Wednesday, February 21, 2007


(I started this entry on Wednesday, Feb. 21st wishing that there were eight days in a week. My calendar was filled with evening activities and I was under the weather for a few days. Of course, there was no 8th day, thus more than 2 weeks later, I finally managed to find time to complete the entry.)

My adoring fans know that the Beatles is one of my favorite music groups because I have used the titles of their songs as titles for many of my blog entries. The entries were posted in the following order -
November 2, 2006 - Baby You Can Drive My Car;
November 3rd - I Want to Hold Your Hand;
December 9th - The Long and Winding Road;
December 11th - Here, There and Everywhere;
and on December 27th - I'll Follow the Sun.
The titles were good match for what I wanted to write about, not exactly what the songs were about.

My husband have said that I got involved in too many community activities and self-imposed too many projects. I do agree that I need to cut back and commit to only a few tasks. I also admit that part of me enjoy looking at my weekly calendar and see that I do not have any meetings or functions to attend after work.

Last year I was selected to serve on the Comprehensive Planning for the City. There were monthly meetings and documents to review and prepare for discussions prior to the meeting. The Committee focused on goals and objectives to critical issues in the City's future on topics such as economic and business stability, annexations, future land use, quality of life and future development. In December, the Committee submitted recommendations to the City for approval and implementation.

The second half of last year, I also committed to weekly training with Stephen Ministry. I realized I had spread myself too thin when each evening my calendar was filled with work-related meetings and community involvement. I questioned whether I was really committed or just trying to fill an empty void of wanting to be helpful. I know I do have the flexibility of not going to meetings or making up some excuses to resign from the assigned tasks. Whereas if I was to have children, there would be no flexibility when it comes to taking care of a child or telling the child that you were too tired to fulfill your duty as a parent. I have so much respect for my brother VL for doing a great job being a good father to his 6-year old son.

Since there was not an extra (8th) day in a week, I must seriously look at what I hope to accomplish and how I want to live my life. This weekend, I decided to pamper myself by going to the library, taking my time, leasurely wandering from one section to another and enjoying quiet time, not rushing, trying to finish all the errands.

I will report back in a few months whether I have slow down or accepting new volunteer assignments because I was bored with nothing to do with my time!

Monday, February 19, 2007


According to Talane Miedaner, author of the book, "Coach Yourself to Success - 101 tips from a Personal Coach for Reaching Your Goals at Work and in Life", great personal and career coaches are those who spend time developing, supporting, training and caring about people. A great coach will accept only your best and will advise you, guide you and encourage you to reach your full potential. A great coach is someone who will motivate you to recognize your own greatness and challenge you to go forward when you become idle or felt discouraged.

RJS was that great coach and I was blessed to work for his company for five years (1989-1994). It was my first full-time job after moving from New York to Michigan. I still have the employment ad listing "Executive Secretary". I must admit that I was not too thrilled about the position of secretary. My dream after graduating from Hunter College was to work at United Nations and became a diplomat working for world peace. The full-time jobs I held while attending college were office work, not secretarial experience for an executive. I decided to send my resume to the company, thinking I probably would not get the job or would not last more than a few months. I worked for RJS a total of 5 years and 3 months.

In a recent email, RJS recalled that he "personally remember our first employment interview and was so impressed with your determination and education accomplishments. You exhibited extreme confidence in yourself during our second interview." Always the wonderful cheerleader, RJS further added, "I made one of the best decision's in my life by hiring you." The time I worked for RJS' company was one of the best years of my life and knowing RJS and his family was a blessing.

At the end of our first interview, I knew that I wanted to work for RJS because I believed that he would value my skills and ability beyond what the immediate position required. I don't remember exactly what RJS said or did, I only knew that he had the foresight to recognize and appreciate my talents. I just knew that it would be a win-win working relationship. I learned by watching how RJS took the time to shake hands with all the shop employees whether while they were running the machines or during lunch in the breakroom. He addressed each by name and asked about their families. I made the effort to do the same and greeted everyone when they came in for our PEP (monthly and quarterly) meetings.

I wanted to show RJS that he made me want to become better at my job. I was able to discuss potential projects with RJS and he in turn sincerely was interested in my new ideas. The company was involved in many community programs such as "Adopt a Highway", our division broke the records of employee contributions towards United Way campaign, and we shared the triumphs of featured stories about the company in both local newspapers and national magazine. I still have the article on the front page of the business section about the company celebrated its anniversary with a photo of RJS standing next to a new laminated machine. My husband still bragged about me being on the cover of Federal Express magazine, distributed nationally and internationally to all its customers. It was RJS who nominated me for the Administrative of the Year Award sponsored by Federal Express.

RJS was the best coach and the best mentor anyone could ever wish for. He inspired me to become a better employee and a better person. He fostered my talents, helped develop further my communication skills by assigning the duties of public relations coordinator. RJS was the positive influence in both my career and personal achievements. The one thing I remembered the most was the time when we attended a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. After stated his name, RJS said, "I work at AFCO Industries." He then turned to me, mentioned my name and said, "This is my associate". I remembered this as the best lesson from a person with characters and inner strength that he did not have to broadcast that he was the owner of the company and that I was his employee.

If Ms. MK was the employer from hell (please see my blog entry on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - entitled The Unlikely Cheerleading Squad), then RJS was the heaven sent employer I could ever wish to work for. Compared to Ms. MK who told me to confine myself to the stock room, RJS encouraged me to reach for higher goals and to remind myself of my potentials. We continue to keep in touch after I moved to St. Louis. When I was overwhelmed with my martial problems and felt rejected as my marriage crumbled, it was RJS who continued to support and encourage me thru his letters and email messages.

Happy Birthday, RJS. You are the best boss, a great person and you are God's blessings to me. Thank you and may you enjoy many more years of good health, love, happiness and all the best things in life.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I have been emotional exhausted the last few days writing about my Dad's passing. I realized that I never allowed myself to completely mourn. There were times when I felt at peace with the loss, telling myself to get over the guilt and bitterness. Other times I questioned what could have been if the cancer was discovered earlier or I should have spent more time with my Dad during his treatment.

Putting my feelings into words have helped me to recognize that the void of my Dad's passing will always be there. Physically I would never be able to give him one more hug, sharing one more conversation and watching one more soccer game. I just need to believe that the spiritual bond between us will never be taken away.

As if my Dad was listening and just like the way he always tried so hard to comfort and provide for his family, I looked out the window and saw on the tree, bare branches, covered with snow, a bright red cardinal resting, waiting for the storm to pass. "Sau con mua, troi lai sang - After the storm, there will be sunshine", thanks Dad for the reminder.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


There is a saying, "Be careful of what you pray for". It is a kind of warning that whatever you pray for or wish to get might turn out to be not exactly as great as you thought it would be. What about unanswered prayers? How should a person of faith pray? Do you ask God for what you wish to receive or trust that God knows exactly how the situation should be?

In December 2000, when the doctor informed us that after two years of chemotherapy, the treatment for liver cancer did not produce results we had hoped and that my Dad only had three months to live, I began to pray every day for a miracle. My prayers were different each day from asking God for a complete recovery to bargaining with promises to be good so my Dad could live and be able to enjoy his grandson a few more years. After my Dad passed away, I blamed myself for my prayers that that it was God's will and asked that my Dad no longer suffered the physical pains.

The time I spent in hospice with my Dad, we never acknowledged that the end was coming. "When you got better, you could visit us in St. Louis to see the improvements we had done to our house," I said. My Dad smiled weakly and said "Sure, I hope so". Each morning I would describe the weather outside and told my Dad about my new job. We talked about current events and reminiscing our lives in the refugee camp and our early years in America. We shared a few laughs about incidents that took place and the silly things we did out of lack of knowledge of culture and language.

One night when I was not able to hold my pains, I apologized to my Dad for not being able to give him a grandchild to call him "Che Cung". I asked for his forgiveness for all the terrible things I did and for moving away. I told him my regrets that I had neglected my duty to our family. "I am your parent. I only want happiness for you and your own marriage. Look at me and your Mom, we left our parents in Viet Nam and were not there when they passed away.", my Dad responded and we cried together. Our tears as father and daughter allowed us to cope with the overwhelming fears to acknolwedge the end and at the same time avoiding the final goodbye.

As I sat holding my Dad's hand, I prayed that God would allow me to give 10 years of my life to my Dad. I imagined a conversation trying to bargain with God. I promised to be good and accept any kind of penance. "What if you only had 10 years to live, are you willing to give those years to your Dad?", God asked. "Yes, let my Dad live," I said without hesitation. "It was not possible because your Dad would not want you to die so he could live," God said.

At night I would sleep in a small Army bed nearby. I kept watch, listening to my Dad breathing through the machine. My Mom had told me that if my Dad was dying, let him go. Don't cry or say anything to prolong his depart. When my Dad's body began to shut down and he was not able to communicate or open his eyes, my Mom whispered to my Dad, "You could go now. Don't worry about us. Your children have grown up and they will be able to take care of themselves. You should be proud that you had taken good care of your family. Your children and I will be alright."

I kissed my Dad cold hand and watched him peacefully walked toward death. Rest well Dad. We are always proud to be "Con Ong L. V. H."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


My Dad passed away in February 2001. Six years later, I am still mourning, grieving and still asking why God did not let my Dad live another ten, fifteen years to enjoy the fruit of his labor. My Dad would love being grandpa, taking his first grandson to school, walking him home from school and watched him grow up. I am still hurting and bitter that we finally achieved a comfort level of living and we were not able to share with my Dad. I finally found employment with good income that would have allowed me to provide my Dad a trip to China. Born and raised in Viet Nam, my Dad always felt very strong about our Chinese heritage.

I remembered as if it was yesterday when my brother called me at work and told me that I should come to NYC. My husband and I took the first available flight that evening. We did not get to the hospital until almost 10:00 that night. The whole time during the flight I prayed that my Dad would not pass away before I arrived.

I broke down in tears when I saw my Dad lying in the hospital bed. He looked so frail and helpless. Two years of treatment of chemotherapy for liver cancer had destroyed his living body. I saw hopelessness in my Dad's sunken eyes. He was prepared to die but he did not want to acknowledge the ending. Perhaps my Dad wanted to be strong for his family, the same strength he displayed to keep us calm when the huge wave almost swallowed our tiny boat. My Dad smiled when he saw me. "Don't cry," he tried to comfort me.

I was with my Dad while he spent his last ten days in hospice care. I tried to hide the intense sadness watching my Dad struggle for every breath. I wept when he was not looking because I could not stand seeing his body suffered. I helped the nurse washed my Dad. He closed his eyes to cover his embarrassment while his body being exposed. He apologized for being a burden when I fed him and when I put lotion on his body to help ease the itchy skin. I struggled to find hope and yet, wanted to let go. I was living in the darkness of despair. One minute I was hopeful that my Dad would again be well and that he would walk out of the hospice room. When the doctor came and told the nurse just try to make my Dad as comfortable as possible, I was thrown into the cold, dark waters of reality that there was nothing else could be done to save my Dad.

My Dad passed away on February 13th. We never say good bye. I still feel my Dad is with me, helping me when I have a bad day or visiting me in my dreams. Death shattered our physical connection but it never disconnected a father-daughter bond between us.

We'll Never Say Goodbye (by Larry Howland)

I cannot see you with my eyes
Or hear you with my ears
But thoughts of you are with me still
And often dry my tears
You whisper in the rustling leaves
That linger in the fall;
And in the gentle evening breeze.
I am sure I hear you call.
A part of you remains with me
That none can take away.
It gives me strength to carry on
At dawning of new day.
I think of happy times we shared.
And then I softly sigh.
But this I know - - we'll meet again
And never say goodbye.


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