This is what I share with some people today regarding summer activities.
Summer is a good time for club activities, with once or twice a week meeting, like builder’s club (design models with Lego), weaver’s club (making stuffs with fabric or yarn), writer’s club, forensic club (solving crime mystery like lawyers), even origami club.
By the end of summer, you can either hold a contest or a show just to showcase children’s summer achievements.
Its benefits include developing or enhancing interests and making a good use of summer time.
For writing club, there are many writing contests nationally. We can encourage kids to participate in one of them.
Let’s try to avoid using class format. Class form sounds more formal and intimidating than club. You want kids to be relaxing and casual, like sitting in a round table with a lead instead of a teacher, an authority figure.
Regarding management of the kids, two things should work:
1. An agreement like a rule that kids should follow and the consequences for failing to follow.
2. A lead person, which anybody can play that role. You really want to develop leadership talent within instead of seeking outside authority.
It’s like the old style cadres who is elected within the group, even rotating that role. Why do we need a teacher to lead when we have leader within us? It’s like you don’t trust kids can manage themselves well or not?
If you want them to develop extraordinary skills and talents, it’s better to start with out-of-box thinking and unconventional teaching method. This way you can attract more people.
Of course, whoever leads, we have to give instructions and directions. There’s always the first time, which is the most challenging part. Once we pass that challenge, road ahead should be smoother
It’s better to experiment with new approaches of learning and class management. You don’t want your class to be one of those after school knowledge cramming activities. You want to leave a legacy of being unique in developing full potential in each one of the participants.
I think most people are still encased in the conventional concept about education, that is, its purpose is to learn some knowledge. You have to realize that there are plenty of people with knowledge. But without the ability to utilize or maximize their knowledge, in the end, they cannot escape the fate of being nothing but an instrument at other people’s hands.
I was asked to teach a group of children how to make origami. I want them to learn more than just origami making skill. I hope they can get the habit of trying to learn more skills from one activity or see the activity as a project that involves problem-solving skill.
Below are the questions that I have prepared for the children before class.
(1) Why do you want to learn origami?
My answer: have fun; gift ideas for classmate’s birthday; Xmas gift for teachers; donation; sell it among your friends so that you will have some money for your parents or friends’ birthday gifts and you don’t have to ask your parents for whatever you want to buy. I hope children will feel motivated if they have a big plan.
(2) What would you do if you forget some part of what we learn in class?
My answer: this requires your problem-solving ability. You can make friends with those who have learned it in class or who show special talent here, ask these friends for help. Remember nobody is good at everything. We are all good at something. You can help others with what you are specially good at. The key is we need to help each other. Asking help is the best compliment to your friends.
(3) It will involve a lot of work and time. What would you do if you need help to get more done and you don’t have enough time?
My answer: this again requires your problem-solving ability and other skills. You can teach your siblings, parents or friends, so that they can help you. You need to realize one person’s ability is very limited. It often takes a team to get something done. The best part of this is you can form a team with you being the boss.
(4) How do you get others’ help?
My answer: you can promise something, depending on what your parents like most. Such as, practice piano for one extra hour, do laundry on weekend, share with them your proceeds, etc. You will need to enhance your ability to convince people to work for you. The key here is to keep your promise.
Based on what we just talk, you can see that potentially you can learn both soft and hard skills, which are a lot more than origami making. How much you can learn from this activity depend totally on you.
If you want child to be great, be a great parent first.
If you want respect from your child, respect your child first.
If you raise your voice at your child, the child will learn the same mode of communication.
If you let go your temper, the child will never know self control.
If you waste your default time, your child will do the same.
If you harbor prejudice against others, your child will share your prejudice.
If you spare proper your child proper discipline in the name of love, complain not when you are child does not turn out to be what you want him to be. When you complain about your child, look inward for explanation.
The child is the mirror of the parents. The child is the product of your parenting. Nothing comes from nothing.
We know being nice ourselves is very crucial to maintain good relationships in life. In case, you might ask what I mean by being nice, here are some examples of being nice.
(1) Never say hurting words.
(2) Never raise your voice even in anger or madness
(3) Respect all
(4) Don’t hold a grudge against anyone
(5) Be considerate of others
(6) Speak out calmly when you are upset.
I am thinking of my father when I make this list. He was all of them except the last one. He kept it all to himself when he was upset or felt hurt because he’d rather hurt himself than hurting others. That’s why he died young 29 years ago.
Some people may say, “I have to shout it out when somebody makes me mad.” Here are three quick facts.
First, the world abounds with people who are for some unknown reason either unfriendly or hostile by nature. Their life mission might be out to upset others and trigger mad reactions. This much you cannot control and do not have to worry about.
Second, nothing can be resolved by shouting. Instead, losing your cool only result in making things worse.
Third, you have to learn anger management so that you can express yourself nicely when you are upset. Angry people cannot be happy themselves and cannot make others happy.
Here’s one trick about anger management. It works for people of all ages, very basic and nothing fancy. When you are angry or mad, tell yourself, time to take a deep breath and count. Count slowly until you know you have calmed down, easy and effective. It’s not difficult to do it if you get into the habit of doing it. We are all product of our habit.
Don’t expect other people to be nice all the time. Don’t expect others not to provoke you. Don’t find excuses for yourself, like I have a bad temper, etc. Don’t blame others for your bad behavior.
Being nice is both easy and difficult. It is easy if you internalize it and have your temper or rather bad temper under control. Difficult if you let go yourself without self-discipline.
Here’s the good news. It’s easy to teach your child to be nice when you start young. To do that, a parent need to present himself as a living example of a nice person.
Start teaching your children to be nice persons if you wish them a happy life.
Here’s something that parents seldom talk about when their children are young. Consider this question– what is the ultimate thing that you want your child to have in life? A happy life, right? Next, what is the key to a happy life? Wealth? Success? Fame? None of them. Many studies have confirmed this one — a good relationship. And I totally concur with it.
Yes, you are right. Having and maintaining a good relationship is something parents seldom or never talk about to their children. How do you maintain a good relationship? Easy. Just do one thing: Be a nice person yourself. Do parents often tell their children how to be nice persons? From my limited observation, I don’t think so. Probably because most parents assume their children are nice already. Parents may ask, why do we need to teach our children to be nice when they are as perfect as angels? Is it really?
Here’s the cognitive trap that parents don’t realize. A good son and a good husband are two totally different things. A filial child does not automatically make a loving spouse. A parent might praise a bold act of his child while others might see the same act as being brazenly impolite and void of proper upbringing. Like one person that I know of, he is considered by his parent as a perfect man but is seen by others as just the opposite. As the old saying goes, love is blind. It is especially true when it comes to parental love.
That’s why parents ignore teaching their “perfect angels” to be nice persons.
To be continued…
I wrote about this before. I am sharing this again as I think it rather important as a reminder to young folks.
Let me share with you one big secret about the wealth of young people. Most people do not associate resources and wealth with young people, especially young and unemployed. Instead they think of many senior folks with millions of savings under their mattress.
The fact is both young and the old have their own wealth. With the old, their resource is money; with the young, their resource is TIME.
Right. Time is the resources of the young, which the old don’t have. With time, the young are not afraid of venturing out on a thousand-mile journey. They are not afraid of making mistakes. If one idea doesn’t work out, they have time to start all over again. The old does not have this luxury.
The sad reality is many young people are not aware of their resource. They squander away their resources while they are young. For some, they don’t even realize they were once rich in their lives. Rather pathetic!
Yes, young folks are rich in TIME and time is something money cannot buy.
Finally, there is something free from Harvard Medical School email. I am tired of seeing emails from Harvard Medical School. They often tell readers a tiny bit of something, then click here if you want to read more about it. This will take you to an order site where you have to pay about $20 for the article.
Last week, I read this one for FREE, “Relearning how to breathe from the diaphragm is beneficial for everyone.” Here’s the whole article.
“The diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs, plays an important role in breathing — though you may not be aware of it. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward. This creates more space in your chest cavity, allowing the lungs to expand. When you exhale, the opposite happens — your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward in the chest cavity.
All of us are born with the knowledge of how to fully engage the diaphragm to take deep, refreshing breaths. As we get older, however, we get out of the habit. Everything from the stresses of everyday life to the practice of “sucking in” the stomach for a trimmer waistline encourages us to gradually shift to shallower, less satisfying “chest breathing.”
Relearning how to breathe from the diaphragm is beneficial for everyone. Diaphragmatic breathing (also called “abdominal breathing” or “belly breathing”) encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.
But it’s especially important for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In COPD, air can become trapped in the lungs, which keeps the diaphragm pressed down. This causes it to weaken and work less efficiently. Diaphragmatic breathing can help people with COPD strengthen the diaphragm, which in turn helps them use less effort and energy to breathe.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support, if that’s more comfortable.
2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
3. Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
4. Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.
You can also practice this sitting in a chair, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Practice for five to 10 minutes, several times a day if possible.”
For most of science and technology majors, such as biology, chemistry, etc., students often use what they learn in classmate on their first job. Still, with these majors, college graduates don’t have to use what they are taught at college. Like you don’t have to work in a lab with biology or chemistry major.
You might be wondering: what is the use of college education if you don’t use it in your future job? Also, if you don’t use it, you forget it, like you have not learned anything. Well, if you forget, that means you don’t need it. If you need it, you will always be able to pick it up.
Number one, you form lifelong friendship and important connections during those college years.
Number two, you learn different ways of thinking, which should be critical one.
Number three, you learn lot of general theories, which you can apply to your life in general.
Number four, you get a college degree, which is still valued in many places.
Of course, there are a lot more than this. The bottom line is don’t restrict your future self with your college majors. If you do, you are very much trapped down and never rise above.
One thing you need to watch out during your first five years fresh out of college, that is, don’t be a lifer in one place.
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
I heard someone referring his startup company as his baby. You have to babysit it or watch it closely at its early stage. Like a mother who is thinking of her baby all the time or whenever she is free, a startup founder thinks of its company all the time, too. This is a good strategy to keep teenagers occupied.
If you want your teenager to steer away from trouble or to do something more meaningful other than wasting time on gaming or social media or if you want your teenager to take advantage of his extra energy and time for something potentially beneficial, engage him in a startup and assign him the full responsibility for its survival.
Kids love responsibilities. They see it as a heavy dose of respect and trust in their ability. In fact, parents can start this as early as the teen is ready for it. It is also great for resume building.
This I always encourage my children. That is, there is something called mental block, which is self-inflicted obstacles, restricting us from trying new realms, stepping out of comfort zone, or opening mouths asking for an opportunity. I want my children to totally liberate themselves mentally when they think what they can do. Remove all forms of mental blocks. Focus on how to do it. The sky is the limit.
Never think that I can’t because I don’t have proper training for doing this or I don’t have experience in this area or I don’t have a degree majoring in this field. It doesn’t matter what your major is or what your background is. Apply for the position or share your enthusiasm, your passion when you think you can do it.
All you need to do is to show your work, if you have or to ask for an opportunity to prove yourself.
On 3/25 post, I mentioned that I applied for the position left vacant by one RN colleague. I applied for that at the beginning of 2014, which I was rejected on the ground of my lack of nursing background. I know I can do it even without nursing background in this healthcare environment. So I applied again. Last Wednesday, on 3/30, the hiring manager came over to inform me that I got this position. At first, it sounded so unreal.
I believe once a person is given the opportunity to prove him or herself, nothing is impossible.
I read this piece some weeks ago, “8 things I learned from The Martian as a young entrepreneur” I forgot if I have shared them here. The list is not long. I will post it again even if I have already.
1. One thing at a time
2. Keep an eye on all the resources you have and try to manage costs effectively
3. You have to take a risk and get out of your comfort zone, go big or go home
4. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together
5. Others can help you but you are still the one who takes all the responsibility and face the difficulties
6. Whatever you do, be the best at it, know what you do
7. Only work with the best
8. Don’t afraid to try something new, don’t afraid to fail and never give up
I started teaching my son math in his early age so that he would excel over others at least in one field. Being outstanding in one field would give him a good feeling and boost his self-esteem.
When he indeed excelled in math and thought highly of himself in primary school, I told him this,
“If you think you are smart and capable, that means one thing to others, that is, contribute one.”
Other people won’t admire you and applaud your achievements as your mother does. The main thing that they care is how much they can give to them. If you cannot share a penny of your gain with others, your wealth means nothing to them. You may say sharing is all they care and all that means to them.
I am not sure if he could understand it at that time. As years go by, I hope my children still remember it and come to appreciate this.
Last Sunday, five days after his birthday, my son told me that their product now has around 8000 users/customers. I was extremely excited about it, so excited that I wasn’t able to go to sleep for a long time that night.
Prior to this, I was worried about his company. What would they do if they don’t have enough users to generate revenue, especially when they run out of sponsors’ money? The three boys have given up so much for this. They did get some publicity after my son’s presentation at Money 20/20 in October 2015. It’s been a few months since their initial launch last October.
I know my son very well. I know he would not give up if this one didn’t work out. He would try another one. But he has worked on this one for about two years and I wish strongly that he will make it work this time. I think this is his fourth or fifth or even sixth startup, counting those he started during college years. I was worried especially around his birthday. I know his girlfriend is eager to get settled down. It will be five years after his college graduation. I know he has worked so hard all these years.
He keeps telling me not to worry. I should have listened to him. I am so happy for him that I kept thinking about it all day on Monday. I have to write it down here.
On my children’s birthday, I wanted to share this with them. In fact, I also want to remind myself that life is a journey, guided by a dream and motivated by a passion to do something greater than ourselves.
A dream is a goal that you want to achieve. No matter what age you are at, never give up life’s dream.
Like Hillary Clinton running for American presidency, not once but twice, when she is on the way to be 70 years old next year. Some call it ambition. Others call it aiming high. I simply call it dream.
Life is full of unexpected twists, turns, obstacles and hardships. The passion to rise above and achieve greatness motivates one to learn, prepare and endure however it takes to get closer to our dreams.
My dearest daughter, far away from me now, I hope you are going to have another great day today. Do something special with your friends. Take some pictures and share with me.
Love you always.
I have been feeling low for the last few days, perhaps because of weather plus the departure of a good colleague plus having efiled federal tax. Sadness always comes to me when I finished something.
However today this thought suddenly hit me while I was still lying in bed — life is too short to feel sad, too short not to enjoy every minute of it. I quickly rejected myself out of bed and started feeling on top of the world.
Always remember this when you feel sad again. Life means nothing less than enjoying every minute of it!
By the way, it is a rainy day starting in the morning. When the sun refuses to come out, be the sun yourself. Be the sun for yourself. I will go to bookstore and library. I need to finish Kansas state tax return today.
This is what I wrote when I applied for a position today.
“Nine years ago when I applied for my current position, it took the hiring manager a giant leap of faith to give me an opportunity to thrive and contribute. At that time I did not have any experience in research and in the world of healthcare. I have realized this is a huge trust not only in my ability to learn and grow but also in my attitude and work ethic. I have proved to be worthy of this trust. Today, I apply for this position, hoping to be conferred the same trust again.
While I cannot guarantee that I will be error-free in this position, I can guarantee that I will bring the very best of myself to honor this position.”
I know the hiring manager, so I basically tell her that this is a matter of trust. If she doesn’t give me the job, it means one thing to me, that is, she doesn’t trust me, which is the key. In the beginning of 2014, I applied for this position and was turned down by her due to the fact that I didn’t have nursing background. Then later that year she offered another person, without nursing background, the same job that she denied me.
As with everything, man proposes, God disposes. This is all I can do. I will do my share and let fate take care of the rest.
It is two days after my son’s birthday and three days before my daughter’s. In between their birthdays, I am thinking of them and missing them a lot more than before.
Strange it was a cold gloomy March day, with spark of snow in the morning. My mood is always impacted by lack of sunlight. I tried to find reason for this. This is what I read today — “Unraveling the Sun’s Role in Depression –More Evidence That Sunlight Affects Mood-Lifting Chemical in the Brain.”
To be sure, I had a busy day at work, with a morning meeting at OP and a diligent monitor to keep me extra busy. Still, I felt the day being heavily blanketed with an unspeakable sadness. It is the last day of one of the colleagues who came to share the office with me in January 2015. We have had a good working relationship. Plus both of us are book lovers. We talked more about books and our own lives than about work during her stay here. Being aware of the fact that today is her last day surely makes the day sadder. Tomorrow I will be alone in this office.
I have to philosophize the day. In our life’s journey, we don’t know who we will encounter or when our path will cross or when we will part our ways. The only comfort is leaving a place, knowing that we have treated all in our path with honesty and respect.
The real boost of the day is — bringing out the very best of ourselves wherever we are and feeling no regret when we have to say goodbye.
This is something that I read sometime ago and I forgot when and where. Below is the whole thing that I have saved and am sharing it here, though I have to say that I don’t agree with the article 100 percent.
“Don’t fall for these skin myths
Think you know a lot about skin and skin care? You might be surprised at how much “common knowledge” about keeping your skin clear and healthy is simply not true.
Here, we debunk 10 common myths about skin.
1. The right skin cream can keep your skin looking young.
There are hundreds of skin treatments that claim to help you look younger or slow the aging process. For reducing wrinkles, the topical treatment with the best evidence behind it is retinoic acid (as in Retin-A). Many over-the-counter products contain retinoic acid, but it’s difficult to say if one is better than another. But the best ways to keep wrinkles at bay are using sunscreen and not smoking.
New information on treatments for both medical skin conditions and cosmetic problems is available in this updated Special Health Report on Skin Care and Repair. This report describes scientifically approved treatments for common medical conditions from acne to rosacea, as well as the newest cosmetic procedures for lines, wrinkles, age spots, and other problems. An explanation of the ingredients in popular skin lotions and cosmeceuticals is also included.
2. Antibacterial soap is best for keeping your skin clean.
Skin normally has bacteria on it. It’s impossible to keep your skin completely free of bacteria for any amount of time. In fact, many experts are concerned that the use of antibacterial soap could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibacterial soap is not necessary for everyday use. Regular soap is fine. Thorough and consistent hand-washing, not antibacterial soap, is what helps prevent the spread of infection.
3. Eating chocolate or oily foods causes oily skin and acne.
The truth is that an oily substance called sebum causes acne. It’s made and secreted by the skin. In fact, there’s no evidence that any specific food causes acne.
4. Tanning is bad for you.
Spending an excessive amount of time in the sun or in a tanning booth can increase skin cancer risk, especially if sunscreen is not used. Skin cancer risk is correlated with total lifetime sun exposure and frequency of sunburns. Excessive tanning can also damage skin, causing it to wrinkle and age prematurely.
But developing a light or gradual tan through repeated, but careful, sun exposure isn’t dangerous. As long as you’re taking precautions — such as using a sunscreen of at least SPF 30, applying it thoroughly and reapplying when necessary, and avoiding peak sun exposure times — a light tan with no burning isn’t a warning sign.
5. Tanning is good for you.
People often associate a dark tan with the glow of good health. But there’s no evidence that tanned people are healthier than paler people. Sun exposure does have a health benefit, though. Sunlight activates vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D helps keep bones strong, and may also lower the risk of certain cancers and boost immune function. Depending on how much vitamin D you’re getting in your diet, a lack of sun exposure could increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency.
6. The higher the SPF of your sunscreen, the better.
Above a certain level, a higher sun protection factor (SPF) has little added benefit compared with a lower SPF. Experts generally recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks out 97% of UVB radiation. It may be worth a higher SPF if you’re planning to be outside for more than two to three hours, especially during hours of peak sun exposure (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). But in most circumstances, a higher SPF may not be worth the extra cost.
7. A scar that is barely noticeable is the mark of a good surgeon.
The true skill of a surgeon is demonstrated by what he or she does between making and closing the incision. While surgeons routinely pay more attention to incisions on the face (using thinner suture, making stitches closer together, or avoiding the use of sutures altogether if possible), the appearance of a scar tells you little about the skill of your surgeon.
8. Vitamin E will make scars fade.
There’s little evidence to support this claim. Talk to your surgeon or dermatologist if you have concerns about the appearance of a scar. There are many options for improving the appearance of scars, including laser treatments.
9. Crossing your legs causes varicose veins.
There are a number of risk factors for varicose veins, but crossing your legs is not one of them. Heredity is one of the most important — an estimated 80% of people with varicose veins have a parent with the same condition. Other things that make a person prone to varicose veins include smoking, inactivity, high blood pressure, pregnancy, obesity, and having a job that requires prolonged standing. If you already have varicose veins, elevating your legs and using compression stockings may be helpful. But keeping your legs “uncrossed” won’t prevent or improve the condition.
10. Scalp massage can prevent baldness.
There’s simply no evidence that scalp massage prevents baldness, tempting as it is to believe.”
Today is the 27th birthday of my son. I created this to celebrate the day. I wish him a happy birthday. I hope he will do something special to mark the day.
I am so proud of you, the greatest son of all!
I chatted with a colleague of mine (sidekick) about doing the right thing today. She shared with me how she felt after going to the gym yesterday. Before that, she felt a bit reluctant, like “En, I don’t feel like going on treadmill today. I’m a bit tired. I’ll do it tomorrow, etc” But with a little effort, she conquered herself and did go. She said she felt great after exercise, even if she didn’t start this way. Her husband felt the same way.
I shared with her what I told my children. That is, do the right thing always because that’s the only way that makes you happy in the end. No matter what you do, either drinking or eating or smoking or exercise or gossiping or working, make no exceptions.
Sometimes, when we yield to our weakness we might experience a transient moment of pleasure like when we are over a buffet or when we indulge in gossiping about others or when we spend hours browsing aimlessly on the internet or when we drink or smoke or simply being lazy and skip our daily exercise. But what counts most is how you feel in the end.
I read this piece in Chinese a few weeks ago. Yesterday I translated it into English for my children and my readers here, hoping we all can benefit from this.
(1) Brain likes color. Color can help memorize things.
(2) Brain can focus well for only 25 minutes. Need a break after 25 minutes.
(3) Brain needs rest. If you feel tired, take a 20-minute nap.
(4) Brain needs high-quality fuel. Don’t feed it junk food.
(5) Brain needs water. It won’t functions well in dehydrated state.
(6) Brain likes challenges. Problem-solving enhance productivity.
(7) Brain has its own rhythm of the day. You can get more done during your brain’s prime time of the day.
(8) Brain and body often interact with each other. If your body acts lazily, brain will think you are not doing something serious. Pay attention to your posture while working on serious matters.
(9) Brain is impacted by smell.
(10) Brain needs oxygen. Get fresh air outdoor.
(11) Brain needs space. It helps brain if you work in a spacious room.
(12) Brain likes clean environment. Getting room organized helps brain to be more organized.
(13) Brain suffers damages from too much stress.
(14) Brain does not know what you can or cannot do. Self-talk gives hint to brain what you can or cannot do. Give positive self-talks!
(15) Brain is the same as muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
(16) Brain needs repetition to memorize well. More review, more memorized.
(17) Brain understand faster than your reading speed.
(18) Brain needs exercise.
(19) Brain puts things in their categories by using association. Association helps memory.
(20) Brain likes jokes and humor. You learn more when you are in good mood.
I don’t remember when I saved this article and where I read it but I remember that I am going to share it here for people like my son who is the head of his company. It is as well-said as it is rare in reality. I wish I could send this to the management team in my workplace. But I know better than that.
7 Proven Ways to Genuinely Connect With Your Employees
Communicating openly with your employees, recognizing them for good work, and giving them room to grow will vastly improve their engagement and your company’s bottom line, by PETER ECONOMY
What kind of difference would it make for your company to get every one of your employees excited about solving problems, making recommendations, expressing their new ideas, and taking care of your customers?
Every company today needs employees who are enthusiastic and who bring the very best of themselves to work. Companies need this not just from top performers but from every employee, every day, in order just to be competitive and survive, let alone thrive. The single element that distinguishes one company from another more than anything else is its people and the effort they exert.
The secret to unlocking this unlimited source of energy for your company is to build and strengthen the bonds between you and your employees. When you trust and respect your people–and really connect with them–they will respond with commitment and enthusiasm. Give these seven strategies for connecting with your employees a try and see for yourself how your organization will benefit.
1. Put people first.
All employees–no matter what their positions are or how well they perform their jobs–want to be respected and valued for their contributions. Respect comes in many different forms: respecting opinions, respecting time, respecting culture, and more. And respect is a two-way street. Employees also need to respect their employers and their own careers instead of viewing their jobs and salaries only as entitlements.
2. Create a safe haven.
In many organizations, bosses rule their employees through bullying, threats, and intimidation. Unfortunately, over the long term, fear causes employees to contribute less to their organizations and to disconnect both mentally (checking out, clamming up) and physically (absenteeism, resignation). Employees must feel safe when they take the initiative to try something new, whether or not the idea works. It’s your job to provide your people with a safe haven to bring forward their ideas, and to tell the truth–no matter how hard it may be for you to hear.
3. Break down barriers to information.
Information is power, and bosses have traditionally wielded this power by selectively granting information to employees or withholding it from them. Organizations today can no longer afford the practice of selective communication. Employees must be informed–through constant, complete, and unfettered communication by their co-workers, managers, and customers–about what’s going on in the organization and their place within it. Only when they have complete information can they and will they give all they have to their organization.
4. Create golden opportunities for personal growth.
Owners have an inherent interest in ensuring that their organizations get the biggest bang for their buck, that is, that revenue is maximized, expenses are minimized, and customers are consistently delighted with the products and services they receive. The granting of stock and other financial incentives is one way to develop a sense of ownership in employees. But there are many other nonfinancial ways that leaders can instill an owner’s mentality in the workplace, including giving employees real responsibility and authority to make decisions that affect their jobs and their work.
5. Undo the organization.
In the past, rigid, bureaucratic, and rule-bound organizations were the model of consistency, dependable results, and steady if not stellar profits. However, this old model of business is now officially extinct, and a new model of business–a lean model built on speed, flexibility, and the active involvement of frontline employees–has taken hold. When you give your employees the responsibility and the authority to do their jobs, you and your organization will be successful because you’re depending on them to do the right thing on their own instead of depending on policies and procedures that force them to do so.
6. Engage your people.
Although many organizations have spent a lot of time over the past few years developing and installing elaborate employee suggestion systems, few have made them a permanent part of the way they do business. Even fewer actually implement the good suggestions they receive. This is a mistake. Employees are a tremendous potential source of organizational improvement, and you should make it a point to regularly tap this wealth of ideas.
7. Make recognition a way of life.
Despite years of research proving the overwhelmingly positive effect of employee recognition on the bottom line, few bosses take the time to recognize and reward their employees for a job well done–and even fewer employees report that they receive either recognition or rewards at work. The amazing thing about this is that the most effective forms of employee recognition cost little or no money, such as verbal and written thank-you’s for employees who do a good job, and publicly celebrating team and group successes.
I read this article last week “The Relationship between Mental and Somatic Practices and Wisdom” by Patrick B. Williams1, Heather H. Mangelsdorf1, Carly Kontra1, Howard C. Nusbaum1, Berthold Hoeckner. The article is 14 pages long. Below are the key points that I collect from the article. The main thing is meditation helps increase your wisdom.
The article “explore possible mediating relationships of experience and wisdom by characteristics thought to be components of wisdom. Wisdom was higher on average among meditation practitioners, and lowest among ballet dancers,…”
“Common themes [of wisdom] include the skillful use of knowledge acquired through life experience, lowered anxiety in the face of difficult life decisions, careful reflection on the mental states of oneself and others, and action based in compassion and pro-social behavior.”
“wisdom is characterized as a deep and accurate perception of reality, in which insight into human nature and a diminished self-centeredness are acquired through life experience and practice in perspective taking..”
“Experimental research into the malleability of wisdom suggests that wisdom is affected by training specific strategies for gaining knowledge, inferring insight from personal experience, and viewing difficult situations from a distanced perspective…”
“Meditation is a practice long associated with the development of wisdom in Buddhist and Taoist traditions. Meditation may influence wisdom in multiple ways, for example by increasing interpersonal skills and by decreasing general anxiety through increased emotional self-regulation.”
“Wisdom is often characterized by the ability to face difficult situations with lowered stress and anxiety, and meditation may train the sort of emotional self-regulation that leads to this quiescent mental state. In experimental settings, brief meditation training has been associated with increased optimism and reduced recall of negative words, suggesting that meditation influences affect by reducing the impact of negative thoughts and stimuli.”
“…the results suggest that practicing emotional regulation in the course of meditation training leads to a decreased focus on negative thoughts and stimuli.”
I read this piece somewhere earlier this year. I thought of sharing them with my children but kept delaying until today. Then I forgot where I read it. I wish I could give someone some credit. Here are the key points.
Following are 13 things you should STOP doing right now to become more productive:
1. Impulsive web browsing
2. Multitasking–not to do
3. Checking email throughout the day
4. Moral licensing. This idea that we “deserve” to splurge on fancy meal after being thrifty for a week is called “moral licensing,” and it undermines a lot of people’s plans for self-improvement. Instead, try making your goal part of your identity, such that you think of yourself as the kind of person who saves money or works out regularly, rather than as someone who is working against their own will to do something new.
5. Putting off your most important work until later in the day
6. Taking too many meetings
7. Sitting all day with any exercise
8. Hitting the snooze button trying to delay getting up
9. Failing to prioritize
10. Over-planning–Many ambitious and organized people try to maximize their productivity by meticulously planning out every hour of their day. Unfortunately, very often things don’t always go as planned.
11. Under-planning– first determine what you want your final outcome to be, then lay out a series of steps for yourself. Once you’re halfway through, you can review your work to make sure you’re on track and adjust accordingly.
12. Keeping your phone next to your bed.
13. Perfectionism—More often than laziness the root of procrastination is the fear of noting doing a good job. “We begin to work only when the fear of doing nothing at all exceeds the fear of not doing it very well … And that can take time.” The only way to overcome procrastination is to abandon perfectionism and not fuss over details as you move forward. Pretending the task doesn’t matter and that it’s OK to mess up could help you get started faster.
Preconception can channel one’s expectations. It can also narrow one’s vision. This is how I experienced when I was reading Pat Conroy’s 2009 novel South of Broad.
Before opening South of Broad, I knew that Pat Conroy writes in the tradition of southern literature. Hence, I expected the Faulkner ingredients in Conroy’s book, unearthly death, suicide of the best and the smartest one, promiscuity, incest, mental illness, unspeakable deviance, and the hollow aristocratic pride and prejudice of a dying world with undying people. It turns out Conroy’s book has all of them and much more. Wasn’t I right!
“… a priest appears in the room with his arm around the throat of a struggling, naked boy. The boy is beautiful and blond; the priest is handsome, virile, and strong. The boy tries to scream, but the priest stops him with a hand around his mouth. The boy struggles, but he is overpowered and raped by the priest, and raped brutally,…”
That rape leads to Steve’s suicide. Leo King, the protagonist and Steve’s younger brother, and his family “suffered a collective nervous breakdown” after they buried the boy. Another person, Leo’s father, dearest to Leo, died when Leo was 18 years old.
The twin, Sheba and Trevor Poe, were sexually abused as children by their father who, “started out as a run-of-the-mill pedophile; …had a bad habit of eating his own feces.” In the end, this is what the father did to Sheba, “…unrecognizable if you didn’t know her, lies the hideous, mangled corpse of the radiantly beautiful American actress Sheba Poe. She has stab wounds all over, even to her face and both eyes…”
Leo married Starla Whitehead, who suffers “borderline personality disorder” and also commits suicide. At the end of the book, events happened to Leo and to his loved ones turn into a “galvanic nightmare,” so much as that Leo’s life falls apart. He caves in to the black hole of depression, becoming suicidal himself. He has to check into a psychiatric ward to regain his sanity.
This is how my preconception of southern literature leads me to read out of Conroy’s South of Broad novel and how I remember the book.
For the record, I picked up this book because a colleague of mine recommended the author. Of course, after my reading, I went back to my colleague with this question, “What is it that you like this author so much?” She mentioned the heart-warming friendship of the group of middle aged folks when they flew out to San Francisco to look for one of their high school buddies–Trevor.
This is how the story goes. About 20 years after their high school graduation, Sheba, now a famous movie actress came back to Charleston, asking her high school friends to help find her twin brother, Trevor, whom she believes is dying of AIDS. Leo, Frazer, Molly, Niles, Ike, Betty, together with Sheba all went with her to San Francisco. They were there for about two weeks before they located and brought back their friend.
I was not impressed by this part at first. I tried to disqualify this as being too far-fetched. Partly because I was expecting deviant elements to live up to my self-fulfilling prophecy in south literature; partly because I was truly not familiar with the close-knit, inter-related small town life like Charleston.
I was reminded that such friendship was possible in small towns where people grow up together, play in the same high school football team; go to the same local college, and back to work in the same town. In this book, they become further inter-related through marriage, Niles marries Frazer, Chad’s sister; Leo marries Starla, Niles’ sister. Molly becomes part of the clan through marriage with Chad. Sheba and Trevor are friends to all of them.
No doubt that I was initially restricted by my own preconceptions and experience. That is, I didn’t grow up in a small community like this. Still, I cannot tell if the novel is a fictional rendition of the author’s overall cheerful sentiment about human society or realistic depiction of a small southern town life.
It’s been a few weeks since I returned the book to our local library. The characters and the tragic events are still vivid in my mind. The paradox that challenged me has remained unresolved. I cannot shake off the irony posed in the book about traditional society. That is, a close-knit community that has retained many traditional values and features is supposed to reach out to everyone and provide more channels of social, emotional and psychological support than modern society does, be it in the form of church or family or friends, so that people would not resort to suicide.
The irony in the book is, in the end, none of them works for Leo King, just as none of them ever works for his brother Steve who succeeds in taking his own life. When all else fails and when Leo became “the most suicidal client who has ever walked into her (Dr.) office,” he has to be saved by modern medicine and was signed into the psychiatric ward of the Medical University Hospital of South Carolina, a modern and rather dehumanized institution to a traditional society.
When I discussed this paradox with my colleague, I was reminded of the fact that in many small communities like the one in the book, people are trapped in this façade of their moralistic upbringing. They are nice and polite to each other, but they choose not to share with each other their dirty linen. They are more concerned with preserving the surface of their little perfect life than being psychologically healthy. I must admit that I have tread into an area that I am not familiar with.
No doubt this is another thought-provoking novel that I have read this year.
I don’t know what happened to me last Friday when I wrote to one of the upper management of going to conferences. I don’t mean that I shouldn’t have written that email. I should. And I should feel good after sending it out. After all, they don’t know and don’t care what you think. It is up to me to make myself understood.
What actually bothers me is I should not feel upset at all. Why did I feel so upset? The fact I feel upset shows that I got myself trapped down by the workplace surroundings. I should always keep myself above and beyond what is going on around me, instead of allowing it to disturb my equilibrium.
Now think how not to get myself trapped down by the going-on like last Friday.
This is the article that I wrote for KC Star, that I mentioned in my last post.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Last Saturday, February 20, 2016, history was in the making. A new chapter began in the Chinese-American fight for equality and justice when over tens of thousands Chinese Americans in over 40 American cities walked peacefully on the streets protesting the injustice against former NYPD probationary officer, Peter Liang.
Such large turnout of protesters is totally unprecedented in Chinese Americans history. This is the first time that Chinese Americans united as one behind a brother and it represents a kind of political coming-of-age for the community.
Liang was charged with second-degree manslaughter over what William J. Bratton, the New York police commissioner, called an “accidental” shooting death of Akai Gurley. He could face up to 15 years prison time.
Protesters believe Liang has been scapegoated to release tensions between the African-American community and the New York City Police Department. They believe Liang is a victim of selective justice, especially in light of the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death by a white office. In this context, he appears to have been convicted to assuage dissatisfaction over the acquittal of white officers. The Chinese Americans throughout the country have never been so enraged.
The protesters carried these banners and slogans,
“Justice not politics”
“One Tragedy, Two Victims”
“Equal Justice, No scapegoating”
“No Selective Justice”
And Martin Luther King Jr.’s words — “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The Chinese community in Kansas City shared the indignation over the injustice against Peter Liang. When they came out last Saturday, they first offered condolences to the family of Akai Gurley. Below is their statement to the press.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Today, the Chinese community in the greater Kansas City Area have joined hundreds of Chinese communities across the country to march the Martin Luther King March. Over 200 local Chinese Americans rallied in downtown Overland Park to show solidarity for Peter Liang.
Their message is loud and clear–
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“No selective justice.”
Tomorrow, we will fight wherever justice is denied, whatever the color of his skin. We want the world to know that Chinese Americans are not a silent minority. We will continue following the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. for the realization of a shared dream: equality and justice for all!
This is what happened last week in regard to my article submitted to KC Star. I sent my article to the editor of As I See It section on the morning of 2/23, then again the next morning trying to get an update. I needed to get back to a group of Chinese friends. On 2/25, when I still have not heard from that editor, I wrote to another one on 2/25.
I said, “I don’t really want to bother you. But I do want to know whether or not S.P. is in the office this week. I have not heard from him, even though I have tried to reach him twice this week. If he is not in the office, what would you recommend me to do regarding the article that I submitted this Tuesday? Appreciate your help.”
That editor was very prompt in getting back to me. He wrote, “His desk number is 816-234-4762. If he doesn’t want to run it, we’ll have to wait until your next event for coverage. I know you are keenly interested in this issue, but because it’s mainly a New York story, we would judge that it doesn’t matter so much to readers around the KC area. There are many such community actions we don’t cover for just that very reason. Regards”
So he has been in the office all these days and still pretends like he has not read my email. When you are ignored and left no other options, how would you feel? I need to let him know how I feel at the moment.
“It is very kind of you to write back.
I was fully aware of the fact that my article would not go down well with some people…
Back to my communication with your As I See It editor, you know, it is one thing that he doesn’t want to use my article for whatever reason which I don’t take personally; it is entirely a different matter that there is a lack of professionalism and the basic courtesy to even do one acknowledgement. Your editor has employed the most effective tool against someone he doesn’t like, that is, by totally ignoring that someone as if that one is beneath his time and attention, that my voice has been ignored for whatever excuses. To say I don’t feel hurt is a lie.
But realistically speaking, what option do I have? None. I already know he has decided to ignore me for some unknown reason. Calling him to confirm what I’ve already known? No. What purpose does it serve to dig him out and confront him by calling him? None. I am speechless in face of such a lack of professionalism. It is like a child play, hiding behind his computer as if he had not received my email. I once worked for China Daily, an English language newspaper in China. To put things in perspective, in the long run, this is one unique experience of mine, hopeful once in lifetime.
Once again, thank you for getting back to me. Appreciate this greatly especially in this context.
I really don’t mince my words here, because I am sure they don’t care. So, go ahead ignoring me. I don’t care either.
On 2/26, the editor for As I See It wrote to me, finally. Too late, I am already upset.
“Keith forwarded your notes to me, and I obviously need to explain that I get dozens of submission every week and have only so much space for them. You should not take my miscommunication as a personal affront. The fact is, I only have so much space and time to consider these. I generally only respond to the people whose submissions I’m considering. I have not even read yours yet, and probably won’t get to it until next week
We only run one or two As I See It columns a week. The pipeline is always full. And I will suggest to you what I tell others: You would more likely be published on a timely basis if you resubmit your piece as a letter to the editor, at a maximum of 200 words.
Thanks for understanding,”
I wrote to him, with due respect in due time. I didn’t tell him that I thought he deliberately ignored me because he is prejudiced against Asian Americans, which I am not sure of and I will never know. And I also didn’t tell him that he only reads email from Keith and gets back to me only because of Keith email. Is Keith your boss or what?
“Thank you for your explanation.
I don’t want to sound like whining for attention. However, I do believe one short acknowledgement to the sender as a due courtesy is better than a total silence. Silence can be interpreted in many different ways. I thought you tried to ignore me which left me no other options. I hope you could understand that being ignored together with having no option does not give people a good feeling.
I am not going to do a letter to the editor, for two reasons. 1) It is a time-sensitive event. 2) A letter to the editor does not stand as high notability as other options. To be honest, I don’t want to sound like an average reader because I am not. Being a Chinese and writing about Chinese Americans objectively can be a challenge. I will continue writing on Chinese American communities in the future and I do want our voices to be heard. I hope you can appreciate my being honest.
Thank you for your response.”
He still tried to explain,
“I certainly understand your position, and I would welcome a piece from you about Chinese American issues, which, I agree, are vastly under-represented in the media. But my time for editing that column is very limited and I can’t possibly respond to everyone who offers an unsolicited submission. My time frame for answering people who have offered something I can use is usually within a few weeks, which is not unreasonable in the publishing world. And though you’re right that an OpEd column is a little more high profile than a letter, those column spots are very limited and the letters column is generally very popular.
As I said, I’ll take a look at your piece next week.”
I gave him the last word, “Again, thank you for the explanation. I should have known. Have a nice day.”
I am not sure if he realized or not that his one short reply to my initial email could have avoided it all. Some people never learn anything. I don’t know if that editor is one of that some people. It is such an agonizing experience. For now, I want to put it all behind me.
It’s not been a pleasant week for me. But by Friday, when I attended a zoom meeting at work, I was more upset than before. Our workplace sends people to attend this or that conferences either in Hawaii or San Francisco or Chicago or some other more scenic place. I don’t know why I have never been given an opportunity to attend any of them, even though other colleagues doing the same job have been to more than one conferences. I simply don’t understand why. I mean I can present papers, high quality ones, at these conferences, better than the majority of them. They know this. They have read what I have written and have paid enough insincere lip services. I feel like they deliberately shut me out of it.
This morning when the same topic was presented and when I saw other people going here and there. I couldn’t remain silent any more. So I wrote to the meeting host via private chat, asking her why. She said she would relate the question to K, the top one in our department. I told her not to, because I would rather tell K myself, even though I’m sure she will report to K everything.
I wrote to K, “The reason I keep writing to you is I believe in telling the truth. Why don’t we ever have a chance of attending any of these conferences that were mentioned during this morning’s meeting?” Of course, I didn’t tell her all the truth, especially the truth about one of my colleagues’ leaving.
I expect her coming up with some explanation, that is, telling the truth as why I have been neglected in this regard. But I was disappointed when I received her email, “You can…just let [my manager] know. We try to support travel for any staff person 1) that’s been with clinical trials (CCP and ACP) organization for at least one year and 2) is in good performance standing (i.e. is not on a performance improvement plan). Have you let [my manager] know you are interested in attending a conference?”
I don’t know what to say. My manager never cares and never mentions any of these conferences at all! I was very very upset. I know I shouldn’t care. The fact is I feel more and more irrelevant at work. Still, I wrote back to her politely, “Thank you for getting back to me. Have a nice day.”
People are limited in terms of their ability to think beyond their own interests. I have found many people around me feel irrelevant at work, which explains why we have such a high employee turnover rate. It’s beyond my pay range to worry about this. I only record one of my experiences there.
By the way, one of my colleagues just had an interview this afternoon. I know she will leave soon. No wonder. I even have prepared a goodbye card for her.
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.
Obviously time flies by without our catching it and without finding me getting anywhere in meeting my New Year Resolution. See how the first month of the new year is gone now! Today is the first day of the second month of the still new year.
Looking back at last month, I am sorry to say I have behaved like before and have not been as productive as I have promised myself. I can see how month slips by like before without me accomplishing anything. And I don’t want this month repeats last month or this year repeat last year.
This is what I have to do in order to have a more productive year than previous ones. On the first day of each month, I will ask myself this question: what do you want to achieve for this month? Lay out specific short-term goals for each week.
This is what I have for this month:
For daily brain exercise:
Memorize one investment term a day for this month. Review them daily.
For daily physical exercise:
Walk briskly for 30 minutes a day plus 100 jumprope a day
For daily reading
Read about Game Theory at least 30 minutes a day;
Week1: finish writing the first draft of two articles: (1) book review on South of Broad (2) the article on working with the monitor;
Week2: contact ACRP the MONITOR journal for publishing the monitor article; contact others if no reply; editing them if there is a need; work on an article on the two war memoir novels. Explore the topic of AE reporting for the second article to be published;
Week3: complete at least one book review on the book that I have finished reading;
Week4: write a piece on game theory.
I have so many books lying around on the floor that I have planned to read but never find time for them. I will read them if I have met my goals for the week.
I keep telling my daughter how she goes about looking for interns and jobs. Meanwhile I try to prepare her for the challenges ahead.
For one thing, not getting the job you have applied means rejection, which can mean many other things. Like they don’t trust you have the ability to hold the position you apply, they don’t believe in you, like they don’t see your value, your potential, like they might even have prejudices, like all sorts of negative thoughts that surge up in your brain, and that’s enough to ruin your day and your mood.
You need to amass a large chunk of energy and will power to repel these negative thoughts. You need to keep in mind that the only person that is being hurt by negative thought is nobody but you. So, regardless what happens, stay upbeat. And that takes great efforts.
You also need to keep in mind that hopelessness means when you give up trying, that there is hope as long as you keep trying. Don’t give up. Don’t despair.
Of course, I cannot tell my daughter that you are only 20 years old, that you still have time, etc. She would not buy that. She knows too well time and tide wait for no one.
“… as far as I [Theo] knew, the thought of selling the changelings [“cannibalized and heavily altered pieces”] for originals or indeed of selling them at all had never crossed Hobie’s mind; and his complete lack of interest in goings-on in the store gave me considerable freedom to set about the business of raising cash and taking care of bills. … I did not for one instant doubt Hobie’s astonishment if he learned I was selling his changelings for real.” p. 453, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
You can’t help feel sympathetic toward Theo Decker, the protagonist of The Goldfinch. Death of his mother at age of 13, left with a father who is better dead than alive, becoming an orphan at age of 15, how unfortunate can one become?
You would expect Theo to be grateful when he appeared at Hobie’s door like a homeless boy and was accepted totally unconditionally by such a kind fatherly figure. You would expect him to be totally honest to such a man, at least not to cheat him by selling changelings for originals. Theo does it even though he knows it is wrong.
Why does he do it? I have tried to find excuses for his actions. None holds water, except the fact that he inherits this trait from his father who tries to swindle money from his own son.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Isn’t this what the author implies?
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer was the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The 544 page story is set against World War II, from 1934 to the end of the war. It tells the tale of a 6-year-old blind French girl named Marie-Laure LeBlanc and an exceptionally smart 8-year-old German orphan called Werner Pfennig.
This book immediately brought to mind The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, due to their similar historical backgrounds. Both are war memoirs. Both books end with the deaths of good people–Isabelle and her father in The Nightingale, Werner and Marie-Laure’s father in this book.
Between the two, I would have to say Kristin Hannah is the more skilled storyteller. All the Light We Cannot See is most markedly different from The Nightingale in its inclusion of the Sea of Flames, an intriguing myth.
Doer’s novel shifts back and forth from Marie-Laure to Werner, which disrupts the continuity in the separate story arcs.
There are many deeply touching events throughout the book. The one of the most unforgettable characters is Marie-Laure’s father.
Marie-Laure’s mother died at the childbirth. She lost her eyesight at age of 6. To make up for her loss of vision and help her gain independence, her father builds a model of the town, a miniature of the city, with properly scaled replicas of the hundreds of houses, shops and hotels, etc. He also builds a model of Saint-Malo after they moved there, with “the irregular polygon of the island framed by ramparts, each of its eight hundred and sixty-five buildings in place.” The tremendous amount of love and labor poured into this model is unbelievable.
The father took the 6-year-old Marie-Laure to his office everyday. One day, he said,
“Here, ma chérie, is the path we take every morning. Through the cedars up ahead is the Grand Gallery.”
“I know, Papa.”
He picks her up and spins her around three times. “Now,” he says, “you’re going to take us home.”
Her mouth drops open.
“I want you to think of the model [of the town], Marie.”
“But I can’t possibly!”
“I’m one step behind you. I won’t let anything happen. You have your cane. You know where you are.”
“I do not!”
Marie-Laure drops her cane; she begins to cry. Her father lifts her, holds her to his narrow chest.
“It’s so big,” she whispers.
“You can do this, Marie.”
But the father never gives up, insisting that she learn to navigate the town by touch and by memory. “…in the winter of her eighth year, to Marie-Laure’s surprise, she begins to get it right.” By studying the model of the city, she has found that everything “in the model has its counterpart in the real world.”
With the ceaseless support from her father, Marie-Laure, despite her disability, grows up to be an independent and highly accomplished scientist, with great courage and intelligence. I thought of many contemporary parents who spoil their healthy children by being lax in dispensing discipline, and realized what a gift her father gave her.
Another heartwarming passage is when Marie-Laure’s father departs for Paris, leaving her alone for the first time in her life. He promises to come back in 10 days, and “On the twentieth morning without any word from her father, Marie-Laure does not get out of bed… She becomes unreachable, sullen. She does not bathe, does not warm herself by the kitchen fire, ceases to ask if she can go outdoors. She hardly eats.” I found it difficult to hold back tears, understanding how bleak yet wanly hopeful she must have felt during those days without substantive news.
He says she is his “émerveillement”, and that he will never leave her, “not in a million years.” His father’s words come back to her. Yet, he does not come back from that separation, and has most probably died at a German concentration camp.
I would have expected Marie-Laure’s father to survive the war, but it would not be quite realistic because war means death, and death is indifferent to good and bad souls and the wishes of a little blind girl.
“The absurd does not liberate; it binds.” –Albert Camus. Indeed, it binds humans like fate dictates the trajectory of Theo Decker’s life. This is how Donna Tartt starts her novel The Goldfinch.
“…the line of beauty is the line of beauty. It doesn’t matter if it’s been through the Xerox machine a hundred times.” — Hobie
“…dreams and signs, past and future, luck and fate. There wasn’t a single meaning. There were many meanings. It was a riddle expanding out and out and out.”
“Bad artists copy, good artists steal.” – Hobie quotes Picasso’s word.
“I suppose it’s ignoble to spend your life caring so much for objects—. Caring too much for objects can destroy you… isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things–that they connect you to some larger beauty?” — Hobie
I was tempted to call the novel a memoir of a mother or how a teenage boy grows up without his mother or “the nail where your fate is liable to catch and snag.” Isn’t it true that his mother, dead 14 years ago, comes alive through his memory? On the other hand, with plenty of serious talks from Boris and Hobie on art and life, doesn’t the author try to tell us that it is much more than a memoir or a coming-of-age story, a Bildungsroman?
The novel starts with Theo Decker, protagonist, trapped in an Amsterdam hotel, after killing two persons. It then quickly flashed back to the death of his mother 14 years ago, the milestone in his life. The Goldfinch, the 1654 Carel Fabritius’ masterpiece, is his possession now after he took it from the museum. For 14 years, he was burdened with the fear over The Goldfinch, fearing that he might get caught and be punished for keeping it.
Just as Theo was settling down at his friend Andy Barbour’s house and trying to recover from the trauma of losing his mother, his father suddenly shows up and takes him away from New York City to Las Vegas, with the intention of swindling him of the money his mother left for him. This triggers a real downward spiral in his life.
With the death of his father in two years, the 15-year-old Theo left Boris, his Vegas friend, went back to New York City, and started a new chapter in his life. At some point, while he is in the antique business with Hobie, Theo’s smartness got Hobie, a father-like figure in his life, “in a jam” when he sells sham antiques as real ones.
When Boris showed up in his life again 12 years later, Theo learned that the painting he has been keeping all these year is a mere copy.
Looking at the events that occurs to him and the people in his life, I am wondering about fate and random chance, wondering how Theo’s life would be if his mother had not died when he was 13 or if his alcoholic father had not snatched him away from Andy Barbour’s house or if his father had not died in two years or if he had not met Boris in Vegas or met Welty or Hobie in New York or if he had known the fact about The Goldfinch.
I can’t help marvel at the interplay of fate, chance, nature and nurture in a person’s life. His mother, Hobie, Boris, his father, Mrs. Barbour, Welty, The Goldfinch, each one of them has played an indispensable role in his life, making him what he is now.
Indeed, there is always something in life that we cannot choose, like our parents and people who cross our path. But there is something within our control, like taking drugs or becoming alcoholic or sell sham antiques, etc.
Goldfinch is a good book in the sense it lingers on in readers’ minds, posing questions, and making them think and wonder, like how much autonomy can we claim in becoming who we are, independent of influences from our parents, events happened to us and people in our lives, etc.?
On the other hand, it is better not to focus on the uncontrollable factors, critical though they are, in order to prevent oneself from falling into a mire of fatalistic thinking.
Main characters in the novel:
Theodore “Theo” Decker, 13-year-old
Welton “Welty” Blackwell, who gave Theo a ring at the museum
Andy Barbour, his school friend, Platt, Kitsey, and Toddy Barbour
James “Hobie” Hobart, Welty’s partner, Theo became Hobie’s antiques store partner
Pippa, a girl Theo is in love with
Larry Decker, Theo’s father
Xandra, Larry Decker’s girl friend
Boris, a cosmopolitan son of a Ukrainian émigré
Popper, Xandra’s neglected Maltese puppy
Lucius Reeve, one of the buyers at Hobie’s store
Tom Cable, Kitsey’s boy friend
My daughter came back after last spring semester on 5/12/2015 and left today, 1/12/2016, exactly 8 months staying home with us while working remotely on her projects. It has been such a blessing, a privilege, a luxury having her for 8 precious months. I dare not expect it to happen again in the near future. I was spoiled and got so used to having her around that I felt lost after I got home from office today.
The house seems empty and joyless without her. I felt so sad that I couldn’t help sobbing out loud. I have to try hard telling myself, “Behave yourself. Keep in mind what your children want you to do. They want you to be happy and healthy. They want you to exercise more, read and write more, enjoy yourself more, etc. And they still look up to you as a good role model.” I have promised to do something to make them proud of me.
Now is the moment to start new and put out an action plan to get something done for this year, so that when they fly back, I will have something noteworthy to share with them.
Of course, the most important task of all is to keep fit and prepare a warm nest for them to fly back… Remember this!
This is what I said to my children, “A New Year Resolution shows you want to improve and you want a better tomorrow. Don’t become cynical or discouraged when you have not followed through your previous ones. What we need is follow-up to our resolutions to make sure we keep our promise.”
This is my New Year Resolution 2016
(1) For physical health:
–brisk walk for over 30 minutes per day
–jump-rope over 100 times per day
(2) For brain health:
–learn a new language this year, 30 minutes per day, by the end of the year I shall be able to read spiegel.de
–learn a new craft, be it garden skill or something else
(3) Career development:
–publish two articles on professional journals this year
–keep options open
(4) Personal improvement/time management:
–de-cluster the house at least once a week;
–spend at most 30 minutes on social media per day in the evening
–to make sure, unlike previous years, real change will take place this year, do a follow-up at least once a month.
No, I have not forgotten this occasion and the New Year Resolution that we are all supposed to think about.
My son came back on 12/18 and left for NYC on 12/29. As always I had a wonderful time at home spending time with him. We drove to New Orleans on 12/20 and back on 12/24, 5 days and 4 nights. We spent most of the time on the way driving there. Back to Kansas, we took a detour visiting Houston to meet my sister’s son. From there, we drove north, stopped at Dallas.
When my son was home, I mentioned New Year Resolution. Both of my children were a bit skeptical about it, saying we made it and broke it every year. There was really no point of doing it again. I said break resolution does not mean resolution-making itself is a bad thing to do. It only means we have not dutifully followed up with the implement of our resolution. Once again, I believe having a resolution is always better than without.
My New Year Resolution consists of the following sections:
(1) For physical health
(2) For mental health
(3) For career advance
(4) For personal improvement
So, it is time to look back and look forward for a better tomorrow.
Nowadays I seldom get free advice from Harvard Medical news. They always send links of the article and you have to pay in order to read it. Occasionally, they send short pieces like this one. Here’s one today. It looks familiar. I mean I might have read it before and even have posted it here before. Be what it is.
“Even the healthiest people can find it hard to stick with an exercise regimen — and if you suffer from the joint pain of arthritis, moving your body may be the last thing you want to think about. But regular exercise not only helps maintain joint function, it also relieves stiffness and reduces pain and fatigue.
If you have arthritis, you want to be sure your exercise routine has these goals in mind:
1. A better range of motion (improved joint mobility and flexibility). To increase your range of motion, move a joint as far as it can go and then try to push a little farther. These exercises can be done any time, even when your joints are painful or swollen, as long as you do them gently.
2. Stronger muscles (through resistance training). Fancy equipment isn’t needed. You can use your own body weight as resistance to build muscle. For example, this simple exercise can help ease the strain on your knees by strengthening your thigh muscles: Sit in a chair. Now lean forward and stand up by using only your thigh muscles (use your arms for balance only). Stand a moment, then sit back down, using only your thigh muscles.
3. Better endurance. Aerobic exercise — such as walking, swimming, and bicycling — strengthens your heart and lungs and thereby increases endurance and overall health. Stick to activities that don’t jar your joints, and avoid high-impact activities such as jogging. If you’re having a flare-up of symptoms, wait until it subsides before doing endurance exercises.
4. Better balance. There are simple ways to work on balance. For example, stand with your weight on both feet. Then try lifting one foot while you balance on the other foot for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Over time, work your way up to 30 seconds on each foot. Yoga and tai chi are also good for balance.”
I read this piece by Dr. Robert Walinger today, What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness. Immediately, I want to share it with my children. Then I thought I’d better wait till they are married and let them know the importance of a good relationship to the happiness of their lives.
What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life? If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and your energy? There was a recent survey of millennials asking them what their most important life goals were, and over 80 percent said that a major life goal for them was to get rich. And another 50 percent of those same young adults said that another major life goal was to become famous.
And we’re constantly told to lean in to work, to push harder and achieve more. We’re given the impression that these are the things that we need to go after in order to have a good life. Pictures of entire lives, of the choices that people make and how those choices work out for them, those pictures are almost impossible to get. Most of what we know about human life we know from asking people to remember the past, and as we know, hindsight is anything but 20/20. We forget vast amounts of what happens to us in life, and sometimes memory is downright creative.
But what if we could watch entire lives as they unfold through time? What if we could study people from the time that they were teenagers all the way into old age to see what really keeps people happy and healthy?
We did that. The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, we’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.
Studies like this are exceedingly rare. Almost all projects of this kind fall apart within a decade because too many people drop out of the study, or funding for the research dries up, or the researchers get distracted, or they die, and nobody moves the ball further down the field. But through a combination of luck and the persistence of several generations of researchers, this study has survived. About 60 of our original 724 men are still alive, still participating in the study, most of them in their 90s. And we are now beginning to study the more than 2,000 children of these men. And I’m the fourth director of the study.
Since 1938, we’ve tracked the lives of two groups of men. The first group started in the study when they were sophomores at Harvard College. They all finished college during World War II, and then most went off to serve in the war. And the second group that we’ve followed was a group of boys from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, boys who were chosen for the study specifically because they were from some of the most troubled and disadvantaged families in the Boston of the 1930s. Most lived in tenements, many without hot and cold running water.
When they entered the study, all of these teenagers were interviewed. They were given medical exams. We went to their homes and we interviewed their parents. And then these teenagers grew up into adults who entered all walks of life. They became factory workers and lawyers and bricklayers and doctors, one President of the United States. Some developed alcoholism. A few developed schizophrenia. Some climbed the social ladder from the bottom all the way to the very top, and some made that journey in the opposite direction.
The founders of this study would never in their wildest dreams have imagined that I would be standing here today, 75 years later, telling you that the study still continues. Every two years, our patient and dedicated research staff calls up our men and asks them if we can send them yet one more set of questions about their lives.
Many of the inner city Boston men ask us, “Why do you keep wanting to study me? My life just isn’t that interesting.” The Harvard men never ask that question.
To get the clearest picture of these lives, we don’t just send them questionnaires. We interview them in their living rooms. We get their medical records from their doctors. We draw their blood, we scan their brains, we talk to their children. We videotape them talking with their wives about their deepest concerns. And when, about a decade ago, we finally asked the wives if they would join us as members of the study, many of the women said, “You know, it’s about time.”
So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
We’ve learned three big lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely. And the sad fact is that at any given time, more than one in five Americans will report that they’re lonely.
And we know that you can be lonely in a crowd and you can be lonely in a marriage, so the second big lesson that we learned is that it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.
Once we had followed our men all the way into their 80s, we wanted to look back at them at midlife and to see if we could predict who was going to grow into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wasn’t. And when we gathered together everything we knew about them at age 50, it wasn’t their middle age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old. It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. And good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old. Our most happily partnered men and women reported, in their 80s, that on the days when they had more physical pain, their mood stayed just as happy. But the people who were in unhappy relationships, on the days when they reported more physical pain, it was magnified by more emotional pain.
And the third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer. And the people in relationships where they feel they really can’t count on the other one, those are the people who experience earlier memory decline. And those good relationships, they don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.
So this message, that good, close relationships are good for our health and well-being, this is wisdom that’s as old as the hills. Why is this so hard to get and so easy to ignore? Well, we’re human. What we’d really like is a quick fix, something we can get that’ll make our lives good and keep them that way. Relationships are messy and they’re complicated and the hard work of tending to family and friends, it’s not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong. It never ends. The people in our 75-year study who were the happiest in retirement were the people who had actively worked to replace workmates with new playmates. Just like the millennials in that recent survey, many of our men when they were starting out as young adults really believed that fame and wealth and high achievement were what they needed to go after to have a good life. But over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community.
So what about you? Let’s say you’re 25, or you’re 40, or you’re 60. What might leaning in to relationships even look like?
Well, the possibilities are practically endless. It might be something as simple as replacing screen time with people time or livening up a stale relationship by doing something new together, long walks or date nights, or reaching out to that family member who you haven’t spoken to in years, because those all-too-common family feuds take a terrible toll on the people who hold the grudges.
I’d like to close with a quote from Mark Twain. More than a century ago, he was looking back on his life, and he wrote this: “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”
The good life is built with good relationships.
I read this article today 10 Easy Ways to be more productive at work. Immediately I thought of sharing it with my children and my dear readers here. Below is the whole thing. I categorize it under Emotional Intelligence because anything that needs self-discipline needs certain level of emotional intelligence to execute it. Getting more things done needs more self-discipline than time.
1. Understand Your Body’s Timetable
It’s important to organize your day around your body’s natural rhythms, says Carson Tate, founder and managing partner of management consultancy Working Simply. Tackle complex tasks when your energy’s at its highest level. For many this may mean first thing in the morning, after you’ve rested and eaten. Save low-intensity, routine tasks for periods when you’re energy regularly dips, like late afternoon. Everyone is different, so it’s important to understand your own timetables, she says.
2. Prioritize Prioritizing
Prioritizing tasks takes a lot of mental effort, says Tate, so you should plan to think about your day or week when your brain is the freshest. Then, organize your time considering which tasks are most important, how much time you’ll need for each, and the best time of the day or week to complete them based on your body’s rhythms.
3. Establish Routines
Our brains are wired to be very good at executing patterns. Establishing routines around the way you carry out regular tasks makes you more efficient and productive. For example, Tate recommends creating email rules to automate checking email, responding to routine requests and archiving emails. You may create a similar routine for opening, reading and filing physical documents. In the same way, stick to set routines for starting and completing new projects or delegating tasks to others.
4. Batch Together Similar Tasks
The brain also learns and executes complex tasks by lumping together similar items. Leverage this ability by scheduling similar tasks back-to-back. For example, you may make all of your phone calls one after another, or draft and send emails at one time.
5. Take Breaks
Complex tasks, like writing or strategizing, take a lot of mental effort, and your brain can only focus for a limited amount of time. That means it’s critical to take breaks and let your brain rest. Take a walk or socialize for a bit. Then when you get back to work, you’re energized again.
6. Create A Five-Minute List
When you don’t have the energy to start a major task or you find your energy waning, using a five-minute list: A to-do list of easy, low-intensity tasks that you can do in less than five minutes. It might be an internet search, printing out and sorting documents, or light research. Whatever it means for you, the five-minute list can help you be productive even during the times you have difficulty concentrating.
7. Don’t Multi-Task
One thing the brain is not good at is multi-tasking, or switching rapidly between tasks. Nothing gets your full attention and you’re more likely to forget things. Instead, it’s better to focus on one item at a time.
8. Do A Daily Brain Dump
Eliminating “popcorn brain”–the incessant popping of ideas and to-dos into your thoughts–by doing a brain dump, where you empty the contents of your brain by writing down all the myriad thoughts, ideas and errands that pop up. Just focus on getting them all out and then connect the dots later, she says.
9. Make Routine Tasks Fun
One of the reasons people often procrastinate is that they find a task boring and have trouble motivating themselves to do it. But those tasks still need to get done. Try to make the routine work more fun, perhaps by listening to music or trying a new environment. Have your team meeting in the park or during lunch, for example.
10. Use ‘High-Performance Procrastination’
If you procrastinate, it sends an important signal. Ask yourself why. Is the idea not yet fully formed? Is the task even worth completing at all? Is the project out of alignment with your goals or skills? Use the information to cull your to-do list and focus on what’s really important.
Today a colleague of mine told me how upset she was with her adult child. According to her, her child was very smart but just couldn’t get through college courses. She was talking about someone who would be 30 years old next year. After getting back home, I read something about how successful people go about their daily lives. I thought it helpful to share these here.
1. They make SMART plan. Execute their plan immediately. Take action. No procrastination.
2. They know how to rest well so that they work with efficiency and high energy.
3. They know how to prioritize and categorize things.
4. They are laser-focused. They are 100% involved in what they are doing at the moment.
5. They don’t seek perfection at the first try. They won’t stop doing something because it is not perfect.
6. They work with rhythm, busy when there dealing with urgent matters; relax when dealing with trivial.
7. They have both vision and well-laid out program to reach their goal. Plan->execution->check their plan and summarize.
8. Good time management. Do the must-to-do first.
9. They are good at delegating to others.
Yesterday, as we were entering highway 435 westbound, a white SUV on my left lane slowing cut in front of me and then moved to the lane to my right, and parked on the shoulder. I pressed my brake and watching her with utter shock and amazement. She maneuvered her vehicle as if everybody else were non-existent. How could she do that? My daughter and I were simply speechless.
For a long time we talked about it and still couldn’t believe what we just witnessed. I could have hit that SUV easily but I was able to hit brake and let her go.
“Well, you see with your own eyes that there are all kinds of people on the highway and we have to drive very carefully and defensively,” I said to my daughter.
First of all, the title of the movie, “While We’re Young,” is rather misleading. The main characters — middle-aged couple Josh and Cornelia Schrebnick — are not young any more. Why isn’t it called “While We WERE Young” as it should be? Does it imply that they are still young at heart even if they are not physically? If it does, the ending doesn’t suggest it.
The movie starts with presenting a childless New York couple in their mid-40s, who have struggled but failed to have children. Josh has this grand idea about his documentary film and has worked hard on it for a decade but failed to accomplish anything. They seem living in a state of quiet resignation.
Then their dull and staid life is shattered when Josh is approached by Jamie and Darby, a young couple in their mid-20s. Josh is smotheringly overwhelmed by the vitality, youthfulness, and optimism of young Jamie, so much so that the older couple is sucked into the whirl of youthful activities. They copy their new friends in everything from hat-wearing to hip-hop classes to promiscuous swearing. The effect is of an elder generation mimicking a younger generation that is in turn taking lifestyle cues from many preceding generations. In one scene, Josh exclaims: “I remember when this song was just considered bad!” when Jamie slips a pair of headphones on him.
Josh and the young Jamie share a passion for documentary filmmaking, and Josh’s father-in-law is a luminary in this field. It is later revealed that Jamie approached Josh with the hidden agenda of getting closer to the latter’s father-in-law.
Jamie gets inspiration and assistance from Josh and, with some modest fabrication, he makes a widely-acclaimed documentary about an Afghanistan veteran. When Josh confronts Jamie about his “dishonesty”, his raucous, public accusation does not detract from Jamie’s success in the eyes of their onlookers.
The theme touches on many things — inter-generational conflict, the old trying to cling to their youth, the contrast between the “wisdom” of age and the optimism of youth. The ending suggests that there is no compromise between the two generations when Josh comments on Jamie, “He’s not evil, he’s just young.” It is more of a resignation and a stereotyping of youth than a confession that he can actually learn something from them.
The movie ends with the middle-aged couple on the way to Port-au-Prince to adopt a Haiti baby, still looking unsure of what life will be after that.
The whole adventure with the younger generation has left them to confront and accept the reality that they are not young any more.
By the way, if you are looking for likable characters, stay away from this one.
Here’s what I learned today about keys to a long life:
Be social. Loneliness kills.
Smile often. Grumpiness hurts yourself most.
Be moderate. Don’t go to extreme.
Get a higher education,
Be friend with healthy people. You tend to gain weight when you are with fat ones.
Don’t sit for long,
Be a good person, which is a reward in itself.
Be a great neighbor. Kindness to others comes back to benefit you more than you give to others.
Be positive in life.
Now we know better.
I read this article today Healthy School Year and thought of sharing with parents here, even though some of us already knew this, even though my children have all left home. It is a good one and I wouldn’t let go any good one without sharing it here.
“Grades may matter less than parents think By Natasha Persaud Feeling socially connected as a child could be more important to future happiness than good grades, according to new research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The Australian study tracked more than 800 men and women for 32 years, from age 3 onward, to discover pathways to adult wellbeing. Their model of wellbeing involved values such as:
(1) believing life is meaningful,
(2) social involvement at work and at play,
(3) having coping skills,
(4) and kindness and trust.
Remarkably, economic security wasn’t included because previous research suggests it’s not that important to happiness.
Why Parents and BFFs (Best Friends) Matter During childhood, parents and teachers assessed whether participants were confident, well-liked by peers or excluded from activities. During adolescence, the now teenagers performed self-assessments that gauged personal strengths, friendship quality, parental support, participation in groups and overall life satisfaction. Having someone to talk to if they had a problem or felt upset was very important.
Why should social interactions early in life matter? The study authors posit that it promotes healthy ways of relating to oneself, others and the world. The research, while preliminary, might be eye-opening for parents. While grades are important, fostering a good relationship with your son or daughter is more so. Likewise, helping your child form positive friendships may help him or her enjoy a truly good life later on.”
End of the article.
I read this from Harvard Medical School newsletter. “Trying to be perfect can cause anxiety.” Below is the article. I shared it with a colleague of mine today.
“No one is “perfect.” Yet many people struggle to be, which can trigger a cascade of anxieties.
Perfectionism may be a strong suit or a stumbling block, depending on how it’s channeled, as clinical psychologist Jeff Szymanski explains. Dr. Szymanski is an associate instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the International OCD Foundation.
“The core of all perfectionism is the intention to do something well,” says Dr. Szymanski. “If you can keep your eye on intention and desired outcome, adjusting your strategy when needed, you’re fine…. But when you can’t tolerate making a mistake, when your strategy is to make no mistakes, that’s when perfectionism starts veering off in the wrong direction.” In its most severe form, perfectionism can leave you unable to complete any task for fear of making a mistake.
To help you prioritize the projects and activities that mean the most to you and keep your personal strategy in line, Dr. Szymanski has shared the following exercise:
What do you find valuable in life? What would you want 50 years of your life to represent? If that seems overwhelming, think about where you want to put your energies for the next five years.
Think about your current goals and projects, and assign them priorities. Use the letters “ABCF” to help you decide where you want to excel (A), be above average (B), or be average (C), and what you can let go of (F). For example:
• A (100% effort): This is reserved for what’s most important to you. For example, if your career is most valuable, your goals might be to impress the boss, make sure clients are happy, put out good products at work.
• B (above average, maybe 80% effort): Perhaps you like playing golf or tennis or want to learn a new language. You enjoy these activities, but have no plans to go pro.
• C (average effort): Perhaps having a clean home is important, too. But how often does your home need to be cleaned? People aren’t coming to see it every day. Could you just clean up on the weekends? Or focus on a few rooms that get the most traffic?
• F (no effort): Time-consumers that don’t advance your values or bring you pleasure — for example, lining up all your hangers or folding all your clothes in a specific way. Do you have any tasks that, upon reflection, don’t really matter — you’ve just done them one way for so long that you’re on autopilot? These deserve to be pruned.”
Yesterday I shared with some of my acquaintances, former classmates, friends on wechat my posting “Reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.”
I also shared it with my daughter. She always enjoys reading what I write. She encourages me to read and write more. In fact, she insists on being the first reader of my writing. Sometimes, I do feel encouraged. One old friend of mine is the same way.
I shared with a colleague of mine, hoping she would pick up this book. Sometimes, I wish I were part of a book club so that I will have a place to talk about what I read with others.
“In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.” –The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
Although days have passed since I closed this book, I still can’t stop thinking about it.
It is a war time memoir of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, about the events, love, hate, life and death, from 1939 to the end of World War II. The story is told through flashback in 1995, with Vianne reflecting upon those harrowing years living under Nazi occupation.
“In war we find out who we are.” Indeed, some French people became “collaborators”, helping Nazi to round up and deport Jewish people.
Both sisters had stood the ordeal of the war. They are vastly different in personality, yet both are brave in their own way and both have suffered excruciatingly gut-wrenching experiences at the hands of their Nazi occupants.
Isabelle, code named the Nightingale, chose the dangerous task of shepherding crashed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees Mountains to Spain, saving over 117 men. The seemingly weak Vianne risks her life to protect her own children and those of her Jewish neighbors.
The climax of Vianne’s greatest sacrifice comes when she allows herself to be raped by the hated German soldier who billets at her house in exchange for the promise that he would not harm her children.
On this, Isabelle said, “What I learned in the camps, …They couldn’t touch my heart. They couldn’t change who I was inside. My body, they broke that in the first days, but not my heart… Whatever he did, it was to your body, but your body will heal…”
The next great sacrifice comes when Julien, their father, learns that Isabelle was captured and tortured. The Nazis tried to make her reveal the identity of Nightingale. Julien turned himself in as Nightingale so that his daughter could be released. For this, he was summarily executed.
Many words rush to mind when I try to grasp the theme of this book — courage, strength, sacrifice, bravery, endurance, motherly love. But none of these words are powerful enough to describe these extraordinary, unforgettable people.
This happened on 10/20/2015 when a colleague of mine had one of her impatient moments. During a teleconference, they emailed us PowerPoint slides for us to go with the conference. She became frustrated when she couldn’t open the attached slides. Blood rushed to her head as she acted out her frustration. She was raving about things like “If I need it for my job, I should have it in my computer.” She almost banged her mouse on the desk.
It turned out PowerPoint application was not installed on her computer. I have it on my computer. So I immediately converted the slides into pdf file and emailed it to her.
I can’t believe some people are so short in patience and quick at building up steam and letting it out. They remind me of a terrible two-year-old. The funny thing is this kind of behavior seems to be the norm around my workplace.
They expect perfection of others. They expect to have all their ducks lined up in a row for them. They have zero tolerance of other people’s slightest oversight. Even if they know nobody is perfect, including themselves, they still won’t compromise their expectations.
This is what I shared with my daughter and hope she remembers it.
(1) Don’t expect perfection of others.
(2) Tolerate and forgive other people’s flaws and oversights.
(3) Develop problem-solving skill.
On the morning of 9/8, we felt a bit sad when we realized that today would be our last day in Paris. We would leave for Charles De Gaulle Airport the next morning.
Every day when we went out early in the morning, the street was rather empty. As the day went by, we saw more people out and on the run. One interesting thing we observed in Paris is, except early in the morning, we can always see people sitting outdoor in some eatery. They are conveniently situated outside cafes, and the rows of clean chairs and tables outside all seem to face pedestrians, like front row seats.
I remember sitting in a place called Café Français, right around the Bastille fortress. As we ate, my daughter and I people-watched and made discreet comments in Chinese. The locals appear to drink profusely, smoke publicly and have a seemingly endless amount of time for chatting.
One interesting phenomenon about these eateries is that their chairs almost always face streetward. At first, I thought this arrangement was meant to facilitate people-watching (like what we did). Nope. We started throwing out random guesses later. At one time, I said perhaps they were afraid that someone would either grab their bags or assault them from street, because petty crime tends to be higher in large, touristic cities. My daughter posited that having a single row of chairs per row of tables was meant to save space.
My daughter planned to go to Jeu de Paume and a few other art galleries. She said Jeu de Paume was an art center for modern and postmodern photography. According to the map I checked, it is located in the northeast corner of the Place de la Concorde. That area seems lined up with a few other famous places of interest. I was much more eager to see the Place de la Concorde than postmodern photography.
When we got off the bus at Concorde, we landed on its northwest corner, which we didn’t know at the time, so we fell back on old tricks — asking people. We stumbled onto a policeman, but it turned out he wasn’t sure where Jeu de Paume was. Still, he was eager to be helpful and directed us to go further north along the Avenue Gabriel. We did, but it turned out the direct opposite of where we ought to have headed.
As we meandered further away from the Place de la Concorde, I felt something was off. The Avenue Gabriel seemed quiet and relatively deserted compared to other museums we had visited. Jeu de Paume was supposedly just off the Concorde. Time to ask people again.
Strangely, there weren’t really other pedestrians around except for a group of policemen standing and chatting on the north side of the Avenue Gabriel. We were on the south side of the Avenue.
As we crossed the Avenue, they all stopped talking and turned to us, seemingly on high alert. They were armed to the teeth! They didn’t know where Jeu de Paume was neither. “That must be a really tiny museum,” I said to myself. One of them, a smart one, used his cellphone to google it and found it for us.
As we said merci and was ready to cross the Avenue, one police told us to keep clear from north side. I asked “pourquoi?” We learned beyond that tall wall is Ambassade des Etats Unis d’Amerique! Wow, the US embassy! The surrounding is heavily barricaded and the policemen acted like they were facing imminent danger at any second. No wander they were on high alert when they saw us crossing the Avenue; no wonder there weren’t many people around.
Years ago, I went to the US embassy in Beijing. It looked like a country fair or flea market with plenty of people loitering outside or doing business. It did not look drastically different from its surroundings. The gate guards looked normal and relaxed. I guess for the US embassy there is much more to guard against in Paris than in Beijing.
We left Jeu de Paume and headed for our next destination. I must say the scene outside Jeu de Paume was more entertaining to me than what I saw inside.
We went to an area where there was a concentration of art galleries, one next to the other, either for one individual artist or for a handful of them. Many of them seemed very interested in selling rather than exhibiting. To me, the prices they asked seemed exorbitant. “Good luck on that,” I said to myself.
The highlight of the day was meeting with my high school best friend at her apartment in the area of Invalides. Her own daughter was visiting her, too. Since my daughter is a vegetarian for this year (from one birthday to the next), she served a special dish for me–escargo! She prepared two kinds of dumplings for us, one with veggie filling another kind with meat. The homemade meal was especially delicious to us because we had been eating outside all these days in Paris.
Of course, as we have learned, no French meal is complete without some kind of alcohol. She dished out a variety of drinks. I tried to stay away from it for fear of looking like a drunkard because I have low tolerance for alcohol. My daughter had her share of the fun and even took with her a small bottle of Cointreau. We had a wonderful dinner and a very enjoyable gathering at her apartment.
That concluded our Paris adventure! The next day we would be heading home. Already I started feeling homesick for Paris!
This was how we started every day in Paris — an early rise, the application of toiletries, and a croissant from one of the bakeries near our bus stop. A friend of mine later asked how I could remember Paris’ street names. What I would do to prepare for each day was simple: I studied the map, found out which bus route we would take, and recorded all relevant street names on a notepad. Then off we went with the map and the notepad.
Even with that level of preparation, we almost never reached our location without getting lost once or twice. When we looked back on those days, it was so much fun and such an adventure.
On 9/7, my daughter planned to visit three places: the Cité de la Mode et du Design, the Cité de l’architecture et du Patrimoine, and the Palais de Tokyo. We would go to the fashion and design school first.
As always, the directions on the map was as clear as daylight– we would hop on a bus and get off at Gare de Lyon which is not far from the Seine river. We would cross the river and the museum would be right off the bridge.
I had a clear picture in my head of the location of Gare de Lyon and the river, but with a cloudy day, we couldn’t tell which direction we were headed in after we emerged from the metro. We walked and walked and still couldn’t see the river. The station couldn’t be that far. So we stopped, asked a passer-by and learned we were heading north when we needed to go southward.
After lots of merci’s, we turned toward the river. Meanwhile, we laughed and told each other, “See, good thing we asked someone, otherwise, we’d never see the right river.”
After crossing the Seine, we got lost again because the Cité de la Mode et du Design was nowhere in sight. I remembered it was not far from and to the east of the bridge, but the roads looked so perplexing. We walked a little while before we decided to stop and ask people again.
It turns out the museum was right off the Pont Charles de Gaulle. When we were wandering around the north side of the river, we crossed the Pont d’Austerlitz, which is far west of the de Gaulle bridge.
While my daughter was having her fun time in the galleries, I climbed up to the roof where a variety of vegetables, flowers, and even fruit trees were grown. I sat down on a bench, resting my tired feet and enjoying the panoramic view over the Seine. At that moment, Mao’s poem surfaced, “You can’t be considered a true man if you cannot reach the top of the Great Wall.” Funny that I gave myself a pat on the back as if I had climbed that height.
From there, we took a bus to our next museum, the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. From the map, we knew the architecture museum was not far from Guimet, the Asian art museum. But trust me, that didn’t make it any easier to find.
Eventually, we arrived after walking back and forth on the Avenue de President Wilson. I felt like I had completed a whole month’s worth of exercise in less than one day. Once inside, I grabbed a chair in the cafe and spent the next few hours there. My daughter jokingly said, “It seems like the first thing you try to spot in a museum is a chair.” That is absolutely true.
It was around 7:30 pm after our dinner. My daughter still planned to visit the Palais de Tokyo. It is conveniently in the same neighborhood, so off we went. I really find it hard to enjoy contemporary art, so I told my daughter to go inside while I was at the cafe and gift shop.
Unsurprisingly, there were some Chinese in the cafe. One young couple was talking in Chinese, so I greeted the girl in Chinese, in an attempt to make small talk. She aloofly answered, “What can I do for you?”, to which I responded, “Nothing.”
After they left, another group of Chinese came over and I was able to chat with a few of them. We left the museum around 10 PM. I knew my daughter wanted to stay longer, but I thought it was not safe to be outside too late.
I started writing this day’s events on October 7, exactly a month after these events. When looking back, I had such a fond memory of our days in Paris.
Today a colleague of mine at another location told my sidekick that one physician’s certain account had expired. Since my sidekick was busy, I took it over.
I contacted that person. Here’s the email exchange between us.
I said, “I just talked to Dr. … about his expired … account. He said he would renew it on Thursday morning.”
The other person said, “Does he have the paperwork or do I need to resend?”
Me, “I don’t know what he has. Perhaps it will help if you could resend it.”
The other one sent 3 docs, saying “Attached are the forms he needs to renew his …”
Me, “I will email back to you the three documents after he signs and dates on them. What else does he need to do after that?”
The other one, “I will need the original documents.”
She didn’t answer my question. I will send the original to you, then what next? I guess that person thinks it’s none of my business to know what to do next. I would be contacted if there was a need. Interesting. So I stopped here.
If I ask others to help me with something like this, I would write this. “If he still has the documents, please ask him to review, sign and date on them. If he doesn’t have them, let me know and I will resend them. Please send them back to me the original after he has done so. I will take care of the rest after I receive the original.”
The novel “debuted at number one on the The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list (combined print and e-book) dated February 1, 2015, and remained in the top position for 13 consecutive weeks.”
The plot is rather straightforward, centered around three women and one man.
Tom, a charming liar;
Rachel, Tom’s ex-wife;
Anna, Tom’s ex-mistress and current wife;
Megan, Tom’s current mistress;
All three are Tom’s victims. Tom cheated on Rachel when he started having an affair with Anna. Tom cheated on Anna with Megan. Tom then murders Megan, who is pregnant with his baby. Rachel finds out and confronts Tom who attempts to also kill Rachel. The story ends with Rachel killing Tom in self-defense.
Rachel, the protagonist, seems the most unlikely heroine. When you first read the book, you can’t help lamenting the wretched life that she is leading–an alcoholic, unable to tell what’s real because of frequent blackouts, fat, lying, frazzled, unemployed. And because of these qualities, she is devoid of self-respect and self-value.
The cathartic part is in the end she finally sees through Tom’s manipulation and finds the strength at a critical moment to save herself. She also wins over and discovers a most unlikely ally in Anna. I think she turns out to be a true heroine when she brings justice for all three of them.
I will not let go anything from Harvard Medical School, even if I have read it many times. Here’s one on exercise and the quality of your life.
“Exercise not only helps you live longer — it helps you live better. In addition to making your heart and muscles stronger and fending off a host of diseases, it can also improve your mental and emotional functioning and even bolster your productivity. Exercise can improve your quality of life.
1. Wards off depression: While a few laps around the block can’t solve serious emotional difficulties, researchers know there is a strong link between regular exercise and improved mood. Aerobic exercise prompts the release of mood-lifting hormones, which relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being. In addition, the rhythmic muscle contractions that take place in almost all types of exercise can increase levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which combats negative feelings.
2. Sharpens wits: Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, which may help maintain brain function. It also promotes good lung function, a characteristic of people whose memories and mental acuity remain strong as they age. While all types of physical activity help keep your mind sharp, many studies have shown that aerobic exercise, in particular, successfully improves cognitive function.
3. Improves sleep: Regular aerobic exercise provides three important sleep benefits: it helps you fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less during the night. In fact, exercise is the only known way for healthy adults to boost the amount of deep sleep they get — and deep sleep is essential for your body to renew and repair itself.
4. Protects mobility and vitality: Regular exercise can slow the natural decline in physical performance that occurs as you age. By staying active, older adults can actually keep their cardiovascular fitness, metabolism, and muscle function in line with those of much younger people. And many studies have shown that people who were more active at midlife were able to preserve their mobility — and therefore, their independence — as they aged.
9/6 was the second day of Paris museum pass. Originally we planned to visit three museums that day: Palais de Tokyo–museum of modern and contemporary art, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Guimet Museum of Asian Art. All three of them are within short walking distance, in the same neighborhood as the Tour Eiffel.
For some reason, we thought all of the three were included in the museum pass. Not so until we stood at the ticket check of Palais de Tokyo. We decided to move to the next museum on our list–Musée d’Art Moderne, which is as close as next door. Once again, I was struggling to make sense of modern art while my daughter was enjoying every minute of it.
At the Guimet Museum of Asian Art, I was exposed for the first time to a variety of art works from Japan, India, Korea and other parts of Asia. To my unpleasant surprise, the museum, instead of classifying them as parts of Chinese art, call Tibetan art works Arts of Himalaya and Ancient Tibetan Bonpo Art.
The large Chinese collections at Guimet remind me of those at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. The same thought process took place while I was appreciating Chinese collections, the jades, the bronze mirrors, the paintings, the lacquerwork, the ceramics, and the archeological findings from as early as pre-Shang dynasty, almost 4000 years ago. That is, I had a mixed feeling every time I see Chinese arts exhibited in a foreign land. Perhaps it is a good thing that these national treasures are well-preserved and are still on display, regardless where, especially so when you look at what the Islamic militants have done to the ancient Babylonian civilization.
A French gentleman in Chinese painting section struck up a conversation with me in English. He told me he came to the Asian museum every week. He made comments on the stories told in a series of Chinese paintings. He read the explanations carefully. I wish they had English explanations.
My daughter remembered seeing Musée des Arts Décoratifs when we were on a bus running through Rue de Rivoli. We were walking on Avenue du général Lemonnier, which used to be Rue des Tuileries and was renamed in honor of général Lemonnier. The museum closes at 6 pm, so once again, we needed to run. We knew the museum building is at the corner of Rue de Rivoli and Avenue du général Lemonnier and saw the long banner from far away with the word Les Arts Décoratifs going up and down, but it took us a bit longer to find the front door.
My daughter was dazzled by so many beautiful artifacts that she wanted to take pictures of them all. But she couldn’t. Here’s the problem that she started to encounter the day before when we were at the Louvre. She could not take pictures any more with her iPhone. The message that was given was something like exceeding storage. Either her phone ran out of space or her cloud storage was full.
Either way, she had to delete many of the old pictures before she could take pictures again. And that took time when she had to pick and choose among thousands of pictures and decide which ones to delete. It irritated her greatly because we didn’t have the time at that moment. Once again we tried to outstay till we had to leave.
I told my daughter, “Well, one lesson we have learned from this trip is to take a camera with a few spare memory cards.” There went another museum day.
That evening we went to a Japanese restaurant, the one we passed by when we were looking for Musée des Arts Décoratifs. My daughter remembered that place and wanted to go there. So we did. We ended up getting some Chinese foods at that Japanese restaurant. I had 6 dumplings for 5.50 euro plus some vegetable dish which was too heavily seasoned for my liking. I think they were pan-fried frozen dumplings with the rim still hard and dry. I heard cooks there talking in Chinese. Later, a friend of mine told me there were plenty fake Japanese restaurants in Paris. So much for our authentic experience in Paris.
September 5, 2015, the real deal began today. Before our Paris trip, my daughter had a list of famous museums in Paris. She did her research online and found a card called the Paris Museum Pass. For 42 euro you get a 2 day pass; 56 euro will get you 4 days; 69 euro 6 days. They must be used consecutively. Within these days, you have unlimited access to more than 60 museums and monuments in Paris. She would have preferred a 4-day pass, but meeting with her friend on 9/4 ruled out that possibility, so we ended up with the 2-day pass.
9/5 was our first day using the museum pass. We planned to visit three museums: Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou. On the map, the three museums were in close proximity, the Louvre situated on the north side of the Seine, east of the Place du Carrousel, and Musee d’Orsay on the south side of the river to the west of Place du Carrousel; the Pompidou is only few blocks east of the Louvre. We only needed to walk along Rue de Rivoli eastward and then turn north before Rue du Renard. The only public transportation we needed was the bus to the Louvre.
A sidenote: I was truly impressed by Paris’ extensive public transportation system. One can literally get anywhere just by taking the bus or metro. It is even better than that in Beijing, without the same level of traffic jams. Having lived in small or mid-sized cities in the U.S. since 1984, I am used to life without public transportation. Car culture began to feel like it must be the way of life everywhere in developed countries. Before the trip, I thought we would rent a car or render a quarter of our budget to taxi drivers. My days in Paris, without a car or a taxi, have convinced me of the savings and the efficiency of public transportation!
We realized we needed to hurry if we wanted to cover all three museums in one day. We would be at the Louvre first since it opened at 9 AM and is the largest museum in Paris and the world.
We got off the metro at Louvre-Rivoli, turned south and stumbled upon the southern entrance of the Louvre, not knowing we were at the right place until we were in front of the glass Pyramide du Louvre and saw scads of tourists milling around and snapping photos.
I noticed an exceptional number of Chinese at the Louvre, the biggest mass I’d seen in Paris so far. This was surprising at first, then I realized it was just a symptom of China’s burgeoning middle class. I chatted with a Chinese college art teacher.
The Louvre was simply gigantic, its scope almost beyond my poor imagination. I am not sure I can tour it all, were I to devote a whole week there. My daughter was reading the plaques and taking pictures so much that her eyes were dry and tired. So we rested a bit at the museum cafe (where a bottle of frankly mediocre water will run you 3 euros) for a lunch of tomato and mozzarella sandwich. There were a group of Chinese college students sitting close by. One of them told me in Chinese they were part of a study abroad program.
As soon as my daughter felt better, we moved on, knowing we still had a busy day ahead. After heading into a new wing part of the museum, my daughter developed a headache, so we found a quiet alcove in the Flemish wing where she took a nap. A nap in the Louvre! By the time she woke up, it was after 2 pm. We rushed through a few galleries of French paintings before heading for our next museum–d’Orsay.
It was about 4 pm when we finally found the d’Orsay. It took us longer than expected to reach there. I thought the westward road along the Seine seemed unreasonably long. We stopped asking people twice just to make sure we were on the right track.
My daughter wanted to visit the d’Orsay for its collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works. Knowing that the museum closed at 6 pm and we only had two hours of viewing time, we rushed and searched around for these works. We bravely tried to outstay our welcome until a museum attendant made us evacuate. Since the museum shop closed later, we browsed their books and postcards before buying a thick, square volume on the museum’s collections.
From there, we headed for the last museum for the day, the Centre Pompidou. We took a bus and got off at the Châtelet stop. From there, we walked eastward on Rue de Rivoli. The sky was darkening when we finally saw the famous facade. It turned out there were only two floors open to the public and both floors hold modern and contemporary art, which I couldn’t make heads or tails of. We left at closing time, around 9:50.
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On 9/4, the highlight of the day was the trip to Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, which was followed by Sacre-Cœur, Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre.
Before we left for Paris, my daughter and her friend agreed to spend a day at Claude Monet’s house on 9/4. We bought tickets online in advance for that date. Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny is a little over an hour’s train ride from Paris. My daughter’s friend bought 8:20 morning train tickets for us and we were supposed to meet her and her mother at the Gare Saint-Lazare at 8:00. The train would take us from Gare Saint-Lazare to Vernon, where we would hop on a bus to Giverny.
That morning I set a 6AM alarm for fear of missing the train. We reached Saint-Lazare a little after 7. It is a huge train station with a small ocean of people shuttling around in the morning. I believed this was their rush hour. Imagine the immense task of finding her friend who had our train tickets!
We thought it better to wait at the platform that would depart for Giverny. But first we needed to find out which platform it was, which was not an easy task.
One lesson we learned in Paris is that we should have brought with us a portable English-French dictionary. Optimistically, I had expected many Parisians to have at least a moderate grasp of English. This is not the case. Every time we needed to ask a question, we would say in French, “Pardon.” The stranger would say, “Oui?” Then we would ask, “Parlez-vous l’anglais?” Most of time, the answer was “non.” Occasionally, we were excited when people said, “Oui.” And then a bit let down when their English was really far from adequate.
For some reason, people always directed us to ticket office when we asked for the platform for Giverny. We went to the ticket office, hoping someone would answer our question. As good luck would have it, someone there understood us and we finally found the right platform. We waited by the train and for my daughter’s friend to show up, which they did.
Later I shared my experience with a wechat group. I learned this from a college classmate, “…the French are known for being unfriendly to English-speaking people and refuse to speak English if you ask them questions in English without first attempting French.
“Nevertheless, I found over the years that if you have an Asian face, they are more likely to help you and speak English more readily. The fact is, almost all educated French people know how to speak English, but they are simply too proud in front of native English-speaking people, especially American and British visitors. I usually start by saying in French (after basic greetings in French) that I am sorry I don’t speak French but do you speak English? They are almost invariably friendly to Chinese.” Indeed, I must say this is a very accurate description.
Monet’s garden far outshines its painted depictions. You seldom see such luxuriant and naturally well-maintained gardens. It is enhanced with a grove of willow trees and a pond intersected by several dainty bridges. What a joy it would be to live in that environment! No wonder Monet was moved to capture its beauty in oil. I was so inspired by the wonder of the garden that I realized I too could create, to the best of my ability, some natural beauty around my dwelling, just for my personal enjoyment. I felt highly motivated for some days, then this fever subsided as more time went by.
We planned to catch a midday train back to Paris, but got lost on the way to the local bus stop. We missed the bus and ended up waiting for two interminably long hours for the next one. Of course, in keeping with tradition, the first thing we did when we arrived in Gare Saint-Lazare was to use the toilette. We tended to be very opportunistic about using restrooms whenever we found one. Scarcity generates demand. A guy was standing outside to collect fee, 0.75 euro each. It was so funny and bizzare to watch.
Good thing our next place was not far from Gare Saint-Lazare. A bus took us to the Sacred Heart of Montmartre, where a spectacular white church–the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur– towered above, more awe-inspiring than any other structure we had seen so far. We climbed up to the top–Montmartre, and enjoyed the view from the highest point in Paris.
There were plenty of people around, some tourists, some Parisians who lounged on the huge lawn and the stairs before Sacré-Cœur. I told my daughter there were some similarities between Paris and Beijing. For one thing, like in Beijing, you always can see some Parisians seemingly doing nothing but idly sitting around, drinking and chatting, and enjoying sunshine, whereas New Yorkers never have time for this.
It was getting dark as we left Montmartre and walked through narrow lanes with many tiny stores around that area. And that ended another interesting day for us.