Letters for Ms. Davis

Mentions of Ms. Davis may conjure up Andy’s mom for some of you, but I think of one of my favorite teachers.

I remember a time in fifth grade after the last bell of the school year, I wait for Ms. Davis to thank her for being a good teacher. She is a hard-ass; many would even call her mean, but I know better and think she deserves to know.

She sternly peers back at me through her librarian-like glasses and smiles. Then, I ask if she would like to be my summer pen pal, something I have never had before, and she is taken aback. Her stare softens while she removes her glasses, letting the pink beads catch around her flushed neck. She loves pink. With a glint in her eyes, she says, “Yes, of course! I would love to be your pen pal!”

I tell her I can’t get enough of her handwriting, and that she said something that stuck with me. She looks puzzled.

I recalled a day with my new friends, Tiffany and Sherri; we were hustling back from a break, late. I was never late, but I was with “the cool kids” and went with their (slower) flow. As expected, Mrs. Davis was waiting outside the classroom, immediately scolding us for running. Someone said, “Well, if we didn’t run, we’d be even later.” Mrs. Davis retorted, “If you weren’t late, we wouldn’t have to run.” The other two girls side glanced back at me and rolled their eyes as they half-halfheartedly said, “Yes, Ms. Davis…”

I mimicked the behavior and she stopped me with, “Excuse me?!” The other girls knew not to stick around when that tone reared its head. She said, “Don’t roll your eyes!” With faux defiance but true remorse, I quickly made the uninspired “other-kids-do-it” argument. She said, “Yes, but you are not them, and this is not you. YOU are not the type to roll your eyes. YOU are better than that!”

I was dumbfounded, panged with guilt, wanting to defend my friends who are good kids, but also knowing she was right. It was a prime example of self-imposed peer pressure, and I was sorry for not being true to myself, and especially for disrespecting her.

I look up, my eyes refocusing on the present Ms. Davis, who, with tears in her eyes and nose now the shade of her nails and shirt, comes over to hug me. She says, “This is you. Thank you. Now go enjoy your summer. Your friends are waiting… and no running!”

I still have the letters somewhere, and the stationary I bought specifically for our summer. It didn’t feel right using it for someone else. It was a floral lavender and pink set that I knew she’d love. I wonder where she is these days. Wherever she is, I hope she knows what she still means to me, and that every time my patience, her influence persists. Thank you, Ms. Davis.


Image credit

  1. Pixar Theory: The TRUTH Behind Andy’s Mom!

A Letter to Myself | P.S. Punny

I don’t often converse with myself out loud. No pep talks into the mirror before speeches. No self-motivation during workouts. No, “That was embarrassing,” after inanely awkward moments. Instead, I write and think… a lot.

I welcome playful thoughts because adults are not encouraged enough to be imaginative. I am introspective, lean into my feelings, and try not to let my too oft existential crises consume me after 2 AM. Nothing good happens after 2 AM.

Hence, it was unusual to get a letter addressed in my own handwriting. After marathoning the Back to the Future trilogy (twice in two days), I did ponder if my past or future self was warning me of some imminent danger.

Dated March 4, 2020, written as a work assignment two weeks before quarantine, it felt like reading a horoscope. As much as I believe in magic, fate, and destiny, I’m a huge pragmatist. Of course some blurbs could apply to anyone, but at what point do you concede it’s more than just a coincidence?

Well, I’m letting myself believe it’s perfect timing, and even though Past Vietca had no idea lockdown was coming, she really knows Future Vietca, a constant hopeful. She also has a great sense of humor. Lots of cheese… you have been warned. Enjoy!

Dear Vietca,

You will always feel like there isn’t enough time to complete all your goals, even if there is. You feel like you could be more successful. You feel like you could be a better person.

The feelings will persist and there are others like you, and others who will help you through this. There are resources out there for people like you.

You’ve achieved so much already. Give yourself permission to celebrate even while continuing to build on what you’ve created. You are a rock star and someone or something made you forget that. Get it back and get back to it!

Love you!

Vietca

P.S. Where does a king keep his armies? =)

Anniversary Update | Hi Dad

Hi Dad,

A lot has happened in the last year, and even if it’s a relief you don’t have to deal with it, if only you were here to deal with it with us.

  • COVID-19 is still rampant in the US because people struggle with caring about themselves versus others, while the rest of the world knows they’re not mutually exclusive. If you were here, you may convince Mom to stay in, but then I’d have to worry about you both.
  • Racial relations have elevated from where not being racist is no longer enough, and being anti-racist is an active choice. It’s too bad I never got to know more about your thoughts on matters like this.
  • I did my first oil change! Took three hours, BUT it’s a step up from when you taught me how to check my oil and coolant levels.
Vietca's First Oil Change
  • I started dating and met a lot of… different types. They weren’t keepers, but the stories sure are. Remember the kid who “proposed” to me from another car at a Houston intersection? I still have the ring.
  • I went camping for the first time in years AND finally saw a bear in the wild! Remember that huge bear you got me when I was four, and someone stole it off the truck on moving day?
  • I built my first computer. I mean, I kinda built the others, but was more hands on this time. The first one you got me had a black and green screen. I just found my diary entries on floppy disks.
  • My friends helped me make a pumpkin Halloween costume, but everyone thought I was a strawberry, hot chili, or tomato. I was a… Viet Cà (cà = tomato in Vietnamese). Now that I think about it, I think you told me my first pun, in Vietnamese no less. Something about a lady with a lemon waiting for a boy with a bottle, haha.
  • I used my bilingual skills to make students feel more comfortable in the classroom! Remember the Vietnamese teacher who said my name wasn’t real, and seven year-old me said if she didn’t know it was, she’s not qualified to teach us? I got to spend the whole summer with you learning to read and write.
  • My friends and I had a fierce debate about how to close takeout boxes. I think I won. Remember that bigger-than-me barrel of fortune cookies from your restaurant? I’m taller now, but still collect fortunes. I have a feeling you had something to do with me getting this one.
  • Mom needed a couple of surgeries, and was stubborn about letting others care for her. Guess it runs in the family. She’s better now because we caught it in time. I still wish you told us sooner.
  • I visited Filoli Gardens for my first time, and it was absolutely beautiful! I still love Christmas as much as I did when you bought us our first Christmas tree in the first house we lived in together.

Finally, the Chargers didn’t do very well, but at least the AFC West won it. I still remember that Chargers-Steelers game we watched together that led to the Super Bowl. They’ll get there… soon, I hope.

Sorry, that was a lot, but it was all to say that however much you missed doesn’t amount to how much I miss you this year, today. It was nice catching up.

Love, Việt Ca

Apple Digital Clutter Desktop

500 Days of Some Streaming

Technology allows us to save everything—photos, bookmarks, online courses we will never take—contributing to digital hoarding which should slightly abate during lockdown. Don’t think I’m talking about you? Check your desktop.

Apple Digital Clutter Desktop

In its tangible counterpart, cats die in some dank part of a garage full of Christmas décor from the ’70s. The digital world, however, is virtually limitless where corners are darker, dustier, and links to cute kitten videos and nyan cat GIFs are long-forgotten. They are lost in an abyss of information we intend to access, but rarely do, at least, not at the rate at which we add to it.

I inadvertently spent two years consuming little to no digital media because life happened in 2013 and even more happened thereafter. I started working a lot and became more introspective as did those around me, including complete strangers who shared their secrets and insecurities. It helped that I was bartending and some of these folks were less-than-sober. Yes, you. =)

On January 2, 2015, I broke my unintended hiatus, and binged six seasons of Sons of Anarchy in just as many weeks. Technically eight, but I took a break for my birthday weekend (“Zelda-brate” was that year’s theme), Super Bowl XLIX, and February bday babies.

I wanted to see if I missed any fusses as my Mr. G’s (RIP Steve) peeps were all about it, but I also needed some self-care. I went back to my well, a hole in the ground when you’re thirsty, to be quenched by art, TV, movies, karaoke, not enough KBBQ, and writing; I even started dating again. Ugh.

Anyway, enter, Netflix’s “My List” where, apparently, there is a 500-title limit. Assuming each is at least 30 minutes long, that’s 250 hours of programming, or 10 straight days. Mind you, there are movies, multi-season shows, and comedy sets. It also means I tacked onto the list on roughly once every three days, more if I was a good curator, constantly adding more content as completed ones term off.

Netflix Old Logo

The way 2020 is going, the “stay home, stay safe” scenario is holding steady, so I will spend this time meandering through these titles. Realistically, I can finish by summer’s end by watching a few hours a day… in addition to content outside this platform, like the Star Wars franchise I started May 4.

Netflix, if you’re reading this and considering sponsorship, I can be loyal. 😉

Finally, some notable observations because who am I without lists? Also, whoever recommended watching 500 Days of Summer as a post-break-up movie should be ashamed of themselves. Worst. Idea. Ever.

  • Seen/caught up | 28
    • Way more before I shamefully scrubbed the list
  • Still catching up | 27
  • Food-related | 24
    • Surprised? Me, too.
  • Non-English content | 32
    • When I have time focus on only the piece, including anime I stubbornly refuse to watch dubbed
  • Added after watching A Christmas Prince | 18
    • Sparked by this infamous Netflix tweet
  • Of those, how many I would’ve added anyway because I love Christmas | 18
  • Stand-up sets | 52
    • What? I like to laugh.
  • Science, documentaries, other non-fiction | 63
    • Because science and learning and s***.
  • Recs, or added so I can relate more to others | 43
    • Because… empathy.

By the way, wishing Happy Father’s Day to all the dads here and beyond, stand-in dads (hi Mama Do), pet papas, and all those in between. And no, I didn’t forget.


  1. Don’t be a clutter bug | Harold Taylor | 2015
  2. Surprised Kitty (Original) | rozzzafly | 2009
  3. Nyan Cat Original | 2011
  4. Nyan Cat GIF | MEANS TV | 2015
Digital Love

Love in the Time of Corona…virus

I’m an analog hopeless romantic in an online dating world. I openly favor face-to-face instead of Facetime, hashing it out instead of hashtagging, and talking on the phone instead of staring at it, but the rules have changed, so I’m adapting as we all should.

Digital Love

Since getting on the apps last summer, I had sprees of six-date weekends followed by weeks of self-declared social distancing. This is not dissimilar to my pre-digital love life–I was lucky to have loved deeply twice for a combined 11 years, and follow that with a treasure trove of hilarities in sporadic singledom.

In light of recent events, or, now, lack thereof, solitude is no longer a choice, and honestly, this can be the start of an awesome silver lining. Coronavirus Disease 2019, a.k.a. COVID-19, is changing the landscape for love and language. While some are happy to rely on sexting and flirty wordies, others feel restricted they can’t get physical, all in the name of preventing community spread.

Well, I’m no chemist, but I have solutions! Here are my top 10 virtual dates so you can get down digitally with a little help from my analog friends. Have fun, be safe, and get wild, creatively wild. The possibilities are virtually endless. #seewhatididthere

Minimum requirements | text (📝), talk (🔊), video (📹)

  • Netflix and Chill 🔊
    • Have a watch party of a movie you both love and create your own commentary. When your Youtube channel blows up, you’ll have a story for the grandkids.
  • What do you bring to a picnic? 📹
    • Discuss the five items that make up your perfect picnic basket, and grocery shop with their list. Then, dine a day in your date’s shoes, one bite at a time. Not only will they think, “I’ll have what they’re having;” they’ll wish they were there with you.
  • Safe Fun 📹
    • Exchange Instagram stories using the conversational filters; it breaks the ice and may pave the way to deeper understanding. Feel safer knowing it’s not live while confirming you’re not getting catfished. Lucky for you, I have a list of a lot of them. Seriously, like… a lot.
  • Sound the Alarm… Clocks 🔊
    • Set YOUR alarm clock so you can wake up the other person up, so not only will they be pleasantly stirred from their slumber, but you’ll get to see or hear what your forever feels like. And no, you cannot wake up early to put your face on before they call. Come on, people.
  • Talk about TED 🔊
    • No, not about Mosbey the Architect. For the intellectual high, select a few TED Talks to watch and see where that leads you. If nothing else, you’ll learn something new about the world and yourselves.
  • Video Games 📝
    • If you weren’t a gamer before, it wouldn’t hurt to try being one now. It’s cheap, fast, and easy just like how I like my banh mi. If you’re competitive, this will be a true and fun test.
  • Storybuilding 📝
    • Start a story via text or email by sending one sentence/paragraph at a time, letting the other person take it wherever with their paragraph. Maybe it’ll become the next Harry Potter. Probably not, but who knows?
  • Open Bar 📹
    • Crack open a beer or pour yourself a whiskey neat and have a drink with one another via video. Share stories behind how you amassed your collection, or the first time you had a certain cocktail, or why you don’t drink. The topics are bottomless like your mimosa.
  • Karaoke Time 🔊
    • Sure, you can download Smule (no, I’m not sponsored, but can be convinced), or just video one another, pick your go-tos and whale away. My friends reading this should know a Karaoke Hangout is pending.
  • Iron Chef 📹
    • Can you already tell I like food? Find a recipe you both would like and cook it together. Set a time limit, and have a rubric ready to judge on presentation while you argue adorably over whose tastes better.
  • Teach Me Something 📹
    • Select a teachable talent, and teach one another something new. It can be tangible like guitar chords, or cultural trivia from your heritage. Accepting help allows us to feel vulnerable, and helping someone feels great. You’ll start feeling close in no time!
  • Go Virtual… Literally 🔊
    • If you’re lucky enough to each own a set, play a game together. The haptic feedback along with your other senses will do wonders until you can perform your own wonders… literally.

Photo Credit

  1. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Actual Hindsight for 2020

I am really excited about this next year for a multitude of reasons, but I’ll give you 20, naturally:

20. I will continue to shamelessly execute good (or “bad”) wordplay, particularly this joke since the next chance won’t be until 2120. Fun.

19. Some of the goals I set are oldies, but still goodies. Persistence.

18. Some of the goals I set are oldies, but defunct. Follow-through.

17. Some of the goals I set are newbies, but necessary. Growth.

16. I am involved in far too few activities… Variety.

15. … far too much. Balance.

14. I will make sustainable changes to better care for my body… Health.

13. … mind… Knowledge.

12. … and soul. Inspiration.

11. I will renew interests that (used to) make me me. Invest in.

10. I will take a deeper dive into my finances. Invest out.

9. I will cut back on aimlessness… Intention.

8. … idleness… Action.

7. … and self-doubt. Confidence.

6. I know more of what I do and don’t want. Clarity.

5. I want to put myself out there more. Creativity.

4. I want to put myself out there more. Vulnerability.

3. I want to put myself out there more. Love.

2. I want to get the most out of each moment. Life.

1. I will continue to shamelessly be happy being me, and put myself first more often. Vietca. (Already getting a head start on #20!) #seewhatididthere

If you have a goal, let’s succeed, or try again, together! This century is no longer a teenager, so make room for our Roaring 20s! Good luck, everyone, and Merry New Year! Going out with a boom… er… many booms!

5F8CF77F-B232-4251-A041-63E1753365A5

 

Accountability, Table for One

It’s been a few days since the anniversary of my dad’s passing (7/22), and this year, I consciously held off on a post, until today when a friend told me I had too much faith in people.

I, refusing to believe it to be a negative quality, responded, “Faith is what we possess and accountability is what people should have whether or not we believe.”

Accountability Signage

Story of my life, and invariably, my feelings toward my dad.

He was not a full-time father, but I was a full-time believer. Countless times he’d make well-intended promises that were not-so-well-executed, but my faith never wavered.

My memories are not riddled with fights of the number of Father’s Days, phone calls, birthdays, and graduations he missed. They’re filled laughter, joy, and love for when he came through.

It’s not my job to hold anyone accountable, to make them feel bad for their choices. I’ve made it my job to not take anything for granted, nor turn people away.

I know my belief in him gave him a home to come back to each time, even if it was for one last time.

So today, I know that although he passed alone, my dad knew I loved him, always.

 Việt Ca

PS. The Chargers are no longer playing for San Diego, but I’m still excited for us to catch some games when the season begins. 🤣


Photo credit | Volkov

First posted | June 26, 2017

The Tie

The Tie

Five years ago, I was able to wish my dad “Happy Father’s Day” in person for the first time in decades… maybe ever. A month later, he passed, and in 2014, I decided it was finally time to let go of some of the sadness I harbored every third Sunday in June.


Through elementary school, it was a way of life to see my dad during his visits, perplexingly never in June. I remember his efforts to stay longer, but never lost hope for I was always rewarded with promises of next time.

Through middle school, it was a way of life to call my dad, purposefully every third Sunday of June. I remember answering machines, but never lost hope for I was occasionally rewarded with his actual voice.

Through high school, it was a way of life to think of my dad, poignantly every day in June. I remember the purchase–a tie, red, soft, and priced at $20, a fortune to a freshman who just discovered the world of work. I remember his wavering responses about a Father’s Day visit, but though I never lost hope, the visit that never came left me with the tie.

Instead, I was rewarded five years later at my college graduation, but his surprising arrival met with his not-so-surprising departure before Father’s Day, which, once again, left me with the tie.

Even still, my hope was rewarded six years later with a phone call–he was sick. As fate would have it, my cousin’s wedding was later that year in June, but also as fate would have it, I couldn’t find the tie. This pinnacle moment, years in the making, and the tie would not surface.

My August plans to visit and gift my gift were soured, for just before the end of July, he passed, and for one final time, left me with the tie.

These are the ties he left behind. My tie isn’t in there, but after years of trying to give him this one measly gift of fabric, it was he who was rewarding me with his inadvertently lessons to believe in people, in hope, in love, and in gratification that is not always instant.

Though he never knew of the tie and all its meaning during his life, I’ll never give up hope that he is in a better place where he now knows, and my tie to him was always there.

#HappyFathersDay. I miss you. 

The Tie

Colorado River Panorama at Rocky Rapid Put In

Not-So-Whitewater Rafting the Colorado River

I just returned from a bachelorette party in Utah (I know, right?), three days in Moab sandwiched by some time in Salt Lake City. I packed conservatively for fashion, but excessively for sport should I get owned by nature repeatedly.

Albeit excited, I was terrified at the thought of my first foray into whitewater rafting. My wild imagination envisioned only the most extreme situations:

White Water Rafting Over Waterfalls

It seemed inescapable, me tumbling into the water’s icy cold, frothy mouth, and getting chewed up by the rocky teeth of the river monster:

Falling Out While White Water Rafting

I would see myself hanging onto the raft’s ropes with a white-knuckle grip that bests that of Rose and Jack’s, but I come to find all conditions are low: the water level, class of rapids (I and II), wind speed, and finally, my nerves. It is beautiful, and thus begins my epiphanous experience down this (Google Camera Emoji: me):

Colorado River Panorama at Rocky Rapid Put In

Life works its way down a fairly predictable river with inevitable rapids that move us faster than we would like. When the going gets tough is where we separate into those who fight for the wrong people, and those who take flight for the wrong reasons. That leaves the courageous who know that working through discomfort for the right people and reasons gets us further than many could ever dream or have the fortune to experience, who realize fate is what we make of it. These are those who dare.

Homer Simpson Drool, Mmm... CarbsThough we need our respite, there must also be excitement, so we stir the pot to progress, to disallow decisions to be made for us. We move forward and take risks toward grander fruits of our labor. So we paddled… A LOT! We need to earn that pasta dinner that awaits us! Mmm… carbs!

To break up the monotony, the Disney nut in me starts a delightful sing-a-long to Pocahontas’ “Just Around the Riverbend” at random turns and forks. Also, Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” is a GREAT song for keeping beat.

Henry's Fork of Snake River, Idaho

As we near our finish line, the wind is so strong, our furious paddling literally gets us nowhere. Frustrated, some give up or wait it out while others paddle to their own dissonant rhythm thinking doing something is better than nothing. Eventually, we give in to the forces beyond our control until we regain our strength, and find purpose in perseverance and partnership.

Six oars and six hours later, we complete a half marathon down the Colorado River, and although it is quite an impressive, and slightly drunken, feat, it is the journey that gives me fortitude.

Water, like time, will flow on, so you can fight against it, let it pass you by, or my preference, just enjoy the ride, drink in hand. #thesquished6pack

Group Photo Bachelorette Party #thesquished6pack


Photo credit:

  1. Mantis Extreme
  2. Wired for Adventure
  3. Vietca Do (me)
  4. Henry’s Fork Music Fest
  5. Gels

Happy Birthday, Dad

I wrote this four years ago, five months after he passed and following the Chargers’ key loss last night, I thought about how cyclical life can be. I would like to think that somewhere, my dad is still holding his breathe like me, because, sometimes, hope is all we have… and some intimidating odds. Good luck, Chargers, on your playoff run, and happy birthday, Dad.


Today would have been my dad’s 68th birthday and the first thing I thought of was football.

It’s January 15, 1995, the day of the AFC Championship game. The score is 17-13, Chargers. The Steelers have the ball with time for just one more play, and I am watching my dad’s every move.

He turns up the volume, I get really quiet. He scoots up in his chair, I scoot forward from the floor. The ball is thrown into the end zone. He holds his breath, I cover my face. I peek just in time to see a Charger tip the ball away!

I turn to see my dad jump so high, his hands hit the ceiling. Ignoring his injury, he picks me up and tosses me in the air while yelling, “Chargers go to the Super Bowl! Chargers go to the Super Bowl!”

That moment was all about love. Love for football, love for hope, love for family.

Right now, I feel he’s thinking about football, hoping for a playoff spot, and knowing I’m doing the same.

Like father, like daughter. Happy birthday, dad. ❤