Happy Birthday to me!!!!!

My son gave me an early birthday wish yesterday. Even better, my daughter texted me telling me that she would Skype with me tonight after class. They all made my day a special one.

At office, my colleague bought cupcakes for me. Two emailed me birthday wish. The sunshine committee gave me a birthday card with good wishes from many colleagues. They all further warmed my heart.

Wish me happy and healthy in the long years to come…

Happy Birthday to me!

Like all weekend morning, I got up early to start my morning walk today. I consider the recent trip to Paris the best birthday gift that I could have, so I really don’t expect anything different today.

After I got back home, I went upstairs to wake up my daughter. I knew she wanted to watch Meet-the-press Sunday morning show at 9 AM. As soon as she woke up, she shouted out “Happy Birthday!” That was a real joyful moment.

After breakfast, they asked me where I wanted to go today, since today is my b-day. I said I wanted to go to Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. So we went and, took some pictures and had some fun time.

My son woke up really late today. He called me around 2 PM to wish me happy birthday — another sweet moment of the day.

They went out to get a birthday cake for me. Instead, they came back with a blueberry pie, which is very delicious and more healthy than a cake.

I spent the day sorting through pictures that we took while we were in Paris from 9/1 to 9/9, and recording our activities there.

A happy, healthy day, I can’t think of anything else that I would expect.

Random thought on Mother’s Day

This year’s Mother’s Day came and went. I sent to a young relative of mine a video praising the unselfish love of mothers. He told me he already talked to his mother.

Mother’s day is once a year, but mother’s worries are 365 days per year. Very often people don’t realize this until they themselves become parents. I am no exception myself. This is not to blame them for not realizing this. This only states that fact that it takes certain years and experience to become mature and understanding.

Happy birthday to the best mom!

Happy birthday 09132014

On 9/9/2014, I told my daughter that “I must do something that will make both of you proud of.” Yes, I am still trying to be a good mom to both of them.

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.

A deadline could make you work more productively

Finally, on the last day of this October, I decided I must impose a deadline on myself for this CPHIMS exam. I told myself I would always feel not ready if I kept telling myself so and kept postponing it or if there is no deadline.

Right now I poured most of my off-work time on the preparation, putting aside everything else, like getting the house really ready for the children to come back home during Christmas holiday, like starting the project or art craft that I am so anxious to, like experimenting with plant propagation, like reading the books that I cannot put down, like contacting some friends, like writing here and other places, like getting myself healthier, etc.

Finally, on 10/31/2013, I took my courage in both hands and registered and paid for this exam, a hefty amount. Well, still not courageous enough when I gave myself three weeks to get ready and scheduled it on 11/22/2013, six days before Thanksgiving.

I have to get it behind me before Thanksgiving as I need time and the state of mind to get house ready for some friends to come over for that day.

The strange thing is after footing the bill and have a target day, I find myself more productive than before. Certainly knowing a deadline forces me to be more focused and productive.

The November 13, 2008 trip to China

Below is the note that I jotted down on a notepad for my 2008 trip home. I keyed it into computer before the note was discarded.

11/13/2008, left for airport around 6 AM, although the flight departed a little after 9 AM. The first transfer was made in Detroit. From there I got on the plane for Tyokyo Narita airport. Three Chinese youngsters were sitting by my side. They must be students at some college, yet they looked so young and I couldn’t believe they were heading for school at this time of the semester. So I couldn’t help asking them. It turned out that they were seniors at Qing Hua University, having been to MIT for a biology-information technology competition. Now they were heading back home.

I learned from them that the Qing Hua team won bronze while MIT got the gold. They were young, intelligent and eager to learn, which reminded me of something in the past. At first, they thought I was a visiting parent, going back home.

On the long flight home, I watched some movies, which reminded me of my children. I told myself after I got back home I must find some time to watch movie with my children. It’s been a long time since we did that.

11/17/2008, I went to a local hospital to have a physical checkup
11/18, I went to Tong Ren hospital with my mother
11/19, I went to have lunch with the Dong sisters at Xi Dan
11/19-20, my mother went to Guang An Men
11/21, I went to Hao Yu’s apartment
11/22, I went to Xi Dan Bookstore to buy some simplified French novels
11/23, I learned from the Skype that there was a fight between my daughter and another youngster at my house in the U.S.
11/27, I left for the U.S.

Happy birthday today

For the first time in 24 years, I celebrate my birthday without my children around. Still, to keep up the spirit, I say to myself in front of the mirror,
Happy birthday!”

As a gift to myself, yesterday I went to Whole Foods store to pamper myself with a bag of chia seeds and flax seeds to continue the healthy eating practice that my daughter started this past summer.

My best birthday gift came when son called right after he got up this morning, wishing me happy birthday. And my daughter called shortly after that, another birthday wish. This set me in a bright festive mood in a huge way.

Getting ready for my daughter’s college years

I have been rather busy lately, not only getting my daughter ready for college but also getting myself ready emotionally for the time when she is away from home.

Every time when I think of the moment when I have to say goodbye to my daughter, like I did to my son 6 years ago, I feel a strong sadness coming over me. I know this time is different. When my son left, I still have my daughter around.

I will try to keep myself busy by enrolling in some free online courses via coursera. If that’s not enough, I also set some new goals for myself, like getting some certifications, leaving me no time to feel anything. Hopefully, I can go through the initial period and stay healthy, positive and even better productive.

The stove that sings, a woman’s memory of her childhood

On 12/13/2012, a friend of mine sent me this story by Chi Zijian. Below is the beginning and the ending of this short piece.

The stove that sings

The author records a piece of her childhood memory, a sweet one in hindsight, when her father took her and her sisters to the snow-covered mountain in winter. I am not sure if the father was aware of this far-reaching impact on his daughter. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether or not he was aware of that. What matters is the result.

Reading piece like this often leaves me with a feeling of regret and then of sadness because, once it’s gone, I cannot relive those precious childhood with them. I should have done this or that with my children to make them happier.

A holiday mother

A friend of mine sent me this writing by Yan Lian-ke. It describes his mother’s reaction when she learns of her son’s home coming.

In the past I would relate this to my mother’s reaction to my trip home. Situation is different now. Ever since my son left for college in 2007, I have experienced the same excitement and expectation when holiday is getting near.

Of course, this year as he will be home in ten days, I am as excited and busy as before. Look forward to this simple joy of reunion.

Tyler Perry on his motivation, his mother and his father, part II

Tyler Perry’s father was so abusive that Tyler once went so far as to consider suicide as a way to free himself from his abuse. Because of this experience, he hated his father all his life until he was in his 30s when he “started on the path of letting go.” Because he realized that “If you’re holding on to the anger and the pain of what someone has done to you, you are not hurting them at all, you are hurting yourself.”

“… the anger was the fuel, but what happens – and this is why a lot of people don’t want to let go of the anger… And once I forgave him, I was no longer angry. So I lost the motivation, and I lost the fuel.”

When Terry Gross asked “So, what’s it like for you to take care of him [his father] after he was so cruel to you?”

Tyler Perry said, “… first of all, I believe you honor your father and your mother, period, no matter what, no matter who they were, no matter what they did; …”

The money is an easy partWhat he doesn’t have with me, which I think is worth way more than money, is a relationship – a father-son relationship.”

Indeed, it is one thing that a child fulfills his filial duty to the aging parents; it is another when they have this genuine parent-child relationship — with open communications, loving care and respect for each other. No money can buy this parent-child relationship.

Tyler Perry on his motivation, his mother and his father, part I

On 10/15/2012, while driving home, I listened to NPR program — Fresh Air’s Terry Gross interview with Tyler Perry, the screenwriter, director, producer and actor.

There are many excellent parts in the interview. One of them is the following, when Terry Gross asked him “When you started making money, … what were your dreams of what to do with your money? Was it to, you know, just, like, reinvest it into more of your work? Or were there, like, material possessions that you really wanted?”

Perry answered, “I had one dream and it was to – and when I was a kid I told my mother I would take care of her so she wouldn’t have to deal with my [abusive] father. And I didn’t know how much of a driving force that was until she died. That had been the burning fire in the pit of my soul for many, many years. And I never thought any amount was enough.

“I know it sounds really crazy but I was working so hard and didn’t realize it until the day she died when I had no motivation, no – nothing. Didn’t want to do anything. Didn’t want to get out of the bed. Nothing mattered, as far as work and success. So that was my motivational factor, just to be able to support and take care of her and give her the life that I felt that she deserved and should have always had.”
To be continued…

Full of remorse and regret, A friend’s memory of his mother

On 10/12/2012, a friend of mine sent me a blog that he wrote to mark third anniversary of his mother’s departure. Below is what I sent to this friend of mine. Guilin is his wife.

I shared his writing with my children. “I got the message, mom.” I was thus told. I also sent the link to my sister’s son in Houston, Texas.

After reading this, I was struck not only by the sad remorse the writer expressed but also by the greatness of a motherly love his mother had shown to her son all the time. That love had remained unchanged, no matter how immature the son was. This is the same message that I mentioned here on 10/10 posting on Liang Jizhang’s letter to his son.

Many people fail to understand and appreciate this unselfish, unremitting and unconditional love that their parents have shone on them until late in their life or until it is too late. By the way, I feel a huge comfort when both of my children have understood now.

I like the response from another friend,

Happy birthday, once again!

Got to think of some fun thing to do on this day.

The influence of a mother on her daughter

One of my co-workers has two granddaughters at about the same time, one from her daughter, the other from her daughter-in-law. As I watched the development of the two girls, I was amazed to see them going into different path because of different mothering.

While her daughter’s girl grows very much like her daughter who is very similar to her mother, my co-worker, her daughter-in-law’s girl grows like her mother, the daughter-in-law who is a teacher and a book-lover.

Even at this young age, I can pretty much predict that these two-year-olds will grow up more or less like their respective mother, one going to be home-centered, playing to the full the role of wife and mother, the other going to be more professional in addition to her role at home.

Talk about the power and influence of a mother in a person’s life!

Always remember to take care of the number one person, you!

On 4/24, I received an email from a colleague of mine back in 2005. She sent me this statement — “Always remember to take care of the number one person, you!” with an attached statement —

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born & how you become most truly alive!!!”

I think I read it before. It seems I read it as a Mother’s Day reminder. With this, I suddenly remember that number one person is myself. I will try to remember this on this special day for mothers.

P.S. my son called from San Fransisco this morning to say “Happy Mother’s Day.” Indeed, happy I am.

Whitney Houston’s Death and Her Daughter

I always feel it is unforgivable that Whitney Houston should have left her 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, at the time when her daughter needs her most.

It is especially sad when Bobbi told Oprah Winfrey that “Sometimes it’s so surreal. I still walk into the house, like, ‘Mom?’ But I’ve accepted it,” she said. Really? Has she already accepted the reality that there is no more Mom in her life?

We know Bobbi was so shattered over her mother’s sudden death that she had to be sent to hospital several times following her loss of Houston.

I always wonder if life would be different for both of them if Whitney Houston had not had this infamous drug addiction.

A Mom Is Forever Busy

“Life Lessons for Busy Mom
(1) Make time to nurture yourself
(2) Take charge of your parenting rules
(3) Implement creative solutions
(4) Feed your soul
(5) Keep an organized home
(6) Solicit help
(7) Make time to slow down”

I dug out this piece right befor Thanksgiving break when I was cleaning some old clusters in my house. That was before my son left for college in August 2007.

Rush, rush, rush everyday and make time for this or that. Time is exactly what a busy mom needs most. I have felt strongly all these years, especially when I was crazily busy. A mom is forever busy as long as she has her children in her heart.

The Most Heart-Wrenching Part in Anna Karenina

A few weeks ago, my daughter bought Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I read a bit of it. To me, the most heart-wrenching episode is in part 5, chapter 29-30 when Anna went to see her son, Seryozha, on his birthday and when it was time for her to go.

“…he cried in despair through his tears, and, clutching her by the shoulder, he began squeezing her with all his force, his arms trembling with the strain.” He had no idea that this would be their last meeting.

The episode reminds me of the moment when my son was two years old and just started his first week at daycare. He was crying most miserably the whole day and the whole week until he got into fever.

I didn’t genuinely hate Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, Anna’s husband, until this moment. He intends to punish Anna and make Anna miserable by taking her son away from her. What a sad and depressing book!

Happy Birthday Once More

The song goes like this --- " Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...!

For the past five years, I have received a nice little birthday card on or before the day from my previous manager. She left before KU bought us over. One less on the list.

Happy Birthday, Momwrite!

More than once, I was asked this question, “How do you find time to write and post everyday?” The answer is: I don’t do it everyday, though the post comes out on daily basis.

I have to admit that on some day I seem to have endless words in my mind that are ready to be put on the screen; on some other days, I don’t feel like writing or even doing anything at all. For once I was thinking of posting whenever I feel like it, then let days passed without when I am not in the mood. But I never take that route because I know my readers would rather see it everyday, though not very long. This has since been my principle: short and sweet everyday.

In the end, the actual post producing process is like this. Everytime I have something to say but not feel like writing, I jot it down on a small notepad which I carry with me all the time. When I have time and feel like it, I sit down and start writing. I cross out the note and tear off the page after writing. Sometimes, I write 5 or 6 or more postings at one sitting. Then I schedule them for some future days to come out.

As the years turn, the focus of my attention shifts from children to other stuffs which include health, education, politics, career, economy, and anything that may interest or puzzle me like Obama.

When the Weather Was Too Hot to Stay Inside

On 6/6, a hot Sunday afternoon, I drove my daughter to the local library around 2 PM. We felt the scorching sun relentlessly burning our skin and our whole body, making our lives so uncomfortable.

As we approached the library, I told my daughter there must be plenty of people because of the hot weather. She thought my idea was funny. I told her of our life in Ohio when her brother was a baby.

We lived in an apartment without central air conditioning system. Some people bought window air conditioner, but we didn’t because of the appliance and electricity cost. Remember we were students living on scholarship. With weather like this, I often sought shelter from the heat by taking my son to our school or to the library or to stores and came back after the sun had gone to bed. Sometimes, he played there and then took a nap while I was doing my school work.

My daughter said she was lucky she were not there. Still, I would not miss the opportunity to share with her this part of family experience.

Different People Have Different Way of Living

On 3/25/2011, a Friday evening, my mother mentioned this saying when I talked to her over the Skype. To be sure, this is not the first time that I heard of this. But this time I think it very sensible for people living in a mixed culture environment.

The acknowledgement that different people have different way of living implies respect and tolerance of differences, not to be judgmental, that we should live and let live, which is easy said than done.

When we judge people using our own standard, we easily forget that our standard is not an universal one and it is not fair to others when we expect others to live up to our standard as if our standard were the best and other’s were no good.

Tiger Mom on Time’s 100 of the Year

On 4/23, a Saturday afternoon, on the way back from Leawood library, I told my daughter that Amy Chua being one of the Time’s 100 of this year. She said she had read about it from the Internet.

Later, on the way to her drawing lesson, my daughter commented that anyone on Time’s cover and on Time’s 100 list was rather phenomenal. “Yes, her book made her famous,” I said.

I am sure there are numerous parents who are successful in their own way. But in a way Amy Chua is unique because she has committed to writing so that her unique experience is known to all.

In our office, there is a saying, “If it is not written, it has not happened.” So it is true in our life. The passing of years and decades will dilute and wash away our past experience unless we write them down.

To be sure, writing is a diligent and very rewarding work. It will pay huge dividends in the long run. Just look at the short-term gain of Amy Chua’s magnus opus.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a Chinese Mother, Part IV

It seems we never have enough of this Tiger Mom topic, at least between my daughter and I. I told my daughter I wish I had a book like this 20 years ago so that both of them would have turned out more disciplined and resilient than they were now.

“Her two daughters were not born yet,” said my daughter.
“I mean I wish someone wrote a book like this 20 years ago,” I explained.

“Yes, I wish I had a tiger mom, then my piano skill would be a whole lot better than it is now. I will be a tiger mom when I have children, but definitely not someone like her.” she declared. She wants to be a nice tiger mom.

Next she asked me why I did not insist on her more piano practice when she was five years old. I was a bit surprised over her question. Then I am glad she is mature enough to realize that early discipline will benefit her in the long run.

An acquaintance of mine called Amy Chua abusive and should be sued because of that. Being a Chinese, she often acts more Americanized than Americans. I am not sure if her comment was an attempt to either cover up her sense of guilt for her inadequate parenting or excuse herself of her irresponsibillity.

Some Chinese parents are rather content over their children’s achievements when they compare their youngsters to American kids. This is a short-sighted attitude. Keep in mind, when facing a future of global challenge and competition, their proud cubs are no match to those from China. But here comes this Tiger Mom who has prepared her youngsters for the tough roads ahead in the world.

The more I think about my parenting experience and chua’s, the more I recommend this book on the strength of its parenting philosophy, the more I admire her for the sacrifice that she has done for her children. In fact, my daughter even suggested that we buy a copy.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a Chinese Mother, Part III

Amy Chua is nakedly honest in her book and in her open criticism of western parenting. I admire her courage and 100 percent honesty, which is as rare as giant pandas among Asian Americans. She is one of a kind in that she makes a battle cry instead of an insect humming, which is most of us do. Otherwise, how can people pay any attention to the humming of an insignificant ant. In fact, it is high time that someone stood out with a book like this. A huge thankyou to the author!

A psychologist might say the harsh standard would ruin a happy childhood and leave permanent wound in the hearts of the youngsters. Amy Chua challenged this assumption and their erroneous parenting philosophy, and put to shame millions of American parents by pointing out the undesirable consequences, which has yielded one of the lowest education achievement among developed nations.

She also makes people re-think what is good to the next generation and to the nation in the long run — a playful childhood, game and TV followed by a poor and a miserable adulthood or hard-working childhood followed by a rich and happy adulthood.

I accept her philosophy. In fact, I agree with the spirit of the book whole-heartedly, though I cannot go with her method of putting it into practice. Once again, her actions have been the direct consequence of her unique personality. Nothing is more stupid and narrow-minded than assuming that there is a tiger mother like Chua behind the success of every Chinese kid.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a Chinese Mother, Part II

Below is a quote from the book, which I wholly agree.

“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something–whether its math, piano, pitching, or ballet–he or she gets praise, admiration, and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes easier for the parents to get the child to work even more.” p. 29

Talk about raising a happy child, my daughter agrees with the author that nothing makes her happy until she performs well at school or gets prize at competition or feels she is really good at something. She also knows clearly that only through the bitter hard work can one enjoy the sweet fruits of accomplishments.

Don’t we know this — no pain, no gain. As with anything in life, a carefree childhood can potentially mean a poverty-stricken adulthood, poor in body and mind or lifelong dependence on wellfare. Because of this, the country needs millions of tiger mothers who dare to set high standards for their children and enforce reasonable rules for them to follow.
To be continued…

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a Chinese Mother, Part I

If anything, Amy Chua, the author of the newly-published book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, certainly knows how to be controversial or make enemies out of her readers.

Honestly, I like the book and have read it, which does not mean I endorse every word of it. I applaud her parenting effort and her sacrifice of large chunks of her time, though I cannot be like her, not because I am any nicer than she is but because we are different in our personality. It takes both a cultural background and a unique character like her to generate her kind of parenting style. I have known many dedicated Chinese parents but have never seen one like her. She is one of a kind.

While some people see the harsh discipline that she employed in raising her children and dish out harsh words against the tiger mother, I see tremendous responsibilities and sacrifice that this Chinese mother has done for her children, which, sadly to say, are not often seen among American parents. I have to admit that I have not been as responsible in parenting as she has been.

American schools would not have yielded so many losers and dropouts if there were more responsible parents like Amy Chua. While she raised her children to a higher level of living, many American parents have kept theirs to the level of bare existence.

Some parents, under the excuse of giving their children a “carefree childhood”, are in reality finding excuse for their irresponsible and careless parenting. Shame on these lazy, irresponsible and selfish parents!
To be continued…

A Parent Gets What She Deserves

On the morning of Thanksgiving, I went to a Chinese family to talk to the adult daughter about her mother’s health issue. She came back home from out of town for the Thanksgiving break. The daughter’s attitude has been consistent: go back to China. After the daughter left, the mother said to me, “See that’s what she always says.” I told her it was actually a good idea that she went back to China and see doctors there since her English is not adequate. “No,” said she, “She wants me to move back to China and never come back! She thinks I am her burden.”

Now I understand why she would not tell her daughter about things that she should. I remember once the daughter said something like this to me. When the daughter was little and needed her mother, the mother was not there for her. The mother spent all her time earning money. Now the little girl has grown into a mid-20 years old woman and the need reverses, that is, it is the mother’s turn to need her grown-up daughter. But the daughter is not going to forget and forgive.

It is a pretty sad case. Yet, by the end of the day, you are the one who determine the type of repercussion from your previous action. Trust me something always comes back to us, like or not.

A Parent’s Complaint

On 11/26, Friday evening, at a friend’s house, I met a mother who sounded like complaining when she talked about the fact that she only had one child. “It would be nice if we had two children. We would not have this empty nest when she left. All because of my daughter. She did not want a younger sister or brother when we asked her before. Now she is all alone and has to support the two aging parents by herself.”

The 24-year-old daughter was sitting by her mother motionless as if she were talking about someone else. I could see the daughter must have got used to her mother’s complaint and no longer feels anything.

When I told my daughter of this incident, she said the mother should not complain now. “How can you listen to the small child when she doesn’t know what is really good for her? When she is big and wants a sibling, her parents are too old to have one.” Interesting to hear both sides of argument.

Enjoy the Song

A Piece of High School Memories

During the long labor day weekend, we went to a friend’s house for a gathering. My friend has three children with two currently in a private school. She told me one of the reasons for their leaving public school is this — she does not like the unreasonable restrictions imposed in public schools. She herself grew up in China where strict rules dominated everywhere. She disliked these rules so much that she did not want her children to go through her experience.

This brought me back to my high school days, filled with not so pleasant memories. I remember one boy who often acted like he was above the rest of us. Once he presided over a meeting — too many of these meetings — and I was supposed to listen with all my ears, but somehow, I saw him as nothing but a mouthpiece of the teacher. Why should I listen to him? I did not even care about listening to the teacher. With this, I started writing from memory the poems from the Dream of Red Chamber, not that I like this novel but because I thought anything was better than listening to someone I found hard to respect. Because of this aberration, I was publicly criticized.

My daughter said I was quite of rebel. Not exactly, because I never thought of replacing that boy. A rebel would first observe those who lead, then contemplate how to replace them.

Don’t Dwell on the Past

On 7/4, a Sunday, I touched on the topic of writing life stories and I asked my mom to write about her past. Last weekend, when I checked with her about her writing, I found out, well, it was not a good idea. Instead of bringing her happy memories, it left her feeling sad when she thought about the past with six of us in the house; now she lives by herself. “I don’t want to write about the past. I want to learn something new,” she said.

She is right. I have to admit that it is not advisable to dwell upon one’s past when one is near 80 years old and home alone. It can leave one feeling lonely, depressed, and wishing for days that are long gone.

Last Sunday, on the way back home from skating, my daughter asked for a kind of therapeutic oil. Since she just bought one not long ago, I told her if I bought this for her, it would be the last till the end of the year. She agreed with the term, so we went.

Also last Sunday, when I talked to my daughter about the flowers that I gathered for her grandfather, she asked, “Mom, you realize it’s fake,right?” I shared this with a friend of mine. He came back with these words — so true — “tk time for kids to know, there are flowers in our hearts that last longer and smell better than those you can see and touch…”

Write Our Life Stories Before They Become History

During one of my daily chats with my mom last month, I told her to start writing. “Just a little bit everyday, or whenever you want to write, anything from your childhood, youthful years, the army life, my father’s life stories, or stories from our childhood, or your observations today. Don’t force yourself and don’t make it a job as if you have to write. Write when you feel like.”

I told my mom she wrote for us just as I was writing daily for my children. “You would think that they read it, right?” asked my mom.

Of course, I am motivated by the thought that someday my children will come back to these writings. Yet, on a deeper level, I write because I have something to say, because I am writing about my life’s experience and I value whatever I have experienced. It is my life story, my living history. If I don’t value my life, how can I expect my children to do the same?
On 7/1, while at work, a friend of mine called. We talked about writing again. I encourage my dear friends to write any time they feel like. Their memories and experiences are like antiques or any collectibles, gaining value as time goes by. As a matter of fact, they are the best collections for our children.

Remember: write before you forget. Write before we become history.
By the way, happy fourth of July! We have one day off because of this.

Second Year Anniversary of Momwrite

Early last month, while my daughter was reading my blogs, I threw in this, wondering aloud, “Sometimes, I think it a waste of time to write stuffs here, 30 minutes or so a day, they will be a lot if you add them up.” “Of course not,” she said. “I can even use the parenting tips on my children. ‘See what grandma wrote.'” She even plans to show my blogs to her children. That’s a very foreseeing thought. Her response is more encouraging than I expect.

Now knowing the “spiritual wealth” that I have tried to pass onto my children could reach to the third generation, I am more than ever motivated to keep it running.

Every time I write something that is meant for my son’s attention, I call him to let him know it.

In summary, I have been and will still be writing for my relatives, friends, my children, and now possibly my grandchildren. Isn’t that wonderful!

(1) Relatives and friends.
We often find time running faster than anything in the world, having no time especially for our dear friends. I miss meeting and chatting with friends far and near, old and young, the farther and older, the dearer. The site is always a portal where they can get an update and where I feel connected in my way.

(2) My children and their children
It may be years or even decades later before they ever come back to these postings. They will catch a glimpse or snapshot of what was going on at the time of the writing. I don’t expect them to understand the writer, though they will surely do years later, possibly. For now, this is one way to tell them how much I love them, now and forever.

A Mother’s Heart is Easily Content

Indeed, it is so easy to please a mom. A call from my son already makes my day without hearing him say anything, knowing busy as he is and he still thinks of his mom.

I received the following from a friend of mine the day before the great Mother’s Day. This is such a darling expression, without any embellishing. I bet his mom would be super-delighted if she read it.

P.S. When I translated the above writing to my daughter, I realized that a translation is in order. Here it is.

“I notcied many writings on Mother’s Day on the Internet. I am not sure which day it is. I call my mother roughly twice a week, talk over some trifles, dine with her over the weekend. I have never said to her, ‘I love you, mom.’ Deep in my heart, I don’t need any holiday to remind me, I know she is forever the one who loves me most in this world.”

Writings on Mother By Winston Churchill and Others

These writings came from renown people.
Mother made a brilliant impression upon my childhood life. She shone for me like the evening star.” — Winston Churchill

“The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother and to become fully independent.” Erich Fromm
Mother is the home we come from. She is nature, soil, and ocean.” — Erich Fromm

“A man who has been the indisputable favorite of his mother keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror, that confidence of success that often induces real success.” — Sigmund Freud

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” — Mark Twain
“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” — Honore de Balzac
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” — William Ross Wallace

I feel so much better now.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My son called at 7 AM this morning, wishing me Happy Mother’s Day — to me, the best gift a mother can get. My daughter greeted me with a hug and “Happy Mother’s Day” as I returned from the yard work. This constitutes a perfect day for me.

On the Friday evening of 2/19/2010, my daughter asked me to take her to the Border’s bookstore. Actually I enjoy going there, better than cooking and cleaning at home. After she had done part of her homework and practiced piano, I took her there for an hour as a break. I took up a book on mother or rather a collection of sayings on mother. Boy, people have so many nice words about their mothers! Here are some of them.

“A mother understands what a child does not say.” –Unknown
“By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction.” — Anne Sullivan
“Her children rise up and call her blessed.” Proverb 31:28
If a child lives with approval he learns to live with himself.” — Dorothy Law Nolte
“A mother is she who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take.” –C. Mermillod
Good parents give their children roots and wings, roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what is been taught them.” — Jones Salk
“Mothers of the race are the most important actors in the grand drama of human progress.” –E. C. Stanton
Never fear spoiling children by making them too happy. Happiness is the atmosphere in which all good affections grow.” — Thomas Bray
“… a good mother gives her children a feeling of trust and stability. She is their earth.” K.B. Hathaway

I am always impressed by the number of ways people give compliments to their mothers. Tomorrow I will post writings from famous people on mother.

Lectures, Pep Talks and Mental Toughness

My children think I give them too much lectures and pep talks as if they did not need any of them at all. As a matter of fact, we all are not as strong as we would like to be and all need some kind of pep talks in our daily life. Instead of going to church every Sunday, these pep talks strengthen us up so that we can be able to shoulder our responsibilities.

Just last Friday afternoon a high school classmate of mine called from California. I was home already while she was still working. I told her of my work schedule, up at 6 AM and back around 3 PM, feeling exhausted before the day ends. Still, I need to drag my feet till midnight. Sometimes I feel my legs are giving away. She feels the same way. I am sure many responsible parents are doing exactly the same thing for their children.

I often recall to my daughter how difficult life was when my son was small and I was working on my dissertation and teaching for money and how I managed to beat the deadline each time and accomplished what I started for.

With motivation and positive thinking, you need to be equipped with certain mental toughness to tide you through any adversities in order to reach your goal. This toughness is what we all need.

How Much A Mother Will Do For Her Children?

On Tuesday evening, after calling my family in Beijing, I was mulling over this question. The next day the same question still hangs around in my head. I learned of one mother’s extraordinary way of helping her child. She realizes the limitation of her teaching and influence on her adult child, especially when the child is far away from home. She is also keenly aware of the randomness of fate and so many things that are beyond human control, subject to forces outside us. Therefore, instead of doing nothing, she seeks every opportunity to do good deeds, believing “good deeds will eventually yield good returns” — the typical Buddist law of moral causation. The more good deeds she performs, the more good turns will visit her child. It is true as long as you believe it. Another mother works her head off to accumulate wealth so that her child will have enough to live on.

I shared this with my daughter on our way to her art class yesterday evening. She said the first child should do the good thing himself. “Gee, I never thought of this,” said I. “It is so obvious. Since this is for his good, he should do it to get the good return,” she answered. On the second mother, my daughter thought it so pathetic. “You certainly have a different view from mine,” I commented. “It’s because you are different,” said she.

For me, I don’t have much money and have not accumulated plenty of good deeds for them to enjoy Karma effects. I am, in my own quiet way, plodding and blogging everyday, so that years later when they have time and feel the need, they will have something to read and hopefully to benefit. I have no doubt every mother has her unique way in what she can do for her children.

Love and the Danger of Over-Mothering

One can understand mothering as acting as mother, giving tender, loving and nurturing care to the child by someone in the role of mother. This someone can be either mom or dad. One would assume one would not go wrong, at least not too far wrong, as long as one acts out of love. Wrong assumption.

As with everything that is supposedly to be good or out of good intention, it definitely goes to its opposite if one overdoes it. And even if one believes one acts out of genuine maternal love, one should realize that it takes some grain of wisdom to bring about desirable result, regardless of one’s initial intention.

Here are the damages brought upon by over-mothering or mothering without the support of adequate wisdom. I see too many examples of over-mothering and think it necessary to dedicate a posting on this topic.

(1) Do as much as one can for the children even if the children can do it, depriving children the opportunities to learn and do by themselve. A child can never develop into a strong and capable adult if he/she is protected like a little chick, always under the wing of the hen.

(2) Show over-concern and over-attention when assigning a task to a child. Such over-concern reveals more distrust than anything else, deflating whatever self-confidence that child might have in the first place.

(3) When a mother throws a strong figure, exercising control, influence and authority, or anything opposite to democratic style, the end result is a flat wimpy loser, which is the reflection of a failed parenting. So tragically true.

(4) Beyond age 3, any babying, pampering, cradling, in the name of love, serves more for mother’s psychological or emotional need for being hugged and cradled than that of the child. More than anything else, a child needs a psychologically healthy parent to grow into a normal healthy adult.

Alas, I have more than ever before realized so much is needed to be a good and wise parent and so few of them are seen in real life.

Advice to Working Moms

I read it somewhere years ago. I don’t remember the details and I don’t even remember if I have posted this before. Even if I have, I still feel obligated to share some key points that are still stuck in my head. Here are these main points.

(1) You are not superhuman. Don’t try to do it all, at home or at work. Say “I cannot do it” or “I don’t know how to do it” in order to excuse yourself from as much duties as possible, especially at home.

(2) No matter how busy you are, never miss the BIG THREE things: eat healthy, sleep well and exercise daily.

(3) Manage your time well — listing and prioritizing.

(4) Spend as much time as possible with the children.

(5) Never miss a chance to grab a book and read with your children.

(6) Finally, my best-kept trick is — do as less housework as you can get by because housework is endless and back-breaking.

If you wait till you finish all the chores, you will find yourself miserable — doing it all the time and leaving no time for children and for yourself. Pretty soon you will hate this life of domestic servant, unpaid and unappreciated. How not darling!

Like mother, like daughter. A New discovery!

On a Wednesday evening, I took my daughter to a sporting goods store to buy her a pair of skate shoes. She has been skating almost everyday since spring break. I am glad to see she has made some friends on the rink. While having some fun with her new friends, she has noticed most of the children there are younger than she is. This must have prompted her to practice hard and make giant leap forward.

She asked me if I ever felt depressed. This reminded me of the moment after I handed in all the term papers and finished all the exams, at the end of a semester. I suddenly found myself having nothing to do and nothing to keep me busy. And that was the moment when I felt rather low in spirits or depressed. So I told her, “It is when I found myself going about the life without any goal or pursuit that I feel depressed.” She said she felt the same way. “I must have a goal to live on,” said she.

Like mother, like daughter. A new discovery!

One Year Anniversary of Mom Write Part 1

The site certainly deserves a better candle than this one personally drawn by the site owner. Time to celebrate at least for having been around for one whole long year.

6/22/2008 — the date seems so right to me, all can be evenly divided by 2, without any remainder — thus a lucky day. Well, one year later, today, 6/22/2009, marks one year anniversary of Mom Write site. Time for a little bit reflection. I went back to see my initial justification for the birth of the site. Now, I greatly realize that one needs to be revised or simply done away.

Reflection? Why bother? One might ask. Well, there got to be some reason for any activity. For now, all I can say is it makes me feel good if I do because I got into the habit of looking backward after a few forward steps. I know it is going to be boring and I could be worse than being boring. Still, bear with me, since it is like your birthday, only once a year. That is, no lunar year birthday.

To be sure, writing is an intellectual activity, a verbalized product of what the writer experiences externally and internally and the interactions between the two. Like all human activities, we all tend to give meaning to it, so that we will feel better when we tell ourselves, “Ah-ah, we have had a meaningful life’s experience.” But then, any meaning that we give to our experience is subjective in nature and could be light year’s away from the truth, if there is one or if truth really matters; and hence can be shrug off as excuses or apology or even shameless pretense.

This reminds me of Elie Wiesel’s book Night. In his preface to the new translation, he asked himself, “Why did I write it? Did I write it so as not to go mad … Was it to leave behind a legacy of words, of memories, … Or was it simply to preserve a record of the ordeal I endured as an adolescent, … ?” After many self-questioning, Wiesel concludes “I only know that without this testimony, my life as a writer–or my life, period — would not have become what it is …” What a heavy conclusion! No wonder he is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Back to reality, I think it best to leave out any statement on purposes and mission of my writing or of any activities and focus on the consequence of these activities. It is more objective to let end justify the mean. The following observations are presented in the order of their appearance in my consciousness:

(1) One of my relatives has been reading my postings nearly everyday. I have no doubt that her English reading level has been greatly advanced through this language exposure. Not that my English is exemplary but this daily exposure certainly yields positive result.

(2) Writing can be viewed as a channel of expression and an exchange of ideas or prejudice, reach out, good or bad. I am glad to see some responds to my writing and their positive comments are so encouraging.

(3) One rule that I set for myself is to stay positive simply because I do not want to ruin readers’ day or night, depending when it is read. However, staying positive can be a challenge sometimes if you experience negatively and are in negative mood, only mathematically possible when a negative times negative producing a positive result. Still, the process of writing it down does attenuate your negative feeling and then reading it afterward helps lengthen the distance between you and your experience, and enable you to put things in perspective. That’s why I find writing rather therapeutic. Even though I never produce anything of good quality when my head is boiling with anger, I still write it while memory is fresh and expect fire to be burned out eventually. I am sure we all have this moment, once in a while.

I realize one of my major weaknesses is having produced too lenghy postings to encourage active reading. I promise to cut it in half after this celebration.

To be continued tomorrow…

Our Generation– Growing Up in a Honey Jar

We were often told that we were born into and growing up in a honey jar, never having tasted the bitterness of the pre-liberation old society. Our parents should see what a real honey jar is.

To be sure, we grew up never feeling deprived of basic daily necessities, even though we did not have TV, car, computer, cell phone, even toys, etc. I remember I took apart our stationed radio and sitting clock. Must be really bored. Since our parents were so dedicated to their work, they never thought of making money as the goals of their lives. Thus, when we came to America, nearly all of us came on scholarships, not a penny from our parents. Even so, we could save enough to send money back to our parents to fulfill our filial duties. When I was pregnant with my son, I worked at a restaurant and did what the third year Ph.D program required me to do.

20 years later, the next generation came along. As I observe children like our 26-year-old relative and reflect upon my own children, I can see the undesirable side of growing up with more money than it is good.

Unlike our generation, most of the children of next generation came to America fully funded by either their parents or their relatives, not on their own merits. They never have to work during the summer or anytime at all. What’s wrong with this? See what actually happened.

The young man came here in 2006 first to learn the language, then got into a graduate program. It took longer than expected to pass English test and much longer to complete a master program. After 3 years, the runner is still running and expecting to reach the destination early next year. Would you take this long if you had to fund your schooling with your own hard-earned money? Life has been too easy and money flows in without their lifting a finger. In reality, money has served to weaken or even destroy their wills to strike out on their own.

More than a waste of money, a person actually wasted a few years of his life if he can actually start working at age 27. I learned that this boy was doing better than some other spoiled kids of this generation who need much longer time than he did.

To me, the waste of time is the biggest crime that a youth can possibly commit. Imagine how much value you can contribute to society, to your family and yourself in these 5 years from age 22, college graduation to age 27! A 22-year-old young man would work for anything, had his family not been so wealthy!

The third generation, that of our children’s, enjoy more wealth than we did during our childhood. Yet, if you think money has helped make their lives better, think again.

The end for part two. To be continued…

Three Generations: Our Parents, Our Children and Everybody in Between

A friend of mine called me last Monday, asking about my children and what they were doing during the summer. Next she talked nearly non-stop about her boy, who is younger than my daughter. Well, to be exact, her mind was fully jammed with complaints about him and his addiction to computer games. I told her that my son was like this when he was this age. We simply have to keep on working on them until they become a bit mature. We cannot risk not to intervene.

She said she was very much on the verge of giving up her effort. “I remember when I was small, my parents never worried about us. We just took care of ourselves and were never like kids of this generation…” Indeed, our parents never spent this much time on us and we still grew into responsible adults.

This brought me back to these long-gone care-free childhood days, the way we were brought up and the memories that I have of my parents and their generation.

My parents grew up during China’s civil war years, before 1949. Both of them grew up in countryside, joined the army and then communist party, after 1949, settled in big cities. Throughout their lives, they believed in dedicating their lives single-mindedly to the revolutionary cause, with total self-sacrifice and self-effacement. They totally immersed their own ideal and dreams into those of the large cause, always subordinating self, their family to this large cause.

Not that they did not love their children as much as we do ours, but that they were not supposed to think of their children as much as we do now. Their thoughts and their lives were very much influenced, shaped and determined by the times and society they happened to find themselves in. That is, they were not able to transcend their times and environment.

In fact, our parents were as much the products of their times as we were of ours. By the time we, the second generation, became parents, times have changed so fundamentally. One thing for sure, opposite to our parents, we always think of our family and our children first, work last.

So much for part one today. To be continued…

Another Busy Weekend Rushed by

This is an unusually busy weekend for all of us. My daughter only went to the art class on Saturday morning and did not go to skating lesson in the afternoon because she wanted to go to the airport to meet her brother. My son came back yesterday afternoon, around 1 PM. His big cousin came back from China last weekend. The other adult in the house went to get him back from his school.

While he was at school, my son was always busy. Now that he is home, we got a lot to catch up, bombarding him with all sorts of questions on his summer job, his friends, his school work, and his life at school. We went to China Buffet for dinner, five of us. After that, my son went out for a movie with a few boys from his former high school. That was yesterday.

Today he went to lunch with a few girls that he used to hang out with. The other adult sent the cousin back to central missu. Meanwhile, I took my daughter to skate. After that, I started packing for son, getting ready for his trip tomorrow. I prepared some carrots, celeries, and other fruits so that they will not feel sleepy on the way. He will drive to Atlanta, Georgia early tomorrow with his friend, where they will start their summer job. My daughter and her brother watched a movie together till late at night, way after I have gone to bed.

So glad to see him back, even if only for one and a half day. Man got to do what he got to do, regardless of what.

Mother’s Day Celebrated, Marked and Observed

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. So darling that a day is reserved for mothers! I should be touched. Indeed, I shall be. I called my mother in China only to find her having left home 10 minutes ago to a tourist spot out of town.

My son called just to say Happy Mother’s Day. He will come home next Saturday and leave for Georgia next Sunday, where he will start his summer intern job. The fact he remembers the day is the gift in itself. My daughter gave me two back massages, instead of none, as a special treat on Mother’s Day. What a sweet present. They know the best gift to a mom is to do the right thing, which is enough to make their mom happy.

I spent some time on my plants corner in the house. I had to stop in the middle of it. Too much stress on my back. The rest of the day was spent on some “good-for-nothing” books. I was determined to do less household work in order to observe Mother’s Day.

I wish everyday could be Mother’s Day. I guess fathers would wish everyday be Father’s Day and children wish everyday be children’s day. We should be better than being so self-centered. How about not?

A Drinking Mom Has Recovered from Her Drinking Problems

As luck would have it, I found the same Parents magazine 9/2005 issue yesterday while waiting for my daughter. There is an article which is in a way related to Girls’ Night Fun article. It is the story written by a drinking mom about her drinking problem. We all drink, like tea or coffee. Don’t get me wrong. This mom drinks alcohol. Here’s the confession from this loving mom. “I started drinking when I was in high school. Growing up in a tiny rural Iowa, teenagers didn’t have much to do except drive around and guzzle beer … and the highlight of our social life was keg parties. I realized now that’s when my drinking problem began.” She and her husband were hard partiers when they were young. She was smashed thoroughly every night. p. 198

Here are some sober facts:
–24% of American kids live in a home where a parent or another adult is a heavy drinker, in other word, not sober;
–An estimate 5.3 million women in the U.S. drink so much that they put their health, safety, and well-being– and that of their children–at high risk;
–9% of young women, age 18 – 29 drink so much that they are considered alcohol-dependent.
–Women get drunk more quickly than men, nice.
–Even a moderate amount of alcohol has greater health consequence for women than for men;
–If the drinker is a mom, the consequences are even more far-reaching.

One lesson: parents watch out for those girls’ parties and alcohol drinking in the youngsters. A teenager drinking problem can easily carry into her adulthood.

Good news: women tend to be very successful in recovery. This is why her story has a happy ending, that is, she became a new person after going through some programs.

How Parents Can Help Late Bloomers

A friend of mine talked to me about her 7-year-old son. He is a kind boy by nature, yet his kind-heartedness is not returned by his playmate, a neighboring child who mistreated him. He is not aware of the non-reciprocal nature of his kindness. Sounds so familiar to me. Yes, I had this experience when I was little.

I told my daughter of this last night while walking outside. She was rather vindictive, saying the boy should ditch that playmate. I told her that both she and her brother behaved like this when they were his age or even older than this. Even worse, I was not better than that boy even when I was in middle school.

This is my experience when I was in middle school. I remember a classmate who was a whole lot less friendly than this playmate. We had been together since daycare years. She was far more mature than her peers, being the lead of the group wherever she went, with me being the opposite and serving her like a small pawn in her big plan.

When I was in 7th grade, she, being the so-called cadre of the class, often had late night meeting at school which often ended around 10 PM and I, being her friend, never failed to wait outside classroom and accompany her all the way to her house. We passed her home on the way to my home. I remember exactly that I was scared after I sent her to her home and ran all the way through a long narrow lane, across the street, through another long block, non-stop dashing the home run all by myself, chased by the memory of ghost stories so popularly circulated then.

Upon being asked why I came back home so late, I told my parents, “She had a meeting and she was afraid to go home by herself, so she asked me to wait for her.” My parents knew there was still a distance between her house and mine and told me not to get home so late by myself. “It is not safe for you to walk all by yourself after dropping her to her house.” Still, I wouldn’t listen, for I thought I would do anything for a “friend.”

This girl also took advantage of my parents. When I went to a foreign languages school in Tianjin, she wanted to go, too, so she asked my father to send her there. So he did. Because of her busy extracurricular activities, she wasn’t able to give adequate attention to her study. Therefore, around mid or final exams, she sought me out to help her. I remember clearly how I helped her with her school work, giving her my class notes and sharing with her my talents and cool brain. During a school outing into wilderness, we stayed over a month outside home. By then she had become rather unpopular so that nobody wanted to be her neighbor. Again, she turned to me, knowing too well of my good nature. Again I did what she asked.

By the time I was in high school, nearly everybody had joined the so-called progressive organization of the youth The Red Guard. This girl, together with other class leads, decided who could become the member of this organization. She knew I was very anxious to be part of the large group, well maybe parents were more anxious than I was; still she voted against me because, according to her, I was not active politically and I placed study above politics.

I had served her in numerous ways. This was what she did in return. As far as I remember she had never done anything in return. I never realize I could be such a good servant, though not for any noble cause. I must have been eager to please others at that time. A sign of extreme immaturity or low self-esteem or whatever it is.

I would say I am one of those late bloomers, like a bad investment during a prolonged economic downturn, taking forever to mature, if ever as mature as some over-riped people. Now I don’t feel anything about that part of my experience. Or rather, I had never really suffered from it as I was not aware I had been unfairly used by a so-called friend. It might be a twisted version of volunteer service during my youth, as nobody ever told me to be this silly. Too bad nobody ever told me not to either.

I only wish my parents could have spent more time with me, opening my eyes and prepared me well for the diversities and the ugliness that inevitably ravage us on our life’s journey. In fact, I record my experience with this girl so that readers will know better and can serve their children better than my parents. No blame, no hard feeling so far. Peace prevails as long as nobody feels disturbed.

Bi-Cultural Experience–Identity, Belonging and Cultural Roots

Some children of minority families growing up and having socialized in white-dominant American culture might invariably experience certain degree of identity issue or that of belonging or cultural rootlessness.

I have observed this from the time when my son was at daycare to now as he is going to stand on his own. He expressed the wish that he wanted to be a white when he was 3 years old, playing with white kids of his age. By the time he was in high school, he was able to basically accept himself. Well, what can you do if not?

When he first left for college, he told me he would have one house in China and one in US. I realize he thought he was culturally rooted in both lands. I did not say much as I had doubt if he would fit in China.

From what I have seen there has been a severe lack of interactions and communications between my children and the two relatives from China coming to our house, one being 23-year-old at the time of his arrival, the other being 10-year-old. At first, I thought it a good opportunity for them to learn from each other, Chinese language for my kids and English for them. Can’t believe I am so simple-minded!

They grew up in two different culture environments and have next-to-nothing in common. My son kept chatting with his friends while his big cousin kept the chat via Internet with his. Right now, my daughter and the 10-year-old simply don’t talk to each other at all. “I have nothing to say to him,” as I was told. Living under the same roof like two strangers reminds me of John Higham’s book Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. Now I witness the book comes to life.

From this observation, I would think my American-born Chinese children would feel more alienated than a sense of belonging if they decide to live in China. The same can be said of us — we moved to America after we became adult and forever have this feeling of alienation from mainstream culture. Well, some did become Americanized when they go shopping like mad hares.

After more contacts with children from China at MIT, my son realized the difference between him and these Chinese children. Yes, you are a Chinese only in appearance and that can be deceiving. He told me during his last home visit that he gave up the idea of living in China.

How I love those serious-sounding topics of identity, belonging, and even to the point of crisis if not handled wisely! This may be part of growing pains, which might be outgrown like old shoes or the pains might be cured or dulled with the passing of time and gaining of experience and wisdom, if they ever gain.

There are more serious topics than this — how you are perceiced by others, how this perception influences you and the marginalization of living in America. This is too gloomy to talk about in this sunny day. Enjoy while the sun is not out-of-office. Well, actually it is sunny but very cold today, beautiful to look at from inside but not funny to go outside.

What A Mom Wants To Give to Her Children Part 4

Chinese parents have this well-known saying, “Looking forward to the day when the child becomes famous.” If I interpret it literally, it goes like this — look forward to the son becoming a dragon. What a magnificent dream! But how many of us are aware of the fact that we cannot go higher than our thoughts?

True, thought precedes action and can condition us and channel our desire and directions. See all those TV commercials with tons of money throwing there? They all serve to cultivate and channel your desires to their products, stimulating you to buy till your last penny.

Imagine when our minds are thoroughly buried in minute trivialities, busy fighting over these details, and cannot think anything better than our daily engagements, where else do we expect to end up? No where. We don’t “become dragon” by accident. The desire and the thought must come ahead of everything.

Therefore, this desire and the thought are the gifts that I want to give to my children so that their minds are nurtured with great thoughts, which will hopefully generate great actions someday. Also, when the goings go tough on their life’s journey, they will have the backing of these positive thinking to tide them over. Ideally, once these positive thoughts take root in them, they will guide their life through all weathers.

Yes, a mom must be able to think way down the road, sixty or seventy years ahead, if they make it that long, hopefully. Because you don’t want to see your child ending up like the son of Daedalus who flew too close to the sun, ruined his waxed wings and dropped into the sea. Well, on the other hand, the story also emphasizes the limitation of a parent’s word or advice. Daedalus did warn his son not to fly close to the sun but the boy forgot it all. So probably will be gone to the winds my words to my children. At least we have tried.

How to instill some lofty ideas into their heads? By reading books on great people and providing them with the virtues, achievements, and stories of these people, constantly chatting with them about dreams and ideals that they should have.

Remember a boy will never become a dragon without his thinking and dreaming of becoming one. You are the one who first impregnate this dream.

What A Mom Wants To Give to Her Children Part 3

It is true that very often money, in whatever form it may take, is the focus of what is desired by the children and what shall be passed on to the children, if there are some. For me, the teaching of money and life is one of the most valuable gifts that I would like to give to my children, priceless though the cheapest one.

There are tons of stuffs written on money, that money being a good servant but bad master, etc. Or money is not everything but nothing can be done without it. Money cannot make you happy but you won’t be happy without it. It is even mentioned in bible, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

I want my children to be aware of the relationship between money and their lives. While our life energy and time is limited, money is unlimited. There is no end of human desire for more and more because there are indeed more and more money and wealth if you strive for it, the more you make, the more you spend. But can you strive for more and more time and energy out of your limited span of life? No. Have you heard this, “Our span on earth is short.”

When we have to work for money, well, to make a living if you don’t have a large inheritance, we are in essence doing nothing short of exchanging our life energy and time for money, a limited for an unlimited and an unbalanced exchange, which we want to terminate as soon as possible so that we can enjoy our limited life by doing whatever we enjoy. Ideally retire at age 40.

Such a nice dream or perfect plan! Too bad not many of us can afford it! I remember a friend of mine told me, “When I was young, I wanted to retire at age 50 and start enjoying life …” Well, he is just like an Energizer Bunny, not that cute though, forever running, no where near retirement. Some friends of mine started having children after age 40 and will have to work their heads off to fulfill their financial responsibility for the youngsters.

Now what, after we know this relationship? Well, my advice for my children is like this. No paycheck, no matter where it comes from, can make you rich quickly and allows you to retire that early.

One of the legal ways to get rich this quick is investment — invest wisely and do it as early as possible, better starting it from your first paycheck. Yes, you got to leave some extra each month to invest. Saving needs self-discipline. You need to discipline yourself to put aside at least 15% of your income and invest wisely.

e.g. if your average annual investment is $15,000, after 25 years, with average 9% annual interest rate, interests compound monthly, the future value is about $1.4 million. If you start working right after college and can retire after 25 years, living comfortably with this saving. Of course, the more you make and invest, the less time it will take to reach your financial goal and then retire.

I told my children, “You will never have money for investment if you are like average Americans, living from paycheck to paycheck by spending every penny they make, when still not enough, start borrowing and finding themselves in heavy debt for the rest of their lives and finally never have a second to enjoy the most precious life on this earth!” I have learned many of my co-workers don’t even have money left for their company-matching retirement savings. Many of them started working in their teens and have to work till they drop dead!

A sad yet heavy lesson that I hope my children will learn as early in their lives as possible — get rich quick and enjoy life early. You cannot enjoy life if you are rich in money but poor in time.

One last thing — retirement does not mean stop working or doing nothing. It only means doing whatever we enjoy without having to worry about paycheck.

What A Mom Wants To Give to Her Children Part 2

Nearly without any exceptions, all moms want to make their children happy by providing what they want, such as cooking their favorite food and allow them to do what they enjoy. But a wise and really good mom knows what is really good for the benefit of her children in the long run.

I have observed a rather unhealthy lifestyle in some children. Such as the 25-year-old boy living in my house is disproportionally in favor of meat, especially frying steak, hot and spicy, large and tender, averting vegetable as much as he can, to the extent that he suffered from stomach ulcer and bleeding at age of 14, and suffers from hyperlipidemia and high urine protein at young age. His uncle blamed his mother for this eating habit, “My sister often cooks large chunk of meat for him just because he loves it.”

I have also observed many children demonstrating unhealthy lifestyle — unbalanced food and lack of activity, which result in high hyperlipidemia, childhood overweight and even early onset diabetes.

I have long before realized that many diseases are caused by unhealthy lifestyles. Yet, not until I observed these lifestyles demonstrated in some children did I fully understand that a mom plays an extremely important role in shaping and forming a healthy lifestyle in her children. To be sure, a mom is definitely responsible for children with weight problem. Such as, my children love fresh and delicious donuts and cheesecakes. I would encourage them to gain unnecessary weight if I provide them with it every time they ask.

Yes, you can see a healthy lifestyle is one of the best gifts that a mom can give to her children. This lifestyle includes balanced and nutritious food, no drug and smoke, and the love of outdoor activities, anything that is opposite to laziness and greediness. True, it is easy to say but difficult to promote and cultivate this lifestyle over a long period of time. It takes tremendous persistence, patience and a lot of talking and nagging to plant a healthy eating habit. A really good mom will try to do the right thing by giving her children what is beneficial to their long-coming life, regardless of what.

A Mom’s Saturday Work

I always have this or that plan for weekend, but never have it my way. I woke up before 6 AM on Saturday, trying to fix some breakfast for my daughter who needed to get school at 7 AM for science olympia competition. She would take school bus there and have the competition somewhere north of Missouri River.

I started working on applying for visa extension for the 10-year-old at my house. The boy woke up early today probably because of the noise created by my daughter’s early activity. As soon as he got up, he started chatting with his family over the internet. The loud noise from the conversation made me want to go out, but I had to get his application ready for delivery today. This I did.

I sped up and reached post office before it closed at noon, then to the bank, the library, and finally I did some grocery shopping.

Too many things that cried for my attention so that I found it hard to follow my original plan for my weekend — the 25-year-old nephew is in China but has to register for something like internship to keep his student status here. School has started there and we got to think of a way to pay for him. Sprint has just announced its plan for further reduction in force, in other word, layoff of people. Another one in the house needs to get ready for a trip to China, air ticket and purchase to name the least. My daughter keeps asking for skiing lessons and I needed to call around to find such lesson for her. The 10-year-old won’t quit crying for mama.

My daughter came home around 5 PM, indicating she wanted to go to Border’s. Great idea. So we went. And finally I got to sit down and rest a little bit at Border’s. Nothing extraordinary and nothing big accomplished. Still, I feel blessed for being around and able to do something for the children. I can’t imagine how dreadful it will be when I find myself nothing to do, all by myself.

What A Mom Wants To Give to Her Children Part 1

Mao Zedong once said “we communists are like seeds while people are like earth. Wherever we go, we must integrate ourselves with people. We will take root and blossom out among people.”

A mom’s worries go beyond a child’s years at home and follow her child wherever he/she goes. I had anticipated the time when my son would be far away. So, even before he left, I kept showing him this quote from Mao Zedong. “No matter where you go, the only way to be happy is make efforts to be part of the group, instead of isolating yourself.” It is not money, not any short-lived tangible property that I want to pass to my children but advices like this.

I feel this strongly at office, I meet as many different types of monitors as birds in forests. Some are cheerful, friendly and helpful; some are not. Some frank and straightforward, some just the opposite. Some leave smiles and good feelings behind while some others, make you want to say “What a good riddance” when they have left. They travel and meet strangers all the time. It is their attitudes that determine how they themselves feel wherever they go.

My son joined the college fraternity and was surrounded by friends soon after he left home. In fact, he has merged so well that he has found his home-away-from-home among his friends and has never suffered from home-sickness. He does not call home as frequently as some college kids, which is a thing good if you take it as his quick adjustment to the new environment. Isn’t that the way every mom wants her child to feel when her child is away from home?

By the way, one of my children once commented that if you failed to merge into the group and isolated yourself, it was your own choice and you were the one who suffered and the group would not be negatively impacted by this. I think it will take toll on both parties — the isolated individual and the group.

Note, in an attempt to become integrated, we need to avoid getting ourselves lost in the group. 1/21/09.

Random Thoughts on Motherhood

For the first time, I am thinking of writing about mom, yes, as if I had never done so before. Many thoughts rushed into my head as I hit the topic. The thoughts streamed in totally haphazardly. Let me count how many ways motherhood is defined and described. I am not sure if these are descriptions or expectations, ideal or reality, or combination of both, or surrealistical.

(1) responsibility — cannot shake this off her shoulder once she brought into the world a brand new life, too bad there are too many irresponsible moms, well, not as many as dads of this kind,
(2) love and care, total, unconditional and unselfish so that she should not expect any return when she gives, not like investment into stocks, as if she were real angel,
(3) privilege, indeed, but only to those who can recognize it,
(4) having the fortitude and courage, no matter how physically fragile she is, like a pillar of steel, shouldering the weight of the whole family. Have you ever felt this way? Me too. Isn’t that fair enough?
(5) having tolerance and flexibility, adapting your expectations to reality, relaxing your authority towards your teens,
(6) having patience and firmness, with terrible two-year-old and even terrible-two’s dad with temper greater than his weight,
(7) wise and knowledgeable, ready to answer whatever questions the children might come up with, wise enough to know when she should let go of control,
(8) here’s a catch-all phrase — demanding all the best qualities that we expect from a decent human soul so that a mother can bring out the similar best qualities in the children.

To me, on top of it all, it has meant all of the following:
total devotion,
no time-off duty,
never-failed dependability,
a guide or councilor when a need arises,
providing home in both physical and psychological, emotional sense,
sunny and cheerful when the children need you to cheer them up,
her responsibility for her offspring being as long and important as her life,
strong and optimistic when they need your shoulder to cry over or to lean on.

At some times, your healthy presence is all they need. Imagine how strong you must be for your youngsters, before you can rest your head on their shoulders if you can keep your head that long, not physically.

Mother should be a glorious title. No doubt it is arduous and laborious at time — education of the soul is never easy. Yet it can be a purifying, heart-warming, and rewarding experience.

In reality, we see moms from one extreme like Susan Smith murdering her children to another sacrificing her life for her child exemplified in China’s 2008 Sichuan earthquake, from restrict to indulgent type, from let-go to over-protective ones, from love with wisdom to love without … Just like seeing all kinds of birds in forests, we see all kinds of moms in real life…

For an ordinary mom like me, I feel there are so many things that I want to do for my children or want to pass on to them but never have enough time and energy. I wish I were as strong as a decade ago and could keep up with my youngsters in either walking or jogging. Gone are those days. Now, more than ever before, I am keenly aware of the fact that when a mom has a good health, she and her children have everything. Nothing matters as much as a mom’s health, not even money. A surprised discovery today!

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day”

Yesterday evening someone came home with an English homework, of which they were asked to write about the meaning of a wise saying and how it relates to the writer. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” She wrote the following,

“Even if you help somebody get out of a fix for right now, the problem is still going to be there, it is just been pushed back a bit. That is the fish-giving part of the proverb. And to really make a difference in that person’s life, you have to get to the root of the problem and actually solve it. … So the moral of the quote is that taking the long way and teaching a person a skill is a more permanent solution than simply giving.”

Children can prove more mature than we thought. I hope she now understands why I am willing to invest tons of money in her education but not that zealous on her other expenses.

Reflection from Beijing Olympics Trip

To my son. There is a doctor at our clinic who went to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. He came back from Beijing, excited and eager to share his excitement with his colleagues. He said Beijing was a fascinating place, so fascinating that he wondered why I chose to work here in Kansas. Indeed, not many places in the world can match Beijing in her richness in culture, history and life.

Good question. I have thought of this. For now, the main reason I stayed here is for my children to get a decent education. Once they have gone for college, so shall I. Currently my son is in Boston. My daughter is determined to follow her brother’s footstep to east coast. By then I will either follow her or go back home in Beijing, where I can either engage in coordinating clinical trials in oncology or teach English or something else that might fit my fancy.

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