Brain Cancer Turned My Dad Into An A**Hole

Once upon a time, there was a 24 year old girl.  Her dad got diagnosed with cancer.  Her boyfriend proposed.  Six months of life left was her dad’s prognosis.  Instead of waiting to get married, they planned their wedding in 5 days.  Dad walked his little girl down the aisle.  He died two weeks later.  She got a tattoo of one of her and her dad’s favorite quotes in his handwriting to remember him by.

True story.

I heard it from a girl in yoga.

Thank goodness I wasn’t sitting near here because I wanted to both cry and yell at the same time.  Something along the lines of “You are so lucky to have that kind of relationship with your dad!!” to “Aren’t you lucky you don’t have an Asian dad?!”

You will recall my last post consisted of our pros and cons list on moving out.  But as of 4/4/14 (ominous, no?  In Chinese, 4 = death), we have officially decided to move out.  No turning back like we did before.  I won’t go into too many details but it started and ended with a conversation between Terry and my dad.  I chose not to be involved because I knew I wouldn’t be able to control my words.  Apparently my dad has a similar problem.

My dad has always been a stubborn man in the sense that he thinks he’s always right and will not believe a thing you say unless you say it at least 3-4 times with usually some proof or another person to back you up.  It could be a debate on the color of ketchup or how the universe works.  The conversation between Terry and my dad started out about certain bills but progressed into overall home repairs to why we are living there.  Every time we explain to my dad that we moved in to help take care of him, two of his favorite responses are “You didn’t even ask for my opinion before you moved into my house.  You just did it” and “You guys didn’t help me do anything.”  It’s one thing when someone says words clearly out of anger but he so nonchalantly INSISTS that he could have done everything on his own.  Driving to all the pre-op/post-op appointments, communicating with doctors post-surgery when he couldn’t say anything coherent, cooking for himself (he microwaved tiramisu), filling out his retirement documents, etc. etc… he says he could have either done them by himself or asked his friends.  It’s ironic because the day after this conversation, he expected me to drive him to two appointments.

Okay, so technically we didn’t ask him if we could move in.  We did it because 1) my dad had stage 4 brain cancer and 2) they estimated he would have at most a year to live.  Now that it has been two years cancer free, my dad has passed the mark that 97% of people with his cancer couldn’t.  But I can’t tell you how hurtful it is to readjust our life, our newlywed life, for almost two years taking care of him and for him to act like we did it out of our own self interests.  I don’t know what it is about this whole cancer experience that has changed him into this negative, awful person who says the most subtly malicious things.  Things that hurt DEEP, that I will never forget.

Sacrifice does not always result in recognition.  I know that.  Maybe when I become a parent, I will know that even more.  My dad has gone through a lot in his life and has done a lot for us.  But I feel that it’s unfair for him to continue to use his life experiences as a reason to treat us the way he does.  I will never be able to go through a cultural revolution in China, to immigrate to a country with little money and little understanding of the language, to work graveyard hours for 20+ years, to be the primary caregiver for an ill wife, and whatever else he likes to mention during our arguments… but I am doing my best here.  So we decided to move out asap, as soon as we can find a place that will accommodate Terry’s car child and my two dog children, in hopes that having space will make our relationship with my dad better.  It certainly can’t get any worse.

I’ve been really torn about sharing our family junk.  I know that on one hand, I need to honor my family and protect their image (whatever that means) but if my experience with this can be a second of comfort for another, then good.  My work is done here.

Living with Dad

Who would have thought that at 30 years old and married, I would still be living with my dad?  Not me!  I’ve written about how my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2012 so that’s when Terry and I decided to break our apartment lease and move in to help take care of him.  Well, it will be 2 years this coming June and we’re stuck at a crossroad.  Move out or not?

Pros to Moving out:

  • Privacy for Terry and I
  • Less fighting over everything (house things, money, etc.)
  • Possibly a better relationship with dad due to less fighting
  • Dad will be less annoyed at Marlow since he pretty much hates him

Pros to Staying:

  • Saving money (We still contribute quite a bit but it will be less than the ridiculous cost of living on our own in the Bay Area)
  • Being able to buy a house in maybe a year and pay off our car faster
  • Marlow and Titan can entertain each other during the day and there’s more space for the both of them to run around
  • We can help my dad with anything (this is both a pro and a con actually because sometimes he depends on us too much on things he could do but is too lazy to do)

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a decision where I was almost evenly split.  I’ve always been able to clearly see what I should do but we really are torn at this point.  If you are wondering about my dad’s health, he has been getting MRIs and blood tests every 3 months.  He looks clear of any cancer regrowth which is still apparently inevitable.  Actually it’s a bit confusing.  Doctors said that over 90% of people with that specific cancer live an average of 18 months even with the most aggressive chemo/radiation treatment.  My dad has made it to 22 months which is very promising.  His oncologist said that once he makes it to the 5 year mark is when we can start seeing the doctor less.  So that time period between 18 months and 5 years is really a toss up.

Sometimes I feel that it’s very naive when I hear someone say “I would never let my parent live in a nursing home” or “I would definitely take care of my parent if they got sick” without experiencing it firsthand or at least getting a firsthand account.  It’s a complex situation.  Your parent’s personality could completely change when stricken with a disease.  He/she won’t be the same person that you grew up with; YOU will be taking care of someone who is possibly incredibly needy and depressed.  And don’t get me started on depression… it is one of the most difficult things to deal with on a daily basis and you begin to start putting the responsibility for their happiness onto yourself, which only results in guilt.  Guilt can eat at your soul when it becomes the primary motivator for your actions.

I don’t expect to live a happy, carefree life even though people encourage us to move out so that Terry and I can have time for ourselves.  Life is full of suffering and the goal isn’t just to make it all go away.  I also understand the importance of building a strong foundation for our marriage but that can happen in any situation that we’re in.  If we left, I’m hoping that our relationship with my dad would get better since space is something we all need.  If we stayed, I would need to set some clear expectations and boundaries for everyone’s sanity.  And if we stayed, how long would we stay for?

Reliving Korean Church Food


Kongnamul bap (soybean sprout rice bowl) with muguk (Korean radish soup)

So where we live in the Bay Area, the closest really good Korean supermarket is 45 minutes away, which happens to also be where Terry gets his haircut every 4 weeks.  We don’t always get to go to the supermarket when we make his haircut trips but when we do, we stock up on a LOT of Korean food.  All the meats, side dishes, you name it.  The problem, I’ve discovered, with cooking multiple cuisines is that you really do need very different cuts of meat.  We always joke that Terry gets 1 week per quarter of Korean cooking from me but that’s not really a joke since it’s called truth.

I always try to make dishes I haven’t made before thanks to Korean food websites but this week, all the foods I made were typically what was served for lunch at Korean churches… at least in our personal experiences.  I already knew that because I went to my best friend’s Korean church for a good portion of high school.  What I didn’t know was the negative imprint it had left on Terry’s digestive system.  I could see his face trying to hide the repulsion from eating kongnamul (soybean sprouts), which is apparently hated by many people who grew up in the church.

soybean sprouts

I think if we weren’t married and it was someone else presenting him with these dishes, he would literally throw them against the wall screaming “DIE kongnamul!!!”  Luckily, he was gracious to me and ate it anyway.

Crappy Potluck Food

In my mind, I am notorious for bringing either really good or really nasty items to potlucks.  For some reason, something inside me always makes me want to experiment with a new dish for potlucks.  And even if it sucks, by that time it’s usually too late to bring anything else or the pain of wasting food deters me from throwing it out.

Rewind to my sophomore year in college where a group of friends were having a potluck.  I had discovered this dish where you can throw in uncooked pasta, sauce, other typical pasta ingredients, and a little bit of water into a baking dish, bake it, and it will come out as if you made pasta the traditional way… but with 5x less work.  I made it successfully a couple times for 2-4 people but I decided to up this dish to a large scale (9×13 dish) for the potluck.  I don’t’ know what went wrong but the pasta turned out so overcooked that it started all melding together into one big, rectangular pasta chunk.  I still brought it to the potluck and I was so nervous about people making fun of me that might friend, G, took the rap for it.  Even years later, people STILL made fun of her about that potluck but I was so thankful for her friendship.

I usually get a lot of free food at work and recently got some egg roll skins.  I have never made egg rolls before but figure the filling wouldn’t be too hard since I’ve made a lot of potstickers.

Filling: check (tasty).


Rolling egg rolls: check (tight).


Frying: check (brown).


Doesn’t look too bad huh?  Turns out I put too little filling which caused too many roll rotations which caused the skin to be too thick and not cook all the way.  No matter how many times I tried to re-fry them without reaching the burning point, the innermost layer just wouldn’t cook.  It was that doughy, flakey white texture that was obvious to anyone familiar with egg rolls.  Nevertheless, I brought them to a hangout with about 10 people and kept them covered while waiting for the oven to heat up to possibly.  People were so hungry that they snuck a peak and even though I gave them a quick warning, they STARTED TO EAT ALL THEM.  So much that half of them were gone.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop this bad habit of cooking new things for potlucks.  Sometimes I’ll just make whatever I can based on what’s already in the fridge.  Some other crappy things I’ve made?

  • Lemon bars that were so tart that they made your cheeks cave in and another time when they hardened and turned lard-like
  • Potato salad with undercooked, crunchy potatoes
  • Pot roast that was dry with watery sauce
  • Sliders with OVERLY peppery meat

And some not so crappy things?

Have fun trying some of the recipes out.  I’d love to hear your disaster stories.

Save Sriracha!


With all the Sriracha plant troubles, Terry would be absolutely devastated if something were to disrupt the production of his beloved hot sauce.  The ONLY foods he doesn’t put sriracha on are Mexican and Korean food since they have their respective sources of heat.

What he DOES put it on is everything I cook.  He says it “enhances” the flavor but I really think he just wants to eat Sriracha and needs a foundation to put it on.  Sometimes I wonder if he can eat non-spicy foods.  I have almost opposite eating habits.  While I grew up eating very spicy foods (Burma, hello!), my favorite cuisine is probably Japanese.  I love how good my body feels to eat light foods (though not everything Japanese is light).

Regardless, I appreciate Sriracha for its ability to work with so many different foods.  We have already bought backups just in case something happens.  Two years ago, I even made Terry a Sriracha costume but am thinking of letting it go on eBay.

Baby Making Pact

asian baby

2015 seems to be the hot year for our group of friends.  They’ve all entered into an agreement to give birth sometime next year which means there will be a lot of activity going on at the end of March.  Shiver.

I don’t know how I feel about all this.

On a more serious note, it will be pretty sad if and/or when one couple will not be able to conceive.

On a lighter note, I want to take two more vacations before any of that happens, one domestic and one international.

Back to a serious note, we still live with my dad so where would we put this baby?

Back to a lighter note, there are more pressing concerns at the moment.  It is 9:52 am and I am hungry already.  I think I will eat half my lunch.

Last Night’s Dreams

Weird dreams are a regular occurrence for Terry but not for me.  Here are mine from last night… what do you think they mean?

Dream #1: Tiger chasing me through a casino, causing me to jump on top of slot machines for safety.


Dream #2: I was raising a talking, miniature lobster (the size of an ant) and I kept losing it because it was so small.  Lobster sounded like a little kid and I was so annoyed because I wanted to raise a lobster but I didn’t like that it looked like a bug.  Then, it grew exponentially fast and my mom cooked it without telling me.  All I saw was steaming, succulent meat.


I have a feeling dream #2 is human baby related.

The older we get…


…the less we care about the gimmicks of Valentine’s Day.   It’s all about words and quality time from here on out.

I’ve been appreciating Terry a lot more lately and I think it’s because the more time passes on, the more I’m able to let go of my preconceived notions and expectations of a great husband and just let him love me the way that he does best.  He really surprises me sometimes.

I think it is important to praise your S.O. both privately and publicly.  For me, I do like it when he compliments me in front of friends.  Not like the goo-goo-gah-gah “you’re so beautiful” because that would literally wet my tongue with bile.  Same goes with the nickname “babe” or “baby.”  But it’s the little things here and there, like how he always says that I’m great at shucking oysters when the topic of shucking oysters comes up.  (I don’t know why I’m really proud of this.)  Likewise, I can see how excited Terry gets when I genuinely express my admiration for some quality of his because he will ALWAYS say “what? you really think so?” or “really? how?” in an effort for me to elaborate.  I always say “dude, I don’t know” so maybe I will start to think of something more substantial.

Some things I’ve really appreciated about Terry lately:

  • In the winter, I sleep with socks on and kick them off every night.  In the morning, Terry finds them and neatly places them where I can find them.
  • He can make any kid warm up to him.  It’s a magic that ceases to amaze me.
  • He also knows that I don’t have the same kid powers so he gave me a tutorial on how to win them over. Key actions: facial gestures, hand, sound (in that order).
  • I’m always telling him big and lofty dreams for our future and he genuinely keeps an open mind, which surprises me because sometimes I even think I’m talking crazy.
  • He will watch YouTube vlogs with me and point out things he remembers about the people.

This year for Valentine’s Day, it will be nice to just stay home or eat somewhere local or run errands or watch a movie with Terry.  My dad is still in Asia until the end of March so we’ve been able to have the privacy that we’ve been craving for almost two years.  It has been terrific.

Single, dating, or married… take a second to say an out-of-the-blue compliment to someone you love.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

What’s left? Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was the last leg of our 2 week trip and after 10 days of traveling, we were almost ready to go home.  What I was looking forward to in Hong Kong was 1) more family time and 2) Chinese New Year in Hong Kong (a first for me!).

What we didn’t realize is that being in Hong Kong leading up to CNY and the actual day are just PART of the 2 week long festivities, only the tip of the iceberg.  It’s all about the days after when the fireworks and multiple feasts really begin.  Unfortunately, we left on CNY night.

I did love seeing all the colors in preparation for the holiday:

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What did we do in Hong Kong? To sum it up, we ate wonton and beef brisket noodle soup pretty much everyday:

hk food

Also this pineapple bun that Aziz Ansari ate on The Getaway (hilarious episode btw) and listed on this fantastic list of eats.  But seriously… why was the butter in pineapple bun not a tradition in my household?  The ratio of butter to bread makes so much sense.

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We also found this sushi joint where you order everything on a tablet!  The sushi isn’t the best but good for the price.  It’s also super fun to press all the buttons and have your food magically appear.

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Two of those are beef.

Finally, a picture of just us two on the Kowloon side.

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And my extended family.  Basically, my uncle and dad, next to their aunt (my great aunt) and cousins (whom I call aunts).  Two of my aunts here, I last saw them at my wedding 2.5 years ago but one had a stroke in Hong Kong (she isn’t able to travel back to the states until she’s a little more self-sufficient) but I was eager to see her.  Throughout my mom’s sickness and even my dad’s recent condition, they’ve all been so supportive, more than his own sisters, and I am so thankful for them.

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For our stay in Hong Kong, we rented out a studio from Airbnb which worked out pretty well because it was less than a mile away from my uncle’s house Sai Ying Pun, modern and clean (nice change from Myanmar), and sometimes you just need to be able to walk out onto the patio and get fresh (or not so fresh) air.  Sai Ying Pun wasn’t originally a hip area but Soho seems to be moving west so now there are a bunch of bars on his block.  Our apartment was also down the street from a 24 hour McDonald’s and you all know how much I like Asian McDonald’s!


Would we ever move to Hong Kong?  For the past couple years, I’ve been entertaining the idea of moving to Hong Kong.  We never made actual plans because of my dad’s health condition but I totally romanticized the image of Terry and I exploring a bustling city, walking around late at night, country hopping on the weekends, all those goodies.  Terry said he would keep an open mind but for us to see how we feel about the city after this trip (good idea because we also thought we’d love Portland but it ended up being too weird for us).  After this past trip, I will have to say a big fat N-O to living in Hong Kong.  It is busy as hell, all the time.  All people do is shop.  A view of the harbor is ever decreasing due to an exponentially growing rate of high rises.  Three days in our studio was nice but I was quickly starting to feel claustrophobic.

Maybe it’s very American of me to want more space but that’s not it; I want more natural space.  I want to be able to take a nice walk with the dogs and see some green.  I don’t want a heart rate that increases every time we go out because I have to constantly be ON (we missed our bus stop by a lot because the both of us were just staring out the windows for way too long).  I also want to be able to have a wide array of hobbies that don’t involve accumulating more possessions; that’s the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do now.  What I do love about Hong Kong though and I’m sure this is stating the super obvious, is being able to eat noodles and drink Hong Kong milk tea everyday.  All day, everyday.  But as much as I love to eat, I cannot fully love you, Hong Kong.

Shannon’s Burmese Family


Newlyweds with my aunt to the right

It was so good to see my mom’s side of the family.  They are actually complete opposites (like my parents were) from my dad’s side.  Mom’s side = crazy, outgoing, loud (<–I basically just listed synonyms).  Dad’s side = reserved, intellectual, polite.  I appreciate both sides equally but seeing my mom’s side always reminds me of my mom.  I only have 1 aunt in Myanmar and she is 2 years older than my mom. I didn’t realize how similar their personalities were.

For example, here is a conversation between my cousin (daughter of a different aunt) and my Myanmar aunt:

Aunt: (looks at cousin’s belly)  how many months?
Cousin: OH MY DAMN!!!
Aunt: (bends over to retrieve something from the fridge)
Cousin: (slaps aunt on butt)
Aunt: I’m going to fart in your face.

I’m pretty sure that my being there made it really sentimental for my aunts and uncles, especially back in their hometown where they all grew up together.  I loved whenever they shared something about my mom; her favorite foods, how the bottom half of my face looks like hers, how perverted her jokes were, etc.  Even when we went to HK later on in this trip, my dad’s side would share things about her too, like how warm and what a great cook she was.  It’s amazing to see how different your parents can be but how much of both of their personalities you have.

Here is a bunch of us at dinner on Friday, the night before the wedding.  We have been eating at this Thai restaurant because my aunt rents out the land to the owner.

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The beautiful couple in their traditional garb, in the most distracted looking picture ever.

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I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get a picture with my cousin so I took a quick selfie when she passed by our table.  It made us laugh so hard that now all my cousins are doing it.

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The night after day 1 of the wedding.  Out and about on 19th street where all the expats hang out.  $1 USD mojitos!

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Okay, so… kids usually don’t like me.  They LOVE Terry, perhaps because he’s persistent, has a friendly face, and/or comes up with intriguing games.  But two of my cousins kids latched on me to pretty quickly.  That made me happy.  One of them, Maya, who was on a drawing rampage and requested them from me like I was some Chinese factory worker on a deadline, asked me to draw a portrait of her so I did.

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Day 2 of the wedding and Sandy’s 3rd outfit!

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Girl cousins: California, NY, Australia, and Myanmar represented here

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Also, my aunt has 8 dogs.  I will include them in this post since they are part of the family.  They’re actually really passive except for when Terry and I snuck into her property through the back gate.  All 8 of us approached us at once, growing and snarling; I thought it was my last day.

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