An Open Letter to My Nephew

Dear Chris,

I am sorry to hear that you have been hospitalized, but I am glad you are OK. I hope you will recover soon. The most important thing now is to take good care of yourself. Your family needs you. You need to stay strong and keep your heart beating.

I know what you’re going through. It feels like living in hell, but if you can make it through the night, there’s a brighter day. You’ve might have hit rock bottom, but you can always get back up. You are not a useless piece of shit. Don’t let anyone gets to you. You have to believe in yourself. I believe in you.

Everyone makes mistakes. The important lesson is to learn from your mistakes and to move forward. You are smart and technologically savvy. You will do fine once you find the right opportunity. You have a good heart. You love your family. You are kind to the people around you.

For me, I have always admired your frankness. You tell it like it is and you keep it real. Your language is colorful, but your heart is in the right place. I don’t have what it takes to be as blunt as you. I am learning to be unapologetic.

Just remember, I am always here for you. You can count on me. I got nothing but love and support for you. Keep your head up.

Money Talk

My wife is annoyed whenever I shared my view on money. It gets to the point that she is no longer wanting to talk to me about it since we don’t have the same perspective on it. I am cool with that. I can always take it to my blog. The risk of blogging is that I will offend people, which I had on numerous occasions in the past, but you blog and learn.

As I get older, I have a more realistic view on money. Right or wrong, it is my own perspective. They say that money doesn’t bring you happiness. In reality, you will be more miserable without money. Let’s face it. Everything costs money. Every time I get an oil change for my car, the dealer recommends repairs that would run two to three grants. Every time I call an HVAC company for a small job, they suggest a few grants worth of fixes. A plumber inspector suggests replacing a toilet for $700. Really? Do they think money just come out of my ass?

Even in my own marriage, money plays an important role. My wife and I both work and contribute to our family expenses. I am glad that she is not as calculated. If she ever decided to stay home with the kids, I would be fine with that. She would probably be OK with me being a stay-at-home dad, but I would never put myself in that situation. Even if she doesn’t think so, I know I would be viewed as a piece of shit for
not making money. I don’t want to be a useless piece of shit.

When I first graduated from college, people looked down on me because I didn’t have a job. They thought I was too lazy to work. When I was younger, I didn’t think money was important, especially in a relationship. I was dead wrong. If you have no money, no one wants to fuck you. People say that if they fucked you for your money then that’s not real love. Well, at least you still got fucked. In a Vietnamese ballad, Duy Quang had written a memorable line: “Tôi xin người cứ gian dối nhưng xin người đừng lìa xa tôi.” It is literally translated as, “I beg you to keep lying to me, but I also beg you not to leave me.” Yes, keep fucking me for my money, but please don’t leave me. I knew exactly what he meant.

As you can tell why my wife has been annoyed with me. I don’t blame her. She didn’t marry me for my money. I didn’t have shit. I am not rich now either, but I make enough to be self-sufficient. I don’t have to rely on others. I am not a parasite. I am glad that my wife has a more rosy view on money than me. Then again, we are in a good relationship. The truth will only come out if shit doesn’t work out between us. I hope I never have to find out the truth, but if that time ever comes, she knows exactly where I stand on this issue.

I am just keeping it real. Even if money is not important, it solves lots of problems. I am not a slave to money, but I recognize its power. I wish I can proudly say I don’t give a shit about money, but I would be lying. I am witnessing guys hitting rock bottom because they have no job. People treated them like dirt. I had been there experienced that as well; therefore, I know how they feel. It’s a shitty reality. Stay strong, kiddos.

Maybe that’s just my world and the way I grew up. I should stop talking about my view on money to my wife and ruin her optimistic view. I am sure her parents went through tough times as well when they first migrated to the U.S., but for me it was first-hand experience. Working alongside my mom in sweatshops for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week in the summer, for a few dollars an hour, had left a deep impact on me and shaped my view on money. It was definitely not the American dream I had imagined. The kind of shits she had to put up with to make money to raise me broke my heart. I hated my dad in those moments for abandoning us. He didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. I felt like a fucking bastard no one gave a shit except my mom. Those emotions and experiences changed my perspective on money.

Even now I give my kids lectures every time they don’t finish their food or they waste money on dumbshits. They have no idea the value of money and how good their life is. I do not want them to be spoiled. They need to know that money does not just fall off trees. The sooner they understand the hardship of earning money, the easier they will navigate through life. I learned early on from seeing my mom struggled. They won’t see their mom and I struggle like my mom, but I make sure that they know we work our asses off as well.

Arming or Not?

Our marriage has come to the point where anything coming out of my mouth would piss off my wife. As we were having breakfast this morning, the kids watched some music videos on Vietnamese New Year. Seeing firecrackers bursting on the screen gives me nostalgia of tết. I didn’t address my wife directly. I just made a comment that banning firecrackers is good because of serious injuries and even deaths. She blew up saying if I think the communist is so good why don’t I go back and live there. Easy lady, don’t “Nguyễn Ngọc Ngạn” me.

I don’t believe in communism, but in some cases the power to make the decision is good, especially on issues that can harm people. The problem with democracy is the political toxic and divisiveness. Guns, in the wrong hands, had taken so many innocent lives in America, and yet the law had gone nowhere to protect us. Mass shooting after mass shooting and more lives have been lost, yet all that politicians can offer is thoughts and prayers instead of solutions to prevent the tragedy. If the government can’t do anything about it, then we must do what is necessary to protect ourselves.

Lately, I have been thinking hard about arming. We’re now living in a gun nation. If someone else has guns and I don’t, guess who is going to die? I hate to even have to think this way, but not having a protection will put me at a disadvantage in a life-threatening situation. I am responsible for at least five lives and it is irresponsible for me not to protect them. Just a thought to ponder upon.

Thơ Hồ Xuân Hương

Tôi muốn đọc thơ Hồ Xuân Hương nhưng khi tìm đến trang Thi Viện thì chả muốn đọc. Cách thiết kế lộn xộn quá và trình bài không ưng ý nên tôi tự tạo ra một trang riêng gọn gàng hơn và dễ đọc hơn. Đặt biệt là chú trọng vào phông chữ cho nên tôi làm ra một trang để vào trong phần samples của nghệ thuật chữ Việt luôn. Chừng nào có dư một phút tôi sẽ mở lên đọc mấy bài thơ của Hồ Xuân Hương và học tiếng Việt luôn. Mời các bạn cùng đọc thơ của Hồ Xuân Hương.

Nếu bạn nào có ý khiến hay để tạo những trang web nho nhỏ hữu ích và để giới thiệu đến tiếng Việt của chúng ta thì liên lạc với tôi nhé. Không hứa trước nhưng có thời gian và cơ hội tôi sẽ làm.

Portfolio Site Updated

For a while I have wanted to include some logos I have designed on my portfolio website. I finally got around to put the branding page together. I also brought back the good old slideshows. I reset the type in Roslindale, by David Jonathan Ross, to experiment with its variable fonts, which David has released over the years for his Font of the Month Club. I am not sure when David will complete this typeface, but I am sure it will be a fantastic variable font system. Take a look at the homepage of Donnytruong.com.

Replacing a CV Axle for 2011 Toyota Sienna

Another day, another high pay. Replacing the left-font CV axle for our 2011 Toyota Sienna cost:

Total cost: $640 (tax included).

Thêm lính mới

Đầu năm tôi được thêm một trợ lý thiết kế. Thế là có đủ tay giúp thiết kế đồ họa lẫn trang web. Tôi khỏi phải động tay nữa.

Lúc mới vô làm chỉ có một mình không trợ lý nên việc gì cũng tự học nhờ sách vở và tự mò nhờ Google. Từ viết code lộn xộn cho đến viết code gọn gàng để dễ dàng sửa chữa và cập nhật. Từ làm hỏng server cho đến biết cách ngăn chặn hackers. Từ thiết kế tạm tạm cho đến thiết kế khá khá.

Nhờ tập trung vào nghệ thuật chữ (typography) và tham khảo rất nhiều sách về đề tài này nên bây giờ thiết kế rất chuẩn. Chỉ cần nắm vững được cách typesetting là bảo đảm thiết kế sẽ tốt đẹp 95 phần trăm vì đa số communications 95 phần trăm là chữ.

Ngày xưa cái gì cũng tự làm nên học hỏi rất nhiều. Giờ thì tôi mới thật sự giữ chức vụ giám đốc. Chỉ dám đốc chứ không dám làm nữa. Bây giờ làm giấy tờ thủ tục, xác nhận timesheet, và meeting nhiều hơn ngồi gõ máy lọc cọc hoặc chọn lọc từng mẫu chữ cho thích hợp với những thiết kế. Kiểu này sẽ lục hết nghề và năng khiếu.

Cũng may là mới đầu năm tôi nhận được hai dự án freelance rất thú vị. Những dự án riêng nho nhỏ này sẽ giúp tôi mài giũa kỹ năng của mình. Làm nghề này mà mất đi kỹ năng thì chỉ còn về nhà ăn bám vợ mà thôi. Hai dự án này tôi đều thích thú vì nó về sách vở. Mong rằng việc sẽ chấp hành thuận. Tuy chưa bắt đầu nhưng tôi không thể chờ lúc hoàn tất để chia sẻ đến mọi người. Giữ cố định (stay tuned).

Respect Different Perspectives

As I become more engaged with my fellow Vietnamese Americans, I realized that the majority of us supports Donald Trump. Whether they are ill- or well-informed, I respect their political perspective. We argued when we drank, but we agreed to disagree.

With the recent controversy surrounding Mr. Nguyễn Ngọc Ngạn, I am disappointed with the Vietnamese-American community. The attack and the name-calling are low and narrow-minded. He was called “Việt Gian” (Fake Vietnamese or traitor) for criticizing Trump. Anytime anyone has a different opinion from the community is accused of working for Việt Cộng no matter how profound the person had contributed to the Vietnamese-American community.

America is a free country and the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech. Mr. Nguyễn is entitled to his opinion just like the rest of us entitled to ours. I find the responses from Vietnamese-American news media and celebrities to be hilarious and ignorant. They advised Mr. Nguyễn to do thorough research before opening his mouth and yet they failed to do their own research. Mr. Nguyễn pointed out that Canada processed more than 50,000 asylum claims coming from the U.S., which is true according to Canadian government statistics. He did not just pulled that number out of thin air.

As a community, we must embrace and respect different perspectives. Diversity makes us stronger. We are not monolithic; therefore, we don’t have to be all Republican. We certainly don’t have to worship the ground Trump spits on. We can still call him out for his inhumane and immoral politics. Stop boycotting, protesting, and silencing Mr. Nguyễn for speaking out. We are not communist.

Viết cho tình yêu chân thật

Năm 2020 của tôi mở đầu với một sự thật phũ phàng. Tôi không thể process hết tất cả. Không biết nên buồn hay vui. Không biết là sự thất bại hay niềm hạnh phúc. Không biết là sự thất vọng hay niềm hy vọng.

Tình yêu phức tạp hơn những gì tôi đã nghĩ. Và tôi nghĩ mãi vẫn không sao hiểu hết dù đã hơn 40 tuổi. Tôi đã không nhận ra được sự hy sinh trong hạnh phúc. Tôi đã không nhìn thấy được sự độ lượng trong tình yêu. Tôi đã không cảm nhận được lòng từ bi trong hôn nhân. Và tôi đã nhiều lần không chấp nhận sự thật phũ phàng.

Giờ tôi mới thấu hiểu giữa sự thật phũ phàng và tình yêu chân thật. Tôi cứ ngỡ rằng hai sự kiện đó không thể nào xảy ra cùng lúc. Nhưng giờ tôi mới chứng kiến được có sự thật phũ phàng mới nhận thức được tình yêu chân thật.

Cái tôi đang có là tình yêu chân thật. Tôi cần phải nắm chắc lấy nó, giữ gìn nó, tôn trọng nó, và nuôi dưỡng nó. Tôi không thể nào đánh mất nó cho dù sự thật quá phũ phàng.

Còn sự thật phũ phàng thì đành chịu vậy. Còn làm được gì ngoài cách nuốt trôi lòng tự tôn (swallow my pride). Chỉ trông vào tình yêu chân thật cho cuộc đời nó đỡ miserable.

Cám ơn em đã cho tôi nhận thức được rằng tình yêu chân thật có thể chinh phục hết tất cả. Dù có khó khăn, trắc trở, chông gai, hối hận, hay tiếc nuối, tôi xin đưa em đến cuối cuộc đời. Dù sao, dù sao đi nữa tôi vẫn yêu em.

Make an Effort

Whenever I visited my mom in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the weekends, I just wanted to spend time with her, my sisters, and my sisters’ kids. I had no desire to drag my kids out to see friends and extended family. I came to realize that I had not seen friends and some family members for ages. This week, I made an effort to change that.

I had a friend from middle to high school. His big family treated me well. Back in the day, I used to hang out at his house along with other friends. His mom fed us Vietnamese home cooking. We played cards (Tiếng Lên) for a dollar or two. If we lost our money, which I often did because I am sucked at gambling, we simple watched Chinese TV series until the wee hours. His parents, brothers, and sisters were such lovely people. I felt like part of the big family. When I went to college, we lost touch. A few years later when I lived in New York, I came back and drove by their house one day, but they had moved. My heart sank. Years had gone by and it never occurred to me to ask around. This week as we gathered at my sister’s house, I found out that my cousin’s husband has been working at my friend’s sister nail salon all this time. I asked him for the salon address and walked right in. To my surprise, the sisters still remembered me after all these years. They invited me over to their house on New Year’s Eve and I dragged my boys and my sister with me. Their mom still remembered my name. She told me that her husband had passed away two months ago. I gave her a hug and my condolences. I went upstairs and chatted with my friend’s older brother. We reminisced about the good old times. He and I were into Ngọc Lan, Don Hồ, and hip-hop. He lent me so many CDs to dubbed into tapes. Like me, he has four boys, but they are much older. He told me that his brother (my friend) has moved to Erie, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, he already went back after Christmas. One of his sisters and I had crushes on each other, but we were too damn shy to take things further. We weren’t meant to be, but we’re still cool. She’s more like my little sister. I was glad to get a chance to see them again after almost twenty years.

My aunt passed away in 2012 and I am ashamed to admit that I have not visited my white uncle-in-law and my two cousins since. When I drove back to their house on New Year’s Day, I almost forgot where they live. I went to his neighbor’s house by mistake. I gave him my uncle’s last name and he didn’t know anyone in the area with that name. It is common in America’s neighborhood that people don’t know each other. When I finally knocked on the right house, my uncle came out and he recognized me. My two cousins were also home. Back then we weren’t so close because my English was limited. I do remember my uncle drove me to the dentist several times in his Mercedes all the way in Harrisburg to fix my damn braces. Yes, I had braces. As we were talking, he started praising Trump. I didn’t want to engage in politics because I didn’t have any drinks yet. I changed the subject to my aunt. He showed me her photo the day she became a U.S. citizen. She was so young and beautiful. He mentioned that he has not seen his wife’s part of the family much after she passed. I felt bad, but promised myself I will make an effort to see them again when I am in town.

One of my cousins planned a little “get together” for the younger generation. I am glad that my kids got together with their cousins. They ate pizza, wings, and egg rolls. They watched a kung fu movie and played video games. Their age is quite a range, but they can still hanging out. I had the opportunity to bond with my cousin who I haven’t seen for years over beers. We used to live next door in my aunt’s apartments. My mom used to babysit his first kid when he was one or two years old. Now he’s twenty-five. Damn, time flies. Watching the kids playing together made me realize that I should make an effort to have them hanging out more.

Of course, I spent many hours together with my mom and my sisters. They helped me taking care of my three kids. Because Vương didn’t feel well, my wife stayed home with him. My mom and sisters spoiled them with food and I spoiled them with iPad time. I felt guilty, but giving them screen time freed me up to talk to my mom. I had to entertain her to get her to cool down. She was outraged over Christmas with my sisters. They said something she didn’t like. My mom is very stubborn. She has to have her way only. I reminded my sisters over and over again. She has her way for eighty years. She will not change. We just have to do whatever we can to accommodate her. Of course, it is easier for me to do because I don’t live with her. I just have to put up with her for a few days and leave. My poor sister has to live with her. I understand the difficulty, but we are her kids. We need to make her happy. Otherwise we will regret it when she will no longer with us. She is getting weaker and weaker. She had a hard time walking. I am thankful every day that she is still with us. I do my best to not piss her off. Her happiness is my priority.

It has been quite an emotional rollercoaster for me with all the booze and the bonding. I am back home now trying to relax and recharge over the weekend before heading back to work on Monday. My two-week off had just flown by. George Mason has been generous to its employees. Not many companies or institutions give their employees two weeks off to spend with family and friends over the winter holidays. I definitely need to make an effort to reach out to the people in my life and to show them my appreciation. I didn’t realize how much they meant to me until I see them again. I am terrible at socializing, but I always keep the people who had played a significant in my past in my heart. I will never forget them. I just don’t reach out to them and that will have to change in 2020 and forward.