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Vĩnh biệt Chú Bảy

Nhận tin Chú Bảy vừa qua đời chiều hôm qua, tôi không khỏi nghẹn ngào. Chú ra đi gần một năm sau ba tôi mất. Trong mấy anh chị em, Chú Bảy là người thành công nhất trong ngành xây dựng. Chú và thím cùng sát cánh bên nhau gầy dựng sự nghiệp lẫn gia đình. Bốn đứa con của chú được nuôi dưỡng, đào tạo, và thành đạt.

Đối với gia đình và người thân, chú luôn thương yêu và lo lắng cho các anh chị em. Lúc còn sống, ba tôi thường khen chú luôn trọng tình nghĩa. Với con cháu chú cũng quan tâm và thương mến. Với tôi, chú rất ít nói. Mỗi lần đến thăm chú thì cũng chỉ hỏi thăm vài câu qua lại. Tôi cũng không biết phải nói gì với chú nữa nhưng tôi biết được nếu tôi cần sự giúp đỡ chú sẽ sẵn sàng.

Chú đã ra đi ở tuổi 74 sau gần một năm chống chọi với ung thư gan. Mong linh hồn chú được an nghỉ trong bình yên. Cháu sẽ nhớ chú mãi mãi.

Progress on Freestyle 2

Wednesday night, I didn’t go to sleep until two in the morning. Then I had to wake up at seven to take Đạo to school. I drank massive coffee and felt like shit all day. I went to ice skating class and couldn’t even do a proper Mohawk. I stayed back after class to practice, but the public session was crowded. Katie, my former coach, was there skating with Megan, one of my classmates. Megan and I used to take Katie’s class, but now we have a different instructor. I took three classes taught by Katie and she barely spoke to me beyond simple instructions. Somehow Megan managed to befriend her. I watched Katie perform and show Megan how to spin on one foot. Katie was fantastic.

I tried to do the dance sequence our new coach Kim taught us, but I couldn’t do it. My mind was exhausted and I was intimidated by the good skaters and instructors. I left the rink early and went home. I felt incompetent. I told my wife that I will quit after Freestyle 2. I went to bed and had almost eight hours of sleep. I felt much more refreshed. I worked from home on Friday; therefore, I took a lunch break and headed back to the rink. I had the entire rink to myself for the first half an hour. I focused on the dance sequence and was able to pull it off. I felt great again.

What I liked about Kim, my new coach, was that she focused on forms and she broke down the steps clearly. In a group lesson, I had about three minutes one on one with her. So far, I can do the dance sequence, the jump sequence, the spirals on edges, the ballet jump, and the half lutz. I just need to focus on the one-foot spin and the forward edge entrance. When I told my wife that I might go to Freestyle 3, she was not too happy since I said that I would be done with ice skating lessons after Freestyle 2. She showed no encouragement at all.

I understand her feelings. My life has revolved around ice skating. I want to practice every chance I have; therefore, I am not doing much around the house. I have to cut it back. So maybe this should be the end of ice skating lessons for me. I don’t think I can do much anyway. Too bad, our kids are giving up on ice skating. They have the opportunity to continue, but they don’t want to and I don’t want to force them either. For me, I have obligations to fulfill and ice skating isn’t a priority. I want to do it for fun and to challenge myself. I wanted to see how far I can go, but I think this might be it for me. I’ll keep skating for fun, but no more lessons. Without the coach to push me and the classmates to encourage me, I am not sure how far I can go. For instance, I haven’t made much progress with rollerblading. To be honest, rollerblading is a bit too dangerous. I have been injured quite a bit lately; therefore, I have to take more caution. I am too old to take risks. Ice skating is much safer, but it requires lots of techniques. I can’t spin even if my life depends on it.

Bad Dad

Whenever I banned Đán from playing video games, he would say, “I want a normal dad. Why can’t I have a normal dad?” His definition of a normal dad is a parent who lets him play video games all the time. If that’s the case I would rather not be a normal dad.

Đạo is not doing too well in school, not because he is struggling, but because he is slacking off. No matter how much I had talked and explained to him the importance of education, it seems to go into one ear and out the other.

Xuân seems to be doing good. He is just a bit too whiny and lacking motivation. He has so much potential in ice skating, but he just wanted to quit. He kept asking me when his class will be over and reminding me not to sign him up anymore.

Vương is a three-year-old badass who curses like a sailor. Whenever he said, “What the fuck,” he would followed up with the sweetest smile. How can I even be mad at him?

Speaking of profanity, I let Đạo and Đán listen to Kanye and Jay-Z in the car. Đán’s favorite tracks are “HAM,” “Monster,” and “New Slaves.” The beats on these tracks are crisp and clean, but the lyrics are so filthy. Đán told me that he blocked out the words and just concentrated on the beats and the flows. As for Đạo, he told me that kids from his school cursed more than the lyrics on his track. He knew all the words, but he never used them. I just have to take their words for it.

I am failing in the parenting department on so many levels, but I don’t want to be too rigid. Give them some space to grow.

Which Asian Are You?

When I meet other Asian Americans, I always wondered which Asia they are, but I could not ask. I am not sure what would be the right question to ask. “What type of Asian are you?” That sounds horrible. “Where are you from?” I know many Asian Americans have an issue with that question, especially those who were born in America. “What is your ethnicity?” They are obviously Asian. It often felt awkward when I tried to ask their Asian origin.

I would only bring up the question if I think they are Vietnamese American. I just speak in Vietnamese, “Chị là người Việt hả?” (Are you Vietnamese). If they answer in Vietnamese then yes. If not, they would tell me that they have no idea what I just said and they would tell me what type of Asian they are.

If you have any suggestion on how to ask Asian Americans what type of Asian they are, please share. I would love to know. On the contrary, I wouldn’t mind if anyone asked me any of the questions above. I would not not be offended. In fact, I would be glad that they are interested in my exact background.

Why Glenn Youngkin is Dangerous for Virginia

I haven’t written about politics on this blog and I don’t want to, but I have to draw your attention to the governor race between Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin if you live in Virginia. We must vote for McAuliffe because the Youngkin is too damn dangerous for Virginia and here are some of the reasons:

  1. Youngkin embraces Ron DeSantis’ mishandling of the COVID-19 for Virginia.
  2. Youngkin opposes mask mandates in public schools in Virginia.
  3. Youngkin criticizes Virginia universities for requiring students to be vaccinated.
  4. Youngkin touts dangerous anti-vaccine rhetoric in Virginia.
  5. Youngkin supports Texas’ abortion ban in Virginia.
  6. Youngkin plans to defund Planned Parenthoods in Virginia.
  7. Youngkin aims to roll back gun-safety laws in Virginia.
  8. Youngkin proposes an anti-education tax plan that would be a disaster for public schools in Virginia.
  9. Youngkin walks the dangerous line on baseless claims of election fraud in Virginia.
  10. Youngkin brings Trump’s toxic agenda to Virginia.

Let’s keep Trump’s hatred out of the state for lovers. Youngkin, a Trump disciple, has no place in Virginia. Early voting begins on October 17, go cast your ballot for Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats. Let’s keep Virginia blue.

Glennon Doyle: Untamed

I had no idea who Glennon Doyle was. I picked up her latest book based on the cover. I can’t even figured out what the heck the artwork is supposed to be, but I spotted on R.E. Hawley’s essay, “Behold, the Book Blob.” Untamed is a collection of personal short essays covering many grounds including marriage, infidelity, feminist, religion, politics, parenting, and love. Glennon found her true love when she met Abby. Yes, the soccer star Abby Wambach. Glennon divorced her husband and married Abby. They raise three kids together. On giving kids their own phone, she writes:

There is so much about phones and children that parents worry about. We worry that we are raising children with commodified views of sex, lack of real connection, filtered concepts of what it means to be human. But I find myself worrying most that when we hand our children phones we steal their boredom from them. As a result, we are raising a generation of writers who will never start writing, artists who will never start doodling, chefs who will never make a mess of the kitchen, athletes who will never kick a ball against a wall, musicians who will never pick up their aunt’s guitar and start strumming.

What I like about this book is Glennon’s untamed honesty. Although the book is 330 pages, it is a quick read. Her prose is short and sweet. Each essay could be a blog post. What I fear is that my wife would fall in love with another woman and would leave me. Then again, it would be less hurtful than another guy.

Progress and Regress

For his third progress report, which sent home last Friday, Đán received 3s across the board. He listened to his teachers and followed their directions. We made it crystal clear with him that he would get ban from playing video games if he grades dropped. That seems to work. We are proud of his progress. He could earn 4s if he participated more. He didn’t want to share what he had done over the long weekend. We spent two nights camping and he had nothing to share. Academically, he still struggles, but we are happy that he is trying and improving.

Đạo, on the other hand, is not struggling but slipping. He started off strong but now slacking off. He failed his math quizzes but didn’t even bother to retake them to bring up his grades. He didn’t even complete his assignments. His teacher caught him reading his book in his class. Seriously? He was read The Hunger Game in his math class? Is The Hunger Game that addictive? He is banned from video games now until he pulls himself together.

I told him in the beginning of the school year I do not want to see any surprises on his report card. He promised to keep on top of his school work and here we are. My wife had to check his assignments everyday to make sure he had done them, but he still managed to screw up.

We had a conversation last night and was was mad at me for being a mean dad. I explained to him that banning him from playing video games is not being mean. He failed to hold his end of the bargain. I stressed the important of education because life will be tough without that degree in his hand. I love him too much to let him screw up. As a minority in this country, he has to have at least an education to survive. I hope he understands what I am trying to explain to him, but I know it went in one ear and out the other. I am writing this down so he can read it to remind himself.

On Social Platforms and Blogs

While our family was having lunch together yesterday, Đạo mentioned that I deleted all my Facebook posts. He knew about it because I asked him to help me, and he deleted 250 posts at a time until they were all gone. Đán asked if it meant I deleted all of their photos and videos. Unfortunately, I have not. Facebook doesn’t seem to allow me to do so in bulk. I kept getting the “No network connectivity” error. I gave up and deleted the Facebook app off my phone. I might just deactivate or delete my account all together.

I also mentioned to Đạo, Đán, and my wife separately that I am thinking of making this blog private. Đạo and Đán don’t want me too. My wife didn’t have an opinion, but she warned me that she will use it against me one day for all the shit I said about her. Fair enough. She did say that my blog posts are far worse than my Facebook posts.

Đạo and Đán started to talk about social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. My wife explained the harms and the illusions these two platforms can do to kids. I don’t use neither platforms, but I have read about them, especially the negative impact on teenage girls, which led to suicide.

My wife dissuaded them from joining these platforms, but she encouraged them to blog, which surprised and enlightened me. She made the case that with social media platforms they constantly seek and compete for attentions. With blogs, people will follow if they liked what they read. Đạo and Đán don’t seem to be interested in writing much since they haven’t kept up with their blog.

I am glad that she encourages them to have a place that they can write freely about their own thoughts. Unlike their father, they don’t seem to have any socializing issues. They can make friends easily. As someone who is very social awkward, I found comfort in writing down my thoughts and this blog has provided me the space to do so.

I don’t know how to carry on conversations in real life unless I get a little drunk. I worried that I would make a fool out of myself or offend people. When I got a bit drunk, I just didn’t give a fuck. I am in that state of mind when I blog. When I talked to people, I worried that people didn’t give a shit what I had to say, but they had to listen. On my blog, readers can just leave.

I can get pretty unsocialized in my own family. My sister-in-law’s husband thought that I am ignoring him, which is totally not true. I have nothing but love and respect for him. We get together every weekend. It’s to the point that I have nothing to talk about. I enjoyed coming over to their house for dinner. The kids loved to play games together on their iPads. My wife, my sister-in-law, and her husband also on their own device; therefore, I often read until dinnertime and I am cool with it. As along as everyone turned off their devices during dinner.

The Manual of Diacritics

Radek Sidun is publishing The Manual of Diacritics. He writes:

With a few exceptions, the drawback of literature devoted to diacritics is that they are predominantly textual and often lack sufficient illustrations. Because most of us work visually, a textual description of how something should be correctly done and how the result should look is not very helpful. Examples should primarily be shown, specific approaches visualised and clearly demonstrated. This is why, instead of complicated descriptions of the problems associated with diacritics, I chose to put together a set of clear visual examples of possible solutions. To achieve this, I completely redesigned all accents from scratch. The result is 15 typefaces with a new diacritical set designed by me.

The book includes 33 languages. I would love to see his process and approach for redesigning all the accents. Unfortunately, Vietnamese is not included.

Cắm trại

Cuối tuần đi cắm trại với liên đoàn Hùng Vương. Tuy không hứng thú lắm nhưng cũng phải đi với Đạo và Đán cho tụi nó tham gia hướng đạo. Chiều thứ sáu dựng lều rồi trò chuyện với các trưởng và phụ huynh khác. Mọi người muốn tôi tham gia đánh trống cho đoàn lân để kiếm thêm tiền cho liên đoàn. Thôi thì tôi cũng đồng ý. Giúp được việc gì thì giúp. Bàn chuyện đến khuya tôi trở vào lều nhưng không ngủ được. Đến gần ba giờ sáng tôi mới thiếp đi.

Đến bảy giờ sáng, thức dậy ăn điểm tâm rồi đưa thằng Đán đi tập ice hockey. Sau giờ tập xong, tôi ghé chợ mua hai thùng bia để uống cùng mọi người ở vùng cắm trại. Buổi trưa chị Diễm đãi liên ăn phở. Tuy bị gout nhưng tôi không thể nào bỏ qua phở chị Diễm. Sau giờ trưa đám nhỏ đi sinh hoạt còn phụ huynh chuẩn bị cơm chiều. Chúng tôi đốt than lên nướng thịt và sườn. Đồng thời phụ huynh khác cũng đem theo những món nên buổi ăn tối khá nhiều. Sinh hoạt xong, mười giờ là lúc phải giữ yên lặng.

Đám nhóc chơi bên đống lửa gần đến 11 giờ mới đi ngủ. Phụ huynh và các trưởng nướng cá khô, uống bia, và trò chuyện tiếp. Tôi khá buồn ngủ nhưng cũng ngồi lắng nghe. Đến gần một giờ sáng tôi không chịu nổi nên về lều ngủ. Tuy mệt mỏi nhưng vẫn khó ngủ vì mấy ông vẫn trò chuyện lớn tiếng.

Đến hai giờ khuya, trời bắt đầu mưa nên mấy ông cũng đi ngủ. Tôi nằm nghe tiếng mưa rơi trên mái lều. Tôi nhớ đến vợ và hai đứa nhỏ. Chỉ vắng có một ngày mà sao nhớ nhung vô cùng. Ước gì có vợ nằm kế bên thì lãng mạn biết mấy. Đã lâu rồi không được nằm kế vợ. Tôi bị bốn thằng khác lần lượt chiếm chỗ. Từ thằng Đạo, đến thằng Đán, đến thằng Xuân, giờ thì thằng Vương không xa mẹ nửa bước.

Đến gần ba giờ sáng tôi mới thiếp đi và mưa vẫn rơi. Sáu giờ sáng tôi tỉnh giấc và mưa vẫn tiếp tục rơi. Tôi nằm đọc sách một chút mà lòng vẫn lo ngại không biết xụp lều xuống có được không nếu như trời vẫn mưa. Cũng may tám giờ sáng mưa đã tạnh. Chúng tôi ăn sáng xếp đồ đạc vào xe rồi đám nhỏ làm lễ bế mạc.

Chúng tôi chia tay nhau ra về. Dù biết rằng cuộc vui nào rồi cũng phải tàn nhưng lòng tôi có một chút buồn. Dù sao gì tôi cũng xem những phụ huynh khác như bạn, nhất là cùng người Việt với nhau. Nhưng ngoài những buổi họp mặt như vầy vì con của chúng ta tình bạn bè không hề tiến xa hơn được nữa. Khi đám con lớn rồi thì cũng sẽ không còn gặp nhau để nhậu nhẹt hay chuyện trò gì nữa.