Sharing Is Caring

Growing up, trophies for places other than first and ribbons for participation were acknowledged but otherwise overlooked. When my sports team earned a 3rd place trophy, the only reason it was kept was because the cost of the thing was built into the enrollment fee. When I received a finisher’s ribbon for completing a 50-yard race of butterfly, it meant only two things –

  1. My arms and legs were working fine as my pediatrician predicted, and
  2. I was not fat, as my pediatrician was concerned about.

Being successful in such endeavors had several benefits –

  • Fulfilling expectations for personal enrichment and growth,
  • Assuring that my parents’ time and money were not completely wasted, and
  • Making my parents look at least okay when comparing their kids with their friends’

Recently, however, Mama Kim has started to become more involved in the B+ kind of moments in my and my siblings’ lives. It used to be about informing the parentals about just the topic sentence, but for once we were starting to be asked about the filler “fluff.” This sudden 100-degree change (let’s be realistic – it wasn’t like the three of us were screwing up so much we needed all 180) had us slightly alarmed, but we attributed it to the fact that we had all flown the coop in a short period of time and she was making an effort to keep us close.

My mom (to my sister): Hi! How has your vacation in Australia been?
My sister: Pretty good. We’re leaving Sydney early to go to the Maldives.
My mom: Oh, really? How come? What time did you wake up? When is your flight? How are you getting to the airport? Do you have a hotel booked in the Maldives already since you’re getting there early? What is Sydney like? Is it a direct flight? Will there be a meal served on the flight? What is the food like in Australia? Did you only eat Western food? What language is spoken in the Maldives?
My sister: We are leaving in 15 minutes. I have to go now, bye!

Keeping open the lines of communication

Keeping open the lines of communication

As I consoled my mother and tried to convince her that my sister had been in a rush and wasn’t ignoring her, I tried to empathize and asked her if maybe playing 20 Questions was not the most effective form of communication.

“We are family! Family is supposed to share all of the details in each other’s lives, even if it is not important! Just think, if we only talked about the important events in our lives, your brother would never have anything to say to us!!!


Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

I’m not sure exactly how or when, but one day I woke up to find I had reached my 20s and all of a sudden, I was supposed to be flushing out toxins with juice cleanses, finding my alleged “inner zen” in yoga classes, and sipping latte art I really couldn’t afford. Not too long after, some former queen bee Instagrammed a selfie while hiking, and suddenly everyone had to wear Lululemon all the time, all over the place. Since I couldn’t afford the latte art to begin with though, I just bought whatever ass-kissing replica of a capri pant Target produced.

To be honest however, I’ve been enjoying the hiking part of being in one’s twenties. It was refreshing to disconnect from my phone and appreciate the nature I normally couldn’t find living in suburbia. Before I knew it, my mother was hopping on the hiking bandwagon as well and transformed into a trail enthusiast, inviting girlfriends to visit us in Las Vegas so she could introduce them to the free and sober side of Sin City no tourist would have ever expected to find.

Our inaugural guest was one of my mother’s best friends of almost 30 years, and one of the more athletically-inclined. We decided to take a field trip about an hour away to Valley of Fire one morning, and wow. Toto, we certainly weren’t in Kansas anymore. And so the three of us roamed the state park, the only Asians not having to stop every 17 steps to document our adventures with an obnoxious iPad.



While making our way through the trails, my mother commented,

“Imagine how fun it would be to rock climb across these canyons!”

And in true best friend fashion, her gal pal responded without even missing a beat,

“The only thing better than rock climbing across these canyons is if you were to Wuxia kung fu across.”

Ain't nothin' like a kung fu thang

Kung fu – improving hikes one trail at a time

Let’s Chat About Fat

“We’ve missed you!”
“How was your trip?”
“Glad to have you back!”

There’s nothing like returning home and being greeted by the hugs and faces of loved ones at the airport. After time away from your own bed, home cooked meals, and your slobbery dog, homecoming never felt so sweet.

For us Kims though, it doesn’t quite work the same way. The idea is there, but the dialogue is tweaked just a little bit.

My dad: “Hi, good flight?”
Me: “Oh, my God. Worst flight ever! There was horrible turbulence and I was stuck in the middle between a crying ba-”
My dad: “I think you got fatter. Welcome home. Your mom made dinner.”

“I love you” isn’t a phrase used often in our household, or really at all, but the feeling is given and taken just as frequently in homes where our counterparts do. It just comes in different forms. Think sizzling potstickers after school. Or boiling hot pot brimming with meats and vegetables in the winter. Or a hot bowl of congee to kick off the morning. We don’t say it, but we taste it.

My mom: “Jamie, maybe you should try to lose weight.”
My sister: “I’m in the military, I work out all the time. This is muscle.”
My mom: “I know, but maybe just a few pounds? It’s just a matter of cutting down carbs.”
My sister:  “UGHHH. Okay.”
My mom: “Are you hungry though? Here’s a bowl of rice.”

Food is love. Love is food.

Food is love. Love is food.

Since deploying on a tour abroad, communication with my sister is infrequent yet savored. Her schedule is spontaneous, so we FaceTime and Skype around her schedule when possible. After one particularly long period without having heard from her, my sister did the right thing by calling my mother first, who quipped some dear words of affection in conclusion of the conversation.

“Jamie! It doesn’t look like you got any fatter! Great!”

The struggle is real.

Riot With the Diet

When genetics forced my father into a doctor-induced, low-fat, no-carb diet a few years ago while my siblings and I were still living at home, it meant we were now ALL on a low-fat, no-carb diet. And for any righteous Asian, this sudden announcement signified we now had a problem on our hands bigger than the possible onset of high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

“‘No rice’!? What do you mean, ‘NO RICE’!? Mayday, MAYDAY!”

My mother took charge right away and overhauled our pantry and refrigerator, transforming our family dinners. Instead of eating a protein and vegetables, now we were eating a protein and a SHIT TON of vegetables. For years my father remained devoutly disciplined. We watched in awe and sympathy as he divorced starches and began dating our elliptical. When he and I became roommates all over again last year, a trip to Costco was just business as usual.

My dad: Did you get your Chapstick and some floss?
Me: Yes. Were you able to find toilet paper?
My dad: Uh huh. Do you think we’re going to need all of these paper tow – oh look, wine!

It didn’t take us long to get everything we needed after following our strategy of “conquer and divide,” so we spent a little more time browsing through the behemoth of a warehouse. As we wandered listlessly through the aisles, I stopped when I realized the sound of our shopping cart had diminished. I turned and saw my father gazing wistfully at an item on the shelf.

My dad: We need to buy Doritos.
Me: Why?
My dad: I miss them. And your mom is not here.

No Dad, that's nacho reality! It's only a dream!

No Dad, that’s nacho reality! It’s only a dream!

How do you say no to someone who never so much as allowed himself a single cheat day? You don’t.


When the reality of living with my father in Las Vegas temporarily without my mother finally hit me a few months ago, I realized that everyone else’s concerns regarding curfews, potential (though currently non-existent) boyfriends, and social decline were petty compared to what was constantly on my mind.

“How are we going to eat!?”

Consider this. I was working a job with slavish hours that had physically exhausted me to the point where I felt like cheese and crackers and scrambled eggs were both fine choices for dinner. My dad, on the other hand, had the culinary expertise of boiling dumplings, heating up ramen, and making scrambled eggs (I got it from him). That being said, we had to do something about our dining dilemma – our house was located in an emptier part of town, so as my dad put it, we “could die here, and nobody will know. FOR DAYS!” With Papa Kim having the luxury of working from the comforts of our own home, however, he was given the mandatory opportunity for the post of Household Iron Chef.

Surprisingly enough, Papa Kim managed to find his way with a knife and wok, and we were able to break bread nightly with no kitchen mishaps at all. It didn’t take me long to learn that my dad had a great love for ginger either. We had ginger-infused cabbage, green beans with ginger, tofu garnished with ginger – until finally, I just had to ask.

Me: Dad. Is this supposed to taste like ginger?
My dad: I put a little ginger in.
Me: I think there might be more than a little ginger in.
My dad: Oh, really? Hmm. Okay, maybe next time I will just add less ginger in.

It turned out that Papa Kim was under the impression that ginger was supposed to go in EVERYTHING. In consulting with Mama Kim about the correct apportionment of the ingredients, he received this less-than-enthused response from the Kim family kitchen goddess.

“Oh. You’re not supposed to put ginger in that dish.”

As my dad got more and more comfortable around the stove, he even mentioned, “You know what? I don’t think cooking is that hard after all!”

My dad: How exactly are you supposed to chop an onion?
Me: I usually slice it close to the core up and down, then left and right, and finally turn the onion on its side to cube it all.
My dad: Oh. I didn’t know that. I just ended up grabbing a second knife and chopping everything up with both hands because it got too messy.

To his credit, my dad has  more than five hairs on his head, but I don't know how to draw good hair.

To his credit, my dad has more than five hairs on his head, but I don’t know how to draw good hair. And yes, in the spirit of kitchen-ness, this was drawn on a paper towel.

So when Mama Kim stopped by for a quick home check on the two of us one weekend, I remembered the onions when passing by La Bonita, a Mexican supermarket in the area.

Me: Oh, the produce here is really cheap. Sometimes you can get up to 20 pounds of onions for $1!
My dad: What can you do with 20 pounds of onions!?
My mom: You can practice chopping.

Several days later, my dad had a new epiphany.

“You know what, I don’t think I actually enjoy cooking that much.”

Bicycle: A True Story

As a member of the United States Coast Guard on active duty, I’d say my sister spends significantly more time working out than the average American. She religiously wakes up at 4:30a during the workweek to exercise, won’t shut up to everyone and anyone she meets about how much she loves CrossFit, and has on multiple occasions brusquely ended phone calls with us to go to the gym. Which I guess makes sense. I mean, if you’re going to be part of a team offloading $19 million worth of cocaine, I suppose you’d need a muscle or two.

If there’s any form of physical activity my sister does not enjoy, it’d be running or anything like it and in fact shares these sentiments openly.

“I would lose a lot of weight running the hills in San Francisco if I lived here because I’d run faster since everyone is always looking at you. Oh, so do people in Charleston [South Carolina]! I like it there, it’s a beach town. But not like Newport Beach [California] where it costs $1 million just to take a shit.”

Not long after my sister moved for a new assignment, she announced her intentions to bike to her base from her home. Naturally at this point, my mother curiously interrogated her about this plan, therefore negating the need for any of the rest of us to ask any questions.

My mom: Wait. So you’re going to BIKE to work?
My sister: Yes.
My mom: How are you going to BIKE to work?
My sister: I’m going to ride to the rapid transit station by my house, take the rail to the closest station by my base, and then ride from there.
My mom: I see. How far is it if you BIKE to work?
My sister: Around 30 miles or so.
My mom: Do a lot of people on your ship BIKE to work?
My sister: Yeah, because parking on the base is really crowded.

Bike ho, bike ho, it's off to work she goes

Bike ho, bike ho, it’s off to work she goes

My dad: Do you even have a bike?
My sister: No, that is the only thing missing from this equation.

Vegans in Vegas on Vacation

In too many ways, junk food is like an ex-significant other.

It’s familiar.
It’s comfortable.
It’s easy.

As you get older, though, you realize how toxic it is having this in your life and one day you have an epiphany: “I can’t keep letting mac and cheese solve my life problems anymore.” And just like that, you sit down your bags of Doritos, your boxes of Frosted Flakes, and your cases of Top Ramen for the inevitable.

“I’m sorry – it’s not you, it’s me. I just feel like we’re going down two different paths, and for me, that path is broccoli and green beans.”

Bye bye, Skittles. Hello, cherry tomatoes.

Bye bye, Skittles. Hello, cherry tomatoes.

But just like an ex that you can’t write off completely, junk food still continues to find ways into your life. It’s the thing you turn to after a particularly bad day at work with complete nincompoops, or a great night out with Johnnie Walker and Don Julio. Either way, you know it will respond at all hours of the day or night, even without an illiterate text message. You sneak into the dark with them, doing your best to cover up your crumbs tracks, and leave feeling guilty and dirty, but shamefully satisfied.

When my cousin Tiffany decided to fly into Las Vegas for vacation on the spur of the moment from San Francisco a few weekends ago, the topic of eating cleaner came up in conversation while in the car, and we confided in each other how our dietary habits had evolved.

Me: I’ve been starting to eat less and less meat recently. I’ll still eat it if it’s there, but I don’t seem to crave it much anymore. I think I could consider vegetarianism, but I’d say veganism is too challenging for me because I like eggs and cheese too much.
Tiffany: Me too! I definitely couldn’t become a vegan. I don’t think I could give up dairy completely.

If I had known there was a purple option, I might have jumped on the cauliflower bandwagon a little earlier!

If I had known there was a purple option, I might have jumped on the cauliflower bandwagon a little earlier.

As I nodded in agreement and continued to drive in silence, I looked over at Tiffany in my passenger seat as I let the significance of her words sink in.

“‘Become a vegetarian’? How are you going to do that when your favorite food is STEAK!?”

Let’s Get Physical

In the past several years, my father has suddenly gotten serious about his health and fitness, something my mother has pretty much always been fanatical about. As a result of their newfound “team” efforts in staying in shape, I was therefore baffled when the issue of whether or not to transport their behemoth of an elliptical became a topic of debate at all. My mother, fearing for the 115+ temperatures in Las Vegas, insisted that the elliptical come along for the ride because indoor exercise could potentially be her only option. On the other hand, my father didn’t feel that it was utilized enough to begin with to justify the move of such a ridiculously heavy piece. Obviously at the end of the day, though, my mother won out, so along came the elliptical, which ultimately took three movers and a whole lot of huffing and puffing to put in place.

This looks like it could be Wall-E's neighbor

This looks like it could be Wall-E’s neighbor

A few days after starting to settle in their casa nueva, my dad wandered around to get the lay of the land.

My dad: Where can I exercise around here?
My mom: We have something called an elliptical in the house.
My dad: Yeah, but that gets repetitive and then it’s not as good.
My mom: Well it’s not like you’ve been using it so nothing about that is repetitive.

Give Them the Finger

My mother is not a woman of staunch religious conviction, but if there is anything she does believe in, it’s that professional medical assessments are a last resort and are to be relied upon only when all other options have  been exhausted. We Kims avoid hospitals like the plague (no health-related pun intended) and scorn offers for aspirin and ibuprofen. As far as my mother is concerned, there is <almost> no medical malady that cannot be healed with the power of time. And for those that truly cannot, there is eastern medicine: gut-wrenching, gag-inducing, throat-burning herbal cocktails that…oh, it looks like they do work.

So when I came home from a weekend trip in my freshman year of high school with a very badly fractured finger after a poorly-timed catch in a game of kickball, my mother’s personal evaluation was that as I was still able to continue walking, eating, breathing, and sleeping, a visit to a doctor would not be necessary.

Several weeks later, the pain had subsided, but my finger remained deformed as a result of the injury. Mama Kim sighed as she reluctantly lugged me to the family doctor, who sternly advised that the only way to return my finger to the way God intended was by re-breaking it.

“Oh, no, sir. That is not happening. This fracture was on my right hand and I write with my right hand. If I have to wear a brace on my finger I won’t be able to hold up a pen. And if I can’t hold up a pen, I won’t be able to keep up with any of my schoolwork. And if I can’t keep up with any of my schoolwork, then my grades will slip. And if my grades slip, I won’t be able to get into a decent university. And if I can’t get into a decent university, I won’t be able to get a good job. And if I don’t get a good job, I won’t be able to pay my bills. And if I can’t pay my bills, I will die. Do you see why I cannot afford to have my finger re-broken?”

I usually just tell people I'm distinctly double-jointed in my middle finger

I usually just tell people I’m distinctly double-jointed in my middle finger as a result of right-clicking too much with my mouse. I know, it looks STUPID.

For a while, I harbored anger at how there was no sense of urgency in responding to my finger injury, though now it no longer bothers me and I don’t even notice it unless somebody else does. The first time I brought it up to my mother, however, she did apologize briefly and made an effort to cheer me up as she chirped,

“Look at it this way. At least your future boyfriend will propose on the left hand, and not the right!”


How Deep Is Your Love

Young love.

Those are the words that cross my mind when I listen to my brother discuss his romantic dates at Chipotle, stay up to an ungodly hour texting, or ask for permission to go to Disneyland. For the parentals, however, this is a new and unorthodox form of courtship that in conjunction with the cultural differences, is helped even less by the generation gap. Both my brother and my father learned of this harsh reality recently when they managed to be in the same vicinity at the same time.

So I wasn't a graphic design major in college. This was the best I could do.

So I wasn’t a graphic design major in college. This was the best I could do. I call this piece “Young Love.”

My dad: What’s that on your neck?
My brother: A bruise.
My dad: What happened?
My brother: I fell while dancing (my brofus is big on b-boy dancing).
My dad: Oh. Well it doesn’t look like a bruise. It looks like someone…pinched your neck or something.


My dad (to nobody in particular): Oh. I think I know what that is.

As my sister rehashed this encounter to me, she mused, “In retrospect, I’m not sure if he figured it out, but I’m guessing he did because he just never talked about it again.”