Family Appreciation

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This weekend started early, with lunch plans set for Friday afternoon with my cousins Tiffanie and Justin. I have a LOT of cousins, but most of them live in northern California, so I don’t get to see them often. Every chance we get to see each other must be grabbed with both hands. So we ended up at Ramen Yamadaya, one of my favorite ramen places in Orange County (thanks Joseph!).

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Tiff and I had the black garlic oil tonkotsu ramen with pork belly and no green onions — we’re definitely related. I’m not really sure what Justin ordered, but he ate with relish. I guess that means we’re related too. Tiff and I caught up on wedding planning (hers not mine) and career planning, and Justin helped us plot his imminent death. I won’t go into anymore details because it might be incriminating in the future.

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Then we relocated to Milk + Honey for dessert and a chat on the outdoor patio couch before driving back and forth on Baker Street from Harbor to Bristol and back to go to Kinokuniya, Book Off, Marukai and Mitsuwa. We did not think that one through. I somehow managed enough self-control to walk away without buying cute stationary, Jpop CDs, fashion magazines, used books or Asian snacks. I deserve at least a pat on the back.

I’ve been craving the katsudon from Don Don Tei at Mitsuwa; I don’t know how they get the meat to make the rice so tasty, but I really want to learn how to make it. Laughed so much at Justin regaling us with tales of his many strange friends (though Tiffanie’s are just as weird if not more so), and family memories that never get old even after the 100th telling. I also managed to head butt the lady seated at the table behind me because I was laughing too enthusiastically. Oops.

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I love being with the cousins, just enjoying each other’s company comfortably. All those years running around Sacramento in the blistering summer heat, invading the corner store for ice cream that would melt the whole way home, or wandering the endless aisles at the dollar toy warehouse means that I can be myself around them. We don’t see each other often, but I know my cousins always have my back. And I don’t suggest messing with us; we have enough relatives to form a small army.

Unfortunately, our time together was cut short because I had to go spend time with a family of different sorts. ROCK is definitely like family for me though; the kind with lots of awkward relatives and head-shaking moments. But loveable all the same.

After worship and a message, Tony handed the time over to “the boys.” The boys of ROCK are a bit of an elusive group, but they worked together to write each of us “sisters” a letter. Garrett, of course, got assigned his real sister. There are some things I’d rather keep treasured up in my heart, but suffice it to say that he managed to write me a touching, sweet letter of appreciation while at the same time mentioning Pokemon, insulting my height, and espousing his own (supposed) awesomeness. I was duly impressed.

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The boys also worked hard to prepare dessert, but unfortunately, what was I think supposed to be ice cream cookie sandwiches melted into mushy oblivion. Being ROCK, we still ate them. The highlight of the night was the semi-professional photobooth they set up to take photos to put in the gift frames they give us. We had a hard time kicking the kids out at the 10 PM curfew because they were having too much fun creating awkward prom poses and hilarious group pictures.

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Needless to say, I think the sisters in ROCK really saw the thoughtful effort that our brothers put in to make the night special. I forget sometimes that even though I’ve been serving as a counselor, I can still be cared for and encouraged by those in the church body who are younger than me. I look forward to watching how the college students continue to learn how to care for and love one another as brothers and sisters.

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But in the midst of all the excitement, I had a hard time sleeping and woke up late to get to Elizabeth’s for some quiet rest time. I was totally spoiled by her today: while I read comfortably on the couch under one of her warm blankets, she served me gooey sticky buns, home brewed coffee with a splash of almond, and spicy  Indonesian vegetable curry (an apt excuse to inaugurate her shiny new rice cooker). Enjoyed chatting about life and God and our aspirations…and some delusions of grandeur, at least on my part. An enjoyable afternoon to say the least.

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Even though I have a lot of worries about the future, I want to keep learning how to invest in the lives of the people around me and in turn reap the fruits of meaningful relationships and family warmth that we are meant to experience. I guess this was a good weekend to remind me of that.

*Photobooth picture by Jonathan Yee

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