Happy Eleventh Anniversary

Eleven years together and we haven’t killed each other yet. Not because we don’t want to, but because we want to kill our kids more. Dark joke? I know. Besides food, sex, and alcohol, humor gets me going. My wife is going to kill me for real after she reads this post. As long as she doesn’t divorce me, I am fine dying in her arms tonight.

In all seriousness, the kids are the glue that keeps our marriage together. Without them, we might not lasted this long. We struggled in those early years trying to figure out what we wanted out of our relationship. What was in it for me? Once our kids were born, we shifted our focus. Our marriage was no longer just between the two of us. We had additional responsibilities and we had to hold up our end of the bargain.

The past few years had been more on the up side. We fought less and appreciate each other more. We talked less and listened more. We complained less and communicated more. Most of our issues had been solved because we were being completely honest with each other. We need one another to keep this ship from sinking. We can’t let it go down because we have so much on the line.

This year has gone by so fast. Although I am not big on celebrating anniversaries, they give us an opportunity to reflect on our time together. Eleven years aren’t short if the marriage isn’t working. Maintaining a marriage is not easy. It needs some TLC (tender loving care). Luckily, our kids would tell us to show our affection toward each other like a marriage couple should.

Eleven years together and our bond is still strong. I thank her from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me as we take on our journey through life together. It hasn’t been easy, but we made it.

A Rough Morning

Đán woke me up at four in the morning because he wanted some ice-cold water. I went downstairs to get him ice water and he already went back to sleep when I came back. I, on the other hand, had trouble getting back to my sleep.

I woke up around seven o’clock with a sleep deprivation. After breakfast, we headed out to school. We were already a few minutes late and I could not find a temporary spot to drop the kids off. The only spot available was a space that didn’t fit my entire minivan. I ended up blocking a bit of someone’s driveway. No big deal. I just needed to walk Đạo and Đán across the street to their school and I would be out of the way.

Just as I got out of the car, someone honking and yelling, “It’s my driveway.” I told Đạo and Đán to wait for me at the corner while I moved me car. As I pulled out of his driveway, the guy turned back. We both rolled down our windows. While I said to him, “I am so sorry,” he yelled back at me, “You’re a fucking asshole.” I also turned back to check on the boys and to find a space close by because Xuân was also in the car, but still no spot available. Fortunately, a mother who walked her kids to school saw what happened stood next to Đạo and Đán to keep an eye on them. She told me she could walk them across the street for me. I thanked her and told the boys I love them.

As I drove off, I wondered why people are so mad these days. Did he have to curse at me for such a small inconvenience? I didn’t care that he called me “a fucking asshole,” but I was upset that he used that language as the kids were walking to school and my three-year-old son was in the back seat.

As I needed to calm myself down, Xuân started to complain that he was hungry and that he wanted chocolate coin. I told him that I did not have any chocolate coin with me and that mommy will get some later. He was not giving up. His demand escalated and I was about to lose it, but I stayed calm and explained to him that daddy is a bit upset right now so please be good. To my amazement, he listened and switched the subject. He asked me, “Daddy, why did the worm die on the sidewalk?” I explained to him, “He must had left the soil to the concrete. The heat was so hot and he did not get any water; therefore, he got dehydrated and died.” He replied, “Daddy, I want to buy him some milk, feed him some phở, and give him some Gatorade.” It was such an expected response.

In contrast to the angry white man, Xuân’s kindness put a smile on my face and relieved my tension. That was what I needed to get through my day. We walked to his class together and I escorted him to the playground with his teachers and classmates. He was a bit sad when I left, but he knew daddy had to go to work.

Letter to My Sons #4

Dear sons,

In this letter, I would like to address to each of you individually.

Đạo, I am glad you have found your passion for reading. I wish I had started as early as you had, but better late than never. I hope you can engage your brothers into reading as well. Đán is still struggling, but he can overcome it with our help. You’re the oldest brother. You play an important role in our family; therefore, it hurt me to hear you said, “I hate my family.” Đán looks up to you and he wants to please you, but he has his own interests as well. When he doesn’t want to play Lego with you, it doesn’t mean that he hates you. Give him some space to let him figure out what he would like to do.

Đán, you’re sweet and adamant at the same time. You treat your brothers well, especially baby Vương. I am sure you will be his protector. I hope you and Xuân can work things out. I know Xuân drives you mad, but he is still your younger brother. Both of you are middle kids, you should bond with him more. I can tell that you’re not interested in reading right now, which is fine. Like you, I did not like reading either when I was your age, but I hope that will change for you. Your mom and I are incredibly happy when we see you show some interest in the past few days. You seem to be interested in drawing. That is fantastic. I don’t have the chops and the patience for drawing, but Đạo does. I hope you can collaborate with him.

My dear Xuân, what can I say about you? You’re going through the emotional phrase of your life and that’s fine. We had seen these behaviors from your brothers before, but you soak up new things like a sponge. You are expressive and adaptive. You can be combative at home, but well-disciplined at daycare. Your teachers praised you for your manner and good behavior, but at home you fight tooth and nail with Đán. I hope you treat Đán like you treat Vương. They both your brothers.

Speaking of our Vương, you are the center of attention. Your constant smile melts everyone away. You’re the youngest and the luckiest. You get so much love from everyone even though your brothers could be a bit rough at time. Don’t lose that smile, boy. Your grandma and your aunt said that you look just like me when I was little. I am glad to share that trait with you. You are growing up so fast. I wanted to stop time because you are our last kid and incredibly adorable.

Even though I am blessed and lucky that I get to see you guys everyday, writing these letters gives me an opportunity to reflect on our relationships. Thinking of you and writing about you relax my mind. I hope someday I get to read yours as well.



Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?

Cal Newport writes in The New Yorker:

Despite its advantages, however, I suspect that the IndieWeb will not succeed in replacing existing social-media platforms at their current scale. For one thing, the IndieWeb lacks the carefully engineered addictiveness that helped fuel the rise of services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This addictiveness has kept people returning to their devices even when they know there are better uses for their time; remove the addiction, and you might lose the users.

I have not tried out any new IndieWeb social media platform simply because I still can’t get rid of Facebook. Twitter I can control, but Facebook is still addictive. I do lots of cross-posting on here and Facebook as well.

New Samples for Vietnamese Typography

I have been working on two new samples for Vietnamese Typography.

Rhymastic’s Lyrics

Rhymastic is a young Vietnamese rapper with virtuosic flows and lyrical skills. He piqued my interested in Vietnamese hip-hop. I put together this page to showcase his storytelling as well as to provide a sample of editorial design. The text is set in Frequenz and the heading is set in Sequenz, both typefaces designed by Sebastian Losch. Although Maelstrom Sans, designed by Kris Sowersby, does not support Vietnamese, I included it to spice up the design.

A Useful Guide for Diacritics

In Vietnamese writing, the hook above and the tilde are often misspelled because they often sound the same in speech, especially for the South Vietnamese. In most cases, I have to consult a dictionary to make sure I get the right mark for the word I intended to communicate. When I came across this guide, which helps to differentiate between the two, I wanted to include in this section. It might be useful for type designers to copy and paste the text to see how their Vietnamese characters look and feel. The text is set in Exchange, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones, and the headings are set in Halyard, designed by Joshua Darden.

Chợ xưa

Chiều thứ Sáu sau giờ làm việc cả nhà về Lancaster thăm mẹ và chị. Đến nơi cũng khuya nên chỉ còn việc đi ngủ.

Sáng thứ Bảy đang viết blog thì vợ quăng cho thằng Vương. Thôi thì hai cha con dậy đi bộ hứng gió. Vừa đẩy xe đi được một vòng thì vợ gọi điện nói đám nhóc đói bụng. Vừa cúp máy thì iPhone cũng rời khỏi tay rớt vỡ màn hình.

Tôi trở lại nhà. Mẹ và chị vẫn còn ngủ. Chỉ đám nhóc của tôi đã thức. Không biết đi ăn gì thì vợ nhắc đến cái chợ ở dưới phố Lancaster. Chợ nhỏ bán thức ăn và bánh trái organic. Phần đông những người bán hàng là dân Armish. Họ là những người nông dân vẫn không dùng technology.

Mấy chục năm rồi tôi mới trở lại chợ. Ngày xưa tôi và mẹ ở cách chợ hai block đường. Mỗi thứ Ba và thứ Sáu mẹ kéo xe đi chợ sớm mua thịt và trái cây tươi. Chợ ngày nay vẫn tấp nập. Người mua vẫn nhộn nhịp. Người bán hàng vẫn dễ thương chào đón. Bánh croissant vẫn thơm ngon. Cà phê vẫn đậm đà. Chỉ có mẹ tôi đi đứng khó khăn vì chân đau. Nhìn cảnh chợ tôi nhớ đến tuổi thơ và cũng xót xa cho mẹ.

Lê Ngọc Minh: Tình yêu nhỏ trong thành phố lớn

Tập truyện tình cảm ngắn của Lê Ngọc Minh mở đầu với câu chuyện tình của hai cha con với hai mẹ con rất dễ thương. Chuyện thứ nhì là về một cô đồng tính. Sau đó thì tôi hoàn toàn không nhớ vì tôi bắt đầu đọc sách này trước khi đọc Chút tình còn lại của Hồng Thủy nhưng lại đễ quên ở chỗ làm nên tôi tạm gác lại. Sau khi đọc xong tập truyện ngắn tình cảm của Hồng Thủy giờ lại đọc tiếp của Lê Ngọc Minh nên hơi ngán. Thôi đành phải chuyển hướng sang đọc nonfiction tiếng Anh cho đỡ chán.

Faking It

I wish it is an imposter syndrome, but it is not. I know for sure that I am a fake. Even in my professional career, I doubted myself. I hid the fact that I did not know what I was doing. I chose web design instead of other serious professions, like engineer or doctor, so I can get paid goofing off on the internet. It has worked out well for me, but I had to fake it. I still can’t write a line of JavaScript, but I can modify other people’s code to get the functionality that I need. When I took on this job six years ago, I knew nothing about Linux and server administration. If the server crashed or the site got hacked, it would be on my shoulder alone. I was terrified and didn’t want to take the job, but my wife pushed me to go for it. I am glad I did even though I had to fake it.

In my personal life, I have no idea what I am doing as a father. I love my kids, but all that I ever wanted to do was taking them out and having a great time. I was not interested in other mundane and stressful tasks. I was impatient, emotional, and selfish. As much as I would like to control their behavior, I knew that I had to let them go. It was a losing battle for me. I was not into Lego, but I had to fake it to show that I am interested. I can’t draw, but I encourage them to draw. I would love to get them to read, but I simply can’t force upon them. I made tons of mistakes. Thanks goodness for their mother who knows much more about parenting than I do. I am just a fake.

Let’s be honest. No one wants to admit they are fake, but being fake is not a negative. Being fake is not the same as being a con artist. I love the phrase “Fake it til you make it.” It has been my motto in life. When I first got into design, the professional designers kept saying that I need to draw to be a designer. I still can’t draw, but I am a pretty darn good designer—of course I fake it. I had no prior training in design when I decided to be a web designer, but I faked it. In retrospect, if I didn’t fake it, I wouldn’t have the courage to become a designer. My work was awful. I had no clue what typography was, but I faked it until I got better at it.

If I knew how much work and stress went into raising other human beings, I wouldn’t have any kid. Once they were here, I couldn’t send them back. I was not prepared for what was coming, but I faked it. I pretended to be a good father, but I quickly realized that being a father was not about me. It was what I can do for them. I don’t need the recognition for their success nor do want to be blamed for their failure. I don’t need the compliment for their well behavior nor do I want the criticism for their misbehaving. I just need to do my part. As long as I am there for them, showing them that I do my best, and teaching them what’s right and what’s wrong, it is up to them to decide for their own life. I don’t need to be responsible for everything they do.

So there I said it. I am not afraid to point out my fakes. It is not about my insecurity. I am just being honest to myself. I am a fake, but I am keeping it real.

A Small Gesture

Last week, I went on a field trip with Đán. In the morning, all the parents gathered outside the kids’ class. After introducing ourselves, the conversation began with a father telling other parents how hard it was for him to get half a day off from his boss. Others joined in with their own work-life story.

Fifteen minutes later, Đán’s teacher came out to assigned the chaperones with the kids. I was responsible for two boys and two girls. The trip was to George Mason University to watch a play; therefore, the ride was less than five minutes away.

One of Đán’s friends was super friendly. He called me “Papa” and held my hand as we walked from the parking to the theater. Maybe he didn’t want to get hit by a car. By the time we arrived at the front of the theater, his mom was standing at the door waiting for him. He ran over with joy to give her a hug. I greeted her. She turned to her son and said, “I have to go to work. Please listen to Mr. Trương and enjoy the show.” They waved goodbye and she left.

I thought she was going to join us, but she went out of her way just to say hi to her son. It was just eye-opening. She made me realized even a small gesture mattered. We don’t have to do all the grand things for our kids to show that we cared.

Hồng Thủy: Chút tình còn lại

Tập truyện ngắn của Hồng Thủy viết về những mối tình thơ mộng nhẹ nhàng. Những câu chuyện không não nề nhưng cũng không để lại cho tôi cảm nhận gì. Đọc xong sách trả lại hết cho tác giả luôn. Tuy nhiên tôi vẫn thích cách viết văn đơn giản và đẹp. Đọc để trao dồi tiếng Việt nên tôi không nghĩ đã lãng phí thời gian. Tôi sẽ tìm đọc những tác phẩm truyện dài của tác giả.