Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

Twenty eight years ago, May 25, 1979, my family left Viet Nam and became boat people that attracted the world's attention after the Fall of Saigon in April 1975. After five days, we survived the storm that almost sank our boat and landed in an island called Karamut in Indonesia. (I searched for the correct spelling but the listing of islands in Indonesia did not produce any similar spelling.) Compared to others, we were fortunate that we did not encounter the pirates. I did not know that we were among 160,000 of Vietnamese boat people who were part of the exodus of refugees floundering in the South China Sea in rickety boats during the year 1979. We became the symbols of people who suffered oppressions, willing to face the trials of life and death at sea, so desperate for freedom that we were willing to risk everything for a chance of a better life in an unknown country.

Originally my parents wanted to send me and my youngest brother, VL out of the country. I was eighteen years old and VL was eleven. We could not gather enough gold to pay for the passage of the whole family. The plan was once VL and I safety resettled, preferably Australia, we would try to help the rest of the family get out of Viet Nam. My maternal grandmother would not want my other sister CH and brother TL to leave because of their physical disabilities, she thought they would not survive the journey.

I learned from Wikipedia that the word Mayday derived from the French - m'aidez, meaning "help me". It is an emergency code that always given three times in a row. I imagine the following distress call sending from our boat "Number 059" My Tho - (According to my Mom, #059 was assigned to another boat by the officials but that boat encountered problems. The officials re-assigned #059 to our boat and My Tho was the port where we would depart.)

...... Mayday Mayday Mayday

.........This is Number 059 My Tho

......... Position - somewhere in South China Sea or Pacific Ocean
..............Nature of distress - our boat is sinking, filling with water, up to our knees, the pirates are chasing us and the only engine is dead.

.......... Aid required - immediate assistance

.......... Number of people on board - about 200 people - we have no naval equipment. No lifevests, no lifeboat.

....... Over

I don't remember whether there were any passing ships. After three days, we were terrified that no one would find us and we could be left to die. There was no coast guard to launch lifeboats or helicopters to rescue us. There was no nearby ships that would be willing to divert course to assist. By 1979, saving the Vietnamese boat people was no longer a glamourous act. Public sympathy from the international community was lessen. Media coverage of people in crowded boats in open sea with no place to go had become old news. Countries such as Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia could no longer handle the massive daily arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and demanded assistance from potential resettlement countries such as Canada, Australia, France and particularly the United States.

Listening to the BBC on the radio, we learned that Singapore, Taiwan and Japan would not allow the refugees to land. Passing ships that picked up refugees were not able to unload at these nearby countries. I realized now why we were threaten at gunpoint by the Malaysia coast guard to get to another port even though our boat was damaged by the storm. The Malaysia did not want their country to be swamped with unwanted refugees and declared that Vietnamese boat people would be shot if trying to land.

Twenty eight years later, part of the boat journey is still fresh in my memory but the details had become blurry. I wonder if it is old age or I am just trying to forget that it really happened. Perhaps it was just a nightmare and that I was not one of the people screaming for help "Mayday, mayday, mayday", watching the giant wave rushing towards the side of our tiny boat and no one responded.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


No, I will not attempt to make a YouTube video of me singing the Canadian anthem. I will not write about the history of Canada, the people or about Canadians' (and mine) passion for ice hockey. I thought the title would be appropriate as the Ottawa Senators and Aneheim Ducks are battling to capture the Stanley Cup.

I don't know much about the Senators and its players. I find it interesting but not unusual that there are more non-Canadians (players from Russia, West Germany and Czechoslovakia) on Senators' roster compared to Aneheim Ducks. There are more Canadian players on the Ducks' roster, a California hockey team, than Senators supposedly a Canadian team.

(Latest News - the Ducks won (3-2) game 1 on Monday, May 28th. Game 2 was on Wednesday, May 30th - the Ducks won again 1-0. It was a good goal when Pahlsson (Ducks) sent the puck through Senators' defenseman Corvo's legs, surprised goalie Ray Emery and scored the only goal of the game. I hope home ice will give the Senators extra energy and motivation to win Game 3 on Saturday, June 2nd. )

The first time I visited Canada was in 1984 during a trip to Seatle, WA to visit a childhood friend from Viet Nam. Jai Sing (JS) moved to Seatle in 1982. JS, Juon Ling (JL) and I were good friends and we spend hours playing basketball after school. JL went to Germany early 1979 before I left Viet Nam. JS also left Viet Nam by boat and was sponsored by his sister who lived in Seatle. I think JS lived in a refugee camp in Malaysia for a year or so. We kept in touch for a few years but somehow the writing stopped and the connection was broken. I never heard from neither JS nor JL. When I was in Seatle, we drove to Vancouver but I don't remember much about the city. We came back to the US without any problem showing only our driver license. I did not have a passport because I was not eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship until 1986.

I made several trips to Ontario, Toronto during 1987. When the appropriate time comes, I will write more about how I almost moved to Canada. Looking back, it was unbelievable and somewhat comical that I would even consider making the move. I am not being disrespectful to the country of Canada, it was a personal situation and I am not comfortable to explain any further at this point.

I went back to Canada in July 1991, as a married woman, during a camping trip in Niaraga Falls with my husband, CP. We drove from Michigan to Buffalo, NY. (I was not a hockey fanatic back then, so I did not take any photos standing in front of the Buffalo Sabres arena.) We drove into Canada and went on the Maid of the Mist boat ride.) I remembered getting wet and almost fell a few times on slippery ground.

I really liked the photo in my passport. I was so ready to show off my "beautiful" photo, but the agent at the border just looked into our truck, asked a few questions such as where we lived, what we did while in Canada and where we were going. He did not even speak to me or asked me any questions. The agent took CP words that I was his wife and that we were on a camping trip. Later CP told me that I looked too Americanized that the border agent had no reason to ask any questions. How did I become Americanized, that is a good topic for future entry.

My most recent trip into Canada was in July 2002 when we were in Vancouver awaiting for our departure on a cruise to Alaska. Part of the cruise included a train ride into the Yukon. This time the border agent asked for everyone's passport. I presented mine with the photo that of a 40+ years old chubby woman. I wonder if I looked more Americanized!

This summer we are planning a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. We renewed our passports last month. Even though I saw in one of the websites mentioned that U.S. citizens do not have to present valid passports to travel to and back from Canada, we will bring our passports to make sure we have no problem getting back into the United States.

Just a thought - the last sentence in the U.S. national anthem, "The land of the free, the home of the brave" and in the Canadian national anthem, "We stand on guard for thee." Is it coincidence or firm statements about true brotherhoods?

Friday, May 18, 2007


Yesterday while I was cutting the peppermint in our backyard, a baby rabbit jumped out of the barrel and hopped all the way to next door neighbor's garden. I started looking further among the peppermint and there were two or three more tiny rabbits trying to hide in the corner. I hurried up with my peppermint, went into the house and watched the rabbits from the kitchen window. I washed the peppermint to put into the water and the ice tea pitchers, added a few drops of fresh lemon and ice cubes so we could have refreshing and healthy drinks instead of soda or expensive artificial drinks.

I don't remember what year, must be about five years ago that my husband put a row of three wooden half-barrels in the back of the garage, filled them up with soil so I could plant a few tomatoes, green pepper and hot red pepper. At each corner of the patio, CP also put two more barrels and planted some flowers for me to enjoy from the kitchen windows.

The first year we harvested a dozen of tomatoes, good size of green pepper and a handful of red pepper. The second year did not turn out profitable as we again spent almost $50 worth of little plants and harvested only a few tiny tomatoes, pitiful looking green pepper and again a handful of red pepper. We decided not to plant anything the following year and purchased the tomatoes and peppers from the store.

In July 2005, after my Mom came to visit, I found some left over peppermint that my Mom did not use in her cooking. I decided to plant them in one of the barrels. Actually all I did was covering half of the peppermint with dirt and water weekly or whenever I remembered while sitting outside reading my books. Summer in St. Louis could be unbearable not only with the tempature almost 100 degrees but also the humidity and still air circulation. I was pleasantly surprised to find the peppermint growing, filling up the barrels without any help from me.

The peppermint came back last summer and again this year. We agreed that instead of wasting another $50 on tomatoes and pepper plants, peppermint will be the only plants in the barrels. I also try to find out the name of a plant to serve as a backup in case the plants my mother has fondly nurtured again accidently destroyed. During a recent phone conversation, Mom mentioned that the plants she has been using in her special cakes and also for medical usage in controlling diabetes had died. I listened while she explained what happened. I learned to let Mom talk and didn't try to comfort her or offer solutions because she only wanted someone to listen to her story. She told me that this special plant was only available from California. I am glad to report that when I called this week, Mom said that a few new leave came back but it would take a few months before the plants would be full with usable leave again.

Last week we found a bird nest in the flower basket hanging in our front porch. The protective mother flies away whenever we open our front door. She did not go far, just above the roof as if keeping an eye on the nest. Today, there are two little eggs in the nest. Last year, we also found a bird nest on the supporting beam above the garage. The nest is still there but it is empty. We jokingly said that the bird has moved to a wealthy neighborhood or to Florida!

This year we decided to add minor landscaping to our yard. For the front of the house, we plan to replace the old rotten railroad wooden logs with brick walls. CP plans to install retaining walls along the fence in the backyard. He has worked deligently the last few weeks to clear the bushes. One day as I watched CP worked, I saw a robin following as CP unearthed the ground, the robin bravely swept down very close to CP and flew off with the worms. I watched the robin and realized that there were three little birds with their mouths opened waiting to be fed in a nest high on a nearby tree. I stood and watched the robin repeating her feeding. I learned to enjoy the moment instead of rushing to find a camera to take photos. I learned to be in the moment. I learned to live a simple life by watching the rabbits and the robins living their simple lives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


(This entry was started on May 15th and I am finally posting it today, May 29th - more than a week later.)

I finally went to see Doc and the hearing problem was taken care of. To all my adoring fans, "I can hear you now"!

It was a simple case of built up wax that stubbornly would not get loosen, even after a few days of using the $40 drops. The wax continued to lodge in my ears causing temporary hearing loss. I never had my ears cleaned before. It was done by such a simple method by flushing the ears with warm water using a syringe from the outer ears. What a relief feeling after the wax was dislodged. After the procedure, the buzzing from tinnitus condition was not as loud and my hearing not only back to normal but has become clearer and so much better. I will make sure to have my ears checked and cleaned at the annual check-up.

For a few days after I started using the drops, the condition did not improve. I decided instead of turning the volumn real high so I could hear, I watched various television programs without actually hearing. After one evening of guessing what is being said, I decided not to watch any television. I did not miss much. In fact, it was kind of nice. I finished a lot of reading (magazine articles I have been saving) and spend time reading books I borrowed from the library so I would not have to renew too many times.

In the morning, after I got up, instead of turning on the news, I stood by the kitchen window, with a cup of coffee in hand, I watched the rabbits hopping around the yard, the birds dashing up to the tree carrying away a piece of bread we threw out, and the squirrels trying to stop the birds from taking their shares. I would not go too far to say that silence was golden as I would like to get my hearing back to normal. I would not agree that it is always best not to speak. There are situations that require the person to voice their opinions, to set the records straight and not allowing others to dominate the conversation. I do enjoy the quiet moments and was glad that I had the options.

We saw Simon & Garfunkel during their 2004 Tour. We enjoyed the concert and I even sang along when I recognized a familiar song. I thought the song "The Sound of Silence" would be a fitting for this entry about my temporary hearing loss. On the wall along the pool table in our basement, there are framed programs and tickets from a few concerts (all in St. Louis) we have been to in the last few years. We attended Sir Paul McCartney U.S. Tour in 2002, Neil Diamond in 2003 and the Rolling Stone Concert in early 2006. Two weeks later, we saw "Mick and the boys" again, performed at half-time at the Superbowl XL in Detroit. (In March 2006, while on a cruise with my sister, I took a bus tour in Jamaica and the tour guide pointed out a house that belongs to Mr. Jagger.) We thought "Mick" might think we stalked him or that we were too old to be groupies.

Now that my hearing is back to normal, I no longer yell "Help" and no longer "Twist and Shout"!

Monday, May 14, 2007


By now my adoring fans realize that I am a hockey maniac and a sport fanatic. Here are some interesting hockey stories if you care to read.

I like the story about the family of Jean-Sebastien (J.S.) Giguere (#35) the goalie of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. When Jiggy was growing up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, his father worked as prison warden and his mother worked as a school shuttle (bus) driver. When the cost of hockey equipment grew too expensive, Dad asked JS, the youngest child in the family, whether JS wanted to continue to play hockey. When JS said yes, his parents took out a mortgage from their home to pay for the expenses. Whether it was 100% pure parental love or faith in their 12 years old child that one day he will become one of the skilled goalies in National Hockey League, it really touched my heart to read this story. (Considering I am a fanatic Detroit Red Wings fan). Latest news (May 22nd when I finally posted this entry) - the Ducks eliminated my beloved Red Wings in game 6, playing a dominating game and an impressive lead half way thru the 3rd period. The Red Wings came back and scored two power-play goals within one minute, but it was too little too late. The Ducks won 4-3 and on their way to face Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup finals. Game 1 starts on Monday, May 28th.

Next story is about a player who was "diamond in the rough", Pavel Datsyuk (#13) Detroit Red Wings center. Datsyuk has been one of my favorite hockey players. The 28-year old native of Sverdlovsk, Russia, was overlooked for many years by scouts who thought he was too small and would not be fast enough to be in the NHL. At 5'11", 185 lbs, Datsyuk would be small compared to most of the other players over 6'1" and more than 200 lbs. That is the whole point - Datsyuk is not an enforcer, he is a hockey player with magical hands. He moves the puck as if it was on a string, invisible string from his stick, release at the right moment to a teammate or shoot the puck on the moves that others could only dream of. Datsyuk shoots when you thought he could not and when the goalie thought he would pass the puck. I enjoy watching Datsyuk because of his natural skills, balance on his skates, the speed and strength from his legs and the "silky-smooth" passes that kept opponents guessing.

I also thought we are all "Datsyuk" until someone recognizes our talents and provides the opportunity to shine. Many times in life I was not given a chance because I speak with a foreign accent, because of my gender or because I was not assertive and battle my way through to get to the front. A classic example would be when I discussed taking on the responsibility as public relations person for AFCO, RJS (my former employer, a great coach and a special person) did not hesitate because English was not my first language and that I did not have any background in the area of print media. RJS believed in me and my potentials. (Please read entry on February 19, 2007 entitled Happy Birthday, RJS.) We all need someone to believe in us and to recognize "diamond in the rough" in each of us.

Unable to have children, I find this story personally interesting. A woman who was told by her doctor that she would not be able to have children after trying more than a decade unsuccessfully. Then one day when she and her husband happened to be at an event to celebrate the Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup championship in 1996, the woman placed a kiss on the Stanley Cup. Later, the couple shocked the physician and their family when they gave birth to a baby boy and named him, Stanley. There you have it, the Stanley Cup is truly a magical trophy, not just for hockey fans, but for anyone who believes in traditions. The Stanley Cup is more than just a championship award, it is a great symbol of 114 years of sportmanship, inspiration, motivation and celebration of individual achievement and team efforts.

Another disappointing season came to an end for all the Detroit Red Wings fans. I thought at least the Red Wings was not (so embarassed) eliminated in the first round like the last couple of years. But then I got so mad thinking how could they played so well in game 3 (the score was 5-0 - shutout the Ducks), took control and scored early, all the four lines were solid with speed, puck possession, passing with laser accuracy, no rebounds, keeping the pucks out of the zone and did not take too many penalties. It was as if they ran out of steam or the balloon leaking air, the Red Wings forgot how to play hockey and lost the last three games.

You probablly want to know which team, Ottawa Senators v. Anaheim Ducks, I would cheer for. I think it is time the Stanley Cup is returned back to Canada. Go Senators Go!

Saturday, May 12, 2007


This entry is not about the movie See No Evil, Hear No Evil, a 1989 comedy film starring Gene Wilder as a deaf man and Richard Pryor as a blind man who became each other's eyes and ears when they became the prime suspects of a murder. They worked together to tracked down the real killers while evaded the police and ultimately cleared their name when the killers were captured.

It is not about the Japanese Three Wise Monkey either. According to the wonderful Wikipedia, the Three Wise Monkey are Mizaru, covering his eyes - sees no evil; Mikazaru, covering his ears - hears no evil and Mazaru, covering his mouth - speaks no evil. There are a less well-known fourth money, Shizaru, covering his middle body with folded hands - does no evil. I have always thought the sayings, "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" was about not to be snoopy, nosey and speading gossips. I learned from the page that the expression is also used to describe someone who doesn't want to be involved in a situation, or someone turning a willful blind eye to the immorality of an act he is involved in.

This entry is about an ordeal that happend to me this week when I was not able to hear and see clearly while driving home from an annual eye examination. Early in the week, I experienced full feeling in my left ear when I woke up one morning. The next two days, it got worsen as my hearing became muffled, blocked and the rustling sound added to the already buzzing noise from existing condition of tinnitus. About ten years ago, I had bronchitis for almost two weeks. I developed tinnitus from the constant whooping cough which somehow damaged my ears.

After a couple of days using over-the-counter drops hoping that it would provide relief of the wax builds up. By the end of the week, I called my doctor for help as the loss of hearing gotten worse. Doc told me to stop using the OTC drop. He wrote a prescription that cost me almost $40 plus a box of Sudafed for nasal congestion. I also had an eye exam the same day.

It was a sunny afternoon when I left the ophthalmologist's office. Because it was an annual exam, my eyes were dilated for a complete exam for any sign of glaucoma as many in my family have this terrible disease. There I was, unable to put on sunglasses because I was wearing my nearsighted glasses, not the regular contact lenses. My vision became blurry as the brightness reflected thru the windshield, bouncing off the dashboard and straight into my dilated eyes.

It was the longest 15 minutes driving in my life as I could not hear well and see well beyond the bumper of the vehicle in front of me. I decided to get off a major six-lane road as I began to slow down and could not keep up the speed limit. As luck would have it, after I exited and got on a four-lane road, about a mile or two down, the right lane was closed due to construction. Unable to see, I did not dare to merge left and had to stop completely, with my blinking left turn signal, I waited for a driver with a kind soul to let me in. Of course, with my left ear unable to hear well, the driver had to honk loudly to let me know that he/she had stopped to let me merge. I waved to thank him/her and hoped that he/she did not think I was an illegal immigrant, not knowing how to drive or don't even have a driver license or insurance.

I am glad to report that I got home safety without causing an accident. I tried not to get nervous and hope that the condition is only temporary. Unable to read nor hear, I decided to take a nap. Originally, I wanted to schedule the eye exam and six-month appointment with the dentist on the same day. I would have been truly, see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

I did become concerned when my husband came home from work and asked me to turn the television down because it was too loud. Normally, it was me who complained to my husband about the volumn when he watches his macho movies such as The Terminator or Gladiator. Call me vain, at 46 years old I am not ready to enlist the help of a hearing aid. Let's give the $40 prescription a day or two more.

To my adoring fans, thank you for your get well wishes, I heard the wishes "loud & clear" :0 :)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Here are a few random stories I saw in the newspapers:

How do you spell "celebration"? Actually it was a very simple word but was mispelled in a big way. The day after the St. Louis Cardinals captured its World Series Championship in October last year, a young man went to a local tattoo parlor with a special request to have "St. Louis Cardinals, World Series Championship, 2006" in red ink, etch across his back. The tattoo "artist" completed the request but not exactly what the customer asked for. The finished etching proclaims St. Louis Cardinals as "Worlb" Championship, 2000! The New York Yankees won the series in 2000. A lawsuit is pending in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The young man stated that for now he plans to attend Cardinals games with his shirt on and he definitely will offer his help to anything who wishes to know about how to select a qualified tattoo parlor/artist because he does not want to turn his back on the "worlb".

Someone told me one time that because of the heavy work load, the company would not allow any employee to take a day off unless the reason is to attend his/her own funeral. A 36-year woman in St. Charles, Missouri learned that she was dead when her loan application was rejected, reason "Applicant deceased". For the last three months, the woman called the credit bureau, even enlisted federal and state agencies to correct the "deadly" mistake. None was able to help her because they did not know what to do. For now, the woman is living between two worlds or having one foot in the grave. Seriously, I sure hope the situation will be resolved.

I think my brother VL would find the next story interesting. It was about a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conference took place earlier this month in Bangkok, Thailand, concluded that rice production was a main cause of rising methane emissions in the 20th century. The report explained that the bacteria that thrive in flooded paddies that produce methane, by decomposing manure used as fertilizer and other organic matter in the oxygen-free environment. The gas is emitted through the plants or directly into the atmosphere. (I have no idea what I just typed. My brother "Qaptain Qwerty" wrote that in these days of instant web search via Google and other readily available source of information, someone who just happened to know how to look things up quickly could be mistakenly regarded as a smart person. However, one has to be smart to know where to look up information quickly, agree?) The government have encouraged rice farmers to drain their fields periodically to help reduce methane emissions. The farmers simply ignored the calls citing the high cost of draining the fields. Do I have to feel guilty the next time I place a large order of steamed rice?

Let's hope that the smart scientists will find the ways to save the "worlb" and keeping the earth alive and healthy for a few more million years.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


The Special Issue in the Sunday (May 6, 2007) Parade Magazine was about the real estate market, the hot and the lowdown, the home prices around the country and suggestions for home buyers on how to get the best price and sellers who wish to sell their homes quickly. I specially like the section, "What you can get for $150,000 or more .....".

It is true that in most parts of the country, houses are lingering longer on the market. The house next to us has been on the market for more than a year. I did not become nervous when signs for sale popping up around our neighborhood. Just our block alone, there are six houses for sale. A realtor told me one time that people usually put their house on the market or looking for purchase thus moving, when school is out and the weather is nice. No one likes to move during school year and when it is cold and snowing in the winter.

My sister, CH told me that she could get about $300K for her one bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She paid only $100K ten years ago. She would like to move to Manhattan but could not find a place, smaller than the current apartment, for less than $500K. That is half a million dollars. For that amount, I could get a whole house, 4 bedrooms with walk-in closets, 3 1/2 bath, mid-size kitchen, family and living rooms, full basement, 3-car garage, large backyard and a whole lot more in my neighborhood.

My brother wrote that every time when he visits his friend in South Brunswick, New Jersey (approximately 40 minutes from NYC), VL wanted to move out of New York City, to live in a house with a large back yard, enough room for a trampoline for his son to jump and do forward flip. I know VL would love to have his own driveway, a garage for his vehicle and not searching for a parking space each time he moves his car or the only space is three blocks away and has to walk back to the house when it is cold and snowing.

Here are a few comparisons for the money - A home with 2-bedroom and 2-bath in New Orleans, LA costs $180K while in Oklahoma City, OK for $10K more, you would get a 4 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bath and a 2,408 square feet of living space. I was surprised to read that a condo with 1 bedroom, 1 bath and an attached garage only costs $186K in Las Vegas, NV compared to $244K for similar space (1 bedroom, 1 bath) in Newark, NJ. If I could, I would move tomorrow to Colorado Springs, CO to live in a 2,840 square feet, 5-bedroom, 3-bath, fully furnished (modern furniture) and decorated home for only $310K or a log cabin of 2-bedrooms, 1 bath and a dream-come-true for my husband, a 5-car garage in Casper, Wyoming. The log cabin is surrounded by old-growth pines. I could finally spend all the time doing all the craft projects I have been planning to make. Ya right!

I pick out a house in Bend, Oregon, for my brother, a 2,800 square-foot home with scenic decks, custom built-ins made with environmentally sustainable materials, energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Price - $699K.

In a perfect world, I would not want a big and fancy home, just a decent home in a safe neigbhorhood and about an hour from where my brother lives so on the weekends I could take my nephew to the zoo, to go camping, to kid activities or just playing in the backyard.

My brother is searching for a new job. Though VL dislikes the crowded streets and all the big city headache, he is not ready to leave the NYC. I know no one from my family will ever consider moving to St. Louis and I am not sure if I will ever moving back to live in NYC, unless there is a major change in my martial status or better yet, I got lucky winning a jackpot from weekly lottery tickets. St. Louis lack many things that are readily available in NYC. For me, the only thing I miss the most from NYC is my nephew.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


In her book "The New DON'T BLAME MOTHER - Mending the Mother-Daughter Relationship", the author Paula J. Caplan, Ph. D. suggested to the readers that they should get to know their mothers as a person and not to worship or condemn. The author further explained that when we understand the struggles, the real-life trials our mothers have experienced, we become connected with our mothers in a more humanness and a less perfect image of what mothers should be.

There is a Vietnamese expression, "Con hu tai me", when a child is spoiled/astrayed or misbehaved (you get the idea), it is the mother's fault. An article in Psychology Today argued that there are other factors contributing to the children's problems and that mothers are not always the root of kids' behavioral and emotional problems. Researchers who follow theories that say mothers are responsible for kids' psychopathology will always find mothers as the cause for any kind of disorders in the children's development and troubled mental state as adults.

In the case of the recent tragic at Virginia Tech, the writer in a commentary in the online magazine blamed the parents of the gunman for their long hours of working in the dry cleaning business, for pushing the children too hard when it comes to education, getting into the right college, the highest SAT/ACT scores and in their quest to pursuit the American Dream, forgot to show love to the children. The writer implied that because the parents were strict, did not hug and tell the child "I/We love you", the child felt unloved and cannot bring himself to love others, thus became a psychotic mass murderer.

The first time I hugged my parents and kissed them on the cheeks was at my wedding when I was 28 years old. Growing up in Viet Nam, under traditional Asian culture, my parents did not hugged and kissed me when I went to school in the morning and again greeted me with hugs and kisses when I came home. We did not expressed our love through physical closeness or frequent touching. I just knew my parents loved me and they would take good care of me.

In Viet Nam, constantly reminders of family pride and honor were expressed verbally, "Do not shame the family", "Do not let us (parents) down", "Behave properly so people will know that you come from a good family." After we came to America, my parents often commented about individuals, especially young Asians, whose manners did not meet their approval and warned us children not to bring shame not only to the family but also to the entire Asian race. While my parents encouraged us to seek higher education, to master the English language, to get good jobs, to be productive citizens and become a part of American culture, they reminded us that we, as Asian Americans, would never find complete acceptance in American society. As Vietnamese American, we should try to prove that we are a "worthwhile ethnic minority in America".

Other comments were posted to the commentary blaming the parents for making the children's lives a living hell with their "dog and pony show". Another person wrote that parents who worked long hours more likely neglected their children physically and mentally; therefore, implying that the gunman was not responsible for what he did and his parents were accountable for not providing the love he needed.

As society, we have become a nation of victims, blaming someone else for our mistakes, believe that we are free from moral responsibility because something happened or caused by mothers, parents, employers and that we are entitled to sympathy, thus our actions are justifiable. My parents were strict and they never hugged, kissed or said that they loved me, yet I did not turn out to be a psychotic killer. There are many first generation Korean Americans who worked 12-14 hours to make a better life for their children and the children in turn understand the sacrifice the parents have made.

I see the physical closeness between my brother, VL and his son, much different with my parents when VL was growing up. VL and my nephew spent more time on outdoor activities and working on projects as father and son. Do I wish that my parents hugged and kissed me more often when I was growing up in Viet Nam? Maybe. Do I think my parents loved me less because they did not express their love verbally or lack the physical closeness? Absolutely not. The only regret I now have is not telling my Dad often how much I love and respect him and that I am blessed to be his daughter. But of course, he already knew all that because he is my Dad and he always loves me beyond the earth and sky.


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