BPA inspires leadership and business career

photo 2 photo 1 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6Recently my 16 year old son Andy, a junior from East Ridge High School, made his first solo trip in his life. As the only student from Woodbury, he traveled with a group of students from Eastview, Eagan and Henry Sibley High Schools to Anaheim, California to attend the 2015 Business Professionals of America (BPA) National Leadership Conference, held May 5-10, 2015.

BPA is a national organization for students pursuing careers in business management, office administration, information technology and other related career fields. The mission of BPA is to contribute to the preparation of a world-class workforce through the advancement of leadership, citizenship, academic, and technological skills.

BPA focuses on real-world business skills and problem solving abilities in finance, management, IT and computer applications. Through the Torch Awards Program and BPA Cares Program, students are inspired to build their leadership skills and serve their chapter and community.

BPA has 43,000 members in over 2,300 chapters in 23 states.

Andy started doing BPA as a freshman at East Ridge High School where BPA is offered as an extracurricular activity. He had participated in the BPA regional and state competitions and leadership conferences. This was the first time that he attended the national conference. He was awarded the Merit Scholar award. The award session is available online along with other recorded sessions.

The conference was really fun for him. He told his younger sister to join BPA as well and she should also go to the conference next year.

I think Andy’s experience with BPA helps him build leadership skills and confidence. It will inspire him to go to business school and pursue a career in business. For that, I am grateful for the opportunity at ERHS and for BPA.

Recorded Sessions

Secondary & Middle Level Grand Awards Session

A Night of Comedy with Bob Stromberg in Woodbury


FREE Fun Family event at Eagle Brook Church Woodbury Campus on Thursday, March 26, 2015, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM., at 11125 Eastview Rd., Woodbury, MN 55125 (at the intersection of Eastview Road and Settlers Ridge Parkway)

Eagle Brook Church would like to invite the public to an evening of heartfelt laughter with Bob Stromberg. The event is free, but you need to reserve a seat online.

Bob co-wrote and starred in the popular play, “Triple Espresso,” which ran for 12 continuous years in the Twin Cities and has been performed in 44 cities around the world. Bob will bring his family-friendly comedy to the Eagle Brook Church Woodbury Campus.

Eagle Brook Church is one of the mega churches in the country. The Woodbury Campus, a $25 million, 75,000-square-foot building on 40 acres with a 1,500-seat worship center, is Eagle Brook’s fifth permanent campus, joining others in Blaine, Lino Lakes, Spring Lake Park and White Bear Lake. In 2013 Eagle Brook started its sixth campus in Coon Rapid at a local high school.

Eagle Brook Church Woodbury Campus may be one of the newest churches in Woodbury, but it has quickly become the largest in town. After three years of worshiping at the East Ridge High School auditorium as a temporary location, it finally moved into its own permanent building in Sept. 2014.

Welcome new Editor Mathias Baden

I’s been a while since I last updated my blog. My life has changed since I started a home business last summer, and meanwhile things have changed at the Woodbury Bulletin as well. Mathias Baden, editor of the Jordan Independent, was hired as the new editor to replace Michael Longaecker. 

I would like to send a belated warm welcome to Mathias to Woodbury Bulletin and to the Woodbury Community. It’s great to make Woodbury your home!

A coworker in my office started her career in news media and knew Mathias. She spoke highly of him. Woodbury Bulletin is already an awarding winning newspaper. I look forward to his leadership in making Woodbury Bulletin an even better local newspaper.
I love reading the newspaper every week and keeping myself informed of the local news and events. Thanks to the editor and everyone at the Woodbury Bulletin for creating this weekly paper for the community. Your hard work is much appreciated.


In my previous post, I talked about my new passion for USANA. As a follow-up, I want to share why USANA is the best. So you know, when you choose USANA, you are choosing the best.

1. No. 1 in the world – USANA was named the No. 1 nutritional supplement company and its product has been rated the No. 1Multi-vitamin/Multi-mineral worldwide by the “Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements.” This source compared over 1500 nutritional supplements.

2. Pharmaceutical Graded – USANA supplements are pharmaceutical graded unlike the supplements sold at the stores that are food graded. These drug grade standards focus on safety, potency, purity and efficacy. The FDA currently only requires nutritional supplements to be manufactured according to food grade standards that focus mainly on safety.

3. Potency Guarantee – USANA adheres to the standards set by the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP). The USP is an independent, non-governmental entity. The USP is the most internationally recognized developer of standards for prescription and OTC medicines and supplements. Every USANA micronutrient has this statement on the label: “Laboratory Tested. Quality Guaranteed. Meets USP Specifications for Potency, Uniformity, and Disintegration, Where Applicable.” 

4. USANA Guarantees Label Matches Product – Many popular supplements contain fillers, such as soybeans, wheat, rice and weeds — items not listed on the label. USANA ensures that what is defined on the label is actually contained in the product. Formulas developed in USANA’s laboratories use only the highest quality ingredients and are modeled after Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP). 

5. Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) – Some USANA products are listed in the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) for Prescription Drugs.                                                   

6. No chemical preservatives – Sensé, USANA’s revolutionary skin care line, is now the only complete skin care line in the world that contains no chemical preservatives.

7. Offer Athletes Million Dollar Guarantee – USANA is the official supplier of nutritional supplements, energy and health products for world class athletes worldwide, including WTA, US Speedskating Team, Biathlon Canada, etc. USANA is the only Company Worldwide to guarantee athletes 1,000,000$ that their products are pure and free from illegal substances.

8. USANA’s founder, Dr. Myron Wentz, is a world class Microbiologist, Immunologist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is a world-renowned scientist in the field of human cell culture, disease diagnosis and cellular nutrition. In the 70’s, he developed the first commercial test kit for the Epstein-Barr Virus (mononucleosis). He has applied his vast knowledge and expertise in growing healthy human cells toward the development of the USANA Nutritionals. Dr. Wentz and USANA have received numerous awards.

9. Healthy Growing Company – Since its beginning in 1992, USANA has been growing worldwide in over 20 countries. Its stock has been highly recommended.

10. Sanoviv Medical Institute – USANA’s state-of-the-art, fully-licensed hospital and health resort offers a unique blend of conventional, alternative, and integrative programs to help maintain your good health and to treat a wide range of diseases. Whether you are coming for a Healthy Get-Away or Intensive Cancer treatments, from the moment you are picked up by our courteous professional drivers to your goodbye hugs at the end of your program, you become part of our family. Experience the extraordinary results of a completely integrated team of medical doctors, dentists, psychologists, chiropractors, nutritionists, fitness experts and spa therapists that will assess and treat your health issues. Our toxin free facility, delicious organic meals, comfortable cotton clothing, luxurious ocean-view rooms, and relaxing environment will aid in building your health up from the cellular level.

USANA Cares about You and Your Health  – “Everything We Do Helps You Love Life and Live It.”

“I dream of a world free from pain and suffering. I dream of a world free from disease. The USANA family will be the healthiest family on earth. Share my vision. Love life and live it to its fullest in happiness and health.”  – Dr. Myron Wentz, Founder and Chairman, USANA Health Sciences

USANA, my new passion

I have always had a great interest in health & wellness.

This year, my interest in healthy living took a new direction and moved to a different level, it has become my new passion in life.

It all started with my mom and her terrible illness with diabetes complications that led her in and out of hospital several times this year. My mom’s illness and amazing recovery then led me to get interested in nutritional supplements, become a USANA Associate and start a home business.

Before I knew USANA, I was not a believer in nutritional supplements and did not take any supplements myself.

My mom was very ill in April this year after a surgery. Her kidney failed. I couldn’t visit her until my kids were out of school in June. Before I went back to China to visit my mom, a friend introduced me to USANA. I was interested in buying some supplements for my mom, so I did research on USANA and found out that USANA makes high-quality supplements. I was willing to try it.

I spent almost the entire month of my trip in hospital with my mom. When I first saw her, she was near death and lost hope and will to live. To my surprise and relief, she regained some strength and recovered to some degree. She was able to leave the hospital and walk again by the time I had to leave and came back to the US in July. I believe with all my heart that the USANA supplements helped my mom greatly in her recovery.

After my researching and witnessing my mom’s transformation, I became a total believer in supplements and started taking them myself. Now my whole family takes the USANA products. I love USANA because I have seen great results for myself and others,

Then in August I attended the 2014 USANA International Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. It changed my mind and attitude even more. It brought my love and passion for USANA to a new level.

Now as a USANA Associate, I want to share its mission and its amazing products with as many people as I can. USANA gives me a new focus, a new mission, and a new passion in life.

Before I knew USANA, I knew there were many choices, and I chose not to take supplements. After I knew USANA, there is only one choice for me, and now I take several supplements every day.



Founded in 1992 by microbiologist and immunologist Dr. Myron Wentz, USANA Health Sciences is a science-based company that develops scientifically advanced nutritional, personal-care, and weight management products. The name “USANA” derives from Greek and Latin and means “true health.”

USANA was founded with a mission to manufacture the highest quality products without compromise, products that people can trust. Because poor manufacturing can destroy great science, USANA is one of the few companies to manufacture most of its products in its own state-of-the-art facility in Salt Lake City, Utah.

What I Can Do For You?

  • Provide Health & Wellness related information and consultation.
  • Provide USANA product recommendation.
  • Provide Associate price and 10% off for all products.

I will definitely write more about USANA later. Meanwhile, here is my USANA website [http://qintang.usana.com] if you are interested in learning about the company and the products. On this website, you can also take a free health assessment for product recommendations. Feel free to contact me for more info. I would love to talk with you and help you live a better and healthy life.


Aaron Harper’s resignation – surprised, but welcomed

Last Thursday, Aaron Harper resigned as East Ridge High School principal, following an investigation conducted after School District 833 received a complaint against him. No details about the complaint and the resignation were revealed.

Read the article from Woodbury Bulletin: East Ridge’s Harper out as principal after complaint investigated 

I was surprised by the news like most people in the community. As far as I know, the teachers at ERHS knew no more about the circumstance than the public.

I do not know Mr. Harper, except I saw him a few times at ERHS events. I know I should not form an opinion about someone I don’t really know, but I have to say that Mr. Harper didn’t leave me with a good impression due to his own action or inaction. On two occasions, I contacted him via phone and email, he never responded to me. Ignoring once was understandable and acceptable, but ignoring twice created a really bad impression when you are considered a leader in the community. Now I don’t remember the reasons why I contacted him, but no matter how trivia my inquiries were, it’s common courtesy and good manner to respond to people or forward the requests on to others who will respond.

A friend told me that Mr. Harper made a racial comment at a sport event that wasn’t appropriate.

I know Mr. Harper has made great contribution to the community. He led East Ridge since its opening in fall 2009, and he was instrumental in planning for the school beginning in 2007.

Mr. Harper might have done big and great things and done well for the school and for the community, but for someone like me, it’s the little things that break the deal.

I would like a principal who shows more common sense and courtesy, who will respond to my questions either directly or indirectly. As a community leader, the principal should be a good communicator who values the inquiries and feedback from the public. Ignoring people will only cause a bad impression and opinion.

Two years ago, I was equally surprised by the news about then Superintendent Mark Porter’s contract not being renewed by the district. I didn’t know Mr. Porter either, I only saw him at school events. But he left a good impression in me for the simple fact that he responded to my email promptly. As the result, I was on his side and questioned the school board’s unfair decision.

Read the post Performance review and Porter decision.

Here is a lesson for all – little things do matter. That is one of the secrets to becoming an effective leader.

Update from January 6, 2015:

For the update on the case, please visit Woodbury Bulletin:

Harper misused school money, kept ‘slush fund’ at East Ridge

National Honor Society induction ceremony at ERHS

I was honored and proud to attend the National Honor Society induction ceremony at East Ridge High School on Monday morning. My son who is a junior at ERHS was inducted, and was presented with a NHS pin.

The National Honor Society is a nationwide organization and consists of many chapters in high schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, many U.S. territories, and Canada.  

NHS serves to honor those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character. Selection is based on these four criteria.

NHS requires service to the community, school, or other organizations. It is estimated that more than one million students participate in NHS activities.

The new Eagle Brook Church in Woodbury

Eagle Brook Church Woodbury Campus may be one of the newest churches in Woodbury, but it has quickly become the largest in town. After three years of worshiping at the East Ridge High School auditorium as a temporary location, it finally moved into its own permanent building at 11125 Eastview Road, located at the intersection of Eastview Road and Settlers Ridge Parkway. 

The NEW Woodbury Campus opens today for the first service at 4 pm and then at 6 pm. Tomorrow’s services are at 9 & 11 am.

Eagle Brook Church Woodbury Campus, a $25 million, 75,000-square-foot building on 40 acres with a 1,500-seat worship center, is Eagle Brook’s fifth permanent campus, joining others in Blaine, Lino Lakes, Spring Lake Park and White Bear Lake. Last year Eagle Brook started its sixth campus in Coon Rapid at a local high school. 

Please note that when you type in the address of the permanent Woodbury campus, some mapping apps will bring you about three blocks west of the church. When new buildings are created, it typically takes a little while for these navigation resources to catch up. Please visit the Woodbury Campus website for driving direction.



Visit MnDOT booth at Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair, also referred to as the Great Minnesota Get-Together, starts today. For the next 12 days, from Thursday through Labor Day, all the fun and talk in Minnesota will be around the Fair. If you plan to visit the State Fair, I invite you to stop by and visit the MnDOT booth in the Education Building. The theme this year is “Get Connected: How Transportation Affects YOU.”

Here is what you can do or get at the MnDOT booth:

  • Ask questions about transportation-related topics, wondering about a road project near you or how to drive a roundabout?
  • View the display that highlights how transportation improvements along busy corridors help the economy by keeping traffic and freight moving; how use of innovative technology on projects shortens traffic impact and improves safety; and how the projected growth of traffic and freight during the next 15 years will affect the state’s aging infrastructure.
  • Sit in the “rest area” of MnDOT’s booth to view short videos depicting a range of transportation projects and innovations. These include showing a snow storm from the driver’s seat of a snowplow, seeing the Larpenteur Avenue Bridge slide into place through time-lapse photography to illustrating the impact to traffic when drivers use/don’t use the zipper merge.
  • Get a free Official State Highway map or bicycle map.
  • Win a MnDOT T-shirt or Minnesota transportation history book (Footpaths to Freeways) by completing a short survey and submitting it into a daily drawing.

In addition to MnDOT’s presence in the Education Building, MnDOT workers will be driving a snowplow in the State Fair’s daily 2 p.m. parade on Fridays and Wednesday (Aug. 22, 27 and 29)

What’s up, Qin?

For those of you who know me or have read my columns and blog posts in the past, and have wondered what has happened to me or my writing, I would like to offer an apology and the following update.

Yes, I know I have not updated my blog for more than two months which has never happened before. I think about it almost every day and feel a little guilty for letting it go for so long. Here is what’s going on.

#1 A month long trip to China

My mom was in and out of the hospital from April to July, due to her diabetes complications. So I went back to China to visit my family and to help take care of my mom for almost one month in June and July. Only a few days before my leaving was my mom discharged from the hospital, but she went back again later. She has been doing dialysis three times a week since May.

It was sad to see my mom suffer and lose her quality of life. Now she is dependent on others. My 81 year-old father and my brother are her caretakers, with my brother still holding a full-time job. We had some bitter sweet moments when relatives from other parts of China came to visit mom in hospital. They came to visit my mom because she could be gone any time. Surprisingly, she survived.

Though I spent most time in the hospital during the month-long visit, there were also some happy moments. It was nice to see my mom recover to the point that she could get up and walk outside with a cane. She was almost dying when I first saw her. Her recovery was a victory. I will write more about it in another post.


The other happy moments included a few high school reunions. I lost contact with my high school classmates since I left my hometown to go to college in Beijing. So we hadn’t seen each other for 34 years. Most of the others hadn’t seen each other either, even though they live in the same city. A reunion was planned a few months in advance. It happened to be during the time I was there. So I had the good fortune to attend the reunion and meet the other 60 classmates and over 10 teachers. I couldn’t remember and recognize all the people, because some are not from the same class.

I attended two high schools, so there were more than one reunion.

It was really fun and memorable to meet so many classmates at once. We took one new photo that shows the same four people in the same position from an old photo. I was about 15 years old back then. The before and after photo was a real treasure.



#2 Start a home business

My mom’s illness and recovery led me to start a home business. Before I went back to China to visit my mom, I did some research on dietary supplements in order to buy some high quality products for her. I found out about USANA Health Sciences. Its dietary supplements are rated #1 among over 1500 products in North America. During my research and learning, I became a total believer in supplements and started taking them myself.  The products have helped my mom greatly.  Now as an USANA Associate, I want to share its mission and its amazing products with as many people as I can.

I have been spending time reading and learning about nutritional supplements and healthy living. I have always been interested in health & wellness. I am a part of the H&W committee at work and involved in H&W events. Now USANA gives me a  new focus, a new mission, and a new passion.

More about USANA later. Meanwhile, here is my USANA website if you are interested in learning about the company and the products. On this website, you can also take a health assessment for product recommendations. Feel free to contact me for more info. I would love to talk with you and help you live a better and healthy life.


#3 Wechat

Since I got connected with my college classmates via Wechat in January this year, I have spent more time Wechatting with my Chinese friends and relatives around the world. Honestly, I love my Wechat more than my blog and Facebook. It is a mobile app and easy to use. Since everyone on my Wechat network is someone I know, it’s more interesting to network with them, to chat live, to share photos and articles, and what’s on my mind. I get instant feedback, and more gratification in sharing with people I know. As the result, I lost a lot of time and some interest in updating my blog and Facebook.


#4 Gardening and Walking

I love gardening and walking.  Summer days are short when I can spend time outdoor after dinner. I hardly use my computer now. Some days I don’t even turn on my computer.

As Minnesotans, we know summer wouldn’t be here for long. Pretty soon days are getting shorter and it will be cold and dark after dinner. Then I will have more time to update my blog.

After all, writing is still my love and passion. That will never change.


Book giveaway experience

This is part 2 of my book giveaway experience as a World Book Night volunteer. See part 1 Spreading the love of reading.

It’s the first year that I am a book giver for World Book Night.

I was supposed to give away all 20 copies of my #WBN2014 book “100 Best-Loved Poems” on April 23, but due to bad weather and lack of time, I didn’t finish the task. I only give away six copies.

On April 25, I gave away the second batch of five books.

Today, I walked around the Minnesota State Capitol during lunch time and finally gave away the rest of the books. I saved one copy for my Little Free Library.

The book giveaway experience was interesting. What surprised me the most was giving away books is not as easy as I thought. When I approached people and asked them if they would like a free book, I got some skeptical and indifferent  reaction.  Some had no interest and walked away, with a “Don’t bother me!” or “What do you want from me?” kind of attitude.

I saw several groups of middle or high school students on field trips today by the Capitol. I approached a few of the groups, the first few said no.  Students seemed to be concerned about talking to strangers.  Only the girls in the last group reacted enthusiastically and welcomed my books. I had three left. So the 4th girl in the photo didn’t get the book.

Next year, I will do it again. But I will ask for a more popular book. Hopefully a more popular book will be better received and will bring a more enthusiastic reaction.



BSF class in Woodbury open for fall registration

Since February 2014, I have been attending the Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) pilot class on Monday evening at Five Oaks Church in Woodbury. So far we have studied two books, Philippians and Ruth, and are finishing up the third book, Colossians, in the next two weeks. Then after the summer break, classes will resume in September. 

Fall registration is open for new members during the next two classes, May 12 and 19. If anyone is interested, please let me know. This is for women only.

There are two other BSF classes in Woodbury & Afton. They already had their fall registration in April and May. You can check the BSF website to locate the class you want to attend and contact them directly for more info.

Woodbury Lutheran Church
7380 Afton Rd
Woodbury MN 55125-1502
Meeting day/time: Thursday 9:15AM
Class type: Day Women

Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran
14107 Hudson Road South
Afton MN 55001
Meeting day/time: Monday 6:55PM
Class type: Evening Men

BSF is an in-depth, interdenominational Bible study that helps people know God and equips them to effectively serve the Church throughout the world. Classes, there are over 1,000 of them, are offered in 38 countries.

I really like this in-depth Bible study and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in deepening their knowledge in Bible and their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Annual Big Book Sale at R.H. Stafford Library April 25, 26, 27

The following info is from the Washington County Library website:

R.H. Stafford library will host book sale April 25, 26, 27

A Big Book Sale will be at the R.H. Stafford branch of the Washington County Library Friday, April 25, Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27.

The library is at 8595 Central Park Place, Woodbury.

Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, sale hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 27, hours are 1 to 4:30 p.m.

It is a sale of used library materials and donations from the public. Materials are priced to sell – hardcover books at $2 and paperback books at $1. Customers who use scanners pay a $20 fee per scanner per day for scanning book sale merchandise.

Donations are accepted prior to the sale at the Library’s Info Desk. Call 651-731-1320 with questions.

Battle of the Books at LMS


The First Battle of the Books at Lake Middle School took place this morning. Two 8th grade teams, five 7th grade teams and six 6th grade teams competed in the battle. There was a winner from each grade.  

To participate in the battle, each team consisting of four members had to read 12 pre-selected books, and each member had to read at least six books. They were asked questions about the books for about an hour. At the end of the questions, the teams that had the most correct answers in each grade won.

As a reward, the winning teams will get free lunch of pizza from PTA.

Thanks to the PTA and all the coaches for organizing this fun activity to encourage reading at LMS.

Urgency Room for urgent care

Do you know what Urgency Room is and what it does?

I didn’t know anything about it and had never paid attention, even though I have driven by the Woodbury Urgency Room on Valley Creek (7030 Valley Creek Plaza, Woodbury, MN 55125) many times since its opening in October 2010, until a co-worker told me about it recently.

The Urgency Room offers an alternative and cost-effective way to receive emergency medical care than the traditional hospitals ER.  The UR is fully staffed with the board-certified ER doctors and nurses. If you are able to drive, get a ride, or walk, you can go to the UR for fast medical care.

The Urgency Room provides services for the following problems:

  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • High Fever
  • Dehydration, nausea, vomiting
  • Respiratory or breathing problems, including asthma
  • Broken bones
  • Pregnancy bleeding or spotting
  • Dislocations, sprain, strain
  • Serious cuts requiring stitches
  • Severe nosebleed
  • Eye pain and injury
  • Blood clots
  • Head injury
  • Kidney stones
  • Severe headache, migraine
  • Heart rhythm disturbances
  • Acute injury evaluation

The differences between the UR and ER, the UR and the UC:

Unlike a standard ER, the Urgency Room is an outpatient facility with no inpatient/overnight rooms available. UR does not accept ambulances, however they will transport patients out to surrounding hospitals if necessary.

Unlike an urgent care, the Urgency Room has a high-complexity lab, x-ray machine, CT scanner, ultrasound machines all onsite to treat acute injuries that surpass the abilities of a standard urgent care.

There are three Urgency Room locations in Twin Cities:

  • Woodbury (651-789-7000),
  • Eagan (651-789-9900)
  • Vadnais Heights (651-789-6500)

The UR Woodbury includes:

  • 10 private treatment rooms
  • 2 procedure rooms
  • 2 consult rooms
  • Board-certified emergency physicians
  • Highly experienced ER nurses and paramedics
  • Full CT equipment, ultrasound, and radiology capabilities
  • High-complexity lab

The UR accepts most health plans.

The UR welcomes walk-ins at any time. You can also call-ahead or do online pre-registration prior to your visit. You can check current wait times and patient status online, from home or from your smartphone.

The Urgency Room is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, including holidays, from 8am-10 pm.

Had I known about the UR a few years ago, I would have used it when my son needed urgent care for unusual fast heartbeat. It could have saved me a lot of time and some money. My son waited at the Regions Hospital ER for about 5 hours before being seen by the ER doctor. By that time my son hardly needed any care. We went home after some tests that showed nothing was wrong with him. The doctor couldn’t tell what caused it. My son never had the problem before and after this one incident.


Spreading the love of reading

Today is the World Book Night. This is the first year that I am a book giver for World Book Night.

Early in the morning before I even woke up, I received an email reminding me of the big day and wishing me “Happy World Book Night Giving!” 

After I got up, I was ready to give away my 20 copies of the #WBN2014 books. I planned to do that around the Minnesota State Capitol during the lunch time.

Well, the weather and my day didn’t cooperate. It was cloudy and cold in the morning, then it rained. I was busy during lunch time. By the time I was leaving office in the afternoon, I still had all the books I brought in. I hadn’t given away a single copy.

As I was walking out the building, I stopped by at the Security and Info Desk. Since today is the Administrative Professionals’ Day, I decided to give away my very first copy to the admin staff behind the Info Desk. She was surprised and happy to get the book. You can see her big smile on the photo. 

Outside the building, I stopped the first stranger I encountered. I gave him copy and took a photo of him. The Minnesota State Capitol was right in the background. He was very appreciative.

Around the corner in front of the office building is the construction site for a new parking ramp. I talked to two construction workers standing there. One accepted my free gift, and the other declined, say:  “I have no use for it.” 

On my way to my car, I had to walk through the Sears Parking lot. I gave away two copies to two guys. One of them is from the same workplace. He told me he liked to give away books too, usually the pocket size Gideons Bible.

So five copies were given away within minutes on my walk from my office to my car.   

In the evening at the Woodbury Dance Studio, I gave one copy to a mom with two girls. Another person declined because she didn’t want to have her picture taken. 

I still have more copies left, which means there is more work to do tomorrow. It’s a good thing. It means I get to extend the joy of giving and doing a little act of kindness for another day.


A surprise gift – Jeremiah Study Bible



This morning when I opened my front door in responding to a neighbor’s knocking, I found a surprise FedEx package by the door, from Dr. David Jeremiah’s Turning Point Ministry. I was puzzled.

Every month, as a Turning Point Ministry Partner, I do receive mail from Turning Point with a magazine, book and CD, but I don’t expect anything so heavy and via FedEx.

When I opened the package, I was happily surprised to find a copy of the  Jeremiah Study Bible, signed by Dr. Jeremiah with my name, along with a handwritten note by Scott Walsh, Director of Public Relations at Turning Point.

I talked with Scott last year when he invited me to attend “An Evening with Dr. David Jeremiah” and have a meeting with Dr. Jeremiah at Target Center on April 4, 2013. I felt so honored to meet with Dr. Jeremiah and his wife. The God Loves You Live Event was an unforgettable experience and meant a lot to me.

When the Jeremiah Study Bible came out last December, I got myself a hardback copy and wrote about it in my post A book that will change your life. But this soft-touch LeatherLuxe edition in teal and gray I received today is definitely more beautiful. And with the signature and handwriting by Dr. Jeremiah himself, this copy is more unique and means so much more to me.  

Thank you, Dr. Jeremiah and Scott, for such a thoughtful and lovely Easter gift. You have really blessed me with this gift. It is now my favorite and most treasured Bible.

Heaven is for real

A recent article on FoxNews, Is 2014 the year of the Christian film? said: “2014 has been dubbed by industry press as the year of biblical movies.”

Yes, Christian movies abound. So far this year, we have seen several new Christian movies: Son of GodNoah, God’s Not Dead, and Heaven is for real that was just released today.  

Heaven is for real is based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book of the same title which is based on the real story of a 4 year old boy Colton who had a Near-Death experience. It details the little boy’s trip to heaven and back. 

The true story, retold by his father but using Colton’s uniquely simple words, offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us and the chance to see, and believe, like a child.

I have read quite a few books on Near-Death experience, including the best-selling book 90 Minutes in Heaven: a True Story of Death and Life by Don Piper.
In my personal journey of growing from an atheist to a christian, stories like these have helped me realize that there is life after death. 

I used to be fearful of death. Without faith and belief in life after death, death means the end of everything. 

But now, I firmly believe in life after death. Life does not end when the body stops functioning. I am an eternal spiritual being living in a physical body. My spirit lives on even when my body is gone. 

Life on this earth is only a temporary journey. My earthly life can end any day, any minute, any second. Some day I will be transformed from my earthly life to my spiritual life. I came from spirit and will return to spirit. I came from dust and will return to dust. I came with nothing and will leave with nothing. Everything I experience in this short life on earth is temporary. 

I no longer view death as something so fearful, because death is just the beginning of  a new life. I have hope for something better, a better life in heaven. There will be no sorrow, no pain and no tears in my eternal life in heaven. 


I am a book giver for World Book Night


I received 20 copies of the “100 Best-Loved Poems” from World Book Night, to be given away on April 23, 2014.

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers. 

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

This is the first year I participate in the World Book Night event @wbnamerica. I am proud to be a book lover and I am excited to be a book giver.

Related Post:

Volunteer for World Book Night

The Wonder of His Name

I am a regular listener of KTIS Faith Radio. One of the programs I enjoy listening to is Revive Our Hearts by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (also host of Seeking Him). The program can be heard weekdays at 1:30pm on KTIS 900 AM in Twin Cities.

Nancy grew up in a family deeply committed to Christ. At an early age, she surrendered her life to Christ and to His call to full-time service. Her love for the Word and the Lord Jesus has made her an excellent Bible teacher.  She has a passion for teaching and encouraging woman, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. to Freedom, Fullness & Fruitfulness in Christ.  Through her radio programs of Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him, Nancy has touched millions of women’s lives.  

Nancy is also a prolific author. She has authored about 20 books, including Lies Women Believe, A Place of Quiet Rest, Seeking Him, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy; Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. Her books continue to transform women’s hearts and lives.

Since March 5, 2014, in the days leading to Easter on April 20, Nancy has been doing a series titled The Wonder of His Name. It is a study of 32 names of Jesus. You can find more info here and listen to it online or on your phone.

I like the series so much I got the book The Wonder of His Name. This devotional includes meditations from Nancy on 32 names of Jesus. The series and the book help me better understand the different aspects and characters of Jesus. 

I highly recommend Nancy’s teaching and resources to anyone who want to grow deeper and stronger in faith.

MnDOT announces 2014 construction program

It’s spring. And in Minnesota, this means the start of the road construction and maintenance season.

Today MnDOT announced the 2014 state highway construction program at its annual statewide news conference held at the Central Office in St. Paul. District staff and their local news media participated in the news conference via live-streaming on the Internet.

The 2014 construction program of 308 projects includes work on 74 projects in the Twin Cities and 194 projects in Greater Minnesota. An additional 40 projects statewide will improve safety at railroad crossings, and make improvements on runways and terminals at regional airports. The work includes projects funded by the Corridors of Commerce program, a bonding effort aimed at improving roadways for freight travel.

The $1.1 billion program will provide vital upgrades to the state transportation system. It will improve highways, bridges and other infrastructure to ensure the safety and mobility of the travelling public.

For a complete list of projects, including construction dates, traffic impacts and maps, visit www.mndot.gov/construction

MnDOT urges motorists to check www.511mn.org for up-to-date information about traffic and road conditions.

Twin Cities Teen Lit Con 2014

I read about the Inaugural Twin Cities Teen Lit Con in the MetroBriefs, and want to spread the news about it.

Saturday, May 17, 2014
10:00am – 4:30pm (Doors Open at 9:30)
Henry Sibley High School
1897 Delaware Ave, Mendota Heights, MN 55118 
FREE. Open to Everyone. No Registration. 
Authors. Workshops. Exhibits. Book Arts. Book Sales & Signings. Photo Booth.

The 2014 Teen Lit Con is an inaugural event to bring teens together with their favorite authors or favorites they hadn’t known about before attending. There are 10 authors participating: Maureen Johnson, David Levithan, Ally Condie, Derf Backderf, Catherine Clark, Carrie Mesrobian, Geoff Herbach, Anne Greenwood Brown, Swati Avasthi and Pete Hautman. There will be panels, keynotes, writing workshops and an exhibit hall with book sales, book signings, and other book related cool stuff to do.

The purpose of this day is to celebrate teen literature, promote reading and writing, and to create a community of readers by connecting teens and authors.

If you are a teen, teacher, librarian or parent and want to get involved:

  • Get your teen readers there! Need help? Apply for bus reimbursement award (see below).
  • Follow on Twitter @TeenLitCon and #teenlitcon. Re-tweet!
  • Teachers & media specialists can volunteer the day of the event. Details & sign-up at MELSA.
  • Teachers & media specialists can sign up for CEUs. Get a t-shirt!

Metro schools can apply for bus reimbursement!

MELSA will fund 10 bus reimbursement awards for up to $350 each to help get your teen readers to the event.

Here are the details:

  • You must commit to bringing a minimum of 25 students.
  • Buses must have chaperones that plan to stay at the event.
  • Apply by 5pm, April 10. We will let you know by 5pm, April 14 if you have received the award.
  • Apply here.

Questions? Ask Kathleen James at kathleen@melsa.org.

Strategies to increase emotional intelligence

Now, more than ever, I believe that success in life depends largely on one’s emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is more important than IQ in order to have a fulfilled and content life with meaning, purpose and great relationships.

Life is difficult with people who might have a high IQ but low EQ.

According to Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0,  EQ has four core components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Understanding the four skills will improve your EQ.

Self-awareness is to know yourself as you really are. You use your self-awareness skills to notice your feelings and judge if your needs are being satisfied.

Self-management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to actively choose what you say and do. You use your self-management skills to express your feelings and act accordingly.

Social-awareness is to recognize and understand the moods of other individuals and entire groups of people. You use your social-awareness  skills to better understand the other person’s needs and feelings.

Relationship management is your ability to use your own emotions and those of others to manage interactions successfully. You use the relationship management skills to make relationships work.

The book contains the following strategies in each of the four areas to increase your EQ.


Self-awareness Strategies: 

1. Quit treating your feelings as Good or Bad

2. Observe the ripple effect from your emotions

3. Lean into your discomfort

4. Feel your emotions physically

5. Know who and what pushes your buttons

6. Watch yourself like a hawk

7. Keep a journal about your emotions

8. Don’t be fooled by a bad mood

9. Don’t be fooled by a good mood, either

10. Stop and ask yourself why you do the things you do

11. Visit your values

12. Check yourself

13. Spot your emotions in books, movies, and music

14. Seek feedback

15. Get to know yourself under stress


Self-management Strategies:

1. Breathe right

2. Create an emotion vs. reason list

3. Make your goals public

4. Count to ten

5. Sleep on it

6. Talk to a skilled self-manager

7. Smile and laugh more

8. Set aside some time in your day for problem solving

9. Take control of your self-talk

10. Visualize yourself succeeding

11. Clean up your sleep hygiene

12. Focus your attention on your freedoms, rather than your limitations

13. Stay synchronized

14. Speak to someone who is not emotionally invested in your problem

15. Learn a valuable lesson from everyone you encounter

16. Put a mental recharge into your schedule

17. Accept that change is just around the corner


Social-awareness Strategies:

1. Greet people by name

2. Watch body language

3. Make timing everything

4. Develop a back-pocket question

5. Don’t take notes at meetings

6. Plan ahead for social gatherings

7. Clear away the clutter

8. Live in the moment

9. Go on a 150minute tour

10. Watch EQ at the Movies

11. Practice the art of listening

12. Go people watching

13. Understand the rules of the culture game

14. Test for accuracy

15. Step into their shoes

16. Seek the whole picture

17. Catch the mood of the room


Relationship Management Strategies:

1. Be open and be curious

2. Enhance your natural communication style

3. Avoid giving mixed signals

4. Remember the little things that pack a punch

5. Take feedback well

6. Build trust

7. Have an “Open-door” policy

8. Only get mad on purpose

9. Don’t avoid the inevitable

10. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings

11. Complement the person’s emotions or situation

12. When you care, show it

13. Explain your decisions, don’t just make them

14. Make your feedback direct and constructive

15. Align your intention with your impact

16. Offer a “Fix-it” statement during a broken conversation

17. Tackle a tough conversation

Mark Zuckerberg’s goal for 2014 – write a thank-you note every day

Being the Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg gets a lot of media attention. Recently I read an interview and profile article about him in BusinessWeek. What I found most interesting in the article is that Zuckerberg sets a personal goal every year, to become a more educated and compassionate human being.

In 2010, he wowed to learn Mandarin. In 2011, it was to eat only animals he slaughtered himself. In 2013, he set out to meet a new person who doesn’t work at Facebook every day.

In 2014, Zuckerberg intends to write at least one well-considered thank-you note every day, via e-mail or handwritten letter.

Writing a thank-you note every day is not a new idea by Zuckerberg. I first heard about it in the book titled 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik. The author tells how writing a thank-you note a day changed his life.

I am glad Zuckerberg has set this as his personal goal for 2014.  As an influential individual, he has the power to inspire others to do the same. 

I like to write thank-you notes or express my thanks in person. Today I wrote a thank-you email to an individual who did a Webinar presentation I attended.   

I received the following response: “Many thanks for your wonderful email. It definitely brightens the day!”

A thank-you note warms the hearts of both the sender and the receiver. Everyone needs encouragement. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued. It feels good to be appreciated, especially when it’s not expected.

A simple thank-you note is good for our soul, mind and body.

Commit to Live Fit! 40 Day Challenge

Commit to Live Fit! 40 Day Challenge  is a 6-week journey of faith and fitness that leads to a healthier you by focusing on 6 key physical and spiritual steps. It started on March 3rd by Live the Promise host Susie Larson on Faith Radio. 

If you are interested in getting fit physically and spiritually, please join Susie Larson on this challenge. You can register at the following link. Even when the challenge is over, you can still do it on your own and at your own pace.

It’s never too late to embark on the life-long journey to live stronger lives – physically and spiritually. 

Register – http://myfaithradio.com/commit-to-live-fit/

  1. Week one – Drink Water, Read the Word 
  2. Week two – Stretch Your Muscles, Stretch Your Faith 
  3. Week three – Nightly Prioritize 7-9 Hours for Rest/Sleep, Daily Cultivate a Heart at Rest
  4. Week four – Guard Your Heart, Work Your Heart
  5. Week five – Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Soul
  6. Week six – Stand Tall, Bow Low

Physical Disciplines
Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day (or better yet, half of your body weight in ounces)
Stretch in the morning and evening
Set aside 7-9 hours for nighttime rest/sleep
Work your heart
Nourish your body
Stand tall

Spiritual Disciplines
Read the Word of God every day
Stretch your faith every day
Rest in the Lord
Guard your heart
Nourish your soul
Bow low

One tip for conducting a successful meeting

I read a tip about staff motivation in the March 2014 issue of Communication Briefings, and I had read similar tips in the past. I think this is a great idea, something easy to adopt and could reap great benefit by any leader in any organization.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has an interesting strategy for weekly staff meetings. Before getting down to focused business talk, Weiner asks every person in the room to share one personal and one professional accomplishment from the previous week.

Beginning a staff meeting with sharing everyone’s personal victories and professional achievements has several benefits. It can –

  • establish a tone of positivity not only for the meeting, but also for the organization.
  • set the team up with a positive frame of mind instead of one focused on what’s going wrong.
  • increase team spirit and reduce negativity in the workplace.
  • build stronger relationships when people know each other better through sharing personal stories.
  • make people feel recognized, appreciated and motivated which leads to high productivity.

Using this “power of small wins,” any leader can bring some positivity to a meeting and employee interaction by allowing his staff to share their personal and professional achievements.


Assistance dogs

Today at lunch time I went to an interesting presentation titled “Fur, Fun, Facts : How Puppies Become Service Animals,” offered by our MnDOT Employee Resource Group called FUEL (Employees Energizing Disability Awareness). 

Our MnDOT disability program coordinator is blind. When he is at work, he always has a guide dog with him. I have also seen other guided dogs in the public. So I had always wondered about these assistance dogs. 

During the presentation I learned about different types of assistance dogs and two organizations in Twin Cities that are involved in training these dogs. 

Assistance dogs provide a specific service to their handlers with disabilities, and greatly enhance the quality of their lives with a new sense of freedom and independence. 

There are different types of assistance dogs. 

Guide dogs are for the blind and the visually impaired. 

Hearing dogs are for the deaf and hard of hearing. 

Service Dogs are for people with disabilities other than vision or hearing impairment. There are mobility assistant dogs, seizure assistant dogs, diabetes assistant dogs, autism assistant dogs, allergy assistant dogs, post dramatic stress disorder assistant dogs, therapy dogs, etc. 

With special training these dogs can help mitigate many different types of disabilities. They can be trained to work with people who use power or manual wheelchairs, have balance issues, have various types of autism, need seizure alert or response, need to be alerted to other medical issues like low blood sugar, or have psychiatric disabilities. 

These specially trained dogs can help by retrieving objects that are out of their person’s reach, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking to indicate that help is needed, finding another person and leading the person to the handler, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance, providing deep pressure, and many other individual tasks as needed by a person with a disability. 

Service Dogs are either rescued from animal shelters or bred in selective breeding programs and raised by volunteers prior to their formal training. 

Most service dogs are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds. Service dogs can be identified by either a jacket, backpack or harness. 

The Seeing Eye is a national organization and is the oldest existing guide dog school in the world, started in 1929. 

Can Do Canines is a local organization located in New Hope. It provides specially trained service dogs to people with disabilities other than vision or hearing impairment. There is no charge except an application fee. There is a waiting list for the dogs though. 


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23 Mobile Things #Thing 3 – Utilities

Thing 3 of the 23 Mobile Things, a self-paced learning program, is about utilities. 

Utility apps can turn your phone or tablet into a really useful tool. I have a few common utility apps on my iPhone, such as calculator, compass, flashlight, and clock. They are really handy tools.

I have also downloaded RedLaser Barcode & QR Scanner and QRReader on my iphone. I use the apps to scan the barcode on an item for price information, and I can scan the QR code in a magazine or book to read an article or for additional information.

What is a QR code?

QR Code stands for Quick Response Code. They are small, like barcodes, but in a square shape with typically black and white dots filling up the square.  QR codes can be used to share data. You can use RedLaser to create, share and scan QR codes.

You can enter the URL of a website, a text, contact info, etc. and let RedLaser generate a QR code for you.

I used my blog URL http://onmymind.areavoices.com and created the following QR code with RedLaser. If I scan the QR code, it brings me to my blog website right away.


My new Jeremiah Study Bible has a QR code for every Book in the Bible. When I scan a QR code, it brings me to a website. I can access more information online and watch a short video of Dr. David Jeremiah introducing the Book.

When organizations create their brochures, they can include a QR code, so people can scan the QR code on their smartphones and go to the websites for more information about the organizations.

I also have Wi-Fi Finder on my iphone. When I travel, the app is handy to help locate free or paid public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Thanks to the #23ThingsMN team for making learning new things easy and fun.  


Help to Feed My Starving Children

Yesterday evening my two teenagers and I had fun packing food for Feed My Starving Children at Eagle Brook Church Woodbury Campus located at East Ridge High School. Our 5-6:30 pm shift went by so fast, I felt I won’t mind staying for another shift. 

During the week of Feb. 24-27, five Eagle Brook Church campuses are hosting the FMSC Mobile Pack events. The goal is to have 12,500 volunteers to pack 2.5 million meals for children around the world.

These FMSC Mobile Pack events are part of the Micah Project – Eagle Brook Church’s 2014 compassion, giving and serving initiative, based on the Biblical teaching in Micah 6:8: “…act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”

In the three-part Micah Project series, Eagle Brook Church Senior Pastor Bob Merritt teaches how we can do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.

The Weekend Messages are:
Feb. 15/16: Do
Feb. 22/23: Love
March 1/2: Walk

A BSF addition in Woodbury

I attended the first Bible Study Fellowship class last night at Five Oaks Church in Woodbury. Over 100 women attended. We are starting with the Book Philippians in the New Testament.

BSF is an in-depth, interdenominational Bible study that helps people know God and equips them to effectively serve the Church throughout the world. Classes, there are over 1,000 of them, are offered in 39 countries.

I first heard about BSF several years ago. Friends who took the class loved it and highly recommended it. But Woodbury had only a day time class for women at Woodbury Lutheran Church and an evening class for men at King of Kings. There was no evening class I could attend.

Recently someone on Facebook told me about this new BSF evening class for women and asked if I would be interested, after reading my Facebook update about a new Bible I had just received. It was divine appointment, God’s perfect timing. I thought about the book When God Winks at You: How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence.

A few ladies  prayed for three years for this new BSF class in Woodbury. I am very thankful for being a part of this class and for God’s timing. A heartfelt thank-you to all who have worked hard and made this happen, and also to Five Oaks Church to host the weekly event.  I look forward to doing this in depth Bible study with other women, deepening my knowledge in Bible and my presonal relationship with Jesus Christ.

23 Mobile Things #Thing 2 – iPhone tips & tricks

Since I signed up for the 23 Mobile Things and did Thing 1 on Jan. 15,  I have been thinking about doing Thing 2 – mobile device tips, but kept putting it off. A comment to my #Thing 1 post reminded and prompted me to take action and do #Thing 2 today. So thanks David for the comment and reminder.

I have had my iPhone for 2 years now, but I have never read or watched any tips or tricks. The few things I knew, I learned from my 14 year old daughter. She has an iPad and iTouch, and seems to know everything about how to use iStuff. When I got my iPhone, she actually helped me set it up. Recently she talked me into upgrading my iPhone to iOS7, she had upgraded her iTouch to iOS7 when it came out. If I have any questions about my iPhone, I usually ask my daughter.

I am sure glad that I did Thing 2 today. I learned a lot by reading the recommended websites for iPhone tips & tricks. I am sure that users with other types of mobile devices can learn a lot as well by reading the sections applicable to them.

My favorite tips & tricks I learned today include:

1. Undo Typing To Delete Typed Message – Shake your iPhone and tap Undo Typing to delete your message. Changed your mind? Shake your iPhone again and tap on Redo Typing to retrieve your original message.

2. Insert a photo or video – When you’re composing an email, touch and hold in the message to see the “Select, Select All” menu. Tap the arrow and select “Insert Photo or Video.” Now you can choose a photo or video to attach from your Camera Roll, albums, or shared streams.

3. Get back to your draft – Touch and hold the Compose button to switch to your list of saved message drafts.

4. Delete Last Digit In Calculator App – Entered a wrong digit in the Calculator? Instead of tapping the Clear [C] button, you can just swipe your finger to the left or right of the numbers to clear the last digit. Each swipe will remove the last digit until the number becomes zero.

6. Format text in Mail – Double-tap any word to bring up the options menu, tap the arrow, and select the B I U option to bold, italicize, or underline your text. 

7. Define a word – In apps like Safari and Mail, you can define a word by double-tapping it to bring up the options menu, and then tap Define. 

8. Go back in Mail – After reading emails in the inbox, swipe left to right from the edge of your screen, to go back to the mailboxes screen. 

9. Messages – View timestamps of your messages by touching and dragging message bubbles to the left. 

10. Tell Siri who’s who – Tell Siri about your relationships, such as “Erin is my wife” or “Rick is my dad.” Then you can say “Text my wife” or “Call Dad” and Siri knows who you mean. 

11. Use Siri to find images – Tell Siri to find images of water or whatever, it will bring some using Bing. I would prefer Google Images instead of Bing.

12. Enable emoji characters – Access all sorts of smileys, animals, shapes, and other peculiarities from the emoji-enabled keyboard. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Add New Keyboard and select Emoji. Now when you type, just tap the globe button and choose the emoji that fits the mood.

13. Control font size – Adjust fonts to your preferred reading size in all apps that support Dynamic Type. Simply turn on Larger Type in Settings > General > Accessibility. Then choose your desired font size.

14. Bold text – To make the text bold and easier to read, turn on Bold Text in Settings > General > Accessibility > Bold Text. Bolding text makes it easier on my eyes.

15. Access your camera quickly by swiping up from any screen — including the Lock screen — and tapping the Camera icon.

16. Switch Shooting Directions In Panorama – You can easily shoot panorama photos from left to right or right to left. Just tap the arrow to switch the direction.

17. Hold down the volume button to quickly focus the camera and take a picture or multiple pictures quickly.

18. Burst mode – Capture multiple shots of the action — for as long as you hold down the button — by snapping 10 photos per second. And real-time analysis suggests the best photos of the bunch. 

19. I only knew how to send photos one at a time in messages and emails. Here is a great tip on sending multiple photos at once in messages & email:

  • To start, on your iPhone, tap on the ‘Photos’ icon and choose from which album you want to select your photos from.
  • Then, tap on ‘Select’ on the upper right corner. Select all the photos that you want to send by tapping on the photos. Selected photos will have a check near the bottom right corner.
  • At the bottom left corner of your screen, tap on Share. Then press Copy. By pressing copy, you have copied all of the photos you selected to the clipboard.
  • Now, go back to your home screen and tap on Messages or Mail. Compose your message. On the space where you compose your message, press on it for 2 seconds and you will see a Paste bubble pop up. Press Paste to paste all your photos.
  • Once your message is complete, press Send. It might take a while for the photos to be sent out.

A few things I already knew that are worth sharing:

20. Let your iPhone do the typing – Dictation lets you talk where you would type. Tap the microphone button on the bottom row of the keyboard, say what you want to write, and your iPhone converts your words into text.

21. Find my iPhone – If you’ve lost your iPhone, Find My iPhone can help you locate it. Go to Settings > iCloud and turn on the Find My iPhone feature.

22. Keyboard tips – Go to Settings > General > Keyboard to turn on or off features like Auto-Capitalization, Auto-Correction, and more.

I love #23ThingsMN. Learning so many new tips today made me feel empowered and inspired. Now maybe I can teach my daughter one or two new things :-)

Just for today!

I have been reading the Dale Carnegie biography Self-help Messiah: Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America in the last few weeks.

Carnegie wrote two very successful books in the 1930s and 1940s – How to Win Friends and Influence People, and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. He played an important role in the self help movement and was named one of the most important Americans of the 20th century. 

I came upon the following quote in the book today. It’s worth sharing.

Just for today!

10 little thoughts from Dale Carnegie’s book: How to stop worrying and start living:

1. Just for today I will be happy. This assumes that what Abraham Lincoln said is true, that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Happiness is from within; it is not a matter of externals.

2. Just for today I will try to adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my family, my business, and my luck as they come and fit myself to them.

3. Just for today I will take care of my body. I will exercise it, care for it, nourish it, not abuse it nor neglect it, so that it will be a perfect machine for my bidding.

4. Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

5. Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways:

(a) I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. If anybody knows of it, it will not count.

(b) I will do at least two things I don’t want to do, as William James suggests just for exercise.

(c) I will not show any one that my feelings are hurt. They may be hurt, but Today I will not show it.

6. Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress as becomingly as possible, talk low, act courteously, be liberal with praise, criticise not at all, nor find fault with anything and not try to regulate nor improve anyone.

7. Just for today I will try to live through this day only, not to tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do things for twelve hours that would appall me if I had to keep them up for a lifetime.

8. Just for today I will have a program. I will write down what I expect to do every hour. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. It will eliminate two pests, hurry and indecision.

9. Just for today I will have a quiet half-hour all by myself and relax. In this half-hour sometimes I will think of God, so as to get a little more perspective into my life.

10. Just for today I will be unafraid, especially I will not be afraid to be happy, to enjoy what is beautiful, to love, and to believe that those I love, love me.

2014 – The Year of the Horse


Happy Chinese New Year – the Year of Horse!

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year in the traditional lunar calendar.

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, years are named after animals based on the rotating cycle of “Twelve Animal Signs.” Every year corresponds to one of the twelve rotating animals – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Every twelve years the same animal name reappears.

All those born in 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, or 2014 have Horse as their Zodiac sign.

People born in each animal’s year are said to have the personality of the animal. The personality traits of Horse are:

Energetic, intelligent, warm-hearted, independent, enjoy traveling. outgoing and enjoy the limelight. Your cheerful, talkative nature makes you popular, but you can also be impatient, quick-tempered and stubborn.

To learn more about the Year of the Horse, or the personality characteristics of your Zodiac Sign, check out the following links:

Chinese zodiac

The 2014 Year of Horse

Chinese Zodiac – Horse

Personality Characteristics of Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

The Chinese Zodiac Characteristics

The Chinese Zodiac

For more info about the Chinese New Year tradition, read my previous post the Year of the Tiger.

Happy Chinese New Year to all near and far who celebrate this special festival!

A book that will change your life


I have at least 10 Bibles at home –softcover, hardcover and leather; big size and small size, in Chinese, English, German, and Chinese/English, old fashioned and modern translation. 

Recently I got another Bible — the newly released Jeremiah Study Bible by my favorite Bible teacher and preacher Dr. David Jeremiah. 

Dr. Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, Calif., has been in ministry since 1969 and founded Turning Point Ministries in 1982. Through his radio and television broadcasts he reaches an estimated 200 million households around the world every week.

Not that I really need another Bible, I have to admit that I don’t even use the ones I have that much, but I just love Dr. Jeremiah’s teaching and would love to read his study materials. The Study Bible is in the New King James Version and includes over 8,000 study notes, hundreds of sidebars and more than 60 articles on “Essentials of the Christian Faith.” It is the culmination of a lifetime of teaching and studying the Word of God by Dr. Jeremiah.

The Jeremiah Study Bible: What It Says. What It Means. What It Means for You was released during “A Night of Celebration with David Jeremiah & Friends” at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in NYC on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.

Today I watched the part two of the “Night of Celebration with David Jeremiah & Friends” that aired on television on Jan. 12, 2014 (here is part one aired on Jan. 5, 2014)

In part two, Dr. Jeremiah talked about how the Bible has changed lives and will change your life, based on Psalm 19:7-11. 

The Bible Will —

  • Restore Your Soul (Psalm 19:7a, 1 Peter 1:23)
  • Renew Your Mind (Psalm 19:7b)
  • Rejoice Your Heart (Psalm 19:8a)
  • Refocus Your Vision (Psalm 19:8b)
  • Reinforce Your Life (Psalm 19:9a, Psalm 119:89)
  • Replace Your Doubts (Psalm 19:9b)
  • Reorder Your Values  (Psalm 19:10)
  • Redirect Your Path (Psalm 19:11a)
  • Reward Your Obedience (Psalm 19:11b)

Dr. Jeremiah’s clear teaching and his Study Bible will encourage me to spend more time in the Scripture and to make the study of God’s Word a priority in my life.

For more information about Dr. Jeremiah and his Turning Point Ministries, visist www.davidjeremiah.org.

Mobile app for travel information

Yesterday afternoon MnDOT closed three major highways in west central Minnesota over the whiteout conditions caused by the blowing snow. MnDOT  and Minnesota State Patrol advised no travel in southern and western Minnesota.

For people traveling in Minnesota under the current weather condition, it’s important to stay informed and updated about the road conditions as well. There are different ways to do so.

Travel information on road conditions and closures, incidents and crashes, construction and maintenance can be found

Traveling through a road barricade, whether it is there due to a flood, blizzard, or other condition, is illegal.

Motorists driving on closed roads can face fines of up to $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. In addition, if a driver needs to be rescued after crossing a barricade illegally, the state will charge for the emergency help and will also add other penalties.

Please stay safe and stay behind road barriers. Before traveling, visit 511mn.org or call 511 to check current conditions.

23 Mobile Things #Thing 1 – Blogging & Registering

I like learning new things and keeping up to some degree with new technologies and tools. So the  self-paced learning program about Web 2.0 tools, 23 Mobile Thingsoffered by the Minnesota multitype library systems, sounds like a great opportunity for me.

23 Mobile Things include 23 types of apps for participants to discover and explore. Each Thing will include many different apps. These apps will cover a variety of topics such as social media, presentations, photography, reference, news, notes, games, and so much more.

According to the 23 Mobile Things website, this program is open to all staff in any Minnesota library – public, academic, school, or special – as well as members of their Governing Boards, their Friends groups, or Advisory Groups. Experienced users as well as novices and everyone in between are invited to join. But really, anyone can visit the website and learn these 23 types of apps.

Each participants needs to set up and maintain a blog and to document her learning progress on the blog. Since I already have this blog, I will use it for this purpose instead of creating a new one.

The registration started today which I did. I have till June 15, 2014 to complete all these 23 Things.

What I hope to get out of the program is to become familiar with the new technologies and apps, to increase my knowledge and skills, and my comfort level in using them. You never know when a conversation or a question about these apps will come up at work.

Often times I feel my teenagers know more about these tools than I do. I want to keep up with what they are doing as well.

Let the #23ThingsMN fun and learning begin …

The wonder of social media

This morning shortly after 1 am as I was finishing writing my previous post and about to turn off my computer, I got a surprise email from an old friend, a college classmate from China about 33 years ago. She invited me to join a networking group on the social media Wechat for our class 1981 that was just established, probably hours ago.

I responded right away. Within minutes, I was in the group. Within hours we had more than half of the classmates in the group.  The chat started.

Our class 1981 of the German Department at the Beijing Foreign Studies University had only 31 students. For four years, we lived together (five in a room on bunk beds, male and female in separated dorms), had classes together, ate together in the same cafeteria,  studied together in classrooms and in the library. We had developed quite close bond with each other. Some romances and marriages grew out of this small group.

But after we graduated, people went different ways. Some stayed in Beijing, some went to other cities for different jobs, some went to Germany. Some stayed in touch, some lost contact. Remember, we didn’t have computers and phones at that time.

We had a memorable 20-year reunion in 2005 in Beijing. The majority classmates attended the reunion, a few didn’t come. I haven’t seen them for over 30 years now.

I was so excited to get reconnected with the group, I couldn’t sleep for a while. I totally enjoyed talking with my old friends

I just love Wechat. I have been using it for a year now.

Wechat is popular in China as Facebook is in the US. It originated in China, is the fastest growing and most popular social media tool in China, but it’s also popular among the overseas  Chinese. Since you can select your language preference, it’s also gaining popularity in other countries, including the US.

With Wechat, you can share articles and photos. It  offers features like push-to-talk voice chat, live chat, group chat, and video calling .  With it shake feature you can also find friend using the Wechat.  You just have to shake your phone and the app will help you connect with other people, who are shaking their mobile at that time.

The best part, Wechat is free. You can use it anywhere around the world as long as you have a smart phone and wifi. It’s especially handy when you travel. It helps you keep in touch with families and friends without paying telephone charges. 

WeChat is available for windows phones, android phones and also for the web.

The danger of black ice

On Tuesday, January 7, 2014, around 7:24 am, a Maplewood woman driving on the Interstate 35E flyover ramp to westbound Interstate 694 in Little Canada went off the overpass and plunged in her Ford Ranger onto a frozen holding pond. It was probably a 75 to 100 foot drop. The truck rolled a couple of times and landed on the ice.

Fortunately, the driver was not hit by any vehicles. She was alive and in fair condition.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the crash was being blamed on black ice. 

To view the raw video of the crash recorded by the surveillance camera, go to KSTP news at http://tinyurl.com/l2u9yrq. 

In winter cold weather condition which we often experience in Minnesota, as it happened lately, black ice is a big factor and concern for roadway accidents. Since black ice is invisible, many people do not realize its existence and danger, and do not drive slowly and carefully until it’s too late. 

Black ice refers to a thin coating of glazed ice on a surface. In the United States, it is generally used to describe any type of ice that forms on roadways. Black ice is virtually transparent, allowing black asphalt roadways or the surface below to be seen through it, hence the term “black ice.” 

Black ice may form when light rain or drizzle falls on a road surface that is at a temperature below 0 °C. At low temperatures (below –18 °C), black ice can form on roadways when the moisture from automobile exhaust condenses on the road surface.

Because black ice represents only a thin accumulation, and is highly transparent and thus difficult to see as compared with snow, frozen slush, or thicker ice layers, it makes driving, cycling or walking on affected surfaces extremely dangerous.  

Bridges and overpasses can be especially dangerous. Black ice forms first on bridges and overpasses because air can circulate both above and below the surface of the elevated roadway, causing the bridge pavement temperature to drop more rapidly. 

Black ice has caused multiple accidents in Minnesota when the temperatures dipped below –18 °C for a prolonged period of time in mid-December 2008. We see it happen again this winter.

It’s important to understand how black ice forms, know when and where to expect black ice, and take preventive actions when such conditions happen. 

Drive slowly, especially when there are less people on the road, because that’s when you are able to go 60 miles per hour or higher. Then when you hit that patch of black ice, the result can be fatal. 

If possible, follow other vehicles, but keep distance and not tailgate. 

Keep your windshield clear of ice, snow, dirt, and anything else that can prevent you from seeing out of it properly.

Turn your headlights on early in the afternoon to help you see any possible sheen from black ice.

Check your tire tread. Worn tread causes accidents in any conditions, and will ensure you lack traction when needed on black ice. In addition, consider having snow tires fitted.

NEVER drive in potentially icy conditions with your cruise control active. 

For further information, check out the following websites: 

How to Drive on Black Ice: 14 Steps (with Pictures): http://tinyurl.com/6zk8ml

How Driving on Ice Works: http://tinyurl.com/lt69wlu 

Black ice = Danger: http://tinyurl.com/loohdkt

Black ice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_ice

Keep warm and stay safe!




My New Year’s resolution

My New Year’s resolution is twofold.

First, I would like to work on the nine qualities of the “Fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

In Dr. David Jeremiah’s devotional “Destination,” he defines each as the following (taken from a sermon by pastor and best-selling author Robert J. Morgan):

Love is the determination to meet the needs of someone else.

Joy is the ability to appreciate life.

Peace is the calmness and confidence of knowing God is in control.

Patience is the knack of putting up with people and circumstances.

Kindness is the practice of going out of our way to do nice things for people.

Goodness is the display of moral integrity.

Faithfulness is the habit of being utterly dependable.

Gentleness is the soft covering of strength.

Self-control is the capacity of doing what we don’t feel like, and not doing what we do feel like.

Second, I would like to build my spiritual muscles, maturity and faith, again using Dr. David Jeremiah’s definitions (from his Turning Points Magazine, January 2014):

Building spiritual muscles – Bible study, prayer, worship, fellowship, giving, Bible memory, and others. These are exercises every Christian must engage in if we are to grow in spiritual maturity.

Build spiritual maturity – Various areas of service and ministry where we use our spiritual muscles in service to Christ. 

Build spiritual faith – This is when we take our eyes off our muscles and our abilities and trust God to do things through us that only He can do.

2013 in review

It’s hard to believe 2013 is already history, and the new year has arrived.

Some of my most memorable happenings from 2013 include:

Growing spiritually

  • Attend Eagle Brook Church weekly with my family
  • Listen to Faith Radio daily
  • Read Dr. David Jeremiah’s Turning Points devotional magazine and books, and listen to his radio and TV messages regularly. Meet with Dr. Jeremiah in person during “An Evening with Dr. David Jeremiah” rally at Target Center
  • Listen to Joel Osteen’s TV messages regularly

Installing a Little Free Library

LFL has enriched my life in many ways.

  • had a LFL and Night to Unite Celebration for my neighbors
  • wrote about it and published in two magazines
  • my LFL story was in newspaper and on TV
  • got to meet LFL founder Todd Bol and KARE 11 reporter Boyd Huppert
  • started to volunteer for LFL with my son to put LFLs on Google map

I hope my article will be included in an upcoming book.

Family vacations

I took a few big trips this year. It was great to visit my parents and brother in China. The visit to Mount Tai, Confucius birthplace and Jinan (Capitol) in Shangdong Province was a pleasant surprise. It was beautiful.

  • Hawaii in May
  • China in June/July
  • Badlands and Mount Rushmore in July

Fighting for justice

  • I helped Prof. Wang Ping in her legal battle against discrimination with Macalester College, even though I didn’t know her personally at the beginning. Her victory in the end was the result of the amazing public supports she received
  • I was underpaid by MnDOT for 9 years and got back payment once the error came to light
  • A friend in Chicago is suffering age and race discrimination. I can’t help her, except listening to her and praying for her


  • Woodbury Citizens’ Academy
  • Woodbury Days
  • Minnesota State Fair
  • State Capitol Run @ Work 5K

Constant reminders – Life is temporary

The sad thing that really stuck in my mind is the health challenges and deaths some of my relatives and friends experienced in 2013 – deaths of cancer at young and old ages, sudden deaths, cancer diagnosis, and traffic accidents. I am so thankful that my own family members are healthy and well, but those tragic deaths and events are constant reminders that life is fragile. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. We really have to take good care of our health and live every day the best we can.

I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year in 2014. May God bless you!



Volunteer for World Book Night

I signed up to be a volunteer book giver for the World Book Night U.S. on April 23, 2014. 

World Book Night U.S., a non-profit organization, has launched its third annual campaign to encourage reading and giving. A half million free paperbacks (38 titles) will be handed out across America all on one day — April 23, 2014. Volunteer book lovers will help give specially printed books to light or non-readers and to those without the means or access to them.

To see a list of the titles that will be given away, and to sign up to be a giver, go to World Book Night U.S. at www.us.worldbooknight.org. The deadline for submitting an application to be a giver is January 5, 2014. Applicants must state where and to whom they intend to give out their 20 WBN special paperbacks and why they want to participate in World Book Night.

Below is my response (within 100 words) to the question “Why do you want to participate in World Book Night?”

I am an immigrant who came to the US in 1991. I could hardly speak and understand any English at that time. Books and libraries helped me greatly as I tried to start a new life here. Now I am a librarian living in Woodbury and working in Saint Paul. I love reading and books. I would like to share my love with others and help those who are less fortunate and live in poverty. I have a Little Free Library in my front yard that I use to share my books. 

Washington County Library has agreed to be a distribution site for the World Book Night program. Volunteers may pick up their books to give away at any of the Washington County Library branches prior to April 23. For more information, visit the WCL website or call 651-731-1320.


My Christmas present

I hope everyone had a joyous Christmas.

Every year and every time when my kids ask me what present I want for Christmas or birthday, I always tell them to write me some poems.  I want nothing else from them. I love whatever they write for me, because I cherish what they create themselves more than anything they can buy for me.

Here is this year’s Christmas present I received. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Santa Claus 

It was a dark and snowy winter night

All the children were asleep in their bed

Not a soul stirred as off were the lights

Above was Rudolph with his nose shinning red.


Santa sat in his red sleigh full of toys

He stopped at every house to give gifts

For all the very well behaved girls and boys

As his reindeer pulled his sleigh in shifts.


Santa flew around the world in a flash

He was quickly back home to the North Pole

The next day children ran to the big stash

To see if they received presents or coal.


All good people gave a round of applause

To the great one and only Santa Claus.



Yahoo Mail update -tabs are back!

When I wrote the The new Yahoo Mail sucks [http://onmymind.areavoices.com/2013/10/14/the-new-yahoo-mail-sucks/] on Oct. 14, I didn’t anticipate that it would become the most commented post on my blog.

So many people have experienced problems and frustrations with the new Yahoo Mail released in Oct. 2013, yet Yahoo didn’t seem to listen and care.

The online petition on Change.org to bring back the old version of Yahoo Mail! has reached more than 41,500 supporters [http://www.change.org/petitions/yahoo-bring-back-the-old-version-of-yahoo-mail#share]

Finally there is some good news to share – Yahoo has released a new version of Yahoo Mail that has tabs! If you haven’t seen this already, read their tumblr post here:


“To turn on the new Tabs, go to View, Multitasking and select Tabs. Emails you want to read, emails you are composing, Calendar and Contacts all appear as individual tabs. If you use the preview pane, double-clicking an email will open it in a tab.”

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Dealing with loneliness

Do you feel lonely?

I think it’s safe to say, everyone feels  lonely more or less, at one time or another, sometimes or all the times.

We can feel lonely even in the midst of a big crowd, among families and friends.  We can feel lonely even living in material abundance.

We can be lonely when we live alone.  We can be lonely when we feel misunderstood or not understood. We can be lonely when we have reached the top of the mountain or the pinnacle of worldly success. We can be lonely when we feel empty inside despite of our fullness on the outside.

More people feel lonely during the holidays.

Whatever the reason is for you to feel lonely, understand that you are not alone. And there are ways to deal with loneliness.

Loneliness is the topic of the current message series on this coming weekend at Eagle Brook Church. Holidays bring more family tension, stress and loneliness. That’s why the current series focuses on these common issues.

I think everyone can benefit from this message on dealing with loneliness. Here is the link: http://vimeo.com/81927216

To listen to the current and previous messages, go to this site: http://eaglebrookc hurch.com/media-resources/weekend-messages/

Eagle Brook Church has 6 campuses in Twin Cities, including one campus in Woodbury at East Ridge High School. The Woodbury Campus usually offers four services total on Saturdays and Sundays. But it can change due to the space availability and demand. This weekend there are only two services on Sundays at 9 and 11 am. There will be seven services on the following weekend plus Monday and Tuesday before Christmas for the Christmas celebration.

Happy birthday, a mother’s gratitude and wish


My daughter turns 14. I am so grateful to have a daughter and have her in my life. I am very thankful and proud to be her mother.

Being a mother is no easy job. I know I often fail and make mistakes, and I feel like a failure when it comes to parenting, even though I want to be a great mother to her and my son.

Being my daughter is definitely not easy. I have to admit myself. In her eyes, I am probably the most strict mother in the whole world. I say no to her more than I say yes. I don’t buy her a lot of stuff she wants.  I don’t want to be a Tiger mom, but sometimes I do behave like one, I am afraid.

For her birthday, I wrote the following poem to her.


Peace and Beauty

On this day, 14 years ago,
A girl was born
At the Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis.
She couldn’t wait to enter the world
And to meet her family –
Mom, dad, brother and grandparents.
What a nice surprise –
A baby girl!!
That’s what they wished.
They named her Peace Beauty.
Peace connects her to her roots in China,
Beauty relates to her birthplace in America.
She was a peaceful baby,
No cry and no fuzz,
Happy and content all the time.
And beauty is she,
So wonderfully made by God,
Perfect in size, shape, weight and height.
No fancy cloth could make her more beautiful,
No makeup could make her smile more attractive.
She is the beauty inside and out.
Thank God for her presence and gift.
May God’s grace and blessing be with her
All the days of her life.


On her birthday today, I want to share with my daughter my thoughts and wishes:

I love you, even though you may not feel like loved sometimes. I will love you no matter what, “till the end of the numbers.”

You are loved by God no matter what, because you are a child of God.

You are beautiful the way God created you. You are perfectly and wonderfully made.

Your inner beautiful is more important than your outer beauty. So focus more on building your inner beauty and character, less on your appearances.

Our earthly life is temporary, focus more on the eternal aspect of your life.

You have joy in life when you help and serve others instead of thinking only about yourself.

You have peace in life when you can trust in God.

Getting more stuff does not make us happy. The more we want, the less happy we are. Being content with life is the key to a happy one.

Just because others have something and you can afford it, doesn’t mean you should also have it.

Things do not last long. Rather than buying and accumulating things, acquire more skills that will enrich your life and no one can take away.

Take good care of God’s creation and what you have. Being resourceful and not wasteful.

What you have in you is more powerful and valuable than what you have on you.

You are a good reader and writer. Keep on reading and writing poems. Never underestimate your abilities and skills.

Never stop learning and growing.

I ask for your understanding and forgiveness for times when I have treated you harshly and unfairly. I do what I think is good for you which you may not agree now, but hopefully some day, you have a better understanding. For all the mistakes and wrongs I have done, I apologize. I am sorry to have hurt you.  

Thankful for this adopted country

I came to the US in 1991, so I have been living in this country for 22 years, one year longer than I spent in my home country in China.

While I miss my family in China, miss the Chinese food and other things I love about China, I have grown to love the U.S., my adopted country. I feel more at home in Woodbury than in Suzhou where I was born and lived till I left for college in Beijing.

There are so many reasons for me to love this country and feel thankful for being here. They are, in random order:

The clean air and environment – I can see the beautiful cloud and blue sky whenever we have a nice sunny day.

The freedom – I have the freedom to worship and express, without fear and danger of imprisonment.

The opportunity – I have the opportunity to be successful if I am diligent and work hard, like everyone else. My past and family background do not determine my future.

The civility and decency in society – I can live a good life because there are civility and decency in this society. I feel a certain level of trust and confidence in relationships with other and in things I purchase.

The loving-kindness in people – I meet so many people who are loving, giving, kind, and generous. They give their time, talents, treasures and themselves. by adopting orphans, volunteering, serving others, or donating to charities. When I see parents volunteering long hours for school and sports activities, or see the Salvation Army Red Kettle bell ringers standing in freezing temperature to help people in needs, it touches me deeply. They inspire me to be more kind and generous.

The abundance in life – Most people in this country do not have to worry  about covering the basic needs of life. Even people living in poverty have more than what most people in the world have.

People have asked me whether I will go back to China. I will for sure go back to China to visit my parents and brother, but I will stay put here. I love this adopted country. My kids were both born here. This is the only real home they know. I sure want to be where they are.



Thankful for my family

No family is perfect, my family is no exception. We may look perfect, but we are absolutely not. Just like every family, we have issues and problems.

My husband and I argue and fight, because we are different and have different values and ideas. My two teenagers upset me sometimes because they don’t do things I ask. I always get on their nerves because I nag and yell too much.

Despite all issues and problems we have, I am so very thankful for my family.

I am thankful that I have a place to call home, and a home to share with other human beings. Living alone and returning to an empty home without another living soul every day is no fun.

I am thankful that everyone in my family is healthy. My kids were born healthy and have been healthy their entire lives, without any physical and mental issues that affect so many other children – allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD, etc.

I am thankful that both my husband and I have decent jobs and can afford a comfortable living. We don’t have to live from pay check to pay check and never have to worry about where the next meal is. We have means to keep our home warm in winter and cool in summer. While it’s minus 20 degree Celsius and freezing cold outside, I am warm and comfortable inside.  My husband’s job gives us more opportunities to travel than we would otherwise do on our own.

I am thankful that my kids are responsible and doing well at school. I don’t have to worry about their homework and getting good grades. In fact, I can’t even help them with homework even if they want me to, especially in subjects like math, science and engineering. They know more than I do.

I am thankful that even though I don’t have perfect children, I do have the perfect number of children, a boy and a girl. They are great kids.

I am thankful that my husband is willing to go to church now. My biggest wish for my family is that everyone becomes a child of God and is saved.



Thankful for my friends and neighbors

My heart is filled with gratitude when I think about some friends and neighbors I have. When I have needs, I can count on them for help.

This morning, my son overslept and was late for school. Fortunately, my neighbor provided him a ride.

Every day, my neighbor takes my son to school along with his own son for zero hour class. It’s such a big help for me.

When I am out of town in summer, my neighbors help me take care of the garden and mow the lawn.

For my kids’ activities, I look for carpool opportunities if possible.

I ask for help whenever I need it. And people do respond kindly and generously.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, friends invited our family to Thanksgiving dinners and to spend some time together.

My life is enriched and better because of these great friends and neighbors. I am very grateful for them.

Thank God for my brother

With my brother

Dr. David Jeremiah of the Turning Point Ministry said in his recent Thanksgiving message that gratitude unexpressed is meaningless. Don’t just think thankful thoughts, but more importantly, let others know you appreciate them and you are thankful.

In my previous two posts, I gave thanks to my mother and father. Today I would like to share my thankful thoughts about my brother and express my gratitude for him.

My brother is three years older than I. He is my only surviving sibling. My oldest brother died from a fever when he was one year old, at the care of my grandmother. My mom said his death was unnecessary, but I weren’t be here if my oldest brother didn’t pass away. For our family and relatives, my second brother and I are the only two siblings, as if our oldest brother had never existed.

As I mentioned, my father had a quick temper. While I inherited a little bit of our father’s temper and impatience, my brother didn’t, even though he was often the target and victim of our father’s temper. It felt like he came from a different family and background.

My brother has a gentle soul. He is quiet, kind and generous. He is a giving and helpful person.

I don’t remember my brother ever did anything to hurt me or was angry with me.

Recently my coworkers were talking about sibling rivalry. I said my two kids fought a lot, but my brother and I never fought as siblings. I had no memory of my brother fighting with me for anything. To confirm, I called and asked my brother, whether that’s true. He said yes. He never fought with me, but he remembered a few times when he glared at me because my parents prepared something special for me to eat. He had always felt remorse for what he did and he apologized.

During our conversation, he also expressed his regret that he didn’t give me money and support me financially while I was at college. “I was working at that time and had a salary. I often spent money on friends, but not on you. I remember I gave you money once you came home, but you didn’t spend it and gave it back to me.” He apologized again.

My brother is generous with everyone. Every time I go back home, he never asks me to buy him anything from the US, but he always buys me and my kids things we want in China. He told me a few times: “You can have anything or everything our parents have.” I said the same thing to him in response.

My brother lives with my parents and takes good care of them whenever needed. My aging parents are very fortunate to have him around.

I am very thankful for my brother for looking after our parents. He is really good to them.

I am also thankful for the good relationship my brother and I have. We didn’t fight while growing up, we will never fight when we grow old. We will not have the problem so many adult children have when their parents pass away, fighting about who gets what.

I am thankful for my brother for who he is – kind, gentle and generous.

I pray for God’s special blessings on my brother.  May his life be filled with love, joy and peace. May he come to the Lord and become a child of God some day.


Thank God for my father


Continuing the Thanksgiving theme to highlight the people in my life I am thankful for.

In the previous post, I talked about my mother. A lot of things I said about my mother is also true for my father. So I am equally thankful for my father as well as my mother.

Dad was born in 1933, the youngest of six children. His father passed away when he was just a baby. When he was about 14 years old, he followed his older brothers’ suit and left his hometown to go to Shanghai to find a better life. In 1951, per friend’s referral, he went to Suzhou and worked for a small family textile business. In the 1950s, small family businesses were merged to form community and then state-owned factories. Dad worked in the textile factory making towels for over 40 years till his retirement in 1991.

Dad had only one or two years of elementary level education. He didn’t have the opportunity to receive a good education. He could read newspapers, but he hardly read. Yet, he is one of the smartest person I know.

Dad  is the Mr. Handyman at work and at home. He was the best Handyman I know.

Dad was a very skilled carpenter. He made all the wood furniture we used – tables, chairs, beds, dressers, stands, etc. The pieces were not only functional, but also very artistically decorated with his wood carvings. During the Sunday weekend, he often went to friends’ houses to help others make furniture for special occasions such as weddings.

In addition to wood work, Dad was also skilled in plumbing and electric work. He could do and fix anything. He could make new keys, repair appliances, bikes, shoes, pots, whatever problem we had, he had a solution for it. So he was not only the Mr. Handyman for our own family, our relatives and neighbors often came to him for help.

At 80 years old, Dad is doing very well. He does grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry at home, since my mom’s health is failing due to her diabetes. He never did those chores before retirement, now he is an expert. Since he learned to cook, he doesn’t like my mom’s cooking any more. Mom happily gave up her cooking duty.

Dad has an incredible memory which unfortunately didn’t pass on to me. Even now in his 80’s, he can still memorize many phone numbers. My mom keeps a neat phone directory of families, relatives and friends. But often times, Dad can tell her the number she needs faster than she can look it up in the directory. I am not talking about a few phone numbers, but at least several dozens. It’s amazing for me, because I can only remember my own phone numbers.

Dad credits his good health to the exercises he did over the years. For many years, he played basketball with co-workers. He ran and walked to work every day. He was always active, enjoyed doing things and fixing things around the house and for others.

Dad’s biggest weakness was his hot temperament. He could get upset and angry in a second. My brother who was three years older and more stubborn than I, suffered some physical and emotional abuse from my Dad. It was not unusual at that time, but would be considered abuse based on today’s standard in this country.

Although I don’t remember my Dad ever beat me physically or abused me verbally, I do remember my fear when he had his rage episodes which happened often when he was younger.

I didn’t like the poverty at home. And I didn’t like my Dad’s hot temperament and his being so strict with us. I wanted to go to college far away and leave home. I think that was my big motivation to study hard at school so I could go to college.

I did went to college far away in Beijing. The train ride to Beijing was over 20 hours. I went even further away than I could imagine, to Germany and then to the US. My teenage wish came true.

Nowadays, I don’t hold a grudge against my Dad, neither does my brother. As we got older, we had more understanding and appreciation for our parents for what they went through in their lives, for the conditions and limitations they had. They did what they could for us. With aging, Dad also lost his hot temper. He is much patient now.

I have often felt guilty for being so far away from my parents. I can’t help take care of them now they are getting old and need help. Fortunately, my brother lives with our parents. He is very good to them.

I thank God for my parents, for their good health and for their love for me.


Thank God for my mother

Mother, photo taken in 2004

As we begin the Thanksgiving week today, I would like to share a few people and things in my life that I am very thankful for.

The first person I am thankful for is my mother.

Mother turned 79 on Nov. 15. According to her ID card, she was born on Nov. 15, 1934 (Gregorian calendar). Mother said she was not sure if her birth date was correctly transferred. In the old days, they used the traditional Chinese Calendar. Then in 1949, Gregorian calendar was officially adopted by the People’s Republic of China for public and business affairs. The traditional Chinese Calendar is still in use for civil affairs and traditional holidays.

I am thankful that Mother is still relatively healthy. She has diabetes and high blood pressure. Two years ago, she was in emergency room for heart failure. Since then she has a pacemaker which has improved her heart condition. The biggest problem she faces now is mobility. She can walk only slowly and short distance, such as in the neighborhood and to the bus or subway stations. She is still living independently, with my Dad.

What I appreciate the most about my mother is her humble attitude, her contentment with life, her hard work, discipline and self-control.

Mother grew up and lived the first half of century in poverty. She was one of five kids in the family. My grandfather’s family used to own a textile business, but it was gone overnight in a fire. He worked as a bookkeeper for others while my grandmother helped support the family as a seamstress. She made and washed clothes for people.

As a girl, Mother had 1-2 years of school. In the traditional Chinese culture, usually only boys and girls from rich families went to private school and got educated if families could afford it. Girls in general were considered unimportant and had no need for education, since they would get married and leave their own families anyway.

Due to the difficult financial condition, Mother left home at age 11 to go to Shanghai and to work in a shoe factory. After living in the factory for a few months, she got sick and was let go. From there she went to Suzhou to live with an aunt whose husband was an official in the  Chiang Kai-shek’s government. Mother was treated as a servant and housemaid. She did chores and tended to the garden.

Mother never had enough to eat. She was always hungry.

A few years later, my grandparents also arrived in Suzhou. My grandfather first worked on road construction and then delivered tap water to households. My mother helped my grandmother sell food on the streets. She also helped my grandfather watch over the water usage.

After the Communist Party took over the power in 1949, free education became available. Mother used her free time to go to night school to catch up on her education. The night school became day time school. Due to her difficult financial situation, she received scholarship which covered her living expenses. Mother had to work extra hard in school, her classmates were younger than her.

In 1955, Mother was accepted by a three-year normal college. She chose to become a teacher because not only was the college free, all her living expenses were also covered by the college.

After graduation, Mother received continuing education for teacher training for four years. In 1962, she started her teaching career as a math teacher at the No. 9 Junior High School in Suzhou. It was later renamed to No. 23 High School.

Mother retired in 1990 after 28 years of teaching.

For 17 years, from 1962 to 1979, Mother’s month salary as a teacher was  ¥35.6 Yuan (=$6 in USD). In today’s China, ¥35.6 Yuan can only buy a very modest and simple lunch.

I was born and grew up during that time period. I remember the poverty and the hardship we had to endure. My parents, both making low wages like most people in China at the time did, had not only to support a family of four (my oldest brother died at a young age before I was born), but also to support both grandparents financially. The only way to live and survive was to work hard, live frugally and resourcefully.

Mother got up very early every morning to do grocery shopping and cooking for breakfast and lunch. So when we came home during the day from work and school, lunch was ready and waiting for us. My Dad did everything else in the house.

Mother took great pride as a teacher. She was a strict teacher and taught diligently. She worked day and night.

When the Chinese Cultural Revolution ended and China opened the door to the West in the late 1970s and early 1980s, life got better. Universities reopened their doors to the young people who were hungry for knowledge and education. More freedom and more opportunities came to China.

I was able to go to university in Beijing in 1981. The train ride from Suzhou to Beijing lasted almost a day and night.

At that time, college education was free. I didn’t have to pay for tuition or dormitory. I only needed to cover my living expenses, mostly food.

My parents gave me a monthly allowance of ¥30 Yuan. I used it to pay for food and anything else needed. I saved my allowance to pay for my own train tickets to visit my parents twice a year during the summer and winter breaks.

When I lived and studied in Germany from 1986 to 1991 on a government scholarship, I also worked at some odd jobs. I saved money and bought my parents a few luxuries items they had never had before, their first color TV, refrigerator, and washer. It’s my way to repay them for their years of hardship and sacrifice.

My parents never asked  me for anything. They are happy and content with what they have. They always say: “We have enough. We don’t need more.” My parents were still using the washer I bought them over 20 years ago until this year when my brother insisted on buying them a new and bigger one, because the old one was small for washing big items. They always take good care of things. As the result, they last for a long time.

I am thankful for my mother and father for teaching me to be humble, content and resourceful. A lot of things I do and consider virtues, I learned from my mother and father.

I am thankful for my mother and father for raising me and also for helping raise my two children. They came to the US three times (Oct. 1999 – April 2001, April 2003 – Nov. 2005,  May 2006 – Nov. 2006, ) to take care of their grandkids.

I am thankful for my mother and father for loving me, even though they have never said that to me. But I know they love me in their hearts, and thoughts and through their action.


Living with less to have more

Living With Less [part 1 & part 2] was the topic of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk these past two days.

he featured guest is Jill Savage, an author and speaker. She is the author of seven books including Professionalizing Motherhood, My Hearts At Home, Real Moms…Real Jesus, No More Perfect Moms and her most recent release Living With Less So Your Family Has More.

I found this an important subject to listen to, to talk and think about, especially during this time of the year, with Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping right around the corner.

Living with less means to live with less stuff, less activities, less stress, but with more time, more relaxation and more contentment.

We don’t need to work our tail off in order to afford a lot of nice things to make us happy.

The most important things in life we need and want are free –

  • God
  • Air
  • Sun
  • Joy
  • Hug
  • Love
  • Hope
  • Time
  • Faith
  • Peace
  • Smile
  • water
  • Dream
  • Family
  • Beauty
  • Health
  • Kindness
  • Gratitude
  • Friendship
  • Appreciation
  • Encouragement
  • etc.

I resolve to live with less of the things I don’t need (stuff and stress) and live with more of the things I want (time and contentment).


Give to the Max Day

Today is the 2013 Give to the Max Day, the Great Minnesota Give Together. Minnesotans are encouraged to give to your favorite nonprofit or school.

You can give to an organization in a specific geographic location, such as Woodbury, by searching the ZIP code or keyword.  Consider Woodbury Community Foundation, Woodbury Community Theatre and Merrill Community Arts Center, a school or a faith-based organization that you feel connected with.

If you love reading, books and libraries, consider donating to the Give It Forward Team (GIFT) Fund of Little Free Library.

It’s a blessing to give!


The danger of cell phones & Wi-Fi

If you are thinking about giving your young children cell phones, you should read this article titled Cell Phones & Wi-Fi―Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk? on Dr. Mercole’s website first.

The article talks about the danger of cell phones & Wi-Fi, especially on children. It shares some safety tips on cell phone & Wi-Fi Use.

  • Children should not play with radiating cell phones. Young children should not use cell phones except in an emergency. While you can put the phone in ‘airplane mode,’ which disconnects it from Wi-Fi and the Internet, the cell phone still emits magnetic fields from the battery, which have also been shown to have equally important biological consequences.
  • In no cases should children sleep with cell phones.
  • Extreme caution was advised for pregnant women or women hoping to conceive due to the profound long-term impact of environmental factors.
  • Limit or eliminate Wi-Fi exposures. If you have a WI-Fi router make sure your router is a low power version, not in a high-use area and keep it turned off as much as possible. Consider putting it on a timer so it is only available during certain hours, and never during sleeping hours.
  • Schools should not have Wi-Fi. Cabled/wired connections do not pose the same risks. If there is Wi-Fi, again, it should be limited to the time when the Wi-Fi is specifically needed and not be operating at other times. Ideally, classrooms and school libraries and gyms should be WiFi-free.
  • Resume using landline phones whenever possible. Get rid of your portable phone and use your landline. At the very least, don’t keep your cell phone in your bedroom while you sleep. Be aware even landline phones emit magnetic fields from the speaker, and sensitive people can sometimes feel them, especially on long calls and particularly when using trim phones. Old-fashioned desk phone earpieces offer a greater distance between the speaker and your ear that can make a meaningful difference.
  • Keep your cell phone away from your body. Avoid keeping it in your pocket or on your belt. If you’re pregnant, keep your cell phone away from your belly. Keep your phone at the other end of the room or on the seat of the car. Use texting more than talking. A cell phone case for the iPhone is available that filters out a significant portion of radiation (but by no means all the power and frequencies and other biologically disruptive signal characteristics also remain). There are several options for shielded cell phone cases and holsters at www.EMFSafetyStore.com.
  • Use a wired earpiece or headphones with cell phones. Like with landline phones, some people are impacted by the magnetic fields from the speaker in the ear buds, so choose a model with the greatest distance from your ear, or use air tube technology with no electronics near your ear.
  • Use caution using your cell phone in your car. Signals bounce around inside your vehicle, and your head is the antenna.
  • Opt-out of new utility meters called ‘smart meters.’ Prevent smart meters from being installed in your home whenever possible.
  • Avoid using wireless baby monitors, as they all operate on microwave frequency. Look for the old wired monitors.
  • Know your exposures. You or your community can purchase an RF meter for about $500 to measure the RF in homes, schools, churches, etc. See www.EMFSafetyStore.com.
  • Support labeling laws that require cell phone manufacturers to list radiation levels in an obvious place on the packaging and at the retailer.

9 essential skills for great leadership

In the book Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership, author John Hamm talks about 9 essential skills for great leadership.

Credibility, competence and consequence are the three overarching categories for the 9 essentials of leadership. Within each category are three essential precepts. All of them interact and working together to create unusually excellent leadership.

Credibility is a matter of character and earns the right to lead. It’s about earning the right to lead through character.

  • Authentic – know who you really are and hold true to yourself
  • Trustworthy – being trustworthy creates trust
  • Compelling – the commitment to winning

Competence is a matter of skill and earns respect. It ‘s about leading with skill.

  • People – hire the best
  • Strategy – ideas to plans
  • Execution – action to results

Consequence is a matter of values and earns reputation. It’s about creating a culture and leaving a legacy.

  • Communication – essential to leadership effectiveness
  • Decision making – value-based choice
  • Impact – your legacy will be based on how you are leading today

Report suspicious phone calls

Today I got a call from this unknown number 716-703-8916 claiming to be IRS. The caller asked me to return the call ASAP,  otherwise I would face legal action.

The call came out of blue and was suspicious. I didn’t expect any call from IRS and didn’t think IRS would be interested in me.

Thank God my iphone tracks all calls. I was able to see the phone number used by the caller. A quick Google search turned out that I am not the only victim getting the harassing call from this phone number. There was a person who had already reported a similar experience.

During my search I came upon this website called CallerCenter.com where people can report suspicious calls. So I was the second person who reported the call from 716-703-8916. Several hours later, six people reported the call.

CallerCenter is a free consumer complaints board for reporting telephone calls.

Please report suspicious phone numbers on this website. By doing so, we alert others about the problem, help stop the harassing calls and help others feel better because they know that they are not alone in this.

Had I not found this website, I would have felt very worried, because I didn’t know what’s going on and what to do. So I was glad someone else reported it already.

The Art of Marriage

The Art of Marriage is a lovely poem written by Wilferd A. Peterson.  It is one of the most frequently recited wedding poems.

The poem captures the essence of a good marriage, so it is also often used to teach couples how to build a strong marriage.

I read it for the first time this week, loved it and would like to share here.


The Art Of Marriage

by Wilferd A. Peterson

(longer version)


Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens,

A good marriage must be created.

In the art of marriage, the little things are the big things.

It is never being too old to hold hands.

It is remembering to say, “I love you,” at least once a day.

It is never going to sleep angry.

It is at no time taking the other for granted;

The courtship should not end with the honeymoon,

It should continue through all the years.

It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.

It is standing together facing the world.

It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.

It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude

Of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.

It is speaking words of appreciation

And demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.

It is not looking for perfection in each other.

It is cultivating flexibility, patience,

Understand and a sense of humor.

It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.

It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.

It is finding room for the things of the spirit.

It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.

It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal,

Dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.

It not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner,

It is discovering what marriage can be, at its best.


The Art Of Marriage

by Wilferd A. Peterson

(short popular version)

A good marriage must be created.

In the art of marriage the little things are the big things

It is never being too old to hold hands.

It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once each day.

It is never going to sleep angry.

It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.

It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.

It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.

It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.

It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.

It is finding room for the things of the spirit.

It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.

It is not only marrying the right partner…

It is being the right partner.

5 leadership tips for Yahoo President & CEO Marissa Mayer

Dear Marissa,

I know I am NOT someone you would listen to. How dare am I to even want to talk to you and offer you advice, but after reading so many comments and complaints about the recent Yahoo Mail changes on my blog and on the Internet, I can’t help share a few common sense leadership tips with you, whether you like it or not, read it or not. It has bothered me so much lately, I just need to get it out of my mind.

As the President and CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I am sure you are a great leader. You are a leader with an almost celebrity status. As a woman, I am very proud of you for breaking the glass ceiling and leading one of the most recognized companies in the country and world.

But as you know, even the greatest leaders make mistakes; even the greatest leaders should still learn and grow to be better, or could use a few reminders from time to time. For this reason, I hope you don’t mind that I offer you some leadership advice.

1. Leaders are great communicators – They communicate clearly their visions, goals, objectives and changes that are forthcoming.

Yahoo Mail users were surprised by the recent changes. No clear and advanced communication, no choices to accept and decline the changes. How could you expect that customers would like the changes, especially when they are backwards and unproductive?

2. Leaders are good listeners – They actively listen to what others say and respond accordingly. Comments, feedbacks and constructive criticism are much appreciated and taken into consideration.

Have you listened to the public outcry in response to the Yahoo Mail redesign unveiled in October? Did you read the tens of thousands of users complaining on the Yahoo! Mail forum, comments on Facebook, to the articles and blog posts on the Internet, or the petition at Change.org with over 35,000 supporters to bring back the old format?

Unfortunately, Yahoo has been mostly unresponsive to the customer requests to return functions that Yahoo Mail users are accustomed to and love.

3. Leaders are change agents – Yes, leaders love to change and lead changes, but they don’t make changes just for change’s sake. They don’t change and fix something if it’s not broken. They make changes when something is not working.

So many Yahoo Mail users like me have been with Yahoo for over 10 years and are loyal customers.  They
prefer Yahoo Mail over Google’s Gmail for a reason. Why did you take that reason away and push the customers away? It doesn’t make sense.

4. Leaders have courage – Leaders are risk takers, they have the courage to accept challenges and try new things, but they also have the courage to hold themselves and others accountable when something is wrong. They have the courage to admit mistakes and take responsibilities.

I am sure you had good intention with the new redesign of Yahoo Mail, but it didn’t work out the way you hoped for. Customers hate it and want the old functions back. Why not just say: “Sorry, we screwed up,” and correct the mistakes?

5. Leaders build trust and credibility – Trust and credibility are foundations of leadership and relationship and good customer services. When you lose trust and credibility, you lose customers.

As the result of the Yahoo Mail redesign and the unresponsiveness of Yahoo leadership, flocks of long term and loyal Yahoo Mail users have switched, or will be switching to Google Gmail.

I can’t help but wonder whether you are more loyal to Yahoo, your current employer, or to Google, your formal employer. With your action, you are probably creating more customers for Google than for Yahoo. You are helping Google more than Yahoo and creating more business for your competitor. Yahoo’s loss is Google’s gain.

I sincerely hope that you will really listen to the customer feedback and have the courage to change for the better, not worse.


Qin Tang

(Once a content, but now one of the many frustrated Yahoo Mail users)

Flashing yellow signals and roundabouts are needed improvements

On my way home today, as I was approaching the Woodbury Drive and Eagle Valley Drive intersection and waiting for the left-turn, I noticed for the first time that the left-turn signal turned from red to a flashing yellow signal. What a nice surprise!

Even since I saw the first flashing yellow arrow signal used in Woodbury, I had wished for one at this intersection near my house and had been waiting for this moment to come.

I didn’t like to use the Woodbury Drive and Eagle Valley Drive intersection. Sitting in idling car, waiting for the left turn signal, while there is no oncoming traffic, can be frustrating.

In the past, if timing was right, I preferred turning left at Woodbury Drive and Valley Creek Road and then drove past the Holiday Gas Station to get into the Eagle Valley neighborhood, so I could avoid the left turn at the Woodbury and Eagle Valley Drive.

Now with the new flashing yellow signal, I will be more inclined to use this intersection.

I was also happy to see two roundabouts added on Woodbury Drive at the Lake and Bailey intersections. The Woodbury Drive construction project is almost done. The Bailey intersection will open on Nov. 1.

The improvement to the Woodbury Drive and the additions of the two roundabouts are really needed to accommodate the increased traffic in the area.

Traffic increased when East Ridge High School opened. We could expect more traffic when the new Bielenberg Sports Center and Bielenberg Garden retail center open in the near future.

With several large churches located on Woodbury Drive, Bailey Road and Lake Road – Saint Ambrose Catholic Church, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Woodbury Church of Christ, Crossroads Church, Eagle Brook Church (East Ridge High School), New Life Church, Woodbury Community Church, and United Fellowship Worship Center (Lake Middle School) – Woodbury Drive is really congested on Sundays. The new roundabouts will help improve traffic flow.

Tom Sorel spoke at Leadership Forum

Yesterday I attended Woodbury Community Foundation Leadership Forum. Tom Sorel, President & CEO of AAA Minneapolis was the featured speaker at the Oct. 28 Leadership Forum.

This was my first time attending the Leadership Forum, I went there mainly to say hello to Tom. He knew him when he was Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation from 2008 to 2012.

I met Tom for the first time at Central Park when I interviewed him for my column in Woodbury Bulletin. Then I worked with him on the Commissioner’s Reading Corner, a leadership book reading and discussion program at MnDOT.

Tom’s presentation was about the I-35W Bridge collapse on Aug. 1, 2007 and its response, recovery and rebuild. He attributed the successful response, recovery and rebuild to the following factors:

  • Well prepared
  • Sound partnership
  • Streamlined processes
  • Servant leadership
  • Situational leadership

The tragedy was a pivotal moment, a turning point in Tom’s life. He was asked by then governor Tim Palawtin to head the Department of Transportation. Tom stepped up and accepted the challenge to rebuild the bridge, the department and the trust of the public in transportation.

As a MnDOT employee, I think he did a great job. He did a lot of things at MnDOT to engage employees and improve morale, and to build trust both within the organization and with the public.

The Leadership Forum is a membership program of the Woodbury Community Foundation for business owners and C-suite executives who live in or operate a business in Woodbury. It takes place every fourth Monday from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Eagle Valley Golf Course Clubhouse.

The Forum’s featured speaker in November will be Dr. Verna Price, CEO, The Power of People Consulting Group.

For more information about the Forum, call Brenda (651.501.7850) or Mary (612.940.0431).

Unbelievable deals for intercity bus transportation

Most people are familiar with Greyhound. According to its website, Greyhound is the largest provider of intercity bus transportation, serving more than 3,800 destinations with 13,000 daily departures across North America.

What many don’t know is that there are some smaller companies that provide intercity bus services at a better price, with some unbelievable deals.

Recently I learned from a friend that his bus fare from Madison, Wisconsin to St. Paul cost only $5. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. But it’s real. I checked the company website Megabus.com, sure enough, the fare goes as low as only $5. The same route with Greyhound costs $35.

If you drive yourself, $5 won’t even cover the gas expenses, not even close.

For college students who often travel between their campuses and parent homes in Twin Cities and Madison, Wis., this is an incredible deal you shouldn’t miss. That’s why I am passing along the information.

A coworker also told me about another bus company that she uses regularly to go between St. Paul and Duluth.

Skyline Shuttle runs between St. Paul and Duluth about every 2 hours or so. From the State Capitol to Duluth, the round trip is $69. There are discounts if you book round trip on the same day, or just one way or multiple travelers, etc.

Pastor appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

Once again as in the past years, Faith Radio encourages you to honor your pastor and to thank the family members who stand beside them by entering your pastor and spouse into the drawing. This year’s prize is a one-week retreat to beautiful Colorado, including transportation.

There is still time to enter the drawing and do something for your pastor before the end of the month. But you can show your pastor appreciation with an encouraging word or card or a gift any time, any day and any month. It doesn’t have to be in October.

For more ideas, check out the 10 easy ways to promote your pastor on Faith Radio website.

Minnesota school rankings 2013

How are the schools in Woodbury doing, in comparison to other schools in Minnesota?

Pretty good, according to the following Minnesota school rankings, based on the  2012-2013 MCA scores. Our middle and high schools made it in the top 10.


of 470 high schools

Math & Science Academy ranked #1

East Ridge High School #8

Woodbury High School #14


of 473 middle schools

Math & Science Academy ranked #2

Lake Middle School #10

Woodbury Middle School #32


of 700 elementary schools

Red Rock ranked #28

Liberty Ridge #51

Valley Crossing Community School #71

Middleton #96



Minnesota High School Rankings

10th, 11th Grades Combined

MCA-II GRAD Math & MCA-III Reading


http://www.minnesotachinese.com/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=135543&extra=page%3D1 (Top 50)


Minnesota Middle School Rankings

7th, 8th Grades Combined

MCA-III Math & MCA-III Reading


http://www.minnesotachinese.com/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=135542&extra=page%3D1 (Top 50)


Minnesota Elementary School Rankings

3rd, 4th, 5th Grades Combined

MCA-III Math & MCA-III Reading


http://www.minnesotachinese.com/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=135509&extra=page%3D1 (Top 100)



Thanks for the parent-teacher conference

It’s the time for the fall parent-teacher conferences at our local schools.

Today I  spent 2.5 hours at the parent-teacher conference at East Ridge High School, talking to all my son’s 7 teachers and waiting in lines for my 5-10 minutes of meeting time with each teacher.

Some teachers had longer lines, they talked with parents non-stop, one after another, for over 3 hours.

Even though 5 minutes is a short time, I always appreciate the opportunity to have some face time to meet and talk to the teachers, to get some information about the classes, and to find out how my kids are doing at school.

Next week I will have another parent-teacher conference for my daughter at Lake Middle School.

We all know it’s an important and rewarding job to be a teacher. A teacher can touch and change lives, make a big difference in the world. Maybe not everyone realize how much work a teacher does. Being a teacher is hard work and a tough job.

Some teachers teach several classes a day, have over 100 students in the classes. In addition to preparing for the classes, teaching classes, teachers also have to correct assignments and quizzes/tests, update students’ grades online after each assignment and test. The amount of work a teacher does is overwhelming to me.

So thanks to all the teachers for taking the time for the parent-teacher conference and for all you do during the year.

The new Yahoo Mail sucks

I have been a loyal Yahoo Mail user for over 10 years. The first email account I opened was Yahoo. Later I have opened Hotmail and Gmail accounts, but I have stayed with Yahoo and used it as my primary email account.

I liked Yahoo Mail, especially the tabs that allow me to have multiple emails open simultaneously. I can easily switch between inbox and other folders, from one message or draft to another, and work on multiple emails.

Over the years, Yahoo has gone through changes, good or bad, and I had no problems and complains. But not this time.

Sometime last week, Yahoo launched another major redesign of yahoo Mail, changed its interface without any notice. The new Yahoo Mail is terrible. The tabbed emails are gone. I have trouble when composing messages. I can’t get the text and cursor to stay where I want.

Not surprisingly, I found I am not the only Yahoo Mail user who is not happy with the change. There are over 200 comments and complains just to this one article titled Yahoo Mail Gets Another Redesign (Already).

So many loyal Yahoo users are frustrated with the new interface. They used all possible words you can think of to describe their frustrations and anger: problematic, screwed up, upset, blew it big time, so bad, very frustrated, sucks, flawed, annoyed,  absolute OUTRAGE, hate it, a pain in the a_ _, a complete mess, really and truly crap, a giant leap backwards, WORST redesign ever, the worst upgrade, disgusted, fed up, getting worse instead of better, absolutely horrible, terrible, awful, unbelievable, unusable, stupid, Done with yahoo, I am leaving Yahoo, Bye yahoo …

There are more complains on the official Yahoo Forums: http://yahoo.uservoice.com/forums/210695


There is even a petition against the new yahoo mail version:

I share the frustration and agree with the negative comments by other Yahoo users, so I signed the petition. I want the old Yahoo Mail back.

Little Free Libraries are growing in Woodbury

Little Free Libraries are growing and thriving in Woodbury.

Just a few months ago, there was not one Little Free Library in Woodbury that I knew. I resolved to bring at least one to Woodbury and to put Woodbury on the LFL’s worldwide Google map.

A few months later, we have more than just one. Now we have at last five or more. I am sure the list will keep growing.

If I miss any, please email me the name of the steward, the address and a picture to be included in the following listing.



Steward: Qin Tang

10422 Golden Eagle Trail

Installed Aug. 6, 2013

The first Official Little Free Library from Woodbury








Qin Tang with LFL Co-Founder Todd Bol



Steward: Cheryl Bennerotte

7804 Rimbley Road

Installed Sept. 2013













Steward: Deanna Link

232 Sherrie Lane

Installed Sept. 2013












#4 Steward: Carol Grannis

3300 Crestmoor Bay 

#5 Steward: Catherine K. Schoenherr

9129 Trotters Lane



Grace Unplugged

I am a reader and have no big interest in movies and TV. In fact, I had not been to a movie theater for a long time, several years.

Last week I listened to two interviews on Faith Radio about the new movie Grace Unplugged, just released on Friday, Oct. 4. One of the interviews was with actor James Denton. The other interview was probably with the producer Russ Rice. I didn’t know anything about them. What I remembered from the two interviews is the movie is based in part on the real-life experience of producer Russ Rice whose daughter ran away from home after rejecting the Christian faith in which she was raised. Actor James Denton who played Grace’s father Johnny in the movie lives now in Minnesota because his wife is from Minnesota.

The movie sounded interesting. So I decided to go with my family and watch it after church service today. We had to go to the Carmike Cinemas in Oakdale.  It’s not available at the Woodbury Theatre.

Grace Unplugged is a Christian musical drama film about a prodigal girl (played by AJ Michalka) who runs away from her father, a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian, to escape his shadow and pursue her own dream and success in music. It’s about her journey to rediscover faith and realize that family and God are more important than stardom.

I love the movie. When it was over, my daughter asked me: “Mom, why did you cry? There is nothing sad in the movie.” I was touched. It was a heartwarming story.

I also love Michalka’s single from the film, “All I’ve Ever Needed.” You can read the lyrics here and listen to the song on Youtube.

In an interview Michalka said the song “explores the moments we have in life when we realize the things we’ve been chasing mean nothing if you walk away from your faith. I hope people connect with the song the way I have and realize that despite what we think we need and want – what we really need is God’s love. And we’ve had that all along.”

This movie ties in really well with the message I heard today at Eagle Brook Church. In his message “I Am Filled,” Senior Pastor Bob Merritt says we all want more of something, the question is “what do you want more of?”

“Some people spend their entire lives wishing for more money, more power, more this or more that, but when they finally get it, the craving remains.” Pastor Merritt explains Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19 for three things that we should have more of: mighty inner strength, more room in our hearts for Christ, and experience the love of Christ.

“Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” When we are filled with the Spirit and Christ’s love, we may experience lasting joy, peace, and love.

More appreciation

A lot of problems and conflicts that happen in relationships among family members, friends and in the workplace often have their roots in feelings of not being valued, respected and appreciated.

When we feel we are not valued, respected and appreciated, when we are taken for granted, when our efforts and sacrifices are not recognized, then we feel hurt, resentful, and angry which can cause misunderstanding and misinterpretation, problems and conflicts, even irrational thinking and behaviors. As the result, relationships and friendships are ruined.

How I wish we can all understand the importance of valuing each other’s strengths, respecting each other’s differences, and loving and appreciating each other by speaking each other’s languages of love and appreciation. If we could do that, we would be able to eliminate most of the problems and frustrations in relationships.

Two books I would highly recommend for everyone to read are:

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (see my previous post The Five Love Languages) by Dr. Gary Chapman.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People (see my previous post The 5 Languages of Appreciation) by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White.

The 5 languages are the same for love and appreciation:

  • Words of affirmation – use words to communicate a positive message to another person: praise for accomplishments, affirmation for positive character and personality traits. It can be done in private one-on-one, or publicly in front of others. It can be verbal or written.
  • Quality time – give individual time and undivided attention to another person: quality conversation, shared experiences, small group dialogue, working closely together, having fun together.
  • Acts of service – do something for another person. “Don’t tell me you care, show me.”
  • Tangible gifts – give the right gift to a person who truly appreciates it.
  • Physical touch – communicates a variety of positive messages in relationships – a sense of trust, closeness, connectedness and caring: handshake, high five, pat on the back, hug.

Recently my colleagues and I did the Discover Your Language of Appreciation online assessment. I found it every help. By understanding each other’s primary language of appreciation, we can appreciate, value and respect each other in a more meaningful way.

The first Official Little Free Library from Woodbury

Today my son and I became volunteers for the Little Free Library. Our volunteer job is to help put officially registered Little Free Libraries on the Google Map.

We had 1 ½ hours of training and practice over the Internet with the LFL staff Megan Hanson. Just a few minutes into the training, my son said “It’s so easy.” He got it faster than I did.

After the training, the first mapping I did independently on my own was for the LFL in my front yard. I uploaded two photos to the Flickr account, wrote the short story, including the link to the KARE11 story by Boyd Huppert and a link to my blog posts that tell the stories of this LFL, then I added it to the Google map. There are many steps involved.

Now my LFL has became the first official one from Woodbury, Minnesota on the Google Map.

Since I wrote my first post about having A Little Free Library for Woodbury! on December 17, 2012, my wish has become a reality.  The good news is, we not only have one Little Free Library, we already have a few in Woodbury. Just in the last three days, two Woodbury residents contacted me to tell me about their newly installed Little Free Library. As far as I know, we have about 5 in Woodbury. I will compile a list of them and share on my blog.

The backlog of mapping requests is huge, over 700 are waiting to be done. There are only a few volunteers doing the work. Thanks to all the stewards for your patience and understanding.

I am glad my son and I are able to help with the mapping. We will slowly but surely reduce the backlog and the waiting time.  We also welcome more volunteers to join us.

Claim God’s gifts – enjoyment, fulfillment and contentment

Chuck Swindoll from Insight for Living is a Bible teacher I enjoy listening to on radio.

While I was home doing chores today, I listened to Chuck Swindoll’s Oct. 1  message on Faith Radio 900AM titled straight talk to the money-mad, based on Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 by Solomon. I really liked Chuck Swindoll’s interpretation, would like to share what he said.

Solomon, the wisest man ever lived on earth, had the right perspective on money, possessions and work: they are God’s gifts to be enjoyed, not worshipped.

There are three “good and fitting” gifts from God: enjoyment in life, fulfillment in work and contentment in the heart.

When we enjoy life, find satisfaction in our work and have contentment in our heart, we claim God’s gifts to us.

Without Christ at the center of our lives, wealth leads to disillusionment and dissatisfaction.

Speaking of the happiness choice, it’s our choice to claim God’s gifts, to accept or reject.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. [New International Version (NIV)]

The Happiness Choice

A few days ago, I was touched and blessed by author Marilyn Tam when I received a copy of her book along with a personalized letter in the mail.

I finished reading the book in less than a week. This alone shows my great interest in the book. Normally it takes me several weeks to finish reading a book.

In the book, Tam identified five core dimensions of well-being and happiness – finance, relationships, physical body, community and spirituality. The secret to finding happiness is to identify your life purpose and live a well-balanced life that fosters well-being in those five core dimensions.

As the title indicates, happiness is a choice. The first step in our journey to choose happiness is to identify, acknowledging and honoring our God giving purpose. We are all born with unique talents. We were put on earth to serve a purpose and pursue our passions. We can be happy when our lives are in alignment with our life purpose and passions.

The life purpose exercise process in the book helps readers to determine their life purpose.

The happiness choice includes taking good care of ourselves physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually and financially.

Happiness comes from doing what we love, and sharing what we have, giving back to the community and making a positive impact in the world.

I like the book because it validates some things that I know or do in my own life.

In the book Tam used several experts as examples which was good for adding authority, credibility, and marketability to the book.

I would love to read more about her own life. So if I could make a suggestion for improvement, I would like Tam to add more stories from her difficult, challenging and interesting life to show how she personally overcame obstacles and chose happiness.  She has included some in the book, but I would like more.

I felt the section on spirituality is a little weak in comparison with other sections. So I would like to see more content here.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book.

Thanks Tam for your gift of writing, for sharing the book with me, for helping me think about my choices in life and make a more conscious effort in choosing happiness.

DIY website helps you become a handywoman or man

See Jane Drill is a website created by Leah Bolden and Karen DeVenaro to teach women (and men) home-improvement and car-maintenance skills. This site is geared specifically toward women, who often lack the basic skills and knowledge that handymen have.

The goal of the DIY site is to help women feel knowledgeable and empowered to use all types of tools and take care of their own homes and cars. Bolden and DeVenaro teach each job step-by-step and show you how easy projects around the house can be.

Whether you need to install a toilet, repair a hole in drywall, hang a picture easily, lay out floor tile, or replace a windshield wiper blade, Bolden and DeVenaro are there to coach you through the process via videos and written material. They show you what tools are needed and how to do it in clear steps. The instructions are easy to follow.

For each project, cost information is also included, so users can see how much they can save by doing things themselves.

Bolden and DeVenaro’s teaching really takes the mystery out of the projects, and the fear out of you. They give you not only knowledge, but also confidence with their ever present positive and encouraging attitude: “You can do this!”


Advice from a tree

A colleague brought me a laminated bookmark from his trip to the Yellowstone National Park. I love this Advice from a Tree bookmark.

Advice from a Tree

  • Stand tall and proud
  • Sink your roots into the Earth
  • Be content with your natural beauty
  • Go out on a limb
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Remember your roots
  • Enjoy the view!

The advice from a tree is simple, yet full of wisdom.

Remember to stand tall and proud, to believe in yourself when others belittle you and try to put you down.

Remember to sink your roots into the earth in order to have a firm foundation and grow strong.

Remember to be content with your natural beauty. God created you to be unique and special, not like everyone else.

Remember to go out on a limb. Get out of your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before. Take a chance, try something different, exciting, and daring.

Remember to drink plenty of water to stay healthy. Start your day with a drink of water and end your day with a drink of water, and drink more between.

Remember your roots. Don’t forget who you are and where you are from.

Remember to enjoy the view. Build on your strengths and enjoy the results!

If we take the advice from a tree to our heart, we can live a well-balanced life physically, emotionally and spiritually.


Raingarden tour, pt.2

Today’s sunny and nice weather in the afternoon gave me the motivation to go out for a walk and complete the raingarden tour I started two days ago.

Last time I drove to the Pioneer Park and parked my car there. Then I walked and visited 11 raingardens.

Today, with a map in my hand and knowing where I would be going which was not too far for me, I walked from my house in the Eagle Valley neighborhood to the Colby Lake/Pioneer Park neighborhood. It took me two hours to complete the walking tour and visit the rest 15 of the total 26 raingardens in that neighborhood.

Though our neighborhoods are only separated by the Woodbury Drive, I had never walked to that part of the neighborhood beyond the Valley Crossing Community School. And I have lived here for over 12 years. I think I need to walk more to explore the neighborhoods around me.

I really enjoyed visiting the raingardens, taking pictures, walking, and having the quiet time in nature.

More photos are posted on my Facebook.


Raingarden tour



Today I participated in the self-guided tour of the raingardens in the Colby Lake neighborhoods around the Pioneer Park organized by the South Washington Watershed District (SWWD), the Washington Conservation District (WCD), and the City of Woodbury.

The Colby Lake neighborhood raingarden project which includes 26 curbside raingardens was completed over the last two years. It was an effort to capture and clean stormwater runoff from local streets, and to improve and protect Colby Lake.

I visited 11 of the 26 raingardens. It was a great experience, talking to the expert Andy Schilling to get information and questions answered, walking around with a stranger to see the raingardens, talking with a homeowner about his experience, and chatting with a woman from the Woodbury Community Church about their effort with the two-phase raingarden project on the church property at Pioneer and Lake Road. It was all very educational and interesting.

The 26 homeowners were lucky. They got the raingardens installed for them and everything was covered including the plants. The only thing they had to do was planting and then to take care of the raingardens in the future.

I would love to have a raingarden in my front yard. Wish the SWWD and WCD would do such a project in my neighborhood. What a nice gift and blessing to have a beautiful garden and do something good for the environment!

For  some pictures of the raingardens, visit my Facebook.

Touched and blessed by author Marilyn Tam


I have a few autographed books that I really treasure. The books are valuable to me, because they are addressed to me by the authors themselves, they are one of a kind.

Among my collection of autographed books, the one that I treasure the most is the newest addition, “The Happiness Choice” by Marilyn Tam.

Here is the story behind it.

While the book title sounded familiar to me, I had never heard the author’s name Marilyn Tam until Aug. 28 when I read her guest column on DearReader.com that day.

Tam has an inspiring life story, a successful career path, a weekly radio show, and three books. Her Asian background (originally from Hong Kong) and her amazing success as an author, speaker and businesswoman was very intriguing and inspiring for me. Writers are my heroes. So I sent her a simple email to express my congratulation and admiration. I was also interested in reading her new book “The Happiness Choice,” and my email would put me in her book giveaway drawing.

My email to Tam:

Dear Marilyn,

I read your column and then visited your website to learn more about you. I was really impressed by your writings and achievements as an author, speaker and business leader. What an interesting life journey you have had so far! I really admire you for what you have done. As an Asian woman, you are a great inspiration and role model for me. I aspire to be a writer, but feel I have not reached my potential and am not living my dreams.
I am looking forward to reading your books. 

A few days later I found out that I was one of the book winners. So I was looking forward to receiving the book in the mail.

When I received the book this Saturday, I was very surprised and touched by what I got. Tam not only autographed the book for me, she also included a personalized letter in the book which I didn’t expect.

When I read Tam’s bio (Marilyn Tam, Ph.D. is a Speaker, Author, Consultant, Board Certified Executive/Corporate/Leadership Coach, and Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation. She was formerly the CEO of Aveda Corp., President of Reebok Apparel and Retail Group; Vice President of Nike Inc. and also a successful entrepreneur who has developed and built four companies. Marilyn is a contributing writer to Huffington Post and she has a weekly radio show), I couldn’t imagine that she would take the time to write to me. Her generosity and kindness deeply touched me and blessed me. This personal touch has made her book more special and valuable for me.

I am looking forward to finishing reading the book, and will share some highlights from the book.

Microsoft Word annoyance – the horizontal line

I knew I am not the only one who has been annoyed by a horizontal line in Microsoft Word, but I didn’t know I have so many companies.

The horizontal line appears without my intention and approval. It happens when I type three or more hyphens (-) and press enter.

I can’t get rid of it with the simple delete key. I can’t even select it in the first place for deletion. I tried and wasted time in trying to figure out the solution on my own.

Thanks to Google, I found the solution. Why didn’t I think of googling or youtubing the problem sooner? Nowadays, it feels like for every “how-to” question, there is an answer on Google or Youtube.

The interesting thing is I got over 2 millions results to the problem I googled, it looks like thousands if not millions of others are either annoyed by the same problem and are looking for the solution, or some smart techies are offering help to the tech challenged people like me.

Whatever camps you are in, I thought I should share the best tip I found, and hope you will benefit as well.

What causes the problem?

When I type three or more hyphens (-), underscore characters (_),  equals signs (=), asterisks (*), tildes (~), or hash signs (#), and press Enter, Word automatically creates a paragraph border. By default these characters are converted to a thin, thick, double, broken,  zigzag, or thick-and-thin border at the bottom of a paragraph.

The Solutions

The best, quick and simple tip to get rid of the horizontal like is to click in the paragraph before the line and press Ctrl + Q, which resets the paragraph formatting to the default for the style. Be careful through, this will remove any other paragraph formatting as well.

For more info, check out the following sites:

There is a line in my document that I can’t delete because I can’t select it. How did it get there, and what can I do about it?

Stop Horizontal Line Auto Correct Feature in Microsoft Word

It’s great to have the Microsoft vs. Google competition!

Wisdom from John Wooden

Even though I am not a sports fan and hardly know any sports figures, I do know a couple of them, including John Wooden, an American basketball player and coach.

I know about Wooden, not because he is a famous basketball player and coach (Wooden was the first to be named basketball All-American three times, he was named a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (inducted in 1961) and as a coach (in 1973), the first person ever enshrined in both categories. He is considered as one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports), I know him because he is a great leader. His name, his words and his books are often mentioned and quoted in other books and talks.

The first time I heard Wooden’s name was on a Faith 900 AM radio show. The guest talked about Wooden’s love for books. Wooden is the author of several books about basketball and life. His Seven Point Creed, given to him by his father Joshua upon his graduation from grammar school, were often quoted by others:

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Make each day your masterpiece.
  • Help others.
  • Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  • Make friendship a fine art.
  • Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  • Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

I love this quote:

“Talent is God given. Be humble.

Fame is man-given. Be grateful.

Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

For more wisdom from John Wooden, go to:






Teaching life lessons

I read with great interest an op-ed in Star Tribune titled “High school English offers lessons in life” by an English teacher. It reminded me of my high school English teacher, my favorite teacher. I felt strongly about the topic and had to leave a comment:

Thanks for the great advice.  I think an important aspect of education and an important responsibility of a teacher, not just English teacher, but any teacher, is to teach life lessons, through the subject taught, and more importantly, through her own actions in her daily interaction with the students. I don’t really remember most of my teachers from the past, but the one I do remember very well is my high school English teacher. He was a great teacher, but more importantly, he was a great human being, the most humble, generous, and caring person I have ever met in my life. He pushed students to work hard, and he encouraged us and rewarded us for our hard work. His teaching AND his inspiration brought me to a place where I couldn’t be without him. He was such a blessing to me that I think of him often, with gratitude in my heart and tears in my eyes.  Thanks to all the teachers for teaching, coaching, mentoring, encouraging and inspiring the next generation.”

[A few years ago, I wrote a post in remembrance of my English teacher: Remembering my favorite teacher.]

The article also prompted me to write a thank-you note to my kids’ English teachers. I picked English teachers because my own favorite teacher was an English teacher, and I think English is the most important subject, the foundation of all other subjects to learn at school. I thanked them for teaching my kids English language, literature, writing, speaking, communication, critical thinking and other skills, and life lessons.

I should write to all their teachers, because they are all important in teaching lessons and changing lives.

The article also reminded me of one of my favorite books, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things that Matter,” written by Hal Urban,  a high school teacher who loved teaching and kids. He wrote the book for his kids and his students and provided great life lessons in it.

I liked it so much, I actually read it twice which doesn’t happen often for me.

The book was self-published and was awarded Best Inspirational Book of the Year 2000 by Writer’s Digest Magazine. It became popular and went through several printings before it was picked by a major publisher.

The book contains the wisdom of the ages and essential life truths. The 20 lessons are great for character education. The book is not only good for kids, parents and teachers, it is good for everyone.

The 20 lessons are worth sharing here.

1. Success is more than making money.
2. Life is hard and not always fair.
3. Life is also fun and incredibly funny.
4. We live by choice, not by chance.
5. Attitude is a choice — the most important one you’ll every make.
6. Habits are the key to all success.
7. Being thankful is a habit — the best one you’ll ever have.
8. Good people build their lives on a foundation of respect.
9. Honesty is still the best policy.
10. Kind words cost little but accomplish much.
11. Real motivation comes from within.
12. Goals are dreams with deadlines.
13. There’s no substitute for hard work.
14. You have to give up something to get something.
15. Successful people don’t find time — they make time.
16. No one else can raise your self-esteem.
17. The body needs nutrition and exercise — so do the mind and the spirit.
18. It’s OK to fail – everyone else has.
19. Life is simpler when we know what’s essential.
20. Essential No. 1 is being a good person.

Little Free Library: Zero to 10,000 in 4 years

Seeing myself and hearing my own voice on TV was a little weird. Somehow I don’t look and sound like me.  But that didn’t affect me enjoying the “Little Free Library: Zero to 10,000 in 4 years,” produced by the award-winning reporter Boyd Huppert, and aired last night (Sept. 1, 2013) on KARE 11 News at 10.

The Little Free Library (LFL) story was shot partly at my house earlier this month on Aug. 6 during the Little Free Library/Night to Unite celebration when the LFL Co-Founder/Executive Director Todd Bol helped me install a LFL in my front yard. The story is now part of Huppert’s LAND OF 10,000 STORIES and available online on its website.

What a coincidence, 10,000 Little Free Libraries and 10,000 Stories.

It was a great experience and honor for me to have my LFL featured in the story and be a part of the Land of 10,000 stories.

It was also a great learning opportunity, watching them shooting hours of video and seeing the result in a short 2-3 minute story. So much work and effort went into it.

Thanks Huppert for doing such a wonderful job sharing the LFL story. I admire his amazing talents and creativity as a reporter. TV is a powerful media that can influence and change people in a few minutes.

After watching the story on TV, I couldn’t help wondering what I would be doing in China today, had I not left China for Germany in 1986.

After graduating from college with a degree in German, I was assigned to the Chinese Central Television (CCTV) to help start a new German language program. There I got a government scholarship to study at the University of  Heidelberg in Germany. I gave up my position at CCTV and never went back.

Had I stayed in China, I might still be working at CCTV, could be doing something like Huppert does.

My parents certainly wish that I would have stayed in China at CCTV. They often say: “It’s a dream job.”

It would definitely be a more interesting, prestigious and better paid job than the job of a librarian.


A blessed morning

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24

What a blessing to start a day in nature with Yoga outside in the backyard, devotional reading, taking a walk, gardening, picking fresh veggies, and taking a few photos, all my favorite things to do.

It’s so nice to have a 3-day long weekend. Sandwiched between Saturday when I took care of some chores like grocery shopping and medical appointment, and Monday when I am going to visit and volunteer at the Minnesota State Fair, today is a day of total relaxation.

I got up shortly before 7 am, drank some water and went out to my backyard with my yoga mat and books.

The sun was up, the sky was blue, the grass was dry, the air was cool.

It’s a perfect day to be in nature, to enjoy God’s wonderful creation, to look at the rising sun and the beautiful sky, to listen to the birds singing, to sit in quiet, to read the devotional by my favorite author Dr. David Jeremiah, to stretch my body, to nourish my soul and mind.

I love this. I wish I could start my day like this every day.

My favorite Farmer’s Market

All these veggies in the picture – corns, egg plants, squash, green leafy veggies, and 4 kinds of beans – came from my favorite Farmer’s Market located at university Ave and Dale in St. Paul. I bought them all today for $10.

What a deal! I don’t think I can buy them all for $10 in any grocery stores.

I like the University/Dale Farmer’s Market for several reasons:

Great price – As you can see, you can’t beat the price.

Convenient location – It’s not far from my office. It’s right by the Shuangher grocery store where I shop for Asian food regularly. I drive by the Farmer’s Market anyway on the way to the Asian store.

Nice variety – Almost all the vendors are Hmong people. They offer a varieties of veggies that Asian people are accustomed to and like.

Good size – This Farmer’s Market is much bigger than the Capitol Farmer’s Market right outside of my office building.

I have been going to the University/Dale Farmer’s Market for several years. This year I haven’t had much need to buy a lot of food. Today is actually the first time of the year and season for me to stop by at this market after I did my shopping at Shuangher.

I was reminded again how nice it is to have this Farmer’s Market. I was thankful for what I can get at this market and for the farmers who provide the food.

Doing good (supporting local farmers) while spending less. What a great deal!

Little Free Library story to air on KARE 11

Just wanted to give an update on the Little Free Library (LFL) story that the award-winning reporter Boyd Huppert from KARE 11 did at my house earlier this month on the Night To Unite day.

The story, partly shot at my house when the LFL Co-Founder/Executive Director Todd Bol helped me install a LFL, is scheduled to air this Sunday night, Sept. 1 at 10 p.m.

I think the story will also be available online on the LAND OF 10,000 STORIES website: http://www.kare11.com/news/investigative/extras/stories.aspx.

Hope I didn’t say or do anything that’s embarrassing :-)

For some pictures of the event, check out this post or my Facebook.

For related post:

Celebrate Little Free Library and Night to Unite Tuesday, Aug. 6 


Milk or no milk?

This is a question many have asked.

I had my annual physical today and saw a different doctor for the first time. The doctor was nice and patient. I asked about milk consumption and whether it’s needed, out of curiosity and out of concern for my health and my choice.

I stopped drinking milk about 15 years ago after reading about negative effects milk has on health. Since there are different opinions about this controversial issue, I was interested in this doctor’s advise. I was told that no it’s not needed. What the doctor said  confirmed what I read from other sources. The milk consumption and myth are largely caused by the dairy industry lobbying. It’s not needed for health reasons.  As long as I eat beans, whole grains, green veggies, fruits, nuts, and have regular exercise and sun exposure, I am fine. No vitamin supplements are needed either.

There is a lot of information available about this topic. Here are just a few articles/websites I found:

Is Cow’s Milk Healthy?


“A Harvard Nurses’ Health study tracked 77,761 women for 12 years and found that those who drank three or more glasses of milk a day had slightly higher fracture rates compared to those who drank little or no milk. Another study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine by the American Medical Association suggested that active children consuming the most milk also had higher fracture rates than those who drank less. We can actually get enough calcium from eating green vegetables and beans, while also increasing the fiber and nutrient content of our food.”

Harvard study: Pasteurized milk from industrial dairies linked to cancer


“Evaluating data from all over the world, Dr. Davaasambuu and her colleagues  identified a clear link between consumption of such high-hormone milk, and high  rates of hormone-dependent cancers. In other words, contrary to what the U.S.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of  Agriculture (USDA), and the conventional milk lobby would have you believe,  processed milk from factory farms is not a health product, and is directly  implicated in causing cancer.”
Milk Does A Body Good? Maybe Not Always, Harvard Doc Argues
Calcium and Milk
Read why the milk and dairy recommendation on Harvard’s new Healthy Eating Plate differs from that of the U.S. Government’s MyPlate.
“Calcium is important. But milk isn’t the only, or even best, source.”
Got Milk? You Don’t Need It
“It’s worth noting that milk and other dairy products are our biggest source of saturated fat, and there are very credible links between dairy consumption and both Type 1 diabetes and the most dangerous form of prostate cancer.”
Osteoporosis? You don’t need milk, or large amounts of calcium, for bone integrity. In fact, the rate of fractures is highest in milk-drinking countries, and it turns out that the keys to bone strength are lifelong exercise and vitamin D, which you can get from sunshine.
Don’t Drink Your Milk!
Say No To Milk!
The No Milk Page: Books & Links 
Dangers Of Milk And  Dairy Products – The Facts
[Note: I am not a doctor. Please consult with your doctor for any medical advise]
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Volunteering at Woodbury Days

My favorite discovery as I was watching the Parade – Cruzin cooler, a cooler on wheels you can ride on.


Volunteering at Info Booth, photo by Tom Dunn

My kids and I spent part of this past Saturday and Sunday volunteering at Woodbury Days. On Saturday we helped at the Info Booth. On Sunday my son and I helped with Parade. For some photos, go to my Facebook.

I started volunteering at Woodbury Days in 2008. I loved this community event and wanted to help. I also wanted to instill in my kids a love for volunteering.

When my kids were younger, they went along with me and helped. As they got older, I signed them up as volunteers as well, so they could be fully engaged.

Woodbury Days is run by the Woodbury Days Council and made possible with the support of local businesses and the help of volunteers. I am glad my family is part of the volunteer force.

When my son started high school last year, he joined the Key Club and the Community Youth Council. Both require certain volunteer activities and hours. He enjoys volunteering. I am thankful for that.


Share your Unsession ideas

This week Governor Dayton announced a new initiative and a public campaign called Unsession.

Dayton proposed making the 2014 Legislative Session the “Unsession.” He wanted it to focus on eliminating excessive or redundant laws, rules, and regulations; and getting rid of anything else that makes government nearly impossible for people to understand. He invited state employees and the public to submit their suggestions to help build a better, faster, and smarter state government and to ensure that our state government remains responsive and effective.

You can share your Unsession ideas in the following ways:

At the Minnesota State Fair (Aug. 22-Sept. 2)  

If you’re visiting the fair, stop by any of these state agency booths to submit an idea. 

Eco Experience Center: Pollution Control Agency, Dept. of Natural Resources, Dept. of Commerce, Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Health, and Metro Transit. 

4-H Building: Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs 

Education Building: Dept. of Education, Dept. of Higher Education, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Revenue, Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Human Services, and Dept. of Commerce. 

Agriculture Building: Dept. of Agriculture 

DNR Building: Dept. of Natural Resources

You can also submit ideas online, 24/7

State employees can submit their ideas online at http://unsession.ideascale.com.

The public can submit them at http://unsessionsuggestion.ideascale.com.

Please take this opportunity to share your Unsession ideas and let your voices be heard. Together, let’s make Minnesota better!

Winning at 2013 Minnesota State Fair

The annual Minnesota State Fair started today.

Since 2009 when my kids started participating in education competitions, the first day of the State Fair has become an important day for us. We always look forward to the results of the competition revealed on the first day.

I am very proud of both of my kids who worked hard and won several prizes. Of all the prizes, I am most proud of my daughter for winning the 1st place for her poem collection.

Every year since 2009, Amy submits a collection of 100 poems. She has won every year at the State Fair. I think she is excellent at writing poems, but the interesting thing is Amy doesn’t think so. She always argues with me when I compliment her: “I am not good. Every kid at school can do this. They just don’t do it.”

How do you argue with a teenage who is strong-willed? I just encourage her and make sure that she does it, unlike other kids who can do it, but don’t do it.

This year my kids entered in a few more categories. For the first time they entered competitions in technology education and submitted photos. They both won for their photos.

Here is the result.

Amy’s winning works at this year’s State Fair are:

1st for poem collection – Happy Mother’s Day, 100 poems
1st for photography, black and white, tinted – Eye
2nd for drawing, pastel – Ferret
3rd for jewelry – Brace
5th for photography, digital color – Waikiki Beach Sunset

Andy’s winning works at this year’s State Fair are:

4th for poem – The Soldier
5th for photography, color – Baby Bear


Have fun at Woodbury Days

If you live in Twin Cities, you might be thinking about going to the Minnesota State Fair which starts tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 22.  If you live in Woodbury or the surrounding communities, don’t forget that our biggest local event, Woodbury Days, starts just one day after the State Fair on Friday, Aug. 23.

Woodbury Days is a three-day annual event that offers something fun for everyone, young and old. It takes place at Ojibway Park on the second to last weekend in August. This year Woodbury Days celebrates the 35th anniversary.

Every year around 30,000 people go to this family focused event to enjoy wonderful food, live entertainment, spectacular fireworks and much more! Families and friends visit Woodbury Days to be part of the community while they relax and enjoy the end of summer. Kids have lots of fun with the coin hunt, carnival and petting zoo.

To get more detailed info about Woodbury Days, visit its website or download a new free app available at the App Store or Google Play. The Woodbury Days app will give you instant access to the Schedule of Events, Event Deals, Map of the Grounds, Taste of Woodbury Menu, List of Vendors at the Park, Parking Options and More.  It is also your complete guide to the Button of Savings Program.  It will include a complete list of Button of Savings Discounts, Awesome!August Events, Prizes and Mobile Only Daily Deals.  You will even be able to tag your favorites so you don’t miss out on anything!  It is your complete guide to Woodbury Days right at your fingertips.

I will be volunteering at the Info Booth on Saturday morning, as I have done in the past few years with my kids. If you are interested in volunteering, You can still sign up here.  It takes over 250 volunteers to help make Woodbury Days a success. Woodbury Days offers a great opportunity to volunteer for the local community.

Hope to see you at Woodbury Days!

Amazing StrengthsFinder result

StrengthsFinder 2.0 has been a popular book since its publication in 2007.  Many organizations use the book and its online assessment tool to help employees identify their strengths and natural abilities.

At the University of Minnesota in Twin Cities, all first year students, since the Fall of 2012, receive a code to take the StrengthsFinder assessment during the summer prior to entering the  campus.

In preparation for a leadership training session today, I had to read the book and take the online assessment. Being a last minute person (sometimes), I was in no hurry to do my homework.

Last night when it was passed midnight, I was unusually tired and ready for going to bed. Then I realized that I hadn’t done the online assessment I had to do before the meeting in a few hours. I kind of forced myself to stay awake and complete the online assessment. I had a little trouble focusing on the task, I even missed a couple of questions because I didn’t act quickly enough and make the choice within the required time frame.

When I was done after 30 minutes, I was pretty skeptical about the result. Will the result be accurate? I wondered. But I didn’t have the time to read the report.

A few hours later, I got up and was refreshed. When I read my result report, I was pretty amazed by it. It is quite accurate. I think my top five themes describe me well. I got a kick out of this description under my first talent Input:

Chances are good that you tend to be a frugal individual — that is, you spend money with care. This trait probably explains why you satisfy your passion for reading by checking out library books, borrowing books from others, or quickly searching the shelves of half-priced bookstores.”

That is so true.

Here is a brief summary of my Top 5 StrenthsFinder Talents:


People  strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to  collect and archive all kinds of information.


People  strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to  continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the  outcome, excites them.


People strong in the  Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people  who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.


People strong in the  Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are  introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.


People  strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They  take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

Revisit Jackson Hole in China

During my trip to China this summer in July, I had the opportunity to re-visit the Jackson Hole resort  community, located 2 hours north of Beijing in Hebei Province.

I got to Beijing on a train on a Friday afternoon. After a brief rest at a friend’s apartment and almost two hours of driving, we arrived at their weekend vacation home in Jackson Hole. We spent the weekend there and left on Sunday afternoon.

Jackson Hole is a guarded community. It is an ideal weekend getaway destination for the rich in Beijing. During winter months and weekdays, it’s like a ghost town, but on the weekends, there is more life.

Many families have vegetable gardens, flower gardens, and trees in their back yard. Spring water flows everywhere. Walking around and looking at the different houses and landscapes was an enjoyable experience.

It had been three years since my last and first visit in 2010, Jackson Hole Beijing Villas looked more beautiful now, as gardens and trees have been established and matured. It felt like heaven on earth, just beautiful.

Since my previous post about Jackson Hole in China three years ago, I have received a few email inquiries from people in the United States who were interested in visiting this unique place in China. Unfortunately, this is a gated community, open only to the residents. I am happy to share some photos here.

I posted more photos on my Facebook page.

Here is a CNN article and video about Jackson Hole in China – Living the American dream in Jackson Hole, China

Little Free Library coverage – Woodbury Bulletin

Thanks to Woodbury Bulletin editor Michael Longaecker for posting the following article about yesterday’s Little Free Library & Night to Unite celebration on Woodbury Bulletin website:

Neighborhood unites around ‘Little Library’

Michael Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 – 6:50am

While neighbors tended to hot dogs and burgers around Woodbury on Tuesday during National Night to Unite, one neighborhood debuted a brand new feature. 

Residents on Golden Eagle Trail gathered Tuesday night outside at Qin Tang’s house, where her long-awaited Little Free Library was installed. Tod Bol, the Hudson, Wis., man who founded the Little Free Library project, was on hand to help install the feature.

The mini library — the approximate size of a large birdhouse — allows neighbors to leave and take books at their convenience. Tang sought to be included in the project after first learning about it last year.

Among those assisting with the project were 8-year-old Kade Kujak, who helped run a drill, and siblings Kaylen and Brady Schmitt, who placed the first books inside the tiny library.

Little Free Library debut

The Little Free Library that had been hiding in my garage since January finally made its debut today during a special celebration of the Little Free Library grand opening and Night to Unite in Eagle Valley neighborhood.
I was so honored to have Todd Bol, LFL Co-Founder and Executive Director, attend the event and help install the Little Free Library in my front yard.  Boyd Huppert and his crew from KARE 11 filmed the event. Woodbury Bulletin editor Mike Longaecker was also present. I am looking forward to watching the coverage on TV and in paper.
It was great to get some neighbors together and get some kids excited about books.
I would like to express my gratitude to Sam’s Club in Woodbury for providing $25 gift card to cover some of the cost.
For more pictures from the event, visit my Facebook.

Not backing down in opposition to class rank

I wrote the following Viewpoint for Woodbury Bulletin, available online from the Woodbury Bulletin website. A shorter version titled “More at Stake Than Collaboration” was published in the paper on July 24, 2013.

I also posted this on Woodbury Patch which has generated some interesting comments.

Viewpoint: Not backing down in opposition to class rank

Monday, July 22, 2013

Resident’s Viewpoint

I recently got back after a month long vacation to China. Meanwhile three viewpoints appeared in Woodbury Bulletin in response to my June 5 viewpoint questioning our school district’s decision to discontinue class ranking.
The decision made by the district’s secondary school principals was to end class ranking. It no longer will be reported or made available for students and families beginning next school year.
I think the district’s decision is one-sided. While its intention is to correct a problem for some students, now it puts other students at disadvantage.
I appreciate all who took the time and effort to express their opinions and share their unique perspectives.
Anushua Bhattacharya, an East Ridge graduate, offered her perspective as a student who benefited from class ranking (“The end of the ranking system … ,” June 26). She attested that class ranking played an important role in benchmarking, motivation and competition.
Deb Hamilton offered a balanced perspective as a parent and advocated the same hybrid class-rank approach as I did, to give students an option to opt in to class rank if they feel it will benefit them in the college application process (July 10).
On the other hand, I was concerned about Tod Johnson’s comments (June 26). Johnson shared his perspective as a parent in supporting of the district’s decision. I respect his position and understand that class ranking does not benefit all students, but I do not agree with his argument that “student rank is a meaningless statistic and has little to do with success or failure in the real world.”
If class ranking is a meaningless statistic, why do so many people care about it? Students work hard for it. Parents showed up at the district’s information sessions to express their opinions and concerns about the decision?
As for success or failure in the real world, yes, rank has little to do with it, but so are money, power and position. Who are we to judge someone’s success or failure?
I have been a faithful Woodbury Bulletin reader for over 10 years. I could remember few school related topics that have touched nerves and generated as much interest and responses in the paper as with this topic.
On my recent flight back home, I happened to watch the newly released movie “Admission.” It’s about a Princeton University admissions officer. In scenes where the admissions officers were reviewing the applications and making decisions collectively to accept or deny an application, one of the first things mentioned about a profile is class ranking.
I know movies are fictions, not necessary realistic, but in this case. I doubt that class ranking would be mentioned repeatedly if it’s totally irrelevant and meaningless.
Another argument that Johnson shared was collaboration is more important than competition.
I think competition and collaboration are both important. They are not mutually exclusive. Ranking provides competition. It motivates and encourages hard work, but it does not exclude collaboration. We have the best example of integrating competition and collaboration in the robotics teams of East Ridge and Math and Science Academy. Both teams work together side-by-side out of the East Ridge workshop, sharing tools, training, meals and meetings, and they compete at the same competitions against each other.
At the May 22 information session I raised a legal question related to Freedom of Information Act and access to government data. Our Minnesota state law says: “All government data collected, created, received, maintained or disseminated by a government entity shall be public unless classified…” [https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=13.03]. I wondered whether this law applies to schools. Does the public have the right to access ranking information?
Again I want to repeat my petition to the district that class ranking be provided to students and parents if requested. It’s a great motivational tool. Students should have the option/right to know how they are doing academically. The more ways we have to accomplish this, the better. Class ranking is one of the criteria in academic performance measure and is considered in college admission, even if not by all colleges. Why take it away if it benefits some students? Do we take something away just because it does not benefit everyone? 

Celebrate Little Free Library and Night to Unite Tuesday, Aug. 6

Eagle Valley in Woodbury will have a Little Free Library (LFL) and everyone is welcome to the installation and grand opening event on the day where neighbors get together to celebrate Minnesota’s fifth annual “Night to Unite” (also called National Night Out in some places)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013, 6:30 – 8 pm

10422 Golden Eagle Trail, Woodbury, MN 55129

The event is free, but donation is welcome to support LFL



Please stop by to –

  • Meet the LFL Co-Founder and Executive Director Todd Bol  
  • Meet the award winning KARE 11 reporter Boyd Huppert          
  • Meet your neighbors and get to know each other
  • Help with the installation of the Eagle Valley Little Free Library
  • Support the LFL effort worldwide
  • Celebrate Minnesota’s Fifth Annual “Night to Unite”
  • See yourself on KARE 11 news (maybe)
  • Receive a free book (while supplies last)
  • Enjoy some ice cream (Feel free to bring a treat to share)

I am very excited to be the steward for the Eagle Valley Little Free Library on behalf of our neighbors and community. The way it works is simple:

  • I initially stock the LFL with a variety of books
  • You stop by and take whatever catches your fancy
  • You return and bring books to contribute
  • LFL books are always a gift – never for sale!

Little Free Library is a movement started by Todd Bol of Hudson and Rick Brooks of Madison in 2010, and has grown to include little libraries in most states and dozens of countries.

Little Free Library’s mission is to promote literacy, a love of reading and community-building by supporting free book exchanges worldwide. Visit www.littlefreelibrary.org to learn more about it and to look at the many amazing examples of little libraries from around the world.

What makes this event even more special and exciting is that KARE 11 news reporter Boyd Huppert will also be present to film the event.

Boyd, a winner of numerous regional and national awards, including multiple Emmys and Edward R. Murrows, has been a reporter for over thirty years, and is known for his Land of 10,000 Stories, available on KARE 11 website.  His work has been shown on CNN and NBC.

Today I happened to find out that Boyd’s wife Sheri is a fellow librarian working for the state of Minnesota. With his background/experience and his unique connection to the library world, I can’t think of anyone who is better equipped to report  the LFL story. So I am super excited to meet and work with both Bol and Boyd on this project.

Please contact me at 651-983-2579 or quin_tang at yahoo.com with any questions. Visit my blog for any updates.

Related Posts:
More about LFL:
Also see the reference at the end of this post: A Little Free Library for Woodbury!
More about Boyd Huppert:

A quick update

I am sorry that I have not kept my blog updated for a while. 

In the last three months, I was busy with traveling. I made three trips out of the state or country, went to Hawaii, China and South Dakota. 

In my month-long trip to China, I visited my parents and other relatives in Suzhou and other cities. The highlight of the trip was to visit Mount Tai in Tai’an, the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu, and Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province in Eastern China. The places I visited in Shandong Province were more interesting than I anticipated.  

During my recently trip to South Dakota this past weekend, my family drove to Badlands, Mount Rushmore and the Custer State Park

I have taken so many photos and have so many to share, I will post some on my Facebook as time permits. I still haven’t posted my photos from last year’s trip to Europa. 

For the next few days I will be busy preparing for my Little Free Library installation/grand opening on Aug. 6. I will share some exciting news in my next post soon.

Motivation suffers under District 833’s class-rank change

Below is my viewpoint article published in Woodbury Bulletin on June 5, 2013:

Motivation suffers under District 833’s class-rank change

While a low class rank puts students at a disadvantage in the college admission process, a high class rank can make a positive impression on a college application.

By: Qin Tang, Woodbury Bulletin

Recently District 833 announced the plan to discontinue class ranking. Beginning next year, East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools will no longer report student ranking, “unless there is an unlikely event in which not doing so puts our students at a disadvantage.”

The decision was made by the district’s secondary school principals.

I was surprised and disappointed by the decision. So was my son who is a freshman.

On May 22 I attended one of the two information sessions, meant to share information and gather feedback to be considered in the implementation process.

While I appreciated the “opportunity to discuss the implementation process,” and to have my voice heard, I wished the information sessions had happened before the decision was made.

The main reason for the district to eliminate class ranking is it can hurt students in the college admission process (“At several of our schools, the average grade in the building is a B+, resulting in highly successful students ranking in the lower half of their graduating class.“). In addition, class ranking causes competition among students.

While a low class rank puts students at a disadvantage in the college admission process, a high class rank can make a positive impression on a college application. So whether we keep or eliminate class ranking, some students will be disadvantaged. By eliminating class ranking, those students who work really hard and make it to the top will be disadvantaged.

Class rank is only one piece of the puzzles in the college admission process. My main concern is getting rid of ranking will also diminish the roles it plays in other areas – benchmarking, motivation and competition.

For many students and parents, class rank serves as a benchmark to measure student performance in comparison to their peers. Doing away with rankings eliminates a reality check for students on how they do and where they stand academically.

Class rank can also be a productive tool to motivate students to work harder and to take harder classes, instead of the easy way out of high school. Some students look at school like a competition and see each test as a contest. For these externally motivated students, class rank is a motivating tool. It gives them a goal to work towards.

For my son, knowing his class ranking for the first time at the end of his first trimester in ninth grade motivated him to work harder for school than anything or anyone could ever do.

Another positive effect of the class ranking is it exposes our students to the competitive nature of our world at an early age. Students will be better prepared for life by experiencing a competitive academic environment.

Competition is a part of life. Competition can be a positive motivating force. Everyone benefits from the competition when all strive for the best. It raises the bar of academic achievement for all.

Students compete in sports and get ranked. Why shouldn’t students be ranked academically for whom academic performance should be more important than sports?

In the United States, more than in any other countries, athletic abilities are overvalued while academic excellence is undervalued. If a mediocre student is applauded for his athletic ability, why shouldn’t a student with academic excellence be recognized for his accomplishments?

Students who work hard and achieve top ranking should be recognized and honored, just like sports players are recognized and honored.

Real life is not like some elementary school events, in which everyone is a winner, everyone receives an award for participating, so their feelings and self-esteem are not bruised. The whole “everyone gets a trophy” mentality is creating an attitude of entitlement.

Winning and losing is a fact of life. When we fail to acknowledge and recognize winners, everyone stands to lose.

If students can’t handle some competitiveness at high schools, how will they learn to handle the significantly more competitive environments of elite colleges and grad schools, later in their professional life?

I would like to see class ranking continue. My suggestion, which was also expressed by other parents at the meeting, is to give families the responsibility and let them decide whether to include the class ranking on their report cards/transcripts or not.

Tang is a Woodbury resident


Avoid roaming charges when traveling abroad

Traveling outside the country can be an expensive advantage. One thing you can do to prevent some unplanned and unexpected expenses is to make sure that you don’t get roaming charges for using your phone while traveling outside of the country.

Roaming charges can be very expensive. I have heard stories about people getting roaming charges for hundreds of dollars. You don’t want to be surprised by a huge phone bill after you get back home from your trip.

I have Sprint as my iPhone service provider. If I travel internationally with my iPhone, I make sure that I read and understand the charges that will occur if I use my iPhone to make calls, check emails or access Internet.

Using China as an example, the international roaming rates in China are as follows according to this Sprint tips document:

  • Voice calls: $2.99/minute for all calls placed and received
  • Texts: $0.50 to send a message; $0.05 to receive a message

To prevent unintended usage and charge, here is what to do:

Turn off voice & data roaming (using other company’s towers)

To block international calls and texting, to prevent roaming charges, do this with your iPhone:

Settings > general > cellular > Roaming (off) > Voice & Data Roaming (off)

Turn off data roaming (for email and Internet access)

Settings > general > cellular > cellular data (off)

Turn off cellular data only when you leave the country, otherwise you can’t access email and Internet while still in the US.

It’s free to use Wi-Fi in other countries, but make sure the cellular data and roaming are TURNED OFF so no charge will occur.

To check voicemail on your iPhone from another phone

It’s free to check voice messages, as long as you use another phone to do it, not your own cell phone.

To check your voicemail from another phone in China,

Dial 001 + your iPhone # ( to do so in the US, just dial your cell phone #), and wait for voicemail to come on

While the greeting plays, dial * , enter your voicemail password (the default password is your 7-digit phone number without the area code, you can change it in Settings >Phone>change voicemail password), and then #.

As you are listening to a message, you have four options that you can perform at any time:

  • Delete the message by pressing 7
  • Save it by pressing 9
  • Replay it by pressing 4
  • Hear the date, time, and number the message came from by pressing 5

For more reading on this topic:

How To Avoid International Charges When Going Abroad

How to Beat Roaming Fees While Traveling Abroad


Keep your house safe during vacation

Just one more day. School is almost over for kids in town.  The end of school means the beginning of the travel season.

If you will go on vacation and leave your home unattended for any length of time, make sure that you take some of the following steps to keep your home safe from burglaries and to prevent any emergencies from occurring while you are on extended vacation.

  • Let your neighbors and friends know and leave your contact info with them.
  • Have a friend or neighbor go in your home once in a while to make sure everything is operating properly.
  • Have a neighbor park their car in your driveway for a few hours a day so it looks like someone is home.
  • Ask someone to pick up your mail or have the post office hold your mail.
  • Let the police know and they will keep an eye on your house. The Woodbury Police Department offers vacation check program to watch the exterior of your home when you will be gone for more than three days.
  • Stop newspaper delivery or have someone pick it up for you.
  • Leave your blinds and shutter partially open…closed blinds indicate an empty house.
  • Turn off your water at the main valve where the water supply enters your house.
  • Close and lock all window and doors.

You can save a significant amount of money by practicing a few simple energy saving tips to keep the electricity usage down while on vacation:

Heating and Cooling

Set your thermostat to 90F or turned off completely in summer.

It is a little more tricky in winter. The thermostat should be set around 55F to keep appliances and water pipes from freezing and bursting. The worst way to end a vacation is to come home to a flooded basement.

Water Heater

Turn the dial on your gas water heater thermostat to its lowest setting, which may read “vacation” or “pilot.” If you have an electric water heater, flip the circuit breaker off when you leave town and turn it on when you return. If your gas water heater doesn’t have a vacation setting, set the thermostat as low as it goes without turning it off.

If you go on a winter vacation, you should leave the water heater on at the lowest possible (or “vacation” setting) to keep the water from freezing in the lines and tank.

Electronics and Appliances

Walk around the home and unplug every unnecessary appliance and electronic, including the television, computer, microwave, digital clocks, etc. This not only saves energy, but also eliminates a possible fire hazard if there would be a power surge while no one is home.

Automatic Lights

Put a light on an automatic timer to provide an illusion that you’re home.

Blinds and Curtains

Use blinds and closed curtains to keep heat from coming in during the summer and letting heat out during the winter.


A refrigerator is usually one of the biggest energy-wasters while you’re on vacation. If you’ll be gone for a few weeks, empty out the food, clean it thoroughly, and unplug it. If you keep the fridge running, it is a good idea to get rid of any leftovers, raw food, and other perishables.

By practicing these tips and tricks, it will not only save you money, but also stress and troubles while away from home and when you come home.

Storing winter gear

The following is a tip I recently shared with others in the May 28, 2013 edition of  Get Organized Now! online newsletter by Maria Gracia.

When I store winter boots, I put the thick winter socks inside the boots. You can do the same with mittens, scarves and hats. Here are some good reasons to do so:

a) It keeps things together and organized. When I need them the next year, they are all in one place.

b) It saves me time, because I don’t have to look for them separately.

c) It helps keep the shoes in good shape. Especially with the leather boots, it’s a good idea to stuff things inside like the new shoes in the store have.

d) By taking advantage of the hidden storage space, I have more space for other things. 

Letter to LJ editor – Small but mighty movers

I wrote a letter to the Library Journal editor to send my congratulations to the Little Free Library Co-founders Todd Bol and Rick Brooks for being named the Movers & Shakers 2013 – Innovators by the Library Journal!  My letter was published in the May 1st edition of the Journal.

Small but mighty movers
Congratulations to the 2013 class of “Movers & Shakers.” All deserve the recognition, but  especially Todd Bol and Rick Brooks (“Large Need, Small Design”), who started the Little Free  Library (LFL) movement. I am so glad they were included and recognized, even  though they are not librarians.
Yes, the Little Free Libraries are not real libraries, they are  just cute little dollhouses with a few books inside. They cannot and will not  replace our traditional libraries. But as librarians, we should embrace and  encourage any creative ideas that promote the love of books and reading,  literacy, conversation, connection in the neighborhood and community, and peace  around the world, whether they are done by librarians or not.
The LFL is such an innovative and wonderful idea. One single  little library in the front yard of Bol’s house in Hudson, WI, has grown into  almost 7,000 little libraries around the world within a few short years. They  are small but mighty….
I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than Todd and  Rick for their contribution to the causes that are near and dear to our  librarians’ hearts.

Please keep class ranking

The News about discontinuing class rank

On May 7, I received an email from my son’s East Ridge High School with the subject “class rank information session.” The message was to inform that class rank would be discontinued next year.

Here is part of the message:

“As students prepare to be admissions ready by completing college applications, class rank becomes a topic of intense conversation.  Each of the District’s three high schools struggle with class rank and the role it plays in the college admission process.  At several of our schools, the average grade in the building is a B+, resulting in highly successful students ranking in the lower half of their graduating class.  Couple this with the competition that develops between and among students and the three high schools felt it was time for a change in the manner in which student performance is reported out to colleges and universities.  Beginning next year, class rank will not be reported out unless there is an unlikely event in which not doing so puts our students at a disadvantage.

We invite you to attend one of two evening information sessions on this topic. The first will be held at Park High School on May 15 at 6:30 PM in the Lecture Hall, and the second will be held at Woodbury High School on May 22 at 6:30 PM. You will hear the research done by the counseling staff from all three buildings, and have an opportunity to discuss the implementation process. We want to hear from you! Please mark your calendars. We look forward to meeting with you.”

I think all high school students and parents who are on the District 833’s Info To Go email lists received the same information.

Later on Friday, the information was also in the “News from District 833 for May 10.”

My viewpoint and suggestion 

I don’t know how other parents and students feel about this news. Speaking for myself and my family, we are surprised and very disappointed by the decision. I plan to go to the information session to learn more about the reasons behind the decision.

I am against the elimination of class rank. I think competition among students and schools is a good thing. I think high schools should still rank students. But to make a compromise, high schools can make it optional for students to keep the ranking on their transcripts and to report their rankings to colleges.

What is class rank and why is it useful?

Class rank is a measure of how a student’s performance compares to other students in his or her class. It’s used in high schools to compare students’ GPA and their academic achievements.

Class rank can be a productive tool to motivate students to work hard and excel. Some students look at school like a competition and see each test as a contest. For these externally motivated students, class rank is a productive and motivating academic tool. It gives them a goal to work towards and rewards academic achievement.

It drives them to work harder and to take harder classes, instead of the easy way out of high school. Students who take the harder classes and work the hardest will naturally be at the top of their class. Isn’t that what we want students to do – work harder and do better?

A positive effect of the class rank is that it exposes our students to the competitive nature of our world at an early age.

In addition, a high class rank can make a positive impression on a college application. Colleges often use class rank as a factor in college admissions. They take class rank into high consideration. They tend to look at class rank to see how students are likely to measure up with their peers. The absence of a class rank forces colleges to put more weight on standardized test scores.

Some U.S. states guarantee that students who achieve a high enough class rank at their high school will be admitted into a state university.

Doing away with rankings also eliminates a reality check for students and schools on how classmates compare.

Competition is good

Students compete in sports and they get ranked. What is wrong with ranking students academically for whom academic performance should be more important than sports?

Why are some students and parents afraid of competition?

Competition is a part of life. Life is competitive. Competition is good because it makes people do better and do their best.

Competition can be a very positive motivating force. Everyone benefits from the competition when all strive for the best or the first. Students become more self-motivated and more self-reliant and raise the bar of academic achievement for their peers.

Real life is not like some elementary school events, in which everyone is a winner, everyone receives an award for participating or showing up, so their feelings and self-esteem are not bruised. The whole “everyone gets a trophy” mentality is creating an attitude of entitlement.

Children will be better prepared for life by experiencing a competitive academic environment resulting in class ranking.

Aren’t high school students old enough to handle a little competition? They are supposed to be mature enough to realize that not everyone has the same skills and talents. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. There are winners and losers. Not everyone in real life is a winner, regardless of how strong one’s self-esteem is. One can be a winner in one area and not in another area.

Winning and losing is a fact of life. When we fail to acknowledge and recognize winners, everyone stands to lose.

If students in their teens can’t handle some competitive at high schools, how will they learn to handle the significantly more competitive environments of elite colleges and grad schools in their twenties, later in their professional life?

Taking class ranking out of high school is just another way that society is making everything “equal” and making everyone feel good about themselves. It is another example of dumbing of America.  It teaches kids nothing in the long run.

Yes, men are created equal which just means each is of equal value to the creator, not that they have equal skills and abilities.

If we are going to end academic competition, then should we use the same logic to end sports competitions?

Will we stop ranking football teams and football players? Will we stop taking score at sports events? Will we stop ranking colleges and universities? Will we stop rating cities, hotels, restaurants, cars, etc.?  Will we stop rewarding people for working harder and being better than everyone else, because then everyone else will feel bad?

In the United States, more than in any other countries, students’ athletic abilities are often overvalued while their academic excellence is often undervalued. If a mediocre student is applauded for his athletic ability, why shouldn’t a student with academic excellence be recognized for his accomplishments?

Students who work hard and achieve top ranking should be recognized and honored, just like sports players are recognized and honored.

What some critics say 

Some who don’t like class rank say that the class rank system promotes unhealthy competition, because the top students must fight with their fellow classmates just to make the top 10 percent of the class. This could happen, but not necessary.

My son is friends with several who rank higher than he is. They enjoy working on projects together and chat on Skype after school.

Students need to learn to work together to truly become successful. The key is to compete and co-operate.

The solution is not getting rid of ranking. Doing so can kill competition and motivation.

Critics also say that class rank can lead to anxiety and academic pressure and cause stress.

People need to know and understand their passion, abilities, strengths and limits. Not everyone is good at sport or music just like not everyone can be in the top ten of the class.

We will have anxiety and stress if we are forced to do things we are not naturally good at.

Having some pressure and stress in life is not all bad. It’s also part of life. Do we eliminate a sport game because of pressure and stress? No.

Life is not just about having fun and having it easy. Some short term pain is necessary in order to have long term gain.

Some think that the class rank is not fair. They complain and whine about it.

I will say life is not fair, embrace competition and work harder.

As parents, let’s face it. Our child cannot be the best and the first at everything.

Class rank is only one kind of measures for student’s achievements. It’s not the only ticket to college.

Personal stories

My favorite high school teacher in China was someone who ranked students every week based on their test results. After every test, he wrote the names of the top students on a small blackboard and had it on the wall until the next test. In addition, he often rewarded students with pens, books and other prizes which were very valuable at that time.

Students in his class were highly motivated and worked hard. Many went on to colleges. Every year, this teacher had the best graduating class and the highest success rate in college entrance exams in the whole school and city. His reputation was known beyond the school.

For my son, a 9th grader and a freshman at high school, knowing his class ranking for the first time has made him work harder for school than ever.

When the first trimester report card came home, he was not in the top ten in his class. He didn’t do well in one class because he wasn’t clear about the expectations. But he wanted to be in the top ten, so he worked harder and was more responsible with his school work in the second trimester. As the result, he improved his grades and ended up in the top ten on the second report card.

My son’s favorite middle school teacher was the math teacher Mr. Rasmussen. I heard that Mr. Rasmussen would call out the students’ names when distributing test results to recognize students who had received the perfect scores. Mr. Rasmussen was probably the only teacher he had who did that. The recognition motivated him to do his best.

Who doesn’t enjoy some acknowledgement and recognition for his achievement and success?

A few years ago, when my son was little, he sold golf balls in the backyard. One day he saw a neighbor kid selling golf balls in the same location. He was so excited and ran out to set up his stand. I had never seen him so excited in selling golf balls.

A little bit later, that child’s parent came knocking on our door. She came to tell me that they were not happy that my son competed with her child selling golf balls at the same time in the same location. I was dumbfounded because I thought it was fun for the kids.

We made the promise at their request not to sell golf balls at the same time. Unfortunately, my son lost some motivation and interest after what happened.

What do you think?

I would love to hear your opinion on this issue. Whether you want to keep or abolish class rank, please share your thoughts and let’s have a discussion.



Screen Free Week

The following letter from Caitlyn Hale, Mankato, Minnesota appeared in the Star Tribune’s Readers Write section on April 10, 2013:


Too many children are online and isolated

I have a growing concern for the younger generations and their addiction to technology. Children are growing up in families where texting each other is the main form of communication. Instead of going outside, getting dirty, and using their imaginations, kids are now sitting inside playing Xbox and PlayStation. By the time they are five years old, many children have a cellphone, iPod, iPad or laptop and know how to use all of them without instruction. This growing need and use of technology is leading our children to isolate themselves. This “new-age” world is destroying interpersonal relationships, especially within families. Yes, technology is important, but so are our families. We need to bring our children back to life. Something needs to be done to teach parents how to teach their children the proper use and limitations of the Internet.

Hale’s growing concern has been on my mind as well.

We have become more connected technologically than ever, yet we have also become more disconnected emotionally and relationally.

We have hundreds of friends on Facebook, yet few in life.

We spend more time watching TV, texting, emailing, facebooking, googling, or surfing the Internet, yet have no time meeting and talking with peole.

We have more communication tools, yet less communications skills.

We are dependent on and addicted to technology.

I welcome Lake Middle School’s initiative – “Screen Free Week” that starts this week. They challenge students to spend less time behind a screen this week. They encourage students to make the Screen Free Pledge and participate in a special activity after school every day during this week – planting, obstacle Course, playing favorite games drawing and painting, and dancing.

How will you challenge your family to reduce screen time?



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Best high schools in Minnesota

A few days ago, U.S. News & World Report released the 2013 Best High Schools Ranking. Results from Minnesota are available here.

Three schools in Woodbury, Woodbury High School (#16), Math & Science Academy (#22) and East Ridge High School (#36) have  earned silver medals in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Best High Schools in America. Minnesota has six gold medal schools, 40 silver medal schools and 90 bronze medal schools in the 2013 ranking.

The U.S. News & World Report determines the Best High Schools rankings by evaluating schools on overall student performance on statewide assessments, as well as how effectively schools educated their black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students. Performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams were also used to determine how well schools prepare students for college-level work.

  1. Mahtomedi Senior High School
  2. Edina High School
  3. St. Anthony Village High School
  4. TrekNorth High School
  5. Wayzata High School
  6. Minnetonka High School
  7. Eagan High School
  8. Mounds View High School
  9. Century Senior High
  10. Irondale Senior High School
  11. Southwest High School
  12. Eden Prairie Senior High School
  13. Mankato West Senior High School
  14. Roseville Area Senior High
  15. Houston High School
  16. Woodbury Senior High
  17. Lake Of The Woods Secondary
  18. Open World Learning Community
  19. Jefferson High School
  20. Dassel-Cokato Senior High
  21. Centennial Senior
  22. Math & Science Academy
  23. Chaska High School
  24. St. Charles Secondary
  25. Red Rock Central Secondary
  26. Northfield Senior High School
  27. Brainerd Senior High
  28. G.F.W. Sr.
  29. Mound-Westonka High School
  30. Bemidji Senior High
  31. Apple Valley Senior High
  32. Montevideo Senior High
  33. Blackduck Secondary
  34. St. Peter Senior High
  35. Twin Cities Academy High School
  36. East Ridge High School
  37. Minnewaska Secondary
  38. Higher Ground Academy
  39. John Marshall Senior High
  40. Perham Senior High

The Paradox of Our Age

The paradox of our age

— His Holiness the XIVth Dali Lama


We have bigger houses, but smaller families;

more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees, but less sense;

more knowledge, but less judgment;

more experts, but more problems;

more medicines, but less healthiness.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,

but have trouble crossing the street to meet our new neighbor.

We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever,

but have less communication.

We have become long on quantity,

but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion;

tall man, but short character;

steep profits, but shallow relationships.

It is a time when there is much in the window,

but nothing in the room.

2013 Woodbury Citizens’ Academy Graduation

Here are a few photos from the 2013 Woodbury Citizens’ Academy graduation ceremony held at the Eagle Valley Golf Course tonight. I attended the 4th annual WCA graduation as an alumnus and volunteer.

WCA is a great program offered by Woodbury Community Foundation under the leadership of Executive Director Alisa Rabin Bell, in partnership with the City of Woodbury and Woodbury Lions Club. I was honored to be a part of it, as a participant in the first annual WCA in 2010 and then as a volunteer this year.

2013 Woodbury Citizens’ Academy class picture

Alisa Rabin Bell


Mary Giuliani Stephens, Woodbury Mayor


Mary Van Milligen


Do you have a job, a career or a calling?

What is your relationship with your work? How do you approach your work?

In Habits of the Heart, Bellah et al. talks about three distinct relations people can have to their work: as a job, a career and a calling. Most people approach their work in one of the three ways.

Let’s take a look at the definitions:

  • Job – A paid position of regular employment.
  • Career – An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
  • Calling – A strong inner urge toward a particular way of life or career.

If you see your work as a job, you are only interested in the material benefits from work and do not seek or receive any other type of reward from it. Your focus is on financial rewards and necessity rather than pleasure or fulfillment. The work is not an end in itself, but a means that allows you to acquire the resources needed to enjoy life. You pursue hobbies for satisfaction and fulfillment that your work don’t give you.

If you see your work as a career, you have a deeper personal investment in your work. You have goals of advancement, promotion, and prestige. Your focus is on advancement. The advancement often brings higher self-esteem, social status and more power.

If you see your work as a calling, you work not for financial gain or career advancement, but instead for the fulfillment that doing the work brings for you. Your focus is on doing socially useful work, on the impact and purpose of what you do. You see your work as contributing to the greater good. When you are living your calling, you have moved from external to internal motivation. Your work is intrinsically fulfilling, you are not doing it to achieve something else.  You are willing to work even without pay. You would continue to work, even if you suddenly became very wealthy and have no need to work. Your work is inseparable from your life. You so enjoy your work that it doesn’t feel like work for you. Time flies by quickly.

A job tends to deplete you and a calling can energize you.

Many people simply have a job to do. They give time and energy to their employers in exchange for a compensation. They find no motivation, no satisfaction and no fulfillment on the job.

If you see your work as a job with no satisfaction and fulfillment, maybe it’s time to do some soul searching and find your calling in life.

If you are an employer, a manager, a leader, what are you doing to help your employees find their sense of calling in what they do?


For further reading:

Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C. R., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work

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Woodbury’s unsung heroes

Here is my letter to the editor published in Woodbury Bulletin newspaper on Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

Volunteers are Woodbury’s unsung community heroes

For the last several months since November 2012, my teenage son and daughter were involved in several extra-curriculum activities, including WAA recreational basketball, U.S. Academic Triathlon, and Robotics Club.

The basketball and USAT seasons just ended in March, which was a relief for me, because driving around, especially on snowy nights, is not my cup of tea. But I don’t feel I can let it go and relax without saying a heartfelt thank-you to all the parent volunteers who helped coach the teams and mentor the kids.

In addition to coaching teams at practices and meets (for basketball, there were usually two practices and one meet every week), some also helped with transportation and snack/food, providing help when needed.

I want to thank everyone who coached my kids’ teams: Denice Krish, Lynn Bennett and Julie Luick (for two of the Lake Middle School AT teams), Rich Pierson and Brian Findlay (WAA Girls basketball), and Anthony Mahady (WAA boys basketball).

The Robotics Club at East Ridge High School has an awesome team of parent volunteers, including Doug Jensen, Mary Jensen, Bill Driscoll, Michelle Witte, Cheryl Schow, Karen Wright, Petey Driscoll, Michael Tritz, and many others. If I could give only one award to a parent volunteer, it would go to Doug Jensen who serves as the head mentor for the Robotics Team. His passion, dedication and commitment to the team are unmatchable.

These and many other school or community sponsored programs and activities cannot exist without the support of volunteers. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the coaches and volunteers in the community, you are my unsung heroes. Your generous giving spirit is part of what makes Woodbury a great community, and the United States a great nation. It’s also something I love about this country that I now call my home.

Qin Tang – Woodbury

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When tragedy strikes again

While the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy on December 14, 2012 was still fresh in memory, another tragedy struck today, during the Boston Marathon. Just four months later.

The Boston Marathon Bombing left 3 dead and over 100 injured.

What’s happening in this world is incomprehensible.

The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack changed everything. It was the turning point in the history of the U.S. Gone are the days when we had a great sense of security. We not only lost our sense of security, but also our innocence. Our hope for peace in this world was shattered, and lost as well.

As our nation faces one tragedy after another, it feels like we are right in the valley of the shadow of death.

I have been reading Robert Morgan’s new book “The Lord is My Shepherd: Resting in the Peace and Power of Psalm 23.” I really like it. The book explains Psalm 23 verse by verse and makes it easier to understand.

In the midst of another devastating tragedy, let’s find some hope and peace in Psalm 23.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

We will walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, whatever challenges and tragedies come our way, if we put our faith in God. He will bring us through challenges and tragedies and bring us to victory.

Psalm 23 (New King James Version) 

A Psalm of David

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters. 

He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.


Your salary is (probably) public information

In America, people in general don’t talk about money and salary. Personal finance is highly guarded as personal privacy in American culture.

We don’t know what our coworkers in the next cubicles make. Some don’t even know what other family members make. We don’t ask our friends what they make. People feel more comfortable talking about almost anything else than salary.

There is a sense of secrecy. With that comes a sense of peace. Once the secrecy is out, the peace is gone. Feelings of unfairness and resentment will surface. For a good reason.

Last week’s article in Woodbury Bulletin about Woodbury High School principal Linda Plante taking District 833 to court over pay disparities has probably caused some curious minds to wonder about the salaries principals or teachers make in Minnesota.

If you are a teacher, or a public employee including federal, state, county and city employee, your salary is public information. You are out of luck for privacy.

The following are just a few databases you can search for salary information.

Minnesota Public School Salaries

Salaries for public employees, including state, county, municipal governments and universities

Federal salary database 2011

This page links to federal, state, county, municipal government employee salaries and directories of employees nationwide.

We live in an unfair world. That’s for sure. Even little kids know that. They say this all the time: “That’s not fair.”

Unfairness, unequal treatment, and discrimination exist everywhere in the workplace, in pay, promotion, work assignments, etc.

I applaud people like Plante, and especially my friend Wang Ping who had the courage to stand up and take Macalester College to court for unfair treatment and discrimination.  I wrote about her case in several posts recently.

Meeting Dr. David Jeremiah

God Loves You Rally

Dr. Jeremiah and his wife Donna

It was truly a memorable experience to spend “An Evening with Dr. David Jeremiah” tonight at Target Center. I was glad that I went.

I had always wanted to go to this event, because I love listening to Dr. Jeremiah from Turning Point Minitry on radio and enjoy reading his books. I would love to meet him in person.

When I think about him, three words come to my mind – wise, graceful and beautiful.

He is a wise man, his message is full of wisdom. He is graceful. God’s grace is all over him and shows in everything he says and does. He has a beautiful voice for radio and good look for TV.

When I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, I wasn’t sure I would go by myself. I just did not feel comfortable to drive to Target Center alone. I was disappointed.

On Tuesday I got a surprise call from Scott, Director of Public Relations at Turning Point, inviting me to meet with Dr. Jeremiah at the back stage before the rally started at 7 pm. His phone call really boosted my determination to go. I didn’t want to miss such a great opportunity to meet and talk with my admired and respected Bible teacher, and I was determined to go, even if I had to drive by myself which was very uncomfortable for me.

As instructed, I got to the Target Center before 5:30 pm. I waited till the doors to the arena opened at 5:30. I went straight to the front of the stage and met with a staff who took me to a room in the back  where Dr. Jeremiah and his wife Donna were waiting. We talked for a few minutes. I wish I had more time to talk with them.

Dr. Jeremiah gave me a copy of his new book “God Loves You: He Always Has-He Always Will.” And he signed it to me.

His autograph was already on the first blank page, so he just wrote my name on top of his name.

Later when I opened the book, I found that the supposedly first page where he signed both his name and my name is in fact the last page of the book, because the book jacket was upside down. What looks like the first page from the cover is actually the last page.

For this event, Dr. Jeremiah pre-signed 800 copies of the book for sale. It’s totally understandable that something like this happened. Someone opened to the wrong page for him to sign. I thought I was the lucky one to get this unique copy with the autograph on the last page. This makes the book even more special.

After the personal meeting with Dr. Jeremiah, I got a special seat reserved for counselors right facing the stage. I picked the second row and was able to see the stage closely.

Dr. Jeremiah presented the message “God loves you” which is the title of his new book. The message was based on the Book of Hosea.

The rally ended at 9:20 pm. Well, I did manage to get lost in downtown Minneapolis, even with the help of GPS. I couldn’t see the street signs well in the dark and missed turns. I drove around for a while and didn’t get back home until 10:30 pm. I won’t do this for any other event, but attending this rally was worth the trouble and efforts.

It was really an honor for me to be able to spend a few minutes talking with Dr. Jeremiah and his wife Donna,  to have two books signed by him and to listen to him speaking live. What a wonderful experience and blessing!

For more photos, go to my Facebook.

God Loves You live event at Target Center on April 4

As I mentioned in a previous post, An Evening with Dr. David Jeremiah, Dr. Jeremiah will be coming to Twin Cities for an inspirational Turning Point Rally at the Target Center in Minneapolis on April 4, at 7 pm. He will present his message God Loves You: He Always Has—He Always Will.

This is the first time Dr. Jeremiah helds the rally in Minnesota.

The event is free of charge. You don’t really need tickets to get in. If you are interested, just go. I hope you will.

I love listening to Christian radio shows a lot. Among all the Bible teachers I have heard on the radio, Dr. David Jeremiah from Turning Point Ministry is my favorite.

Yesterday I was so thrilled when I got a call from Scott Walsh, Director of Public Relations from Turning Point Minitry, offering me an opportunity to meet Dr. Jeremiah before the rally starts. I have known Dr. Jeremiah for years from listening to his messages, but this will be the first to mee and talk to him in person. I am excited and looking forward to it.

Dr. Jeremiah has been a teacher of God’s Word for over 40 years. He has served as the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California since 1981. His radio and television ministry, Turning Point, is seen and heard on stations around the world. It is the largest syndicated Bible teaching ministry in the world.

In addition to leading his church and Turning Point Ministry, Dr.  Jeremiah is a favorite conference speaker and best selling author. He has written over 50 books. I have read just a few of his books. They are excellent.

Academic Triathlon Awards Ceremony

The 2012-2013 U.S. Academic Triathlon Awards Ceremony of School District 833 was held today at Cottage Grove Middle School at 7 pm.

The cafeteria at Cottage Grove Middle School was packed with USAT participants and their families. Tina Van Erp, District’s new Gifted & Talented coordinator, presided over the awards ceremony. Principals or their representatives from participating elementary and middle schools were present to honor the students from their own schools.

Every USAT participant received a customized medal. It has “2012-13 USAT” on the front and participant’s name and school on the back of the medal.

Academic Triathlon is an after school enrichment program offered to students in 5th-8th grade through the District’s Gifted & Talented Office.

The program has been growing very year. This year, District 833 had 32 teams (29 teams last year) of 5th-6th graders and  11 teams (8 teams last year) of 7th-8th graders with a total of 219 students (189 last year) participating in the USAT.

There were 81 coaches (46 last year) who coached the weekly practices and organized three Round Robin meets and one regional meet during the months from November to March.

I am thankful for all the coaches who gave so much of their time and energy to make things happen. Without these parents serving as volunteer coaches, the program would not be possible.

I want to especially thank my daughter’s coaches Denice and Lynn for their hard work and efforts.

Thanks also to Tina Van Erp and Laura Vogel from District G&T Services for coordinating the USAT program, and to all educators for their support.

Several teams that won the first place at the regional meets will go to the State Tournament. Good luck to all the teams from our District that will go on to the state meet.

“I write to keep my sanity”

“I write to keep my sanity,” my friend Wang Ping told me.

Wang, a talented poet, writer, English Professor at Macalester College, is involved in a discrimination case with Macalester. She has been going through a very tough time physically, emotionally, mentally and financially, in her fight against discrimination and for equal rights.

Writing helps her stay sane in this insane world.

Below is her latest writing, posted on her Facebook.

For more info about her case, check out my previous post. Please sign the petition at this website.

My Name Is Pariah

“Ping,” said my colleagues when they learned my promotion denial, “just stay quiet till we have a new president, and you’ll have no problem to be promoted.”

 “Ping,” said another, “if you make ‘noise,’ no college will ever want you, no matter how breathtaking your resume is.”

“Ping, don’t complain to the human rights department if you still want to teach here. It’s equivalent to taking poison and hoping that your enemy will die. It’s a suicide.”

Suicide: an act of taking one’s own life…may stem from social and cultural pressures, such as isolation, bereavement or estrangement.

I know what they’re saying. That’s why I stay quiet since I started teaching in 1999. Quietly I taught MWF 8:30-3:30, three weeks after my surgical labor, still wobbling from a torn birth canal. Quietly I watched my colleagues got their early promotions with 1/7 of my publication while I was denied the promised opportunity. Quietly I complied when I was told I couldn’t teach poetry, or fiction, even though I was hired as a poet and fiction writer. Quietly I cut 1/5 of my salary to do service: create new curriculum, expand the writing program, establish the Chinese program, serve on different committees, organize conferences, bring visitors from China, curate permanent photo installations for the administrators…

For 13 years, I kept my mouth shut and worked. Creative Writing became the most popular major. I hired every single faculty in the department, and helped establish the Chinese department. I brought 45 visitors to the campus. I organized over 30 student readings, mentored and nurtured many students into great poets and writers. I published 10 books, won book awards, national fellowships and Distinct Alumna Award, gave hundreds of readings, lectures, key-note speeches, served on EPAG, Freeman Grant and ACTC committees, judging for NEA, PEN, Griffin…

For 13 years, I’m the first to arrive in my office, the last to leave. The security guard knows my blue Honda, parked 7 days a week outside the Old Main, even on New Year’s Day. My kids know it’s impossible to make me sit down on the couch. They no longer ask me to take them somewhere for a family vacation.

For 13 years, I have no time for my family. I give my bone marrow to the college.

For 13 years, I made hundreds of dinners for students and faculty, elaborate banquets that require weeks of preparations, food made for joy and peace.

My photos adorn the President and Admission’s Offices as symbols for harmony.

Everyday I endure pain: joints, muscles, stomach, TMJ, IBS, depression, loneliness…

For the dream that I’d be an equal, someday, if I keep quiet and work hard.

Until I was called into the office: “ Promotion denied. You’re not enough.”

Until my appeal was rejected. “You’re just not enough.”

Until the FPC chair pointed her pinky at me, “Ping, you’re nothing.”

Until they try everything to stop my Kinship of Rivers project.

Until they cut all my teaching fund.

Until they dismantled the Creative Writing major.

Until they ignored my pleas to stop the retaliation and let me teach in peace.

Until they hired a five-lawyer team to Shock & Awe me into dust.

Until lies run rampart about my demand for a “large sum of money,” my refusal to mediate.

Until I become the Pariah on the campus: nobody looks at me; nobody speaks to me, nobody knows me, nobody returns my email, including those I hired, sheltered, worked with, co-taught with, traveled with, shared meals with…

That’s when I realize I will never ever be an equal, no matter what I do, no matter how quiet and low, just because I’m a Chinese, a Chinese woman, a Chinese woman immigrant, a Chinese woman immigrant who dreams and speaks in America.

In fact, the more achievements I make, the deeper is my trouble, the more violence. It goes so deep it can no longer be explained with logic. The refusal to support the Kinship of Rivers project cost the college about $250,000 potential grants, and much coveted publicity. The dismantled writing major will cost thousands of dollars of potential tuition. The legal battle is costing the college thousands of dollars, its invaluable reputation.

The slander and estrangement are costing my life…

All because I ask to stand as an equal to my colleagues, to teach and research as an equal in an institution that relies so heavily on the principles of justice, diversity, internationalism, and academic freedom.

Academia has become a violent place, especially for women of colors, especially for those who dare to speak.

I watched the violence unleashed upon Soek-fang, Kieu Linh, Rosalie Tung, Sun, Feifei, Carmen, and many others. I watched my sisters flailing, writhing, dying alone. I stood by with my mouth shut hoping it wouldn’t be me next. I worked with my teeth clenched hoping I’d be spared. I endured waves of retaliations praying they might stop some day.

I called and emailed begging for a face-to-face meeting to resolve the conflicts, NO MONEY NECESSARY. Finally, my attorney sent a sample complaint hoping for an internal resolution…

My private complaint was answered in court. It blasted me into the public arena for a “hunger game.”

That’s when I realize that my silence is a suicide that kills myself from inside, a homicide that killed Soek-fang, almost killed Kieu Linh, a genocide that is killing the entire group of women of colors in academia, one by one, thousands by thousands…

Read my story, our story, Soek-fang, Kieu Linh, women from Presumed Incompetent, every detail backed by emails and legal documents, every word soaked with tears, sweat, blood…Call EEOC, Human Rights Department, Chronicle of Higher Education, AAUP, NAS. They’ll tell you they’re overwhelmed by discrimination claims.

And if you dig, anywhere, you’ll unearth the skulls and bones of women of colors upon which the Great Wall of American academia is built.

Kieu Linh, assistant professor at UC Davis fighting for her tenure, described how she came back from her “90 minute clinical death:”

It was cold there, littered with bones. “Eat us, eat our bones,” they begged, “so that you’ll have strength to go back.” I held them, bones like roots that won’t die, brown, red, black, yellow…I cried, “No, I can’t you, sisters.” “But you must,” they ordered. “You must take us back to the living and tell them what they’ve done to us. Eat us so we can live, so you and your baby daughter can live. Eat us!” So I ate. Every bite I made, a sigh was released from the bone, as if she knew her story would have a chance to see light…

Genocide: a deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group… —Merriam -Webster

Before I spoke, I was dying slowly from exhaustion, shame, doubt, violence…
After I spoke, I’m dying from isolation, estrangement, retaliation, intimidation, terror and heartbreaks…at a much faster speed.

To speak or not speak, it’s no longer an option.

I am dying no matter what, being a woman of color, an immigrant who dares to dream for equality, justice and truth in American academia.

If I’m given a death sentence for this dream, then let me die with my mouth wide open. Let the public eye be my shield. Let the public conscience be my weapon.

Let me be the Pariah if it means no other women of colors will have to go through this again, if it means my children and sisters can live with some dignity.

Speak, if you don’t want to be the next in the “Hunger Game.”

In poetry, we seek truth. In poetry, we unite to stop this violence.


Never forget to say “Thank You!”

One of the important lessons I have learned in life is never forget to say “Thank You!” either in person or in writing.

When someone is generous – giving you a gift, a hug, advice, time, attention …

When someones is helpful – giving you a ride, shoveling your driveway …

When someone is courteous – holding the door for you, offering an extra hand for something …

When someone is thoughtful – thinking of you and letting you know …

When someone shares something with you – knowledge, feedback, food …

When someone helps you do and accomplish something – fixing a problem, learning a new skill …

When someone says something nice to you – a compliment about you appearance, achievements and accomplishments …

Always remember to say “Thank You!” and acknowledge their efforts, goodness and kindness, especially if you want the same good things and feelings to continue. The more people feel appreciated, the more giving they become. Ignoring someone’s efforts and kindness might kill his generous spirits.

Grateful people are like magnets. Their positive and appreciative attitudes attract more and draw out more goodness and kindness from others. Everyone enjoys their company and likes to be around them.

A simple “Thank You!” just two words, can work wonders.

Culture & Diversity event in Woodbury

Woodbury Citizens’ Academy is a 10-week program offered by the Woodbury Community Foundation. The purpose of the program is to introduce residents to local government and organizations.

I participated in the first Woodbury Citizens’ Academy in 2010. Now in its 4th year, WCA was expanded to include a new session on culture & diversity. The event took place on March 18 at Central Park.

Several local individuals and organizations were invited to participate and showcase their culture.

Representatives from the City of Woodbury gave a presentation on the population growth in Minnesota and Woodbury. With 20% of minority population (half of them are Asian), Woodbury has one of the highest percentage of minority population among all cities in Minnesota.

Participants also enjoyed small group discussions, traditional Indian and Hmong dances, and ethnic food.

The new session turned out to be a very popular one. City of Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens and City Administrator Clinton Gridley were also present.

I volunteered at the Chinese table and took a few photos which were posted on my Facebook.

An Evening with Dr. David Jeremiah

I listen to Christian radio shows every day, on my way to work or at home. Among all the Bible teachers I have heard on the radio, Dr. David Jeremiah from Turning Point Ministry is my favorite.

Dr. Jeremiah will be coming to Twin Cities for an inspirational Turning Point Rally at the Target Center in Minneapolis on April 4, 2013, 7 pm. He will present his message God Loves You: He Always Has—He Always Will.

The event is free of charge. You can request free tickets online.

The rally, known as An Evening with Dr. David Jeremiah, helps to further Turning Point’s mission to deliver the unchanging Word of God to an ever-changing world.

Dr. Jeremiah has been a teacher of God’s Word for over 40 years. He has served as the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California since 1981. His radio and television ministry, Turning Point, is seen and heard on stations around the world.

In addition to leading his church and Turning Point Ministry, Dr.  Jeremiah is a favorite conference speaker and best selling author. I have read some of his books. They are excellent.

In fact, I liked his teaching and books so much that I joined his Circle of Friend’s Bible Strong Partners Program. By doing so, I will automatically receive his resources in addition to support his minitry.

I would love to attend the event and meet Dr. Jeremiah in person.

Hope you will come and enjoy the evening with Dr. Jeremiah.

Little Free Library Co-founders win LJ Movers & Shakers

Congratulations to Little Free Library Co-founders Todd Bol and Rick Brooks for being named the Movers & Shakers 2013 – Innovators by the Library Journal!

I knew about it a while ago, but it’s still very exciting to read the official announcement online for the first time.

The little free libraries are small but mighty. They are spreading fast and wide around the country and the world. They are effective tools to share the love of books and reading, to build communities and connections with neighbors, and to promote library and literacy.

A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Todd and visiting him at his LFL studio in Hudson, Wisconsin. To read more about the visit and the little free library he gave me, go to my previous post.

I am very happy for Todd and Rick for receiving this public recognition. It’s a well deserved recognition. What they have done and achieved is remarkable. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than Todd and Rick for their contribution to the world.


Wang vs. Macalester – Background Information

The following information was provided to me to clarify some misinformation that might be out there regarding the discrimination case Wang vs. Macalester.

For more info about the case, read the previous posts:

Macalester College: Stop discrimination and retaliation

Discrimination case touched a nerve

Wang vs. Macalester College

Discrimination abound

Wang Ping, a native Mandarin speaker arrives in the U.S. with $26 in her pocket, no family connections, a strong work ethic and a desire for education.  Despite English being her second language she begins studying English literature and creative writing.  By 1999 she is a sought-after author and poet with an international reputation for writing about the immigrant experience.

1999 – Dr. Wang arrives at Macalester with an M.A. from Long Island University and PhD from New York University.  She is employed by the English Department as a full-time writer and poet to teach creative writing.  Before coming to Macalester, Dr. Wang had published four books;  won two book awards;  a National Endowments for the Arts Fellowship; a New York State Arts Fellowship; and, a Minnesota State Board for the Arts Fellowship;

2001 – After teaching in the English Department for two years, Dr. Wang is invited to join the tenure-track faculty as an advanced assistant professor because she had published five books in addition to the awards mentioned above.  When she was hired on the tenure-track, Dr. Wang requested that she be eligible for early promotion because of advanced standing;

2003 – The current President arrives at Macalester. Dr. Wang requests the early promotion process be initiated, as she understood had been promised by the prior Macalester administration.  For the first time, the Provost informed Dr. Wang that “her tenure-track employment contract did not include an early promotion clause,” no matter how many books or accomplishments she had brought with her to Macalester.

A white male colleague with only one published book had been granted early promotion a year before, thus showing that such promotions did take place despite the misinformation provided by the Provost (in retrospect);

2004 – Dr. Wang applies for tenure with 7 books published at this point in her career but not early promotion in consideration of the Provost’s “ruling on early promotion.”  Another white male colleague in the same department applies for early promotion (which had been denied Dr. Wang a year earlier) and receives early promotion with one book;

2005 – Dr. Wang is granted tenure.  The white male colleague who had applied for early promotion with only one book in 2004 is granted early promotion;

2009 – Dr. Wang requested of the Provost that she apply to be promoted to full professor for the first time after 10 years on the faculty.  The Provost incorrectly tells Dr. Wang she has requested an early promotion again, and sent her through a special review process by an associate professor, in contravention of regular Macalester procedures.  The associate professor, who is also the CST director, declares Dr. Wang ineligible to apply for promotion because her teaching is “not good enough,” after she lost the reviewing materials Dr. Wang sent her, and fails to respond to Dr. Wang’s inquiries for a second meeting;

2009 – Shortly thereafter, all associate professors eligible for promotion receive notification as a single group, including Dr. Wang.  Dr. Wang discovered that both the Provost and the CST director had given her incorrect information.  She qualified for promotion on a regular promotion schedule, not an early promotion schedule, in 2009. The same white male colleague granted early promotion in 2005 applied for early promotion again in 2009 and was granted the early promotion by the Provost and President a second time, without requiring a review by the CST director.

April 2010 — Dr. Wang applied for promotion to full professor pursuant to the general notification to associate professors but was notified by the Provost that her promotion to full professor was denied for sub-par teaching and insufficient service.  The Provost advised her not to apply for a promotion again for five years and to refrain from discussing the denial of her promotion;

May 2010 – Dr. Wang appeals the denial of promotion internally through Appeal Committee which finds four significant procedural errors and recommends the President reopen the case;

October 2010 – The President refuses to reopen the faulty procedure used to deny the promotion of Dr. Wang to full professor.  Funding for Dr. Wang’s projects is cut. Post-promotion meeting with the Provost and the FPC chair was verbally, professionally and emotionally abusive towards Dr. Wang, according to her health-treatment providers. The meeting reveals that information supporting Dr. Wang’s promotion had been withheld by the Provost from earlier faculty reviews;

December 2010 – Counsel for Dr. Wang writes to attorneys for the President and Provost of Macalester offering to discuss discrimination issues and requesting swift solution, but not threatening litigation.  The response is dismissive of Dr. Wang’s concerns;

January 2011 – Counsel for Dr. Wang files EEOC and Minnesota Department of Human Rights complaints for racial, ethnic and gender discrimination.  18-month EEOC investigation begins;

2011 – Dr. Wang applies for promotion to full Professor despite Provost’s 2010 order that she not seek promotion for five-years, while the EEOC investigation is underway;

April 2012 – Dr. Wang is granted promotion to full professor.  The promotion is both appreciated and well-earned. The letter from the President to Dr. Wang is terse with none of the traditional academic praise.  Whether Dr. Wang would have been granted this 2012 promotion in the absence of the year-long, ongoing EEOC investigation, after being rejected for the same promotion in 2010, is a matter for speculation and additional information from College records and personnel;

August 2012 – Three months after Dr. Wang is promoted to full professor EEOC reports that the reasons for disparate treatment of Dr. Wang are inconclusive;  Dr. Wang goes on sabbatical 2012-13 to help rebound from 2009-2012  three-years of stress;

November 2012 – Counsel for Dr. Wang attempts reconciliation meeting to prevent post-promotion retaliation; restriction of project funding; working toward the best interests of Macalester, etc.  the President and Provost do not respond, as reflected in the email record.

December 3, 2012 – To preserve the statute of limitations, Dr. Wang’s attorneys mail a copy of a sample complaint that had not been filed in court to lawyers for the President and Provost.  Attorneys for Dr. Wang request to mediate her concerns about discrimination or retaliation when Dr. Wang returns to campus after her sabbatical in Fall 2013.

December 21, 2012Wang v. Macalester becomes public when attorneys for the President and Provost file a public Answer in Ramsey County District Court, making the attempted mediation a public lawsuit and demanding that Dr. Wang pay Macalester’s legal fees;

February 2013: Macalester President’s Disinformation Campaign with Alumni and the Macalester community begins with phone calls reported on Facebook and other websites:

  • Contrary to website postings neither the Provost and President have “reached out” to mediate these matters directly or through their attorneys, as described above;
  • Dr. Wang has sought mediation to prevent retaliation and ensure equal treatment in salary and other conditions of employment required by law, not “a big financial award;”
  • Feb. 1 Macalester documents declare: “mediation is not appropriate.” Dr. Wang disagrees;
  • Dr. Wang’s quarrel is not primarily with faculty colleagues, but with the President and Provost whose discriminatory and retaliatory application of Macalester academic rules;
  • Macalester’s mission as a diverse and multi-cultural institution means a great deal to all of us.  The President and Provost’s refusal to mediate, as Dr. Wang’s counsel requested before these discrimination and retaliation matters were brought into court by attorneys for Mac administrators, cannot benefit Mac alumni, students, faculty or staff.

More roundabouts please

A roundabout was proposed at Radio Drive and Military Road in Woodbury.

I prefer roundabouts than traditional stop sign or signal-controlled intersections. So adding roundabouts to any future road improvement projects inWoodbury is a great idea for me. 

There are many benefits of roundabouts.

Due to low travel speeds, one-way travel and no traffic light, roundabouts can reduce the likelihood and severity of crashes and improve traffic safety. They also reduce delay and improve traffic flow.

Unlike intersections with traffic signals, drivers don’t have to wait for a green light at a roundabout to get through the intersection. Traffic is not required to stop – only yield – so the intersection can handle more traffic in the same amount of time.

Long term cost is another factor to consider. Roundabouts are less expensive than traditionalsignalized intersections. Roundabouts eliminate hardware, maintenance and electrical costs associated with traffic signals.

During power outages, roundabouts will work as normal. No four-way stop, no long wait, no frustration.

I would also like to see more flashing yellow arrow traffic signals at intersections. They keep drivers safer during heavy traffic and reduce delays when traffic is light. They provide more flexibility and improve traffic flow.

Sitting in idling car, waiting for the left turn signal, while there is no oncoming traffic, can be frustrating sometimes when you are in hurry. Roundabouts and flashing yellow arrow signals will eliminate this problem. In addition, they save time and gas, and are also good for the environment.

So I would welcome more roundabouts and flashing yellow arrow signals in Woodbury.


Roundabouts in Minnesota

Youtube videos about Roundabouts:





Mother = female + horse

Today is the International Women’s Day.

For fun, I would like to share the following writing that a Chinese friend forwarded to me. Here is my rough translation from Chinese into English.

In Chinese, the character for mother is made of two parts: female + horse. Think about it, isn’t mom a work horse?

Mom is the woman who works like a horse for you. How can you not love her?

At 3: Mommy, I love you.

At 10: Mom, whatever.

At 16: My mom is a nagger.

At 18: I want to leave this home.

At 25: Mom, you were right.

At 30: I want to go home.

At 50: I don’t want to lose my mom.

At 70: I am willing to give up everything to get my mom back.

The most we say to mom is:

“Mom, where is my cloth?”

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“Mom, I am hungry.”

“Mom, can I go out?”

The most we say to dad is:

“Dad, where is mom?”

We all have a good mother, how can we not love her?

When you are sick, mom says: “Don’t scare me.”

When you are eating, mom says: “Don’t care about me.”

When you get married, mom says: “Don’t think of me.”

When mom is sick, mom says: “Don’t worry, I am OK.”

Time, please stand still and be good to all the wonderful mothers around the world.

Some day, when mom can’t stand on her own and walk on her own, please hold her hand, and walk slowly with her, just like she held your hand long time ago.

Wishing all mothers Happy International Women’s Day!


而对于爸爸,说的最多的 话是:“爸,我妈在哪?”

Recycle cell phones, reduce e-waste

If you have old cell phones at home, don’t throw them away, recycle them!

The following info about the cell phone recycling program is from the City of Woodbury website:

Cell phones are one of the fastest growing forms of electronic waste.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average cell  phone life span is about 18 months. Phones are discarded at an alarming  rate of more than 125 million per year, resulting in more than 65,000  tons of waste.

Cell phones contain harmful materials such as lead and cadmium that  are released as phones break down. These materials, which can leach into  soil and drinking water from phones buried in landfills, may cause  cancer and a range of reproductive and developmental disorders, even  when the substances are released in small quantities.

Woodbury Parks and Recreation is partnering with Cellular Recycler  and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to keep cell phones out of the  trash. Phones collected through this program are either recycled for  their precious metals according to EPA standards or are refurbished for  use in developing countries with less advanced cellular technology than  the U.S. During the refurbishing process, the memory of each cell phone  is “flashed” to wipe out any previous information stored on the phone  and allow for reprogramming.

Ninety percent of the proceeds will go toward providing programs and  life-long learning for older adults in the community and 10 percent goes  back to the NCOA to help continue new and innovative ways to provide  fundraising and support senior center initiatives across the country.

Used cell phones can be dropped off in the collection boxes at  Woodbury City Hall, 8301 Valley Creek Road, and at the information desk  inside Central Park, 8595 Central Park Place (adjacent to the YMCA). For  more information, call Woodbury Parks and Recreation at (651) 714-3583.


To telecommute or not to

Telecommuting has become a hot topic again since Feb. 22, 2013, when an internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo was leaked to the press.

The new policy requires that all Yahoo employees must work on site full time, thus ending the telecommuting practice. The changes begin in June.

One Yahoo employee called the new policy “outrageous and a morale killer.” Now Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is coming under fire for an ‘awful’ call.

Just a few days later, on March 5, Best Buy followed Yahoo’s lead and enacted a policy requiring employees to drive into the office. See the Star Tribune article Best Buy ends flexible work program for its corporate employees.

Unlike Yahoo’s policy, Best Buy managers still have the ability to accommodate the occasional employee wanting to work from home, which is important given Minnesota’s harsh winters, where driving to work can be a challenge.

There is a debate going on again about telecommuting.

I think it’s a valid concern for employers about lack of productivity and collaboration when employees telecommute 5 days a week, but I don’t see any problem with telecommuting 1-2 days a week. I think ending the telecommuting practice outright is not a good idea. At the minimum, telecommuting should be allowed or encouraged when we have snowstorms or other family emergencies (a sick child, a broken furnace, etc.)

I asked a few friends who work for different companies in Twin Cities. They have no problem with their companies to do telecommuting when we have snowstorms like we had today.

I am out of luck.

A poem for my birthday

For my birthday, my daughter Amy gave me a lovely hand-made card.

“Where are your poems?”

I asked for and expected some poems from her.

Amy wrote poems to me on every special occasion.

Birthday Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, New Year …

“No, I can’t. I have done so many, I ran out of ideas now.”

“Listen Amy. You have the creativity and talent inside you. You will never run out of ideas. You will always be able to write poems as long as you think and put in some efforts. The more you write, the better you get!”

I insisted and waited.

After dinner, I got what I asked for which is better than I hoped for and more …

A promise that she will write 100 poems for Mother’s Day.

I was amazed by her creativity and talent.

She made me a very happy and proud mom!

I enjoyed reading it and hope you will too.


A Poem

by Amy


One day I went to the store
I looked for the candy but there was no more
So I shrugged and looked for the chips
After all that looking, sore were my hips
I tried finding the brownies, but it was all gone
And for some soda, my stomach started to long
I walked all over, around and about
But there was no more junk food so I had to pout
There were no cookies, or any cake
Or really anything you had to bake
I searched and searched for an hour long
And prayed that it wasn’t all gone
Then for a second, I had to pee
And went to the bathroom just to see
All the junk food in the world
Piled and piled so high I had to hurl
I ran around and jumped for joy
I even hugged this random boy
It was a miracle that it was all there
In the bathroom for everyone to share!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Gender and race discrimination

The recent CNN Money article titled What Americans Earn (Jan. 23, 2013) shares something that’s not surprising to me, based on my personal experience and the experiences of some Chinese friends. And it shouldn’t be a surprise for most people.

How much you make depends on a number of factors, including your race and gender.

Women make less than men…but the size of the gap depends greatly on race.

For every dollar a man earns, a woman of the same race earns $.72 (Asian), $.80 (White), $.87 (Hispanic & Black).

The Forbes’ article Today, Women Need To Demand Equal Pay (Apr. 17, 2012, Equal Pay Day) says: “Nationally, women who work full time are paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.” Women need to work extra 108 days to earn what men earn.

Women Earn Lower Pay Than Men in 107 Out of 110 Occupations.

The earning gap is the most common form of gender and race discrimination in the workplace.

A part of the lawsuit involving Wang vs. Macalester is about gender and race discrimination, about gender- and race-based wage discrimination, about equal pay for men and women.


Macalester College: Stop discrimination and retaliation

The more I learn about the discrimination case Wang vs. Macalester College (see the previous posts), the more I am appalled that Macalester College’s treatment of Dr. Wang was and is more than unreasonable and unfair.

To me, it’s obviously a case of discrimination and retaliation. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the words bullying, intimidating, and witch-hunting to describe what MC has been doing.

To support Dr. Wang, to seek fairness, equality and justice, I signed the petition “Macalester College: Stop the discrimination and retaliation! Mediate and reconcile with Dr Wang” on Change.org.

To sign the petition, go to:

I hope you will take a look and sign the petition as well. The more people do so, the more impact this case will have on other similar cases around the country, and the more positive change we can bring to the society.



This is what I received from Change.org

Qin, welcome to Change.org!By signing Oliver St. John’s petition “Macalester College: Stop the discrimination and retaliation! Mediate and reconcile with Dr Wang” yesterday, you joined more than 15 million people using Change.org to make their world better. Here’s how Change.org works:

Anyone can start a petition. Change.org lets anyone, anywhere start a petition. It’s free and can be about anything you want to change. Start your petition now.

Together, we’re powerful. The more of us that join together in support of a campaign, the better the chance of being heard. (You can share Oliver St. John’s petition now on Facebook, Twitter, or via email).

This works. With support from people like you, hundreds of campaigns are won every month. Click here to see some of the most inspiring victories.

Every so often you can expect to hear from Change.org about campaigns we think you’ll be excited to join. If you’d prefer not to receive these emails, you can unsubscribe by clicking the link at the bottom of any message you receive from us.

Qin, we started Change.org hoping that it would bring people together to make the world a better place – we’re so excited that you got involved. Thank you welcome to Change.org!

      Ben Rattray       Founder, Change.org

Peach and Plum Blossoms

The following was written by Wang Ping, a “not good enough” teacher according to Macalester College administrators. Wang is involved in a discrimination suit with the college. See the previous posts for more info.

Peach and Plum Blossoms

by Wang Ping

Tue., Feb. 19, 2013

Today Peter became a tenure-track professor at Macalester. He took my intro workshop 12 years ago, and changed his path from history to fiction. His first book won LA Book Award. English Department is celebrating.

13 years ago, Alex walked into my classroom on his cane. He just had a brain surgery. I told him I’d save him a seat in my class when he was ready. He came back…. Now he’s a poet and professor with five books. His Happy is the NYT’s bestseller.

Jane got Nick Adam’s award for her short story.

Lee got Nick Adam’s award for her story.

Simon was a Rhode Scholar.

Dan visited the Stillwater prison with me for poetry workshops. His life was never the same.

Oliver is the USA Today journalist.

Legacy is NYC’s top ten young artists. We fought hard with the administrators for her right to do the honors’ project.

Daniel was the first Macalester student selected by the Loft “In Road” program. He was a pre-med major when he came to my intro class. “Come back when you’re ready,” I said. And he did.

Tressa was the finalist for Nick Adam Award.

Oliver and Luke started the Cloud City Press.

Kate, Colin, Neil, Ryan, Luke, Darrel, Ahmed, Alister, Anna, Evan, Georgia, Kira, Tatiana, Nora, Amber, Oliver, Jeff, Alex, Kerry, Vendela…all brilliant poets.

Maura, Oliver, Nick, Jeff, Katy, Amy, Eliza, Peter, Alex, Tom, Vanessa, Stuart, Yansuo, Laurie, Kareen, Jenna, Emma, Alex, Ellen, Mike, Jake, Megan, Ahmed, Hiroki, Caitlin, Jane, Karen, Sarah, Peter, Maggie…brilliant writers.

And all the unnamed, hundreds, thousands of you…your sounds, faces and words, your pain, sweat and joy, your stories, ours…still alive in my memory.

You chose a path full of thorns and light. I hope you have no regrets.

I don’t, even though I was a “bad” teacher.

I wish I could attend Peter’s celebration at Macalester, a peach in full blossom.

* In China, peach and plum blossoms are euphemism for students.

Discrimination case touched a nerve

The discrimination case, Wang vs. Macalester College (see my previous three posts for more information) has really touched a nerve with a lot of people, immigrants, minorities, and women who feel unfairly treated and discriminated in the workplace and in the society; and with everyone who values fairness, equality and peace.

I didn’t know Wang Ping in person before I read the Macalester student newspaper article English professor brings discrimination suit on Friday, Feb. 15. 2013. After reading that article, I became very interested and felt a lot of sympathy for her. Her case really touched a nerve in me. And it has obviously touched a nerve for so many others as well.

Just within hours, a support group, We Support Wang Ping, was formed on Facebook. The membership is growing.

More news media has picked up the story in the last two days. The wave has just started, but it’s getting bigger quickly. Who knows, a tsunami wave could be on the horizon.

I will follow the case closely and give updates as I learn more.

Here are some articles published in the local newspapers:

Star Tribune –

Poet, professor Wang Ping sues Macalester College

by JENNA ROSS, Tue., Feb. 19, 2013 at 5:58 AM

City Pages –

Wang Ping, acclaimed poet and professor, sues Macalester for discrimination

by Olivia LaVecchia, Tue., Feb. 19 2013 at 11:24 AM

Pioneer Press –

Macalester College professor accuses school of race, gender discrimination

by Mila Koumpilova mkoumpilova@pioneerpress.com

Posted:   02/19/2013 12:01:00 AM CST
Updated:  02/19/2013 09:08:08 PM CST
Minnesota Times –
by Jenny Sun

About Wang Ping

Minnesota Original videos (videos from 2012)

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/04/30/wangping (Text and audios from May 1, 2007)

Wang’s interviews with Euan Kerr, reporter at Minnesota Public Radio

“As a writer Wang says the thing she wants to do, is simply to be honest.”


Crying for help

This post is related to the previous two posts about the discrimination case of Wang vs. Macalester College.

Below is Wang’s open letter to EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) posted on her Facebook.

I hear her heart’s crying for help and feel the helplessness when being let down by EEOC and the place she loved to work for.

Yes, bullying happens at school, but also in the workplace.


You said that’s what you are here for, a place for the wronged and oppressed to speak, a light for those in the tunnel…so I wept.

You said you were floored by such evidence, such blatant discrimination, and you’d start the discovery…ASAP…so I wept.

You ordered the documents. They arrived in a big box, all the files and letters and more evidence…and I wept.

A year passed by. No news, only the choke around my neck. Harder and harder to breathe, to speak, to teach…so I wept.

One day a letter from you arrived. No direct link to your claims…case dismissed…so I wept.

“You still have 90 days of the right to sue,” she mumbled on the phone as I wept.

“I wish I had never complained, dear EEOC…” But you turned off the light, and closed the door. In the dark, the pack is closing in…so I stopped weeping, and stood up, in horse stance…

Wang vs. Macalester College

Here is some additional information regarding the discrimination lawsuit I wrote about in yesterday’s post.

Ping WANG, a Chinese immigrant, a prominent writer with multiple awards, an English Professor at Macalester College (MC), is involved in a discrimination suit with MC. The case was made public via the MAC weekly student newspaper on Feb. 15. I became aware of the case after reading the article.

In her response to my comment on her Facebook, Wang said: “I’m fighting this mostly because I know this happens everywhere, all the time. AAUP (american academy union for professors) is overwhelmed by the discrimination cases. So is EEOC and human rights department.”

Wang posted a detailed timeline and some background info on her Facebook. (In case you can’t access it, I copied and pasted below)

Dear Friends, this statement serves the following purposes:

1. Clarify my litigation with Macalester to prevent misunderstandings.
2. Macalester is investigating my work, teaching, service, education and employment history, medical, criminal and tax records since my childhood, including everything I’ve done with the Kinship of Rivers project. This involves hundreds of people. I just want to inform you that we have done nothing illegal. Kinship of Rivers project promotes arts and cultural exchanges between China and USA. My applications for promotion, appeal for the denial, and my complaint to the Human Rights Department about the discrimination and retaliations are my right as a legal alien.
3. Please hang onto your emails, blogs, photos…as Macalester has requested everything, every word and document in every possible form related to the above subjects, and since I know I don’t have everything (some forgotten, some deleted in the past), please go through my answers to Macalester’s interrogatories and forward your additional information.
4. Transform the destructive force into something more constructive so that we can all work together to achieve Macalester’s mission as well as mine: multiculturism, internationalism and service to society, and most importantly, the focus on justice and human rights.

Here’s a quick outline of what happened.

1. In 2010, I applied for the promotion and was denied, even though I had 10 published books, and met all the requirements for excellent teaching and service according to the college Handbooks, especially in comparison to my colleague who applied for an early promotion, who had less credentials.
2. I appealed to the college.
3. The Appeal Committee found several procedural errors (breach of academic freedom as one of them) and recommended President Rosenberg to correct the errors.
4. President Rosenberg denied the appeal.
5. I started experiencing retaliations to prevent me from doing my research and then teaching.
6. I filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2011.
7. EEOC found strong discriminating evidences and investigated Macalester, and then dismissed my case in 2012. I was told they did find that I was disadvantaged by unequal treatments, but they couldn’t find the direct link to the discrimination. EEOC gave me 90 days the right to sue. (Dec. 3, 2012)
8. My attorney contacted Macalester, via phone and email, for a reconcile meeting, in November 2012. We made it clear that it was not about money, but about better work relationship with the administrators.
9. The administrators ignored my request for such a meeting.
10. On December 3, 2012. My attorney served Macalester the lawsuit for the ongoing retaliation I’d been experiencing since my internal faculty appeal in 2010, which include the funding cuts for teaching, student publications and classroom work, and denial of support for my major scholarly work, the Kinship of Rivers project.
11. On 12-21-2012, Macalester answered it by filing the suit with the court and thus brought the case into the public sphere.
12. Fagre & Benson (Macalester’s law firm) requested every name of the people I have talked/written to about the promotion, denial, retaliation, and Kinship of Rivers project (phone, email, blog, facebook, twitter, diaries, videos, and any other medium of communications). They also requested all of my legal, tax and medical history, everything about the Kinship of Rivers project, the promotion and my complaints.
13. Fagre & Benson set 2/15/13 to depose me.
14. I asked to postpone the deposition because it was during the Chinese New Year.
15. Fagre used a British teaching kit for kindergartens to repute that Chinese New Year is not religious or cultural, therefore my request is “opportunistic,” and I need to “swear under oath” that Chinese New Year is religious or cultural” for the postpone request.
16. 2-1-2013, Fagre & Benson declared that mediation is impossible at this stage and asked the judge to set the trial date in court 1/14/14, then requested us to comply by Feb. 22, 2013. (See the informational statement)

Since 12-21-2012, I have been working day and night to answer their interrogations and gather the materials they demanded. I have no sleep, just naps between the labor; no holidays (Christmas and New Year), no spending time with my children, canceled my trip to take my children to Wisconsin Dells (no money or time), and of course, no more time to complete the manuscript my publisher has been waiting for. (I am on half-pay sabbatical to complete the book.)

The materials I’ve gathered filled up a 32 GB flash drive. Since it contains only a small portion of what they want, Macalester will come to my home and office to get the materials, which include the 2000 river flags made by 2000 people along the entire Mississippi, the St. Croix, the Minnesota, the Fraser, the San Antonio, and other rivers. These flags are our gifts to the Yangtze River when we travel to China in July and August.

Macalester also demanded me to pay its legal fees. Their law firm is the most expensive one, and they are using many hours to push for a trial.

“This is very, very punishing,” said a civil rights lawyer from NYC.

Everyone I talked to, lawyers, friends, colleagues, is confused. Why is Macalester so punitive, so unwilling to consider a better work relation?

I can’t answer. All I know is that I kicked the hornet’s nest by complaining about the administrator’s unequal treatments and retaliation.

I always know that as a woman and a Chinese immigrant, I have to work harder and achieve more in every aspect: scholarship, teaching and service, in order to survive the academia, especially at Macalester with its record of high minority faculty turnover

I was confident I could survive when I started teaching at Macalester in 1999. I knew how to work hard and efficiently, especially when I do what I love: writing, teaching, and doing good things for the community. I loved Macalester’s mission for multiculturalism, internationalism and civic engagement, especially its focus on justice and human rights; I loved the students, loved my colleagues, and loved the communities. I had already published five books with awards and national fellowships. So as long I kept my mouth shut, I should be able to make it.

Thus I began my life with Macalester, three weeks after I gave birth to my second son through a difficult labor with surgery. I could barely walk when I started my full teaching loads, Monday Wednesday and Friday, from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm. I asked for a later schedule, because it was too stressful, emotionally and mentally, to break away from my three-week-old newborn in the early mornings. My kind-hearted department chair told me I should “endure” it. I understood he was trying to protect me from being marked as a “trouble maker,” as he had protected me as my chair during my first six years at Macalester. He even tried to protect me in 2010 after his retirement, advising me not to complain to EEOC because it would definitely mark me as a “trouble maker.”

So I endured and gave everything I had to Macalester, teaching, advising, researching, and serving on committees. I published ten books, gave hundreds of readings and lectures at Macalester and around the world, helped expand the creative writing program from a single tenured position into four tenured positions, worked with Asian Studies to build a thriving Chinese program, created many interdisciplinary courses that combine writing with immigration, environment, rivers, justice, public health, spirituality, and science. I spent hundreds of hours writing grants to take students on canoe trips along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers and Lake Itasca, introducing the students to Minnesota’s forgotten history and living nature. I also spent many hours (fund raising and logistics) to bring 43 nationally and internationally renowned poets, writers and artists to Macalester, including the Nobel Prize finalist Beidao, Pulitzer-winner Yusef Kamayakaa, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, explorer and environmentalist Will Steger, great poets and writers from China, from Native American communities, and the park rangers from the National Park Service. My efforts have been used as examples of Macalester’s mission. My classes, trips and interviews appeared constantly on Macalester’s web homepage, news and journals. My students became Rhode Scholars, best-selling authors with major literary awards, professors, and one is among the top 3 candidates for a tenure tracked position for fiction at Macalester.

President Rosenberg (the same president who denied me in 2010) praised in my 2005 promotion letter that my teaching “is well-suited to Macalester’s focus on internationalism,” that “as an exceptionally gifted poet, writer and theorist,” I had “already accomplished more than a lifetime’s work,” and finally, in addition to my “teaching and…scholarly and creative productivity,” my “service brings honor to Macalester College” (Wang Ping’s 2005 FPC promotion letter).

People always ask: How did you get all these things done? Did you ever sleep?

“Because I’m doing what I love,” I reply with a smile. It’s the truth. At the same time, deep down in my heart, I know I’ve been stacking up my credentials so I could prove to Macalester that I am good enough, that I could stand next to my colleagues as an equal.

When I applied for the promotion in 2009, everyone believed it should be straightforward. I added 3 more books to my “lifetime work,” (10 in total), had won more book awards and fellowships (including McKnight Award, Minnesota Book Award, etc.), won Mellon Grants to create 3 more interdisciplinary courses that the college used as samples of Macalester’s mission, served on various committees for Macalester and ACTC and other literary communities at a loss of my own salary (I was doing so much service that I had to take a course reduction at 1/5 of salary cut). I traveled to different cities as Macalester’s “Road Scholar.” My photos decorated the college’s admission office as well as President Rosenberg’s office and hallway as a showcase for Macalester’s internationalism.

One can imagine the shock and confusion when the Provost called me into her office and told me I was denied the promotion because I was a poor teacher and didn’t do enough for Macalester. She told me I must not compare myself to my colleague who got his second early promotion with 2 books, must not tell the denial to anyone, must not apply again for years to come.

I appealed; the appeal committee found the denial violated the academic freedom and Macalester’s handbook rules. President Rosenberg refused to correct the errors.

January 2011, I filed the discrimination claim to the Human Rights Department and EEOC.

When the case was dismissed in 2012, I had two options: 1) to let it go; 2) to bring the issues to the court.

By then, I had applied for the promotion again. Thanks to the support from my students, colleagues and friends from Macalester, the Twin Cities and the nation, and through many efforts to force the administrators to correct the errors that would have jeopardized my second application (please see details in “Ping’s legal timeline with Macalester”), I was finally granted the promotion. I wanted to devote my energy to teaching, writing, and service, and devote more time to my growing children. I was willing to let it go even though I had been experiencing more and more difficulties teaching and researching at Macalester: the cut of my department fund to bring visitors, field trips, and making photocopies of students writing (I had to pay some of the teaching cost out of my own pocket), the President and Provost’s refusal to allow Macalester to sponsor the Kinship of Rivers project as its fiscal agent when a museum showed interest in giving the seed fund, and the grant officers telling me clearly that they are not allowed to help me in any possible way with my project.

But I still hoped for one thing: to have a better work relationship with the administrators so that I could teach, research and serve better at Macalester.

So my lawyer contacted Macalester for reconciliation. When we got no answer, we served a complaint to Macalester on 12-03-2012.

The administrators responded by filing in court on 12-21-2012, setting up a deposition and trial date, pushing this into the public arena.

The legal process is arduous, expensive, and destructive, for both sides. A single face-to-face meeting, a gesture of mutual respect, a kind word from the President, could have averted this suit…

My life is shattered, of course. Worst of all, so many of my friends and colleagues are dragged into this mess, thousands of dollars will be spent, more ill feelings, misunderstandings and isolation generated, morale destroyed…

“How much more does a woman have to do to be an equal to a man?” asked my colleague, weeping when she heard I had been denied promotion.

“How much more does a MINORITY WOMAN have to do to be an equal?” I ask.

This is the question I have been asking myself everyday since the Provost told me that I didn’t do enough service, even though I sacrificed my own salary to serve Macalester and the communities, that I had failed to teach good criticism and techniques even though I had every student’s writing to prove them otherwise…

I came to America with $26 in my pocket, with a dream for a better life in a country where one would not fear to be harassed, terrorized, or arrested for speaking truths, where one had the freedom for creative, individual and spiritual expressions, where everyone was treated as an equal. In America, I thrived, earning my PhD, becoming a teacher, author, photographer, judge for literary communities, a public speaker, and director of the Kinship of Rivers project that brings the two greatest rivers together through poetry, art, music, dance, food…I do all these as my gratitude to the two cultures that raised and nurtured me, to the people from the two countries who believed in me.

I ask to be treated as an equal to my colleagues despite my gender, religion, and nationality. I ask for reconciliation, peace and harmony. I know my teaching and scholarship and service have brought only honors to Macalester, and will bring more to Macalester and our communities.

There is no need to punish and drag a hard working Chinese immigrant to ruins. We, immigrants, women, and minorities are also humans. We have the right to be treated equally, to stand up for ourselves when we feel wronged. We work hard to contribute to American culture and economy. We are part of the American Dream. Please don’t shatter it.

I’m still hoping to sit down face to face with the administrators for a conversation, to acknowledge and understand each other’s needs, to transform this into something positive, collaborative, and beneficial to everyone in the community. Again, it’s not about money, but about working together to make Macalester truly live up to its standards.

During the intense month of gathering evidences for Macalester’s discovery on me, I have rediscovered myself and the communities where I have thrived. Without your support and inspirations, I could not have arrived where I am now. So thank you, my students, friends, colleagues, and all the communities who have worked with me and supported me through the journey. I want to assure you that you’re safe. Everything we’ve done together only adds beauty and goodness to the communities. I want to thank my two children who have endured my “work habits.” I promise that as soon as the tangle is over, I’ll take you on a well-deserved vacation. I am especially proud of Macalester, its students, faculty and staff I’ve worked with so closely and spiritually in the past decade. I have always believed, and still believe, that Macalester is truly dedicated to justice and human rights, to “its high standards for scholarship and its special emphasis on internationalism, multiculturalism, and service to society.”

Let this be our truth and harmony. Let this be our daily deed.

List of References and Documents
(Please email jingputuo@gmail.com for all the documents listed here. You can also find them at the Ramsey Court)

1. Macalester’s court filing on Wang Ping 12/21/2012 (with the 1st set of interrogatories, document requests, and deposition of Wang Ping)
2. Wang Ping’s court filing on Macalester 1/9/2013
3. Wang Ping’s answers to Macalester’s interrogatories
4. Informational statement-Macalester
5. Wang Ping’s Timeline at Macalester
6. Wang Ping’s legal timeline at Macalester (all the names are in initials, except for Wang Ping)
7. Wang Ping’s appeal letter to the Appeal Committee
8. The Appeal Committee’s letter to President Rosenberg
9. President Rosenberg’s denial to the appeal
10. Wang Ping’s post denial meeting with the Provost and FPC chair
11. 2005 FPC consensus letter for Wang Ping’s tenure promotion
12. 2010 English Department CRC letter for Wang Ping
13. 2010 FPC consensus letter for Wang Ping’s full professor denial
14. 2012 FPC consensus letter for Wang Ping’s full professor promotion

Discrimination abound

Discrimination against people based on gender, race, national origin, social and economic status, etc. still exists. There is no question about it.

I just read the article English professor brings discrimination suit about my Facebook friend Wang Ping (Here is her personal website) filing a  suit against Macalester College in St. Paul for discrimination in the promotion process.

Wang is an English professor at Macalester College, teaching creative writing. I don’t know her personally, but was interested in meeting her, since we share some similar background and a common interest in writing. She agreed to meeting with me, but she was busy during the week or month I contacted her, and I never followed up and forgot about it (my bad!), So we have remained just Facebook friends.

Via Facebook, I learned about the lawsuit.

I applaud Wang’s courage to stand up for herself. With her action, she also set an example for others who have similar experience.

As you can read from her vita, Wang is an accomplished author and has made a name with her publications and awards in the literary world. I was surprised that someone with the success and status as Wang has was being discriminated. And it happened in an academic setting, where people should be more educated and open-minded and less discriminatory. I think Macalester should be happy to have her on board who brought recognition to the college.

Think about all the people in this country who have not achieved any success and status as Wang has. She will inspire them to stand up as well when facing discrimination in their lives.

In my own life, I have also felt discriminated at one time or another. In a way, I can identify with her mental anguish and emotional distress.

I want to wish her the best during this difficult process.

A priceless gift

I received the following poem from my daughter for Valentine’s Day. Her poems are priceless gifts for me.
Thanks for all the loving
Thanks for all the care
Thanks for all the helping
And for everything you share.
As someone whose love language is words of affirmation, I also wrote a couple of notes to others. For me, words of affirmation in a note, a letter or a poem is the simplest, yet most meaningful and treasured gift one can give.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Envision Minnesota & Little Free Libraries

I attended the Envision Minnesota  (formerly 1000 Friends of Minnesota) sponsored event “Little Free Libraries: Promoting Literacy, Community and Placemaking” at Macalester College campus tonight.

The event, which was part of the Creative Placemaking series, featured the biggest little movement to pop up on streets across Minnesota communities and around the world.

We saw a short film about the growth of the Little Free Library movement, heard from founder Todd Bol about how it got started, and participated in a discussion about the ways Little Free Libraries can add life to the street, bring neighbors together, foster literacy, and build communities.

More photos from the event are available on my Facebook.

Searching for Heaven on Earth

What is the meaning in life?

Why is life so frustrating?

Is happiness within my reach?

In Searching for Heaven on Earth, Dr. David Jeremiah takes you on a 31 day journey through the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible into the deep questions of life.

Solomon, the wisest, richest and the most successful man ever lived on the earth, wondered just that. He found his answers and recorded in the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Dr. David Jeremiah is one of the best Bible teachers I have ever heard on radio. His Turning Point Ministry website provides great online resources and tools for learning.

The new online interactive study guide for the series provides a whole new way to study online. You can do the following from the comfort of your home and with a few clicks of the mouse:

  • Listen to the radio message
  • Watch the TV message
  • Read the passage being studied
  • Engage with relevant questions based on Dr. Jeremiah’s teaching
  • Journal your prayers throughout the series
  • Print all of your notes and prayers on a beautiful keepsake document

You can listen to Dr. David Jeremiah’s teaching on KTIS AM900 Faith Radio at 9 am or 8 pm on weekdays or 10:30 am Sundays.

Dr. David Jeremiah is coming to the Target Center for a Free Event in Minneapolis on April 4th. For more info and to request free tickets, visit his website.

Also check out Dr. Jeremiah’s Facebook.

2013 – The Year of the Dragon










My Year of the Dragon is over. Welcome to the Year of the Snake!

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year in the traditional lunar calendar.

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, years are named after animals based on the rotating cycle of “Twelve Animal Signs.” Every year corresponds to one of the twelve rotating animals – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Every twelve years the same animal name reappears.

All those born in 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, or 2013 have Snake as their Zodiac sign.

People born in each animal’s year are said to have the personality of the animal. The personality traits of snake are:

wise and thoughtful (You are the deepest thinker), introspective and insightful, smart and clever, rational and logical, naturally intuitive with a sixth sense, charming, graceful, introverted, egoistical, skeptical, self-doubts, eccentricities, loneliness.

To learn more about the Year of the Snake, or the personality characteristics of your Zodiac Sign, check out the following links:

Chinese Zodiac – Snake

Wiki – Snake

The 2013 Year of Snake

The Year Of The Snake: 10 Personality Traits

Chinese zodiac

Personality Characteristics of Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

The Chinese Zodiac Characteristics

Chinese Zodiac Calendar & Horoscope, Animals with Personality Traits, Yin & Yang

For more info about the Chinese New Year tradition, read my previous post the Year of the Tiger.

Happy Chinese New Year to all near and far who celebrate this special festival!

A simple act of kindness

My daughter had basketball practice on Friday evening at Bailey Elementary School in Woodbury. During the one hour practice at 9-10 pm, I waited in the hallway and checked my emails.

The custodian saw me standing in the hallway alone. He stopped by and asked if I needed a chair. I said: “No, I am OK. Thank you.”

A few minutes later, he came back, set a chair behind me, without saying anything. When I noticed the chair, I was really touched.

I had a bad day and was feeling down. But this custodian’s simple act of kindness really warmed me up inside and made me feel better.

Thank you, Bill or John or Joel or Doug (Sorry I didn’t get your name) for your kindness. Through your example, you showed that no matter what you do in life, whether you are a principle or a custodian, your actions can touch people and make a difference.

Your simple act of kindness made a difference in my life.

P.S., I want thank all custodians at Woodbury schools. For my two kids’ basketball practices and games since last November, I have been at different schools several times a week. The custodians are mostly very nice and helpful. Thank you all for your kindness and for keeping our schools clean.


USPS postage rate increase

The new United States Postal Services  postage rates went into effect on January 27, 2013.

The rate increase include:

  • Letters (1oz.) — 1-cent increase to 46 cents
  • Letters additional ounces — unchanged at 20 cents
  • Letters to all international destinations (1oz.) — $1.10
  • Postcards — 1-cent increase to 33 cents

Forever Stamps, the ones that remain good for mailing a one-ounce letter anytime in the future regardless of price changes, increased to 46 cents.

The USPS also introduced a new First-Class Mail Global  Forever Stamp. The stamp allows people to mail letters anywhere in the  world for $1.10.

Priority Mail rates also will see an increase. The new rates are as follows:

  • Small box — $5.80
  • Medium box — $12.35
  • Large box — $16.85
  • Large APO/FPO box — $14.85
  • Regular envelope — $5.60
  • Legal envelope — $5.75
  • Padded envelope — $5.95

You can save postage by using the right sized envelope. Using a #10 envelope for mailing up to 5 sheets of paper instead of  an 8 ½ x 11 envelope can save $0.46 in postage fees.  Using a 6 x 9 envelope and  folding the paper in half can also reduce postage by $0.46 up to 3.5 ounces.


31 activities for living longer, stronger and happier

In the United States there are 78 million Baby Boomers (born between 1946 – 1964) who have already retired or will retire in a few years.

How do you live a rich and meaningful life in retirement? What do you do to live longer, stronger and happier?

Peter Spiers, Senior Vice President of Road Scholar, tries to answer that question in his book Master Class: Living Longer, Stronger, and Happier.

The book provides a road map for baby boomers to live an active and enriching lifestyle. Research shows that socializing, moving, thinking, and creating are keys to fulfillment in the retirement years.  Spiers’ “Master Way of Life” is built on these four key dimensions —socializing, moving, thinking, and creating. His Master Class offers a holistic approach to blending these four dimensions through 31 master activities.

1. Socializing Activities:

  • Scheduled socializing
  • Participating in a book club
  • Volunteering as a decent
  • Playing bridge
  • Working part-time

2. Moving Activities:

  • Walking with friends for exercise
  • Dancing
  • Playing tennis
  • Bicycling with friends for exercise
  • Gardening
  • Birding
  • Group educational travel
  • Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity

3. Thinking Activities:

  • Joining a Lifelong Learning Institute
  • Writing poems, books, memoirs or family histories
  • Researching your family’s genealogy
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Starting a business
  • Joining an investment club
  • Maintaining a website or blog

4. Creating Activities:

  • Learning a musical instrument
  • Playing in a band or an ensemble
  • Singing in a choir
  • Pursuing digital photography
  • Joining a play-reading group
  • Participating in community theater
  • Pursuing an art or a craft
  • Pursuing an advanced degree
  • Volunteering in a consulting role (e.g., SCORE)
  • Volunteering in a teaching role
  • Volunteering in a leadership role

The book is largely based on research and interviews with Road Scholar participants.

Road Scholar  is a not-for-profit, life-long learning and educational travel institution.  Road Scholar programs operate in every state in the US and n 150 countries around the world.


Be vigilant about your bills and pay

Here is an expensive lesson I have learned and an important advice I want to share.

Be vigilant and check your bills and pay regularly. Don’t blindly trust anyone, any business or any employer.  People make mistakes. If you don’t catch them and have them corrected, no one will do it for you. And you end up losing.

My two recent experiences will help explain what I mean.


Two months ago, my family bought two smart phones at BestBuy and had to upgrade our family plan. The bill from Sprint showed a charge of $385. I knew something was wrong and called Sprint. The sales person at BestBuy mistakenly created two separate plans instead of one family plan covering three lines. I expected to get a credit of over $100.

Today I received my new bill. I only saw a credit less than $50. So I called Sprint again. After talking to the supervisor, she acknowledged the mistake and gave me about $140 credit that was overcharged. She was apologetic and complimented me on being vigilant about my bill.


I have worked for the State of Minnesota for 13 years. State employees don’t get paid well comparing to people working in private sectors. We have not got any cost of living increase since 2008. In addition, the pay for information professionals ranks close to the bottom comparing to the pay for other professionals.

While I knew I didn’t make a lot of money as a librarian and a state employee, I did trust that I would get paid accordingly, whatever I should get.

As it turned out, that was not the case.

Recently after talking with coworkers about our salaries and taking a closer look at my pay history, I found out that I didn’t get paid correctly for 9 years. HR made a mistake and didn’t code my pay rate correctly in 2003, and no one noticed. I didn’t notice because I wasn’t clear about the union contracts.

I never questioned, because I trusted.

I am pretty good at checking my bills and receipts and spotting errors. But it never crossed my mind to be as vigilant about my pay. I assumed I would get what I should. I had a lot more trust in governments than businesses.

A mistake.

Now I will get my back pay. I am not happy about the fact that I will have to pay a lot more taxes for the mistake others made.

What an expensive lesson for me!


Extraordinary day, Ordinary Life

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Thanks to Rev. MLK, we are a better country now, and we enjoy a day off.

Today is also President Barack Obama‘s big day, his second inauguration was watched and celebrated by a huge crowd in DC.

Today is freezing cold in Minnesota. As I write this post at midnight, the temperature is at -17 F (-27 C).

It is an extraordinary day for many, but for me, it feels like just another ordinary day.

What did I do today? I had to think to recall what I did today.

I read Discovery 365-Day Devotional by Dr. David Jeremiah. During the week, I am often in a hurry to go to work and don’t have time to read in the morning.

I ventured out before 8 am, despite the cold, to meet with a couple of friends for breakfast. We knew each other for years, but the first time to go out together. We chatted for almost 3 hours.

I got an oil change and other maintenance work done for my car. That took over two hours.

I did some paper work. There are always so many bills, statements, and paper to deal with. As I have learned recently, not paying attention to your financial life can be a very expensive mistake and can cost you a small fortune.

I helped my son with his courses selection for the next school year. Well, he did it himself, I  just sat and watched and commented.

I made sure that my son finished laundry and dish washing. He is almost 15 and can do all the chores, but still appreciates some reminder and help. When it comes to chores, we have the odd and even day rule.  That reduces arguments.

I helped my daughter make cupcakes.

I cooked and made dinner, as I do every day.

My kids read to me in Chinese for a few minutes before bed. They don’t like to do it and don’t do it every day, but when they don’t have homework to do and when it is not too late, I make them do it.

I called a couple of friends. Through the conversation I found out that someone I know had a heart attack and an open heart surgery. How unpredictable and fragile life is! Afterwards I was telling myself, I needed to exercise more and sleep more, my belated New Year’s Resolution.

I called my parents in China to say hi. I call them at least once a week, usually more than once. When I called yesterday, they were playing Mahjong with neighbors, so we didn’t talk much. Thank God they were doing well. No bad news is great news. My parents are almost 80 year old.

I checked my emails on my iphone several times during the day. I know it’s not a good habit. I usually only write or respond to emails at night, because the iphone is too small for me to type anything meaningful.

An email message linked me to someone’s blog. I left a comment on her post. I like to leave comments with others’ posts to share my thoughts and ideas, offer some feedback and encouragement. Writers and bloggers like comments and encouragement.

I checked my Facebook, posted some comments and sent a message to a friend after reading his update.

I went through my photos taken last summer at Schloss Cecilienhof (Cecilienhof Palace) in Potsdam, Germany, selected some and posted on Facebook to brighten the day.

Schloss Cecilienhof was the location of the Potsdam Conference between 17 July and 2 August 1945. Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Harry S. Truman met here. On 26 July 1945, Churchill and Truman issued the Potsdam Declaration defining the terms for Japanese surrender. Today Cecilienhof is a museum as well as a hotel. See Schloss Cecilienhof photos on Google.

I didn’t have time to organize and select the photos earlier. I got thousands of photos from two big trips to Europa and East Coast last year to go through. Now the weather is so cold and I am hibernating indoor during the winter months, I am going back in time and reliving the beautiful summer through the photos.

The day was over before I could do more things I wanted to do.

Time is flying by so fast, every day, I often have a hard time remembering what I did today, yesterday and the day before. Every day is so ordinary, nothing extraordinary to stick in my memory.

And I am already late to bed, and I already broke my resolution to get more sleep.

I will lose my memory and my mind if I don’t go to bed now, the Doctor inside me says, again and again.

So I have to go now.

Good-night and stay warm!

Gute Nacht!


Lifelong Learning Institutes

Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLI) are health clubs for the mind. They offer noncredit courses and other learning opportunities to older adults.

LLI is not about class credits, grades, or tests. It is about exploring new ideas, interests, and making and enjoying new friends.

No assignments, no tests, no grades and no prerequisites – it is learning just for the joy of it.

Every state in the US has Lifelong Learning Institutes. You can visit this website to find a Lifelong Learning Institute near you.

The most well-known Lifelong Learning Institute in the country is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). OLLI programs are available at over 120 universities and colleges in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

The following LLI are in Minnesota.

Learning is Forever (LIFE)
Rochester Community & Technical College
851 – 30th Avenue SE
Rochester, MN 55904
Phone: (507) 285-7453
Fax: (507) 285-7110

Mankato Area Lifelong Learners
Minnesota State University, Mankato
115 Wiecking Center
Mankato, MN 56001
Phone: (507) 389-2011
Fax: (507) 389-6379

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
University of Minnesota
250 McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak Street S.E
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: (612) 624-7847
Fax: (612) 624-7847

The Learning Club
Winona State University Box 5838
Box 5838
Winona, MN 55987-0838
Phone: (507) 457-5088
Fax: (507) 457-5571

University for Seniors
University of Minnesota – Duluth
251 Darland Admin. Bldg., 10 University Dr.
Duluth, MN 55812
Phone: (218) 726-6347
Fax: (218) 726-6336


Raising Financially Confident Kids

Mary Hunt is a bestselling author and a nationally syndicated columnist. Over the years I have enjoyed reading her tips and advice on handling money and living a debt-proof life.

In a recent column titled Don’t Let Kids’ Activities Break the Bank, Hunt says:

Twenty years from now, your worth as a parent will not be measured by the number of their activities, their SAT scores or their trophies. It will be measured by the depth of their character and the way they live their lives.

Isn’t that great advice and a good reminder?

In her new book Raising Financially Confident Kids, Hunt shares important lessons with parents on teaching kids how to handle money responsibly so they can become financially confident and independent adults. I think it’s a great book every parent should read.

100 Days, 100 Visits

When District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus started his new job last July, one of his goals was to make 100 visits in his first 100 days with students, staff and community members.

In November he completed his 100 Days, 100 Visits.

According to the Jan. 11 news from District 833, at the end of his first 100 days, Superintendent Jacobus had completed 128 formal meetings along with numerous informal visits to each school in the district and with non-school groups throughout the community.

Superintendent Jacobus asked four questions when he met with people from around the district:

  • What is working well?
  • What is working but could be improved?
  • What, if anything, should be abandoned?
  • What three suggestions do you have for the new superintendent?

I really like these questions. They are thought provoking and can generate very helpful feedback and great ideas.

I think every leader, manager or supervisor should ask their employees these four questions regularly, especially if he/she is new on the job.

100 days, 100 visits is a great concept for other leaders to adapt when they start a new job.

Superintendent Jacobus’s report One Hundred Days: One Hundred Visits is available on the district website.


Found my Little Free Library

My Little Free Library, donated by Todd Bol

I had a really interesting visit with Todd Bol, founder of Little Free Library, at his studio in Hudson, Wisconsin.

The visit was the result of my initial blog post on Dec. 17, 2012 titled A Little Free Library for Woodbury! and the resulting article In search of little libraries in Woodbury published in Woodbury Bulletin on Jan. 2, 2013.

After reading about my desire to put a Little Free Library (LFL) in Woodbury and on the LFL map, Todd Bol offered to donate one to me. He invited me to visit him at his studio to check the different options and pick one.

The Little Free Library studio is located at 573 County Road A, Hudson, Wis. Even though I was familiar with LFL and had read about it many times, I didn’t realize that the birth place and the center of the Little Free Library movement is so close to Woodbury. It’s less than 30 minutes of driving.

Bol grew up in Lake Elmo, Minnesota and now lives in Hudson, Wisconsin. His family went to the Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale. The Little Free Library at the Church is dedicated to his father.

Little Free Library at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale

Bol used to build his little libraries on the deck at his home. Only two months ago he moved his studio into the current warehouse location.

“It’s nice to be able to work indoors in winter now,” Bol told me.

Several little libraries outside the studio.


Bol showed me the one-room studio that has a stairway leading to the open second floor on one side of the room. It is a typical workshop.

There are finished but mostly unfinished little libraries. He said I could pick anyone I wanted, depending on how much work I was willing to do myself. Being a person who is not very handy, I decided to pick a ready made one.

I picked the one with the sign “Friendly by Nature, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.” Blue is not the color I would prefer, a green color would be nicer since nature is green, and reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle is about green living, but I just loved the sign and what it conveys. This Little Library combines my passion for library and green living in a perfect way.

Bol showed me the first little library he was making for Africa. They have a partnership with Books for Africa and will be building more of them.


In addition to little libraries, there are piles of donated books from Coffee House Press. He grabbed a few for me, including the Minnesota State Fair: An Illustrated History.

We had some time to sit down and talk. I learned about Bol’s interesting background.

Bol is a social entrepreneur and economic modeling specialist. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with majors in Education and Psychology and Sociology. He was a middle school teacher for a 5 years. Then he was a sales manager at Corporate Trade Center (a former 3M division).

Bol is the founder of several businesses/organizations, including EPT Cadre, Global Scholarship Alliance, and Care Forth, Inc. But what made him world famous is the Little Free Library.

“My passion is to create and develop self sustaining models that move economics, culture and society forward,” Bol said.

Bol is indeed “a transformational leader who can crystallize a vision with greater clarity, have more people see it, support it, align with it, contribute to it and join its final creation,” as his former clients said about him.

The Little Free Libraries have brought positive social changes.

They have far exceeded the oirginal goal of 2510 Little Libraries. The conservative estimate of Little Free Libraries in the world is between 5,000 and 6,000 in 36 countries. Around 800 are in Minnesota alone.

They have been in  more than 900 media articles, news broadcasts and blogs reaching tens of millions of people. Nearly two million people visited LFL website; between 4,000 and 32,000 per day.  The movement has nearly 21,000 Facebook subscribers, growing by 300 to 400 each week.

Two new documentary films were released: Because It’s Small and A Small Wooden Box: The Little Free Library Movement. They are on Youtube along with 30 other videos.

Bol is now known around the country and world, yet he remains a very down to earth, humble guy. I love what he is doing and also his generosity and humility. Bol was so kind. He not only donated the library to me, but also offered to help me install the library. What an honor for me to receive such a generous gift!

I left Bol’s studio with a really cool little library, an armful of books, much appreciation for Bol, great excitement about the future of Little Free Library, and a strong desire to help it grow.

My next job is to find a location for my little library.


Little Free Library is coming to Woodbury

My dream of putting a Little Free Library (LFL) in Woodbury and on the LFL map will become a reality sooner than I thought, thanks to Todd Bol, founder of Little Free Library.

Todd emailed me last Friday after reading the article In search of little libraries in Woodbury, published in Woodbury Bulletin last Wednesday and on its website the following day.

He said: “I am the founder of Little Free Library and in charge of building. We will donate one to your dear city. All you need to do is contact me.”

What a great news to receive!

Hudson, Wis. is the birth place and the center of the Little Free Library movement now spreading around the world. Since Woodbury is geographically very close to Hudson, only separate by a river and with 20 minutes of driving, I feel we definitely should have more of them in Woodbury. So I would still encourage Woodbury residents to come forward and help build Little Free Libraries for the community.

Won’t it be nice to have one Little Free Library in every neighborhood?

Thanks Todd for what you are doing and for your generosity!

Online resources for job seekers

If you are looking for a job in Minnesota or have jobs to offer in Minnesota, be sure to check out the MinnesotaWorks.net.

MinnesotaWorks.net is a service provided by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and supported by employer tax dollars. There is no fee to use this service.

MinnesotaWorks.net is an Internet-based self-service system where employers and job seekers can find each other.

Job seekers can post up to five resumes to be searched by employers.  They can also search for job openings and be contacted by e-mail when new job postings meeting their search criteria are found by the system.

Employers can post job openings.  They can also search for job candidates,        recruit job seekers online, and elect to receive emails when new resumes are found that match their requirements.

If you are looking for jobs in the Minnesota state government, check out this website. The State of Minnesota is the largest employer in Minnesota. There are career opportunities in more than 100 agencies in locations throughout the state.

Occupations in Demand (OID), found on PositivelyMinnesota.com is a useful  tool to use in your job search. With this tool you can research available jobs in your area.

Occupational Employment and Wages (OES) is another great tool used to find the typical wages for careers in a specific county or region in Minnesota. This tool is updated quarterly with statistics from employers.

If you are interested in future job fairs, click here to find one in your area.

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In search of little libraries in Woodbury

Woodbury Bulletin reporter Amber Kispert-Smith interviewed me last week and wrote the following article In search of little libraries in Woodbury as the result of my blog post on Dec. 17, 2012 titled  A Little Free Library for Woodbury!

Thanks Amber for your interest in the topic and for your time doing the interview and writing the article.

In search of little libraries in Woodbury

by Amber Kispert-Smith

Published January 2, 2013 in Woodbury Bulletin

Woodbury resident Qin Tang, whose Area Voices blog “On My Mind” is featured on the Woodbury Bulletin website, has started an effort to bring a “Little Free Library,” or neighborhood book exchange, to Woodbury.

Have you seen the miniature schoolhouses around the Twin Cities that act as a home for books?

The “Little Free Libraries” as they are called have grown in popularity over the past three years and is a new way of sharing books among neighbors.

Woodbury resident Qin Tang, whose Area Voices blog “On My Mind” is featured on the Woodbury Bulletin website, has started an effort to bring one to Woodbury.

“I’ve known about it for a while,” she said. “I thought if we could get one in Woodbury that would be nice – it’s a cute idea.”


The ‘Little Free Library’

The first “Little Free Library” in was started by Todd Bol from Hudson, Wis., in 2009 when he placed a homemade wooden box on a pole in his front yard containing a dozen or more books free for the taking. Its popularity led Bol and his friend Rick Brooks to form the nonprofit group Little Free Library.

Essentially, the “Little Free Library” is a miniature schoolhouse, which invites passersby to take or donate a book.

“It’s like a little dollhouse where you take a book, leave a book,” Tang said, “or take a book and bring a book back.”

The mini-libraries are typically handmade by whoever starts them and include “Little Free Library” signs that can be ordered from the group’s website.

Since the libraries are unlocked and typically not patrolled, they rely on the honor system, Tang said.

“It just takes on its own life,” she said.

Since 2009, according to the “Little Free Library” website, more than 2,500 such libraries have sprouted up in more than 40 states and countries, including Germany, Ghana and India.

In the Twin Cities, the closest “Little Free Library” is at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale. The church has two libraries – one located in its courtyard for prayer and grieving books and one in a pine tree behind the church for gardening books.

“The libraries can have any kind of books,” Tang said. “It depends on what most people in the neighborhood read.”


Building a library in Woodbury

Tang, who is a librarian at the Minnesota Department of Transportation library in St. Paul, said she had known about the mini-library concept for a while, but when she saw one in a refurbished telephone booth in Germany, she decided it was something that would be nice to have in Woodbury – despite the fact that Woodbury already has its R.H. Stafford Library.

“It’s just a little book exchange, so it’s not competing with the library at all,” she said. “I think it’s a nice tool to build community and promote literacy.”

Even though Tang said she would be willing to manage the project and even have it located in front of her house, she said she needs to find someone who is willing to build it.

“Little Free Libraries” can be purchased pre-made from the organization’s website, but Tang said she thinks it would be nice to find someone local who is experienced in woodworking.

“I think it would be nicer to make one that’s more customized and tied to Woodbury,” she said.

One option Tang said she considered was reaching out to the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts about making it a possible project for them.

“I’m sure there are people in Woodbury who are handy and who can make one,” she said.

The “Little Free Library” website includes instruction on how to build the structures.

Tang, who lives in the Eagle Valley neighborhood, said she could see the “Little Free Library” going up anywhere in Woodbury.

“I just want to get one here somewhere,” she said. “Usually they’re in neighborhoods though because kids walking by can stop and check out a book.

“But right now I just want to have one so it can go any place.”

Tang said she is optimistic a “Little Free Library” can find its way to Woodbury.

“Now people spend so much time playing games and on the Internet, so people are reading less and less,” she said. “If we have something in the neighborhood – especially something they can see when they’re outside walking or kids are outside playing – they can stop by and check it out and maybe find a book that they want to read.

“Maybe we can do one in all the neighborhoods in Woodbury.”


More information on the “Little Free Library” movement can be found at www.littlefreelibrary.org. Anyone interested in starting a “Little Free Library” in Woodbury can contact Qin Tang at: quin_tang@yahoo.com.

Boundaries with teens

If you are a parent of teenagers and need to learn how to set boundaries with your teens, I would recommend the book Boundaries with Teens by Dr. John Townsend.

I know a lot of parents are really busy and don’t have time to read a whole book. If that’s the case with you, here is a nice summary of the book you can read from the Parent Book Summaries website.

The part I liked the best from the book is about the four anchors of boundary setting.

Use the Four Anchors of Boundary Setting (chapter 17, pp. 113-119)

Every boundary-setting conversation or situation must make use of four anchoring principles. As anchors stabilize ships, these four principles can provide stability, focus, and clarity to parents who want to establish healthy and appropriate boundaries with their teen. When applied to boundary setting, these principles help parents optimize the chances for success with the teen.

Anchor #1: Love – I am on your side.

Always begin with love.  Love will help your teen hear what you are saying, accept the boundaries and tolerate the consequences. This is true for all of us. When we hear hard truths from someone who cares about us, we need to know that the person is on our side. Otherwise, we are liable to feel hated, bad,  worthless, unloved, offended or victimized.

Anchor #2. Truth – I have some rules and requirements.

Love opens the door to change but is not enough. Truth provides guidance, wisdom, information, and correction. Truth exists in the form of rules, requirements, and expectations for your teen. They are the dos and don’ts  that spell out what your teen needs to do and what he needs to avoid.

Anchor #3: Freedom – You can choose to respect or reject the rules.

Your teen has probably exercised freedom to make some poor choices, and you haven’t seen much good come from that. But freedom is absolutely necessary, for a couple of reasons:

  • You can’t really make your teen choose the right thing. There is a lot you can’t control in your teen. You aren’t present for much of her life, so you can’t control what she does in school and with her friends.
  • Freedom to choose poorly is necessary to learn to choose well. Even if you could “make” your teen do the right thing, it wouldn’t help him develop into a mature, loving, responsible person.

Anchor #4: Reality – Here is what will happen.

If the only anchors were love, truth and freedom, they would not be enough. Children raised with only these three principles can easily become out of control. A fourth anchor, reality. adds the necessary balance. Simply put, reality defines what is or what exists. For our purposes, however, I am using the word to describe what exists for the teen in the form of consequences. That is, if she chooses to utilize her freedom to reject the rules and cross the line, she will experience consequences. Teens need consequences, because that’s how they experience a fundamental law of life:  good behavior brings good results and bad behavior brings uncomfortable results.

The next time you decide you need to have a boundary-setting conversation, be sure you tell your teen:

  • “I love you and am on your side.”
  • “I have some rules and requirements for your behavior.”
  • “You can choose to respect or reject these rules.”
  • “Here is what will happen if you reject these rules.”

When you use these four anchors, you are providing the stability, clarity, and motivation your teen needs to begin to learn self-control and responsibility.


Running red-lights

For the record, I am a conservative driver and have a clean driving record. In my 20 years of driving history, I have never got a speeding or other driving violation ticket.

In the last 2-3 months, I run the red-light twice in Woodbury. I didn’t want to, but I felt I had no choice.

The most recent incident happened around 10:30 am on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. I drove from Currell Boulevard to Valley Creek Road. I needed to make a left-turn or U-turn at Valley Creek and Bielenberg intersection to go home near Woodbury Drive.

As I turned right from Currell Boulevard to Valley Creek Road, I noticed a USPS mail truck made a U-turn at Valley Creek and Bielenberg intersection while the light was red. It surprised me. Since I had bad experiences (long waiting) at that intersection, I wasn’t totally surprised.

Now it was my turn to wait at the same intersection. I waited and waited, saw the lights on the other sides turning from green to red and from red to green 2-3 times, but my left-turn light stayed red unchanged. Finally after waiting for a while, I lost patience. I didn’t know whether the light was in or out of order. So I decided to follow suit and made a U-turn when there was no cars coming from the opposing side.

Several weeks ago I had another running red-light experience at the intersection of Bailey Road and Pioneer Drive. I was leaving East Ridge High School and needed to cross Bailey to go straight on Pioneer Drive. But the red light won’t change, even thought the lights on Bailey changed 2-3 times.

I didn’t know what’s wrong with the traffic lights. Do other residents in Woodbury run into similar problems with red-lights?

The current traffic signal pattern is another thing I do not like.

At busy intersections such as Woodbury Drive and Valley Creek Road or Woodbury Drive and Hudson Road, the traffic signal pattern used to be simple and predictable – left turns first and then straight traffic on opposing sides. It was efficient in my opinion.

Then about 2 or 3 years ago the traffic signal pattern changed. Now it seems unpredictable and inefficient to me. Instead of having left-turns go simultaneously in both directions, the traffic from one direction goes first. The other left-turning vehicles have to wait their turn at the end. Since I have to wait longer for my left-turns, I do not like the new traffic signal pattern.

I wish we had more roundabouts and more flashing yellow lights in Woodbury. I think they are more efficient. They could save some time and frustration from unnecessary or long waiting at intersections.

Life is short, eternity is long

As I think about the year that is ending today, this phrase came to my mind: life is short, eternity is long.

In 2012, several acquaintances passed away due to cancer, a few more with cancer are facing death at this moment.

Time goes by so fast, every minute, every hour, every day, every year, every life time.

Life comes at you fast. It passes by fast.

None of us know how long we have on this earth.  It can be seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, or years.  Sooner or later, before you know it, it’s gone.

But there is life after death. We have eternal life in Jesus Christ.

The Bible says:

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

The earthly and worldly things are temporary, but God’s kingdom is eternal. The things that have eternal value are to be sought over those things that have only temporary, earthly value.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” (Luke 12:31)

“I do not know what the future holds; but I do know who holds the future.”

Wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year, filled with love, joy, peace and God’s blessings!


Thanks to the 7th grade teachers at Lake

During the holiday season, it’s fun to go to mail box and pick up mails. At least once a year, we not only get bills and advertisements, but also personal letters and cards.

More and more people are sending holiday greetings via email now which is faster and more convenient. But everyone still enjoys receiving letters and cards in the mail.

In the last few days, my family has received a few greeting cards from people who are old fashioned like myself, I mean it in a good way.

Among all the cards we received, one stood out and was really special for me. The funny thing is it was not even addressed to me, it was addressed to my daughter from her 7th grade teachers at Lake Middle School.

The holiday photo card has a group picture of the 7th grade teachers and administrator from Lake and the Happy Holiday wishes: “Wishing you a happy holidays and happy new year! Enjoy your break!”

Wow, imagine the teachers sending out the cards to 388 7th grade students!

Before we received the card in the mail, I had already heard about it from my daughter, because her friends had received it and told her. I am sure the students were happily surprised by the card.

I was impressed and thankful for what these teachers did. A simple act of kindness and thoughtfulness can mean a lot to people.

Thanks to all the teachers for teaching and loving your students, and for protecting them when needed (thinking about the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting). A special thank-you to the 7th grade teachers and staff at Lake for the holiday card and for your loving-kindness.

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Christmas treasure hunt

Yesterday as I was driving home from work and opening the garage door, I realized that this was the Christmas eve, and I had not done shopping for Christmas gifts for my kids lately. I didn’t panic though. I knew I could make something and I could go shopping at home.

At night before bed my daughter asked me if I would do the Christmas treasure hunt again. I knew she would ask, since it is our Christmas tradition. “OK, I wish you had told me earlier.” Even though I had no clue what to do this year, I didn’t panic and kept my cool. I knew I would get an idea at the last minute. This was what often happened in the past.

Around midnight when everyone went to bed and it was quiet, I walked around house looking for treasures.

During the year, I buy and collect things that can be used for gifts. I found a Christmas book by Helen Steiner Rice my daughter would like. I found commemorative stamps (tiger and baseball stamps for my son who was born in the year of tiger and likes sports, and poet stamps for my daughter who writes poems), I found picture frames and later printed collages of photos taken during the summer travels, I found brand new dollar bills that I put in the holiday gift envelops, I found chocolates and candies …

An hour or so later, I got enough treasures to do the treasure hunt.

Then I spent the next 2-3 hours thinking, planning and writing the clues on cards. I prepared 10 clues and had 10 gifts for each kid.

The clue for money is:

Everyone loves this gift.

Everyone loves to get more of it.

Everyone works hard for it.

Everyone uses it.

It comes in different form, size and color.

You will be glad when you find it.

What is it?

The clue for the photos is:

Remember the trips to the east coast of the US and to Europe made this summer? This gift will keep those memories alive for a long time.

The clue for the book is:

God says man does not live on bread alone. It means you not only need food for your body, you also need food for your mind and soul. This gift is for your mind and soul. You can digest it every day and it will make you feel better. 

By the time I was done and ready for bed, it was almost 4 am. I was not tired, I loved doing it.

My kids are teenagers now. They are not as super excited about the Christmas treasure hunt as when they were little. In addition, my daughter was sick and not feeling well since Sunday. So this time they didn’t wake up really early to go treasure hunt. But they still loved it and loved the treasures they found.

Related Posts:

Christmas treasure hunt from the past:



Christmas present – a poem from Amy

About three weeks ago I sent a previous post to my kids and reminded them of My Christmas wish list.

Last night I asked my daughter Amy if she had written her poems yet. She said no. She had been sick since Sunday and was not feeling well.

I knew she is a procrastinator, but has a creative and poetic mind. She can write a poem in a few minutes if she wants to. And She would not disappoint me.

She wrote one poem last night in bed. She gave it to me as a Christmas present today. I always love getting her poems more than anything she could give me.

Santa Clause

By Amy Guo

Dec. 24, 2012

One Christmas Eve, when it was almost midnight
I saw something, it was a bright light
Then I heard, some jingling bells
And whom did I see? I bet you could tell.

I heard hoof steps on the roof
Then a man appeared, with the sound of a “poof”
He wore a black belt, on top a red suit
He also had a pair of black shinny boots.

He had a big bag, filled with lots of toys
For all of the good girls and boys
He set some presents under the tree
I hoped that they would all be for me.

He ate all the cookies that I had set out
I hoped they were good, and he didn’t pout
He walked over to my stocking
And what he put in wasn’t that shocking.

He climbed up the chimney to the roof
Even though I saw him I had no proof
His reindeer were gone in a leap
Then later that night, I went back to sleep.


Celebrate Christmas at Eagle Brook Church

I would like to invite you to the Christmas celebration at Eagle Brook Church, located at East Ridge High School in Woodbury or 4 other campuses in Twin Cities.

You don’t have to RSVP, but you can visit this website to check the seat availability. The 3 pm service on Monday afternoon is the most popular one and seats might be very tight.

Hope you can join one of the six services this weekend. Come enjoy some Christmas music and a great message.

You can listen to the previous messages online here.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year!

Take time to appreciate

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward

Two days ago, after reading an article in the magazine On Wisconsin about Little Free Libraries, I sent the editor Niki Denison an email to thank him for the interesting and inspiring article.

Mr. Denison responded my email and said: “Thank you for your recent letter to the editors of On Wisconsin in response to our article about Little Free Libraries. We always appreciate hearing from our readers, whether they compliment, criticize, or simply share their observations, because it provides us with valuable feedback. We’d like to consider running your letter in the next available issue, and we’re so happy to hear that you have been inspired to create your own Little Free Library! Good luck with the project, and thanks again for taking the time to write.”

I am thankful that I took the time to write this time. I know readers’ comments and feedback are invaluable to writers and editors. The comments and thank-you notes not only provide great feedback, they also provide great encouragement. People feel better when their work is valued and appreciated.

There were times when I wanted to write to the editor after reading an interesting article. I would save the article, meant to write the comment, but never took the time to actually do it. Soon the time flies by and it’s too late to comment.

I am also thankful that Mr. Denison took the time to write back as well. By showing his feedback and appreciation, he greatly encouraged me to do this again, to take time to write to editors and to show my appreciation.

During this holiday season, please take time to write a letter/card/email to someone whom you are thankful for.

A kind word will surely make someone’s day, it could also change someone’s life.

A Little Free Library for Woodbury!

Checking out a little free library while in Berlin this summer

Little Free Libraries. They are popping up everywhere.

During my trip to Europe this summer, I saw one on the street in Berlin, Germany where my relative lives. An old phone booth was converted into a little free library.

Here in the US, the idea of Little Free Library began with Todd Bol from Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 when he placed a homemade wooden box on a pole in his front yard containing a dozen or more books free for the taking. Its popularity led Bol and his friend Rick Brooks to form the non-profit group Little Free Library.

Pretty soon, it launched the Little Free Library movement around the world.

Individuals or organizations can make or buy Little Free Libraries and install them near their houses or businesses. Take a book, leave a book is its motto. What a fun idea to promote reading, provide books for neighborhood kids and build communities!

Little Free Libraries – the small, wooden mini-libraries, resembling one-room schoolhouses – have become popular in Twin Cities. If you have not seen one in person, chances are you probably have read about them and seen a few in pictures.

You can find Little Free Libraries around the world on the world map.

The closest Little Free Library for Woodbury is located in Oakdale (at Guardian Angels Catholic Church courtyard behind building). It is filled with Books on Prayer and Grieving, see the picture here.

Here are plans for building and links to where you can buy a Little Free Library.

I have read a few articles about the Little Free Libraries in the local media. I found them interesting.

Recently I became more interested and inspired after I read another article about the Little Free Libraries in the University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni magazine On Wisconsin, titled It’s a Mailbox …  It’s a Bird House …  No, Wait, It’s a Library!

I want to have one in Woodbury and to put Woodbury on the world map!

How I wish my dad were living here in the US. He could build me a great one. He used to make all the furniture in my family when I was growing up. But he lives in China and is too far away.

I am wondering if there is someone in Woodbury who is handy and creative and would be willing to build a Little Free Library for Woodbury. I can take care of the rest.

Please contact me if you or someone you know want to build one.

Let’s work together to build a better neighborhood and a better community!


For reference and further reading…

Little Free Library

Little Free Libraries on the map

LFL pictures on Google Images

Articles and videos about LFL in Twin Cities:

Little Free Library breaks Carnegie’s record with 2,510+ libraries (and growing)

Little Free Library phenomenon started in Hudson, Wis.

St. Paul: Little Free Libraries expansion to take off, already more than 3,000 worldwide

Little Free Libraries allow neighbors to share books and a bit of themselves

Little Free Libraries: The Badger State’s literary gift to the Gopher State

Take a Book, Leave a Book: First “Little Free Library” installed on Grand Ave

Little Free Libraries

Wis. man’s Little Free Library copied worldwide

“Little Free Libraries” pop up in MN and across U.S.

Little Free Libraries Popping Up In Twin Cities – WCCO.com – CBS

A tragic day

A mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with 27 people shot to death, including twenty young children.

I was saddened by this horrible tragedy. I can’t imagine what the people in Newtown are going through now. My thoughts and prayers are with all victims and their families.

What a senseless act! What a tragic day for the families affected and for our nation!

How many mass school shootings do we have to witness before something will be done to stop it?

I think there should be a more strict gun law in this country. Better gun control is the first step in preventing such mass shootings from happening.

Another important aspect is to build healthy and strong marriages, families and communities, and to focus on parenting and raising children who are well rounded physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. A healthy person will not commit such a crime.

Reducing violence in the media and on games will also help reduce violence in real life.

I hope something will be done to stop the mass shootings.


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Book summaries for busy parents

If you are a parent, you have probably felt, at one time or another, inadequate, clueless or helpless in raising your child.

If you are a parent, you know you need help and support, advices and insights either from talking to experienced parents or reading books by parenting experts.

If you are a parent, you are busy and have no time to read parenting books on every subject you are interested in or every problem you encounter in parenting your child. This is a fact.

Is there a solution for this dilemma?

Yes, how about taking a few minutes a day and read a book, or the summary of a book on Parent Book Summaries?

Parent Book Summaries provides quick, easy-to-read digests and gives busy parents the key points from parenting, marriage, and family relationship books. This is a wonderful resource that every parent should take advantage of and can benefit from.

Parent Book Summaries saves time, helps parents stay current, be informed, and build knowledge. In a matter of minutes, parents can get helpful ideas from leading experts on how to raise great children and build strong families.

How much is enough?

I went shopping today, on Black Friday, not to buy anything for myself though.

Last night after the Thanksgiving party at a friend’s house, my two teenagers wanted to go shopping at Kohl’s, because we got $10 certificate in the mail to spend. I had no interest in shopping so late, and the cold weather with flurry snow only motivated me to go back home and stay warm inside.

I was glad I didn’t go last night.

This morning around 9 – 10 am, we went to Sam’s and Kohl’s. My kids bought winter jackets and a sweater.

At Kohl’s, it was very crowded and the check-out lines were really long. I was amazed by how much stuff people buy, some with cartload of stuff.

Do we really need so much stuff? How much is enough?

I am not a fan of Black Friday or now Black Thursday shopping.

In the article “Black Thursday’ shopping stealing spotlight from holiday festivities?” by Riham Feshir, published in Woodbury Bulletin last Wednesday, Nov. 21, the author quoted me using the following:

Although she sees some benefits to Black Friday, Qin Tang, who writes the “On My Mind” blog featured on the Bulletin website, once referred to it as “Buy Nothing Day.”

“(It) shifts our focus on Thanksgiving from internal to external, from building meaningful relationships to finding good deals, from enjoying time together and relaxing to rushing out the door and buying more stuff,” she said. “It only encourages more consumerism and materialism in our already very materialistic society.”

The mother of two teenagers said young people are facing more temptations and more peer pressure to acquire more electronics, games and gadgets.

“This creates more challenges for parents like me,” she said. “I think the more stuff we buy; the more we try to fill our lives with things, the emptier our lives get.”

I think Thanksgiving is a special day for families and friends to get together, to enjoy each other and enjoy food, to build and strengthen relationships and friendships, to give thanks for what we already have.

By turning Thanksgiving into Black Thursday, we are taking away family time for both employees and consumers. Instead of spending time with families and friends, many people either have to work on Thanksgiving or want to go out shopping and not miss the special deals.

In Germany, the stores are closed on Sundays all year around. In the US, we have some stores open 24/7.

People are living busy lives. Families often don’t have regular dinner together, friends don’t have time to get together. I think Thanksgiving is a special holiday for families and friends, and not for shopping.

We should have at least one day in the year to focus our attention on being thankful for the abundance we have in this country and being content for what we have, not on buying more stuff.

If we are not thankful for what we have, if we do not have contentment, if we always want more, then there will never be enough.

More stuff does not necessarily make our life full, quite the opposite, it could make our life emptier.

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My Black Friday deal – photo cards

Every year, one of the Black Friday deals from Sam’s Club is ordering 100 Photo Cards for $15, including gold or silver foil-lined envelopes. There is no shipping cost when you pick them up in store.

I usually take advantage of this deal to get my holiday greeting cards done during Thanksgiving.

Thursday morning, I spent a few hours looking through my photos taken this year and selected the best ones I wanted to use for the greeting card or for printing.

Then I uploaded these photos to my account at the Sam’s Club Photo Center. I selected the design I liked and added the photos to create my card.

Later at night, after I came back from the Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house, I submitted the order.  The total for the 100 cards came to $16.07. They will be ready for pick up on Saturday morning.

I did everything from my home computer. It was convenient and comfortable, no need to drive to the store and wait in line.

This special deal is valid through this weekend.


Alternatives to Black Friday shopping

If you are not a Black Friday shopper, but would like to enjoy some Black Friday special deals and have some fun things to do, there is good news for you. What’s more, you do not even have to spend anything.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts will open at 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 23, offering free admission to the special exhibit of China’s Terracotta Warriors – “China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy.”  Free admission is only for one hour. The usual $18-per-adult admission resumes at 7 a.m.

The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul will also open at 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, as the museum opens the largest exhibit in its history – “Then Now Wow.” Free admission is for three hours from 6 – 9 a.m. Free parking and even free doughnuts will be available.

Both museums plan to serve coffee to keep everyone awake.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Help build a new church in Woodbury

Lately I have being going to Eagle Brook Church in Woodbury for worship.

Eagle Brook Church is the largest Church in Minnesota, serving the greater Twin Cities area. Every weekend, more than 13,000 people attends the four services across five campuses.

The Twin Cities megachurch opened its 5th campus in Woodbury in Sept. 2011. It is located tempararily at East Ridge High School, with attendance around 2000 a weekend.

A new Woodbury campus site  is being built at Eastview Road and Settlers Ridge Parkway. Heavy machinery has begun moving dirt and preparing the soil so that it can settle over the winter. The groundbreaking will happen in Spring 2013! The permanent site will be open in late 2014.

This weekend service was a special one. The congregation made the pledge for the One by One campaign to financially support the church planning and growth for the next two years – building the Woodbury campus and improving other campuses in Lino Lake, White Bear lake, Spring Lake Park and Blaine.

I also made my pledge. Someone has reached out to me for Christ, now it’s my turn to help reach others for Christ, especially in Woodbury. If I can just help create one seat, reach one soul, invite one of my family members or friends come to Christ, it will be worth.



14-Day Kindness Challenge – Reflection

I have completed the 14-Day Kindness Challenge created by Celes Chua on her Personal Excellence Blog. Along with some 800 participants, I did 14 acts of kindness over the 14-day period, from 1 Nov to 14 Nov.

Celes asked for feedback and comments from the participants. Here is my reflection.

How has the kindness challenge been for you?

It was a great experience. I made the commitment and followed through by doing the task every day and blogging about it. By sharing it with others, I held myself more accountable.

By being intentional in doing acts of kindness, I was also living a more intentional life.

The Challenge made me a kinder person, even if just for a little bit more, and improved my own life. I hope I have touched someone’s life in a positive way along the journey.

What has been your favorite task(s)? Why?

My favorite tasks are:

  • #1 Day 3 – write thank-you notes
  • #2 Day 9 – write a letter to someone who has made a difference in your life
  • #3 Day 4 – sign up for volunteer work
  • #4 Day 12 – forgive someone

The first three tasks are something I have already enjoyed doing. They are easy for me. Forgiveness is not something I am good at, but I really need it in order to live a better life.

What have you learned from participating in the kindness challenge? What have you learned about kindness?

The challenge gave me a new mindset. It set my mind on a different path. Every day I focused my mind on doing something kind for others, so my thoughts were more positive than negative. Kind thoughts produce kind actions. It reinforced what Mahatma Gandhi said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”

Kindness begets kindness. When I am kind to others, it’s not only good for others, it’s also good for myself, because I feel better.

A small act of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s life.

How do you plan to integrate kindness into your life moving forward?

Doing something for 14 days can create a new habit. I will definitely be thinking about and doing more acts of kindness  moving forward.

Anything you would like to see at PE moving forward? What is it? 

I would like to see more people participate in this kind of challenge, more people visit your website and read your articles. Doing radio/TV shows, interviews will definitely increase your readership and audience.

Your energy, dedication and passion are very admirable. I truly appreciate all you do.


Kindness Challenge Day 14 – Do Something Unexpectedly Nice

This is Day 14 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Do Something Unexpectedly Nice For Someone.

Today is also World Kindness Day – a day to celebrate and promote kindness in all its forms. World Kindness Day was introduced in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement. It is is celebrated in many countries.

Today I played secret Santa and gave someone a small gift anonymously. It’s something meaningful to that person that I knew would be appreciated.

If you are looking for ideas to do small acts of kindness and spread the kindness spirit, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website.

Kindness Challenge Day 13 – Give Someone a Treat

This is Day 13 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Give Someone a Treat.

My teenager son had a club activity at school tonight. I was planning on baking some cookies for him to take to the event and share with other participants. I wanted to give not just someone, but several people a treat.

But it didn’t work out that way.

Nowadays, anything I do seems embarrassing to my teenagers. My son was not happy about my plan. He didn’t want to bring any cookies. He said maybe another day, but not today, at the first meeting.

So I ended up just sharing my cookies with the friend we do carpooling together. I was a little disappointed, but at least I did give someone a treat.

Kindness Challenge Day 12 – Forgive Someone

This is Day 12 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Forgive Someone.

As I shared in a recent post Forgive one another, it’s important to forgive. We do it primarily for ourselves. Our forgiveness of others is forgiveness for us and is freedom for us.

What does it take to forgive?

In his article Four Elements of Forgiveness, Dr. Ryan Howes talks about the following four common elements that effective forgiveness attempts tend to share:

  • Express the emotion
  • Understand why
  • Rebuild safety
  • Let go

Forgiveness does not happen immediate. It’s a slow process. Feelings of anger, sadness and hurt do not go away easily. They will come back from time to time, but it will be less intense.

Getting negative emotions out is really the first step in the process. Having an honest talk, sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone or writing down your thoughts and feelings are all effective ways to express your emotions.

There were few people in my life I needed to forgive. Once I truly understood the importance of forgiveness, I did.

I also have a few people in my life I needed to ask for forgiveness. I have hurt people with my choices and actions when I was younger. I did ask for forgiveness at the time.

My thoughts and prayer for today is I have forgiven everyone I need to forgive, and I have asked for and received forgiveness from everyone I should have asked.

Kindness Challenge Day 11 – Be Kind to Someone You Dislike

This is Day 11 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Be Kind to Someone You Dislike.

It’s easy to be kind to people you like, but not so easy to be kind to people you do not like for whatever reasons – different value systems, different political views, different personalities, different lifestyles or work habits, different interests and backgrounds, etc.

If we can understand that no matter what our differences are, as human beings, we are basically the same, have the same needs and wants. We all want to be loved, understood, validated, respected, appreciated, acknowledged, recognized, and treated kindly. Maybe we will all be kind to each other, despite our differences.

Yes, this is something I need to learn and improve myself – treating everyone kindly no matter what the difference is, no matter how I feel.

Here is my small act of kindness for today.

Last night I reposted my van for sale on Craigslist. The first time I posted it a few weeks ago, I got several calls immediately the next morning. One buyer was willing to offer $500 more than the asking price. But unfortunately I couldn’t sell on that day because I wasn’t able to get the replacement car as I expected.

Today I got a couple of calls from interested buyers. The first caller (a couple) came immediately after the call and wanted to buy the van for their daughter. My sense was they would buy it for the listing price. But when they asked if I would lower the price, I did a little bit, just to be nice.

It feels like a win-win for both parties. I felt good for getting rid of the van and being nice to them, they felt good for not having to pay the full price.

Because we treated each other kindly, we got the deal done quickly and parted our ways friendly.

Kindness Challenge Day 10 – Send Flowers to Someone

This is Day 10 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Send Flowers to Someone.

I was busy today shopping for a car to replace my big van that is no longer needed.

Buying/sending flowers is not something I normally do anyway. So I was going to skip today’s task. Then I thought it would be nice to send something to someone.

My own idea of doing something nice for someone today is to write a letter and send photos.

Today I happened to get an email from someone and learned that she will soon be out of town for a few month.  I wrote a letter (expressing my gratitude for the difference she made in my life and best wishes for her new adventure) and will send it to her with a couple of photos we had taken together during an event.

Flowers are wonderful gifts. They are really special, but I like photos as well, if not better. Flowers wither in a few short days, while photos last much longer and can keep memory alive down the road, even when our memory fades away.

Kindness Challenge Day 9 – Write a Letter

This is Day 9 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Write a Letter to Someone Who Has Made a Difference in Your Life.

The one person who has made the biggest difference in my life was my high school teacher Mr. Sheng. He was my English teacher for only one year when I was a senior, yet his influence and impact on my life are profound and more than I can describe in words.

Mr. Sheng is in Heaven now with the Lord. While he was still alive, I told him several time in letters how thankful I was for him. I appreciated what he did for me. He is the most humble and selfless person I have met in my life. By living a Christ-like life, he showed me what love is and what real Christianity is.

I often think of Mr. Sheng, even though he is gone for many years. He is still my #1 hero and my inspiration. One of my goals in life is to honor and carry on the legacy he left behind.

Here is an article I wrote about him – Remembering my favorite teacher

I wrote a letter to him, I can’t email it or send it to him in Heaven, but I will keep it in my heart and share it with him when I meet him again in Heaven someday.

I also plan to write one or two more letters to people still alive who have made a difference in my life.

Kindness Challenge Day 8 – Pick Up Litter

This is Day 8 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Pick Up Litter.

I agree that everyone has a responsibility to keep our environments clean. In addition to keep our house clean, we also need to keep our neighborhood, our community, our office, our city, and our country clean.

While I was at the Woodbury Dance Center tonight waiting for my daughter, I saw an empty coffee cup that was left on the table, and numerous pieces of trash on the floor. I intentionally picked them up and throw them into the trash can.

Later I was at Lake Middle School for my daughter’s basketball practice, I saw a janitor working. I intentionally said hi to her, smiled at her, to show my respect for her and my appreciation for what she does- to keep the school clean.

It’s really everyone’s job to keep our environment clean. So please do not litter and pick up litter if possible.

Kindness Challenge Day 7 – Make a Donation

This is Day 7 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Make a Donation.

Every year, I make a donation to my favorite radio Faith Radio (AM 900 in Twin Cities) and/or other radio programs. But I haven’t done it this year.  Today’s task gave me a needed push to complete something I wanted to do.

I think people donate because they have a passion for something, believe in something. I am not a dog or cat lover, so animal related causes don’t speak to me. I am not a cancer survivor, so cancer or other diseases related causes don’t attract me either. But I love listening to radio.  Besides church,  radio is the one place I try to make a contribution.

Every day I listen to Faith Radio, on my way to work or home, while I am working at the desk or cooking in the kitchen. My radio is set on this station. I love listening to Bible teaching, author interviews and all kinds of inspirational talks that Faith Radio has to offer.

Monetary donation is only one form of donation.  Donation can come in different shapes and forms – time, talents and skills, items, etc.

Tonight I had a neighbor over for dinner. She has been a very helpful neighbor to me. I always wanted to invite her for dinner to show my appreciation and also to show her how to cook Chinese food as she was interested in learning.

Sharing time and meal together, showing hospitality, is a form of kindness.

Kindness Challenge Day 6 – Talk to Someone

This is Day 6 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Talk to Someone You Don’t Normally Talk To.

I called and talked to a friend who moved out of Minnesota to another state a few months ago. I also called and talked to my mother and a cousin in China. I talk with my mother at least once a week, but not regularly with my friend and cousin.

When it comes to initiating conversations with strangers, I am not shy. I enjoy talking to people I don’t know. It’s always very interesting. Yesterday I talked to someone I met for the first time for almost an hour while waiting at our kids’ basketball practice. Today she helped me get some information I needed.

It’s good to talk and connect with people.

Kindness Challenge Day 5 – Compliments

This is Day 5 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Give a Genuine Compliment to at Least 3 People.

The first person I gave a genuine compliment today is Beth Freschi, a life coach who specializes in artists, creatives, and wellness. Once a month on the first Monday she comes to MnDOT to facilitate a relaxation session. She has done this since 2007, free of charge for any employees who are interested. She sets up the room before and after the session. She sometimes gives away her relaxation CDs and small gifts. She is one of the kindest and most generous persons I have ever met in my life.

Today after the relaxation session I told Beth what I thought of her: “You are one of the kindest and most generous persons I have ever met in my life.” I really meant it, from the bottom of my heart.

The second person I gave a genuine compliment is my daughter Amy. While sitting in the car waiting for my son to get out of school in the late afternoon, I asked Amy about her piano lesson on Sunday. She said she passed one of her two new pieces she had been practicing for the last week.

“Wow, you passed after only one week? That means you are really good at piano. You are talented.”

I know I often nag my daughter for not practicing her piano well, for not putting in more time and effort as she should and could have, for not working hard enough. But even without too much effort and hard work, she is obviously doing well. She just passed her MMTA (Minnesota Music Teachers Association) piano performance test level 8 on Oct. 27. Last year she passed level 6. We decided to skip level 7 and do level 8. She passed it.

I don’t give my kids enough compliments. I tend to see what they haven’t done or accomplished instead of what they have done and accomplished. So I was glad to give my daughter a genuine compliment today. She is really talented in different ways. Her poems and drawings have won prizes at the Minnesota State Fair every year since she started to enter the contest in 2009.

The third person I gave a genuine compliment was a stranger. I met her at my daughter’s first basketball practice tonight. She is the team coordinator. We chatted. I found out she homeschools her three elementary age kids. She has 5 kids in total. I think it takes a lot of discipline, dedication and commitment to homeschool kids. I genuinely admire parents like her for homeschooling their kids. I told her: “I admire you for homeschooling your kids. You are a great mom.”

I hope I have brightened these three individual lives a little bit with my genuine compliments today, even for just a moment.

Kindness Challenge Day 4 – Volunteer

This is Day 4 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Volunteer.

I love volunteering. I volunteer for the community and school events such as the annual Woodbury Days, library book sales, school book fairs, fundraising for non-profit organizations, etc.

My son was interested in joining the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team 3130 for East Ridge High School in Woodbury. Last week we went to the first informational meeting. I learned about the FIRST Robotics Team and what it takes to make it work and succeed.

The FIRST program relies totally on volunteers. Mentors help students build robotics. Parents help with logistics, from fundraising to providing meals and rides.

For today’s challenge, I am going to help with meals and possibly also fundraising for the FIRST Robotics Team 3130. The building season starts in January. I will post an update later.


Kindness Challenge Day 3 – Thank-You Notes

This is Day 3 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge – Write 3 Thank-You Notes to 3 People You Appreciate.

Writing thank-you notes is something I like to do and do often, whether in the workplace or in my personal life. But I usually write thank-you notes in response to something happened, not usually write thank-you notes without a specific reason.

Today I intentially wrote 5 thank-you notes to people without any specific reason, just to say thank you for being my friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Some people might be surprised when they receive the note. It’s like out of blue, unexpected. I think the more unexpected it is, the more meaningful it will be.

I did all thank-you notes via email, that’s my primary communication tool now.

I also posted a general thank-you note on my Facebook, thank-you to all friends for being my friends..

In addition, I also wrote a thank-you note to my daughter by hand.

I have a small notebook for my daughter. Whenever I want to communicate something special to her, I write it in the notebook at night and leave it in her bedroom for her to read the next morning. This notebook grew out of my daily writing to my daughter which I detailed in the post “You’ve got mail!”

I thanked my daughter for her work during the past year to practice piano and prepare for the Minnesota Music Teachers Association (MMTA) test. She passed the leve 8 test last week.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are not too far away. I will write more thank-you notes during the holidays. Everyone needs some appreciation, recognition and encouragement that a simple thank-you can bring.


Kindness Challenge Day 2 – Kindness Begets Kindness

This is Day 2 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge. The task suggested is to give up your seat to someone.

Whenever I am in China and take public transportation, I always give up my seat to people who need it. But here in the US, like so many others who don’t live in big cities, I don’t take public transportation.

I would like to take bus to work, but there is no bus in my neighborhood. Even for people who take bus in the US, there is probably no need to give up their seats, because there are usually more than enough seats for everyone.

An opportunity to do an act of kindness presented itself today when I went to my favorite Farmer’s Market at Dale and University Ave. in St. Paul to buy some veggies.

It’s the end of the season. The weather is cold. Most Farmer’s Markets in the Twin Cities are already closed for the season. The last time (two weeks ago) I visited the Farmer’s Market at Dale/University Ave., there were still a lot of vendors. But today, only a handful of vendors were present. I bought different kinds of veggies from different vendors. At one stall, I bought almost all the winter melons left, total $18. I gave the Hmong woman $20 and told her to keep the change. When she understood what I meant, she added two extra to my pile.

I wanted to be kind to her, she returned my small act of kindness with her own act of kindness. It made me feel good to do good.

It is so true, kindness begets kindness.


Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel leaves MnDOT

It was not a happy moment for me and many MnDOT employees when we received the surprising email on Thursday morning from Commissioner Tom Sorel that he would be leaving MnDOT at the end of the month to become the President and CEO of AAA Minneapolis.

I knew the day would come, but it came unexpectedly.  I hoped he would stay for three more years until the end of the Governor Dayton’s term. His leaving is a big blow for MnDOT.

Sorel became MnDOT Commissioner in 2008 after the I-35W Bridge collapse in 2007.  He has been the best MnDOT Commissioner I know.

Sorel has done so much good for MnDOT and the state in the last 4 years – brought the agency out of the shadow of the tragic bridge collapse, improved employee morale, rebuilt trust and transparency. He is a servant leader with humility, trust and confidence. He inspires and empowers others. His trust and confidence in me have inspired me to get out of my comfort zone, to grow and develop new skills. Working on the Commissioner’s Reading Corner for the last three years has been the most rewarding experience for me at MnDOT.

I am sorry about his leaving, and will really miss him.

Best to you and your family, Tom!

For Governor Dayton’s press release, click here.

Kindness Challenge Day 1 – Hugging

This is Day 1 of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge. The task is to give hugs.

Well, I didn’t grow up with hugs, which was actually very common in China at least during my years of growing up. My parents loved me and still do, but they didn’t hug me.

Among the 5 love languages – word of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch – physical touch is not my primary one, so hugging is not a natural part of my daily life. I usually don’t take the initiative to hug others besides my kids, though I am fine with hugs from others.

Today I did intentionally hugged my kids. They are both in their teens and are taller than I.

For an act of kindness, I made food for a friend who I know has been very busy to cook for her family.

Governor Dayton meeting Trick-or-Treaters

I saw a few photos of Governor Mark Dayton meeting trick-or-treaters during the Halloween celebration at the Governor’s mansion. I just loved it. He is such a people person, a servant leader and a great Governor, well connected with common people.

I remember when I was living in St. Paul and my kids were still little (ca. 2000), we went to the Governor’s mansion for trick-or-treating. We walked through a few rooms in the mansion, but never saw then Governor Jesse Ventura. We didn’t even get a glimpse of his ghost.

I saw Governor Dayton a few times at events around the State Capitol. He was very approachable. He carried small note cards and left people autographs or notes when asked.

Governor Dayton is doing a great job at the Capitol. He hired some smart people to lead the state agencies.

If you have ever visited his dog Mingo’s Facebook page, you will know that he also has a great sense of humor.


14-Day Kindness Challenge

I signed up for the 14-Day Kindness Challenge, posted by Celes Chua on her Personal Excellence website. Along with over 500 people, and the number keeps growing by the minute, I will intentionally do at least one act of kindness every day for 14 days from Nov. 1 to Nov. 14.

I do believe in being kind and doing acts of kindness for others. A smile, a “Hi,” a thank-you note, a phone call, how insignificant they may look like, can make a big difference in life.

These past two days, I have called and tried to contact a few friends and relatives on the east coast to ckeck on their status before and after the davastating Hurricane Sandy.

“Thank you for thinking of us!” People appreciate it when you show some kindness by doing little things like making a phone call.

I know I am not always kind, and I am not kind to everyone. Sometimes I am not even kind to the people who are most close to me in life. I have a lot to improve.

I hope by doing the 14-Day Kindness Challenge, I will become a kinder person, will be more intentional in doing acts of kindness, will touch someone’s life, will improve my own life.

Please join me in this challenge. The more, the better!


Questions leaders should ask

I joined the Capitol Toastmasters a few months ago to sharpen my communication and leadership skills. I found the weekly club meetings helpful. I am learning new skills and new things.

Today I served as the Table Topics Master. I asked the questions:

  • Whom do you admire as a leader and why?
  • Do you have a boss who is a great leader for you, if so, why?

One club member’s 2 minute speech about her former boss being an inspiring leader stood out  as she shared a conversation she had with the boss and three questions he asked.

  • What are you doing right now that you really like?
  • What are you doing right now that you don’t like and wish someone could take it over?
  • What would you like to do that you are not doing currently?

Her former boss created opportunities for employees to do what they liked to do and were good at. For things no one wanted to do, he tried to find different or better ways to do it.

Simple questions, yet very effective in leadership.

It’s all about “playing to your strengths.”

Do you want to be a great boss/supervisor/manager/leader?

Then ask your employees these questions, listen to them and play to their strengths. You will not only have happy and engaged employees, but also be respected and remembered as an inspring and great leader.

Forgive one another

Forgiveness is something everyone needs in life, whether asking for forgiveness because we have done someone wrong or extending forgiveness because someone has done us wrong.

Pastor Bob Merritt of Eagle Brook Church recently delivered a great message on this topic, titled “Forgive One Another.” It’s highly recommended.

Pastor Merritt says forgiveness is choosing to let something go, for the sake of relationship, even though we might be wronged.  Nothing is more powerful than forgiveness. And nothing penetrates the human heart more than real, heart-wrenching, life-giving forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not:

  • Ignoring or excusing someone’s sin
  • Continuing the relationship
  • Immediate
  • Fair

Why should we forgive?

  • Our forgiveness of others is forgiveness  for us
  • Our forgiveness of others is freedom for us
  • Our forgiveness of others is believing in God who is just

Forgiveness is primarily for ourselves, is to set us free, instead of carrying a baggage around. Pastor Merritt uses a mountain of trash to illustrate the heavy burden we carry if we don’t forgive.

Whom can you forgive or ask for forgiveness today?


Keep medical info organized and handy

Recently I read a tip in the Get Organized Now! Newsletter on how to keep track of your medical information. I agree it is important for everyone to keep medical info organized and handy for quick reference and emergency. For people who have reached the AARP age or beyond , it is even more important. One never knows what can happen the next day, or even the next minute.

Here is the advice and what to do.

Type up a personal medical history sheet and carry it with you at all times. Leave a copy in your purse or car. When you go to a doctor or ER, you can just hand this sheet to the medical professional if needed.

In an emergency situation, the info sheet could save time and life. You (or your spouse, friend, or adult child) can answer any questions necessary to ensure the best and most accurate care possible.

The medical info sheet should include the following:

  1. Your name at the top (as it is on your ID and insurance card)
  2. Date of birth
  3. Blood type
  4. Emergency contact information – list three or four people, include their name(s), relationship to you, complete address, and phone numbers (work, home, and mobile)
  5. Medical insurance information – the subscriber (even if it’s you), ID number, insurance (Blue Cross, HealthPartners, etc), group number, phone numbers and any other information on your insurance card.
  6. Smoker and/or drinker – if yes, how much.
  7. Medication and seasonal allergies – if you don’t have any, still put this and type none after it. Anything that is life threatening to you should be typed in red.
  8. Current doctors and specialty – phone numbers, and last date seen.
  9. Current medications – dosages, and frequency (how often you take them), include any/all over the counter medications and medications you only take as needed. Any life saving medications should be typed in red.
  10. Surgical history – include the year, surgery, and why. List the latest at the bottom.
  11. Diagnostic history – Include year and list the latest at the bottom. Anything that is life threatening to you now should be typed in red.
  12. Family medical history – include father, mother, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. After the diagnosis, put in parenthesis who was diagnosed and their current age. If that was the reason the person died put ‘COD’ (cause of death) after their relationship to you and put the age they passed.  For examples:
    – High blood pressure (Father, 68 years old)
    – Lung Cancer (Mother, COD, deceased at 63 years old)
  13. Medical procedure update – this is where you put things like PSA testing, Pap’s, Mammograms, Tetanus shots, etc. After the procedure, type the date and results in parenthesis.

Type the ‘last revised’ date at the bottom right corner. As things change, you can just write on the page but this should be updated and a fresh paper printed once a year. You can do this after the annual check up or you birthday (Do the annual check up during your birthday month is a good idea).

This also works great for an elderly parent who may have more than one adult child taking them to appointments (as long as one person agrees to keep the sheet updated and the other agrees to hand write any changes as they occur).

Remember and forget

Today I read something my cousin forwarded to me about remembering and forgetting. I liked it so much, I translated it from Chinese into English so I can share it with you. I don’t know who the original author is.

When I was young, I thought remembering things well is a real skill, having a good memory is really genius.

After I passed the middle age, I gradually realized that being able to forget is true happiness.

If I can’t forget the gossip of others, life will be shadowed. If I can’t forget the sad past, personality will gradually be distorted.

In my old age, I began to ask God for the blessing of forgetfulness.

Forget about the past glories, it is humility.

Forget about the past failures, it is courage.

Forget about the past hurt, it is forgiveness.

Forget the sins of the past, it is grace.

Forget the friend’s ill, it is generous.

Forget the attacks of the enemy, it is love.

Forget is much more difficult than remember.

Being able to remember is clever; being able to forget is wise.

Appreciating your pastor

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

I encourage you to write your pastor a thank-you note or do something special for him to express your love and appreciation.

I think pastoring is a 24/7 job, with a lot of work besides preparing and delivering the Sunday sermons. The work they do, caring for the souls of people, is important and has eternal values.

Pastors are not only overworked, but also underpaid. Their job usually comes with low pay and often with little appreciation.

Everyone likes to be appreciated. Pastors needs and deserves the same appreciation and encouragement as everyone else, and more.

During October, Faith Radio is giving away play-n-stay packages to the Radisson & Water Park of America to six pastors & their families. All you need to do is enter your pastor name into the Clergy Appreciation Month drawing.

Plus, when you enter your pastor, you will have a chance to win Dr. David Jeremiah’s new book, God Loves You.

Please join with Faith Radio to bless your pastors during Clergy Appreciation Month.


Restoring library hours is welcomed news

Below is my letter to the editor of Woodbury Bulletin in response to the news about restoring library hours:

The cover story in Woodbury Bulletin (Oct. 3, 2012) on one-time funding that could restore Sunday and Monday hours at R. H. Stafford Library in 2013 is great news. I am excited to have the Library open 7 days a week again.

On Monday, two days prior to reading the news, I picked up my kids from schools and went to the Library to return and check out books. I was stopped at the Library entrance by the closed door. I forgot that the Library is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Since I moved to Woodbury in 2001, the Library was always open 7 days a week. I could stop by at the Library any day without thinking.

Last year, as part of a cost-saving measure, Sunday and Monday hours were eliminated. But somehow the reality of having a closed Library has never sunk in with me. Several times I found myself standing at the closed door, wondering why the Library was closed and how I could forget it again.

The Library in Woodbury is the center of the community. It’s a place where everyone – young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, republic and democratic, black and white, native and transplanted – is welcomed and treated equally, where access to information and resources is available to anyone whether he can afford it or not.

In times of economic hardship, it’s more important than ever to keep the library open, because people turn to, and depend on their libraries more than ever – for employment and homework resources, reading materials, entertainment, and free Internet access.

Thanks to the Washington County Library Director Pat Conley, board members, County Commissioner Lisa Weik, Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens and everyone who has supported and advocated for the Library, and for helping restore the library hours. You have done a great service for the community.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” — John  le Carre

I heard the above quote for the first time during a presentation by Joan Frye Williams about middle managers at the Minnesota Library Association 2012 annual conference last week.

Williams said managers should spend at least one fifth of his time being out there with the employees and customers, go to where the work is, where the real issues and problems are, instead of managing from behind the desk, expecting to know his employees and understand their concerns/problems from behind the desk.

If you are a middle manager – department head, branch manager, project coordinator, team leader, or committee chair – think about how much time you spend at your desk and how much time you spend with your employees and where the work is.

Adjusting your time, perspective and management style might make you a better and more effective manager.

Leadership and creativity

As I shared in a recent post “Share Your Passion,” I love to learn. Learning energizes, motivates and inspires me.

These last three days I was immersed in learning, when I attended the Minnesota Library Association 2012 annual conference at Saint Paul River Centre. I had a great time attending different sessions on topics of interest to me and networking with library professionals from the state.

Thanks to the conference, I was able to connect with people such as Patricia Conley, Washington County Library Director. We knew each other for a long time, but not in person. We were able to sit together and chat during the luncheon. It was nice to get to know people in your local community.

One of the sessions I had today was by Alec Sonsteby from Metropolitan State University on organizational creativity. He shared his research findings and offered some ideas on how leaders can foster creativity in the workplace. It’s a fascinating topic for me and the presentation was great.

Leaders who foster creativity:

  • Set clear expectations,
  • Offer constructive feedback,
  • Avoid micromanaging,
  • Hire persistent, flexible people with broad interests, high energy, and self-confidence who demonstrate independence of judgment and willingness to take risks,
  • Don’t cut professional development or continuing education funding,
  • Partner with your users in joint ventures,
  • Assign time for play and experimentation,
  • Decide what to build and what to give up.

If you are in a leadership position, ask yourself: “Am I doing these to foster creativity in my organization/office/unit?”

Everything you want to know about Aldi


Today Aldi is having the Grand Opening for the new store in Woodbury at the former Borders location at Tamarack Village.

Aldi, short for “Albrecht Discount,” is a German global discount supermarket chain based in Germany. The name may be unfamiliar to many Woodbury residents, but I have known Aldi for 26 years.

Back when I was a student at the University of Heidelberg in Germany from 1986 to 1991, I used to shop at Aldi in my neighborhood. I could walk or bike there.

Comparing to grocers in the US, such as Cub Foods or Rainbow in Woodbury, Aldi is a lot smaller, one reason being that Aldi is located in residential areas in Germany, not in shopping malls where people have to drive to get there.

The reasons that Aldi is able to offer low prices include:

  • No free shopping bags, customers have to bring their own bags or pay for them,
  • No customer services desk, cashiers offer help if needed,
  • No one to answer phone calls,
  • No manufacturers’ coupons accepted,
  • No big parking lot,
  • No employees to collect the shopping carts left by customers. Customers have to bring a quarter in order to get their shopping cart. They get the quarter back after they return their cart to the cart station,
  • Use of private brands,
  • When business is slow, cashiers help with other duties, thus saving labor cost,
  • Saving space by leaving items in the original boxes, not displayed on shelves,
  • Limited offering and choices (1,400 regularly stocked items), especially with fresh produce.

By keeping the cost down, Aldi is able to pass the savings along to the customers.

I learned something new about Aldi this summer when I visited Berlin, Germany.

I noticed that the Aldi stores in Berlin use a different logo, it’s in blue and not orange color as I saw in Heidelberg and in the US. Later I found out that there are actually two Aldi groups in Germany, one in the south and one in the north. Each also has companies in different countries around the world.

Here is some background information:  

The Aldi family business started in 1913. In 1960, two brothers, Karl and Theo Albrecht split Aldi into two separate groups: Aldi Nord (North – operating as ALDI MARKT) and Aldi Süd (South – operating as Aldi Süd). Both companies are family-linked, while legally and financially independent.

In the United States, Aldi Süd operates the U.S. stores (more than 1,200 stores in 31 states) with the Aldi logo in orange color. Aldi Nord is the parent company of Trader Joe’s.

Aldi’s mission is to offer “high quality at low prices,” to give customers “the highest quality food at the lowest prices possible.”

It seems hard, if not impossible, to have the two go hand in hand.

If you want to save some money on groceries, Aldi is definitely the place to go. But if the highest quality is your concern, I am not so sure Aldi is the best place to go. Aldi’s competitive advantage is on the lowest cost, not the highest quality.

The good news is, Aldi offers both in Woodbury, low price through Aldi and high quality (more organic items) through Trade Joe’s.

Personally I think Aldi’s quality is as good as the other grocers’. In fact, my kids said they liked the frozen pizzas from Aldi better than those from the other stores.

I have to admit I am not in the best position to judge Aldi’s quality, or anyone else.

It’s certainly worth to check out the new Aldi store. I plan to go this weekend.

Don’t forget to bring your quarter and bag.

Share Your Passion

Recently MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel invited employees to participate in “We are MnDOT:  Share Your Passion,” a forum for employees to share their interests with each other, by submitting a 125-word description and a photo of their passion. The profiles are then posted on the walls of each floor where employees work.

I thought it was a wonderful idea. Sharing your passion will help employees learn a little bit more about each other, get better connected and more engaged with each other, therefore help build stronger community and relationships within the department.

This is what I came up with for my passion profile. I wrote more, but had to cut down to 125 words:

Reading, learning, writing and blogging are my #1 passion. I write about whatever comes to my mind, hence my Woodbury Bulletin Column “On My Mind” which is an Areavoices blog now.

My #2 passion is healthy and green living. I love gardening and walking.

As a citizen of the world (grew up in China, went to graduate school in Germany, and living in US since 1991), I travel a lot. In summer 2012, I visited New York, Princeton, Philadelphia, Chicago; Germany, Hungary, Italy, France and UK.

I love taking pictures, won Woodbury Photo Contest twice.

I love volunteering and getting involved in community, graduated from the 1st class of Woodbury Citizens Academy, and was a founding member of Minnesota Jinglun Chinese School.

Never stop learning!

What is your passion? Share it with others!

Expensive clothes, popular kids

I asked my daughter today: “who are the popular kids in your school/grade?”

Her response, “Kids wearing expensive clothes,” was not something I expected to hear.

I find it hard to believe that parents will pay almost $200 to buy their kids a pair of boots that they will outgrow soon, that wearing expensive clothes can make people more popular.

The reality is disturbing to me.

I don’t buy myself or my kids brand name clothes and shoes. It’s not a question of whether I can afford it or not. It’s a conscious decision based on my value system.

Why pay a lot to buy the trendiest clothes that have no long-term value in my opinion?

What’s best for our kids? I thought having the best education is more important than having the trendiest clothes. Having their mind set on the eternal things is more important than the external, temporary things.

I had to tell my daughter: “It’s not what you wear that makes you popular. It’s who you are, what’s inside rather than what’s outside, your character, your personality, your skills, etc. The kids who are popular today because they wear expensive clothes won’t be popular when they grow up, if that’s their only reason to be popular.”

I knew my daughter didn’t like what I said, she thinks I lecture too much, but I knew she would agree with me when she grows up.

Long holiday and toll-free policy cause traffic nightmare

Traffic is going nowhere, party on highways.

The Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie, 中秋节) is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. Because of its association with moocakes and lighted lanterns, this festival is also called the Mooncake or Lantern Festival.

This year, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 30.

Like the Chinese New Year, it is a time for family gatherings. Family members get together to enjoy the bright full moon and eat mooncakes.

The 2012 Mid-Autumn Day happens to be connected with the National Day holiday (October 1 – 7), so people in China enjoy an eight-day holiday from September 30 to October 7.

In August, the Chinese government issued a toll-free road policy, allowing passenger cars with seven seats or less to travel for free on toll roads during four major holidays – the Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, Labor Day and National Day.

This eight-day Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday is the first toll-free holiday. The toll-free policy took effect at midnight, Saturday. For the first time in decades, Chinese drivers can use the country’s highways toll-free during the eight-day holiday,

The long holiday with pleasant autumn weather is already a popular time for travel. With the new toll-free policy, the traffic on highways has become a nightmare.

China has the unique travel rush twice every year for the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese Lunar New Year during which Chinese travel home from their work places to spend time with their families.

Traffic jam in the US is nothing compared to what’s happening in China.

Comparison kills contentment

Do you compare yourself with others who seem better, brighter, skinnier, or richer than you? Do you compare your kids with other kids who seem more intelligent, talented, prettier or obedient?

We all do, no question about it. I know I do.

I think of myself as a  content person. I don’t compare myself with people who are better or richer than I am. I don’t care what other people have, nicer houses or cars. I am happy with what I have.

But there is at least one area in my life where I often make comparisons which robs me of contentment.

As a parent, I often compare my kids with other kids.

My son and daughter are both great kids. They are smart, hard working, healthy, and pretty/handsome. They do very well in school and also very well in other activities. I am very proud of them, and I brag about them a lot on the blog.

Yet, you can often catch me saying things like:

“Why don’t you __ like __?”

“Why can’t you be like __?” (just fill the blank)

My daughter told me more than once in response to one of my comparison statements: “Because I am not __. And you are not her mother.”

That’ true. And she is right. I knew it, but somehow I can’t help make the comparison, hoping by comparing her with someone who is better than her in the particular area, I would be able to motivate her to do better.

It doesn’t work that way. I should have known it.

The truth is comparison does not motivate, comparison kills contentment.

Today I listened to a recorded message by Eagle Brook Church Senior Pastor Bob Merritt titled “Don’t Compare With One Another.” It is part 2 of the new series titled “One Another.”

Pastor Merritt says when we make comparison, we become envious and lose our contentment. Simply put, envy is when we resent God’s goodness in other people’s lives and ignore God’s goodness in our own. He offers the following 4 steps to take:

  • Find your true value in Christ.
  • Embrace who God made you to be.
  • Decide what’s IT (the most important thing in life) for you.
  • Be grateful for all that you have.

I realize I still have a lot to learn to be fully content.

Google Translate, quick and easy

Even though English is not my native language, but after living here in the US for 22 years (the exact same amount of years as I lived in China), English feels more like a native language to me, more so than Chinese. Talking with my kids in English is a lot more easy and faster. Writing in English is also more natural and fluent for me.

To communicate with my relatives in China, I usually make phone calls. I have a phone plan with a monthly flat fee of $30 that allows me to make free calls within the US and to over 20 countries, including Canada, China, Germany, etc.

If I have to send emails in Chinese to relatives who don’t know English, I have to type in Pinyin and select the correct Chinese characters word by word. It’s a slow and time consuming process for me, since I don’t do it often enough to be very proficient. As the result, I don’t like doing it.

To make it easy for me, I started using Google Translate if I need to write an email in Chinese.  I simply write my message in English in the left side box, and click the Translate button to have Google translate it into Simplified Chinese in the right side box. Then I copy the result into my email and click send. It’s much faster than writing in Chinese myself.

Overall, Google Translate does a good job conveying the message. However, it translates literally without taking into account the situation or cultural context. It might use words that I wouldn’t use myself.

For example, the English word “You”can be translated into Chinese in two different yet similar characters, one is for more casual use, the other one with an additional radical of heart is for more formal use when addressing someone who is elderly or in higher position.

Recently I sent my cousin’s wife a short message using Google Translate. It translated my English “You” into the Chinese character used in the more formal circumstance.

When I later called and talked to my cousin’s wife, she laughed and wondered why I had become so polite with her. I had to admit that I used Google Translate.

Google Translate is not perfect, but it’s good and I like it. It saves me time.

If you have to deal with a language you don’t know at all, Google Translate can be a godsend.

Encourage one another

It was past midnight, and I was writing a thank-you note to a friend who on Sunday took time from his busy schedule and helped me fix a sprinkler head that was broken.

I was inspired to do so by a Sunday service message I heard by Pastor Jason Strand of Eagle Brook Church on “Encourage One Another.”

Pastor Strand talked about how we can encourage one another:

  • Remember that encouragement costs your nothing, but has a huge payback.
  • If you think something good, say it. It will mean a lot to the person on the receiving end.
  • Encouragement re-energizes others.

He challenged listeners to say something encouraging to at least three people this week.

I can’t agree more with what Pastor Strand said. Encouragement makes a huge difference in life, both to the receiver and the giver.

What’s why I couldn’t end my day without expressing my gratitude and encouragement to my friend.

Whom can you thank and encourage today?

Creating free photo collages

For a project, I wanted to create a photo collage, something I have never done before.

I did a Google search and found several free photo collage makers, such as Kizoa, piZapPhotovisi, Picture2life, and Photo Collage.

The first one I tried, Kizoa, required registration, which was a turnoff for me. I have enough accounts, usernames and passwords to remember, I didn’t want to create another one if not absolutely necessary.

I asked my daughter who had recently created a photo collage, which program she used and whether registration was required. She showed me piZap. That’s the one I used. I thought if my 12 year-old daughter could do it on her own, I probably could too.

piZap is really simple and easy to use. No registration and download required. Creating a collage takes only a few simple steps:

  1. Select Make a Collage.
  2. Choose a design template (depending on how many photos you want to use, whether the photos are vertical and horizontal, and what appeals to you) and click on it.
  3. Click Add Photo and then Upload Photo from your computer. Repeat the process for each box. You can move a photo around from one box to another.
  4. Click Save Image on the upper right corner.
  5. Download the collage to your computer. You can also save it to your Facebook.

A word of caution. Once you have downloaded the collage to your computer, you can’t go back and edit it on piZap. You have to start from scratch again. So try to save all the photos you use in one folder in case you want to go back and recreate the collage with some changes. Then you don’t have to hunt for the photos from different folders.

The most time consuming part for me was selecting photos. I had to redo it twice because I wanted to change some photos after I downloaded it.

Overall, it was very simple and fun.

Leadership interview – Tina Smith, pt. 2

[This is part 2 about my interview with Tina Smith. For part 1, click here]

First, a little bit of background information about Tina Smith:

Smith graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in political science in 1980. After she received her MBA from Dartmouth College in 1984, she moved to Minnesota to start her first job with General Mills. Then she worked at Marketing Insights, MacWilliams Cosgrove Smith Robinson, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. From 2006 to 2010, Smith served as Chief of Staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. She became Governor Mark Dayton’s Chief of Staff in 2011. 

Tang: After Mark Dayton was elected Minnesota Governor, you were his first staff hired and announced on Dec. 10, 2010. You were highly praised by Governor Dayton as a “widely known and respected leader.” 

Prior to that position, you worked in private, non-profit and public sectors and held high positions. You founded a marketing and communications firm. You also worked on many political campaigns at the state and federal levels, including senator, governor or presidential campaigns for Ted Mondale, Walter Mondale, Barack Obama, etc. 

You have very diverse background and experience in business, politics, nonprofit, and government. I am interested in how you got actively involved in politics and various political campaigns, how you became a leader, what is your personal leadership journey like. 

Smith: I majored in political science and have an MBA. I had an interest in politics and business. My parents were very engaged in the local community and actively involved in politics which had an influence on me. After I graduated from Dartmouth College in 1984, I moved to Minnesota to start my first job with General Mills. We bought our first house in St. Louis Park.

I love politics. I started volunteering for Ted Mondale’s  state senator race (Ted is the elder son of the former senator, ambassador and Vice President Walter Mondale) by organizing apartment  buildings.  I also helped with Ted Mondale’s 1998 governor campaign. That’s how I got started in politics.

Tang: Who has inspired you to become a leader? Whom do you admire as a leader, and why?

Smith: Many people have inspired me. In addition to Governor Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Steven Bosacker is a great leader. Steven was Gov. Jesse Ventura’s chief of staff. He occupied this same office space where I am sitting now. He was the Minneapolis City Coordinator from 2006 to 2012. (In February 2012, Steven quit his high-profile, high paying job to spend a year traveling the world.)

Mary Brainerd, HealthPartner President and CEO, is another great leader.

Tang: Governor Dayton has a high number of female leaders on his staff, his inner circle. So you have a lot of exposure and experience working with leaders of both genders in your life. What would you say about the difference between male and female leaders? Do they have different leadership styles and lead differently?

Smith: I have seen both effective and ineffective leadership styles across the borders, regardless of genders. Speaking of my own leadership style, I am more collaborative and relationship oriented. I am not sure if this is gender related. I used to be a focus group moderator, so I learned to listen and pay close attention to what people have to say. I focus on people’s strength. I try to create a culture where they have autonomy to develop and grow to their full potential based on their strength.

Tang: As the chief of staff, you are the gatekeeper in the governor’s office. What has been the most rewarding and challenging part of your job?

Smith: My role as the Chief of Staff is to lead the work to advance the Governor’s agenda, do what he wants to do. I see more rewards than challenges. My job is very rewarding. I feel such an honor and privilege to work with the Governor, to have opportunities to meet and talk with many people. One of the challenges is to figure out how to pull resources and skills together to get things done, to help people understand that we can’t do things the same way as we used to and achieve desired results.

Tang: What do you see as your greatest accomplishments as a leader?

Smith: I don’t see anything as my own accomplishment. It’s all team accomplishment. I think putting together the cabinet members, the team of commissioners to lead various agencies is one of our great accomplishments. Another one was reaching an agreement for funding and building the new Vikings Stadium.

Tang: What are the most critical attributes to successful leadership?

Smith: Honesty, hard work, good listening skills, good judgment, and decisiveness.

Tang: What are some of the most important lessons you have learned as a leader?

Smith: Tell truth even when it’s uncomfortable. Admit mistakes. Not try to be perfect. Find smart people and do your best to keep them fulfilled and stay.

Tang: What types of things have made the greatest differences in your ongoing development as a leader?

Smith: Three things come to my mind – work with people with high integrity; learn new things constantly; and have a good laugh.

Tang: What was the hardest part of being a leader?

Smith: Making decisions that are very hard to make, sometimes not having all the information needed; telling things people don’t want to hear.

Tang: What challenges do you see that leaders face in government?

Smith: The increasingly polarized political climate. People fight against each other instead of working together to reach common ground, solve problems and get things done.

Tang: If I ask you for names of leaders to interview, whom would you recommend and why?

Smith: Sarah Stoesz – Sarah has been the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota since 2001. She is a strong leader. She has successfully led the organization in a hostile environment.

Lucinda Jesson – Lucinda is the Minnesota Dept. of Human Services Commissioner. She leads the state’s largest agency with an annual budget of $11 billion and more than 6,000 employees throughout the state. DHS is one of the most complex and expensive state agencies.


For other leadership interviews, click here.


Leadership interview – Tina Smith, pt.1

Tina Flint Smith, Governor Dayton’s Chief of Staff


Tina Flint Smith, Governor Dayton’s Chief of Staff, graciously agreed to an interview with me. After several schedule changes, we finally met this afternoon in her office at the State Capitol. I was very thankful for the opportunity to meet and talk with her.

How this interview came about is worth mentioning.

One year ago in September 2011, I started the MMB’s Emerging Leaders Institute program. As part of the assignments, I had to interview at least one respected leader every month and then share the interview experience and lessons learned with the class.

As I was thinking about interview candidates, Governor Dayton’s name came to my mind.

Obviously as the governor of the State of Minnesota, he is a respected leader. As a state employee and a US citizen, I personally support him as the governor.

And I remembered I once saw him on TV during a press release or interview when he mentioned that he had been to China several times. This stuck with me. As an immigrant from China, I was curious about his experience from his China trips.

These two reasons were the motivation behind my interview request.

So I contacted the Governor’s office and submitted my interview request. I also followed-up, but without positive results. A couple of times, it looked promising, yet I heard nothing back.

I was disappointed, but not surprised. Considering how busy the Governor is and how many things/people he has to deal with, I have total understanding.

Actually I am very grateful to live in this country and state, to be able to walk into the State Capitol any day, to visit the Governor’s reception room any time when the office is open. I appreciate the freedom we have in this country, the openness and trust the government shows to the public – I don’t take them for granted.

When I told someone who had worked in the state legislature about my interest in interviewing Governor Dayton, his recommendation was: “If the Governor is busy, you may consider interviewing his Chief of Staff- Tina Smith. She is fantastic.”

Last month I ran into Smith at the Capitol Farmers Market during the Minnesota Grown Challenge event I happened to find myself in without advance knowledge. When I saw her, I thought to myself: “Why not talk to Tina and ask her directly and see what happens?”

My philosophy is that it doesn’t hurt to ask, and the worst that can happen is to get a no response. 

So I approached Smith as the event ended and mentioned my interview request. She said she would follow up.

True to her word, she responded and had the meeting set up. The meeting was scheduled and rescheduled four times total. It was a testimony to how busy she was. When we finally met today, I was very thankful for her taking the time out of her busy schedule to meet with me.

The lessons of the background story? –  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and persistence leads to success.

The interview with Smith is to be followed.