Oh, Brother!

Earlier this week, my brother emailed my dad a very accusatory message, something along the lines of: I told you a million times not to have the grandparents get the flu vaccine. Now grandma got the shot and has a weird cough/respiratory issue that she didn’t have previously. . “She behaves in a semi autistic manner with this breathing. It reminds me of autistic kids who keep mumbling to themselves.”

OMFG, this email immediately plunged me into a fit of rage. First of all, for someone who has been totally selfish and self-absorbed for the last 40+ years, who the fuck are you to come in (now that other people have gotten my grandparents to their ripe old ages of 93 and 94 y/o) and comment on how to care for others. Second, shut the hell up with your unsubstantiated anti-vaxxer autism bulllshit. Third, leave us the fuck alone.

I was so pissed, I couldn’t sleep. So here’s the dilemma. For all intents and purposes, my parents and I do NOT discuss my brother. ever. In the past, I always reacted harshly and critically, so now we just don’t touch that topic. The thing is, even if what I say about him is the honest-fucking truth, they probably don’t want to hear me berating my idiot brother. Maybe it puts them in some weird position of having to pick sides among the kids. I don’t have kids, so I don’t really know. The point is, Dad knows I see the emails and I sometimes read them. He knows I’m irritated as fuck by what I interpret to be uneducated, stupid bullshit. When I brought up these video links and such to Dad a few weeks ago, he was super diplomatic about it— asking if I had read/watched the links. I had skimmed a few and then I started to rip into it, basically saying that in all cases, there are exceptions: Sure, there are stories where people got screwed by western med. There are stories where people “cured” themselves of cancer or whatever using eastern meds. Dad agreed with me and said he tried to explain that to Johnny. That was the extent of his commentary. I dunno if Dad was just trying to stay neutral, but he said nothing about deleting or blocking the emails. In other words, he will keep the avenue open to possibly read/watch these links when he feels like it.

From my perspective, I tried to stay open minded initially, but this daily bombardment is too much, and frankly, I don’t trust my brother’s judgement. Also, I am offended by his insistence that western meds are a scam when hello, our father is a retired western meds doctor. That just drives me fucking insane… the disrespect and notion that his WebMD, self-taught bullshit comes anywhere close to someone who went to med school, took board exams (sometimes even before they needed renewal– just to prove his knowledge was sharp and current), and served an entire community with medical expertise for nearly four decades. Seriously, FUCK YOU, asshole for adulterating something noble and good with your conspiracy theories. Ugh, it just makes my blood boil!!

Needless to say, I stayed up drafting an email. I just couldn’t stay silent any longer. Maybe this all bugs me more than it bugs my parents but STILL. Maybe they will hear in through one ear and out the others. I just worry that repetition and repeated exposure to these bullshit claims may eventually sink in and take hold, esp as they get older and start to cognitively decline. So here’s what I drafted:

Dad has me screen his emails, bc he does not check his messages regularly. Please refrain from providing any medical related advice or guidance for our family. You, who are the cause of so much heartbreak, chaos, and pain in our family, have no right to be dictating how we should be living our lives and caring for the people we love.

The whole reason our grandparents have reached their old age is bc of mom and dad’s care and consistent access to western medicine. If you want someone to blame for whatever emotional distress and physical illnesses are in our family, please look at yourself and your lengthy history of bullshit scams.

I’m tired of you trying to thwart and obstruct care for our family. Mom is going to Hopkins on Monday, and I don’t want to hear anything about your deer placenta bogus product. I don’t trust anything that you say or do.

You go thru life falling into all these traps, like a fucking wannabe groupie… taking strangers’ stories for the truth. You think you’re so discerning and intelligent, yet people just have to turn on the charm and suddenly everything they say is the fucking gospel. Fuck off!

Why don’t you redirect your energies into doing some legit research about MLMs and cults and the irreversible damage that dependent, problematic kids have on their family’s well-being.

Back the fuck up and focus on being a responsible adult rather than a conspiracy theorist man-child. I will do all that is necessary to protect my family from your toxic shams.

Yes, that was the edited and toned down version. So of course, when I consult with Bubs, he advises not to say anything. He thinks my message is ridiculously confrontational and scathing. Yes, sure, whatever. Radical honesty, baby. I don’t really understand his rationale to say nothing though. I think he says taking action will put my parents in a weird position, bc then J will know I’m reading his emails to them, or maybe it’ll come across like my parents are badmouthing him to me…. I really don’t know. But then again, so what? I mean, someone has to call this shit out, bc for how long is this going to continue? This bullying and lack of respect for other people’s decision-making. I know that he used to harass my relatives too. They just listened and ignored him. But why is anyone listening at all? Sure, you can just ignore it, but why should we have to? He should stop spewing this crap that nobody wants to hear.

Ugh. I dunno if this is some cultural meekness or what. It reminds me of when my dad used to always say to me that his comments to me were just his opinion. I can just listen and hear it and then make my own decision. I would get so pissed at him though: why do I need to hear your shit over and over again? If you don’t think I’ll accept your comments or advice, then just don’t give it to me! I’m sure there’s some cultural mismatch or whatever with that. You know, another example of how impatient and intolerant I am of views different from my own. The bottom line though, is this. Live your life how you want. If you want to follow a cult leader like a dumbass, go ahead. Just don’t try to get ME to follow your path esp after I’ve heard your spiel and decided for myself. And honestly, I don’t want you mucking around with decisions that are critical to my grandparents and parents’ lives. It’s not your place to comment. Am I being too controlling?

John says he doesn’t see how this message is supposed to change the situation. I was actually going to insert a ton of links to articles about cults and MLMs and psychological impact and whatever. Maybe with the very small hope that it will appeal to his scholarly sense and in the best case, get him out of the cult. The second intention is just to set the boundaries: let him know that I know what he’s doing and it’s NOT ok. And he’s not going to just get away with spewing his propaganda unchecked.

I head home next week and frankly, I don’t even know how to have a conversation about this with my parents. I just get so angry and protective and then well, my words turn highly acerbic. I mean, I stand by how I judge him. I stand by all of my feelings about this but I dunno: will it just make my parents feel more torn knowing their kids are in such conflict? Fuck. I hate family drama. What’s the right way to handle this? The world-class EQ advice is to ignore it and not ruffle the feathers. Everyone knows Johnny is off his rocker. They don’t listen to him, so let other people censor his crap.

John says my parents will never shut Johnny our of their lives. It will NEVER happen. I get that and that’s fine– continue to have contact with him! I just don’t want his ONLY contact to be all his deer placenta, anti-vaxxer propaganda. And like I have claimed and done in the past with other situations, “sometimes bridges are meant to be burned so the bad guys don’t keep chasing us.” Get back in your space, bro, bc you are majorly overstepping.

Side note: Two days after his accusatory email, my brother sends another message apologizing to my dad, saying that my aunt confirmed that grandma has had the cough all along— it didn’t occur right after the flu shot. The apology email does represent some glimmer of hope: 1) he can admit when he’s wrong 2) maybe he does still gather additional info… should I still send him the articles on the brainwashing tactics of cults and MLMs???

A Year in the Biz

So I’ve been intending all along to finish the year out strong by keeping up the pressure with building my biz. What that translates to, is that while many other agents have given up on hosting open houses during the winter, I’ve still been hustling for them every weekend that I’m around. Granted, I DID cut back to one day instead of two to accommodate holiday parties and such, but still.

Sadly, at the end of all this effort, the results in December have been extremely disappointing. In other words, shit traffic. For example, in areas where it’s typical to get 15-20 parties through per day, I’m seeing less than ten and of the ten, more than half are looky loos, aka nosy neighbors! Not a horrible thing, but def not hot leads.

It’s been really frustrating and then when I get down about it, I let everything slide… like I become less aggressive asking for visitor contact info and I’m less engaging while they are on site. The ripple effect from a demoralized mental state is real.

Looking forward though, I know what more I need to do. For instance, I def need to start making more calls to people I know: old acquaintances and friends. Talking to 25-30 people/week–mostly the open house folks– about real estate is not enough. That number needs to be closer to 100. And those calls… Of course, I’m aware of the awkwardness, the length of time that’s passed from when we last spoke, etc. But I read something by one of our seasoned top producers recently, and it was helpful to remind me of why these calls are necessary. Staying in contact is how this biz works. If you don’t stay top of mind, people conveniently forget that you’re in real estate and the next thing you know, your best friend is buying a house from someone else. Shiit. I gotta do it.

In related news, this new career is def changing my perspective on a lot of things. I have more respect and empathy now for salespeople, bc holy shit, this commission-only gig is a stressful grind and no matter how you slice it, that daily, constant rejection is hard. I haven’t personally altered my reaction to salespeople too drastically, but I do try now to hear them out a little more. And I just stay pleasant and polite. Not that I ever slammed the door/phone before, but now I just feel more understanding.

As for me in the sales role, I feel like I am constantly having to re-thicken my skin. Immediately after a round of door knocking or open houses, I’ll generally feel more confident talking to strangers but man, if I let up the following week, I recognized the immediate regression, bc those blows start to sting again. That constant desensitization is I think the only way to maintain some resiliency.

I also look at small businesses differently. I think about all the different facets that go into owners and shopkkeepers running a biz. Unlike with all my past salaried jobs, I no longer focus primarily on my job from that sole contributor vantage point. Now I have to think about medical insurance, taxes, marketing, business infrastructure, vendor expenses, the works! I mean, I LOVE having control over all those areas and I like seeing how it all integrates, BUT it’s also a lot of other stuff to think about and research and optimize. And now I am more aware of that for other business owners. They ARE very different than the big corporate multi-nationals. And in positions where I can, I try to support their businesses. Don’t get me wrong: I still love the selection, price, and convenience of those big boxers like Costco and Amazon, but I have also been buying little goodies or crafts or small things that I see that previously, I would have just passed by. There is something about seeing the enthusiasm and fire in their eyes and compensating them for their work and craft. Seriously, I wear some different lenses now as I move through life… it’s not always about getting the absolute best deal. Many times, yes, but not all the time like before.

Needless to say, as my first year comes to an end, I’m trying hardest to keep the mental clutter in check. Of course, outside of work, the holidays aren’t exactly the best time for me emotionally. I always feel overwhelmed ahead of seeing my family and plus, there’s just so much cultural pressure with you know, the gatherings having to be all festive and joyous. Also, I am still trying to figure out how to manage my daily annoyance re: my brother’s idiotic emails. More on that later.

To their credit, my parents really do try to be chill with me now, but like I’ve said before, my mind and body just have this habitual conditioned response. For instance, Dad keeps asking about my business. His intention I think is to comfort me for not having hit the milestones I’d originally set for myself for this first year… he acknowledges that I’m working hard and not seeing the results that I want, and he reiterates that building a biz takes time… I appreciate all of that but then he’ll say, “You’re not going to quit, right????” I think he just means I need to hang tight, BUT my brain just automatically gets pissy, reading that as some judgement he’s making about my past careers and how I’ve left them when I’ve grown frustrated or unhappy. I dunno how to explain this complex set of emotional bullshit other than that it really is hard for me to NOT take every thing my parents say so fucking literally or critically. Ugh, my sensitivity with them is always sky high.

It took some convincing but J advised that I take a break, so we’re in Scottsdale for a couple of days. I was reluctant at first, bc clearly I am very prone to tunnel vision and falling into that cyclone of despair. I don’t like to be bothered or distracted from focusing on my current problems.  But I’m glad I stepped away.

The break def helps me reset a bit. There’s a lot more to be done, but I know rest and fun are still essential. I’ve been reading recently about how work-life balance is a sham. Honestly, I think it’s mostly semantics, but I do understand this concept that focusing on one area will always detract from another… that’s how priorities work. I suppose the answer then is found somewhere along the lines of “Work hard, play hard.” Be focused on work while at work, but also make time for rest and play. And try to respect those boundaries whether they are delineated hour by hour or week by week or month by month. So I’m going to be more deliberate about adopting that mindset in the coming weeks and new year.

Driving Dirty

So the other weekend while driving home from a party, we got pulled over by the cops. Thankfully, J was driving and after answering a slew of questions and showing our registration/ID, we were let off. But the incident reminded me of several things. For one, privilege. As we pulled off the exit with the lights flashing behind us, my heart began pounding and a thought flashed through my head: thank goodness we aren’t black. Seriously, after all the exposure in the news in recent years, I just don’t trust law enforcement like I used to. Sure, they have a very difficult job… a job that I would never ever want no matter the pensions or perks, but still, over and over again, PDs across the country have done horrible things.

The good thing is, Bubbey is white and on top of that, he has some world-class level EQ. Immediately off the bat, the officer was asking where we were driving from, where to, and he had all these leading questions:

Were you at the downtown bars?
No. We came from a friend’s house.

What were you doing there? Where are you headed? Have you been drinking?
REPEATED questions about drinking, even after J gave answers.
So if you were to take a breathalyzer, it would show one drink at dinner three hours ago?
Yes.
Really? Are you sure?
Yes.

The cop said Bubs committed multiple vehicle violations:
1. He changed lanes without a signal,
2. He was speeding above 80 mph,
3. and he was unaware of his surroundings.

First of all, when J merged from the exit ramp onto the freeway, he kinda cut off the guy in the big black SUV but also, the guy didn’t bother to slow down and continued to ride his ass. Then, to get away from this agro dude, J changed lanes and the guy just followed on his ass, so he changed lanes twice and the guy was still on him. Then he just continued for a few miles with this asshole riding his butt. As it turned out, the big SUV was the cop!

So J wasn’t unaware, he was trying to figure out how to distance from this agro driver. But he gave none of those explanations. He just said, he knew he was speeding but thought it was 75 not 80. Also, he thought he had depressed the blinker. And he saw the car behind him but didn’t realize it was a cop.

I mean, I gotta say, had I been in the driver seat, all would have been over. I probably would have mentioned that Mr. Copper was riding my butt, making me nervous and causing me to speed up. Yeah, see: what and how info is communicated is VERY important. Nevermind that I used to be a communications professional. Haha, all bets are off when it comes to dealing with the popos.

When I asked Bubs where he got all that wherewithal, he credited all his gangster movies. It’s all about the mind games and strategies. Shrug. That Godfather shit sure came in handy!

Holiday Rollercoaster

Well, we’re now approaching the thick of the holiday season, so you know what that means: lots of negative feelings and tons of stress. Yup, while most people are getting all excited and cheery about reuniting and celebrating the season with family, my body is having its usual auto response of shutting down.

To be fair, my family has shifted dramatically in recent years, letting go of past obsessions and hostilities, but somehow I am still unable to adapt to these new conditions. And I’ve been feeling a lot of anger again recently. As I mentioned before, my dad has me screen his emails. And every. fucking. day. my brother is emailing dad this bullshit brainwashing content. I’m so damn fed up with it and yet I haven’t brought it up with my parents bc 1) Am I reacting out of habit? 2) Is this just going to make my parents more sensitive to something that perhaps they’ve already let go of? I don’t know, but I seriously cannot talk about my brother without feeling rage bubbling up inside. I mean, for the most part, he and I have been estranged since 2003 and STILL, he drives me crazy!

The other day, I decided to filter dad’s email for all the messages from my brother. I mean in the last year alone, nearly 40 emails about “health” topics. I guess now that he is all transformed by his Buddhist cult and selling his deer placenta, he’s the new authority in healthy living. To give you a flavor of his bullshit, the subject lines read like these:

  • Dad you and mom need to start jogging, to regenerate your brain and bring healthy endorphins into your frozen noncirculating bodies
  • Hey dad read this abt marriage
  • Get a healthy heart through nutrition and exercise not through pills
  • Watch “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe – Full Documentary (French Subtitles)
  • What is true love?
  • Important, about statins
  • Accepting your spouse’s influence
  • Flu shot kills 100 seniors
  • Watch “I am a doctor and I now know the truth about vaccines #vaxxed #DidYouKnow #Praybig” on YouTube

Sure, some of his links might actually make sense or be helpful, like yes, exercise offers health benefits. Breaking news.

But also, crap like this is in his content: “This is the truth, dad. Sudden infant death syndrome is a euphemism being used for death by vaccination. Please watch this video, it is real people’s testimony not some bullshit study.” Mind you, this from a guy who insists that his fellow cult-member’s levitation story was truthful and legit. And now, he’s on the ‘vaccines cause autism’ bandwagon and tells dad that he needs to sell his Merck stock bc pharms are killing people. His bullshit makes me so mad. I’ll admit. If these messages came from someone else– someone I respected, maybe I would even give it some consideration. But coming from my brother? Go to hell, you fucking man-child idiot. The audacity! Are you seriously giving marriage advice????

What, now you’re a full blown legit medical professional bc you read the “Natural News” wire or you follow Sun Fruit Dan’s Youtube channel? Fuck off. I mean, I know the whole WebMD/Redfin/”I’m an expert in everything now, bc I have access to the internet” phenom is a popular trend now, but at the end of the day, am I going to trust someone who is a member of a cult, who sells supplements in an MLM, and who has a lifetime of ZERO common sense? Nope.

The thing is, I’m sure my parents are more “open” to Johnny’s suggestions than I am. For one thing, they will never admit publicly that their son is weak, easily influenced, and retarded when it comes to decision-making. Also, I suppose if they are trying to maintain some kind of parent-child connection, it’s easier to consider his points instead of just shutting them down. But shit, as his sibling and not his parent, thank goodness I don’t have to play by those stupid rules. His emails are annoying as hell, and I’m sure my dad clicking on that bullshit led to his computer getting infected with that fucking virus. I mean, hello: this is FAKE NEWS at its best. So every time I see this crap, I start thinking up things in my head. Do I just block his email as spam? How about for every email where he’s preaching and telling my parents what they need to do, they reply with a link about religious cults and MLMs preying on uneducated people and antivaxers causing a resurgence in measles and mumps… Or what about replying with links to studies about shitty sons and the heartbreak they cause and how emotional pain kills people?!?! ARGH!

These are the things I think of… and then John says to just let it be. On one hand, if I say something, I’m sure my mother will insist that I’m jealous of my brother and I’m trying to thwart him or discredit him or whatever. If I mark his email as spam in my dad’s email, then I’m making decisions for my parents without consulting them. I dunno. It’s a real dilemma, bc I probably need to bring it up with my dad but I can’t without losing my shit and without skewering my brother. Ugh.

I had my neighbor/friend over for dinner last night. She’s also Chinese American. Let me just say: it is uncanny how many similarities there are with our families. And when I meet other Asian-American daughters with immigrant parents, I see so many troubling patterns. My neighbor says her brother is also lame, unhelpful, and selfish. For real. In all cases, the daughters end up having to handle everything for their parents.

Speaking of handling parental matters, my mother is having incontinence issues again. At first, she insisted (maybe bc of Johnny’s influence) that her incontinence was tied to her taking the western meds. So she stopped taking them. Supposedly, the incontinence stopped. But now it’s back. Hmm, you mean the deer placenta didn’t stop the incontinence?!?!  Duh, so now mom’s struggling with staying dry. I research a bunch of adult underwear– I order a few brands, a few sizes. They show up at my parent’s doorstep two days later. Next thing you know, Johnny will tell her to double her deer placenta dose. Stupid ass.

Here’s the thing about my brother, I don’t really give a fuck what he decides to do for himself. I consider him too far gone anyway. If he wants to take his deer placenta and sit in a fucking oxygen chamber meditating with his Buddhist master, go for it. But don’t act like you know what is best for our parents.

I have an appointment scheduled for mom to see a neurologist at Johns Hopkins next month. I don’t want my brother getting involved with the physician’s diagnoses and treatment recommendations… You know? I mean, there’s no point in me jumping through all these hoops researching doctors, sending forth medical records, following up, etc. if Johnny’s just going to swoop in and tell her to throw it all in the garbage… Literally. He has done that before– told her to chuck all the prescribed meds. He’s a fucking saboteur. Ugh. And sadly, I don’t see how any of this is going to get any easier as we get older.

My Hood

Veteran agents keep telling me I need to become more “embedded” in my neighborhood. But shit, I have been jonesing to detach and at a minimum unsubscribe from NextDoor. That platform makes me HATE being a part of this “community.” In other words, my neighbors are batshit cray. And there are multiple batshit crazy ones out there. See below for this stellar example– a message posted ON Thanksgiving, of all fucking days. So someone put bagged shit in your trash bin. Really? You put it on the sidewalk so they can return to claim it? Smh. That is some first rate level of pettiness.

Back to Home Base

Wow, I cannot believe it has been TEN days already since we got back from Asia. That. trip. SMH. So freaking exhausting. I know, the flight back– at eleven hours flight time– was loads better than the flight there, but shiit, J and I were seriously fucked up by jetlag for AT LEAST a full week afterwards.

I was so bummed after landing bc 1) customs confiscated all six packages of hot pot mix that my cousin gave me. Mind you, these packages were totally commercially, mass-produced products… comparable to like a Lipton dry soup mix. These were not some random mom-pop shop plastic baggie of flavor crystals. It was such a weird exchange too: The customs officer was some Mid-Eastern guy who looked on the back of the package and circled some Chinese characters in the ingredients list. He was like, “Look.” As if I was trying to scam him or sneak something through… Dude, I declared on my sheet that I had food!!!

Also dude. I’m illiterate in Chinese. I dunno what you are pointing out. Supposedly, the characters were “chicken meal/powder”, so just like that, all six packets gone. Annoying, but whatever. Border patrol. Customs. TSA. All you can do is shrug.

2) After we got home, I kept trying to reach out to Sadie’s mom. She was supposed to bring Sadie, the King Charles Cavalier (past Rover client) over later that morning. Finally, at like 30 minutes before our pre-set drop off time, she texted that she’s sick and her trip is cancelled. Boo. No Sadie fix for me.

Just as well though, bc Bubs and I conked for like the rest of the day. Yeah, jetlag is no fricking joke. My dad always talks about it so non-nonchalantly: “I just go to bed at night in my arrival city.” NBD. Yeah, that’s dad for you: Always trying to demonstrate his discipline and self control. Whatever. Our flight arrived before 7am on Wed. I made it to 1pm. That’s the best I can do.

The next few days, I managed to get back into the office and such. But J was a total mess. In his defense, he claims to have read some article stating that jetlag requires one day of recovery for every timezone, so Taiwan is like 16 time zones ahead. Go figure. Yes, it took him DAYS to get out of the jetlag brain fog. I was better, but not by much.

Regardless, I was thrilled to be back home. For one thing, my face had broken out insanely while overseas. Like five monster cysts. Typically, when I am home, I ice those buggers and it reduces the inflammation, but there’s no fucking ice in Taiwan. People just don’t drink beverages iced. So as soon as we got home, we chugged down some iced bevvies. Yes, we are spoiled, wasteful, gluttonous Americans. I also iced down my entire face. Holy crap, my skin was so much better by morning. That said, it could also have been the double whammy with a prescription topical antibiotic. You see, dad saves prescription meds from everything and anything. He travels with a monster packing cube full of drugs. I mean, when you take care of three 90+ y/os and you’re a retired doc, I guess you like to have access to all your supplies. So incidentally, he had a tube of antibiotic cream that Yebbie used two years ago after the hospital removed his stomach tube. In Taiwan, Dad saw the disfiguring cysts on my face and figured this prescription-grade shit might help. He also said something about infections near the nose/eye areas being dangerous… I dunno. I just want those fuckers gone. So anyway, maybe the combo of that with the icing helped my skin calm down.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: Ten days later, I am still dealing with this bullshit BUT it is getting better and at least, my face is not THROBBING like before.

Meanwhile today, I was watching a video from a makeup blogger I follow. She claims to have had acne issues that were really bad and really obstinate after her pregnancy. She finally found something that eliminated her cysts on her chin. So those words are like triggers for me. Being the desperate sucker that I am, I had to watch her video and now I’m going to order her recommended 3-step skin care kit. Sure, everyone and their mother has some cure out there. Why am I trying hers and not the others? I dunno. I just kind of like her… despite her being Mormon and being into fostering/adopting kids. Shrug.

You know me: I don’t identify with any part of that life… still, there is something about her… something grounded about her. She started a makeup line but she is more than a makeup artist. I dunno how to explain it other than to say that she has depth. There is a gravity to her life. And tonight I was just browsing around her site some more, and I came across her post about love and addiction and codependency. Her post is old and from years ago, but it moved me… in some small way, it reminded me of our darker days when J really struggled with his depression. She tried. so. hard. Hers is a sad story, and yet, look at her now: She is strong. She is happy. She is thriving. I can’t help but admire her strength. So now I’m buying her skincare set… well, on Cyper Monday when it’s supposed to go on sale. 🙂 I hope it improves my skin, bc yes, I’m back to that pain in the ass problem again… at 42 y/o.

Tripping in Taiwan

We did actually have some fun on this trip to Taiwan. My relatives planned a couple of trip itineraries and we saw some new destinations.

One day we went up to the northern part of Tainan (the city where my eldest aunt and her family lives) and checked out Zengwen Reservoir, the largest in Taiwan. The day was hotter and muggier than hell, but seeing all the elderfolk manage the heat just fine, J and I obviously couldn’t complain. This is where we ate at the café (where dad didn’t want to take in our fruit) and also took a boat ride to see feral pigs. The pig experience was kinda weird. As we approached the shore, the boat captain blasted Andreas Bocelli… it felt weirdly Godfather-ish or something, like we were soon to be fed to flesh-eating pigs. We shared the ferry ride with a huge group, like a tour group of old folks. They were probably the same age as my parents and aunts/uncle, and they were such a lively bunch. Sigh. Elder years done right, I think: Traveling with your friends, staying active. I know, tsk, tsk, tsk. I’m so judgey with my parents. What can I say, they’re doing it all wrong! Haha.

The other big destination was Taitung, the lower eastern shore of Taiwan. For this trip, my aunt booked a private shuttle bus, and man, that thing was comfy. Captains chairs plus a built-in big screen and karaoke system. It was fun, and my mom got into it. She was singing all her fav old Chinese songs (thankfully, my cousin is an old soul and knows all the songs from that era– 70s). My dad even chimed in and SANG. Remember last year when we booked that ktv room in their condo complex and dad refused to sing bc he’s an annoying perfectionist? Well, it seems he’s finally chilled out a bit and stopped taking himself so damn seriously. It was a cool change to witness from one year to the next.

All in all, we were in the shuttle like 4-5 hrs. John did comment that we seriously stopped for bathroom breaks like every half hour. Shrug. I mean, dad is a prostate cancer survivor and mom has always had bladder issues. Oh well. At least the 7 Elevens have good drinks and snacks. Of course, all along the way, we ate way too much food and fruit. I will say the food this time around was not as good as I remember. That said, we did find some super creamy custard in Taitung as well as the yummy cherimoya fruit, grown/harvested up that way. Maybe custard was the theme for us this trip. In the evening, we walked along a park, lined with paper lantern and craft tables set up by local artisans selling their work. Taiwan is famous for their night markets where vendors sell tons of goods on folding tables, but this venue was different bc instead of cheap, mass-produced plastic crap, they sold handmade goods. We saw some interesting leather goods (got some ideas for Bubbey) and artwork, etc. Of course being the anti-big suitcase people that we are, we only bought some postcards with a local artist’s watercolor prints. In the evening, we retired to our rooms at the Sheraton, a nice and swanky hotel. I made sure to get up early the next day to partake in the sauna/pools amenities. Yup, these were nude only facilities– separated for men and women. I was pretty sure no one was going to force me to go nude, so I went down there first thing with my swimsuit. But the lady at the door kept saying it was nude only. At first, the defiant me was going to just verbally agree and then do whatever I wanted once I got in. Then, I thought about how people generally hate Americans who travel abroad bc they don’t respect local customs and they just do whatever the hell they want. I didn’t want to be THAT kind of American. Ugh.

Thankfully, when I got into the locker room, I was the only one there. Yup, I had a cool pool, a warm pool, a wet and dry sauna, plus all the showering facilities all to myself. Fine. I mean, in the privacy of myself, that was not the time to break a rule and be a beotch. Man, I love using all the amenities. 🙂

Throughout our time in Taiwan, we struggled still with jetlag and I dunno. My body just shuts down/gets very tired from the stress of being around family. They didn’t do anything particularly annoying or unbearable… I’m just conditioned to feel stressed after all these years… I’m trying to free myself from my issues. Well, we’ll be seeing my family again Stateside next month so I guess I’ll have a chance to practice some new coping skills. It’s really not so bad anymore compared to the olden days. Time to let go a bit and chill the fuck out (as I’m always advising my parents to do…).

I Am Not Your Secretary

So as usual, leading up to my Taiwan trip, I had been dreading how I was going to manage my interactions with family, namely, I was worried about keeping my cool with my mother. As life would have it, I managed to stay relatively controlled with my mother this trip, but I ended up blowing up at my dad.

What can I say, I am full of flaws and no matter how much older I get, no matter how much more I learn and mature, there are deeply ingrained habits from my childhood that I just don’t handle well.

The odd thing is, my father and I are similar on so many levels— with our intensity, our workaholism, our tracking/managing styles, our independence, our judgement of others… and yet there are still distinct differences and powerful triggers.

From the start, my dad’s ridiculous adherence to rules was showing itself and irking me. From giving John driving directions and informing him of this and that not being allowed, to our group going to a scenic destination and wanting to eat our fruit and snacks at the upstairs cafe… I mean, yes, most food establishments in the US have some policy like “no outside food or drink”, but we could have just asked the cafe staff. No, he was adamant. He didn’t even want to ask and instead insisted that all of us eat on the lower park pavilion without as nice a view. Later, we decided to order lunch at the cafe and still he was all wound up about us eating fruit we had brought in. Mind you, no other guests were even there and to be honest, I doubt the teenybopper staff really gave a shit. He’s just unnecessarily uptight about that kind of stuff. John says it’s bc being an immigrant in America makes you fearful. You don’t ever want to give authorities any reason to give you a hard time. Yes, I agree, but still. People are on vacation to hang out with us. Chill the hell out.

Later, when I was visiting my grandparents, John and I wanted to give the two maids some extra money, bc well shit, they work a TON for my very large and demanding family and on top of that, all three grandparents still look amazing thanks to the maids’ 24/7 care. Now, remember, labor is fucking cheap in Asia. And these maids being migrant workers from Indonesia means their labor is even cheaper than for native workers. Still, by comparison with their impoverished hometown, they are making great money in Taiwan, which is why they are working overseas in the first place. So whatever. I just wanted to give them each the equivalent of 100 usd. Mind you, I’m not sure but they probably only earn a few hundred usd per month, so this is not chump change, but to me, it’s still totally worth it to show gratitude for their hard work. Anyway, Dad gets all in my business asking how much I’m giving them and then he says that amount is way out of line. His explanation is that if I give that much, when my aunt pays them, it throws off the system. There’s a system and I have to play by the rules. Omfg. I mean, are you for fucking real? Just him saying those words, triggered something. He told me to give them 33 instead. I was like, those rules have nothing to do with me. I’m a foreigner: I don’t have to abide by the local rules. And then it started to escalate.

Honestly, I’m not about to be told what to fucking do in this situation. I mean, I didn’t even need to tell him I was gifting them anything. Finally, I just say ok and left the room pissed off. I talked it over with John and he said to compromise with 66, but I was still irritated and annoyed.

A few minutes later, Dad says he needs my help with filling out the USPS form to hold his mail for the next week. Also, I need to contact his former office manager to see if she picked up his mail up until then. Also, what’s the update on the house since he didn’t set the alarm. So the gist is 1. Did she get the mail 2. Can she check on house.

It’s always a tad uncomfortable bc every time I reach out to this lady, my dad is just barking orders, so I’m trying to draft something that is friendlier. I’m drafting and then Dad wants to read my draft before it goes out. My point is, tell me the end goal and then I can decide how to get to the desired result. So even without realizing, I text her to the effect of, dad’s not sure if he asked you to get the mail but are you able to get it and blah, blah. So he’s like harping over me about what to say, like I’m a fucking secretary taking his dictation and I’m getting annoyed about having my work checked before it goes out. I read him the draft which is still in a progress and immediately, he’s like no. I am sure. I already asked her to get the mail blah blah, and then he provides all this other seemingly extraneous info. I edit and he says to read it to him again. Finally, I yell out: You’re not my boss and I’m not your secretary. I’m 40-some years old. I know how to write a text message.

And he’s kind of stunned by my blowup and says I know you’re not my secretary, you are just helping me out. I want to review it, bc you still didn’t get the message right. That angers me further and I counter back that I’m still drafting it! I edit again and read the revised again. Fast and totally pissed, glaring at him. Then he’s like whatever. Send it. I storm out.

I hate doing shit for him, bc he hovers and micromanages. It drives me nuts and then it just dredges up all the extra shit from the past where I do all this research for him and half the time that effort is wasted, with the results totally unused. Also, I realized I had gotten the detail wrong not bc I didn’t hear him, but bc subconsciously it was my way of making the request softer with the office manager…

Ultimately though, what I should have already understood is that he worked with her for almost 40 years. She knows his style already. I don’t need to censor or mute it for her, and he, as the physician, is supposed to be clear on the facts. So then I kind of understood why it mattered to him to set up the context correctly even if the end goal was the same.

Two days later, I was still bothered by my reaction to such a small request by my father. I could see that what I said and how I said it pained him. And the magnitude of my response was totally incommensurate with the situation. But like I said, there are powerful historical triggers at play. It was a culmination of things… but that didn’t make it right. And yet, for three days, I could not bring myself to apologize. My brain just kept trying to rationalize and justify even though I knew what I did was unwarranted.

I finally apologized the night before I left. I just said I was sorry for blowing up. I know he never asks me for much so I shouldn’t have lost my temper. Meanwhile, the office manager replied that she’d already gotten the mail and she would go by the house tomorrow to check on it. No problem!

That was another epiphany for me. She, having worked with him for so long, knew exactly what he meant. She always follows through on his requests and yet he still always asks her again and seeks confirmation. She didn’t take offense, bc she understands his directness and she understands that medicine is a lot about double checking the details. I’m ashamed that I didn’t already get this.

Snow White and the Huntsman

My skin is kinda all over the place these days. Cysts, peeling, dryness, enlarged pores…. and I’ve been getting sucked into a bunch of different products. It really is the endless search for the magic potion. Among the new products, I recently turned to snail cream, a Korean import. Yes, the Korean women are famous for their gabillion-step skincare routine. I happen to think more than anything it is the climate up north… they don’t have to suffer through the heat and humidity that women do in Taiwan. I mean, sure I’m living in the temperate climate of Northern California, so I dunno what my excuse is for shit skin. No sleep and mental stress I suppose. So anyway I finally decided to give snail cream a try. I had been holding off bc well, that shit is made from the mucin of snails. That just seemed so inhumane and gratuitous, you know? I mean, I suppose every time I consume meat, I am playing god and positioning myself above other creatures, not to mention pulling the power card. I certainly feel more akin to warm-blooded mammals than I do to mollusks but I dunno there was just something disturbing about the thought of snail farms where swaths of snails were exposed to stress so they can produce the mucous that then gets harvested for my skin cream. It always reminds of me of that movie with Charlize Theron and Kristin Stewart. Charlize plays the evil queen who, in order to maintain her beauty has to consume the hearts of young princesses. For some reason, my snail cream makes me feel like the queen.

But shit man my skin needs major help. So the poor snails. Supposedly they are raised specifically for this purpose. And they aren’tkilled, they just feel like they are going to die. Ah, the things we tell ourselves to rationalize our behavior. What can I say. I’m a vain beotch and I only got a few more years left to have non-crepey skin. Sorry snails. My time is now.

Meanwhile what’s the verdict on this blood sauce? I’m not sure it helps with my acne. It does seem to help the non t-zone areas of my face. But my nose and chin are still problematic. So maybe my stint is short lived. Onto the next torture cream!

Daughters of Immigrant Parents 

Holy crap, I cannot believe it is the end of October. I really hustled to finish the month out strong…. I had an open house in Menlo Park Saturday and Sunday in hopes of squeezing in an offer before flying off to Taiwan on Monday. Sadly, no such luck. I’ve had the worst experiences with Menlo Park, actually. It’s a trendy city in the more expensive San Mateo County, so for both properties I was hopeful, but I dunno, the streets are really difficult to place signs bc the roads have no shoulder or have cars parked everywhere. It’s been a real pain and then I got no traffic through the open house. Given, the properties were on the market longer than usual but still… anyway, note to self: No more Menlo Park. Stick to what I know in Santa Clara County.

The interesting thing I’ve learned though while working with my Vietnamese loan agent and my Indian buyers… the immigrant experience really is a powerful life influence. Like when I had my homebuying class and I talked about handling a lot of matters for my parents, the attendees really got it. And so many times, my friend C the loan officer is on the phone handling transactions for her aunt or cousins or whatever. It’s a lot of extra work and tedious shit too like reviewing HOA docs or managing bank accounts or legal contracts…. I dunno. Sometimes it’s comforting to know we share common experiences, but man, Asian daughters have to handle so much shit. C was telling me how her parents bought a house that her brother and his wife live in. Sound familiar? And her brother is always benefiting from being the Asian son. He’s not even responsible or helpful with anything. He just reaps all the benefits without having to lift a fucking finger. Meanwhile, bc C is single, the people in family, esp the women, are constantly cutting her down. Her grandmother ridicules her and calls her an old maid and “leftover” woman. She accuses her of being a man. I get so worked up and pissed off when I hear that shit. It really just highlights how sexist Asian culture still is. Meanwhile she handles all important matters, financing, legal stuff, etc. and her brother does nothing. And she’s the one getting called names. Again, it’s that Asian style of parenting where people think name calling and shaming will motivate you to somehow have a different outcome. It’s so demeaning and manipulative. I think it helps C to know that I understand the criticism bc I have seen it. But man, esp before my trip to Taiwan, it gets me super on edge. Like if my relatives say anything to get under my skin, I will just fucking blow up.

Of course, as the universe would plan it, Johnny keeps emailing my dad’s email account. Last week was a YouTube video by an ex pharma sales guy who basically said the pharmaceutical business is all about making money. Then, there was a video about the dangers of the flu vaccine. This week he sent some video with tips about what husbands can do to maintain a good marriage. I mean, generally I am all about the self help and learning how to improve my relationships, but advice from my selfish, never been married brother? Puhleeze. Step the fuck off, man child.

It irks me so much I’m going to tell Dad I’m done monitoring his emails. He can either block this bullshit content, tell Johnny to stop spreading his antivax propaganda, or he can monitor his own goddamn email. So fucking annoying to see this garbage on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, my colleague at the office keeps telling me I’m so lucky to be going on vacation. Ok woman, Taiwan is NOT a fucking vacation ok? It’s going to take all the energy in the world for me not to blow up at my mother. Remember my trip last year? And the one before that? Granted, I know now what I didn’t know then— that my mother has cognitive issues. So yes, I’m supposed to be extra tolerant and compassionate. I agree that the diseases have not helped with her mental processing. That said, she said and did plenty of damage even when she was of sound mind… but who’s holding a grudge, right?

I always try my best to channel my beloved Bubbey, but ultimately, I am who I am. Sigh. Wish me luck. At least I’ll have our Rover client Sadie Spunkmeyer greeting us the day we get back Stateside!