Health advice to my children

Today I read about this in Chinese. I thought of sharing them with my children. So, here’s the English version on health.

1. On health, nurture works better than nature. You might inherit longevity gene from your parents, but you won’t be able to carry on this gene if you don’t take good care of your body. Nurture means a healthy lifestyle with diverse food intake and daily exercise.

2. Overnutrition is a form of malnutrition.

3. Getting mad or upset or low spirit or sad or depressed hurts your body as much as a disease does.

4. Getting drunk damages your liver like an attack of acute liver infection.

5. Family disharmony is detrimental to your health.

6. Loneliness hurts people more than poverty.

Try to learn more skills in one activity

I was asked to teach a group of children how to make origami. I want them to learn more than just origami making skill. I hope they can get the habit of trying to learn more skills from one activity or see the activity as a project that involves problem-solving skill.

Below are the questions that I have prepared for the children before class.

(1) Why do you want to learn origami?
My answer: have fun; gift ideas for classmate’s birthday; Xmas gift for teachers; donation; sell it among your friends so that you will have some money for your parents or friends’ birthday gifts and you don’t have to ask your parents for whatever you want to buy. I hope children will feel motivated if they have a big plan.

(2) What would you do if you forget some part of what we learn in class?
My answer: this requires your problem-solving ability. You can make friends with those who have learned it in class or who show special talent here, ask these friends for help. Remember nobody is good at everything. We are all good at something. You can help others with what you are specially good at. The key is we need to help each other. Asking help is the best compliment to your friends.

(3) It will involve a lot of work and time. What would you do if you need help to get more done and you don’t have enough time?
My answer: this again requires your problem-solving ability and other skills. You can teach your siblings, parents or friends, so that they can help you. You need to realize one person’s ability is very limited. It often takes a team to get something done. The best part of this is you can form a team with you being the boss.

(4) How do you get others’ help?
My answer: you can promise something, depending on what your parents like most. Such as, practice piano for one extra hour, do laundry on weekend, share with them your proceeds, etc. You will need to enhance your ability to convince people to work for you. The key here is to keep your promise.

Based on what we just talk, you can see that potentially you can learn both soft and hard skills, which are a lot more than origami making. How much you can learn from this activity depend totally on you.

If you think you are smart, that means one thing to others : contribute more

I started teaching my son math in his early age so that he would excel over others at least in one field. Being outstanding in one field would give him a good feeling and boost his self-esteem.

When he indeed excelled in math and thought highly of himself in primary school, I told him this,
If you think you are smart and capable, that means one thing to others, that is, contribute one.

Other people won’t admire you and applaud your achievements as your mother does. The main thing that they care is how much they can give to them. If you cannot share a penny of your gain with others, your wealth means nothing to them. You may say sharing is all they care and all that means to them.

I am not sure if he could understand it at that time. As years go by, I hope my children still remember it and come to appreciate this.

Make friends and be Healthy children at school and at home

I read this article today Healthy School Year and thought of sharing with parents here, even though some of us already knew this, even though my children have all left home. It is a good one and I wouldn’t let go any good one without sharing it here.

“Grades may matter less than parents think By Natasha Persaud Feeling socially connected as a child could be more important to future happiness than good grades, according to new research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The Australian study tracked more than 800 men and women for 32 years, from age 3 onward, to discover pathways to adult wellbeing. Their model of wellbeing involved values such as:
(1) believing life is meaningful,
(2) social involvement at work and at play,
(3) having coping skills,
(4) and kindness and trust.
Remarkably, economic security wasn’t included because previous research suggests it’s not that important to happiness.

Why Parents and BFFs (Best Friends) Matter During childhood, parents and teachers assessed whether participants were confident, well-liked by peers or excluded from activities. During adolescence, the now teenagers performed self-assessments that gauged personal strengths, friendship quality, parental support, participation in groups and overall life satisfaction. Having someone to talk to if they had a problem or felt upset was very important.

Why should social interactions early in life matter? The study authors posit that it promotes healthy ways of relating to oneself, others and the world. The research, while preliminary, might be eye-opening for parents. While grades are important, fostering a good relationship with your son or daughter is more so. Likewise, helping your child form positive friendships may help him or her enjoy a truly good life later on.”
End of the article.

If you feel guilty while doing something, you’d better stop doing it

The other day my daughter didn’t go to bed until 3 am next morning. I asked her if she watched the movie that she rented, she said yes sheepishly. I once told her, “You stay late at night only if you have work to do. Do not burn midnigh oil just to have some fun time, especially during weekday.” She knew it. I asked her if she felt a bit guilty when she was watching at night. She said yes.

I told her it was a good thing that she still felt guilty. It would be awful if she doesn’t. Then I told her, “If you feel guilty doing something, you’d better stop doing it, because you know you should not do it.”

This sense of guilt is our inner voice of self-check when nobody is watching. The voice comes from our years of upbringing and socialization which tells us what is the right thing to do. It’s better listening to this voice.

Good skills, habits or qualities that parents can help their children to develop

In my last post, I have a Chinese version of these skills, habits or qualities that good parenting can help children to develop. I am going to attempt a translation today.

(1) Help children become a good listener. Many people lack of patience today. They either can’t wait to hear out what others have to day or make no effort to understand what other people say.

(2) Help them cultivate a love for reading. Be a diligent reader, that is, seize every moment to read. Be a fast reader and don’t stop at shallow read.

(3) Ability to communicate with anyone at all levels.

(4) Develop a strong written communication skill.

(5) Develop problem solving ability in daily life.

(6) Keep your promise. Mean what you say.

(7) Respect others. Accept responsibilities instead of blaming others when something happens.

(8) Go green. Don’t waste resources.

(9) Influence people around you. Create a positive environment.

(10) Keep an open mind to things that are new to you. Get along well with others.

The best things that parents can leave to their children

I read this one on 6/5/2014 and was eager to share it here. I will try to translate it later.

10 qualities for the children

Money, travel, and regret or no regret

Early last Sunday morning, 5/25, a friend of ours and her whole family went on a three-week tour in some European countries. While they have been to Europe many times, our family has never been there once. I felt a bit sad that we were not able to go while both of my children were home with us. The trip really is expensive. Compared to some of the Chinese here, we are relatively less affluent, which is why we have not travelled outside the country as much as some of our friends. I told my son that I felt like a loser, in economical sense. I feel my children have been deprived of a lot of fun in their childhood because of this.

Shortly after I was laid off from Sprint, I had opportunities to go back IT job and maintain my IT salary if I were willing to travel to other places and take on short-term contract positions. But if I did, it would mean leaving the children behind. So I chose to give up these opportunities and stay with them till they are able to be on their own, believing I could always made money but the children needed me for only these few years. I am glad I have made this decision. Still, I feel like finding lame excuses for my financial failure in life.

No matter what happened, I have tried my best to provide a protective and well-guided life to both of my children. When looking back, the only big comfort to me is to see both of them have turned out well-bred and well-educated and are well on their way to a much better life than mine.

I regret not having traveled widely while my children were home with me, but no regret for my past decision.

The most peaceful and joyful moments that I once enjoyed

It is Wednesday morning, 5/21/2014. Right now I am sitting in my office, all by myself, with the monitor in the monitor room. Quiet and alone, seemingly peaceful and undisturbed by anything outside. Still, I think of my children, of the time I spent with them when they were little and when they are home. How peaceful and relaxing these moments were. How heavenly happy and joyful I was when I was with them.

Work is not stressful here and people at my new office are nice and friendly. Still, I’d rather spend my time at home with my children. I don’t want to analyze myself and find out why I don’t enjoy myself at work. This is how I feel now.

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.

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.

Be a good parent when the children have gone to college

On the matter of children leaving home, most likely this is something that parents cannot change. But that does not mean parents can do nothing about it. Parents can either move closer to the children and change themselves to adapt to their children’s needs or try to be a more understanding parents to their adult children, so that they can form a good relationship with their children.

In fact, our relationship with the children has to evolve as the children grow up and the parents age. From what I can see the relationship with the children is very crucial to our happiness.

The comfort for the parents is they might sever the tie with their past, their childhood, their high school friends, etc. but their ties to their parents will survive everything.

Holiday is the homecoming season…

Yesterday, my son emailed me his itinerary for the incoming holiday. I was delighted to learn that he will be home from 12/19 to 12/29/2013, 10 days in all. Last year he came back for 6 days, 12/20-26/2012. My daughter will arrive two days before him.

This year more than any time in the past, I am eagerly looking forward to the joyful holiday season when both of my children will be home and when my house is once again filled with lively laughter. My heart already jumps with warmth and excitement at the thought. My sister’s son will come over, too.

Busy as I am right now as I am getting ready for next Friday’s exam, I still find time thinking and planning for their homecoming.
More later.

Create a home away from home when you are in college

I have encouraged both of my children to make friends, form connections, create a home away from home when they are in college. This way they will not feel homesick.

I must say they all did what I told them to, which is a good thing. I bet they miss their college-friend-home when they return to their first home or when they have to say goodbye to them.

It’s always like this — they move on in life, forming new connections or relationship or even homes and naturally their tie to their first home will not be as close as before. Meanwhile we, being left behind, still cling to the old connections with them. Shouldn’t we be happy for them?

Time spent with the children prepare them for their own journey

Once again, below is the note that I wrote while I was in China in 2008.

One evening, my sisters and I talked about life’s journey with the parents. We all start our life’s journey with our parents. As we grow bigger and strong, we gradually move away from them and continue the journey on our own.

Parents’ loving care is very crucial in preparing us to get on our own journey, independent of them. Because parents cannot be with us throughout our lives, unless we tragically terminate our journey ahead of them.

At that time I didn’t think it wise to continue companying children in their life’s journey as long as we live, even after they become adults. I thought a successful parenting meant bringing up independent individuals, that is, children eventually stands on their own without the crutch of the parents. Now, I think it would be nice if parents and children can be together, even after they become independent.

Spend as much time as you can with your children when they are with you

I heard some parents complain that children take up too much of their time, that they don’t have the time for themselves, that they demand their right for their own entertainment.

I would not condemn this as being selfish. I would only have this much to say to these parents —

When the children are off for college or out of your home, when your nest is empty, you will have all the time for yourself. Nobody will fight for your time. Happy!

For your own happiness and for that of your children, we parents should always keep in mind that children are with us for only 18 years. And these 18 years flash past very fast. Value the moment when the children are with you. Enrich both your life and your children’s by spending as much time with them as you possibly can.

I am glad I have done that. And because of this, my life has been tremendously enriched by them. This much I cherish dearly.

My sister once told me this, and I totally agree with her.
parents spending as much time as they can with their children

Off to college, the children are on the way to their own home

On the way to Boston when we sent my son in 2007, I had painfully realized that once the children left home, they would no longer view their parents’ house as their permanent home like before.

Any time they come back, it’s always a short visit. That long term stay, month after month, with their parents is gone forever. This is just a sad unavoidable reality. It hurts me to think about this. The thought came back when we sent my daughter away, even though I have tried to avoid the thought.

I figure the only way to stay upbeat and healthy is to forget the past and focus on the future. Otherwise, there is no end of misery. And physically and emotionally, the aging parents cannot afford such misery.

One upbeat event that I need to remind myself is: ever since my daughter left for college, my son often calls home, more frequently than before and my daughter Skypes with us at least once a week. A huge comfort to me. I should be content now.

Move closer to the children when the house becomes empty

On Monday, 9/16, a colleague of mine was talking about downsizing her house, selling her big house and moving into a smaller one. It would be easy to maintain, as she explained. I told her I was thinking of the same thing, that is, selling the house.

If both of my children choose east coastal cities, it makes no sense for us to stay here. If we live close by, it will make it easy for them to visit us, too. As it is now, the only time my son and his girlfriend come over is during Christmas holiday. I start looking forward to this day since the beginning of the year!

This is not just a thought. I do plan to move out of this area by the time my daughter graduates from college.

So much needs to be done before that.

When other people’s children died…

Photo of the year by Paul Hansen

It was a sad and gloomy day when I saw this picture, the crying adults carrying little bodies seemingly so tranquil. True I don’t know these people, still I feel the pain of the adults. I hate to think further because it hurts when I think of the fact that these innocent children died so young.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at home

During the MLK long weekend, a friend of mine called and we chatted for a while. After that, I kept thinking of what she said about her attitude toward her daughter. She told me they adopted this Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy at home in regard to her daughter. If the daughter doesn’t tell her something, she does not ask.

For example, her daughter, who can drive, once said she would go to library and didn’t come back until after 10 PM. My friend didn’t ask where her daughter went, even though she knew the library closed at 9 PM.

“If I don’t ask, everybody goes his own business and peace prevails. If I ask her, there must be unpleasant encounter and that makes everybody unhappy.”

I think it sad this way. I would not allow this with my children as I firmly believe keeping an open communication is the key to better understanding and a good relationship between parents and their children.

By the way, when I told my daughter this on 1/22 while we were at the doctor’s office, she said “Auntie…is wise in doing this.” She might be right, though it is quite a different view from mine!

The next generation might not surpass us in social status and prestige

Last weekend, a friend of mine called. Of course, we talked a lot about the next generation. I told her that the next generation would certainly do better than us since they have a much better opportunity than us.

“It might not be the case,” my friend claimed. “They might make more money or live more comfortably than us, but I doubt if they would enjoy a higher social prestige than us.” She is a medical doctor at KUMC.

In a way, I agree with her, especially when I look at our generation, my two sisters and I. I must say none of us has got even closer to the position that our father once held, let alone any prestige at all, even though we make a lot more money than our parents.

That left me a little bit sad when I think of it, as I believe my father would like to see us surpassing him. Then again, I certainly wish my children will enjoy much much higher social status than mine.

When my son calls home…

Before my son quit his job, he always called home on his way from work in the evening. Normally we could hear the background traffic noise. As he was busy at work and also back in his apartment, he used the time on the way back to call home.

Now he is working from home. He calls back when he takes a break from his work. I can hear from his voice that he is tired, having worked for a long stretch of time.

On 11/4/2012, Sunday afternoon, he called home during one of his work breaks. After the call, I told my daughter, “Your brother always remembers to call back whenever he has a second. I hope you will be like your brother when you are away for college.” She nodded her agreement.

My son went back to New York yesterday

By now, going to the airport has become a familiar experience for me. This month we went to the airport on 9/5 to get my son home, then again drove there on 9/9 to send him back to New York.

There are always a trip to get him back home and a trip to send him away. On the way back home with my son in the car, we are always excited, endless talking and laughing. I am trying to find changes in him. I am always amazed at his level of maturity and depth of thinking. We are always so happy to see him back.

On the way to the airport sending him back, we are often quiet. I feel like everyone is too sad to talk. I do not wish for the day when he will not go away any more. That’s too unrealistic. I only wish he can get back safely and he is doing well, no matter where he is.

My son’s coming visit

Yesterday I said I loved September, especially this one. My son will come back on 9/5, which is two days after his third anniversary with his girlfriend. He will need to go back on 9/9.

I have been looking forward to his visit since this spring. We talked about it in summer. I know he is always busy either at office or back to his apartment in New York. It has been this way since his high school days. I know it is a good thing and I wouldn’t want otherwise.

Hence, I am going to take some days off, stay home and enjoy his visit as much as I can. We will take walks down to the Overland Park Convention Center, and chat all the way like the old days.

Be flexible, open-minded and less dogmatic

When I heard one of my young relatives in Houston planned to buy an ipad for his girlfriend using his first paycheck, I immediately thought of his mother, my youngest sister. Next I shared with him my thought on this matter. Of course, my lecture started with trite stuffs like his success, kindness, and loyalty being the best gifts that a man could give to a woman. I am even tired of hearing myself saying this.

I told him of one of the deepest regrets in my life. That is I had not made my first trip home earlier. I came to the States in 1984 and my first visit home was in the summer of 1987. That was also the time when my father passed away. I bought him a color TV, a big deal at that time. He was in hospital all the time and didn’t even watch it once. The regret still hurts me after so many years.

Had I known he would leave us so soon, at age of 57, I would have come back home in a year or two, bought the TV earlier, and spent more time with him. I could say I was young and stupid and not understanding the fragility of life. But that won’t change a thing.

I shared this with my young relative, hoping he could take my message. That is, pay your filial duty while you can. He and his girlfriend are young and still have a long way to go.

My relative said he did not like being told of what he should or should not do. He would do it only when he wants to, not when somebody told him to. Of course, what I suggested was not something that he wanted to do at this moment. I feel like facing a rebellious teenager who would not do it simply because he doesn’t like to be told to. Honestly, I felt a bit hurt. But I am sure things will improve, given time.

I share this with my children. The take home message is this —  Adopt a more mature and open attitude. No matter who says it, do it as long as it makes sense. Listening and following other people’s advice do not belittle us at all. On the contrary, it reveals a broad mind, capable of accepting ideas and advices of others.

The Fountainhead essay contest and proud parents

When I heard the news that my daughter’s The Fountainhead essay contest had won finalist prize, I was very happy for her and proud of her. I thought it quite an achievement considering the large quantity of submission for this contest. We were told they received over 4000 essay entries this year.

Immediately I shared it with my circle of friends. This reminds me of my father. He used to keep my writings and took them out when friends came over. Oh boy, he was beaming with proud smile. I am sure he would be very proud of her if he were here.

I told a friend of mine “Now it’s my turn.”

My daughter came back yesterday…

The day before my daughter left Pittsburgh, she did not sleep, spending the whole night packing and chatting with friends.

Yesterday morning, I set my alarm at 4 AM, which is 5 AM eastern time. I called her, making sure she was up and getting ready for the trip. To my surprise, she was already on the bus to the airport. She told me she left school around 4 AM.

That was scary. I can’t imagine how she dragged two pieces of luggage plus a backpack and a portfolio bag to the bus station. Her flight was at 8 AM. She would be super early when she got off the bus, found United Airline, got her boarding passes, and reached the departure terminal/gate.

I told her to take a nap while waiting. Of course, that was all I could think of at the moment.

She made a transfer in Newark, NY. Originally, the flight should leave at 12 noon, but it delayed again and again until about 4 PM. I was worried about my daughter as I kept thinking of the previous sleepless night that she had.

Finally, she made it back at about 6 PM. She told me she had a wonderful time there, learning new things and making new friends, having a taste of college life, etc. That makes all the hardship worthwhile and tolerable.

Looking back, six years ago…

That was the summer of 2006, when my son was 17, the summer before his high school senior year, he went to Russia for a summer internship. He funded the trip with the money he made through his internet venture.

After he came back, he told me some people missed home and spent lots of money calling home from Russia. Before he left, I told him to send me an email everyday so that I knew he was OK and that he did.

He told me he spent as much time as he could in lab doing experiment and writing research paper. As the result, he submitted the paper to two national science competitions and both reached semi-finalist level. In fact, he was the only one out of that year’s interns who completed and submitted a research paper.

When I looked back, I can’t believe he was so mature. I am sure he also missed home and also wanted to spend some time playing around in Russia. It has been five years since he moved out of home for college and then for work. Now I miss that summer when I knew he would return home in a few weeks.

Serving others motivates us and gives meaning to our efforts

My daughter likes home-grown vegetables like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. That practically is the incentive for me to grow them every year.

I enjoy watching her pick the red ripe cherry tomatoes and put it in her mouth. She likes cold cucumber dish. She has done a good job watering them while I was in China.

This year, with her being away for the summer program, I thought of her when I saw a ripe cucumber on the vine or a bunch of red cherry tomatoes. I wanted to wait till she gets back but I know they won’t wait for her, especially in this hot weather.

Sometimes, serving others motivates us and gives meaning to our efforts. Moreover, we are willing to serve when our service is appreciated.

One in the west, the other in the east

Yesterday, my son and his girlfriend flew to California to join their friends for a week of fun there. He called home yesterday evening before the plane took off. As always, I am so glad he called.

Early this morning, we left for the airport to send my daughter to Pittsburgh, PA, for a three-week summer program.

Yesterday evening, I took her out to pick up some of the items that she needed for the trip. While on the car, I told my daughter to make good use of her time at home now as she will find it a privilege when she looks back years later.

“You will not have this carefree, all-study-time once you are on your own and after you work. See how many vacation days your brother has now.” I told her.

It is always like this. We begin to really appreciate what we have until after it is gone. Same can be said of our children. I miss them greatly when they are so far away.

“I don’t know”-the Answer Children Give When They Are Too Lazy to Think

It is funny how children are alike in their behavior. On 2/6, a friend of mine told me that her child gave many I-dont-know answers when she tried to make him think by asking questions.

It sounds so familiar as I see the same pattern from my daughter. Every time when she is too lazy to think, she would come out with IDK. Sometimes when I push for more question, she would tell me to leave her alone, a more direct way of telling me “It is not that I don’t know but that I just don’t want to think.”

As parents who know what is best for their children, instead of giving up, we should insist on doing the right thing. We might change our questions or change topics or ask when is the best time to talk or simply explain one more time the benefit of using our brain. Do anything to set children think. Do anything is better than giving up our efforts.

When My Daughter Goes to Manhattan, Kansas

Today is Friday, the 20th. My daughter will go to Manhattan with her school for a state competition. If the team makes it, they will go to national this year. This morning, she took with her my laptop and cell phone, as her laptop is still at Apple store.

Yesterday evening, as I prepared her snack, she asked, “Mom, what would you do if I am not here?” Well, she must have seen me busy around her, attending her various needs when she is home and came up with this question.

It gives me a warm feeling that she has noticed this and cared enough to ask. Actually, she knows that I have many plans and many things to do. At least, she knows the house is in serious need of cleaning. Only I seldom have time for these small items and big projects.

Instead of going to her school right after work at 3:30 pm, here’s what I will do today:
(1) take a walk or jogging;
(2) sort through a pile of documents to see how much paper junks that I can get rid of;
(3) get ready 2011 tax filing documents;
(4) dinner, probably not?
(5) read;
(6) if I still have energy left, I might do some cleaning to get the house ready for Spring Festival.

Recalling, New Year Resolution of 2010

My son wrote this when he was half way through his third year of college life on the New Year of 2010.

1) Get at most 1 B next semester, raise GPA to 4.4
2) Proficient at web programming — PHP, MySQL, Javascript

1) Run & workout consistently again every day, 4 times a week on average.
2) Eat healthier, cook more for myself

1) Raise incubator/angel money for a startup idea and/or become ramen profitable ($2000/month)

1) No more set and forget
2) Cut living expenses to below $800/month
3) Start using Mint/Tracking finances

I dug it out on 8/29/2011.

Highlights of the Year 2011

Here are some memorable moments of the year in my life…

My son graduated and we all went to Boston to attend his graduation ceremony on 6/3/2011. And he came back for a few days before heading back east.

My daughter went to a summer camp on 6/25/2011, first time being away for so long. I went back to China the next day.

My son started working in New York in mid July 2011.

My daughter became a National Merit Scholar for her high performance in PSAT.

My son came back home for Thanksgiving break on 11/23/2011.

My son came back for Christmas with his girlfriend on 12/22/2011. So delighted to have more people in our house.

My daughter went to New York yesterday to spend a few days there.

We had a few gatherings with friends either at our house or theirs.

I am happy and grateful.

Thus Happily Ended This Thanksgiving Holiday

It has been raining since last night. We got up at 4 early in the morning to send my son to the airport for his 6 AM flight to NY. He called home around 8:30 AM upon his arrival there, thus happily ended this Thanksgiving holiday.

It was a short visit from late Wednesday afternoon to early Saturday evening. As usual, my daughter was not happy to see her brother leaving. I said, “Just be thankful that we had him for the Thanksgiving. He is always busy. Plus the hardship on the way, with ear-pop, having to get up insanely early, and being so tiresome on the airplane.”

As always, we talked and I feel assured once again to learn of his plan and effort, unremitting as before. I told him it was terrible to stay put, be bogged down and become a lifer in one place.

The biggest challenge is yourself, a product of your habitual way of thinking and getting things done. The inertia dictates us more powerfully than in natural world. It is a challenge to surpass yourself and see if you can think differently from yourself.

It is always a renewing experience for both my daughter and me, knowing what he will be doing and what he expects of us. We just keep doing the same thing, though being so far apart.

What Are We Thankful on The Day Before Thanksgiving

It’s the season to count our blessings.

First of all, my son is coming home today for Thanksgiving break. I am greatly thankful for this.

We will have a family friends come over tomorrow. Gathering with friend always adds joys to the festival.

With so many people unemployed, I am glad I still have a job to occupy.

Seeing young cancer patients at our clinics, I have to feel blessed for being healthy.

Let us hope we can all stay happy and healthy.

“Don’t do anything that won’t make your mother proud”

A few days ago, I forwarded to my son my posting on 6/6/2011 on MIT commencement address by Ursula Burns. I hoped he could keep up the MIT spirit and not stay put in his position.

I wanted to tell him that it gives me an immence pleasure and pride when I mention him to my colleagues. But I didn’t. I think he knows how proud I am of him.

I told my colleagues how my son walked out of college debt-free and with a good job in New York. I knew I sounded like bragging and I shouldn’t, especially in front of some people whose children could not find jobs and had to move into their parents’ house after college.

“Don’t do anything that won’t make your mother proud.” — I don’t think this is the great motivation for young people to work hard. Still, I am as proud as a peacock because it is the right thing to do.

Car Payments, Being Good Is Not Enough

On the evening of 5/25, the last day of school for my daughter, I took her to Target for a walk, as it was raining outside. While walking, we talked about many things.

I told her that one female colleague of mine back in 1999 at DMR Consulting group was hugely worried when there was layoff because she carried four car payments plus her house mortgage, four new cars: two for the couple, two for her daughters. Why did they have to have new cars when they could not afford them? We have never bought new cars. Our cars are all one-year-old pre-owned cars and we never got loan for our cars.

At some point, the topic changed to being a good person. She asked me why being a good person was not good enough. “Not doing bad thing is good, but it is a not-worth-mentioning good, because it is too easy to be this good. Also, people don’t simply accept what you claim. The difficult part is to prove you are good in a creative way. Remember, as with many things in life, the harder it is, the more credit you will be given.”

My Son Is Not a “Jonathan Franzen”

Recently, I was reading Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom. A very interesting one. More on this later.

On 8/23/2011, while I was at work, upon learning the earthquake in Virginia, I emailed my son, asking if he was ok and hoping he could fill in some detailed description about the quake in New York.

“yep no worries, everything’s fine here.” was his answer.

On the one hand, I wish he could write more; on the other, I would not like it if he fills me in with too much insignificant details. No nonsense. No dissecting details. I like it this way and hope he can remain so. After all, he is a typical man, nan-zi-han, not a Jonathan Franzen type.

Parents Should Insist on Doing the Right Things

On 4/21/2011, I accidentally came across an old memo book. I opened it and found it used to be my daughter’s allowance book. It says, “1 day = $1.” The first page has four columns. Their headings are Date, Math, Total, Signature. The date lasted from 10/7 to 10/21. I think the year was 2004.

I don’t remember exactly what happened. But I do remember I once worked on two things with my daughter. One was extra math work; the other dealt with allowance. To be sure, she did not want to do anything extra at that time and she did want allowance as her classmates had.

I showed my daughter this record with her handwriting. Both of us agreed that it would benefit her tremendously in terms of her math skill and her money management, if she had kept up this practice. Too bad it lasted only two weeks.

When I look back, I realize that I should have followed it through. It is entirely up to the parents to insist on the beneficial practice for the children, even if it means some unpleasant moments. The children will be grateful to the parents when they become mature.

I am certain that Amy Chua’s children would not have been so accomplished if she gave up as I so often did with my children. I hope other parents can learn something from this incident.

Hardships Can Be a Good Thing to Young Folks

My sister told me that her son jokingly complained about the hardship of leaving home for America. This reminds me of the complaints made by another young relative when he first came in May 2006.

Understandably, nothing is the same when he lives away from home, with no one serving his meals, washing his clothes, etc. Even air conditioning is not as cold as it is at home. The young man said it was like living in China’s countryside. Indeed, it must be so for most of children of wealthy second generation.

They are like growing up in a bottle of honey, metaphorically speaking, with everything provided and without ever tasted a day of hardship in their lives.

I once told my sister that for most people, coming to America could be life-changing experience. First of all, you got nobody to turn to and have to be utterly independent by working your way up. Secondly, with a heightened sense of insecurity, you are more keen on saving than spending. Hence, you have to learn to live a more thrify life in America than you are in China.

I thought my sister would go soft on her son, telling him to buy whatever he needs for his comfort level. She turns out much wiser than I thought. She thought it a good thing that her son had some tough days in his life, the so-called tasting bitterness (chi ku) in Chinese. She said children growing up in China now were too much spoiled, having never known what hardship means in life. With this experience, he will learn to be tough and appreciative of what he has in life.

I wish my children had an opportunity of going through some form of hardships in life. Such experience can exert life-changing impact on people.

Summer Camp, A Step Forward

My daughter came back from her summer camp on Saturday, 7/16. She was excited and was nonstop talking all the way back home. I could see she has benefited tremendously from this experience.

This is the first time in her life that she shared a room with 18 girls! Living in such close proximity forced people to become intimate friends in a day or two.

This is also the first time that she left home on her own. She has demonstrated a clear sense of right and wrong when she talked about some people in the camp. She has coped well with life outside home, made many friends and could turn to them for help when she needed. This is like a prelude to and preparation for her college life which will happen in two years.

It is such a pleasure to see the changes in her through this experience. A worthwhile camp!

Chinese Parents Sending their Children to America

On 7/5/2011, I went with my sister and her son to the embassy of the U.S.A in Beijing, where her son would apply for a student visa.

We left home a little after 6:30 in the morning and found a long line already formed outside the embassy. It was nearly 11 by the time we headed home.

Most of the visa applicants were young students. While they were inside the embassy, their parents were waiting outside for many hours, over three hours in our case. Seeing these anxious parents, I thought of this Chinese saying.

Must-Have Good Manners

I read this piece from Parents magazine, 3/2011 “25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9, helping your child master these simple rules of etiquette will get him noticed — for all the right reasons,” by David Lowry, Ph.D. My children are relatively well-behaved, still there are rooms for improvement, esp.. #16, 20 and 21.

1. When asking for something, say “Please.”
2. When receiving something, say “Thank you.”
3. Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.
4. If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.
5. When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.
6. The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.
7. Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.
8. When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.
9. When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.
10. Knock on closed doors — and wait to see if there’s a response — before entering.
11. When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.
12. Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.
13. Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.
14. Don’t call people mean names.
15. Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.
16. Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.
17. If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me.”
18. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.
19. As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.
20. If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say “yes,” do so — you may learn something new.
21. When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.
22. When someone helps you, say “thank you.” That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!
23. Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.
24. Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.
25. Don’t reach for things at the table; ask to have them passed.

Count on Your friends When You are Away from Home

Early yesterday morning, the whole family went to the airport to send my son and daughter off, one to Boston, the other to Michigan. Both had transfer in Chicago. After I got back with both of them being away, I felt like having a preview of what life would be like in two years. It is really scary.

This is the first time that my daughter left home alone. On the way to the airport, I kept pumping advices into her. Of course, safety is always my top concern. Next, take good care of yourself so that you don’t get sick.

This is what I kept telling both of them — you have your parents when you are at home, but away from home, you will have to count on your friends if you are in need of help. That means you must make some friends after you leave home. Create your own circles. Parents cannot be with you all the time.

I still remember when my 17-year-old son returned home from Russia, safe and sound, excited and full of words about his experience. Hopefully, through this experience, my daughter will make a big step forward in terms of maturity, independence, and responsibility.

Old-Fashioned Advice Still Holds Value

Tomorrow my daughter will fly to a summer camp in Michigan and my son will fly back to Boston for the new position. And I will leave for China on the coming Sunday.

It is a short stay and a very enjoyable one. We already have a lot of good time together, though I know I will never have enough of this good time. Still, a man got to do what he got to do.

Before he leaves, I make sure he keeps in mind the key points that I made on his graduation date. I told him they might be old-fashioned advice, but they are still very much valued. You won’t go wrong if you could follow them.

(1) Be a good person.
(2) Never lose sight of the large picture of life.
(3) Learning is a lifetime endeavour.
(4) Always see greatness in others and find improvement in yourself.
(5) You are valued not by how much you possess but by how much you give.

Know Thyself and Manage Your Time Well

On 4/24/2011, around 5 PM, seeing my daughter taking her late afternoon nap, I said to myself, “Here she goes again.” That is, she always feels tired around this time of the day and then positions herself well for a nap. As the result, she will push back her night time sleeping. What often happens during those midnight hours is she cannot concentrate on her study and gets distracted easily.

I often tell my daughter — know yourself, which means know when you can work most efficiently so that you can better manage your study and make best use of your time.

We all have our prime time of the day. Know yourself so that you can avoid fighting an uphill battle when you are least likely to win it. Know yourself so that you can play to your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

Same can be said of studying while listening to songs. If you find yourself more into the lyrics of the song than into your study, you are better off shutting it off or choosing a piece of light music if you need a background noise.

Graduation ceremony Part I

MIT ceremonial mace
We are in Boston today, attending my son’s graduation commencement.

I told my daughter that I was going to write a short graduation commencement-speech for her brother. She has the following for her brother.
(1) Be happy
(2) Be kind to all
(3) Less is more
(4) Read children’s books
(5) Live everyday like it were your last day.

I know I could drag on for many pages and frighten away all readers. Not this time. I told my son, “You won’t go wrong if you can follow these five points.”

(1) Above anything else, be a good person, all the time, which is defined as being kind, honest, unselfish, and ethical; and link your efforts to a higher calling than a mere self-serving one. Thus you will not be easily deterred by any temporary setbacks or loss. This is the moral foundation of your success and happiness.

(2) Life is an epic journey. While treading steadily each day, never lose sight of the grand scheme of things.

(3) Learning is a lifetime endeavour. Find your own role model; always have a goal to pursue. Make a point of learning something new everyday.

(4) Our life journey is a humbling one. It takes a great heart to be able to always see the greatness in others and find improvement in yourself. This is the key to building great relationships with anyone and an essential ingredient to your personal happiness.

(5) Keep in mind by the end of the day you are valued not by how much you possess but by how much you give.

Finally, take good care of your body and soul.
Love, always.

On Wesley Yang’s Paper Tiger Part IV

Wesley Yang expresses more hatred of Chinese upbringing through the mouth of Daniel Chu, “When you grow up in a Chinese home,… you don’t talk. You shut up and listen to what your parents tell you to do.” This is a grossly overgeneralization. My daughter commented, “At our house, almost the opposite is true. It is I-talk-you-listen.”

Yang through Chu further said, “I’m trying to undo eighteen years of a Chinese upbringing.” Is Chinese family upbringing so horrible? He further challenges reader — “How do you undo eighteen years of a Chinese upbringing?” as if Chinese upbringing were so pernicious that one had to uproot it. Is he trying to instigate an uprising against Chinese family and the values it stands for?

By the way, I consider my Chinese family a normal one, in which my children sing and whistle, hop and skip as they wish. I encourage my children to seek out friendship with whoever they like, black or white or yellow. They go through normal adolescent awkwardness but survive without the “social deficiencies” or “Asian alienation” that Yang assumes all Asian-Americans must be plagued with. And I don’t consider my children’s upbringing experience an exception.

As far as I can gather, Yang is trying to purge out from his system any traumatic childhood experience from his Korean family through this writing. Safe catharsis. If that’s the case, write a personal memoir instead of projecting all the evils on AAA– All Asian Americans!

P.S. the main reason that I have reacted so strongly to Yang is I don’t want to see any people burdened with so much self-hatred. My daughter said I have been talking about the same thing over and over again. That put an end to my relentlessly chewing out of Yang’s writing.

On Wesley Yang’s Paper Tiger Part III

In fact, Wesley Yang hates not only the mainstream Asia values but most of all, he hates his own face. I must say Yang seems to be suffering from some kind of hard-to-named mental illness. He starts his article with a derogatory self-description and with a very unflattering picture of himself, more like someone from a state jail house or more pessimistic than that.

“Sometimes I’ll glimpse my reflection in a window and feel astonished by what I see. Jet-black hair. Slanted eyes. A pancake-flat surface of yellow-and-green-toned skin. An expression that is nearly reptilian in its impassivity…” trying to tell readers, “Look, how repulsive I am…” He certainly has succeeded so far. He must have kicked his face millions of times behind the scene, which he believes deserves no better than this.

He reveals his mental illness when he says “Here is what I sometimes suspect my face signifies to other Americans: ….” I mean why do you care so much of what other Americans think about your face, as if they care to think about it? Your face is your business. Beauty or ugly is your judgment. Don’t flatter yourself as if your face ever deserved anybody’s attention.

Obviously, Yang presents an extreme case of low self-esteem, originated from his inability to accept his physical appearance, the stage that teenagers tend to go through but rarely seen among healthy adults. Of course, it is common among psychologically unhealthy adults.

He then goes on relating his feeling of estranged to that of millions of Americans as if he were not alone in finding his own image so unacceptably disgusting. Such a preposterous assumption!

Here’s what I have to say about your face: You may not be able to choose your race or racial features, but it is entirely up to you as to what facial expression you want to put on and what message your eyes and your whole face want to convey. We all like to see people showing confidence and sunshine in their faces, black or white or yellow. Look at the lovely face of Yo-yo Ma and millions of his like.
Not done yet…

On Wesley Yang’s Paper Tiger Part II

On the value of your culture…
Yang suffers from two major crisis: identity crisis and self-image-hating crisis. He identifies himself as one of the whites but sadly he is not; he loves the physical features of the white and hates his own.

This is his personal problem. To me, the real damage is he speaks on a major magazine and talks as if he were the voice of millions of Asian Americans. Nothing is more hideous than this!

Yang knew he would be able to get it published if he could cater to the popular taste by lashing out this extremely self-disparaging piece against his own race–a popular trick. Yes, he did find his own voice by spitting on the face of his mother and all people she represents. Wonderful job!

If Yang hates Asian values so much, he has the choice of rejecting every bit of them, without having to attack these values across-the-board.

We all came from somewhere and have to move on in life from where we came from. Number one rule is: accept and acknowledge who you are and where you come from. Number two: improve and make change at wherever improvement is needed and changes can be made. To those, white or black or yellow, self-hate is a huge burden on life’s journey. It only serves a hastened self-destruction.
Not done yet…

On Wesley Yang’s Paper Tiger Part I

I recommended to my daughter Wesley Yang’s article “Paper Tigers: What Happens to all the Asian-American Overachievers When the Test-taking Ends” May 8, 2011. After reading it, she made one comment, a rather pertinent one, “He has lots of anger.”

Exactly so. In fact, he used one single word to summarize his feelings toward Asian values on filial piety, grade-grubbing, Ivy-League mania, deference to authority, humility and hard work, harmonious relations, sacrificing for the future, and earnest, “striving middle-class servility” — that one word being an F-word. I try to understand why he chooses to use an F word here. My feeble brain fails here. Maybe he thinks it can grab global attention as Amy Chua’s book has obtained. So vulgar!

He must have been severely traumatized by these values. After going through his long writing, I still cannot figure out what is wrong with these values. Why does he hate them so much? Something not right with this writer. What is it?

Not done yet…

Graduation Time Again

On 5/17/2011, on my way back home from Neighborhood Wal-mart, I saw people in fine dress flooded in SMS for this year’s graduation ceremony. The scene brought to my mind the same event four years ago when my son graduated from there. It seems like only yesterday. The day was as chilling as it is now and my mind was heavy with all kinds of worries.

In less than two weeks, we will fly to Boston for his college graduation. I cannot explain why time rushes by so fast, leaving a feeling an unspeakable sadness. I know I need to give more meaning to life before another four years zooms by. This way I won’t regret over a meaningful experience.

The Song That Carries a Message

Find some time to go home;
With smile and good wishes, often go back home
with your children and your spouse, often go back home.

Mama wants to chat while Dad provides dinner;
Share with mama some daily annoyance;
Talk with dad things at work.

Often go back home
While parents don’t expect anything from their children,
They look forward to the time of family reunion…

When this song first came out around 2007, the year when my son was about to leave his Kansas home for Boston, I often sang it. Probably because it sounded so nice at that time. My son heard me singing it so often, asking me “Mom, are you singing this song so that we will often come back home after we leave?”

It was funny that he thought this way when I just sang it for fun and unexpectedly sent him this message. It’s been four years since then. I do miss him, though time has mellowed out the initial sadness over his leaving.

Our Experience Shapes Our Character

I remember during my middle school years, some people were quiet and shy. They were so timid and lack of confidence that they were even afraid of hearing their own voice when they talked. But as years moved on, some of them changed to their opposite.

For timid and shy people, very often, it is a vicious cycle,– the more they are afraid, the less courage they have to hear their own voice, the more tightly they zip their lips. If they don’t venture out of their own shell of shyness, they will live a life of self-imposed confinement, a life of limited experience, without bringing out their full potential.

I keep telling my children that one’s characters are neither static nor pre-determined. It is up to them to experience what the life has richly offered and to build a strong character and cultivate a more open personality.

Happy Birthday, My Dear Daughter

On your sweet sixteenth birthday, the song Rolf sings to Liesl in Sound of Music comes up in my mind.

“You are sixteen going on seventeen
Baby, it’s time to think
Better beware be canny and careful
Baby, you’re on the brink

I am glad to see you have continued getting mature and are working assiduously toward your goal, even if you have your doubts and are nebulous about your future.

It always warms my heart when I see you trying to be nice and considerate. Every time you proactively manage your time using a time tracking mechanism, I see you are on the way to better self-management. I know you will always try to get the best out of whatever situation you find yourself in. I have no doubt that you will become an individual that you are proud of.

Happy birthday, my dear daughter.

P.S. the snow gently fell as the day closed. Just two of us today. Her brother called early in the morning wishing her happy birthday. We went outside for lunch, then to library, then to get a cake of her choice. She went out with a friend yesterday.

Happy 22nd Birthday on 22nd

The literal meaning of these words is “Read ten thousands of book; travel ten thousands of miles.” The real meaning, well, is open to interpretation. I interpret it as “learn and put into practice as much as you can.” After singing “Happy Birthday to you,” this is the birthday message that I have for my son on his 22nd birthday.

Ever since my son turned 18 and left home, he has spent his birthday away from home either by himself or with his friends. On his 20th birthday, he was alone on his way to South Africa. On his 21st birthday, he was on his way to California for an interview. Today he is with his friends in Paris as part of their tour of Europe. Parents have to get used to their children being away and remotely wish them Happy Birthday. After all, happiness is what really matters, be he a small boy or a big man.

P.S. today also marks the 1000th posting. What a lovely coincidence!

Volunteer, Contribute and Put Value Into Your Time

I had a very labored Skype conversation with a young relative of mine last week. He is in China right now. I have talked a lot trying to convince him some of the values which I take as a matter of fact.

(1) Always try to put values into your time, especially when you are young and full of energy. Don’t be stupid enough by fooling away large chunks of your time.

(2) If it is the right thing, do it no matter what others do. Don’t find excuses for your failure to do so. Whatever other people are doing is not your business. If you are not doing the right thing, you have only yourself to blame. Don’t be a loser by not taking responsibility for yourself.

(3) Volunteer and contribute whenever you can find time for it. Nobody likes selfish persons, no matter where you are, even if everybody is selfish.

Remembering the transiency and limitation of human existence, we are around this time this place only once. Do something, reach out, make difference, put value into your time, instead of gaming out your youthful time.

No Teacher-Parent Conference

On 2/11/2011, last Friday, my daughter did not have school due to teacher-parent conference day. For both of my children, I stopped going to TP conference ever since they started middle school. It is said these conferences are reserved for kids with school problems. Thank goodness, mine are not among them.

I took the day off, using my last year’s carryover vacation days. My daughter needed to do some project at library with her classmate. So, there we spent the whole afternoon.

Evening saw me shopping at Costco and BestBuy. We bought a 10-inch screen netbook for light and portability. My daughter was so tired that she took an evening nap. By the time she got up and was ready for some work, I was ready for night sleep.

Life Is More Than a Journey

Last Saturday, 2/12/11, on the way back from her drawing lesson, I chatted with my daughter about life being a journey. There is even a poem by Jack London on this. I said, “This saying is too platitude to mean anything. Life is much more than a journey. My daughter said, “It is an adventure. It is many things to many people.”

From the hell to the heaven,
There’s no straight way to walk.
Sometimes up, sometimes down.
Hope creates a heaven for us,
Despair makes a hell for us.
Some choices are waiting for me,
Which one on earth is better?
No God in the world can help me,
Choosing is the byname of freedom,
Different choice makes different future.
It’s stupid to put eyes on others.
I have to make up my own mind,
Going my way to the destination.
Facing success or failure,
It’s no need to care too much.
Only if I’ve tried my best,
It’s enough for my simple life.
–By Jack London

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