Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 366 - Hike

Thought of the day: I can't believe that today is already my birthday. A year flew past since I started my blog. I learned a lot by doing this blog and enjoyed it tremendously. Of course, there were days, and even weeks, when I had to force myself to keep going. It was particularly challenging when I was sick, busy or traveling. For the entire year, I had my backpack and camera next to me pretty much every day and I constantly reminded myself to pay attention to what was happening around me and to see and capture the extraordinary moments in the ordinary daily life. This year long journey has not only taught me to truly appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of our experiences on earth, it has also taught me something about patience and perseverance. Now, it's time for me to sign off and move on. A big hug and thank you to everybody who has followed my journey and sent me encouragements along the way!

Photo of the day:
Taking a hike with a few people this morning. There was no better way to celebrate a birthday than sitting on some big rocks, drinking coffee, eating a surprise birthday treat and looking out at the beautiful Boulder valley opening up in front of you. That was one of the most memorable moments that my wonderful friends helped me create throughout the day. There will be challenges and uncertainties, but I feel so grateful today to be living in this community, this world and on this day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 365 - Flower and Envelope

Thought of the day: This morning, when I am walking under the brilliant sun on the trail, surrounded by rocky mountains and fall colors, I feel intensely happy. With my birthday coming up tomorrow, I have a feeling that I am entering the prime time of my life. Everything is so perfect at this moment that it seems fleeting and fragile. Somehow happiness always manages to bring out melancholy in me. Perhaps it's time to look outside of my own little world more often. The best way to maintain true inner peace and equilibrium of mind is to change the focus to the world at large. I have been exploring different paths for a few years now and the right path remains elusive to me. Lately I have the luck of being recommended by multiple people a book called "Half the Sky" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book documents the plight of many women in the real world. It's a thoroughly researched and immensely touching and convincing book. It's one of those rare books that can move people into action, one that has the potential to shape and change the world. I don't know where it will lead me, but wherever it is, I will be there willingly.

Photo of the day:
A surprise gift from a friend. I have been told by many people that love and happiness are the essential ingredients of life and they are all you need. I don't know. I always feel like there's a third ingredient, a larger purpose of life. Without the third ingredient, I can't help feeling that something is amiss.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 364 - Kids Theater

Thought of the day: Jasmine loves her Wednesday afternoon theater class. The kids act and improvise on the stage with the help of a professional. While Jasmine is busy in her class, Lila loves to dance around and around in a room annexed to the theater fitted with walls of mirrors. I like the special ambience of a theater, perhaps any theater. The elevated stage, dark interior, sparse and interesting lighting make it a challenging yet fascinating place to photograph. I can't help feeling that this place has a sense of gravity. And people and movements bring life to it. It's a simple place but I feel drawn to it in a mysterious way.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine and her friends doing an improv while a boy watched on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 363 - Vincent

Thought of the day: I talked to a couple of friends today about my quickly approaching birthday and my apprehension of passing another significant mark in life. They all had some jewels of wisdom to share. I feel very lucky to know people who I can talk to just about anything and always walk away a little wiser and more ready for the joyous adventure we call life.

Photo of the day:
A particularly cute dog of a friend. We took a walk this morning with her two dogs tagging along. At times I felt that we were the ones being walked by the dogs but they were really cute so I didn't mind:-)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 362 - Knitter

Thought of the day: Jasmine had been practicing piano duets for an upcoming multi-piano festival. Her teacher made a CD with all her songs so she could practice with the music at home. One song was particularly challenging for her and she had been struggling with it for days. Today she finally got it through without making a single mistake. She was ecstatic! It was certainly a good thing that she could finally play this song as her audition was coming up soon. But a more important lesson she learned was that with persistent effort she could improve and achieve what might seem impossible just a moment ago. It was a lesson worth learning at any age.

Photo of the day:

I ran into a group of women outside of a cafe knitting and chatting under the sun. Apparently they do this every week. What a wonderful tradition to have! They all seemed to be pretty good at knitting - I guess it is one of those things you get better at with a lot of practice too.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 361 - Jasmine

Thought of the day: We had an easy day today - family hike, long naps, movies.  It was good to have a day in the week to have no obligations no schedules and simply relax and enjoy some down time with the family.

Photo of the day: 
Jasmine was very happy during the hike. We saw a lot of beautiful fall colors along the way as the season was at the peak. Both girls collected colorful leaves to decorate their rooms.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 360 - Pumpkin Patch

Thought of the day: Boulder has a vibrant restaurant scene. There are many good restaurants in town drawing crowds all day long, all week long.  However, it’s also very competitive and we have seen many restaurants unfold, including ones that we really liked. For example, Orchid Pavilion used to be my favorite Chinese restaurant in town but it had been out of business for a while now. Its closure left a hole in Boulder food scene as there were really no other Chinese restaurants with the perfect combination of good location, nice ambiance and tasty food. Downtown’s Juanita’s used to serve affordable Mexican food with one of the best margaritas in town. It was closed to make space for an upscale restaurant. And today, I found out by surprise that Suki Thai Noodle House was also closed. Suki Thai made healthy noodle bowls and was a great place to grab a quick lunch with kids. There are many other closures that we know of and it is always sad to say goodbye to some of our favorite ones. Luckily, the vast majority of the restaurants we visit are still thriving and we hope it will remain the case for a while to come.

Photo of the day:
I visited Cottonwood Pumpkin Patch with three girls today. Kids had fun picking pumpkins, navigating the mazes and petting the farm animals. I love going to a pumpkin farm in this season as it's filled with vibrant colors, quaint equipments and happy kids - all of which make it a fun place to linger and photograph for a couple of hours. It's a visual feast that, hopefully, will never go out of business and one that I will enjoy year after year.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 359 - Snow Leopard

Thought of the day: Having photography as a hobby can be time consuming and sometimes distracting but above all it is a blessing. No matter where I am, what I do, I can never be bored. Be it a familiar place or a foreign land, a fancy restaurant or a dingy pub, a modern structure or an old barn - no matter where I am, there’s always something interesting to observe and photograph. Always. When I was in Chicago two weeks ago, I was overwhelmed by the sensation of being in an extraordinary place and overjoyed by all the photo opportunities. When I was in the zoo today with my girls, I found many special creatures and special moments to record even though we were certainly no strangers to the zoo. Even in the rare occasions when I don't have a camera handy, my eyes and my mind are seeing and recording images all the time - the world is a special place and I am lucky to be a witness to the grandness of it all. 

Photo of the day:
Snow leopard - caged in and looking sad.  What was he observing from inside his cage?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 358 - Sisters

Thought of the day: I stayed up very late last night and the consequence of that was clear - I was shrouded in drowsiness and had a minor headache all morning. In addition, I missed a morning bike ride and a hike with a group of friends, both of which I regretted a great deal and regretted even more as the day marched on. Indeed, it's not smart to walk through life half awake when there are so many experiences to be had and so many expectations to meet, both of which require one to be present and alert.  Arguably, self enforced sleep deprivation may not be as dangerous as drug or alcohol additions, but it does bring similar consequences and is definitely detrimental to one’s long term health. It's time for me to figure out a way to keep a better control of my schedule - however challenging it may be - and make it stick. 

Photo of the day:
Jasmine making a drawing as Lila watched on. I owed it to my girls, and myself, to maintain a healthy schedule.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 357 - All Done!

Thought of the day: I spent the evening talking with a new friend on a tatami over some divine Japanese food. It was a lovely evening. On the wall facing me hung a large framed photograph of white cherry blossoms. The Japanese waitress was unbelievably friendly and she was dressed in an oversized beige silk blouse with orange floral prints on it. The ambience of this place made me feel very comfortable and I was momentarily transported to Japan - a country that had held my fascination for quite a while now even though I hadn't had a chance to visit yet.

Photo of the day:
"All done!"  Lila loved Dushanbe Teahouse's coconut rice pudding.  We were there for lunch to say goodbye to our house guests - they would be sorely missed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 356 - Magician

Thought of the day: I finally got around to organize the books I was reading this afternoon. It made such an impressive pile that I decided not to get any more books until I finished up the current pile. I was frequently irritated by the fact that Jasmine read multiple books at the same time and scattered them all around the house. Now I know where she got her habit from. Time and again, when I observe puzzling behaviors of my kids, I can often find the clue by merely looking in the mirror.

Photo of the day:
A magician playing fascinating tricks in a local restaurant. It's easier to uncover the secrets behind his tricks in books than watching his moves carefully as he is really good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 355 - Bear!

Thought of the day: When I biked with Lila to her climbing class this morning, we rode past a prairie dog territory in the eastern plain of Boulder. Lila was beyond excited when she spotted the little furry creatures standing on their mounds. There's something about kids and animals. Jasmine is only interested in taking pictures of either people making silly faces or the animals. We are born with an insatiable curiosity in other living beings and we express our curiosity in different ways at different ages. I look forward to going to the zoo with jasmine this week and see what kind of images she would take with her camera there.

Photo of the day:
Bear in our backyard! First the sighting of a mountain lion outside of Lila's preschool in the day, and now the sighting of a black bear cub in our backyard at dinner time. He plunged right back into the bush when I pointed the lens at him. He paid more visits to our backyard tonight. Apparently he was after the delicious apples in the apple tree. It was a cub so the mother was probably hiding in the bush nearby watching out for his safety. One of the threats, and rewards, of living close to open space is be the next door neighbor of wild animals of all kinds - coyotes, mountain lions and bears.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 354 - Lila

Thought of the day: Our house guests left today for a trip to Colorado Springs. We were left with a house that was strangely quiet and two girls again demanding our full attention. It was good to have the guests around as they offered generous help with our household chores. Even better, the girls always had company at home and they had probably played more games and puzzles in the past few days than ever before.  It would be good to have the guests back in two days and have the blessing of their company for a few more days!

Photo of the day:
Lila fooling around in her room before bed time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 353 - Red Light

Thought of the day: It had been cold and raining today. It even snowed a little bit at some point. Of course, with such a warm ground temperature, the snow melted as soon as it reached the ground. We mostly stayed inside the house, played games and enjoyed the last few days of company of our house guests. It was a relaxing day and the kids loved having so many adults around to play with.

Photo of the day: 
Dinner at Carelli's.  The restaurant always has a nice ambiance. With its warm interior lighting and large fire places, it feels especially cozy and welcoming in a cold day like today.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 352 - Lila

Thought of the day: It was Friday - our regular hiking day.  Lila and I hiked for a good hour at Chautauqua with David's mom and cousin. We were also joined by Lila's friend Izzy and her mom. There were beautiful fall colors along the way and the trail was almost completely covered by fall foliage. Lila collected a bunch of leaves and branches along the way to make a collage at home.  She walked and ran all the way with her friend and in the last segment of the hike we were barely able to keep up with the two little girls! It's a day that will be remembered for many years hereafter, not in its full details, but as one of those days filled with luminous light and simple happiness.

Photo of the day:
Lila on the trail.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 351 - Lila

Thought of the day: Last night, I was shocked and saddened to learn that Steve Jobs just passed away. His 2005 commencement speech at Stanford was widely shared on Internet and it was an interesting speech to watch. During the speech, he said: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." What an inspiring message! When I ran on the trail this morning and was about to turn around and head home, I thought of his message. Yes, I had a lot of chores to do at home, but if I were to die today, would they have really mattered that much to me? Wouldn't I be happier if I had spent more time instead in the forest in this beautiful autumn day? The answer was definitely a yes. So, instead of turning around, I kept on running and spent more time on the trail than I would have normally had. It felt great when I eventually headed home. Thank you, Steve Jobs, for your important message and for all the rest you have done for the humanity.

Photo of the day:
Lila with a friend doing artwork in her preschool.  She was wearing a shirt she just tie-died in school. I hope she enjoyed her day as much as I had enjoyed mine.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 350 - Dinner

Thought of the day: Today I played a game called "24" with Jasmine.  She loved it.  It's a fun mental math game that really gets you to exercise the brain for additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions. The game has different levels and Jasmine is currently playing at the easiest level while I play at the most difficult level. Jasmine enjoys getting through her challenges faster than me. We make a rule for the winner to gradually move up on the levels and for the loser to gradually move down.  Since Jasmine is so into this game, it won't surprise me if she will eventually pass me on the difficulty level. The question is only when.

Photo of the day:
Dinner in my favorite restaurant called "home". As in the past few Wednesdays, Jasmine stayed home with me to work on subjects including math, science, music, Chinese. Playing games and taking several "recesses" helped her stay focused and engaged. We spent a happy yet productive day together.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 349 - Jasmine

Thought of the day: Today was Jasmine’s birthday. We celebrated at the Med followed by birthday cake and presents at home. I couldn't believe that she was already nine and I got emotional when I realized that this would be her last birthday in the single digits! She is growing up soooo fast. Every day that we get to spend with her is precious and her birthday just reminded me of that.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine opening one of her birthday presents at home while Lila watched on.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 348 - Pool Chairs

Thought of the day: I went back to my regular routine today. I was told that Lila had missed me a lot when I was away. I could tell as she was almost giddy all day. She tired herself out so much during the day that she dropped into sleep almost instantly tonight. For me, it was good to get away and immerse in an entirely different environment once in a while. I felt that I had been gone for a long time but actually it was only a short three days. Coming back home was like stepping into a different time and space. We slip in and out of different universes all the time, within each we have a distinctive role or roles to play. This goes on for an entire life time and in some religions this goes on for many life times. Are we authentically ourselves in all the universes or are we most authentically ourselves in a specific one? I wonder about that often and I don't think I will ever find a definite answer. 

Photo of the day:
Pool chairs and swim ring.  Jasmine was taking an outdoor swim lesson while Lila played in the play pool. Now that I was back in my regular routine, it was hard to believe that I was in a very different place in the company of very different people doing very different things only yesterday.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 347 - Train Station

Thought of the day: Almost everybody who came to the reunion was in the hotel last night. We gathered in the large yet cozy family room of the hotel and talked for a long time, all the way into the wee hours of the morning, accompanied by beers, wine and a flickering fireplace. I had not seen many of my classmates for more than twenty years and I was truly amazed by how little everybody had changed. They talked in exactly the same way as before - same voices, same facial expressions, same hand gestures. When I closed my eyes, I couldn't sense the gap of twenty years at all. Of course, when I opened my eyes, I could see clearly that the wheel of time had left its marks. We had all matured, in a good way. Character and personality traits that were obscure and not fully developed yet when we were young had been cultivated and nurtured over the years by life's inevitable ups and downs and they were now hard to miss. I felt like I got to know many of my classmates more now than ever before. It was a blessing to have this opportunity to meet and reconnect with many of them. In the same way that history gave meaning to architecture, meeting my former classmates in Chicago gave the city a new meaning for me. I was very happy that I made this trip.

Photo of the day:
In train station waiting for the train to Chicago Midway Airport.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Day 346 - FLower Girls

Thought of the day: This afternoon, we took a boat tour to see the famed architecture along the Chicago River. The tour was operated by the Chicago Architectural Foundation whose mission was to educate the public on and help preserve the historical Chicago architecture. The close-up view of the buildings along the river was breathtaking.  The narrator on the boat gave us the history behind many of the buildings. Architecture seemed to convey more meaning when it was associated with people.  For example, when we got to know the intention of the architect or the vision of the original owner, a building became more interesting. In any case, through the narrations of our tour guide, the buildings and the histories behind them came alive in front of our eyes.  The tour also offered a great many opportunities for us to take close-up pictures of bridges and architecture. It was too bad that I didn't have time to take a lake cruise and see the Chicago skyline from distance.  If I ever need a reason to visit Chicago again, this would be a good one - and the other one would be the Chicago Art Institute which I didn't have a chance to step into at all. 

Photo of the day:
One famous place that I did get to visit was the Bean (a.k.a Cloud Gate) in the Millennium Park. A wedding party was there taking photos which gave me a chance to snap this photo of the flower girls.