Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanJust some of the things heard at the Garlett household over the weekend…

1. I overheard Ella talking to her brother, “Cade, we can’t get married because then our kids would only have a grandma and grandpa and not a gung gung and poh poh.” This stemmed from a conversation I’d had with Ella a couple of weeks ago when she announced she was going to marry Cade. After a momentary panic I cleverly asserted, “but don’t you like having your grandpa and grandma AND your poh poh and gung gung? If you marry Cade your kids will only have mommy and me as their grandparents, but if you marry someone else, your kids will get four grandparents like you.” She didn’t respond, and quite honestly I was thrilled at the time to just let the matter drop. But it’s nice to know the things I say to her actually stick.

2. A few hours after I heard Ella’s conversation with Cade, she asked Yan and me, “But can we still all be a family even if I don’t marry Cade?” I immediately retorted, “Not if we lived in Kentucky, but most other places, yes.” Yan shot me a look and I spent the next ten minutes trying to explain my joke in terms appropriate for a five-year-old. Ultimately my comedy went under-appreciated (as it so often does). But the big take-away for me was just how important the concept of family is to my children. It really is the center of their lives, in every aspect. And I love that they feel so connected and so important to all the wonderful people they’re related to.

3. “Stop it Cade!” for the twenty-seventh time during the weekend. Hmmm… that’s twice less than last weekend. Progress?

4. Upon seeing the awesome new game table on loan from my parents Cade said, “Cool Daddy, can we play games together all the time now?” Some of my happiest memories are of playing games with both my immediate and extended family throughout my life. “Yes we can, son; all the time,” I replied. I’m thrilled he’s as excited about that prospect as I am.

5. And also a couple of times this weekend, “I love you, Daddy.” Man oh man, is there anything better than that?

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Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanWe didn’t make any special family plans for Father’s Day this year so I thought we might take the kids out to a movie (Cade really wants to go see “Inside Out”) and then to a restaurant of MY choosing, which almost never happens. Unfortunately Yan wasn’t feeling well and didn’t spend much of Sunday out of bed. So instead of taking the kids out sans her, I opted for all of us to spend the day at home.

I did the household laundry and some of the other weekly chores we hadn’t yet accomplished. I also decided this would be the perfect opportunity to complete a project I’d been putting off. You see, my independent daughter began talking about having her own room over a year ago (she and Cade used to share a room) so on her fifth birthday last December we gave Ella a new sheet set – “Frozen” of course – and moved her into the guest room.

For the last six months we’ve been meaning to clean out the closet – used for storage – to really let Ella move in and make the bedroom her very own. But weekends are super busy (sound familiar?) and I hadn’t yet gotten around to it. That all ended Sunday. I emptied the closet between laundry loads and began construction on the modular closet system we’d purchased some while back.

Both Cade and Ella were eager to “help” so it took about ten times longer to complete the job than it would have on my own (sound familiar?) but we all had so much fun together, I was actually thrilled they both stuck with the project to the end. And once we were finished, they turned the closet and shelves into an impromptu make-believe store, artfully displayed their wares for sale, and invited me to shop – over and over again throughout the rest of the day. I introduced the concept of bartering to them which they caught onto quickly (and hilariously I might add) and drove some hard bargains, let me tell you.

So I woke up Sunday morning with the expectation of more or less being served by my family throughout the day. But it ended up being just the opposite. I did chores, I completed projects, I played with my kids. I spent my day just being a dad. And I can’t imagine a better Father’s Day (except I wish Yan hadn’t been feeling so bad). There’s a satisfaction in accomplishing things, both large and small, for my family that I feel deep inside. Doing every day “dad” things makes me feel connected, purposeful, content and happy. How about you … sound familiar?

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Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanMy wife and I just bought an investment property in Koreatown. The main house is over 100 years old and still has much of the original, beautiful woodwork and built-ins throughout. There is also a duplex on the rear half of the lot. There’s much work to be done but there’s also good income potential with this property. We’re excited.

But how we acquired the property gives me a twinge of sadness because it didn’t have to happen this way. You see, we got the property through a probate sale. The sale was the result of the death of a dear old woman (so I’ve been told by neighbors) who’d lived in the house her entire life. She did not have an estate plan, however, and her family ended up fighting over the house and everything in it.

Eventually the property was put up for sale, but not until after a lengthy and particularly nasty probate during which the woman’s family members had gone through the house stealing anything of value they could find – including doorknobs, I kid you not. What makes me sad is that this amazing old house could have, and should have been an incredible part of the legacy that dear woman left to her family.

Instead, the memories, stories, and experiences she had in the house have been trampled by family members who were not given a framework of respect and reverence from which to cherish them. It is disheartening to see the passing of a family matriarch degenerate into a feeding frenzy of greed and petty theft. But it does happen, and all too often.

Had I known her in life I could have educated her about how to pass her material wealth to her family in a safe an orderly manner, commanding respect while safeguarding her family’s moral fiber. I could have shown her how to take control of her legacy, protect it, and have it mean something – something much more than doorknobs – to those she left behind.

I wish I’d had that chance.

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Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanThe tiny speck of space dust we call home (the earth) treks around its nearest star (the sun) annually. To cover this nearly 600 million mile journey each year, our little blue marble hurtles through space, taking us along for the ride at approximately 67,000 miles per hour. For reference – at that blistering pace you could make it from Los Angeles to Washington DC in about 3 minutes.

Today I find myself contemplating “a year” and just what that really means because I was struck by the two different, yet similar birthday parties my family and I attended over the weekend together. One was for a classmate of Cade’s who was celebrating the completion of her 7th trip around the sun. The other was for Yan’s grandmother, Cade and Ella’s great grandmother, who was commemorating her 91st solar circumnavigation.

They both celebrated their special day surrounded by friends and family, food and laughter. Happy birthday was sung; presents were given. There was cake, and candles, and birthday wishes for each. Yet their individual experience was so totally unlike one another’s, all based on their individual perspectives.

Though each of them lives inside the same blink of an eye in the cosmic sense, they are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum from a “human mortality” point of view. Cade’s young friend has her whole life ahead of her, filled with yet to be realized dreams and uncapped potential. My children’s great grandmother (tàipó in Chinese, which is what they call her) is well into her twilight years with a long, happy life and a big, loving family to show for it.

Each of the two precious, beautiful lives we just celebrated means something special and should continue to do so … not just for years to come, but for generations to come, too. One of my passions is to find ways to honor the lives of our loved ones as they are unfolding, and also long after they’ve taken the final bow of their last curtain call. If finding ways to preserve and pass on a legacy gets your creative juices flowing too, drop me a line. I’d love to know your thoughts.

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Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanMy family and I went to a wedding over the weekend. It was lovely. But to be honest, I had a hard time staying in the moment. My mind kept drifting back to – nearly 12 years ago now – when I made the boldest and best decision of my life. I married Yan.

Don’t get me wrong. Our marriage isn’t perfect. Far from it. When someone tells me they never fight with their spouse I don’t know whether to be inspired or incredulous. That’s just not my experience. Yan and I are both strong-willed, outspoken, and passionate. So sometimes we butt heads. But her strength, and independence, and “tell it like it is” attitude are a big part of what drew me to her in the first place.

I love having such a powerful woman as my partner (even if, occasionally, it feels more like having a tiger by the tail). Yan is both a warrior and a goddess. There’s nobody I’d rather have in my corner when the going gets tough. And there’s nobody I enjoy laughing with or sharing it with more, when the good times are rolling. I asked Yan to marry me because with her I knew I’d have a true companion and collaborator, and a life full of adventure. I have not been disappointed let me tell you.

Being married to Yan is such an integral, valuable part of my existence. It makes me better – and it makes me want to be better – than I am on my own. I strive daily to be the man she sees in me, to be the husband she deserves. I do fall short. Often. But I never quit trying. I never stop believing in me… in us. Yan is my wife; the mother of my children; my favorite person on the planet.

So in the receiving line after the ceremony this weekend, I did not wish the newlyweds an easy marriage, as did some. I don’t know what that would look like or even if it would be any fun. I did wish them a deep marriage, however. One based on faith, hope, and love, yes, but also one with heavy doses of passion, exploration, and improvisation. From my experience at least, they should be so lucky.

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Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanI spent yesterday morning sitting through an entire session of the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court in Monterrey Park. I was there to advocate for my kid — no, not Cade or Ella, but the child assigned to me once I completed my training as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (“CASA”). I have been with him for 2-1/2 years now. He is in “the system” because his parents abused, neglected, and ultimately abandoned him.

He’s bounced around between several group homes during our time together and unfortunately, yesterday in court he got bounced again. Why am I writing about this? Well it’s what’s on my mind and in my heart as I sit to put together my weekly email. I feel a bit depressed after being there all morning (our case was called last), hearing sad story after sad story, and seeing the children who – through no fault of their own – are the leading characters in those stories.

There are some 30,000 kids in they system in Los Angeles county alone. The system is overburdened, under funded, cold, and ugly. It’s no place for a child. Now don’t get me wrong. Some of the greatest people in the world work within the system (my kid’s social worker comes to mind). But there’s just not enough of them nor enough resources to make up for the unfair hand these kids got dealt.

So if you have children of your own, I implore you make sure they are never at risk of being placed in the system – not even for a moment. Accomplishing that is actually quite easy. Simply name long-term AND short-term legal guardians for them. If you think it’s worth taking a chance on your kids being placed in the system, even temporarily, go down and watch a session at the courthouse. Then tell me it’s worth the gamble. Better yet, tell them it’s worth the gamble.

Seriously. Get it done. Don’t just think about doing it. Don’t just talk about doing it. Make it happen. Put it in writing and get it witnessed by at least two neutral parties. Do it for your children. Do it for your peace of mind. Only you can keep your kids safe from the system … so do it!

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Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanIf you’ve read my newsletter for any length of time you probably know Cade attends first grade – and Ella will soon be starting Kindergarten – at Field Elementary School in the Pasadena Unified School District. Field had its annual “Gala” over the weekend and it truly was a great time! The event is heavily attended each year by those with kids in the Mandarin Dual Language Immersion Program and is an opportunity for us to get together, socialize, be entertained, and of course raise money for the school.

I’ve got to tell you, I never cease to be impressed by the other Field parents. They are doctors and lawyers, scientists and artists, entrepreneurs and homemakers, and everything else in between. But it’s not just their professional accomplishments that impress me. They are easily among the most generous, caring, and involved parents at any school, public or private. And so many of them are just super cool, too. I really love spending time with them.

On top of that, I can’t imagine better teachers at any school anywhere, and I was thrilled to see so many of them there Saturday night including Cade’s amazing teachers from both this year and last. It really warms my heart as a parent to know my child is getting a terrific education and that his teachers also take a genuine, active interest in his social and emotional development right alongside Yan and me. Nobody can tell me public schools don’t attract outstanding teachers. I am reminded daily that they absolutely do.

I feel fortunate to have so many incredible adults involved, in one way or another, in my children’s lives. It offers Yan and me a great support network which, quite frankly, takes some of the pressure off us! It gives my kids multiple positive influences and role models, of which they can never have enough. And it provides my whole family with a strong community of really incredible people we get to call our own. How great is all of that?

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Canvas CadeOne of Cade’s friends had a laser tag party for his 7th birthday last Saturday. Cade was super excited to attend. For the first game of laser tag, the group of about 20 kids divided themselves up into fairly even teams. Extremely amped up and enthusiastic after the first battle, they gobbled down some pizza and then went back into the prep area to suit up for a second game.

This time all of the kids wanted to be on the same team – except Cade. He refused to be on the “blue” team with everyone else and got very upset that no one wanted to be on the “red” team with him. It wasn’t that the other kids didn’t want to be on his team, mind you, it was simply that they all wanted to be on the same team with each other.

Cade, however, quickly became inconsolable and through his sobs, lamented the unfairness of the circumstances. When I suggested he join the blue team too, Cade shook his head angrily and said, “That doesn’t make any sense… then there’d be NOBODY for the ‘blue’ team to play against!” Obviously he was not only upset about the inequity between the teams, but also by the dilemma presented by the situation. And I completely understood.

Well, he stuck to his guns, my son, and suited up as the sole red warrior; solemnly heading into battle; vastly outnumbered by the blue team. When the “smoke had cleared” at the end of the game he had managed to calm himself down and even seemed to gain a small sense of pride in his heroic “last stand” effort against such a vastly superior force.

All this brought home just how much my boy is like me. He has an innate sense of justice and fairness within. He is willing to stand up for his principles, even if it means standing alone. I am so proud of him for that. I also know he’s going to have a tough road and many hard lessons ahead, learning which battles are worth fighting and which are not. The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree.

As his father I want to impart the lessons I have learned (and truth be told, am still learning) so Cade’s journey might be a bit easier than mine. But ultimately he will have to make his own mistakes and find his own path. It will be hard to watch him stumble, as he surely will. But I believe in him and I know he will accomplish amazing things in his life. I guess I have to be content just being there to support and cheer for him along the way.

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Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanOver the weekend I went to a really unique, cool birthday party. A dear friend of my wife and mine turned – never mind, I know better than to say how old! Anyway, our friend started her party by offering everyone on the guest list a walking tour of Koreatown. You can read about it on her blog, here. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but Yan and I approached it with open minds.

It was neat to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Koreatown from the point of view of trekking through its streets. One of the great things about Los Angeles is its multitude of incredibly diverse neighborhoods. It is also something we Angelenos too often take for granted. But taking the time to be in and really “feel” the vibe of a particular area opens up its culture, heartbeat, and essence. Our friend was a great tour guide, too, making the history, architecture, and all around mojo of K-town come to life.

The party really got going after the tour at Dan Sung Sa, an old school K-town restaurant where the food (absolutely delicious!) and libations came to the tables as fast as we could empty the bowls, dishes, and platters that had just come before. I enjoyed the company of many friends I hadn’t seen in a long time and made several new friends as well. It was so much fun I felt a bit sad when it all finally came to an end.

As Yan and I were driving back home I contemplated the eclectic and interesting group of people our long-time friend had assembled for the party. I thought about how she, individually, is nothing short of eclectic and interesting, herself. I appreciated the neighborhood we had just explored for embodying those very characteristics, too. In fact, the things I value most in life; my family, friends, and clients are – you guessed it – eclectic and interesting both separately and as a group.

It’s good to be reminded of how the differences and diversity in the people and places around us make life exciting and vibrant. The more we embrace dissimilarities, I believe, the richer we become. I am grateful to everyone and everything which brings something new info my life. Thank you.

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Marc, Cade, Ella, & YanI grew up watching the Kansas City Royals. They were – and are – “my” team. So when they travelled to Anaheim to take on the Angels over the weekend I couldn’t help but take my parents, wife, and kids out to the ballpark Sunday afternoon to soak it all in.

My parents loved it. They relish any time spent with their grandkids and my dad, who grew up in the era when baseball was king, taught me the game and even coached my little league teams. Going to a ball game is a nostalgic experience for him and I’m sure all the more meaningful when he gets to share it with his whole family.

Yan has a knack for making the best of any situation, although I know she only really tolerated the game for my benefit. Sports in general are just not her thing, but during the 7th inning stretch she did tell me she prefers going to football games over baseball games, so that was a small victory in and of itself!

Cade and Ella enjoyed themselves despite the obvious failure of MLB’s stated goal to speed up the game. I only got “I’m bored” a couple of times from Cade and just a single request to play on my phone. Ella, on the other hand, was all in, realizing early on that if she just waived her arms frantically at food vendors they would come over and lavish her with goodies. After visits from the cotton candy man, ice cream man, lemonade man, and a few others, I put her on my lap and held her arms tight in an attempt to stave off her impending diabetic coma.

I, personally, had a great time. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon and I was in the company of the people I love most in the world (and the Royals won, which didn’t hurt either). The experience we all shared together meant something different to each one of us. But I know it is simply the sharing of the experience that mattered most to each of us. Those shared experiences are the real gifts of family; the things we will treasure most throughout our lives and the greatest wealth we will create and pass on to our children.

Play ball!

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