and worth as individuals and what significance and meaning they add to our world.

The seniors’ impact can be traced to the very origins of Lifesong Community Church. When I first joined the church about five years ago, the seniors made up about half of our church. It was them and a bunch of young families. There were no young singles, no one my age. Though I was initially discouraged, I stuck it through because I felt it was my place. It didn’t take long for me to learn each and every senior by name. Auntie Kai. Auntie Mae. Uncle Ken. Carole, Earl, Hach, Wanda, Linda, and Cherry. They would welcome me every week with warm and genuine smiles. They would ask me if I could use some prayer. And each time they asked, I knew they meant it.

It’s funny when I hear that some of these seniors feel and think they are useless. Sure, they might feel less energetic and experience more aches and pains. But these are also the same people who would be folding the programs, putting up chairs, setting up the snack table, and greeting church newcomers. They tell me they are useless and I tell them that Lifesong would not be what it is today without them–the seniors are the backbone of our church.

I’m glad I didn’t go anywhere else. I’m glad I didn’t bail on those days when the loneliness of my journey started to feel overwhelming. Because this church is about family. And family isn’t just all young couples or adults. It includes the crying babies and crazy uncles and grandpas, too. Family means you get to grow and learn to love one another. And you stick together, through both the good and the bad.

Now, we have about more than a dozen young singles at our church. Not a lot compared to some churches, but it’s still something. Because I started out on my own, I’ve learn to appreciate each one of them. The best part about not having them as my crutch in the beginning? I got to really know my seniors.

And their stories are amazing, more than words can say.

Bill and May

I wasn’t in a particularly good mood that evening. I don’t remember what it was exactly, just that being back at my parents’ house was getting to me. I am independent and fully capable of being on my own, but I don’t think they got the memo.

I sat in my room, trying to cool off. I was rummaging through a desk drawer when I stumbled upon an old collection of photos. I shuffled through the pile, until I landed on a nugget. I examined it for minutes. Then I just sat there, smiling.

Before I knew it I had forgotten why I was even bothered at all.


This is not my mom and dad. I am familiar with those characters, but they don’t exist here. This picture tells me a different story.

Instead, I am met with the handsome faces of two wide-eyed adults. Bill and May were madly in love. Their wedding brought them to a backyard pool. I suppose love has led many a fool to sillier places. It doesn’t matter where they are, only that they belong to each other. The bride is beautiful–the groom, proud, and perhaps in quiet disbelief. “She really is mine.” Young, innocent. Their smiles are fixed with unbridled joy. This is the day that will mark another beginning.

Mind you, they had a past. Jie Mei Tong was a brilliant student, at the top of her class. Her father was a doctor, her mother an accountant at the nearby hospital. Man Piu Yan was a headstrong, blue-collar hustler surviving the streets. His father made a living in photography, back when cameras were boxes that stood on wooden legs. They were getting by in life; I suppose they weren’t too different from you and me.

Then the Communists came. They came to oppress them, erase them–turn them into another number. The government sought to take away their right to have a say for themselves. This was the future in Communist China. Become puppets for rice or march to the beat of your own requiem? Slavery was not an option. Freedom wasn’t everything–it was the only thing.

Hello America.

Now it is “Bill” and “May.” Individuals that came from another part of the world, thousands of miles away. Somehow they met, somewhere in the middle, in the divine compromise of the Big Apple. To some, New York is just another dot on a map. But this is where they met and fell in love. To them it means the world.


And now it’s got me thinking. Maybe this is the story I have missed. I am quite familiar with the other story, the one about nagging parents. But this story reminds me that before acting as parents, they were husband and wife. And before living as husband and wife, they were beautiful young adults full of promise and hope. This was their script before Mom and Dad replaced them.

Years would pass and the children grow up. Did my sister and I belittle their love? Are we just two selfish little monsters, as babes demanding their constant attention to now wanting them out of our hair as grown-ups? When I get frustrated or impatient with them, I tell myself to remember their story. We are not perfect, but I hope we have made their sacrifice worth it.

Wrinkles now trace the tracks of their smiles. I wonder how would they react if they saw this picture. Would it speak of irony or of a promise fulfilled? After twenty-seven years and counting, I would like to think the latter.

Maybe I won’t ever understand or appreciate this, living and growing up in America. But if Freedom is the trophy, Love makes for one hell of a consolation prize.


Pictures have the power to speak truth into your life. Sometimes they can even breathe life back into your years, and remind you how precious is the time you’ve been given. In those moments, when you listen close enough, they whisper, not to say that you should be counting your minutes, but to make every one of your minutes count.

Here I am met with the handsome faces of two wide-eyed adults. Bill and May were crazy in love. Their wedding brought them to a backyard pool. I suppose love has led many a fool to sillier places. It doesn’t matter where they are, only that they belong to each other. The bride is beautiful–the groom, proud, and perhaps in quiet disbelief. “She really is mine.” Young, innocent. Their smiles are fixed with unbridled joy. This is the day that will mark another beginning.

Christmas Special 2010

Earlier tonight we celebrated Christmas at my parents’ house. It is always a fun time of gathering families together to stuff our faces and play some exciting games. Here are some pictures to help recap our holiday affair:

Mity, our main chef for the evening.

This is my brother (pretty much) cooking yet another fabulous holiday meal. He has raised the bar yet again, this time including an awesome clam dish made with white wine.

Close-up of the meal.

My sister also came back from New York with a few tricks up her sleeve. She made a fantastic goat cheese and mushroom tart, along with a mix of roasted veggies.

Of course, the night wouldn’t be complete without engaging our competitive juices in a couple of board games. The first game featured a sibling rivalry game, in which three pairs (brother-sister) went at each other to determine who was greatest. It was interesting to see how each pair communicated (or in some cases, didn’t). Not to toot our horn or anything, but the Yans were victorious (probably more a credit to my sister than anything).

Nothing like a shady game of Settlers!

The second game was a house favorite, Settlers of Catan, with a bunch of friends from Rowland. It was the craziest game I’ve played in awhile since we tried stopping two players from winning by all means possible.

Ready to rock in style for 2011.

Here I am showing off the two coolest gifts I received this Christmas. My very first Kobe Bryant jersey and a specially-designed one-of-a-kind sweater from New York. Two special gifts from two very special people in my life. You know who you are–thank you!

Indeed, I am thankful for all the blessings in my life. But it is easy to lose sight of what I’ve been given and forget the one from whom all blessings come. During this season, I’ve been reminded about how Jesus is the reason for all of this, and that the reason for Jesus is love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Let us not forget to thank and treasure the greatest gift of all–Jesus Christ who is Lord and Savior.

Bundle of Boy

Hello World!

Congrats to my cousins, Tim and Marria, on the delivery of their first baby boy. Brandon came into the world on Saturday, weighing in at about 6 lbs and something-something ounces.

We are all excited to welcome him into the family, and we look forward to being the uncles and aunts that will spoil him with copious amounts of toys and love.

Real Heroes

Today’s first official post in the 365 days of blogging is dedicated to the heroes in my life.

Whenever we think of heroes, we usually think of the famous or revolutionary figures that shaped new philosophies, overcame hardships, or conquered injustices. This we do with good reason. After all, we read about them in our textbooks, celebrate their birthdays, hang their portraits in museums and all that jazz.

Yet there are many heroes whom we come across everyday that we tend to neglect or forget to consider: our family and friends. These are people who seem to go about their ordinary lives–work normal jobs, take out the trash, tend gardens, and so forth. But they speak extraordinary volumes of love and courage by doing the very necessary yet often unrecognized things. They are the real heroes.

I am blessed to have the support of many loving people in my life to get me through valleys as well as celebrate the peaks. There’s no better way to start off my year-long adventure than by acknowledging them.

1. My family is made up of heroes. I am reminded of this every time I eat one of my mother’s fantastic meals, take in some of my father’s deep-reaching wisdom, or share in my sister’s ambition for life. What they have given me are the building blocks on how to live my life with integrity and love. They have often sacrificed many of their own wants to meet the needs of those around them. They won’t get much outward recognition for it, but they don’t mind it. Real heroes wouldn’t want it anyway.

2. Friends can be heroes, too. I have come across many faces and developed great friendships throughout my 25 years. There are heroes who have shaped and inspired me somewhere along my journey, and I am thankful for each person. As with the seasons, so have many of them come and gone. But I have not lost them; they are still with me today because of what they have taught and given me. And some, like these guys above, have been with me every step of the way. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

3. My pastors are my heroes. Jon and Daryl do so much for the church family with little or no complaint. They constantly check up on me, imparting wisdom on how to live my life with purpose and passion. I am reminded of what really matters, not only by what they teach on Sundays but how they love their wives, children, neighbors, friends, and people in and outside of church walls. These are humble and godly men whose footsteps I want to follow.

Mother Teresa once said, “There are no great things. Only small things with great love.” The greater work then, I suppose, is to give all of yourself into whatever task or person is before you so that you leave something that extends beyond prizes and trophies. Who you are will be written in what you give. And what you give will be a lasting legacy.

That’s what makes a hero.

HI Trip: Day 1 – ABC’s & Puffies

My first day/night in Oahu. We landed in the Honolulu Airport at about 8:45, and my buddy Dene from ol’ times was there to pick us up. Right as we walked out of the terminal, we were hit with the warm humidity of the city. But it wasn’t too unbearable. In fact, it was probably just right for a wifebeater and shorts kinda guy.


A-B-C's for all the F-O-B's, and me

Dene drove us to Waikiki to drop off my sister and her friend Karen at one of my cousins’ hotels, the Royal Kuhio. The first thing you notice about Waikiki is how touristy it looks. It is full of hot spots for the several thousand visitors that are there, lining the streets in hopes of getting Ferragamo this or Hermes that on a special “island” discount (4 percent sales tax in HI). The one street we were on, Kuhio, was packed with hotels and chain restaurants and ABC stores. The ABC store is like your basic convenience store, except it’s a super-massive chain that translates into one being on every block—literally. I thought Starbucks was bad, but wow, ABC wins hands down. They don’t even sell different items in these different locations, it’s just all the same stuff. But the funny thing is, each one averages a good number of customers! Just a lot of suckas…like me, who go to every single one hoping for something different.

In Waikiki, they are like 70 percent Japanese. These aren’t your Japanese-American or 3rd generation type Japanese—these are like from-Japan type Japanese. I have never seen more Japanese people in my life. I think there are more Japanese people here in Waikiki than in…Japan. Every tour bus, every trolley, every store unveiled a load of them. It’s like one of those clown cars where you see like 20 people get outta that one little bug—they just spring from every corner! With these people, you can easily tell them apart from the rest. They are much skinnier, paler, and animated-looking than the rest. And one person in their groups always has a wardrobe that consists of something of the sort: trucker hat, capris or cargo shorts, and pink something (t-shirt, socks or shoes).

So it was definitely a little more than nice to get off the “strip” and head towards calmer, quieter waters. Dene has a house right off the coast in a neat patch of hills several miles from the freeways and stores, in the Hawaiian suburbs. The drive down there was indescribable. It was a full moon that night, so the sky was alight with a velvety blue that allowed you to see the clouds glimmer like neon and the ripples from shore that looked like electric eels. It is like the total opposite of an LA driving experience of crowded streets, smog, and pissed-off crazy drivers.

A man could wake up to this every morning

A man could wake up to this every morning

Dene’s house was nice and cozy, a total bachelor’s pad that yet had an “ohana”-like vibe. I had a room all to myself upstairs. From all the snacks, drinks, and extra beds, you can tell he’s used to housing guests and hosting events. His backyard is also something else—just a nice, uphill patch of tall grass and plants that point towards the sky. It’s a house that reminds you to slow down a bit, a place that whispers peace and you can actually hear it because it is, for once, unbelievably quiet and serene.

After we dropped off my stuff, Dene, his buddy Kreig, and I headed towards the coast for some night fishing. Let me say that there was no better way to start off my trip than that. We drove right up, parked our pickup, and walked a short trail to the spot. There were a couple other cars that were driving off as we pulled in—they were probably couples making out. Dene told me he once came across this naked couple at night that was doing their “thang” in one of the shrubs off to the side. We had a nice laugh, but I couldn’t blame them—I’d probably do the same thing, if my wife and I didn’t have to fear people like Dene walking in on us with a huge oil lamp.

The beach was so isolated, yet inviting. You knew this was a place that only the locals knew. Nobody else would come here—not at this time of night, not for this sort of activity. When we got to the rocky shores, the mini-cliffs, we placed our stuff down and began our prep. Dene cut up some frozen squid as bait and Kreig got the poles ready. I, being the expert fisherman that I am, just stood there and watched. I’ve only gone fishing once before this, and that was about 8 years ago, so I figured I’d better serve my purpose by not getting in the way. (Though, of course, later on, I would happen to get my fishing line tangled with Kreig’s and spent half the time trying to recast after untangling…)

After we had cast our poles, we sat back and enjoyed a few beers and cigars. The breeze from the ocean was simply divine—it was very strong and invigorating. It wasn’t too cool either, it was just right. As the winds blew, as we sat there waiting for a pull from the line, sipping from our cans and staring out into the dark neon ocean, I felt like I was in some other world. That whole experience—it made you feel alive. I haven’t felt such a spiritual experience like this in quite some time. As I looked out, I thought of the twelve disciples, how they must have felt to go fishing with Jesus. I can say that I felt something more exhilarating than just the thrill of a catch that night.

The puffer fish didn't go down without a fight

The puffer fish didn't go down without a fight

Dene suddenly felt a tug from his line. After a long, hard-fought battle to reel it in, we saw what had been at the other end of that line—a 2-foot-long puffer fish! I swear it might have been the ugliest living, breathing thing I have ever seen. I know God made all things and declared it “good,” but maybe that puffer fish was like an aftereffect of the fall. Big boba-ball like eyes, and a huge mouth full of sharp, bony teeth. And this was before it blew up. After we got the hook outta its mouth—it was bent outta shape—we were trying to find ways to throw it back into the ocean. (We obviously couldn’t bring it back home to eat—they are poisonous—and we couldn’t just grab and toss it with our hands.)

So we pissed it off. Until it started making this huffing-puffing noise and blew up like a huge spiky ball from hell. Then Dene, with the same pliers used to wrench the hook from its jaws, pulled the fish by one of its spikes and flung it back into the waters. What a catch!

We packed up our things and headed back on the road. Kreig and I sat in the back of the pickup, with the candlelit moon and bright starry sky as our canopy. We shot the breeze a bit as nature’s breeze blew back. As I sat back, I thought to myself, does it get any better than this? It was just so good to get away. I didn’t want it to end.

And I know someday it won’t. This was only a taste of what’s to come…

– – – – –

More entries to come in the following days. More pictures will be up on Facebook.

A Day in the Life of the Yans


Ma: "You better not post that picture of me!" Whoops.

We were sitting there on the couch, after yet another rich meal courtesy of my mother, with my dad reclining on the “l” part of our nice L-shaped leather–almost always a pathway to eventual sleep–flipping through channels on the big screen. To my surprise, my parents aren’t watching the cheesy Chinese dramas or goofy game shows on KTV. They have recently taken a liking to American television.

“Look, crazy guy!” Ba exclaimed. The number blinked 51 in the upper right hand corner, as Ba appears to have rediscovered the Discovery Channel. “No way, he not going to do that. He crazy!”

Oh yes, Pops, he did it again. Bear Grylls jumps into a lake of sub-30 degree temperature in the middle of an icy nowhere, at once capturing the bemusement and wonder of my father. Man Vs. Wild was a title that could have aptly applied to him as well.

“Where’s Cat, Mom?” I shot to my mother, who was trying to concentrate on her Sudoku puzzles amid all the noise and fanfare. Sudoku was something my sister and I introduced to her as a means of relieving her addiction to FreeCell. She used to play that every night after dinner. And now? Well…let’s just say she stopped FreeCell.


Has Anyone Seen CY Lately?

“I don’t know. She maybe come back later tonight. You know she busy,” she retorted. “Oh, you hear by the way? She just got second internship! She interview on Tuesday and they hire her on spot.”

“No, I hadn’t.” For some reason still unknown to me, I never hear about these things.

“Oh, we never have to worry about your sister…” Her response implying that I, on the other hand, might be a different story. But I was proud of my sister because she deserved every single bit of success that came her way. You don’t come by many 21-year-olds who are nearly as hard-working or talented or mature. Not to mention her resume that reads more like a New York Times Best-Seller. And she scrapped for every little bit of it.

“Oh, jai, can you help Ba make e-mail account?” Ma said. “You know how he is with computers.”

“Yes, please!” Ba replied, as he returned to reality. It was commercial break.

I sighed. To my shame, I was reluctant to assist my father. I think it was because of the fact that he was bad with most things new, especially when technology’s involved. Or the fact that he would repeat the “Haaaa” expression in Chinese every time he didn’t understand something–only one of the most deplorable sounds to my ears. But the man’s my father, so naturally, I relent.

“I tried ‘Bill Yan’ at gmail, ‘Man Yan’ at gmail, but nothing works,” Ba shrugged. “It is all taken already.”

With no more than a millisecond’s notice, Ma blurts out: “Why don’t you try ‘I’m-afraid-of-my-wife-Yan’ at gmail? That should work,” in her usual biting wit. We all LOL’ed on the spot. Ba’s round mound of a belly reverberated with laughter. There is nothing more contagious than my father’s laugh–it is kind of like what I imagine an old grizzly bear would sound–if it were jolly and drunk off wine.

“Why don’t we try ‘fatbill’ at gmail?” Ba suggested.

“Dad, you do want this to be professional, don’t you?”

“Okay, fine.” After a couple of misfires, we finally settled on the name. It was a fusion of his American and Chinese names, and though a bit long, it had a nice ring to it. It would serve as validation of his identity as an American, but with a notice to the world from where he came. This e-mail account would be a reminder that even he, a schooless vagabond who grew up wandering the streets in HK, could make it in America.

“Ok, Dad, now it’s asking you for a security question.”


My eardrum hairs shivered. “In case you forget your password, we need to create a question and answer to get it back. What do you want to ask?”

“Why not look at box?” He was referring to the drag-down menu.

“Dad, I don’t think those questions apply to you.”

“No, let me look.” At his request, we scrolled down the list together. What is your primary frequent flyer number. What is your library card number. What is your first telephone number. What is the name of your first teacher.

“Ai-yah, you didn’t even go to school!” Ma retorted. “Just listen to your son!”

“Let’s just do something you’ll easily remember. ‘What is your favorite sports team?'” I typed. A slight moment of silence. Just to make sure that he knew what his favorite sports team was, I confirmed: “Lakers.” Ba just gave a simple nod.

At last, it was created. I showed him the possibility of “g-chat” and offered to add buddies to his chatlist, in case he ever wanted to talk to Cat or Mom whenever he logged in. But he declined, insisting that we keep it simple and take it a step at a time. He was right–this was already a big enough step. To my chagrin, even Ba knew when to exercise his limits.

“I’m glad I got my own e-mail,” Ba delighted, “Because I never will share e-mail with your mother.”

I don’t know how most of your families are, but there is something to be said about the love that is shared under our roof. We are nowhere near perfect or even fully functional, but I am blessed to have my family. It’s the simple things in life–sharing meals, watching a crazy Bear, creating e-mail accounts–that we so often take for granted, that we so easily lose sight of when our souls are not in tune. But it is in these moments with our loved ones, when we are perhaps the least bit aware, that we can be surprised and overwhelmed with humor and love and joy.

We laughed the night away, as a dripping, half-naked Bear Grylls ran shivering in the backdrop of our living room spirit.

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Special shout-out to CY (come home sometime, huh?), Craig aka C.T., Kev Hosh, Lindsay H. (new blog, woot!), and Dannah & Heather & Oscar for enriching Friday nights!