I am the firm believer in making plans, even if it is a weekend. This way I can be more focused and get more things done.
My sister’s son is coming to America for his undergraduate education. I believe he will go to our local community college for a semester of English before he enrolls as full-time student at Kansas University next fall. This means a couple of things for me. House-cleaning is always on the top of the list.
(1) House-cleaning task
(2) Start writing the book report on ‘My Name Is Lucy Barton’ by Elizabeth Strout
(3) Finish writing the article on locker room talk
(4) Work on back yard to remove the weeds that are going to yield seeds.
As always, weekend rushes by too quickly for me. These are major events for me during last weekend.
(1) My son called on Saturday afternoon, which always fills my heart with joy and delights.
(2) My daughter texted me.
(3) I met a young man at Overland Park Convention Center on Saturday morning. He is one year older than my son, coming from Myanmar to the USA on refugee status. He met his wife here. He needs to earn more money in order to support his mother and 21 children of his relatives back in Myanmar. He works at a staffing company, which doesn’t pay much.
(4) I resumed contact with a college classmate of mine, whom we have not been in touch since graduation in 1982.
(5) I met two Chinese parents at Barnes & Noble’s, talking about their parenting initiative.
(6) I completed FAFSA for my daughter’s college financial aid for the coming academic year.
(7) Read and wrote
Last weekend I made a list and planned to start from that list, but I didn’t follow through because of Chinese New Year. The first day of Chinese New Year is 2/8/2016. People started getting busy a few days before that, with red bags sending around wechat groups, news and events, plus the annual spring festival gala, starting at 6 AM Sunday morning. I got caught up in it, and then I gave myself excuse for abandoning my plan.
Now the festival is over. I’m getting back to my daily weekend routine. Here’s the list of things for this weekend.
(1) Complete my review on book South of Broad.
(2) Read two books, one on game theory, one Join the Club, not planning to finish them both.
(3) Alternate reading with rooming cleaning
Set the timer before starting the work. Do it now. I will report the result next weekend.
Recently, my daughter and I rented from RedBox four movies. We watched them together during the weekend.
1. Birdman: Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, black comedy, 2014
2. Avengers: Age of Ultron, Science fiction film/Thriller, 2015
3. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
4. Mortdecai, action comedy, 2015.
I told my daughter movie Unbroken was a touching one, though the plot is too simple, US soldiers survived nearly 50 days on the sea and POW camp in Japan during World War II. The ending is so predicable, that is, no matter how bad the situation seems, you are sure that soldier, the main character will survive in the end, unbroken spiritually though broken physically.
As viewers or readers, we demand a good ending for good people and a bad one for the bad people. Otherwise we are not happy. Call it cathartic function of art. Interesting.
This is the last weekend before my trip home on 4/16/2015. And this is the only weekend when I don’t face any deadline. That is, I have finished sending out whatever needs to be sent, like all the tax return forms, federal, states, for myself and for my daughter, and her scholarship application.
This morning I checked for some incoming bills. The property tax payment is due on May 11, which is after I get back. I thought I might make the payment just to get it over. But when I checked bank balance and the scheduled credit card payments. Wow, unless I sell some stocks now, I’d better wait till next pay check which is mid April. Well, forget it now.
I went out for a long morning walk before breakfast, stopped at Walmart grocery store to get some fruit. After breakfast, I went to our local library to return some books, from there went to a store to get a gift bag and other stuff. A friend’s daughter is getting married on 4/25 this month when I am out of town. I got the gift ready even if I cannot go.
After getting back, I did some house cleaning. It is already 4 pm now. Tired after that.
This afternoon I went to a dancing class with a friend of mine given at a Chinese church. It was a trial lesson. Oh boy, it was a real challenge when I had to coordinate arms and legs and follow the beat of the music. In fact I thought to myself, it’s too much to me. I was not going to this class any more.
Back home, I was exhausted, mind and body. After a little while, I thought it actually a good challenge. I need it. I need to constantly challenge myself to do something different. I must believe old dogs can learn new tricks!
Yes, definitely I will go back to the dancing class after I get back from China.
3/28/2015, Saturday morning.
I went out as soon as I got up and drank a cup of water. It was rather cold today. I made sure I wore enough coat when I went out. I also carried a backpack with house key, cellphone, purse, a bottle of drink in case I was hungry and felt weak on the way, something to read on the way in case my mp3 player being dead, and a IRS refund check.
I walked to the Capital Federal Savings at the corner of 95th street and Nall. It’s less than 5 miles round walk. I felt it a long stretch but not that terrible and not tired after I got back.
After breakfast, I sat down to make a to-do list for the day:
1) Send out our Kansas tax return
2) Complete online my Missouri tax return
3) Complete online my daughter’s Massachusetts state tax return
4) Complete my daughter’s financial aid application
5) Practice ukelele
6) Write something about The Casual Vacancy novel that I have been reading this week, though not done yet. This is an interesting topic. This is something I’d like to do at least once a week.
Early this morning we drove to the airport to send another adult for the annual China trip. The flight was 6:30 AM, but I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep.
When I got back from the airport, it was only 6:30, too early to take a walk. So I checked wechat and found Jack Ma’s speech in English before audience like Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. I thought I would take a peek, then go out for a walk, but I couldn’t stop myself as I started watching. I felt a bit dazzled by his powerful speech. I will share this with my son.
After the video, I hurriedly went outside for my morning walk. It was 9 AM after I got back. I knew I got a lot to do today, though I’d rather go to a bookstore and stay there for the rest of the day.
Here’s my to-do list for the day:
(1) Write something on this site, as my children’s birthdays are approaching.
(2) Complete my daughter’s 2014 tax return.
(3) Complete 2014 state tax return for us.
(4) Complete 2014 Missouri tax return for myself since I work there and live in KS.
(5) Go to costco and other grocery store.
(6) Write a review on the novel that I just read, The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather, written in 1915.
(7) Practice ukulele for at least 40 minutes.
Of course, sadly to say, no bookstore today. Maybe tomorrow.
I went to Leawood library today, trying to get some books on Python so that I could be of some help if my daughter needs. There I met another Chinese couple, who have a rather unique immigrant experience.
Her first name is Wei, the micro wei, last name being the same as my son’s girlfriend. They came to the United States with their 8-year-old daughter. Now the girl is 31 years old, working in Washington, DC as a lawyer.
There are many places that mark them as rather unique. First, they live in an apartment complex around 89 street and Troost in Kansas City, MO, where many Chinese, for the cheap rent, used to live when they first came to this area. Now they are the only Chinese family living in that area. In fact, they have been living in that place since they came here 23 years ago!
When looking back, I have moved from Texas to Ohio, to Indiana, to Virginia, then finally to Kansas, and I plan to move again after my daughter settles somewhere in a few years. I can’t imagine living in one place for so long, especially in this adopted land. Of course, people are different.
Secondly, Wei who has been here for so long can hardly speak English. How could this be? Well, I am surprised but passing no judgment. She told me how her husband switched major from physics to computer because he couldn’t find a job with physics, how he was laid off twice, last one in 2008, and now works at Cerner, and how he still was worried about his job security. She also said they only supported their daughter’s college expenses and let the girl go through law school with loan and other means.
Thirdly, she said her husband came to this library to attend a Qinhua alumnus gathering. A guy from Qinhua stays in that kind of apartment for 23 years and was struggling to keep his job. They look like near retirement age.
For a moment I don’t know what to say. I wasn’t able to link Qinghua graduate to what I am seeing here. To me, people who can get into Qinghua are very brilliant, like those people here who can get into Princeton or Harvard. I expect they will soar and fly high.
I can’t forget the encounter so I share it here. I know there are something wrong with my way of thinking.
On 9/14/2014, one day after my birthday, I thought I would spoil myself a little bit by spending an afternoon at Barnes & Noble’ bookstore. I often visited this place when my daughter was home. This was the first time that I went there since she left. A strange feeling.
Among others, I read this one “The Power of Reflection: Insight into our own thoughts, or metacognition, is key to high achievement in all domains,” by Stephen M. Fleming, on Scientific American Mind 25, Sept-Oct 2014. Here are the main ideas.
1. Metacognition is the ability to make judgments about our own thoughts—for example, assessing whether a memory is accurate or a decision is appropriate.
2. People vary in the accuracy of their metacognition. Certain psychological disorders, including dementia and schizophrenia, can impair this ability.
3. Several strategies appear to shore up metacognition, including meditation and taking breaks while studying to reflect on one’s own learning.
I had nearly the whole weekend doing cleaning both inside and outside the house. Yard work is back-breaking, made especially miserable under the hot weather. Indoor cleaning is physically comfortable but emotionally painful. I am more dreadful of indoor cleaning because the sight of old stuffs brings back memories of the past when both of my children were small and with me. I’d rather either leave things as they are or throw them all out of door. But I can’t do either of them.
In one corner, I found a notebook that I wrote in 1994, exactly 20 years ago. Oh boy, time flies! To be sure, the notebook is filled with reading notes. Here are one of them.
“…I think on the whole that the sort of method adopted by Descartes is right: that you should set to work to doubt things and retain only what you cannot doubt because of its clearness and distinctness, not because you are sure not to be induced into error, for there does not exist a method which will safeguard you against the possibility of error.”
This is a good quote from a colleague of mine.
On 3/27, Thursday after work, I gave a class on origami at the clinic where I used to work. People were asked to make a donation to Shave-to-save. The next day I asked one of them who attended the class if she had practiced what she learned during the class. She said she spent the evening cleaning her room. From this conversation came the above quote.
She told me she’d buy some clothes because it’s on sale, tuck them somewhere and forget she’d bought them, until she cleaned the room. Many still have the price tags on them. I told her “This is exactly how I feel when I clean my house. Instead of clothes, I have other junks which I shouldn’t have bought in the first place…”
Isn’t that something we all do occasionally? The best policy is not to go shopping when you don’t need anything, even if it is 70% or 95% off or even free.
The tire pressure indicator light came up on the dashboard of my black highlander when I was driving to west clinic last Thursday. On the way back home that day, I stopped at a gas station to check tire pressure and fill some air, all by myself. Still, the light would not go away. So, last Saturday morning I drove to Firestone’s car care station at the corner and 95th street.
I was reading some magazines while they checked my car. After getting back home, I found myself missing bookstores. So I allowed myself to drive to Barnes & Noble’s, where I spent some time reading the magazine that I wasn’t able to finish at Firestone’s.
On March 2014 issue of Inc.com magazine, there is a short piece called “What Motivates You: Calling or Ego” by Shelley Prevost. Here’s part of it.
“Do you have a real vocation for your work or are you in business for egoistic reasons?
(1) Ego leads to burnout. Calling leads to fulfillment.
(2) Ego focuses on the result. Calling focuses on the process. Without a satisfactory result, your ego feels that all your work is pointless. A calling, however, comes from within. It can handle the stress of ambiguity.
(3) Ego wants to preserve the self. Calling wants to affect others. A calling may begin with the self, but it moves toward the needs of others. Author Frederick Buechner describes it as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.'”
I know ego and calling are two different sources of motivation, but I don’t believe in Prevost’s conclusion on them. I would say calling is more other-oriented and tends to last longer than ego. I also don’t think calling does not care about result as much as ego does.
Today is 2/2/2014. It looks like a lucky number. I can’t believe it’s already February. When I look back just a month ago, it seems like yesterday when my children were still home, filling the house with joys and laughing.
Yes, it’s true. Before I had time following my New Year Resolution, the first month of the year 2014, 1/12 part of the year, has rushed by unbelievably fast. It seems so crazy.
The last weekend when my daughter was home was 1/18-19. I used the following one, 1/25-26 on getting ready for two job interviews, and then this weekend on online tests, three of them, which I am going to take in the afternoon. This way I will still have time for android course work, which is due today.
It seems I always have something to keep me occupied. Still, I must find time to work on my resolution, before the year end is dawning on me.
Last weekend saw me chained to the desk with my head buried in papers and books. I was brushing up my SQL skills to prepare for the two job interviews the following Monday and Tuesday, 1/27 and 28. I thought I’d kept almost nothing in my brain after over a decade of non-IT environment. I guess I still retain some after last weekend’s review.
Last Friday, 1/31, I received an email from the hiring company requesting me to take three online tests over this weekend. This means I have advanced to the next step on the selection process. A good thing, of course.
Oh boy, there goes another weekend, just like last one.
Last weekend I spent most of the time preparing for the exam that I am so eager to pass. I set a rule for myself when I am reading or writing at home. I know my energy will be at a low ebb and I will be less efficient if I keep reading for hours without a break. So I use a timer to give myself a 10-minute-break after 30 minutes. By alternating between reading and other activities, I find myself more focused.
Of course, during breaks, I continue the endless task of room cleaning. Last weekend, at one point, I was holding another reading note, taken in 6/2010. It is from Psychology Today. I am not sure if I have ever written anything on this. Here’s a bit of it.
“In the brain, pleasure areas are intimately linked with social areas.”
“Giving others gives us pleasure because it involves in paying attention to the thoughts and emotions of other people.”
In the past I earnestly looked forward to weekend. Not so any more.
I seldom go out on weekend now. Going out to stores often reminds me of the time when I went out with my daughter. That will surely trigger the sad feeling.
So I prefer staying home, reading and preparing for the test that I intend to take. Do some cleaning around the house when I am tired of reading. Good thing I am seldom tired of reading.
Last Saturday afternoon, I drove a Chinese neighbor of ours to stores. She is going back to China this coming Thursday, first time in 16 years. She wanted me to take her to places where she would do some shopping for the trip. A whole afternoon was thus passed.
Yesterday, 9/15, Saturday afternoon, I went to Natural Grocers store on Metcalf and 91st street. I wasn’t able to get the kind of chia seeds when I went to Whole Foods store last Thursday. I remember my daughter got chia seeds here.
My mind was instantly flooded with memories of the past when I was approaching Natural Grocers store. That location used to be Border’s bookstore. After the bookstore closed over two years ago, this grocery store moved in.
Border’s bookstore used to be our family’s favorite place on weekend or in the evening ever since we moved into the area in 1998. I remember vividly when I took both of my children to Border’s, one was 9 years old, the other 3. They could spend hours reading there.
After Border’s closed, I started taking my daughter to Barnes and Noble’s bookstore. No matter where we live, local bookstores are always the place we visit most and spend most time in.
Now that both of my children are not home, I think of those moments but dare not going there again, even on weekend.
Last Saturday evening, the last Saturday before my daughter leaves for college, a friend of mine invited us together with some others to her house for a gathering. It was very kind of her.
There my daugher met another incoming college girl, also a Chinese. The girl will go to Princeton University. This is the first child that I met this year who has been admitted into the school of her choice. All others have applied but was turned down by all top-notched ones like Harvard, MIT, etc.
This further confirms that academic excellence alone won’t get you to the top. A student must do something extraordinary. Here are something that this girl has achieved while in high school,
National/Regional Aspirations in Computing Winner from National Center for Women & Information Technology
Presidential Scholar Candidate from US Department of Education
Yesterday, Saturday, 8/10, we went to a party organized by the local alumna club of my daughter’s college. The party was held for the two incoming students in our area, but the other one didn’t show up. In fact, she didn’t have any communication with the local club president at all.
We not only had a good lunch, but also got to know some people there and learned a lot about her college. Most of them graduated from that college. I had good chats with some of them — one graduating this year, one in year 2007, one 1994, one 1997. The one who graduated in 2007 went to law school at KU and is working here.
They made great efforts to be helpful and friendly, answering questions as best as they could, which made the party very successful. We had a good time there.
Last Saturday, 8/3, we went to a friend’s house for a gathering. We talked a lot about college cost, current economy and job situation, especially for young college graduates.
To be sure, the situation does not look bright for the younger generation. Many of these college graduates, without a full time employment or having to engage in something unrelated to their education, got a long way to go before they can become financially independent, settle down, get married, have children and buy a house.
Let us hope the incoming college students will see a better economy when they graduate in year 2017.