My mom’s restaurant got broken into. I’ve been meaning to write a post on it, but the thoughts have swirled around in my mind, with no particularly insightful outcomes. Anyways, I might as well share.

I heard about it all when my mom gave me a call a month or two ago. To be honest, every time I get a call from her, I’m a little nervous. I’m the person who does the “check up” calls, and she normally doesn’t pick up the phone unless there’s something specific that she needs. As expected, the conversation began with her asking a favor. She wanted to use my social security number to set up a new security system. “If I use your SSN, I’ll save at least $400 on the setup charges. Don’t worry, I’ll pay the bills and everything. It’s a three year contract.”

“Wait wait wait- what happened to your old security system?” I asked.

After hearing her tell the story, I think the only way to describe the burglary is to say that my mom’s modest pho shop in Rosemead had been hit by ninjas.  Now I’m not just saying this because it’s a predominantly Asian neighborhood. And dear god, I hate ninjas of all kinds. But there is no other word for it.

The affair happened overnight, with the thieves cutting a hole in the roof right above the safe room. (Wait, my mom has a safe?) They then shimmied in, snipping the electrical wires on their way down. This move disabled the security alarm and cut out the video cameras. Lastly they busted/melted open the restaurant’s safe!!!


Thankfully, my mom didn’t have anything in the safe at the time, and it sounds like insurance covered the many repairs. After talking with the police and repairmen, my mother learned that she was just one hit in a string of similar burglaries. Her neighbors the dollar store and the grocery store had both been robbed in the same way (hole on the roof above the room containing the safe), but had lost much more money. According to the repairman, the grocery store lost a whole deep freezer full of cash. Yikes.

My mom and I laughed hard at the idea of a team of skilled thieves spending all this time breaking into Saigon 22 for… NOTHING, but still I felt a pang of worry. I’ve wrestled with the idea of moving to Los Angeles to be closer to family for a while now, and events like this push this guilty idea that I ought to be living there. It’s the guilt that every person who moves away from home feels, I guess. Except that LA isn’t even where I grew up!

While I do worry about my mom, I have to remind myself that she’s not alone. There’s quite the handful of relatives there to support her if she needs it. And hell, she handled this whole burglary situation on her own. I forgot to mention the kicker- by the time that she told me about the break in, it had already been two weeks!

Moving to LA may be inevitable when my mother gets older or sicker, but for now I’m happily remaining around the edges of my family.


Impromptu Family Lunch


I posted this photo on my Instagram last week, but thought it might make sense to post it here too for my mom to see.

My aunt Jean lives in New Jersey. I’d heard my mom mention that my cousins Devin and Andrew were in LA visiting for a few weeks. And yet when I got an 8:40 am call from my aunt asking if I wanted to get lunch I was still shocked. My family just doesn’t make it to San Francisco very often. Like… what? Lunch? Ok!

My aunt and cousins were on some weird asian tour where they only had a few hours of free time before getting back on the bus. So, I shuffled things around to see them. We went to the Ferry building, sat by the water and talked business, which is probably the one thing that my family as a whole is most passionate about. CASH CASH MONEY. $$$. Well, family, then money. We talked the whole way back, realizing by the time I’d walked up to my office that we’d forgotten to take a picture together. And so- we took a photo next to my crazy desk at work. Totally more scenic than the Embarcadero, hahah.

It was good seeing them, especially since I never make it out to Jersey. Talking to my aunt about her latest business success definitely inspired me to keep messing around with side business ideas. Or rather, it’s giving me a swift kick in the ass to actually DO something. “Just try it, do a little bit, and see how it goes. You have to be willing to try” she says. When she said it, it made total sense to me. I’ve been in my head overanalyzing all the different things that I could do. My problem is that I really  just need to DO  something, anything. Then I can analyze and see if it’s working. I’m still thinking, but I’ve got some plans brewing.


Acceptance and Letting Go of Expectations


Over Memorial Day I took a trip down to Los Angeles to visit my mother. It was a belated Mother’s Day celebration visit, yet I felt dread.

Ever since my mom opened her Vietnamese restaurant in 2010, she’s been very unavailable, even when I come down from San Francisco. Her eyes are on the prize, she works every day, even when she has pneumonia. TRUTH. The last few times that I’ve visited, I’ve gotten my feelings hurt terribly. I would come out for a multi-day visit yet only see my mom for a few hours. It was just weird, and it hurt a lot.

My therapist had me total out the amount of time that I spend with my mom over the course of a year and all I could think was total, maybe a 6-12 hours? A day or two? Who knows. After a few years of these trips I started feeling abandoned. Over time I accepted that my mom is a workaholic. There’s really nothing that can be done. And even though I know this, my mom’s utter dedication to her work stings every time.

While I was preparing myself emotionally for this visit, I thought… what if I do things differently this time?What if instead of bemoaning the fact that my mom can’t spend as much time with me as I would like I simply accept that it’s not going to change and focus on enjoying the time that we do spend together?

I can’t say that I didn’t make it through the trip without feeling a bit exasperated, but the shift in thinking helped a lot. Instead of going “oh, here we go again” when my mom was late or had to go back to work I just let it be. I had plans, I lived my life. She popped in for a little bit and we had fun. It was so much… easier. I accepted that my mom would be busy at work and I let go of the expectation that she would take massive amounts of time off to hang out with me.  This sounds simple, but it was a revelation.

Today I was upset and angry about being let down in the same ways time and time again by those close to me. I was thinking to myself, if they would just stop doing this one stupid thing that hurts my feelings, if they could make an honest effort to change maybe we could get along better… Then I stopped myself, thinking of my nice trip to LA. Reason intervened. The truth is that maybe they will change, maybe they won’t, or maybe they can’t- but it’s really not up to me. I’ve already voiced my feelings and desires.

What I can do however is work on accepting them as they are and changing my expectations and my reaction.

So a friend keeps letting me down in the same way every time we get together? What if I just decide that it’s not my problem and I won’t let it bother me anymore? What if I let go of wanting this one thing? Would I stop being disappointed and hurt? I don’t know, but I hope so.


The best song for curious chaos and strange days…

So, it’s been a month since the Boston Marathon. In the time that has passed I’ve been thinking a lot about  the events, in particular how the country has processed the trauma of the attack. How have we talked about what happened? What do we hope for in the future?

I was really struck by the responses that I saw.  It was all so… American. In the first few days (days!) after the attack we were projecting strength, resilience and optimism. Everybody got back to business. Locals were back to taking public transportation near the blast site. President Obama declared that Boston had shown itself to be top notch in responding to the tragedy not by running away, but by running into the storm and taking action with their true hearts. The wounded were in a bad place today, but someday they were going to stand, walk and yes, even run again. He’s always a powerful speaker, but it was a statement from a ballroom dance instructor who lost her foot that finally got me:

“I just want people to know that you can come out of a situation that might seem like the end of the world and come out stronger.”

“I can’t let some (expletive) come along and steal my whole life,” she said. “So, I’ll dance again. And next year, though I’ve never been a runner, yes, I plan to run the marathon.”

She said that like … A WEEK after the bombing happened. HOLY SHIT. Really? I think I would be asking for more morphine and passed out, or crying and raging in a hot puddle of tears in my hospital bed. I would not be able to be composed enough to give such a statement.

Of course the thing is we don’t know how we’re going to react to trauma until it happens.  I’ve been through only a handful of situations that I would consider real personal trauma, and I have been wrong as hell every single time  about my reactions, my resilience and my hopes for moving forward. I’ve prided myself on being able to survive and even thrive under chaotic conditions. There’s a hint of the mysterious to the healing process, I’ll admit. But one thing that I know for sure is that I had to fucking process the hell out of that shit. The disease, the death, the abuse, the betrayals… I had to fucking process that. Seven years on from the first shock and I’m still processing that shit.

The thing that has interested me most about the Boston Marathon events is that it makes me wonder about the American mindset. I don’t know if we as Americans give ourselves the necessary room or vocabulary to grieve. I feel like America wants to move on so quickly from tragedies. It’s so strange.

Yes, days after a trauma you can feel strong and have hopes for the future, but it is okay to acknowledge the deep deep pain if you feel it. It’s supposed to hurt. It would be weird if it didn’t. And as the weeks, months and years pass, it’s okay to continue to grapple with the pain. It’s a process, and lame as it sounds, it will take time to recover. But part of that recovery is that you have to feel the pain at some point, now or seven years later. Probably now and seven years later.

Speaking of seven years… yeah today it’s the anniversary of my dad’s death. Guess I should say something about that. I still miss him and I wish things had gone down differently, but with the distance of time the pain and my feelings toward the event have changed so much. There is a sadness there, but the loss has opened up my life to lots of other wonderful things, such as a better relationship with my mother (a questionable statement, hahahah), a true understanding of what I want in life, and a stubborn resilience. I hope that everyone touched by the marathon events can eventually find their way to recovery and some sense of peace. Let’s not rush them.

Life, Work

Unemployment PTSD: The New Normal

Does the paranoia of long-term unemployment ever go away?


I told myself ages ago that when I got another full time position I would celebrate by getting a new Macbook Air and giving my current laptop to my mom, who needs a decent computer.

She is still using a modified version of the computer that I had back in junior high school. I am not joking. I gave her a netbook last year, but in retrospect not such a great idea for her since I don’t want her to have to squint.

So my professional sabbatical is finally over. I worked through the things that I wanted to work through. I traveled, ate awesome food 24/7, worked on important personal projects and and also got back into the spirit of the hustle. I’ve locked down a great job at a company I admire. I feel pretty excited about the future.

And yet…

I can’t let go of the fear and paranoia of being one, two months away from bankruptcy. During the last holiday season (a time symbolic of bounty), I had a heart to heart with my mother about how I was doing financially, the pros and the cons of my sabbatical and the interesting yet sporadic contract work I had lined up.

My mother was supportive, but told me flat out that she could not help me out with a loan if I went bankrupt in the next 3 months. There was no money. I was on my own.

This was a bit of a shock because I’d loaned her eight thousand dollars a few years earlier, and imagined that the favor might one day be returned.When she told me this, it literally felt like chemicals were being released into my brain, behind my eyeballs… Chemicals that kept me pumped and hyper-alert to failure and opportunity. For several months I’ve been living this way. Things have settled down a bit, but to tell you the truth I haven’t quite recovered from this feeling. It’s not so much the fear of being without money as the smack of feeling incredibly alone. I’m an independent person, I like being alone. But it’s different when you HAVE to be on your own. Now if my mom couldn’t have come through in this hypothetical situation, I’m sure one of my aunts or uncles would have helped me out, or I would just be homeless for a while, or crash with friends. Okay, I’m being melodramatic, but you get the idea. Things would have worked out.

So… flash forward to yesterday.

I told myself, Tracy you met this goal. Get a new computer. You earned it. I went downtown to look at computers, and I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I told myself I shouldn’t buy it, because you just never know. Last night I had an intense migraine for four hours, and couldn’t cook. Thought about ordering a pizza. Didn’t, because it is a waste of money. What if I need that 15$ later?

This is all completely ridiculous because I have been on a VERY comfortable budget while I’ve been on sabbatical. I ate out, I travelled. I never missed drinks with friends and old coworkers. I purchased e-books. And yet now that I have the promise of stability, I’m locking everything down and worrying that it will all be taken away. Does that make sense? It is a strange thing that my mind has done.

I originally thought… how am I going to get back to normal?What am I going to do with this fear and anxiety?

Then today I heard that a company that I was considering working for barely a month ago is going under. Kapoot. All gone. Now I think to myself why should I want to go back to normal?  Nothing is certain in this economy- this is the new normal. Time will change things, but for now I can’t control the residual feelings of fear and stress I have. Instead I can channel that wiry energy toward actively moving forward in my projects and my career. Like going vegan taught me, I can do without for most things. I don’t need a bunch of stuff, and I don’t want a bunch of stuff. I want freedom and an interesting life. So for 2013, I want to do good work, keep hustling, stay cheap and stay free. And now I’m off to the post office to mail some stuff I sold on Amazon. $$$

Keep hustling!