We are the products of our own habits…

I wrote something on this before. While I was reading on Confucianism and the repeated performance of certain ritual, I was trying to make sense of this repetition. I thought of habit formation and these words on habits, character and fate. Nothing reveals better than these words from Aristotle and John Dryden on the relationship between habit and what we have become as the result of our habits.

“We are what we repeatedly do.” –Aristotle
“we first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” — John Dryden

Therefore, constantly examine what you repeatedly do and what you habitually do everyday. This leads to the word of Socrates “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”

Too much sitting and early DEATH

Leading to death! This is not kidding. It is again from Harvard Health Publication.
Too much sitting linked to an early death, 1/29/2014. In case the link is not active. Here’s the article.

“I spend most of each workday sitting in a chair, my fingers the only part of my body moving with any intensity. Technology lets me—as well as millions of other people—earn a living from the relative comfort of our desks, without having to break a sweat or even stand up. Once the workday is done, we can transition straight from desk to car to couch, taking barely a step in between.

The ease of our modern workday could come at the expense of our longevity. A new study of older women in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that sitting for long stretches of time increases the odds of an untimely death. The more hours women in the study spent sitting at work, driving, lying on the couch watching TV, or engaged in other leisurely pursuits, the greater their odds of dying early from all causes, including heart disease and cancer.

And here’s the kicker: Even women who exercised regularly risked shortening their lifespan if most of their daily hours were sedentary ones.

Even if you are doing the recommended amount of moderate to vigorous exercise, you will still have a higher risk of mortality if you’re spending too many hours sitting,” says Dr. JoAnn Manson, one of the study’s authors, and chief of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Each of these behaviors is important and has an independent effect on cardiovascular disease and mortality.”

How exactly sitting contributes to reduced longevity isn’t clear, but there are a few possible mechanisms. “Sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk of the development of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

When you sit, you expend fewer calories than you would while standing, and you demand little effort from your muscles. Sitting too much can also lead to other behaviors that contribute to obesity and heart disease. “Many times when people are sitting, what are they doing? They’re often watching TV and snacking,” says Dr. Manson.

Work out
One way to avoid prolonged sitting during the workday is to switch to a standing desk, or one that can adjust to sitting and standing positions. Some companies are piloting the use of treadmill desks, which let workers walk at a leisurely pace while they type or answer the phone. However, these machines are pricey, and if you set the speed too high your legs will wear out before 5 o’clock rolls around.

An easier, no-cost solution is to set your smartphone timer to go off every 30 to 60 minutes during the day. When the alarm rings, “Stretch and move around the office to avoid any prolonged sitting at one time,” Dr. Manson recommends.

Sit less
How much sitting can you safely do in a day? In the study, women who were inactive for 11 or more hours a day fared the worst, facing a 12% increase in premature death, but even lesser amounts of inactive time can cause problems. “Once you’re sitting for more than 6 to 8 hours a day, that’s not likely to be good for you,” Dr. Manson says. You want to avoid prolonged sitting and increase the amount of moderate or vigorous exercise you do each day, she adds.

When it comes to exercise, “Any activity is good,” says Dr. Lee. “Some is better than none, and more is better than less.” Ideally, work in a full half-hour or hour of exercise each day, while trying to be active—even in short spurts—the rest of the time. But if you can only squeeze in 10 minutes of dedicated exercise at a time, aim for that.”

4 exercises to fight arthritis

I post it here not that I have arthritis, but I thought it might be of some help to those who have or in case I will have it later. Once again, it is from Harvard healthbeat newsletter.

“… regular exercise not only helps maintain joint function, it also relieves stiffness and reduces pain and fatigue.”

(1) A better range of motion (improved joint mobility and flexibility). To increase your range of motion, move a joint as far as it can go and then try to push a little farther. These exercises can be done any time, even when your joints are painful or swollen, as long as you do them gently.

(2) Stronger muscles (through resistance training). Fancy equipment isn’t needed. You can use your own body weight as resistance to build muscles. For example, the simple exercise described below can help ease the strain on your knees by strengthening your thigh muscles. Sit in a chair. Now lean forward and stand by pushing up with your thigh muscles (use your arms for balance only). Stand a moment, then sit back down, using your thigh muscles.

(3) Better endurance. Aerobic exercise — such as walking, swimming, and bicycling — strengthens your heart and lungs and thereby increases endurance and overall health. Stick to activities that don’t jar your joints, and avoid high impact activities such as jogging. If you’re having a flare-up of symptoms, wait until it subsides before doing endurance exercise.

(4) Better balance. There are simple ways to work on balance. For example, stand with your weight on both feet. Then try lifting one foot while you balance on the other foot for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Over time, work your way up to 30 seconds. Yoga and tai chi are also good for balance.

Two minutes rule to stop procrastinating

I read this article a few weeks ago on how to get things done.

“The two-minute rule has its roots in Getting Things Done (GTD): If you can do it in less than two minutes, do it now…James Clear adds another rule: When you start to build a new habit, make your goals into two-minute bites so they’re easy to do any time.”

“If you make every step of the way a two-minute chunk that can be done anytime, you’ll be more likely to do it over and over again” until a new habit is formed.

When it comes to doing your weekly review, looking over your to-do list or follow-up list, if you can do it in two minutes, jump on it and get it out of the way. “If it’ll take longer than that—either because you need to research it, talk to someone else, look something up, or produce something, schedule it and get it into your productivity system so you can tackle it when you’re ready.”

Chop a big project into tiny bits, get them out of your way bit by bit, two minutes at a time.

The 2–Minute Rule works for big goals as well as small goals because of the inertia of life. Once you start doing something, it’s easier to continue doing it.”

“The 2–Minute Rule isn’t about the results you achieve, but rather about the process of actually doing the work. The focus is on taking action and letting things flow from there.
Of course, you can easily find yourself starting in on a to-do that’ll take two minutes and then working on it for ages, so be careful James even cites this as an example in his article, …, as a good thing—we’d suggest some restraint. You don’t want to while away an hour on a “two minute” to-do only to find yourself behind on everything else because you didn’t properly prioritize.”

7 tips for healthy snacking

Here are 7 tips for smarter snacking from Harvard Medical School newsletter

1. Go for the grain. Whole-grain snacks — such as whole-grain low-salt pretzels or tortilla chips and high-fiber, whole-grain cereals — can give you some energy with staying power.

2. Bring back breakfast. Many breakfast foods can be repurposed as a nutritious snack later in the day. How about a slice of whole-grain toast topped with low-sugar jam? Low-sugar granola also makes a quick snack.

3. Try a “hi-low” combination. Combine a small amount of something with healthy fat, like peanut butter, with a larger amount of something very light, like apple slices or celery sticks.

4. Go nuts. Unsalted nuts and seeds make great snacks. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, filberts, and other nuts and seeds contain many beneficial nutrients and are more likely to leave you feeling full (unlike chips or pretzels). Nuts have lots of calories, though, so keep portion sizes small.

5. The combo snack. Try to eat more than one macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) at each snacking session. For example, have a few nuts (protein and fat) and some grapes (carbohydrates). Try some whole-grain crackers (carbohydrates) with some low-fat cheese (protein and fat). These balanced snacks tend to keep you feeling satisfied.

6. Snack mindfully. Don’t eat your snack while doing something else like surfing the Web, watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop what you’re doing for a few minutes and eat your snack like you would a small meal.

7. You can take it with you. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthful snacks in your pocket or purse so you won’t turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee counter or the candy bars in the office vending machine.

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances…”

I forgot where I read this. I wrote it down because it sounds too profound for me. See if you agree with me or Koonig or Wilder.

“content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash. It is very tiny–very tiny content.” William Koonig.

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” By Oscar Wilder

What could happen if you don’t have enough sleep

I read this article on the “Horrible Things That Happen If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep.” Read this article if you don’t want it to truly happen to you. I have the full list here, hoping my children will read it someday.

“Almost 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, a recent Gallup poll found, and an estimated 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder. Everyone knows that it’s important to get enough sleep — but you may not realize just how many things can go wrong when you don’t.
Here are 25 unfortunate risks of partial and total sleep deprivation, some more common than others.
1. Irritability
“Complaints of irritability and [emotional] volatility following sleepless nights” are common, a team of Israeli researchers observed. They put those complaints to the test by following a group of underslept medical residents. The study found that the negative emotional effect of disruptive events — things like being interrupted while in the middle of doing something — were amplified by sleep loss.

2. Headaches
Scientists don’t yet know exactly why sleep deprivation leads to headaches — but it’s a connection doctors have noticed for more than a century. Migraines can be triggered by sleepless nights, and 36 to 58% of people with sleep apnea wake up with “nondescript morning headaches.”

3. Inability to learn
Sleepiness has long been an issue among adolescents. One study of middle school students found that “delaying school start times by one hour, from roughly 7:30 to 8:30, increases standardized test scores by at least 2 percentile points in math and 1 percentile point in reading.”
But it’s not just kids. Short-term memory is a crucial component of learning, and sleep deprivation significantly impaired the ability of adult volunteers to remember words they’d been shown the day before. In another study, researchers found that while people tend to improve on a task when they do it more than once, this isn’t true if they are kept awake after they try it the first time — even if they sleep again before doing it again.

4. Weight gain
People who are underslept seem to have hormone imbalances that are tied to increased appetite, more cravings for high-calorie foods, a greater response to indulgent treats, and a dampened ability to control their impulses — a very dangerous combination. It’s true that you burn more calories when awake, but not nearly enough to cancel out the many excess calories you consume when exhausted.

5. Poor vision
Sleep deprivation is associated with tunnel vision, double vision, and dimness. The longer you are awake, the more visual errors you’ll encounter, and the more likely you are to experience outright hallucinations.

6. Heart disease
When researchers kept people awake for 88 hours, their blood pressure went up — no big surprise there. But even subjects who were allowed to sleep for 4 hours a night had an elevated heart rate when compared to those getting 8 hours. Concentrations of C-reactive protein, a marker of heart disease risk, increased in those fully and partially deprived of sleep.

7. Slowness
Your reaction time is severely impeded when you don’t get enough sleep. When researchers gave West Point cadets two tests that require quick decision-making, some were allowed to sleep between the tests, while others were not. Those who had slept did better the second time — those who had not did worse, and their reactions slowed down. A study in college athletes found similar results.

8. Infection
You know that great thing your immune system does, where when you get an open wound of some kind it doesn’t always get infected immediately? Prolonged sleep deprivation and even one night of sleeplessness can impede your body’s natural defenses against microorganisms.

9. Economic risk-taking
Planning to make some changes to your portfolio? You might want to make sure you’re well-rested. “A single night of sleep deprivation evoked a strategy shift during risky decision making such that healthy human volunteers moved from defending against losses to seeking increased gains,” researchers concluded.

10. Overproduction of urine
When people sleep, the body slows down its normal urine production. This is why most people don’t have to pee in the night as much as they do during the day. But when someone is sleep deprived, this normal slowdown doesn’t happen, leading to what researchers call “excess nocturnal urine production.” This condition may be linked to bed wetting in children and, in adults, it’s tied to what’s called nocturia — the need to use the bathroom many times during the night.

11. Distractedness
Having trouble paying attention to what you’re reading or listening to? Struggling with anything that requires you to truly focus? “Attention tasks appear to be particularly sensitive to sleep loss,” researchers have noted. If you want to stay alert and attentive, sleep is a requirement. Otherwise, you enter “an unstable state that fluctuates within seconds and that cannot be characterized as either fully awake or asleep,” and your ability to pay attention is variable at best.

12. Less effective vaccines
Vaccines work by spurring your body to create antibodies against a specific virus. But when you don’t sleep, your immune system is compromised, and this doesn’t work quite as well. In one small study, 19 people were vaccinated against Hepatitis A. Ten of them got 8 hours of sleep the following night, while the rest pulled an all-nighter. Four weeks later, those who had slept normally had levels of Hepatitis A antibodies almost twice as high as those who’d been kept awake. Another study found that a sleepless night did not have a long-term effect on
immunity after a flu vaccine, it concludes that the effect might be specific to certain diseases. “Sleep should be considered an essential factor contributing to the success of vaccination,” the Hep A researchers wrote.

13. Impaired speech
Severe sleep deprivation might make you sound like a bumbling idiot — much like having way too much to drink. “Volunteers kept awake for 36 hours showed a tendency to use word repetitions and clichés; they spoke monotonously, slowly, [and] indistinctly,” one study noted. “They were not able to properly express and verbalize their thoughts.”

14. Colds
If you’re wondering why you’re sick all the time and seem to pick up every bug that travels around the office, it’s probably because you’re not getting enough sleep. When a group of 153 people were exposed to a common cold, those who had gotten less than 7 hours of sleep in the two weeks prior were almost 3 times more likely to get sick than those who’d had 8 or more hours of sleep. How well you sleep is also a factor – those who had spent 92% of their time in bed actually asleep were 5.5 times more likely to catch a cold than those who had been peacefully slumbering 98-100% of the time they were in bed.

15. Gastrointestinal problems
One in 250 Americans suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and sleep deficiencies make its symptoms much worse. Regular sleep loss also makes you more likely to develop both IBD and inflammatory bowel syndrome, which affects an estimated 10-15% of people in the U.S. And patients with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to experience a relapse when they weren’t getting enough sleep.

16. Car accidents
Drowsy driving is often compared to drunk driving: You really shouldn’t do either. “Motor vehicle accidents related to fatigue, drowsy driving, and falling asleep at the wheel are particularly common, but often underestimated,” one review concluded. Pilots, truck drivers, medical residents, and others required to stay awake for long periods of time “show an increased risk of crashes or near misses due to sleep deprivation.”

17. Depleted sex drive
Testosterone is an important component of sexual drive and desire in both women and men. Sleeping increases testosterone levels, while being awake decreases them. Sleep deprivation and disturbed sleep, consequently, are associated with reduced libido and sexual dysfunction, and people suffering from sleep apnea are at particular risk.

18. Pain
People in pain — especially those suffering from chronic pain — tend not to get enough sleep. This makes sense: Pain can wake you up in the night and make it hard to fall asleep in the first place. But recently, researchers have begun to suspect that sleep deprivation may actually cause pain or at least increase people’s sensitivity to pain. One study found that after research subjects were kept awake all night, their pain threshold — the amount of painful stimulus they were able to endure — was lower.

19. Diabetes
Being awake when your body wants you to be asleep messes with your metabolism, which in turn increases your risk for insulin resistance (often called “pre-diabetes”) and type 2 diabetes. “Interventions to extend sleep duration may reduce diabetes risk,” one study in adolescents concluded. And four large studies in adults found a strong association — though not a cause-effect relationship —between regular sleep loss and the risk of developing diabetes, even after
controlling for other habits that might be relevant.

20. Sloppiness
Most people notice that when they’re sleepy, they’re not at the top of their game. One study found that one sleepless night contributed to a 20-32% increase in the number of errors made by surgeons. People playing sports that require precision — shooting, sailing, cycling, etc. — also make more mistakes when they’ve been awake for extended periods of time.

21. Cancer
Scientists are just beginning to investigate the relationship between sleep and cancer, and different kinds of cancer behave differently. But since disrupted circadian rhythm and reduced immunity are direct results of sleep deprivation, it’s no surprise that preliminary research seems to indicate that people who don’t get enough sleep are at increased risk for developing certain kinds of cancer, most notably colon and breast cancers.

22. Memory problems
Sleep disruptions in the elderly can lead to structural changes in the brain that are associated with impaired long-term memory — and sleep-related memory deficits have been observed in the general adult population as well. As early as 1924, researchers noticed that people who slept more forgot less. Poor sleep and not enough of it have also been linked to higher levels of β-Amyloid, a biomarker for Alzheimer’s.

23. Genetic disruption
A 2013 study shed some light on why sleep is tied to so many different aspects of our health and wellness. Poor sleep actually disrupts normal genetic activity. After one week of sleeping less than 6 hours per night, researchers found that more than 700 genes were not behaving normally, including some that help govern immune and stress responses.

Some genes that typically cycle according to a daily (circadian) pattern stopped doing so, while others that don’t normally follow a daily pattern began doing so. What does this mean? Just one week of less-than-ideal sleep is enough to make some of your genetic activity go haywire.

24. Unhappiness and depression
In a classic study led by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, a group of 909 working women kept detailed logs of their moods and day-to-day activities. While differences in income up to $60,000 had little effect on happiness, a poor night’s sleep was one of two factors that could ruin the following day’s mood. (The other was tight deadlines at work.)

Another study reported higher marital happiness among women with more peaceful sleep, although it’s hard to say whether happy people sleep better, better sleep makes people happier, or — most likely — some combination of the two. Insomniacs are also twice as likely to develop depression, and preliminary research suggests that treating sleep problems may successfully treat depressive symptoms.

25. Death– a higher risk of dying sooner than you otherwise might.

Try to inject meaning into our work experience

Since we spend over one-third of our weekday at our workplace, to most of us, work has become an inseparable part of our experience. As with all other experiences, we try to find and inject meaning into what we engage, to make sense of what we have to do everyday.

Here’s the list of meaning/purpose that I can think of as why we go to work everyday.
(1) For a paycheck
(2) To associate with people
(3) To build network
(4) To seek opportunities
(5) To enhance our skill-set
(6) To prepare for the next big thing
(7) Best of all, having fun doing what one does at work.

I believe the great majority of people come to the office for a paycheck. Very few people come with their own personal agenda, that is, seeking for whatever they can potentially gain from this experience, often intangible gain. Only these tiny minority can rise above the ordinary.

For me, searching for meanings in what I am doing is the huge force motivating me every day. The real crisis is to find what you are doing meaningless.

Mindful — a powerful antidote to stress

I forgot where I read this, but I am glad I jot down the ideas. I don’t think I have problems with being mindful. In fact, I might be over-mindful sometimes and I wish I could be less this way. Here’s what I have on becoming mindful and stress reduction.

“Learning to focus the mind can be a powerful antidote to the stresses and strains of our on-the-go lives. The ability to pay attention to what you’re experiencing from moment to moment — without drifting into thoughts of the past or concerns about the future, or getting caught up in opinions about what is going on — is called mindfulness.”

This basic mindfulness meditation exercise include:
(1) Sit on a straight-backed chair, or cross-legged on the floor.
(2) Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
(3) Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and ideas.
(4) Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it as good or bad.
If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.

“The effects of mindfulness meditation tend to be dose-related — the more you practice it, the more benefits you usually experience.”

Perhaps I need to practice this when I want to insulate my mind from the negative culture at my work place.

Strength train, key to live longer and better

Again, from Harvard newsletter comes this article, “Want to live longer and better? Strength train.”

Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and helps you live a longer and healthier life. For many of us, “exercise” means walking, jogging, treadmill work, or other activities that get the heart pumping.

But often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises. Once you reach your 50s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintain an active and independent lifestyle.

The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. “Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate,” says Dr. Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at Hebrew SeniorLife and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional.”

Strength training encompasses any of the following:
Free weights, such as barbells and dumbbells
Ankle cuffs and vests containing different amounts of weight
Resistance (elastic) bands of varying length and tension that you flex using your arms and legs
Exercises that use your body weight to create resistance against gravity.

Revisit the place where we lived in 1998

Yesterday after work I drove to Corinth library, then to Hen House in that area. The other adult in the house will need a ride back from the airport this morning as I have a morning meeting today.

We used to live in this area when we first moved to Kansas in 1998. My son was 9 years old and my daughter only 3. My son went to Corinth Elementary School. I remember how he went to school by himself. We frequented Corinth library in the evening or Border’s bookstore. The place looks so familiar, yet all the events that I remember about this place seem like a distant past. Now it’s all gone.

Then and now, now and then, the old place brought back memories of the past. On the way back I saw a group of children playing. That moment was so precious, and yet, so transient. I felt a rush of sadness. I miss those moments when my children were little. I guess it’s not a good practice to visit old places. At least, not good for me.

One more reason not to overeat — longevity

I read this article last Friday, “Caloric restriction reduces age-related and all-cause mortality in rhesus monkeys” by many people published in nature site.

The article is rather long. Here’s part of it.

Caloric restriction (CR) without malnutrition increases longevity and delays the onset of age-associated disorders in short-lived species, from unicellular organisms to laboratory mice and rats. The value of CR as a tool to understand human ageing relies on translatability of CR’s effects in primates. Here we show that CR significantly improves age-related and all-cause survival in monkeys on a long-term ~30% restricted diet since young adulthood. These data contrast with observations in the 2012 NIA intramural study report, where a difference in survival was not detected between control-fed and CR monkeys. A comparison of body weight of control animals from both studies with each other, and against data collected in a multi-centred relational database of primate ageing, suggests that the NIA control monkeys were effectively undergoing CR. Our data indicate that the benefits of CR on ageing are conserved in primates.”

“You never know what you have until you clean your room”

This is a good quote from a colleague of mine.

On 3/27, Thursday after work, I gave a class on origami at the clinic where I used to work. People were asked to make a donation to Shave-to-save. The next day I asked one of them who attended the class if she had practiced what she learned during the class. She said she spent the evening cleaning her room. From this conversation came the above quote.

She told me she’d buy some clothes because it’s on sale, tuck them somewhere and forget she’d bought them, until she cleaned the room. Many still have the price tags on them. I told her “This is exactly how I feel when I clean my house. Instead of clothes, I have other junks which I shouldn’t have bought in the first place…”

Isn’t that something we all do occasionally? The best policy is not to go shopping when you don’t need anything, even if it is 70% or 95% off or even free.

Why some people feel bored, sometimes

When I read this part, I think of the time when my daughter said she was bored.

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, try it for eight. Then 16. Then 32. Eventually one discovers that it’s not boring at all.” –John Cage

“When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored.” – Eric Hoffer

Boredom is not generated by anything outside. Experience of boredom is really generated by the state of our own mind.

I certainly hope she is not bored now.

Simple items can help you strengthen your core

From Harvard HEALTHbeat newsletter, “The right stuff: These simple items can help you strengthen your core,” March 29, 2014

“You needn’t spend a cent on fancy equipment to get a good workout. A standing core workout and floor core workout rely on body weight alone. With the help of some simple equipment, you can diversify and ramp up your workouts. To start, consider buying only what you need for the specific workout you’d like to do. If you have a gym membership, use the facility’s equipment. Here is a description of all of the equipment used in the six workouts designed by Harvard experts and found our report, Core Exercises.

Chair. Choose a sturdy chair that won’t tip over easily. A plain wooden dining chair without arms or heavy padding works well.

Mat. Use a nonslip, well-padded mat. Yoga mats are readily available. A thick carpet or towels will do in a pinch.

Yoga strap. This is a non-elastic cotton or nylon strap of six feet or longer that helps you position your body properly during certain stretches, or while doing the easier variation of a stretch. Choose a strap with a D-ring or buckle fastener on one end. This allows you to put a loop around a foot or leg and then grasp the other end of the strap.

Medicine balls. Similar in size to a soccer ball or basketball, medicine balls come in different weights. Some have a handle on top. A 4-pound to 6-pound medicine ball is a good start for most people.

Bosu. A Bosu Balance Trainer is essentially half a stability ball mounted on a heavy rubber platform that holds the ball firmly in place.

When I have some bad experience at work, I think of my children

I keep some plants in my office and some origami paper. I turn to them when I am fed up with the human dramas around my office or with the hypocrisy around here.

These plants are so innocent and harmless that sometimes I’d like to spend the whole day playing with them. This is of course not possible as I have work to do and have to deal with people, no matter how much I dislike dealing with them.

Sometimes, when some unpleasant event crops up, I miss my children and the happy hours that I spent with them. Of course, the thought of them reminds me of my responsibility as a parent. I am sure they will be free from the kind of experience that I have to go through. At least I wish so.

Why doing the right things is more difficult than doing their opposites

If you think humans are rational animals, think again after reading this post. No, we are not as rational as we like to be all the time. Here’s one simple example.

We know it’s not healthy to over-drink or overeat or smoke or overwork or do drugs, yet we still do it. I have a patch of eczema on the back of my right hand. I know the only effective treatment in my case is not to touch it and allow it to de-sensitize itself. Yet, I just keep scratching it as if I wanted it there permanently.

People, I mean people who are old enough to be grandparents, know it is unprofessional to gossip in office and it is simply not a nice thing to stab behind people’s back, yet they engage this activity passionately whenever they got a chance. Some young people who put aside their homework or risk jeopardizing their grades spend hours on computer games or simply aimlessly internet surfing.

I used to attribute it to a lack of self-control. Things are actually not that simple. It seems vices or the so-called harmful activities yield more pleasure than their opposites. I mean people must get some kind of pleasure from activities like drinking, eating, smoking, drugs, gossips, gaming or patronizing prostitutes.

Doing the right thing means depriving oneself of the pleasure associated with the above-mentioned activities. It must be rather painful to some people who are thus addicted. Sometimes doing the right thing means exerting hardships on ourselves, like when I go out walking on winter morning, dark and cold with a stick in hand, like when I choose to spend hours on preparing for a certification exam.

Now you understand why I say doing the right thing is difficult. It takes a strong will to resist the temptation of these vices, no matter how pleasurable they promise. It takes much more than self-control to inflict hardships on ourselves, simply because it is the right thing to do.

How to avoid micromanagement

Last weekend, when I was driving to the bookstore, the weather was so nice that it felt like spring. I thought of a Chinese children’s song, “Where is spring? Spring is in the eyes of the children…” The song reminds me of my daughter and of the time when I was singing this song and driving her around. The memory of past threw me into a sad mood. I need to keep myself busy so that I won’t have time for sadness. This much I know and will follow.

This is the notes that I took when I was at Barnes & Nobles on weekend. From Inc.com magazine, p. 18 the four tips on “The Micromanager’s guide to delegation.” I thought of my son when I read this part.

(1) Keep a work log to keep track of tasks in an organized way.
(2) Have more people report to you.
(3) Know your people (assessing the skills of each of the team members)
(4) Be a good coach.
Last thing, think of delegation as an investment.

“What motivates you…” weekend reading

The tire pressure indicator light came up on the dashboard of my black highlander when I was driving to west clinic last Thursday. On the way back home that day, I stopped at a gas station to check tire pressure and fill some air, all by myself. Still, the light would not go away. So, last Saturday morning I drove to Firestone’s car care station at the corner and 95th street.

I was reading some magazines while they checked my car. After getting back home, I found myself missing bookstores. So I allowed myself to drive to Barnes & Noble’s, where I spent some time reading the magazine that I wasn’t able to finish at Firestone’s.

On March 2014 issue of Inc.com magazine, there is a short piece called “What Motivates You: Calling or Ego” by Shelley Prevost. Here’s part of it.

“Do you have a real vocation for your work or are you in business for egoistic reasons?
(1) Ego leads to burnout. Calling leads to fulfillment.
(2) Ego focuses on the result. Calling focuses on the process. Without a satisfactory result, your ego feels that all your work is pointless. A calling, however, comes from within. It can handle the stress of ambiguity.
(3) Ego wants to preserve the self. Calling wants to affect others. A calling may begin with the self, but it moves toward the needs of others. Author Frederick Buechner describes it as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.’”

I know ego and calling are two different sources of motivation, but I don’t believe in Prevost’s conclusion on them. I would say calling is more other-oriented and tends to last longer than ego. I also don’t think calling does not care about result as much as ego does.

When I have a second at office…

There are too much gossips going around here. It is so childish to indulge in this kind of stuffs around adults aged over half a century.

I have my earphone on just to insulate myself from this surrounding. Whenever I have a free second, I would spend it on two things: (1) improving my skills (2) exercise to keep fit.

This was written on 3/20. I was going to have an interview the next day, 3/21, hoping I could leave this rather unpleasant toxic work environment.

“When there is no target date, no goal, it targets to fail”

Today, 3/28, we had our monthly CTO meeting. Normally I only pay attention when there is something that strikes me as enlightening or that gives me some ideas on my personal agenda. Such moment came today when a newly appointed person talked about the problem with lengthy IRB approval period.

When she first came to this office, she asked her team “How long does it take for a protocol to be approved?” The answer was “I don’t know.” Next she asked “How long shall it take?” Same answer. What a typical bunch of idiots!

Of course, that’s not the way to run business. She commented, “When there is no target date, no goal, it targets to fail.” Well said! She then dissected the approval process to find out why it took so long. Under her management, the length of approval time has now been cut short by nearly half.

Don’t we need the same attitude toward whatever we target in our career?

Another Happy birthday song to my daughter

My dearest daughter, today is your birthday, the first one that you spend outside home.
I wish I were by your side on your special day.
I wish I could cook your favorite food in the morning.
I wish I could drive your around in the evening like we used to.
But of course, all my wishes were part of a past that is here no more.
Still, I hold the old wish that I had before –
I wish you are surrounded by friends far and wide,
Be as happy as you can be on this day and many days to come.

Volker Bertelman and his album “Abandoned City”

On 3/23/2014, while I was taking my lovely weekend morning walk and listening to NPR, the story of Volker Bertelman and his album “Abandoned City” caught my attention. After that, I couldn’t forget his words and feel that I must share it with my readers.

When they talked about experiment with prepared piano and why he did it,

Prepared piano: “…explored the possibilities of the prepared piano by wedging pieces of leather, felt or rubber between the piano strings, wrapping aluminium foil around the hammers, placing small objects on the strings or joining them together with guitar strings or adhesive tape.”

he said something like this, “it [prepared piano] leads to a lot of questions about myself.

Are you able to actually jump over habits? Are you able to actually work on a bigger scale than you normally think and feel that things that seem to be impossible are actually possible?”

That’s rather thought-provoking. How many of us think of questions like these in our every day life?

Happy Birthday, my beloved son!

25 candles

I miss you and I am thinking of you.
Have a wonderful day!

Spring Break for my daughter

Yesterday, 3/15, Spring break began at my daughter’s school. My daughter left for New York City to spend a few days with her brother. The bus left around 5 PM. I told my daughter to text me when she arrived there. Around 9 PM, I started checking for her message every other minute. It was around 9:45 PM New York time when I finally heard from her.

She walked from Port Authority to her brother’s apartment. Good thing there were plenty of people at that time in that part of the city. She got there in 10 minutes. I can imagine the excitement there. I wasn’t able to fall asleep after that.

Well, it is quiet here today when I had to get up around 4:30 AM to send another adult in the house to the airport to catch a 7 AM flight to China. It was not 7 yet, still dark, when I got back from the airport.

After a few round of interview…

One of the slogans that I set for myself for this year is –change 2014. That is, I was hoping the year 2014 will see some real change in my career. Actually I was determined to make some changes when I was preparing for my daughter’s college trip.

I did try sitting for a health IT certification exam last fall, but didn’t pass it. Since this year I have tried job transfer. After a few rounds of job interview and having entered the third month of the year, I still don’t have anything in hand.

Yesterday I went for an interview for an ETL developer position. I had some experience with ETL back in 2002. But with new technologies in recent years, I don’t think I am up to the task. I am not surprised if I don’t get the job.

When looking back, the only thing that greatly upsets me is the amount of time wasted on all these efforts. On the way back from the interview office, I was considering something else.

I will continue applying for other positions as I still want to try something else. But I will not waste time on preparing for the interview. Instead, I will set new agendas and follow them through.

Job application is something beyond my control. As the saying goes, “Man proposes, God disposes.”
So, why wasting time on something I cannot control. I will spend time on something that I can control and can see the positive result.

Gone is a middle school classmate of mine…

Yesterday, while I was in the office, I read an email from a middle-high school classmate of mine. It is about another classmate of mine who passed away early this year. I was shocked at the news. I quickly replied to all,

“It is very shocking, to the point that I had to stop everything to re-read it, making sure I was not mis-reading. Though I have never tried to get in touch with him since I left Tianjin over 40 years ago, I still retain the vivid memory of him sitting just in front of me, every gesture and whisper just like yesterday. The news of his passing simply doesn’t fit the healthy image that I have of him back in our teenage years.”

I still cannot believe folks of our generation start to drop off the road so early…
Value what we have today. Nothing matters as much as health.

The road not taken, the path that differs…

During last weekend, 2/22-23, I happened to bump into the whereabouts of a college classmate, whom we last met in 1987. We were good friends at that time. She has been living in one place since 1996, the year she got her PhD.

In 1996, I was in Indiana, where my daughter was born. From there, I moved to Virginia, then to Kansas till now. I have changed jobs from a sociology instructor to a database developer, then to my current position with research team. I am still trying to initial a change at this point.

I am sure life would be a lot easy if I had stayed on one job at one place all these years, less moving, less turbulence and less vicissitudes of life. I might have more time writing and be more productive. However, I am not sure if I were better off this way or that way.

One thing I am sure, that is, no matter where I am or what I am doing, I would not stop writing and I would always pursue some goals, be it realistic or not. And whichever way I choose to spend my life, I would still be what I am.

When children appreciate what their parents have done for them…

Every time I prepare my lunch veggies, normally carol or celery, I think of the time when I prepare them for my children. They always say “Thanks, mom” and with a smile on their faces when I bring to them the prepared carrots or celery or fruits. Those are the moments that I miss most.

They always say thank-you to show their appreciation for what I do for them, even if I think I am just doing something every mother would do. It warms my heart when they do it and when they don’t take for granted the services that I willingly render at home.

Thought on Valentine’s Day

I wrote the following to my son prior to Valentine’s Day.

“There are many things in life that we take for granted, things we don’t appreciate when we have them.

On Valentine’s day and everyday, remember to appreciate the person who is willing to accompany you in your life’s journey, who accepts you as what you are or who might idealize you, who is there for you everyday when you are back to your quiet quarter, tired from work. For whatever reasons you can think of, appreciate that person for your mutual happiness.”

If our boss makes a mistake, should we point it out, privately?

If your boss makes a mistake, should you point it out in private? The answer is NO, not even in private, unless you have evidence that something illegal is going on. Here are the reasons.

(1) It is not part of your job description to point out your boss’ work mistake. Your job is to do your job well, not to watch how your boss does his/her job.

(2) Nobody asks your opinion. It’s a different story if your advice is sought for.

(3) Watch out the subtle difference between offering your advice in the name of work and showing off to your boss how smart you are. Your advice in the name of work could be perceived as a mere show-off, depending on whose ears your words go into.

(4) At work and at home, always keep in mind
–> nobody cares how smart you are (nobody but your mom, dad occasionally);
–> no normal person likes to be shown how stupid he/she is;
–> your boss is like all of us.

If, in case, you have a hard time suppressing the urge to show off your trophies, keep a book of high achievers on your desk. When you flip through their achievements, you will realize how insignificant yours are. And you should blush with shame for even thinking about it.

Sunday morning started with a great time chatting with my son

It is a cold Sunday morning. I have not gone out for a walk for a long time, first due to time crunch of last few weeks, then due to record high snow fall. I feel like in a real polar style winter hibernation. Not a good thing, I know.

My son called early this morning to ask if we have time to go on Skype and chat a little bit there. That we did and had a wonderful start for the day.

One of their college friends will get married in April in Hong Kong, so both of them will go there for the event. From there, they will go to some other places in Asia, including Shanghai, her parents’ house.

Watching 2014 Sochi winter Olympics opening ceremony

Finally Friday came. It has been a rather long and rough week. By the end of weekday I felt more than ready to enjoy the weekend.

Yesterday evening I spent many hours watching the opening ceremony of the 2014 winter Olympics. I don’t normally spend this much time on sports, but Olympic games are different, especially opening ceremonies. They are often spectacular shows and I really expect this from Russian opening ceremony. Indeed, it has not failed me.

Olympic games provide an opportunity for a world level gathering of the best athletes from all nations in the world. It fills me with enthusiasm watching these young athletes parading around, reminding me of the pursuits of the honor and glory through competitions, which is as ancient as these games.

I feel I need something like this to re-energize me after a rather depressing week. I feel a lot better now. I am going to watch more of the games in the days to come — going to have a good time.

We succeed or fail by default, or rather by our default activities

What are our default activities? They are the ones that we start doing by default, without thinking. We do it when we allow ourselves to follow our habits down the path of least resistance, when we follow our daily auto-pilot to automatically reach our default location, wherever it may be.

Day after day, year after year, following the same process, same pattern, people become the end products of their habits. There is no miracle if people succeed or fail. They succeed or fail by default, depending on the habits that drive their days and that dictate where they spend their time and energy.

A serious person should examine his/her default activities at least on a biweekly basis to avoid the formation of any examined default behavior. Catch yourself when you start drifting aimlessly, before you are seized by unsuccessful habits.

Finally I found someone I respect at work…

Yesterday, 2/3, while I was at our west clinic, I saw an infusion nurse, in her early 40s, at break room. I met her at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. Other people were on their devices, she was reading a thick book, which looked like a textbook. While chatting with her, I learned she is trying to get her master degree in nursing and later to become an NP. “Awesome! Go for it!” I said.

Immediately I felt a respect for her. It’s not easy to make me respect someone nowadays. Of course, I respect everybody as a human being. But there is more to that. There are many nurses around here, but this is the first time that I meet someone who is willing to make efforts to advance her career. Why not?

With two young girls and a full-time job, plus she is not young any more, she certainly will have a bumpy road ahead. I have no doubt she will make it.

The team is shrinking…and there is no stop to the decline

Three of the best colleagues of mine left our department last December. Two others left last month, one leaving for retirement, the other for another company.

During our last department meeting on 1/30/2014, when I saw these two outgoing colleagues, I said to myself “This is their last meeting with the company. I hope this will be my last one with them, too.” You could feel an easy feeling going around the meeting, too much discontent. I was sitting there reading my own stuffs, unwilling to waste time listening to these useless complaints.

I can’t believe the department is shrinking so rapidly–with only 9 people holding the team, one project manager, one manager, 7 scattering in the 5 clinics. Everybody knows the reasons behind the decline, even though nobody talks about it openly–my first-hand experience of true democracy.

There went the first month of the year before I got serious on my New Year Resolution

Today is 2/2/2014. It looks like a lucky number. I can’t believe it’s already February. When I look back just a month ago, it seems like yesterday when my children were still home, filling the house with joys and laughing.

Yes, it’s true. Before I had time following my New Year Resolution, the first month of the year 2014, 1/12 part of the year, has rushed by unbelievably fast. It seems so crazy.

The last weekend when my daughter was home was 1/18-19. I used the following one, 1/25-26 on getting ready for two job interviews, and then this weekend on online tests, three of them, which I am going to take in the afternoon. This way I will still have time for android course work, which is due today.

It seems I always have something to keep me occupied. Still, I must find time to work on my resolution, before the year end is dawning on me.

Spending two weekends pounding the books

Last weekend saw me chained to the desk with my head buried in papers and books. I was brushing up my SQL skills to prepare for the two job interviews the following Monday and Tuesday, 1/27 and 28. I thought I’d kept almost nothing in my brain after over a decade of non-IT environment. I guess I still retain some after last weekend’s review.

Last Friday, 1/31, I received an email from the hiring company requesting me to take three online tests over this weekend. This means I have advanced to the next step on the selection process. A good thing, of course.

Oh boy, there goes another weekend, just like last one.

Happy Chinese New Year, the year of horse, celebrate Spring Festival all over the world!

Yes, it is today, the beginning of Chinese lunar year, the year of horse.

My son called home to say happy spring festival. My daughter texted it to me. It gives me a warm feeling when the children think of you on occasions like this. Of course, I have received many good wishes from friends all over the states. They are another source of great joys in my life. Now I feel warm in my heart even in this freezing weather.

Like most of Chinese here in America, I work today as it is not an official holiday here. Nothing much to say for that now.

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.”

I have the following in my note collection for a few months or even longer. Here they are, finally.

Read about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.”

Martin Luther–“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.”

Also by Goethe
“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that”

“What is my life if I am no longer useful to others.”

“Only by joy and sorrow does a person know anything about themselves and their destiny. They learn what to do and what to avoid.”

Carl Buechner–“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

Don’t ignore your dream, no matter who you are…

I was going to add this part to the title — “and at what stage of life.” It is not difficult to have beautiful dreams when you are young, knowing a bright future is waiting for you. And realistically speaking, your dream can come true at a younger stage of life.

Yet, other than motivating you to work hard toward some goal, dreams have many other functions in life. It represents something beautiful and idealistic. Without dreams, life would be a sad, boring and even depressing experience.

After half a century has passed when you are over the hill, you might often hear people around you saying things like dawdling away your life or in Chinese “hun-ri-zi,” the word I hear literally everyday, etc.

I have to keep reminding myself — hold on to your dreams, even if it’s rainbow in the sky, ’cause dream gives joys, beauty, meanings, hope, pillar, and everything to your existence. Imagine how depressing it is to go through days and years without them. Not me.

More writings after I set down on another post

The thought came to me when a colleague of mine asked me when I would write again and also my children asked me not to stop writing.

Yeah right, as if they were interested in reading them. Well, I know that’s not their point. The point is, at least from my children’s point of view, writing is good to me, even though they don’t have the time to read them now. I got it.

I plan to get back to writing after I have moved to a new position and after the dust has settled. Right now, I am too unsettled in my mind to diverge my time to other things.

I feel like heavily indebted to many parties, for not giving them enough attention. That is, I should have written more but I let it lapse. I promise I will make my first payment as soon as I move to another level of my career.

Stay home on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The office closed, which meant day off for us.

Yesterday morning my daughter needed to catch a 5:30 AM bus from New York City to her school. It was awfully early. I was afraid they might not be able to get up this early when they were too tired to hear the alarm clock.

I set the alarm at 4 in the morning, which is 5 New York time. I called and texted my daughter, hoping she was already at Port Authority. When I didn’t hear from her, I contacted my son, who told me he just dropped her off there. He might be on the way back to his apartment.

She called me half way through in her sleepy voice. I told her to go back to sleep and let me know when she got there at around 10:30 AM. She finally texted me around noon, “I’m back! Everything’s good. We can skype tonight.”

I wrote back, “Good, as long as I know you got back safe and sound. If you are busy, no need to skype tonight. Enjoy getting back to your friends…” I can even see her joyful face when she is among her friends again. So glad for her.

Things are so different with her away from home.

Sending her to school once again and the thoughts following her

Yesterday we got up around 4:30 AM, leaving home at 5, trying to catch the 6:30 flight for my daughter. She got the boarding pass, then passing through security check before 6. After watching her disappear behind security check, we left for home.

All the way, I kept myself busy with the thought about my daughter’s activities, so that I gave myself no time to feel sad. I kept saying, “She will be very busy this semester, looking for paid summer intern, trying to transfer to other schools, etc..”

It is a challenge for the first-year college student to land an intern, let alone a paid one. Plus, she needs the skills. What skills does she have that make company pay her?

An unpaid intern position not only cost money in terms of living expenses in a big city, but more importantly, it smells cheap and insignificant, and doesn’t worth the time.

Plus, I don’t like the idea that some companies exploit those college kids who seem so desperate in getting work experience, even to the point of selling their time/life for free.

In high school, people call it volunteer work, which is okay when they live with their parents. In college, it is called intern, which is supposed to be related to their major and supposed to be compensated. But as economy goes downward and unemployment goes upward, some companies keep to the minimum the staffs on their payroll by exploiting unpaid interns. On the other hand, many college graduates, unable to get a paid job, become permanent interns, supported by their parents. I don’t want my daughter to even start on that track…

The house was dark and empty when we got back home. I knew my daughter was on the way to Denver. I told her to call or text me at every stop, so that I would know she is okay. She called around 8:30 AM when she was waiting in Denver, at the gate leaving for New York. She called again at around 3:30 PM when she arrived in New York and had brought the shuttle ticket from the airport to Port Authority. Around 5:30 PM, I heard her excited voice calling from my son’s place.

I am so glad she arrived safe and sound. I miss her and need to concentrate on what her challenges ahead.

The holiday is really over for me, seriously

My daughter is going back to school tomorrow, 1/19, early Sunday morning. She will fly to New York and stay there overnight at my son’s apartment, then take a bus to her school the next Monday morning.

I have already begun missing her now. I feel the emptiness that her leaving will create just at the thought of her leaving and being so far away once again.

You may say I need time to get over it. Still, life will never be the same with the children’s leaving for college. I will forever need time to get used to it until I move closer to them someday, hopefully soon.

Key factors that help you land a job

During the last holiday season when I was chatting with the young folks at my home, I was further convinced of the factors that are crucial in career development, that is, your skills, network and experience.

To certain extent, having a marketable skill, a wide network and related work experience help you far effectively than a degree from a top ranking college.

Yesterday my daughter and I talked about this and the value of a college education. It is true that these key factors work better for you than a college degree, considering the exorbitant cost of college education now. In the long run, however, I told my daughter, it is better to have a college degree, expensive as it is.

On the other hand, if you go to college just for an education without building your network and gaining certain work experience, you are pretty much limited in your career development.

Keep in mind learning is a lifetime endeavor. You can always learn in or out of school. But network helps you build a wide career base. I hope young people today can understand this key point.

There is no shortcut to success…

What I read recently once again confirms what we all know about success, that is success always entails hard work — “The Big Secret to A Successful Career

“there’s one trait that always comes through among the highly successful: Hard work.” “In fact, I’d agree with the statement above: ‘Hard Work Beats Talent.’”

“six simple things that help in your quest to be a success.
#1. Get up early.
#2. Focus on what matters. Each day.
#3. Pay attention to detail.
#4. Do more listening, less talking.
#5. Develop yourself. Learn to use the tools around you.
#6. Practice mental toughness.

Final thought. Have fun. Then hard work is easy!”

Thoughts and tips on New Year Resolutions

I have kept reminding my children of their New Year Resolutions. I even asked the young relative of mine here to work on his. It will benefit them if they can expect something bigger from themselves.

Here are some thoughts for you to consider if you decide to work on yours.
–find out specific ways of moving out of your comfort zone
–challenge yourself to think differently from yourself
–challenge yourself to find something new in your old way of life
–challenge yourself to learn something new everyday, be it a new word or a new skill, as long as you keep doing it everyday
–count one blessing a day and keep a record of your counting everyday
–if you set a goal for yourself, also break it into small feasible pieces, set specific deadlines for you to reach.

One final thought: refuse to be the same, day in day out, year in year out…

Great New Year Resolutions for Moms

I read this article today, “8 New Year’s Resolutions All Parents Should Make in 2014.” I wish I could relive those years when my children were small, enjoy the time spent with them, and be a much more caring and wiser parent to them. Too bad time simply flies by before I have the time to appreciate what precious things that life has to offer. Hence, share with the readers.

#1. Slow down
This year I’ll take more deep breaths before raising my voice. I’ll stop telling him to hurry up and go faster. (Life goes fast enough.) I’ll slow everything – from my patience to my schedule to my outlook on life. This year I’ll slow down.

#2. Stop comparing yourself
This year I’ll stop comparing myself to strangers on the Internet, scripted characters on television, and whatever image I created in my head for a “good mom.” This year I’ll keep my eyes on my own life and stop letting assumptions and half truths cloud my perception.

#3. Shake off the “shoulds” and the scripts
This year I’ll shake off the “shoulds” that society imposes on us and take control of my own life.

#4. Be the person you want your child to be
This year I’ll frame my resolutions differently. I’ll think of the top 3 things I hope my son learns and embodies (authenticity, honesty, and kindness), and I’ll work on modeling those values. Because kids aren’t listening to what we’re telling them to do as much as they’re watching what we’re showing them to be.

#5. Focus on your health, not your appearance.
This year I’ll take a healthy approach to my resolutions. Instead of resolving to lose 10 lbs., I’ll resolve to exercise for my mood, eat healthy foods for the nutrients, and prioritize my health because there’s a little person who needs me to be healthy. Instead of looking in the mirror, grabbing my stomach skin and letting out a sigh, I’ll resolve to love my body in 2014.

#6. Make time for down-time.
This year I’ll stop looking at down-time as wasted time. This year I’ll shed the “work work work” mentality and prioritize things like sleeping, relaxing, and cuddling. Because I know that at the end of 2014, I’ll be glad I did.

#7. Live in the present more often.
This year I’ll consciously focus on living in the present moment and tuning into what’s happening right NOW. Too often we’re stuck on the hamster wheel of stress (future tense) and regret (past tense), but the real memories are happening right now.

#8. Take more photos and videos.
This year I’ll record more of the ordinary, non-filtered, non-styled moments. I’ll take photos for myself, not for Instagram. I’ll take more photos and videos to remind me of what life was really like in 2014.

Happy New Year once more…

Happy New Year to all!

The New Year’s Day of 2014 falls on Wednesday, giving me a nice break in the middle of the week. Still I don’t feel as joyful as I should be for this occasion. My head is still full of the sounds and faces of last week.

It seems like yesterday when my house was alive with people and now just three of us. I told my daughter, “How strange it’s like old times before you left for college, just three of us.” Meanwhile, I know clearly it is also very temporary. She will be leaving before I prepare for it.

My daughter has been working on her New Year Resolutions. We have exchanged some ideas on what we will put in our resolutions. I told her exercise was still on top of the list. I am going to add two new items this year. That is, (1) learning something new everyday, be it new words, new skills or a fraction of a new skill, anything that is new to me; (2) challenge myself to see and think differently from myself.

For now, enjoy the snow.

The end of the week, the year, and the beginning of another one…

It is Saturday, 12/28/2013, near the end of the holiday week, the end of my vacation week, and also the end of the year.

The week went by with some parties, gathering with friends and, most of all, time spent with the children.

Now the children are leaving one after another, with one already left on the day after Christmas, one leaving tomorrow, one next Tuesday, and the last one still having two weeks before leaving.

I am so grateful that they all have come and have filled my days with joys and laughter that no occasion can replicate. I am so happy to see them happy and having a good time here.

I have learned to enjoy and appreciate the good times that I spend with the children because I know too well that good times are never long enough and are gone too fast. And all that’s left is the memories of the good times. In fact, I have already started relishing the jokes they cracked at each other. And instead of laughing with them, now I laugh alone.

Now, no more jokes. Get serious, get ready for another new year and another beginning!

Don’t be a permanent fixture in your company

I read this article by Alex Kecskes on 12/13.

“If you’ve been working at a job for several years and seem to be going nowhere—no promotion, no challenging tasks, feeling like a drone—it’s time to re-evaluate your situation and get out of your rut. Being stuck in job limbo can happen to even the best employees. And the sooner you take steps to move beyond this career roadblock the better.”

Being trapped and stuck in a dead end job. This is exactly how I feel now. He offers some suggestions.

(1) Don’t stop at job descriptions
Many workers fall into the job description rut. They get so used to performing the perfunctory tasks outlined in their job description that they never “go for gold.” …

(2) Don’t stop “connecting”
This one can be particularly tough for introverts. If you are one, break out of your shell and talk to more people—people outside your “drone zone.”

(3) Don’t stop being creative
Offering creative solutions to problems at work can be a real career booster. …Focus your creativity on solutions that improve productivity using existing resources. To improve your creativity, check out Start Being More Creative at Work.

Get moving, reducing stress, for body and mind

A few weeks ago, I read this article “To calm body and mind, get moving.” Too bad I forgot and have not saved where I read it, though I saved part of it.

“A burst of physical activity after the stress response is triggered — let’s say by sprinting away from an oncoming bus — burns off stress hormones just as nature intended.

But you don’t need an imminent physical threat to use exercise as a way to take the edge off every day stress. Just about any form of motion helps relieve pent-up muscle tension. And certain activities, such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong, and rhythmic, repetitive exercise, such as walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and rowing, elicit the relaxation response, too. All of these things are especially helpful if you do them regularly.

To boost the stress-relief rewards that come from being physically active, it helps to increase your awareness — what and how you’re feeling, your environment, etc. — during exercise. This small shift in focus can leave you feeling calmer and more centered.

This approach is as effective during strength training as it is when you’re on a nature walk. As you lift and plant each foot, or as you raise and lower the weights, coordinate your breathing with your movements, keeping mindful attention on the sensations in your body.

Once you get under way, become aware of how your breathing complements the activity. Breathe rhythmically. If you have a focus word, phrase, or prayer that you use when meditating, use that word now as you breathe. When disruptive thoughts intrude, gently turn your mind away from them and focus on moving and breathing.”

Winter is the best season for me…

I often hear people talking about winter gloom or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), that is, when winter brings the blues, with the dark affecting their moods as well as their days.

According to Harvard Medical School newsletter, SAD is one form of depression affecting about 1% to 2% of the population with more women than men being that impacted and more young folks are more than older ones.

There is legitimate reason for people suffering SAD when the days get shorter and we stay indoors and are not exposed to daylight as much as we do during summer season. This lack of sun and light, of course, causes changes in the chemical makeup in our bodies.

The symptoms include “lethargy, loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities, interpersonal problems, irritability, inability to concentrate, and changes in sleeping patterns, appetite, or both.”

For me, on the contrary, winter is the best season. For one thing, nothing stops me from venturing out. For another, as the year end draws near, the climax of the year is coming.

It is the season of joy and festival, all because of the children’s homecoming.

Friday the 13th, can’t wait for the weekend…

I was at the office today, Friday the 13th, supposedly working on something that was piling on my desk. But I kept thinking what I would need to buy after work and what I needed to do this weekend, the last weekend before the children get back home.

I left office at 3 pm today and headed for Costco directly. The store was not as crowded as I expected. I guess not many people are expecting four grown-up children like I am. Good for me!

I brought back some junk foods, nuts and cakes, chips and dips, and some frozen dessert kind of foods. I remember my son and his girlfriend go to bed late, which means they will need to have some snacks late at night.

While I was shopping at the store, for some reason, scenes from my childhood came back, scenes when we were busy preparing for Spring Festival, Chinese guo-nian, the busy atmosphere when my grandmother and my mother were busy with cooking. Of course, shopping was never part of this.

I know this is the meaning of guo-nian for me. This is the eve of my festival when I am expecting and getting ready for the children’s homecoming.

The festival is coming…

Other people call December holiday season. I call it a festival in line with what Chinese people call jie or festival.

I have been in a festive mood ever since I learn of the exact dates when my children will be back. My daughter will be home next Tuesday, my son and his girlfriend next Thursday. My sister’s son will visit us next week, too. The four children will certainly bring home lively laughter and immense amount of joy, boosting the festive mood to the highest level of the year!

I was happily cleaning the rooms, towels and sheets, preparing for their arrival. This weekend I will do some shopping, making sure there are plenty foods and snacks around the house.

Excited and looking forward… I told my son, “I can’t wait…”

Tips to improve your memory

Here’s a short list, easy to remember and to follow.

1. consume a little bit of caffeine and chocolate
2. sleep on it. Got a good night sleep.
3. work it out, aerobic exercise improve memory
4. eat the right food for brain power, omega-3 fatty acid
5. challenge your brain

The way to get ahead and go above and beyond…

If you can run, don’t walk;
If you can walk, don’t stand;
If you can stand, don’t sit;
If you can sit, don’t lay down.
If you face two choices, always take the harder one.
In life as in everything, the best defense is offense.
That’s the way to get ahead and go above and beyond.

Be nice if you want to live a long life

I read this article long ago. In fact, I am sure I would not let it go without posting it here, which means most likely I have already posted it before. Still, it doesn’t hurt to read it again just to remind people: How Being a Jerk Shortens Your Life by John Cloud, Feb. 28, 2011.

I hope it works this way. Here’s an excerpt from the article.
“Beware jocks and mean girls: you may be more popular in high school, but according to a new academic paper, it is the smart kids and conscientious glee-club types who will live longer. Not only that, they will suffer fewer diseases before they die. Only the good die young? Guess again.

The paper, which was published recently in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, summarizes data from millions of people studied in dozens of academic articles. The bottom line is that people who are smarter and more conscientious acquire fewer illnesses and die later than those who have the opposite traits.”

It is an interesting read.

“a woman a decade younger than him — and she’s as ugly as he is! #jackass.”

It seems more like a lifetime nightmare than a bunch of tasteless jokes when Jofi Joseph, former White House Official on national security, lost his plum job — after it was discovered where these sarcasm and snark tweeted out.

Jofi Joseph spit out whatever in his mind like an idiot when he thought he was anonymous under the name of @NatSecWonk, when he had no clue that nobody can truly hide his true identity on this seemingly innocent cyber world.

It really doesn’t take much effort to dig him out. Now that his identity is revealed, “it’s fair to say Joseph has pretty much burned bridges with everyone in Washington.”

For the rest of us, it’s lesson to be learned.

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