When Was The Last Time You Prayed?

When I was young, I wanted to be a nun.  Why?  Because I thought it was the only way to make a difference and help people.  I was overly emotional as a child and still am today, but in a more womanly manner. 🙂  If I can recall clearly, I started praying around age four and have not stopped praying since.  I came from a very Catholic family.  My father had two older sisters who were nuns and I believe he also studied in the priesthood until he met my mother. That’s how my 6 siblings and I came into this world.

St. Therese de Lisieux
This this the original picture frame that was given to me by a Carmelite nun in Vietnam when I was 7 years old.  It’s been with me since then. I even remember holding it close to my heart and praying for a big ship to come and save us while we were floating at sea for days without food and water.  It was faith and the belief in God and higher power that gave me courage.  I remember fear was nowhere within me, just strength and faith.

My patron saint is St. Therese de Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who was enlightened by God’s words and placed love at the center of everything.  I remember my mother taking me to visit the Carmelite Convent outside of Nha Trang.  I dreamt about being old enought to enter the convent as a Carmelite nun and then help the world.  Even at that young age, I had a lot of love and compassion for the poor, the needy, the unfortunate, the crippled, the abandoned, the elderly, the strayed animals, the homeless children, the dying plants….basically anything and anyone that needs love and help.  I used to get very emotional and upset when I saw a homeless or crippled people in the streets and would ask my parents why God would le such people suffer.  My mother’s wish was to send me to the convent so I would not have to endure the challenges that life brings.  She thought I was too trusting and delicate and that people might take advantage of me. (little did she know that later in my adult years a gentleman I once dated called me “Iron fist in a velvet glove”.)

I have learned many lessons along the way to be where I am today, but one thing I can tell you is that if I did not have prayer in my everyday life, I would be a lost and lonely soul today.

Praying gave me the inner strength to endure all those difficult times my family tried to escape Vietnam, running and hiding from the Communists.  Even when we had little food and no permanent shelter, I still prayed because deep down inside, I knew it was only temporary and that God would take care of us.  And so he did!  We are all here in The States today safe, sound, and very healthy!

After my morning prayer and meditation, I like to begin my day by reading a page from this book for  inspiration.

Although I may not be a very devoted church-going and religious Catholic today, I have never allowed God to slip away from within me.  When I pray, I feel a sense of peace and purpose for my life.  It also reduces my stress.  And when I am happy, I pray to God and I thank Him for being by my side and always watching over my family and I.  Not to mention that He also watches over Nini (my 16 year-old voluptuous chihuahua) and has blessed her with a long and healthy life, because today she is so active that people still call her a puppy. 🙂

If your life is full of stress right now, if you have not done so, try praying and meditation.  Let me know how you feel along the way.  Make sure you have faith and trust in God and the universe to bring you good and all will be alright.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…tu-anh

P.S.  If you are wondering if I still want to become a nun, the answer is NO…because I fell in love with high heels, dresses, make-up…you know, FASHION!  And even worse in College…BOYS…and now MEN! 😉

Five Reasons Why I LOVE Living In America…

I hope you enjoyed the cookouts and fireworks of 4th of July yesterday.  But to me,  it’s much more than just fireworks and cookouts.  As an immigrant, it’s truly very special for me.   As you might have read in my biography, my family and I were just a few of the hundreds of thousands of Boat People who escaped Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon.  It was traumatic for a young child but ultimately helped make me the  person I am today. I am grateful for the love, dedication, and hard work of my parents from the moment we arrived.  My mother found a job within the Singapore refugee camp the day after we arrived there as well as in New Orleans in the early 80’s landing her very first job within a few days of our arrival.  Believe me, that job was not glamorous.  She was peeling shrimp all day and would come home smelling like fish.

No matter how much my mother washed and bathed herself to clean up, she still smelled like the shrimp factory she was working at.  Since my 2 younger sisters and I and my parents shared a small bedroom at the time, I sometimes found myself moving into the closet to sleep instead.   Now, looking back, I feel terrible and very guilty about it.  My father also worked various low paying jobs, from bagging groceries to McDonalds as well as pumping gas, all while going to computer school at night to get a degree.  Such strength and a great example of hard work.  That is why every time I go to the grocery store and see an older man bagging, I always tip him well and smile at him with respect as it often reminds me of what my father went through.

Manhattan Night
Manhattan Night

Today, we are all here, healthy, happy and living in the US and are so very proud to be American citizens.   I want to share with you how appreciative and honored I am to be an American.  There are so many reasons why America is so great and that includes a huge support for women as well as animals among many others.  But I have narrowed it down to 5 top reasons why my family and I love it here in the US, from our very own experiences, as well as those of my friends who are also immigrants from other parts of the world.  The reasons may seem obvious in some ways, but after all that I have been through, they are something that I would never take for granted.  I hope this list will remind you how blessed we are to be living in America.  As always, I would love to hear your feedback!

FREEDOM – As a child my freedoms were severely limited as we were often in hiding from authorities or moving from place to place while attempting to escape from Vietnam and also being a young girl.  There is only so much you can or can not do.  Now, as an adult and as an Asian American female living in the US, I have all the freedom in the world to express myself, do what pleases me, and so much more.  Sometimes, perhaps too much freedom. (smiles)

Bustling Times Square, NYC
Bustling Times Square, NYC

OPPORTUNITY – In my professional career, I have been fortunate enough to work in advertising, PR, and marketing; fashion, retail, and hospitality as well as the creative arts; government; education; real estate; and the nonprofit sector.  In my spare time, I love hosting parties, dancing, traveling, learning about other cultures, cooking and experimenting with foods, gardening, photography, Yoga, meditation, reading, drawing, writing, and spending time with my loved ones.  And that’s not even the complete lists!  My point is that there are so many opportunities around me here in this country that I could spend my whole life learning and trying new things.  No wonder I always look forward to waking up to a new day.

DIVERSE CUISINE – Have I mention that food is one of my passions?  Of course I have!  And as much as I strive for healthy eating, I also enjoy a bit of indulgence (sweets are a favorite) and I truly love exploring food from other cultures.  I have been to many places around the world, but no single country has as many different dining options as the US, especially in the major cities.  Some of my favorites are Greek, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, French, Lebanese, and much more…

Bryant Park, NYC
Bryant Park, NYC

EDUCATION – I think this is the best part, from daycare, to pre-k, to elementary, to high school, to college, to trade schools as well as in the areas of the arts and online education.   There is no limit on where you can get a good education.  It just takes hard work, focus, and being driven to achieve something if you really want it badly.  My siblings and I paid our way through college working part time jobs and through government loans.  My parents could only afford to give us money for books as it was not easy to take care of 7 children while making such low incomes.

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT – The self-improvement industry in the US is worth multi-billions of dollars every year.  From Dale Carnegie to Oprah, it seems that everyone wants to share, wants to get help and support, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually for their personal life as well as professional.  Whatever it is, you name it, and you can get help in it!  Everywhere you look, there is a coach, a therapist, a counselor, an advisor for any areas in your life that you would like to improve.  Not all of it is useful, but the great part is that as Americans we are constantly being presented with opportunities to help ourselves and make our lives better.  This is so opposite of my cultural upbringing where you just let issues sit hoping that time will heal wounds.  A lot of this has to do with losing face and pride and always worrying about looking good in front of others rather than ourselves.  I have engaged myself in many self-improvement programs, courses, and techniques over the years to make my life more productive, more balanced, and free of stress, and I am always open to learning and growing as well as seeking inspiration from those around me.

The calmer side of Manhattan's Battery Park
Battery Park, the calmer side of Manhattan

I strive to make everyday a better day than yesterday and I always look forward to the next.  Currently, I am very inspired and motivated by teachings of the Bible, words of inspiration from Joel Osteen and Deepak Chopra as well as the Dalai Lama.  Other inspirations include applying honest communication wisdom from Steven Gaffney, healthy eating tips from Dr. Berg, and guided meditation sessions with Richa Badami, and lastly, on the business front, I love the teachings and knowledge of Alan Weiss!  These days, my yoga practice and my personal time is very important to me.  They help me get centered and more self aware of who I am, why I am here in this life, and stay focus on what my life’s purpose is…to bring love, harmony, beauty, happiness, and prosperity to all those around me.

P.S. New York City has been a place of hope and new opportunity for so many immigrants and it is one of my favorite places to go. Hope you enjoy the photos I took from one of my previous trips.  As always, keep writing to me and share.  I enjoy that very much.  xo….tu-anh