The hot summer-like days in April reminds me of summertime


The past few days have been unseasonably hot, especially when I drove back home around 3:30 in the afternoon. The summer-like weather always reminds me of some lazy summers in the distant past. It always links to some good times that I had either during summer break when I was young or with my children. It seems summer time means no school, no teacher, etc.

When I was at Bowling Green, Ohio, working on my dissertation or in Fort Wayne, Indiana or in McLean, Virginia, I always spent the summer with my children, sometimes even going back to China for the whole summer. I used to think that people should not work in summer. We all should have long summer break.

It seems like the most wonderful time that I had was always in summer. The hot days always bring back my memories of these summer carefree days. And the memories of the long gone past often make me sad and depressed. I must make conscientious effort to keep myself cheerful by focusing my thought on the pleasant things.



Reading William Shakespeare, thought on adult world


There have been plenty of writings on Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Lately I kept thinking of one event in the play, that is, the age-old feud between the two families, Capulet and Montague. They have fought for so long with so many lives lost that they even don’t remember why they fought in the first place. I think of the term that was used here, bickering. The more I think about it, the more I find it extremely absurd and irrational. While the adult world is full of deep-rooted hatred and prejudices, the children’s world is one of love and many great possibilities. The questions that bother me is, what is it that turn children into prejudiced adults? what is it good for people to grow up losing their once childhood purity? How can we grow up and still keep that child in our heart? That is, how can adults be as pure and prejudice-free as the children?

10 quotes from Shakespeare:
(1) Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.
(2) If music be the food of love, play on.
(3) Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
(4) There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
(5) A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
(6) If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we no die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?
(7) Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.
(8) We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
(9) Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
(10) It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.



Thought for the day


No, I have not forgotten this site. It is not that I don’t have anything to write about, but I simply don’t have the time to put them out.

Yesterday at office, I was listening to something while working on something else. I caught this part,

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old. They grow old because they quit playing.”



Animals, Projections, and Reflections


A friend of mine sent it to me last year. I made my selections according to the instruction. The result was amazingly accurate. So I saved it for later reference.

First, you are asked to arrange these animals according to what you consider important from most to the least: cow, tiger, sheep, horse, and pig. Second, you are asked to describe the following: dog, cat, rat, coffee, and sea.

The idea behind the test is this – once we attribute values to these animals, they are no longer animals in our eyes; they represent what we value. And our choice and arrangement are in essence a reflection of ourselves. Here are their representations.

Cow represents career, Tiger honor, Sheep love, Horse family, Pig money. Your description of these animals are indications of yourself, of dog indicates your personality, of cat indicates your spouse’s personality, of rat indicates your enemy’s personality, of coffee indicates your understanding of sex, of sea indicates your attitude toward life.



Thought on a Cold Saturday


On 12/11, last Saturday morning, I woke up very early as I planned to take a walk from my house to the 95th street. I wasn’t able to because it was drizzling. The morning was wet and cold. Later that morning I went to UPS store to send out a package, then to Border’s to get a book for my daughter. In the afternoon, I took my daughter to Costco for her glasses and then to Wal-Mart for a heater.

The day was so cold and windy that I gave up the idea of any outdoor exercise. I asked my daughter if she felt anything different in weather like this. “Not much,” said she. I told her at least, the extremity of weather strikes to home the crushing power of nature and fragility and physical limits of human beings. We stopped on our way to her art lesson to let pass a medical emergency car. I told my daughter people in not-so-healthy shape had a hard time going through extreme cold or hot weather. That’s why we hear of people dying from heat or cold.

It made me think of those who attempt to challenge the physical limits of human being by venturing into either north or south pole. After we got home, we feel so blessed being sheltered in a warm house from the extremity of weather. Outside the shelter is controlled by Mother Nature, which seems a perpetual challenge to us all.



Another busy Summer Saturday


Last Saturday 6/26, I had another busy and also back-breaking Saturday.
–got up at 5:50 AM, took a long walk from 108th to 95th street on Lamar Avenue
–did an hour yard work after I got back. This is the back breaking part of the day
–took my daughter to JCCC for something she wanted to see, hot and humid
–did some cooking for the week
–took a long nap
–talked to grandma
–went to Michaels to buy some drawing stuff for my daughter
–took my daughter to her art lesson and stayed at HyVee till 7 PM
–did laundry and got bed sheet ready for my son. He will be home for the long week tomorrow
–talked with my sister in the evening
–read before going to bed



Beauty and Talent Went Unrecognized


This was a real story. It happened during the morning rush hour on January 12, 2007 at L’Enfant Plaza subway entry in Washington DC. A violinist was standing there, first playing Bach, then Schubert, next Mauel Ponce, Massenet, then back to Bach to thousands of people passing the station. Throughout the whole 45-minute playing session, only 7 people stopped to listen, paying him totaling $32.

Upon completing, no one applauded and no one paid a slightest attention to this violinist, who turned out to be Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world who just played one of the most difficult pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. At theater, people on the average pay over $100 for his performance.

It turned out that the whole activity was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. It is an interesting experiment, though the result was pretty much anticipated, except the explanations might vary.



Personality Type: Learn to Be Different from Your Own Type


We had a a personality type test at office. I never took it before so I was curious to learn the result. I learned that I have type A personality. Well, nice to know A comes before B, so it should be better than anything comes after it. That was my first reaction. As I read more, I realize it is not very far from truth.

People with type A personality are said to be characterized by an exaggerated sense of time urgency, competitiveness, anger and hostility. People who share certain characteristics with you are often concerned with the acquisition of objects and generally dissatisfied with the world, including oneself. These people don’t know how and when to relax. People probably get tense around type A people, and they tend to feel threatened in presence of type A folks.

I like some part of it and I realize I need to make some changes. That is, people with type A personality need to learn to be Type B or C or anything un-A. The following is the advice given to type A person — Continuous stress and allowing unexpressed feelings to pile up are not good for your health. You should start learning how to relax, to let go, and enjoy life. Try to take it easy and be lazy sometimes. Yes, how people love to be lazy. Not on this wonderful Saturday.

The world is so much richer because of these different types of people and the endless mixtures of various types.



Challenge Yourself in Any New Year


Below are the captions of a powerpoint slide show of the cutest animals sent to me by a friend of mine on the eve of this past New Year. I didn’t have time to go through the slide until now. Yes, I know how much I can put off things. It is already the end of February, still I find it worthwhile posting here. Don’t attempt to try them all. You will deserve a gold medal if you can achieve at least one or two of your goals in any new year!

1. Practice A New Sport
2. Accept New Challenges
3. Dare To Be Different
4. Freshen Up Your Ideas
5. Take Care of Your Looks
6. Learn Another Language
7. Forget Your Troubles
8. Make Peace with Life and People
9. Fall in Love
10. Enjoy Nature
11. Make New Friends
12. Learn New Things
13. Dream!
14. Update Your Wardrobe
15. Listen to Your Elders
16. Laugh a Lot, and Above All, Smile at Life
17. Sing from The Heart
18. Kiss Like You Mean It
19. Take A Bubble Bath
20. Be Curious & Show Some Initiative
21. Have Fun With Your Friends
22. Cautious with Danger
23. Send Emails To Your Friends
24. Relax And Enjoy Yourself After A Hard Day’s Work



Be Thankful List from Our Company


This is from our company day before Thanksgiving of 2009. I planned to have it posted here, but forgot it. Now I read it again and still think it too good to let go. Here you are.

“Count your blessing instead of your crosses
Count your gains instead of your losses
Count your joys instead of your woes
Count your friends instead of your foes
Count your smiles instead of your tears
Count your courage instead of your fears
Count your full years instead of your lean years
Count your kindness instead of your meanness
Count your health instead of your wealth
…”



Thoughts on My Observations and Experience


It has been a few days after I arrived home on 1/8/10. I spent a great deal of time chatting within family, interesting and thought-provoking at times. Here are some of my thoughts and observations that I think it worthwhile to share with my children.

(1) The only unconditional love that you can expect and experience in your life is the one from your parents. Parents are too ready to forget and forgive any wrongdoings of their children, and giving and loving without a thought of any return. On the other hand, other type of love, especially the one behind the forming of a marriage is the most fragile one, regardless how beautiful that kind of love is cherished and articulated. That is why one in two marriages in America ends up in divorce and we see this trend happening in China now.

(2) It is interesting to notice two of my cousins, brothers to each other, are going farther apart because of their different social-economic status, with one being a factory worker, the other being a mid-level manager. True meaningful happiness and interactions, even among siblings, are seldom maintained between people of unequal footing. So sadly true.

(3) Let go of control because the more you control with your tight fist, the less you will find in your hand. I never realize its importance until after I have learned more about one of my relative’s family. It actually makes sense regarding any type of human relations.

(4) Treat others the way you want to be treated. Or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I am not sure if it is written in Bible or some kind of classic reading. I keenly feel there is so much wisdom in this saying yet so easily forgotten in real life.

I love truth just as I love hamburger and pizza because they give you fat and energy in this cold winter Beijing.

P.S. I miss my children greatly, especially when we talked about their time in China during their childhood.



Holiday Season Ends Today at Least For Some of Us


Today the house is strangely empty, a nice break though. My daughter resumes school and my son goes back to college. Two relatives are out in the Southeast touring the States for one week. Less housework, less cooking, less noise, another kind of blessing.

I am so glad that my son made a winter break plan and made efforts to follow through. For both of my children, I have to emphasize this again — No plan means plan to fail. If we don’t want to fail, we always plan ahead.

Here’s the New Year Resolution of one person.
(1) Complete phase I of the project and start phase II this year
(2) Exercise at least three times every week
(3) Continue looking for better ways working with the youngsters
(4) Continue working on self-improvement

Here’s one from another person from my work place:
(1) Lose 25 pounds
(2) Save 10 percent for each paycheck
(3) Exercise daily

I never forget one of my colleagues in 2005 before I moved to the clinic site. She blamed all of her relatives for her obesity when I observed with a silent horror how she devoured a whole huge chocolate cake. I see this blaming game all the time, including myself. It is almost natural for most people to shift responsibilities to others when something undesirable happens. On the other hand, it is sorely funny that we maximize the power of others when things go wrong and celebrate that of our own and give ourselves full credit when things go wonderfully. What a great shame!

For many of my dear friends, when we make excuses for not taking good care of ourselves, we know deep in our heart that we are responsible for ourselves and there is absolutely no excuse for failing in taking care of ourselves first. We are the ones who fail.

Here’s one from C. Darwin, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.



If It is a Good Thing, Start It Now


The New Year’s day is gone like a flash. Now day after New Year, I am thinking of implementing New Year Resolution. To be sure, we all have one for this year, just as we did for the past few years.

This is what has happened at my office, which makes me think again. A few days before New Year, I heard a few colleagues of mine talked about weight control starting right after New Year. “I will start over with a clean slate with the New Year.” It sounds a bit ridiculous when you think of the fact that if they start controlling their food intake during holiday season and gain less weight, they will have a relatively less weight to lose after the New Year. I can find no reason for not starting weight control right now.

“New Year New Me.” I heard this kind of talk too often to believe it, especially from my children. Experience has told me that chances are they won’t stick to it for long. Because New Year is a once-a-year occasion and self-discipline and self-improvement are constant nonstop demand on ourselves, a long term commitment that recognizes no time frame and no spacial limit.

For anyone who wants to make a change to his life, there is no better time to start than this very moment.

P.S. last night we went to a friend’s house for New Year’s day dinner — another extra load of food for the holiday season. This is the last weekend before my son leaves for college and before I leave for a 20-day trip to China.



Time Flies Regardless What You Do With It


Enjoy the last day of the first decade of the 21 century.
This is written on the eve of the New Year for my children and for all of my dear friends and relatives. My children hear me repeatedly pounding into their heads the value of time and they still act as if they didn’t know they were 14 or 15 only once.

The story goes like this. A man is suddenly gripped by the desire to learn drawing. But he cannot make up his mind. Hence, he goes to ask a primary school teacher, “You see, I will be 44 years in 4 years. Do you think I can learn it?”

“Why not? You will be 44 years old in 4 years even if you don’t learn drawing,” is the answer. Indeed, time flies even if you don’t learn or do anything. Just as flowers will blossom, even if nobody pays attention to them.

People seldom save time with the same zest as they save money and other tangible valuables. Common sense seems to give them the illusion that time come by freely and endless of it without their ever putting an effort, but they have to earn money which is gone and spent so fast. Alas, people seldom realize the fact that while they can earn money but time, once gone, is lost forever. No amount of gold can get back a second of it.

Once again, I have this for my children — show me how you use your time and I will show you your future.



Doing the Good, Our Attitude Makes the Difference


During the weekend of 12/5/2009, after my daughter left SAT test center at SME, we went to Whole Foods, where she ordered a tiny small cup of gelato and started consuming it. Before we checked out, she had completely finished it. We could just trash the container without paying for it. She left the store first. When I returned to the car, she asked me, “Did you pay for gelato?” I showed her the receipt. “Good,” said she. That was an expensive little cup. Much as I hated it, I still paid for it because I knew I should. Next, our conversation turned to this subject.

There is a difference between these two attitudes — (1) You think it a good thing and you do it because you want to do the good. (2) You think it a good thing and you do it because you think you should. Very often we adopt the second attitude and still believe we are good persons. Actually we are not as good as we believe. If we are really good, we should love doing the good thing regardless of should-or-should-not.

In essence, a little bit self-reflection often serves to curb our overblown ego. Yes, self-reflection seems so incongruous to this commercialized religious holiday. We had a friend family coming over just to catch up with each other. Nothing commercial and nothing religious.



First Impression and Things To Learn


Five days have passed since the arrival of one of our relatives from China and so much have unfolded before me and so many puzzles have been answered, at least according to me.

So far the first impression has been overwhelmingly positive — warm-hearted, fun to be with, open personality, eager to serve, help and to give advice, hard-working at cooking and cleaning, constantly doing and moving without a moment of stopping, admirably carefree, money-wise, exuding endless energy and enthusiasm, having a wonderful memory for thing she cares most.

In many aspects she provides a sharp contrast in comparison to me. She said I worried too much. “See I don’t even worry one tiny bit even when my son is nearly 30, no job, no a girlfriend,” said she. Regardless of what, she remains a proud and upbeat mom. I wish I could be as relaxing and carefree as she is. I wish I were as energetic as she is. I ask myself if I could be this diligent if I were a guest at other’s house. I am not sure if I can be up to the task.

I always believe one of the sure ways to really know a person is to know his/her parents, which throw strong lights on how a person is raised and brought up. There is seldom an exception to this rule. In fact, I told my children not to make any commitment to their significant others before they get to know their parents. In this case, it is interesting to see the young man is almost the exact copy of his mother in his attitude toward life and the whole world view.

So far, I am glad I get to know her better. Or maybe there is other side of her that has not been revealed to me, which is very likely. At least I have come to a better understanding of how her son become what he is now.



Count Our Blessings During Holiday Seasons


This was from a friend of mine, which I am sure is not new to some of the readers. Yet, we all need to be reminded from time to time, especially during holiday seasons.

If you have never experienced the danger of war or the solitude of imprisonment, the agony of torture and hunger, you are much ahead of the 500 million people who live in this world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes to wear, a roof on your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than the 75% of the people who live on this Earth.

If you can go to your place of worship without being threatened, arrested, tortured or killed, you are luckier than the 3000,000,000 persons of this world.

If you have money in your bank account and your wallet and some loose change in some little box, you are one of the world’s 8% well-to-do population.

If you are able to read this message, you have just received a double blessing…one, someone is thinking about you… two, you are not one of those 2000,000,000 people who are illiterate!

Work as if you have no need of the money.
Love as if nobody ever made you suffer.
Dance as if nobody is watching you.
Sing as if nobody is hearing you.
Live as if the Paradise were on this Earth.

Now happy? Indeed, life is so darling.

P.S. the mother of the young man came yesterday evening, jolly and boisterous, an interesting character so different from most of the people that I know of, new experience, sure to provide plenty food for thought and lessons to learn.



A Blind Man and His Guide Dog, A Touching Ending 2


At this moment, the blind man smiles, turned to the Angel, saying, “Finally I bring my dog to the Heaven. What I am worried most is he doesn’t wanted to go to Heaven, just wants to be with me. That’s why I want to make this decision for him. Please take care of him.” The Angel was dumbfounded.

The blind man looks at his dog with a longing eye, saying “This is the best way to get him to Heaven. He will be in Heaven if I tell him to go a few step further. Yet, he has been with me for so many years and this is the first time that I ever see him, I wish I could have more time watching him. That’s why I have walked so slowly. I would like watching him forever, but he should go to Heaven now. Please take care of him.”

With that, the blind man tells the dog to go ahead. The second the dog reaches the gate, his master heads down to the Hell as light as a feather. Seeing this, the dog makes a sharp turn and chases his master. The Angel, eaten with deep remorse, attempts at catching the dog. But the dog with the purest and kindest soul in the world runs faster than the Angel. Eventually and happily he is with his master again, protecting him even in Hell, leaving the Angel behind who realizes the two souls are forever inseparable.

The story is so lovely and touching. I am as speechless as the Angel, not this one though.
a_blindman_and_guide_dog2



A Blind Man and His Guide Dog: A Sad Beginning 1


Thanks to a dear friend of mine for this interesting story.

Once upon a time, there are a blind man and his guide dog. Both of them, being hit by a truck, died tragically. As they were on their way to Heaven, an angel stopped them with this,
“There is only one spot in Heaven, therefore one of you must go to Hell.”
“Since my dog does not understand the meaning of Heaven, can I decide on his behalf?” the blind man asks.
“No, all souls are equal,” says the Angel with contempt. “We decide this through a race, whoever reach the gate first can go to Heaven. Now that you are dead, you won’t be blind any more. He who has the purest soul and kindest heart goes fastest.” says the angel.

Thus starts the race. The angel thought the blind man would make a desperate dash to the gate. But the opposite turns out to be true. The blind man walks slowly. And surprisingly, the guide dog walks by his master at an equal snail pace. It suddenly dawns on the Angel that the guide dog, being in his profession for so many years, has got into the habit of being closeby its master. Even worse, this devilish master takes advantage of his dog’s loyalty. When they are near to the end, he will tell his dog to stop, then he will be the first to reach the gate. The angel feels sorry for the dog, calling out loudly, “You have devoted all your life to your master. He is not blind now and does not need your guide. Run, run to the gate.”

As if her words fall on deaf ears, both of them walk as slowly as before, just like they were walking on a street. Exactly as the angel has expected, as they are just a few steps from the Heaven’s gate, the master tells his dog to sit. The angel looks at the master with aversion, … expecting the worst will happen.
To be continued…
a_blindman_and_guide_dog1



Justice will rule with a Funny Modern Twist


This is too funny to be passed without sharing — A happy ending or a justice has done with a modern twist. You have all heard of this ancient story of golden ax. This time it is thimble that slips into the river by accident. The tailor’s cry touches God who first retrieves a gold one with precious pearl, to which she negates, next a silver one with jade, turns down again. In the end, for her honesty, she is rewarded with three thimbles — gold, silver and her own bronze one.

A few years later while the tailor and her husband walk by the river, her husband slips into river by accident and is going to drown. God shows up again upon hearing her cry. He fishes out a famous male movie star, to which the woman claims as her husband. “You lie! He is not your husband!” the angry God said. “God, please forgive me for lying. I have to lie because you will fish out another big movie star if I don’t lie. I am not strong. I will be exhausted to death if I have to serve three men.” God accepts her reasoning and get her husband back.

Suddenly the husband pushes his wife into river and asks God, “I am strong, please get my wife back.” To which, he is punished with three women, supposedly being the most unwelcome ones.
ancient_story_with_modern_ending



A Good Customer Service Brings so Much Joy


Last Saturday 10/24, while my daughter was doing volunteer service, I went to the bank, then to a Sprint store for a problem with my cell phone. The person who served me was extremely nice and kind, explaining to me some technical details about cell phone and radio frequency safety. After that, I asked him if he was a technician. Yes, he was. No wonder he was so clear in his explanation. Thus happily I left the store.

Later my daughter and I went to Sutherland to buy a box of apples. As we left the place, my daughter left a negative comment on the customer service of the store. “People don’t even bother to talk to you when I ask a question.”

I reflected upon these experiences. The technician at Sprint store could have saved a lot of breath by not saying anything to me, not even a “hi.” Of course, he did a lot more than that. He did it not out of job responsibility, but because he wanted to be nice. People at Sutherland store were expected to serve the customers, yet they were too lazy even to greet the customers. There seems so much negativity going around there. I am not sure if it is because people don’t want to be nice or they don’t care.

I told my daughter a good customer service was very important in making somebody’s day. At my work place I treat everybody, colleagues, auditors, monitors, and PM as customers and exhibit good customer service to all who deserve it. It really doesn’t take much. All you need is being nice to people you meet at work or everywhere. And that’s one of the ways for you to feel good.

P.S. the experience at Sutherland reminds me so much of the old socialist state where customer satisfaction was never the priority. Funny witness the same thing here in capitalist state, as if history repeats itself in another land.

One of my colleagues asked me again for my weblog. I told that person “My writings are more on parenting which is a boring topic to you.” And no again, but will be yes when the third time comes.



Learning Chinese from the Blogs


My children once asked me why I did not write in Chinese. Fancy asking this. “So that both of you can read it,” was my answer. “It will be an incentive for me to read it if you write in Chinese,” I was told of this. I do believe they will read the Chinese blogs, don’t I?

As I didn’t want to dampen any upbeat enthusiasm that the child might have at the moment, I promised to post some Chinese occasionally. Here’s part of an email sent to me from a friend of mine. Part of the difficulties of posting in Chinese is that I have not made it possible to posting in Chinese.

As the quote sounds a bit mawkishly corny and sweet, I will simply extract the main idea of the quote. That idea is, if you can be nicer with someone, don’t be just nice. Be nicer than nice. If you can be together with someone, don’t separate lightly, well, unless both agree to be together.
Be nicer than nice



Nobel Prize in Economics but not in Mathematics


This year’s Nobel economics prize goes to Elinor Ostrom and another American economist, the first time that a woman is thus awarded. This brought up an interesting fact about the history of Nobel Prize, that is, a question that many people have tried to answer — why we don’t have a Nobel Prize in mathematics so far.

There have been some explanations for this question, many of them are romantic in nature regarding the founder of the prize, Alfred Nobel. A look at the history of prize in economics will invalidate any explanation of this kind.

So far we have Nobel in Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Economics. Award to economists started only in 1969, not one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895. This is to say a prize in mathematics or in any field is always a possibility if a mathematician has prove him/herself worthy of it.

One step forward, isn’t it not too far from truth if people can always come up with some explanations when they have not convinced the world with their achievements as economists did in 1969?

For me I know it is always tougher to blame ourselves than blaming others.



Celebrating Activities with the Children


Last Friday evening, my daughter and I volunteered for Light The Night Walk organized by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We worked hard at preparing lighted balloons for the walkers. There seemed over a thousand participants in the walk.

On Saturday morning I took my daughter to attend an interesting science seminar at Union Station. It was given by Dr. Perry Alexander from KU, EE & CS department. The title of his lecture was “A Just Machine,” in which he looked at the history and the future of computing technology.

Saturday evening, skating practice, 7 – 10 PM. While she was on the rink, I went to a Chinese friend’s to attend a 2-hour seminar on market America business.
Saturday evening after skating, we put together an outline for her resume.
Sunday morning, an art exhibit at Plaza.
Sunday afternoon, skate lesson.
The big nephew came back this weekend, thus the other adult was busy preparing meals.
So much for a fun weekend.



Putting the Cart Before the Horse


You might very well laugh at the absurdity of putting the cart before the horse as if you were better than this. Yet, if you stop for a second and take a close look at yourself as I did on my birthday, you will find we are doing it all the time. That is, any time you spend your time on things of less value and postpone doing things of real significance or lose sight of perspective, we put the cart before the horse.

Last weekend, I talked to a senior Chinese student at my daughter’s last art class at that location. She is almost 70 years old. She told me most of people that she knew of spent a good part of their lives making money. Now they have become rich and wealthy, yet they don’t have much time left to enjoy their wealth. Some of them don’t have the health and energy to do what they’d rather do. Why did they make money?

It is sad, certainly. They put the cart before the horse when they forgot to enjoy themselve for a large part of their lives, having been single-purposed in their pursuit of money. Or did not they lose sight of the true purpose of life? How do we balance the need for money and the purpose of life? When we don’t see ourselves as money-making machine, we should have a more enjoyable purpose in life than this.

Just a thought. No easy answer.



Carry On — A Song that I Learned in College


It’s been over two decades since I first heard it and I simply cannot get it out of my mind. Even my children can sing it. Well, they sing my version of the song, which, I am sure, has deviated from the original version.

Carry On
In younger days, I’ve told myself my life would be my own
And I’ll leave the place where sunshine never shone
For my life’s too short for waiting when I see the rising sun
Then I know again that I must carry on
Carry on till tomorow, there’s no reason to look back
Carry on, carry on, carry on

Beyond the shadows of the clouds and onward to the sky
Carry on till I find the rainbow’s end
For my life’s too short for waiting when I see the rising sun
Then I know again that I must carry on
Carry on till tomorow, there’s no reason to look back
Carry on, carry on, carry on

Drifting on the wings of freedom, leave this stormy day
And we’ll ride to tomorrow’s golden fields
For my life’s too short for waiting when I see the rising sun
Then I know again that I must carry on

Carry on, carry on, carry on

And when the heavy journey’s done, I’ll rest my weary head
For the world and its colours will be mine
For my life’s too short for waiting when I see the setting sun
Then I know again that I must carry on

Carry on till tomorow, there’s no reason to look back
Carry on, carry on, carry on.

How good can that be! You can imagine how practical a person can be with a head stuck in songs like this, trying to find the rainbow’s end. It is after all just a song.



Two Men with Two Different Attitudes and Aspirations


I know of two men with vast difference in personality and aspiration. One is around 30, the other in mid-50, a generation apart in age. You would expect the younger one has more drive and ambition while the old one is more laid-back, accepting, and reconciling ideal with reality. Well, the opposite is true.

The young one is my co-worker, going about his days without any personal agenda, engaging in small talks like school girls whenever opportunity is found, commanding nothing but jokes, as if his whole life is a standing joke that fails to entertain. The older man, whom I have known back in China Daily before I left for America, just earned his MBA and decided to quit his current job, embark on a new path on his own. He is full of ideas and energy and ready to roll up his sleeves and plunge into action. “I admire your courage to beat out at this point of your life,” was what I told him.

For some reason, the older man did not start out in his 30s. Yet, it is never too late to start doing what you want. After all, we only have one life to live. Why not make most of it?

I can hear back in my head some people would say “That man won’t get somewhere at his age.” I would think the man in his mid-50 leads a much richer and interesting life than the younger one. At least he goes about life with goals to pursue and ideas to cherish.



The Tomb of Geese and Their Life-Death Bond


Yesterday I mentioned the behavior in animal world and the fact that we are not any better than some of them. This reminds me of a ci by Yuan Haowen in Jin Dynasty. Yuan Haowen wrote a preface, like an explanation of the ci. You will be able to appreciate the emotional bond among animals after learning this story. It is something like this —

On the way to take an exam, Yuan Haowen met a goose-hunter with two geese. He told Yuan what happened that day. “This morning I captured two geese, one escaped from the net. I killed the other one. The free one refused to fly away, mourning over the dead one with a sad crying sound, circling above them, then committng suicide by plunging its head against a rock.”

Yuan who understood the inseparable emotional bond between geese bought the dead ones from the hunter, buried them together and called their tomb “The Tomb of Geese” [yan qiu]. Hence this famous ci. It is a beautiful work. I wish I could translate it but I dare not try for fear of grossly distorting the beauty of the original work.
yuan_haowen_ci



July 20, 2008, The Day They Arrived in America


Exactly a year ago today when my sister and her son came to America to study English. Things did not turn out the way my sister planned. So the boy went back in March this year.

The good news is my sister worked very hard with her son and finally caught up with the class so that the boy can successfully move up to the next grade. I am so glad for my sister. Hard work eventually paid off.



One Year Anniversary of Mom Write Part 2


Continue from yesterday’s celebration. But no more home-made candle today.

(4) Writing is the most intense brain activity, according to a Japanese neuroscientist. This means keeping the blog alive is as good to my brain as keeping an old baby from getting old. So lovely. An old acquaintance of mine so kindly commented “You have aged gracefully.” Thanks to my blogging and no thanks for his comment.

(5) Since its inception I have shared it with some of my former classmates, current and former friends, a relative, and a colleagues who has left the company and another one who does not work in the same clinic as mine. I don’t think they are ever interested in my writing or even my life, but in case they ever are wondering about my current status, here’s a window. Not sure anyone ever peeped through, though. In fact, I am not sure if I should list it here at all.

What actually happened rather unexpectedly is the site has been haunted overwhelmingly by over-zealous viagra sellers and pernicious porn hawkers, who swarm over MomWrite like toxic flies, leaving tons of links and nasty comments. Sometimes, I have to spend tremendous amount of time cleaning their presence from my site, blocking their IP addresses one by one, leaving me extremely mad, so mad that I feel like breaking somebody’s neck if I could grab that somebody! I am positively sure that they have patronized MomWrite more than any of goodwill readers. I have to disable comments and tracks a month after the postings. One day I had to manually block a few hundreds of IP address like the following, only much longer than this list.
116.50.181.243
148.208.160.33
193.25.3.211
194.165.44.44
200.252.143.2
201.217.204.22
212.16.219.147
219.239.11.182
74.11.153.4
67.198.194.130
69.46.25.98
88.103.118.195
89.118.161.240
98.126.209.39
98.126.10.182

Some people are over-nosy, checking the whois of momwrite, that is, the identity of the owner. Here’s the answer: the site owner will remain anonymous to protect the privacy of the owner’s children.

So much for reflection. Now looking ahead, what do I see? Nothing in particular, no plan, no framework or outline or idea where the site will head for, what format, what topic that the site will touch. So nice to know. Now this is the perfect moment to end the day.



Different Communication Style from Different Personality


It is our leadership workshop again, once every other week. I always walk out of the room feeling wiser than before. A big accomplishment. Prior to our leadership workshop yesterday afternoon, we were given a communication style inventory survey to reveal the style with which we communicate with others. During the workshop we talked about what the result meant. There are O.C.D.I styles based on 18 questions. Here are my score:
Open = 1
Close = 8
Direct = 2
Indirect = 7

Here’s their meaning — the different combination yields different communication style:
C + D = controller and director
• Commander
• Values getting the job done
• Decisive risk taker
• Good at delegating work to others
• Not shy but private about personal matters; comes on strong in conversation
• Likes to be where the action is
• Take charge, enterprising, competitive, efficient approach
• Fearless; no obstacle is too big to tackle
• Results Oriented

O + D = promoter and socializer
• Entertainer
• Values enjoyment and helping others with the same
• Full of ideas and impulsive in trying them
• Wants to work to be fun for everyone
• Talkative and open about self; asks others’ opinions; loves to brainstorm
• Flexible; easily bored with routine
• Intuitive, creative, spontaneous, flamboyant approach
• Optimist; nothing is beyond hope
• Celebration Oriented

O + I = supporter and relator
• Harmonizer
• Values acceptance and stability in circumstances
• Slow with big decisions; dislikes change
• Builds networks of friends to help do work
• Good listener; timid about voicing contrary opinions; concerned for others’ feelings
• Easy-going; likes slow, steady pace
• Friendly & sensitive; no person in unlovable
• Relationship Oriented

C + I = analyzer and thinker
• Assessor
• Values accuracy in details & being right
• Plans thoroughly before deciding to act
• Prefers to work alone
• Introverted; quick to think and slow to speak; closed about personal matters
• Highly organized; even plans spontaneity!
• Cautious, logical, thrifty approach
• Thoughtful; no problem is too big to ponder
• Idea Oriented

Obviously, I fall in the C + I combination. Not a lightyear away from the truth. Isn’t it nice to know that you are not a Commander, an Entertainer, a Harmonizer and have to be limited to being an Assessor? Not. I am more interested in learning how people with different styles interact or communicate with each other. How can close-indirect person interact with open-direct ones? Fight? Passive-aggressiveness? I learned that passive-aggressiveness is most practiced in health care field, with doctors being extremely o-d and others being the other end of the spectrum. I can already smell the gun powder at our work place. As far as I can see, Commander always rule over the rest of the world, not peacefully though. Fun to learn and to understand both ourselves and others.



Frost’s Poem, Promise to Keep, Miles to Go


I was on the verge of disliking Robert Frost’s poems when I first encountered them during my younger days, too serene and reflective, always carrying a sad taste, enough to spoil any of your good mood. But, strange enough, as those younger days are here no more, some of his poems keep re-surfacing in my memory. Amazing I have such a good memory for useless stuffs.

When I learned a friend of mine was leaving for China early this morning, I wanted very much to go, too. I even had dreams in which I was happily among my family folks, so real in my dream. But the line “But I have promises to keep, miles to go before I sleep” came up when I thought of my daughter’s summer school and my son’s summer job and my job responsibility.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of the easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

True, we all have promises and responsibilities to take care of before our eternal sleep under the long green grass. Still, I don’t think I can bring myself to like this poem. The poem makes promise-keeping as something that prevents us from enjoying the nature and whatever we want to enjoy. What a party-pooper. Now I hate this poem even more than before. So gloomy and unpleasant!



Reading, Writing, Gardening, Fun Activities Everyday


Last Friday evening my daughter skated till 10 PM, starting 5 PM. I was waiting outside the rink, feeling very cold. I had a very interesting conversation with a Chinese mom there. We found that our educational and career backgrounds were very much similar – both have had PhD, then switched to computer programming, then to something else – a full testimonial to the same degree of diligence that we both share.

She also has two children, older one being younger than my younger one, raised all by herself. She asked me what I did for fun everyday. Good question. My mind ran like a crazy rabbit, searching through my daily activities for anything that can be considered fun. I mentioned reading, writing, and gardening, which, I am sure, don’t seem like fun to her, since she is a very sociable person and likes to be around people. Also, my kind of fun seems so fruitless. I just realize that things that brings me joy really do not involved any real human beings.

This ties back to the distinction between introvert and extrovert persons and also to the value of reading and writing. Reading and writing are activities of mind, really with no practical value. But for those who care about their minds, reading enriches it and writing keeps it sharp and active. As a mode of communication, writing also relates ourselves to others, engaging dialogues, imaginative or intellectual, with readers.

Of course, writings also serve as an apology, as I am doing it now for my fun activity.



Blessings, Bliss, Joy and Happiness with what You Have


“How are your kids?” a doctor at our clinic asked. “They drive me crazy. How are your boys?” I asked. “They are pain, real pain.” All this reminds me of another co-worker who referred to her children as “headache.” So much for our sweeties! I am sure we parents all have occasions like those. Still, we love our youngsters. Don’t forget to count your blessings for their presence.

Ignorance is bliss. My daughter and I walked yesterday evening and talked about a fictional case, in which a wife is heavily depended on her husband for everything, so much so that the husband is crushed beneath the burden. In case like this, ignorance is a real bliss. Otherwise, the wife will be haunted with a feeling of guilt of her role in his expiration. As the saying goes, where ignorance is bliss, folly is wise. It is indeed a wise saying as long as we are not one of the folly.

My daughter and I often meet one of our neighbors on our evening walk. This neighbor, a stay-home-mom, has three children, the oldest being younger than my son and the youngest older than my daughter, two boys and one girl. The strange thing is she is always seen walking alone. I have never seen any of her children walk with her. “She must be a real loner,” I said to my daughter because she never talks to us even though she is our neighbor. Indeed, no wonder she is never seen together with her children. A light joy.

I became acquainted with a delightful young folk working at Sears electronics department three years ago. He went to Central Missouri for his bachelor degree in mass communication. At that time he told me his job at Sears was a temporary one, that is, before he landed on one that utilized his college education. Now he told me it was rather pathetic that his temporary job became sort of permanent. Then again, he is happy because at least he still has his job when so many people are without.

Indeed, there are so many ways to count our blessings — our health, family, ability to laugh out loud and humor it over, and least of all our job.



Notes on Extrovert or Introvert


During our first leadership workshop last week, we had a fun time talking about different personality type and their characteristics at work. I think it amazingly accurate. Here are some key features.

We were told of four pairs of them:
extravert vs introvert;
sensing vs intuitive;
thinking vs feeling;
judging vs perceiving.

We also read a little of Myers-Briggs type indicator:
People of extrovert type:
tend to talk first;
have many close friends;
don’t read much;
approachable;
enjoy going to meetings or parties;
finding listening more difficult than talking;
need affirmation from co-worker or boss about who you are and how you look.

Introvert type persons:
rehearse first;
enjoy peace and quiet and being alone;
great listener;
being called shy;
like to share;
wish you could get your ideas out more forcefully;
was told to go out more by your parents;
believe talk is cheap.

Extraverts get energy from outside, make decision mainly based on reactions of others while introverts are the opposite. I have a sense that introverts are described as a bit selfish or self-centered, which is so unfair. It is extremely hard to resist the temptation of finding ourselves among these descriptions and then live accordingly.



New Definition of Beauty: Everything True Is Beautiful


The statement came from a high school friend of mine, well, to be exact, from his recent email.
Here’s a true story of love and out-of-love with a fictional name for privacy protection. Beverly and her ex broke for some times, then her ex came back and begged her to go back to The Way We Were like in 1973. Beverly, being a real kind-hearted but dead honest girl, kept saying, “I don’t have it [love] in me. I can’t [go back]. Yes, I loved you, but I don’t have it in me any more. I don’t feel the same. I cannot go back to the way we were. I can’t lie to you about how I feel.” In the end, she remained firm in her stand regardless of the dogged pursuit of her ex. I would appreciate Beverly’s honesty, which is beauty in itself.

I told my daughter to go back to her elementary school, doing volunteer work as the way to give back. It would surely make your old teachers smile. she said, “I’d rather volunteer with Humane Society or Wayward Shelter for lost animals, work with cats and dogs. I don’t work well with little kids.” Surely, they won’t smile back no matter how much you work with them. Still, I let her be. True to herself. A new version of beauty.

All this reminds me of the words of my long-time friend — everything true is beautiful. In other words, untrue = ugly, not exact though. In relationship, friendship, devotion, religious affiliation, communications, the key is true to yourself. Then you are a happy pretty true flower.



Food for thoughts on Procrastination, Organization


I read from a magazine on procrastination, “Procrastination hurt you physically, too. It creates stress, which will lead to headache, body sore, gastric problem, indigestion, either chronic or acute disease.” I never have this experience until I start dragging my feet and working on my tax return. I feel all kinds of illness assailing me at the same time. I am not sure if it is because of procrastination or the thought of tax return and the money that must be taken away from me.

I have read so much about organizing, mainly because I need it so badly or because reading about organizing is far less backbreaking than really doing organization around the house. This is why I love reading about it. Here’s what I read and I will start getting things organized when I feel like it.

Organizing is one of your strongest assets.” Indeed, it saves you both time and money when disorganizing equals to waste of money and time. Why? When you cannot find what you need at the moment, you lose time trying to locate things. If you thought you did not have it and have to buy a new one, when in fact you have it but just misplace it.

Being organized give you a sense of control.” What a good feeling! At least it saves time not to re-do things you have already done but forgot having done. OMG, I have done that too often! Thanks for being disorganized. It drives me crazy when seeing so many things cry for my attention, knowing some of them are already taken care of but cannot be thus confirmed. What a mess!

Organizing is the art of using your time and resource efficiently.” When you are organized, you can get things or file the moment you need them. I often get distracted in the middle of the work, taking my sweet time looking for something that I really need. Distraction and time inefficient — all because of my disorganization. How I hate myself at that moment.

The answer is simple: Simplify your life, get organized, free from distractions, better focus, time efficient. Try it whenever you feel like it.



Enjoy the Spring — Sow Your Own Fruits and Vegetables


Last Friday, 3/20/2009, was the first day of spring, when the sun was directly overhead at noon on spring equinox. I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty at yard, as some of the vegetable plants started indoors this year were getting ready to go out.

My children can never understand the joy that I experience in gardening. It all started when I was at primary school. I don’t remember how I learned it, somehow I started growing hot peppers, green beans, and tomatoes from the seeds I saved. We never had money to buy toys or pots or anything above basic necessities. So I used broken woks, basins, and also made my own pots using leftover wood pieces tied with wires. The little plants did thrive under my tender loving care. I must have too much time and patience back then.

I admired those who could afford any luxuries. “I would be a happy child if I had …,” I used to think this way. Now when thinking back, I had genuine good times back then. It gave me so much joy watching little plants cracking out of the dirt and growing bigger, even though we were rather deprived at that time. I was a whole lot happier and more carefree than I am now, even though I can now afford a million more stuffs than before.

Gardening today often brings me back the cheerful childhood memory, adding sweeteners to whatever toil I have today. Call it nostalgia or whatever. It is perhaps only after you have it can you appreciate the time when you are without. Or rather, having it does not necessarily means enjoying it.

Enjoy the spring — sow your own fruits and vegetables, but not your wild oats.



A Happy Saturday Singing Poem


On this Saturday morning, there is nothing more agreeable and relaxing than this small poem written by the same poet who wrote “If I were a lotus flower.” She wrote it about two years ago, before she turned 6. The poem reveals a lovely carefree child with a cheerful imagination, rendering readers a vivid picture and a feeling of immense happiness.

“Singing

I like singing.
When I am singing,
I think of a lovely bird,
Flying freely in the sky;
I think of a bright star,
Its shining eyes twinkling at night;
I think of a soft bunny,
Gently sitting by my side.
I want to loudly sing.
5/17/2007”

Don’t you want to sing with her?



Enjoy the Beauty of the Nature Amid Cat-and-Dog Competition


A friend of mine sent me a piece of literary work done by his 8-year-old daughter. I was stricken by the beauty naturally expressed in her writing and amazed at her ability to imagine and appreciate what we adults tend to overlook or dismiss as inconsequential.

I read to my daughter yesterday. She said it sounded so beautiful. I wish we could all appreciate the simple beauty that naturally provided to us even amid the most severe cat-and-dog competition.

“If I were a lotus flower,
I would clothe myself in white,
Releasing pleasant fragnance,
Holding the hands of mom and dad,
Dancing in the wind.

I would chat with the fish for a while
Or play games with dragonflies,
Having endless fun.

Suddenly I heard a child’s loud uttering,
“Ah, how beautiful and sweet these flowers are!
Come and look at them!”
With that, a group of children come over,
They are looking and voicing their admiration at us

Hearing this, I feel so pleased.
Thus ends a happy day.”
3/2/2009



Doodling or Note Taking Helps You Concentrate In Class or At Meeting


A wonderful habit! A wonderful finding on this wonderful Saturday morning.
While I was reading this article on yahoo!, I thought of my own experience and also inattentiveness problem of the 10-year-old boy at my house.

The article claims that doodling while listening actually helps you pay attention and enhance your memory. The research was carried out in the United Kingdom and published in Applied Cognitive Psychology.

“If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream … Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task,” said the researcher. A wonder pill! I was thinking of sharing this with my sister who can use this pill on her son’s hard-to-cure attention problem at school.

“In psychology, tests of memory or attention will often use a second task to selectively block a particular mental process,” said the researcher. “If that process is important for the main cognitive task, then performance will be impaired. My research shows that beneficial effects of secondary tasks, such as doodling, on concentration may offset the effects of selective blockade.”

I like doodling, in a better word, note taking, while at a meeting, a habit formed while I was at school. It might have prevented attention-deficit problem or might have helped me to write more. Up to now, I still find it hard to give constant full attention when a meeting is getting boringly long, thus starting taking notes. Old habit dies hard! It at least helps keep my eyes open and give due respect to the speaker. Now the benefit of doodling has been confirmed through research — a piece of good news to parents whose children are in need of giving attention in class.



Survive Negative Forces in Our Daily Lives


Surviving through each day with a big smile on your face can be a challenge on some day at least. Seeing occasional clouds on people’s face, or being exposed to disrespectful behavior or hearing grumpy noises of discontent or complaints or being yelled at by a 10-year-old, feeling annoyed or irritated, or being stressed out or consumed with too much worries — don’t we once in a while have days like this? Lucky you if you don’t. I do. More than this, I have to deal with a crying boy almost on daily basis. Yes, you are right. I just had one of those days.

I have tried to think positively, trying to transform a whining cry or raucous exchanges into a beautiful serenade. Nice wish. I got it as long as the tune stay singing. I find it extremely important to stay positive for myself, my sanity, and those I care. I cannot allow myself to be bogged down mentally and physically by whatever negativities I happen to exposed.

I write this down especially for my children because I am sure they will be experiencing some degree of negative factors in the years to come, though not of the same nature. I am sure there are numerous writings and programs helping people to think positive. If self-directed mind-conditioning do not work, seek outside help. Mao Zedong once said, “Reactionaries will not go away by themselves. You have to wipe them out like you wipe away the dust.” Neither will be any negative forces. He did have some wise sayings.

Yet, it is so difficult for the sun to burst out when thick clouds amass their forces trying to block its light, so challenging for an angel staying angelic when being overwhelmed by devils or for a devil being devilish when being surrounded by angels. Your environment is very crucial in shaping you and influencing your mood. You have to stick to your goal if you cannot escape from your environment.

So far, by keeping my eyes on my goal and the big picture, I have pretty much preserved my sanity and insulated myself from negative forces surrounding me, well, most of the time at least.

The worst nightmare is to see oneself dragged down to the same level of the negative factors and chain oneself down there forever. The fear of that also motivates me to rise above and keep buoyant and cheerful. It can be an uphill battle, yet, keeping your silly smile and your humor, it is a hopeful one as long as we can fix our eyes on some positive image in our minds or the ideal self that we have for ourselves. It does work. Try it.



Year 2008 — Eventful and Unforgettable


This should have been written before the year 2008 ended, but as I realized it ended sooner than I thought, I had to put it out on the New Year’s Day.

During the year 2008

(1) My youngest child turned 13. She taught me many lessons on parenting teenager.

(2) A conflict between another adult and a minor in our house caused the adult to take a very drastic measure — expelling the minor out of the house, which was stopped by my son. Without his intervention, the child might be living elsewhere now. I hope the minor can forget this but I can never.

(3) In July a 10-year-old nephew came to live with us. Life is no longer the same for all of us after his arrival.

(4) I went back to China in November, first time for many years that I went back by myself.

(5) My own weblog finally went public in June.



Last Day of Year 2008


Yes, the end comes sooner than we thought. It is always this way if you don’t have the end in mind when you begin. Now looking back, you might be going through a whole spectrum of feelings —
–excitement over your achievements,
–frustration or despair over lack of it,
–sense of fulfillment for time worthily spent or
–feeling of guilt for letting another year gone by without any changes,
–a nightmare-like feeling toward an end,
–feeling like headless flies, being non-stop, non-productively busy,
–feeling of regret for not having done what you had long planned to do,
–counting your blessings for having been intact by economic downturn, or for having kept fit,…
Of course, some people might not feel anything at all, which is also excellent, because no feeling means no suffering, no experience and then no life.

Tomorrow is the beginning of another year.  To my children and to all youngsters with whatever goals they may aspire but often not strong on self-discipline to move toward them, I am going to say the same thing as I did this time last year — first and foremost, zero in on our New Year Resolutions, setting goals and new promises for the coming year.

Next, work out a detailed action plan to implement whatever you promise to accomplish. No concrete action plan often means empty promises and remain unchanged with each passing days and years until white hair sneak out, which we are all guilty of sometimes in our lives and don’t know how to be better than this.

The main reason for failure to materialize whatever we have promised is lack of self-control and self-discipline. Well, one step back, in reality, there are too many things — dreams, goals, ideal — that we failed to materialize as we grow old and sad. Hopefully, a plan and a monthly or quarterly check may work as a self-control mechanism.

My children know how nasty I could be when I am on their backs about writing their New Year’s Resolution.

So much for this joyful New Year’s Eve. Here’s my last statement for this year 2008

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Happy New Year!



Be Thankful Everyday


Today is Thanksgiving. It’s nice and warm outside. I get up early and think of a poem I read several days ago by Karl Fuchs:

Thanksgiving Every Day

The table is brimming with good things to eat;
We’re surrounded by family and friends; what a treat.
The feelings that fill us today can’t be beat;
It’s Thanksgiving Day, and it all feels complete.

But other days, sometimes things don’t seem so fine;
Those days are not polished and don’t seem to shine.
It’s then in our minds, we forget all the good,
And think of the things we would get, if we could.

On days when our thinking causes us dread,
If we could remember, it’s all in our head,
And not let our minds take our gratitude away,
Then we’d make every day like Thanksgiving Day.

Is it hard to be thankful everyday? Happy Thanksgiving.



Time Changes Everything Except our Minds and Souls


I have devoted too much of my posting on Condi Rice lately. Now here’s another of my favorite topic — TIME.

Last week someone was listening to a Chinese children song on time.  It describes time as a magician who can change everything — season, appearance of our face, etc. When I go back to China and see folks whom I have not seen since my last visit, we expect to see apearance changes in each other. When my son came back from Boston, he said he felt he had changed a lot but he did not see much change in his high school classmates. I think he meant changes both inside and outside.

Indeed, time does do the trick of bringing changes in everything, including the chemical part of our hearts and heads, but we are the one who control how much changes and what kind of change that we want to take place regarding our mind and soul. Therefore, the saying “Time is a big equalizer” is true in a limited way.

If you want to bring changes inside you, time won’t be the key factor.  You need to take initiative.  If you don’t make efforts to increase your knowledge and wisdom with the same increase rate of age, you remain unchanged mentally despite of your changed appearance.

But sometimes, we want to keep something unchanged in our hearts even if changes occur to us outside.  I remember a poem goes like this,
          My heart leapt up when I behold,
          A rainbow in the sky.
          So was it when I was small;
          So be it when I am a man
          So shall it be when I am old.
The poet wants to remain young at heart even if he is old. Is it that what we all want?



Reading on Condoleezza Rice Part 3


During the days after Hurricane Katrina, while the country was horrified over the loss of human lives and the dire situation of poor black refugees, Rice went on a shopping spree at Ferragamo on Fifth Avenue for thousands of shoes. “Theater goers in New York City’s Great White Way were shocked to see the President’s former National Security Advisor at the Monty Python farce … as the rest of the cabinet responds to Hurricane Katrina.”

Her explanation was, “I probably had not fully understood that I had also kind of gone into this category of national leader, … that people expected me to be part of the solution for Katrina. I just didn’t get it, frankly.” pp. 266-267.

I am not sure if she is enlightened enough to understand this simple truth — it is not what people expect you to do.  It is what you expect yourself to do and to help as an ordinary human being, from your heart, when you see so many of your people suffer and when you are in the position to help, that is, if you have the heart for the suffering people of yours.  Even my children know to make donations when the earthquake hit Sichuan, China. Her lack of sympathy for her people in Katrina disaster is beyond my comprehension.

It shocks me to read about her attitude toward those underprivileged.  Rice talked about welfare recipients “taking advantage of the government and that they need to pull themselves up on their own.” Rice knows most of those welfare recipients are African Americans like herself.  One of her former colleague at Stanford commented on her, “That woman has a hard streak in her.” p. 107

The hard streak in her is the defect in her education — single-minded focus on success while lacking of cultivation in humanities field, the care of soul and mind, which result in her inability of understanding and empathy to think and feel how others do.  I would think this is a lesson for all parents who want their children to be full social beings, capable of both thinking and feeling.



Reading on Condoleezza Rice Part 2


Continue on the topic left from yesterday.  Rice became what her parents wanted her to be — succeed no matter what. She also turned out to be the exact product of their education — single-minded pursuit of success.

Her parents saw education as being instrumental to achieve what you aimed. “… you can achieve anything, you can do whatever you want to do, if only you get an education, …” p. 23  Rice was made sure to receive the best and highest education that could be obtain, music and French from very young, started learning to read at age 3, till she got Ph.D at the end.  Her French teacher was “struck … by John Rice’s full-time focus on the betterment of Condoleezza Rice.” p. 20.  Yet her parents did not have the intellectual ability to see education as being essential in developing a full-person, heart and soul, not simply an instrument to success.

As Rice put it, “I never developed the fine art of recreational reading.” p. 17,  whatever that might mean.  I would think she was saying she has not developed a love of reading for the pure joy, wisdom, insight and the mind-cultivating that reading is supposed to offer.

The result is Rice did have Ph.D, yet she does not have the intellectual depth to think and reflect.  “She may not have been an intellectual secretary of state like Kissinger or a master strategist like Baker, but she probably had more drive than either of them. The disciplined blaze of her life — … — suggested that she would throw everything she had into trying to triumph in the twilight of the Bush presidency.  It was obvious from Rice’s many metamorphoses that her real ideology was not idealism or realism or defending the citadels of freedom, … Her real ideology was succeeding.” p. 311

“Rice was never especially self-reflective, but she was always optimistic, and in June 2007, when she was asked to assess how she had performed as national security adviser, she gave an odd answer. ‘I don’t know. I think I did okay.'”  p. 310  These words are so revealing of her character, void of higher order of philosophical thinking.

Unlike former president Clinton and many other great persons, Rice has no enduring belief, no ideal. She has single-mindedly pursued one thing — success.  And she has succeeded for the sake of succes.

I strongly feel that there is something missing in her as I was reading her biography, something at first I cannot catch. By the time I read about her response to Hurricane Katrina, I came to realize the weak link in her education.  Yes, the kind of education is what I am interested in most when I read about Rice.  Blame me for being a parent all the time.

I will talk about this tomorrow.



Reading Condoleezza Rice’s Biography Part 1


I have been lately reading a biography on Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state on Bush junior’s second term, written by Elizabeth Bumiller, 2007.  On the one hand, this book is like all other books, having the bias of the author; on the other hand, it presents a mixed picture and message to readers like me, a parent who is reading and trying to find enlightenment on parenting.

One of the most striking fact that I will talk about is the role of parents in the success of a child.  Her parents “poured their hearts into the project of their lives: the teaching, molding, and polishing of Condoleezza.” p. 14.  Rice’s mother was “an intense, devoted mother. ‘Condoleeza was her world.'” p. 11.  While other kids were playing, the little Rice was made to spend her time on useful activities like reading and practicing piano.

It is no exaggeration to say that Rice would not have climbed this high without the exceptional dedication and stubbornly tenacious insistence of her parents in placing the interests and the success of their child before anything else. I would imagine our country’s prisons would be nearly empty if all parents shared at least one percent of Rice’s parents’ effort in their children’s education.  I feel very much dwarfed in comparison to Rice’s mom.

Rice is the living example of the saying — you reap what you sow.  She is the exact product of the upbringing of her parents, whatever that may be, which I will dwell on later.



The Spirit of Ah-Q is Still Alive and Much in Demand Today


Lu Xun, a Chinese literary giant created in his story Ah-Q Biography a rather despicable character called Ah-Q, an extreme “the kiss-up, kick-down type” that Rob Gifford described in his book China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power. More famous than this, he can always talk himself into feeling good even after being spitted and slapped in his face by his attackers. He always comforts himself as his being spiritually superior over his conquerors and can claim victory even after being soundly defeated and ruthlessly trampled under the foot of the conqueror. You can say he lives a life of self-created illusion and self-deception.

To be sure, Lu Xun had zero good word for this type of people. Instead, he thought it so pathetically characteristic of Chinese people of his time.

For some reason, I do not find this character so distasteful, other than the “kiss-up, kick-down” part.  Ah-Q simply tries to make himself feel good when he is unable to make changes to his fate and environment.  To some extent, when we compromise and reconcile, isn’t that what we try to do everyday, to a different degree though?  Don’t we have our own illusions to live by?  Here I hear people explain any misfortune as “God’s will,” or something better than nothing — a western Ah-Q.

Psychologically, we all have the need to be Ah-Q at some point of our lives. Again, to make me feel good, I would argue I have never been “spitted and slapped in his face by others” and thus have no excuse to feel otherwise.

Oops, does it have anything to do with parenting?  You can finger it out by yourself if that’s what you are wondering.


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