Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 41 - Warm Light

Thought of the day:  Recently some of our friends are getting separated or divorced.  I can not even begin to imagine the immense sadness of it, or the years of frustrations and unhappiness that must have preceded the separations.  And their kids...  The world they were born into and grew up in is gone.  How brave will they need to be to get through this at their tender ages?  What impact will it have on them in the long term?  This is so sad.  Wrapped in the warm lights of so many homes, many stories unfold but unfortunately not all of them have happy endings.

Photo of the day:
Window deco and warm light.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 40 - Lila and Drill

Thought of the day:  I got quite a few inquiries lately from people interested in finding a Mandarin speaking babysitter or tutor for their kids.  Some of these families don't have any connection to Asia.  With China being the world's second largest economy already and with its double digit annual growth of GDP, it's well positioned to overtake the US and become the largest economy in the future, provided that it can find enough resource to sustain the growth.  So it's hardly surprising that there's a surging demand in the US for learning Mandarin.  However, Mandarin is certainly not an easy language to learn and I am impressed by how far parents are willing to go to give their kids a possible edge in the future.  Some economists predict that China will overtake US in 10-20 years.  If that happens, these kids will graduate from college when Mandarin is in hot demand and at that point, they may appreciate what their parents did for them when they were just a wee little baby!

Photo of the day:
Lila with a toy drill in Boulder Parenting Place.

Day 39 - Nutcracker

Thought of the day:  December is almost here!  Today we hung up the holiday lights and watched Nutcracker at Macky Auditorium.  The show is festive and delightful and gets many a family, including ours, into the holiday mood every year.  It's also a great way to support Boulder Ballet and Philharmonic Orchestra.  We have been to the show with Jasmine every winter since we moved to Boulder. Lila was not happy to be left out today.  Luckily she will be old enough to join us next year and I can't wait to introduce her to this holiday tradition.

Photo of the day:
Nutcracker show.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 38 - Windup Toy

Thought of the day:  Today I went shopping with Lila at Playfair Toys.  The store is unpretentious and has plenty of space for Lila to move about and explore.  Her favorite activity was riding a Rody Horse - we may get one for her for Christmas (shhhh...)  We like to shop in local and independent stores and we are lucky that there are a few local toy shops in town.

Photo of the day:
Lila playing with a windup toy at Playfair Toys.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 37 - Flying Home

Thought of the day:  There's nothing like a week long stay in a leaky 60 year old house to make you appreciate the importance of insulation again.  Poor insulation is an open invitation for winter to enter your house any time, all the time.  We returned home to Boulder today and it felt so much more comfortable inside the house even though it's much colder outside.  I am so glad that we properly insulated this house - the energy savings and additional comfort is definitely worth every penny spent.

Photo of the day:
Flying home.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Week 5 - Parents' Home

We spent the entire week in Palo Alto helping my parents set up their new home.  I know one is supposed to help their family but this is the only thing I did this week so it will have to count.

Day 36 - Fireplace

Thought of the day:  We don't always eat a turkey on Thanksgiving day. We eat what we happen to have and feel like eating at the moment. For instance, we had some delicious roasted chickens tonight. On this day it's more important who are at the table than what are on the table. Tonight we got to spend some time with family members who we didn't get to see often and that was good.

Photo of the day:
Old fireplace.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 35 - Red Lantern

Thought of the day:  I was biking in Palo Alto late this afternoon when it was getting dark and things were looking a little blurry but I was feeling very at home. Perhaps it was the moisture in the air, perhaps it was the quiet streets, or perhaps it was the thought of the home where my family, including my parents, were waiting for me, I never felt more at home in the bay area than at this moment.

Photo of the day:
Red Lantern.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 34 - Happy Girl

Thought of the day:  There are days when I let an entire day slip by without taking a single picture or writing down a single thought.  When it's getting dark, I am surprised that another day is slipping by and saddened that with a million sparks of light dancing around me all day, somehow I did not manage to capture a single one of them.  This is just like life, a million happenings and a million possibilities are around us but they can easily slip by without registering in our eyes or minds.  Taking pictures is my way of paying attention and becoming aware.  It takes effort as it's often easier to just do nothing.  I am happy to have this blog keep me going.

Photo of the day:
Mischievous little Lila trying to mess with daddy's keyboard.  A happy moment in the house.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 33 - Writing Chinese

Thought of the day:  My dad loves gardening for as long as I can remember.  To me, what makes my dad special is not that he is a great teacher or a great father - and he is both - but that he can turn a space into a green oasis no matter how small it is or what circumstances he is in.  Now that he is retired, this hobby comes handy.  I don't think he has ever had a bored moment as he is spending all waking hours outdoors - whenever he can - doing what he loves the most - gardening.  I always admire people who do things with love and dedication and my dad is definitely one of them.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine was writing Chinese under the guidance of her grandma.  It takes a lot of practice to write them properly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 32 - Exercise Bike

Thought of the day:  Our childhood memories are alive and well deep inside us.  I have fond memories of playing and running in the courtyard of our family home when I was growing up.  Watching my girls playing and running in our courtyard in Palo Alto brings back warm memories and it makes me smile.

Photo of the day:
Lila was holding onto her big sister on the exercise bike in the backyard to get a free ride.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 31 - Green

Thought of the day:  Whenever I visit the bay area, I am impressed by how green it is.  I think I will continue to be impressed for a while as it has not stopped raining since we landed.

Photo of the day:
Wet leaves in the courtyard.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 30 - Mustache Day

Thought of the day:  We are at DIA (Denver International Airport) waiting for our flight to the bay area.  We are going to spend a week in my parents' new home in Palo Alto.  I am full of anticipations and anxieties at the same time.  It's a new adventure for my parents so I'm excited for them.  In the meantime, there's still much to be done for the house and that makes me anxious.

Photo of the day:
Mustache Day at Mesa.  Jasmine did some face painting this morning.  That's something new and she was very excited to wear a Mustache to school.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 29 - Sticky Note

Thought of the day:  This morning I had coffee and conversation with a very dear friend of mine.  A morning flew by so fast and it felt so good.  We do not live far from each other, but we have our own routines and somehow just had not been able to meet and talk for a while.  Sometimes we can be so preoccupied with life that we forget what life is really about. 

Photo of the day:

Jasmine was writing the sticky notes that were attached to the bags we handed out to the homeless people today.  Jasmine said it felt good for her to give out the bag.  It gives life meaning to be able to help.

Week 4 - Boulder Homeless

We often see homeless people on the streets of Boulder.   When we drove past a scruffy looking person holding a cardboard asking for help, I always had a hard time explaining to Jasmine why we should not just stop and give him money.  No matter how logical these explanations seemed on the surface, we were saying "no" to somebody who might legitimately need help.  Jasmine has genuine compassion for these people and I certainly do not want to discourage it.

This week we finally got to do something about this situation.  Jasmine and I went to Costco to buy some warm blankets, socks and chocolates for homeless people and divided the goodies into 10 bags.  I asked Jasmine if she wanted to attach a note and she thought about it and wrote: "I hope this will make you feel better."  We attached a note to each bag, drove around town and gave a few bags away to the homeless people we found on the street.  We gave the rest to the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 28 - Louisville Bus

Thought of the day:  I am missing my very good looking and super slim Apple laptop.  I had it for only two weeks and already had to send it in for repair this morning.  Apple laptop is overpriced, the hardware is crappy, and I can't do without one.  This definitely fits the definition of addiction.  And I am not only addicted to Apple laptops, I'm also addicted to Lightroom.  Comparing with other assortment of addictions, these may not be the worst ones, but they're addictions nonetheless.

Photo of the day:
RTD bus on Via Appia Way, Louisville.  I was watching them go by as the girls played at the Cottonwood Park.  This photo has been processed with Lightroom.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 27 - Path Lights

Thought of the day:  Today it's my turn to write in the Family Message Journal that Jasmine brought home from school.  Every week, she writes a letter to us in the journal and we take turns responding to her in the journal.  We are definitely taking this as serious as she does.  It's very helpful to share our thoughts this way and say things that we would normally not say to each other face to face.  This made me miss the old days when we would actually sit down to read, and write, handwritten letters.  Comparing to typing emails with blinding speed, we definitely write with more deliberation and compassion and that makes all the difference.

Photo of the day:
Our path lights.  I drew these lines with the camera.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 26 - Pink Bike

Thought of the day:  Every day there will be little things that frustrate you and little things that make you smile.  That's pretty much inevitable.  We can, however, choose what to take to heart and what to let go.  In a way, we are affected less by what is happening to us than how we react to it.  And sometimes, just by looking at things from a different angle, we can even turn frustrating things into pleasant surprises.  For example, as we live in west Boulder, in winter time the sun can go down at as early as 3:30. When the rest of Boulder is still basking in the daylight, we're already in the dark.  That is, literally, the dark side of living close to the mountains.  However, when I was outside on the deck after the sunset this afternoon, I had the pleasure of watching the line that sharply divided day and night slowly moving east until it faded away into the horizon.  That was amazing to watch.  What's a better place to watch the light than in the darkness?

Photo of the day:
Light and a pink bike in the playground of Boulder Parenting Place.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 25 - Jasmine and Blankets

Thought of the day:  Since I started this blog, I have been hearing from old friends who I haven't heard from in quite a while.  We may have been close at a different time in a different place, but as time moved on, we went on our separate paths.  With this blog I am able to share part of my life with them again.  This is an unexpected reward for doing this blog and it makes me happy.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine was resting on some blankets we bought today for the homeless people.  It's hard to believe that many of my old friends haven't even met her.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 24 - Boulder Theatre

Thought of the day:  Watching Warren Miller's Wintervention definitely got me into the mood for skiing tonight.  I don't know if it's the movie or the theatre-ful of frenetic powder-craving people.  Probably both.  I also can't help noticing that this crowd is a little different from the crowd in a typical Takacs concert.  The intersection must be minimal.  This is what makes it so interesting to live here.  We get a broad spectrum of people for a population of merely 120,000 - that includes the university students, of course, without them the city will not be nearly as colorful.

Photo of the day:
During the intermission, I saw this reflection of Boulder Theatre on a car window.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 23 - Friends

Thought of the day:  A friend of mine is trying hard to make all the right decisions for her new house - flooring, cabinet, etc.  There are tons and tons of decisions to be made in the building process and it can be overwhelming.  And on top of that, she needs to work with contractors with their own ways of doing things that do not necessarily agree with hers.  We went through a major remodeling a couple of years ago and we can sympathize with what she is going through right now.  Building a house is like going through a lengthy pregnancy.  At the end, all the effort you put in will be made worthwhile when a place you can call "home" is born.

Photo of the day:

Hiking with our friends Jill and Izzy at Chautauqua today.  The Flatirons in the background was lightly coated with snow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 22 - Baby Sister

Thought of the day:  Today I read an article by Nicholas Kristof on NY Times about Pakistan.  No, it's not about corruption, terrorism, flood, or any other ill fortunes associated with that country lately.  It's about a ray of hope.  As widely publicized in recent years, the public school system in Pakistan is broken.  Now the emerging middle class of Pakistan is taking steps to improve the situation.  For example, they formed a Citizens Foundation (TCF) which started private schools to provide good quality, balanced and affordable education to kids.  A qualified poor child can register for only 50 cents a month.  Only a paltry 1% of kindergarteners in Parkistan ever finish high school.  Now with 25% of Pakistani kids attending a private school like the ones started by TCF, hopefully a lot more kids will be able to finish high school and go to college in the future.  This certainly gives one hope for Pakistan's future.  And it also gives one hope for the world to become a safer place.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine was making Lila laugh and giggle in Vic's Coffee today.  There's nothing like having a funny big sister!

Week 3 - AACC

Boulder based AACC (American Association for the Care of Children) has given me the opportunity to sponsor a Nicaraguan child to go to school for a year.  It doesn't cost a lot of USDs to sponsor a poor child in Nicaragua to go to school (books, fees, clothing, transportation etc), but hopefully it will make a meaningful difference in his or her life.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 21 - Rice Porridge

Thought of the day:  This morning I walked past Trent's Bench outside of Lucile's Restaurant.  It has this inscription on: "Trent Cole loved life, laughter, and Fletcher's rice pudding porridge.  Live life with gratitude.  Trent did."  I liked that.  So I walked in and ordered, guess what, the rice pudding porridge!  It looked wonderful and was yummylicious too.  I googled the names on the bench afterwards.  Fletcher Richard is the owner of Lucile's.  And Trent Cole was apparently a successful businessman before he died of a serious disease last year.  He took life as an interesting adventure and enjoyed every nuance of it.  This is such a healthy attitude and it must take a lot of mental power to carry this attitude through a life time of ups and downs.

Photo of the day:
Rice Pudding Porridge at Lucile's.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 20 - Black Pepper Pho

Thought of the day:  Today I have been playing with the free FxCamera application on my cell phone.  It's a really cool app for droid.  I like all the following effects: ToyCam (emulates a toy camera), Polandroid (emulates a polaroid camera) and Warhol (renders Andy Warhol effect).  My favorite is Warhol effect with people but unfortunately it doesn't work well in a square format.

Photo of the day:
A "polandroid" shot from my cell phone.  I had lunch with a friend in Black Pepper Pho (yum!) and took a few shots of the restaurant from inside my car before leaving.  It was raining at that time and shortly after it became our first snow of the season!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 19 - Aztec Dancers

Thought of the day:  Last night I went to an event hosted by a Boulder based organization called AACC (American Association for the Care of Children).  AACC is dedicated to improving the lifes of poor children of Jalapa, Nicaragua.  It's led by an amazing woman named Debbie Young.  Debbie belongs to a special breed of people who dedicate their lives to an underserved population far far away from home.  They also include, for example, Greg Mortenson of Central Asia Institute and Ben Wilson of Children of Vietnam.  These people work hard at home to raise funds and work hard abroad to serve.  They have found their calling and they have my utmost respect.

Photo of the day:
Aztec Dance troop performing energetically in last night's AACC event.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 18 - Rain

Thought of the day:  Rain can be a blessing for people looking for the light, as everything changes after a rain.  The sky, the trees...everything looks different.  Even the boring pavement looks interesting when sunlight bounces off the wet surface.

Photo of the day:
Trees and still gloomy sky after rain stopped this afternoon.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 17 - Lila and Wine

Thought of the day:  Walking to dinner tonight, Jasmine and Lila ran almost all the way down Bear Mountain.  They stepped onto every pile of leaves they could find and stirred them up.  Lila kept screaming "It's fun!"  I think it's the first time I heard her using this phrase so clearly.  This season not only brings us stunning colors, it also provides us with plenty of amusements (cleaning up can wait until later...)

Photo of the day:
Lila was drawing behind a glass of wine.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 16 - Crab Apple

Thought of the day:  I have been sick today.  I feel like sitting inside a slow moving train all day watching a lot of motions and images flashing by.  It's an interesting experience to be (a little) sick once in a while - it's like seeing things through a new lens each time so everything looks a little different.

Photo of the day:
Crab apples in the backyard.  They were as ripe as they could be!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 15 - Tomcat

Thought of the day:  Today I watched a few kids playing happily in an indoor pool.  They appeared oblivious of the worries of the world.   Their parents had clearly insulated them from the troubles and stresses of daily life.  That must be challenging during times like this with plenty of bad news around.  It takes courage and lots of love.

Photo of the day:
Tomcat for Droid brought a lot of laughs for Jasmine, Lila and their friends.

Week 2 - Morning Tea

I am going to take an acquaintance out for a morning tea next Monday.  We have met a couple of times but we are not really friends yet.  I think this will be good for her, and good for me too.  And then it occurred to me that since I have a free Monday morning every month, why don't I take this opportunity and make it into a monthly event, perhaps with different people?  That will "force" me to reach out more and be more open to people who are not yet part of my life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 14 - Tea

Thought of the day:  I ran into a set of powerful images submitted by Catherine Karnow for One Life Photo Competition.  She took those photos this July in Vietnam to document the lives of two families whose children were suffering from genetic defects caused by Agent Orange, a toxin used during the Vietnam War.  Just like Catherine, I had no idea that these genetic defects could be passed down the generations and affect babies who are born today.  These images are deeply disturbing.  Such is the power of photography - a few images can tell a human story more powerfully than any number of words.

Photo of the day:
Lunch and tea with a friend in a Japanese restaurant in downtown Boulder.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 13 - Pelican

Thought of the day:  We spent a splendid day in Denver Zoo.  The brilliant autumn colors against the backdrop of a crisp blue sky made the zoo a very interesting place to visit in this season.  Light was dancing everywhere you look - on the leaves, the trees, the lawns, the water, the train, and on the skin and feather of animals.  I just couldn't stop smiling - how could I?  This is my favorite time of the year to visit the zoo.

Photo of the day:
A playful pelican.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 12 - Church

Thought of the day:  Today I talked with some moms in a playgroup and several of them expressed the loneliness of staying at home with a small child.  Loneliness as a human condition can be escaped sometimes but not always.  We are especially vulnerable when we are home all day with small kids, or when we are sick, or when we reach the retirement age and our children move far away from home.  It calls for all of us to reach out more - to help and to be helped.

Photo of the day:
First Baptist Church near Boulder downtown.  Many people find help and support within their religions but unfortunately not everybody is blessed with one.