Hoping for a heaven

My dad Thanh Quy Quách (Sept. 12, 1950-May 27, 2012)

“I hope that someday you can share your father with others through your writing. He has a story to tell and who better to tell his story than his daughter.”—Mary Gluck

I’m not religious but I’m choosing to believe there’s a heaven. I don’t know any other way to “accept” that my Number 1 man is gone.

I remember a time when I was a child and I had the worst nightmare. I woke up screaming and my mother immediately rushed into my room and asked me what happened. I told her I dreamt that my father had died.

She assured me he was alive and carried me to their room to prove it. A persistent young me shook my father until he woke up. He was crabby by the middle-of-the-night wake-up call and my mother was amused.

For the next few weeks I slept in my parents’ bedroom so that I could be guaranteed that my father would live through the nights. It became a bit obsessive to the point where my parents purchased a twin-sized bed for me in their room.

Family members have always said my relationship with my father was special. It was apparent from the things he did—from the countless number of Barbies he spoiled me with to the fluffy, big wontons he cooked for me to collecting clips of every article I wrote.

The things I’d do/give to “wake up” to those moments with my father again.

My father would’ve been 62 Wednesday but he passed away on May 27. And going to his bedside that night to learn that I couldn’t wake him up this time was the worse reality. I cry every day over the lost of one great man.

But I am hopeful there’s a heaven—a place where my father can live peacefully and painlessly, and where he can sleep through the night without disturbance.

RIP, Bà. I love you and I miss you so much.


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Bye bye, balloon

Let the balloon go.

I’m an emotional girl.

I’m compassionate to the point where it annoys people. I’m bitchy when it comes to work but I’m too sweet to be told that so people will tell me I’m sassy instead. I’m a clean freak but my desk will always be a hot mess. I’m honest even if it means crying shamelessly because I feel like it will help me breathe again. I’m romantic and I proudly wear my heart on my sleeve.

But I am not hopeless.

I’m hard on myself. The other day I told a close friend I needed to get a better grip on certain job duties and he laughed and told me my work was great.

“I know but you know how I am,” I said.

“I know,” he laughed again.

I beat myself up when things aren’t, at least in my mind, the best it can be. At the same time, I know the professional success I’ve seen at an early age isn’t because I’ve never pushed myself. I’ve earned my reputation because I’ve worked hard.

But I’m learning that there are times I just have to let things go and understand that I tried—and trying is the only thing I can humanly do. Of course, this applies to my personal life as well.

Without relinquishing my personal, offline diary in its entirety… it didn’t work out.

I tried and I tried and I tried. I tried to believe that it would be OK. But it is now, on a beautiful Saturday morning after a bowl of Special K cereal, cup of Vietnamese mojo and heartfelt words from a good friend, that I know it’s time to let the balloon go. It’s time to let go because the outcome of the somber situation is not a reflection of my lack of efforts. It’s a reflection of different values, morals and standards. It’s life.

Some may say I’m foolish for putting my heart out there but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t go into a situation with a negative mindset nor would I half-ass it. But trying is all I could do— and I tried.

So, now I leave the situation without the balloon knowing that I am still a person I could be proud of…a person, who is thoughtful and deliberate in her actions; a person, who can look at her life when she’s 80 and take pride in the decisions she has made; a person, who puts 125 percent of herself into any situation; a person, who will always, always believe in the fairytale despite any previous punches to the heart.

I’ll be the person who can—stand up for herself—and let the balloon go when it needs to go.


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Response to owner of Harbor Town Pub regarding offensive name of menu item

I sent the following email to Chad Cline, the owner of the new Harbor Town Pub in San Diego, after finding out he named a sandwich “Pho-King Amazing Sandwich.”

Dear Chad Cline,

Hello, I wanted to let you know that I read the article about your pub and menu items on DiscoverSD.com. As a board representative with the Asian American Journalists Association (which represents 2,000 reporters worldwide and 40 locally), I sent a letter to the Union-Tribune editors (the parent company of DiscoverSD.com) but I also wanted to send you a note.

I’d like you to know that your attempt at being clever by using “Pho-King Amazing” to describe your sandwich was unsuccessful. Not only is the name of the sandwich completely dimwitted, the ingredients of your sandwich also fail to relate to any Vietnamese flavor while adding insults to millions of people.

As a Chinese-Vietnamese-American woman I find the name of your menu item to be incredibly offensive to not only the Vietnamese population but all people who strive to treat others with respect. It shows complete ignorance about what it means to be culturally aware and considerate. As a person in the communications industry, I am amazed that a businessperson who is attempting to find success in the restaurant industry would even consider berating 2.5 percent of the population in San Diego and those they associate with personally and professionally

As I state in my email to the Union-Tribune, I encourage you to learn what a “pho” dish is and how to pronounce it. [Hint: “Pho” does not translate to “sandwich” nor is it pronounced “Fuh.”]

Thank you for your attention.

Hoa Quach


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Being brave

During my freshman year in college, my English 101 instructor required her students to keep a journal. It was easy for me but perhaps, my entries were too personal because at the end of the semester she wrote the following:

“You are able to write down so beautifully exactly how you feel. I would not be surprised to see your book in a bookstore some day.”

As I glanced through my entries, I was amazed at the feelings I poured into the little spiral notebook. The pages were filled with my thoughts on growing up, entering college, dating and my foolish but sweet aspirations.

But I was so proud of my honesty and the bravery it took to allow someone else to read it.

Almost 10 years later, I maintain this blog—sharing my thoughts on love, politics and family. But I’ve yet to disclose my greatest fear that I will soon have to face so I’m choosing to be brave by sharing it now. I’m losing my dad and living a life without him is by far my greatest fear.

I am the stereotypical Daddy’s Girl. I go to him when I have car problems, confide in him when I’m annoyed with work and am the first to laugh at his silly jokes. I try to make him proud too. I overachieve so that he has something to brag to his friends about—whether it’s being the first to break a news story, winning a journalism award or working my ass off to lift the Quách name. I shamelessly tell my friends that I live my life for the man who risked so much to raise me and my siblings in a spoiled U.S.

I remember a time in my teens when I cried in front of him and others. He pulled me aside and told me to stop. He told me to never cry in front of anyone because it was a sign of weakness and that I needed to be strong—brave. I took it to heart and forever forced myself to hide my emotions (as much as I can, anyway).

But now I cry my heart out in front of him. I can’t help it. I do it at the very sight of him if I can’t control my emotions.

My dad is dying.

Diagnosed with liver cancer about six years ago, my dad is in the final stages of his life and the thought of losing the one man who means most to me is terrifying.

It’s terrifying to accept the fact I will no longer have his guidance, inspiration and willpower to enjoy life. It’s hard to swallow the idea that he will not be here or see me live out my biggest dreams for him. He won’t have a signed copy of my first book, teach Vietnamese and Chinese to the children I hope to have one day and, though Chinese have their own type of wedding ceremonies—my dream always included a walk down the aisle with my Number 1 man… him.

I’ve never written about my dad and the cancer we’re battling so candidly before so I’m taking the opportunity (and the gift of being a writer) to be brave to share the story now.

I just hope I’ll have an ounce of that bravery when I’m forced to let go of my selfishness and face that greatest fear.


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The best summer

“Do you remember the best summer of your life?” read the first line of Marjorie Hart’s book, Summer at Tiffany.

“Do you?” asked Marjorie who sat next to me at a recent fundraiser. Marjorie, the author of the best seller, wrote about the best summer of her life that took place when she worked at the loved jewelry store years ago.

I asked myself her question and I do.

It involved 110 degrees of heat, 40 percent humidity, axes, hammers, a ton of sweat and an ambitious belief that a few people could make a difference in a city torn by one hurricane and millions of turned backs.

It was, by every definition, the very best summer of my life.

And I remember it well.

It began shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated the greater Gulf Coast area. I hopped on the trolley at SDSU and met fellow student Adam who was recruiting volunteers to join him in a summer volunteer trip in New Orleans.

It took a 20-minute discussion with Adam and about an hour of internal pondering to convince me to join him in his efforts. Within weeks, I landed in New Orleans.

My first week in “Nawleans,” as we so lovingly called the city, was filled with gutting homes, tutoring kids and packing food boxes in the area that was comparable to a third-world country—only the area existed in the U.S.

I remember the passion that emerged from my peers and the equal amounts of frustration and concern. I remember how I felt landing back home in San Diego too. I remember the tears that filled my eyes and the guilt that overcame my heart for leaving so many behind.

I remember other moments too. I remember the feeling of strength after knocking down walls in a ready-to-rebuild home. I remember the names of each child we worked with and I remember the stories, dances and laughs.

I had never worked so hard in my life.

It’s been years since that summer in New Orleans that ultimately kicked off the treasured College Students for New Orleans, but the fervent feelings remain because the necessity of assistance and the camaraderie built remain. The memories are so fierce they’ve been documented in a number of stories.

So yes, I remember the best summer of my life, Marjorie.

I remember my first time at Tiffany too.


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