C.S. Lewis once said that hardships prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destinies. I think of this often when I reflect on my own parents’ journey and how it shaped who I am as a person. Everything that I am today began with my amazing parents! In second grade, I bound through the door after school, proud to present my report card to my parents. I received all A’s and one B+. I exclaimed, “Dad! Look at my report card.” To which he replied, “This is good Emily, but why did you get one B+?” From that point on, I knew that I could only get straight A’s. Was this harsh? Some might think so. But really, my Dad was just telling me that I could always do better! That advice has guided me throughout my entire life. To understand my Dad’s approach, it is important to understand my parents’ struggles and how it shaped me into who I am today.
My parents grew up in Cambodia. They had the unfortunate experience of living through the Cambodian genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime. It is estimated that somewhere between 1 to 2 million people died in the genocide, making it one of the worst in history. My mother’s father died of starvation. Her brother was robbed and killed for a bicycle. My father’s twin brother also died of malnourishment. My Mom told me she prayed, “whatever God helps me get through this is who I will follow.” By God’s grace, a mennonite church in Berne, Indiana saw what was going on and sponsored my family in 1979. At the time, they were living in a refugee camp on the Thailand-Cambodia border.
Surviving the Cambodian genocide and experiencing such devastating loss, fostered an extreme appreciation in my parents for everything that the United States had to offer. From a very young age, my parents instilled in me the values of working hard, being grateful to live in a great country, taking advantage of every opportunity we were given, and being thankful that we never truly needed anything. My Mom required us to eat every grain of rice in our bowl. To throw food away or waste in any way, was simply not allowed.
Throughout my educational career, my parents’ words stuck with me always. “Go as far as you can. Be thankful that you have this opportunity. I wish I would have been able to go to school longer. Take advantage of your education. No one can ever take that from you”.
Once I finished my orthodontic residency, I had the opportunity to take over an existing orthodontic practice. My parents again gave me advice as they knew what it took to run a business. My dad worked seven days a week when I was growing up. Every day he woke up by 3:00 a.m., worked until noon, came home and napped, and went back to work around 3:00 p.m. My parents’ work ethic was second to none! My Dad missed every single volleyball game, piano recital, any other extracurricular activity that I had. He didn’t do this because he didn’t want to be there, but because he had a business to run and a family to take care of. My Dad is one of the most generous people you will ever meet. There is not a person that he wouldn’t help if he is able to. I carry his spirit on with me in all aspects of my life whether in my practice, with my staff members, or the amazing community of people I have the opportunity to serve.
I am often asked, “how do you do this? I’m amazed that you are able to have a family and run a business.” For me, the answer is easy, I learned from the tireless energy and work ethic of my parents! They taught me how to be a good person and the rest falls into place! I hope that this blog is a way to educate, inspire, and give a glimpse into what my life is like being a wife, mommy to two beautiful girls, running a business, and taking care of and leading the wonderful group of women I get to work with every day!