“Trick-or-Treat Goodies (our way)” – Years 9 & 10 combined

Long time readers of this blog will remember the original version of “Trick-or-Treat Goodies (our way)” post made in 2004. This story received an update in 2008, but has remained the unedited (save for some formatting corrections) since Year Eight (2011), which was the last time this appeared on my site. I missed a 2012 update, which is appropriate, given how unforgiving my schedule was that year– I didn’t even have time to copy and paste a blog post– and how 2012 seems to have mashed into 2013 in other ways, too.

I started out 2012 with the intention of “doing less, not more” in terms of “extracurricular activities” (like my nonprofit and volunteer work). This went out the window by the end of January 2012, when I stepped in as Interim President of the Asian American Journalists Association-Los Angeles Chapter (AAJA-LA). What started as a temporary 60-day interim situation quickly spiraled into a massive full-time volunteer responsibility when– with the support and encouragement of the board and other friends– I helped launched the first V3con/V3 Digital Media Conference, which was a huge success. In a special election, I was elected to serve out the year as President while still maintaining my original obligation of serving on the AAJA National Advisory and Governing Boards. Needless to say, all this AAJA stuff sucked up any semblance of free time I had.

On other fronts, at the end of 2011, I had finalized the acquisition of the Metblogs Network and had also been working on transitioning into a new leadership role (Editor-in-chief/CEO) at 8Asians. These were both somewhere on the backburner during 2012, along with my ongoing work with East West Players.

2012 was a total blur. As far as things I had a hand in, it went from the EWP Gala in April, to V3con in June, to UNITY Convention in August, to AAJA-LA Trivia Bowl in October, and then the infamous AAJA-LA Holiday Party hosted at David Ono’s house in December + I attended a lot of other/smaller community events in-between.

Throughout all of this, I still had my full-time day gig at the Disney and was still trying to spend time with Yoshi and the rest of my family.

I had hoped that the end of my AAJA-LA Presidency in 2013 meant that my life would revert to a pre-President state, but alas, it did not seem to let up that much. On paper, it sounds like a lot less is going on this year, but it honestly feels like a continuation from last year. I ran a second successful V3con and helped even more with Trivia Bowl than in previous years. At the AAJA National Convention in NY in August, I was honored for my service as “Chapter President of the Year”, but my convention schedule was packed with National Board responsibilities.

On the family front, 2013 has been exciting because my brother and his wife had a baby girl this year and so aside from me being Auntie again, it also meant a baby shower and planning my niece’s “double-month” celebration. That celebration happened to be the week after my uncle Tom’s 70th birthday bash (which I emceed and also helped organize). Also very important, but something I didn’t talk about while it was happening: I wrapped up a major real estate transaction at the beginning of the year.

2013 was not without its annoyances: the morning after V3con was over, I accidentally scraped Yoshi’s car while on my way to the AAJA-LA shed. I had to pay cash out of pocket to get it fixed (thanks, Todd!). During the time we were without the car, we had to rent cars twice to take two road trips up north (one was an unexpected/sad trip to a memorial service for Yoshi’s uncle). Less than 48 hours after getting a pristine-looking car back, I was on my way to an event with my AAJA/V3con compatriot Denise, when I was hit by an unlicensed (and uninsured) driver, costing me another $500 for the deductible to get more body work done. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt like a stereotype when Todd and I had to go back to the body shop and have them work on my car not even a week later.

What else? Random things, in no particular order:

Whew! That’s a lot and the year’s not over yet!

Anyway, here’s my annual Halloween story posted in honor my Mom, who is now a new grandma, and who has been in the US for an extended stretch, but complained over the phone tonight that she hasn’t seen her granddaughter since before she left for a trip to the northeast/Toronto. I hope you enjoy it (again or for the first time).

Happy Halloween.

Joz at the pumpkin patch in 1984.  I like how my eyes are closed in this shot.  (How did 20 years go by so quickly?!)When my brother and I were kids, we learned about most American traditions for the first time either on television or in school. Since our parents had come from Taiwan to the United States only a couple of years before I was born, they pretty much learned about American holidays at the same time my brother and I did… and that was usually when I came home from school talking about something I’d learned in class.

Of all the various American holidays we’d learned about, Halloween was especially exciting because my Mom had fun with “dressing us up.” Although she claimed that she didn’t know how to sew, she always came up with costumes for us… like the year my brother was a cowboy with a little red cowboy hat and matching vest, and I was an Indian squaw complete with feathers in my hair. Having costumes meant that we were sufficiently prepared to go trick-or-treating and to come home with a bag full of candy that we weren’t actually allowed to eat, since it would “rot our teeth out of our mouths.”

My mother has a background in medicine, having gone to medical school in Japan and then becoming a pharmacist in Taiwan. Although she liked getting us in costumes and taking us trick-or-treating, she never allowed us to eat the candy we brought home because it was full of sugar and artificial flavors and colors. Since we weren’t allowed to eat the candy, the strategy was to take us out early & to give away the candy that we had received earlier in the evening. We didn’t mind having our candy passed back out again; Mom had scared us about the dangers of sugary treats and really, the candy wasn’t important to us… we just loved the costumes and going door-to-door.

One year, my Mom informed us that our cousins were planning to come to our neighborhood so we could all go trick-or-treating together. We would be going at later time than our usual “early shift.” Since our cousins actually kept their candy, Mom decided that rather than re-distributing the candy my brother and I got via our front door, instead, our lucky cousins would go home with a double-bounty of candy, theirs AND ours! That also meant that Mom would actually have to prepare treats in advance for Dad to pass out while we were trick-or-treating.

And since I was starting to have neighbor kids in the same classes with me, I started becoming concerned about exactly what candy was being given away at our front door. I still remember the day Mom returned from the supermarket, proudly announcing that she had purchased “the BEST trick-or-treat goodies” for the neighborhood kids. My brother and I excitedly went through the grocery bags but we didn’t find any Smarties, M&Ms, little Snickers bars, or even candy corn.

“Mom?” I asked, combing through the groceries. “Where are the treats?”

From deep within one of the brown paper bags, my mom pulled out and proudly held up a plastic bag full of raw walnuts, still in shell.


My brother wasn’t even in school yet, but even HE knew that giving out walnuts at Halloween wasn’t cool.

“That’s not candy!” I whined in Chinese. “No one wants walnuts for Halloween, Mom,”

“Aiyahh, who says? Walnuts are great! And they’re not cheap either! One walnut is more expensive than a small piece of candy! And they are healthy and will not rot your teeth! That’s a great treat!” answered Mom in Chinese.

There was no budging on The Great Walnut Debate, either. It didn’t go unnoticed that we were the only household that gave out walnuts. Even our cousins taunted us at first and at the end of the night despite having two bags of candy each, they even went up to my Mom and asked for the leftover walnuts so that we could play with them (one walnut each is not exactly fun). My Mom took this as proof that she had found the perfect Halloween treat.

Which meant that the next Halloween, she came home with twice as many walnuts to handout. We were known as the house that gave out walnuts from that year on.

A few years later, we moved from our condo into a larger house on a real street, with a real front yard. By this time, walnuts were our Halloween tradition: we didn’t even think that other people might find it strange. In fact, we thought it was kind of funny and looked forward to helping Mom find the least expensive, but best quality walnuts come October 31.

That year, for our first Halloween at the new house, our entire family had a party to attend which meant that no one would be able to stay home & hand out walnuts. So Mom got a few less walnuts than usual and left them in a fruit bowl at the front door (just like another family might leave some candy in a bowl if they were going to be out for the night).

It was late when we got home that night but when we got up to our front door, we noticed that all the walnuts were gone! Our neighbors liked the walnuts!

But the truth came out in the light of the morning of November 1st. It was as if World War III had been launched on our doorstep, using walnuts. You should have witnessed the devastation of walnuts all over our front yard and porch. There were sharp walnut shell shards everywhere you stepped. Walnut guts were spilled all over our lawn. While there hadn’t been a single one left intact in the bowl, I was pretty certain that every one of those walnuts left for the neighborhood kids found their fates smashed all over the concrete of our driveway. Most people’s houses get toilet papered on Halloween night. I’m pretty sure ours was the only one ever to get “walnutted.”

As Mom returned from cleaning up the walnut carnage that morning, she announced that we would not be handing out walnuts for Halloween in the new neighborhood because the people there “obviously didn’t appreciate it.” It makes me a little sad to think about it, because I don’t remember handing out walnuts again after that.

Today, whenever I think about walnuts, I think about my Mom and admire how she was so concerned about the health of the neighborhood kids that she was willing to spend money on expensive walnuts instead of cheap candy for them. I also think about how she wasn’t afraid to be different from all the other people and how she stuck to her guns doing what she thought was right. And I learned that one person’s walnut is another person’s candy.

What incredible lessons she taught us with just a little nut.

Every family has a way of making its own traditions and I am so grateful to my mother for giving us this one. Even though we stopped giving out walnuts, every year as the season turns to fall and the stores fill their aisles with pumpkins and candy, I always walk by to the produce area to see if they are selling walnuts and wonder if I should bring a bag home to hand out.

::Trick-or-Treat Goodies (our way) originally posted on October 29, 2004 at http://www.jozjozjoz.com/archives/002021.php::

:: 2012 :: (no link, no post)
:: 2011 ::
:: 2010 ::
:: 2009 :: (no link, no post)
:: 2008 ::
:: 2007 ::
:: 2006 ::
:: 2005 ::
:: 2004 :: (original post) + :: Halloween Eggs ::

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