On respect

My Internet connection at home is out of service today. I feel like out of touch with the world. So after my daughter’s swimming lesson, I stopped by at the local public library in order to get online to check email and blog.

Isn’t it great to have public libraries where we can get books to read and listen, movies to watch and go online? I am thankful for libraries.

No online access means more offline time to read. So I will be spending most of my evening time reading John Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

There are some great ideas and quotes to share from the book.

One of the 21 laws John Maxwell talks about is the law of respect. I like what he says:

“When people respect you as a person, they admire you. When they respect you as a friend, they love you. When they respect you as a leader, they follow you.”

Are you respected as a person, as a friend and as a leader? It’s something to think about.

Crucial Conversations – book interview

I recently interviewed Khani Sahebjam, Mn/DOT Deputy Commissioner. We talked about the 9th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High, by Kerry Patterson.

Tang: Why did you pick this book? 

Sahebjam: Our success as an individual and as an organization depends a great deal on our ability to communication and handle crucial conversations well. You could have done great things and have good intention, but if you don’t know how to convey important messages to other people and how to deal with disagreements on important matters, then you are limited in what you can achieve. This book helps you to learn how to communicate best when it matters most.   

Crucial Conversations gives you some tools you need to step up to life’s most difficult and important conversations, say what’s on your mind, and get what you want, in a respectful and effective way. 

Tang:  For people who haven’t read the book, what is a crucial conversation? 

Sahebjam: The authors define crucial conversations as those discussions between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong. 

Tang: How do we typically handle crucial conversations? 

Sahebjam: Basically we are all involved in crucial conversations, both at home and at work. But often times we are not aware of the dynamics at play and we are not skilled at handling crucial conversations.  

Typically we do one of the three things when we face crucial conversations: (1) avoid them and walk away, (2) face them and handle them poorly, and (3) face them and handle them well. For the first two choices, you suffer consequences, for the third choice, you can reap positive results – better relationships, career advancement, improved organizations, etc. 

Tang: What are some of the principles and skills we need to understand and master so we can respond well when we face crucial conversations?

Sahebjam: In the book the authors talked about seven principles. 

  1. Start with heart. Examine your goals and motives, focus on what you really want for yourself, for others and for the relationships, refuse the either/or, win/lose thinking. 
  2. Learn to look for when the conversation becomes crucial and for your own behaviors.
  3. Make it safe for everyone to share their opinions and feelings, seek mutual purpose and respect. 
  4. Master our stories. We add meaning, motives and judgment to what we observe, based on the stories we tell ourselves, which create feelings that lead to our actions. So it’s important to tell the right stories.
  5. STATE your path. Share your facts, Tell your story, Ask for others’ take on the facts and stories, Talk tentatively, Encourage testing. 
  6. Explore others’ paths. Understand where others come from. Agree when you can and build on the agreement. 
  7. Move to action. When making decision, ask who cares, who knows, who must agree and how many people need to be involved. To ensure that dialogues and decisions lead to positive action and results, ask who does what by when and how will you follow up.   

Tang: What are the most important skills we should remember? 

Sahebjam: The two most important things to learn and remember from the book are learn to look and make it safe. 

At the core of every successful conversation is the free flow of relevant information and meaning, also known as dialogue. Each of us enters a conversation with different opinions, feelings, experiences, ideas and theories about the topic being discussed. The key is being open and honest in sharing opinions and feelings. 

One critical skill required for ensuring the free flow of information and meaning is to make it safe for everyone to bring their inputs out into the open, into a shared pool. As the shared pool grows, people are exposed to more accurate and relevant information, as the result, they make better choices and decisions. 

Change doesn’t happen without an awareness of the need for change. 

That’s why we need to learn to look for when a conversation becomes crucial and look for safety problems. Becoming aware of the situation (Are you involved in a crucial conversation?) and becoming aware of your behavior (Are you playing the silent or violent games?) is the first step to bring positive change. 

Tang: Please share some quotes from the book that are very meaningful for you. 

Sahebjam: “The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel, and misrepresentation.” – C. Northcote Parkinson 

Tang: I know you are an immigrant from Iran. Tell us a little bit more about your background. 

Sahebjam: My parents were both from Iran. They met and got married in Germany while studying there. It was an arranged marriage as it was common in our culture. I was born in Germany. In 1969, when I was 10 years old, my mother and I went back to Iran. 

I graduated from high school in 1977. The following year I came to the U.S. to study civil engineering at the South Dakota State University. There I met my wife. We have two kids, a daughter who is a student at St. Thomas and a son who is in high school. 

Tang:  So you know three languages, German, Persian and English? Which one are you most comfortable with? 

Sahebjam: English is more natural for me now, then Persian (Farsi) and German. 

Tang: You have quite a cultural diversity in your family background. You experienced different cultures at a young age and have an interracial marriage. How has all this influenced you in your conversation style and handling crucial conversations?      

Sahebjam: There are definitely cultural differences. In some cultures or regions, people are generally more quiet and reserved, in other cultures or regions, people are more direct and open. 

When I meet with people, I like to use humor, often by making fun of myself, to get conversations going. I know what I want, I become aware of situations. When a conversation goes nowhere or goes in the wrong direction, I step back and assess if I am having the wrong conversation or the wrong presentation. If so, then I will approach the conversation from a different angle. The book validated how I have operated in my life.   

Tang: Tell us a little bit about your reading habits. 

Sahebjam: I like to read books on history – American, European and Iranian history. I think you can learn a lot from history, including leadership skills. I read true stories about American civil wars. They are interesting. I also like Persian literature, especially Persian poetry. 

Tang: What do you think of the Commissioner’s Reading Corner? 

Sahebjam: I think Commissioner’s Reading Corner is a new, interesting and thought provoking program. I am happy to participate in the book discussion. It gets people involved in learning and gets conversation going which can make Mn/DOT a better place to work.

Why do I blog?

Today while reading a blog post by Abubakar Jamil on why he wanted to blog, I asked myself the same question – why do I want to blog? 

Before I answer that question, let me share why I get started blogging in the first place. 

On March 29, 2008, I created my first blog “On My Mind.”

At that time, I was writing a weekly column with the same title for my local newspaper Woodbury Bulletin. My column were freely available on its website for about two weeks after publication. After that they were archived and available only for a fee. 

The main reason I started my first blog was to have easy and free access to my own articles. I saw the blog as a convenient place where I could deposit my articles and retreive them anytime and anywhere I wanted. Therefore, I used that blog exclusively to post my columns, except for two posts in November 2009 where I shared the exciting news of my daughter who participated for the first time in the Minnesota State Fair and won first places for her poetry and drawings. 

So I started my first blog mostly for a selfish reason. And I didn’t tell people about my blog.   

In November 2009, after bouncing some ideas with the new Woodbury Bulletin editor Hank Long about starting some new writing for the paper, he suggested that I write a blog to be one of the voices in the local community and have it posted on the Woodbury Bulletin’s website. I liked the idea.

Soon we met in his office to set up my new blog account at areavoices.com. I created a simple profile and gave the blog the same title as my newspaper column and my first blog – On My Mind. I just love that title and the freedom to write whatever is on my mind.

The next day I started blogging and wrote my inaugural Post.

I haven’t stopped since. 

Unlike my first blog, this blog got started with a different purpose and reason. 

Now I love blogging and do it almost every day. 

Now here are my reasons why I blog and keep doing it every day: 

  • to share what’s on my mind, what I know and have learned
  • to express myself
  • to inform and inspire others
  • to connect with like-minded people
  • to hear and be heard
  • to learn from others
  • to grow through writing, reflection and learning from others
  • to journal my day and my life events
  • to preserve memory for my children
  • to practice writing
  • to cultivate creativity

I love writing. I think a lot of bloggers are writers who are lovers of words. We love to express, to share, to learn, to make friends with like-minded people whom we won’t meet otherwise, to grow together on this journey of life.

What are your reasons to blog or read blogs? Please share your thoughts. Thanks.

Is it “Black Friday” or “Buy Nothing Day”?

Today on Black Friday, I made the same choice as I did three years ago. I chose it to be the “Buy Nothing Day.” Read my article here.

I didn’t go shopping, instead I stayed home, relaxed, looked through some photos taken this year, and picked the ones I wanted for the holiday greeting card, uploaded them and sent them over the Internet to get printed.  

I had a peaceful day.

I want to share an article I read this week and liked: live more, need less by Leo Babauta.

 live more, need less

The more I focus on living, the less it seems I need.

What does it mean to focus on living? It’s a shift from caring about possessions and status and goals and beautiful things … to caring about actual life. Life includes: taking long walks, creating things, having conversations with friends, snuggling with my wife, playing with my kids, eating simple food, going outside and getting active.

That’s living. Not shopping, or watching TV, or eating loads of greasy and sweet food not for sustenance but pleasure, or being on the Internet, or ordering things online, or trying to get popular. Those things aren’t living – they’re consumerist pastimes that tend to get us caught up in overconsumption and mindlessness.

When I focus on living, all those other fake needs become less important. Why do I need television when I can go outside and explore, or get active, or take a walk with a friend? Why do I need to shop when I already have everything I need – I can spend time with someone or create, and I need very little to do that.

These things I do now — they require almost nothing. I can live, and need little.

And needing little but getting lots of satisfaction … that’s immensely rewarding. It’s an economy of resources that I’ve never experienced before.

These days, I need nothing but my loved ones, a text editor, a way to post what I create, a good book, simple plant-based food, a few clothes for warmth, and the outdoors.

Thankful for friends

On Thanksgiving, my family invited a few friends to our house for dinner. In addition to the Chinese food, we also had a whole turkey. This was the first Thanksgiving we had in our house that we had a turkey. So it’s quite remarkable.

The amazing thing was I didn’t have to do anything. The turkey was bought, prepared, baked and delivered to my house before the guests arrived, by a friend of mine, as a Thanksgiving gift to me.

My diet is mostly plant based. I don’t eat much meat. In my almost 20 years of living in the U.S., I have never bought a turkey. I have no interest in preparing a turkey. The rest of my family likes to eat other kinds of meat, e.g., chicken, pork, beef.

Last week, my friend told me that turkeys were on sale and asked if I wanted to buy one. I told her: “No, thanks. We don’t buy turkeys. They are not so tasty.”

Then she said that she prepared a turkey for last Thanksgiving for the first time and it turned out well. She offered to buy a turkey for me, thaw it and get it marinated for me so I only needed to put it in the oven and bake it.

It sounded a lot easier, so I said: “OK, please pick the smallest one for me. We don’t need a big one.”

A few days later, my friend called and said: “Since I have to bake my turkey anyway, do you want me to bake yours at the same time and deliver it to you on Thanksgiving?”

That sounded even better.

“Thanks. That would be great,” I said.

Wow, such a nice offer! I didn’t even have to bake it. I was glad I didn’t have to. In fact, I haven’t used my oven for years. If I want to bake a pizza or cake for the kids, I use a small portable oven. I don’t bake much and use the oven mostly as a storage space.

Now that we would have a turkey on Thanksgiving, we decided to have a few friends over for party.

Everyone loved the turkey. I tried s few bites and it was really good, tender and tasty.

One dinner guest told me that she doesn’t eat turkey at home that her husband prepares, but she did like my turkey and ate some.

A couple of days ago, when I expressed my gratitude to my friend for preparing the turkey for me, she responded: “This is what friends are for, right?  And this is the least I can do for you…  Let me know if you like the turkey later, so I can be your turkey delivery person on every Thanksgiving day!”

What a great friend I have!

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I am especially thankful for my friends.

P.S. In my recent post on Living between two cultures, I mentioned holidays and turkeys. This year, for the first time my kids had a real American Thanksgiving dinner at home, with a turkey. They didn’t have to ask: “Why don’t we eat turkey on Thanksgiving like everyone else?” Is this coincidence?

Live more organically

I try to live a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy and doing exercises. A part of any healthy lifestyle should include eating and living organically.

Here is what I do:

  • I buy produces at the local farmer’s market whenever possible. That way I buy food grown locally and in season.
  • In summer I grow my own vegetables in the garden.
  • I do compost all year around. Composting kitchen waste and yard waste is a great way to reduce trash and produce rich soil that acts as a natural fertilizer for my homegrown organic garden.
  • I eat mostly home cooked meals. I rarely go out to eat.
  • When prices are compatible, I try to buy organic food.

Unfortunately, organic food is usually more expensive than conventional food. So most of the food I buy at grocery stores are nonorganic.

I just finished reading the book Organic Manifesto : How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe  by Maria Rodale. Maria Rodale’s grandfather was organic pioneer J.I. Rodale who founded the Rodale Institute in 1947.

The book talks about how chemical companies and chemical farming are destroying our health and our planet. It made me think about the importance of eating organic for my own health, my children’s health, the health of future generations , and for the health of the planet.

Yes, I do need to buy, eat and live more organically. I should at least start with the foods on the Dirty Dozen list.

The list shows which type of produce has the highest pesticide residues and which do not. It helps us prioritize our organic purchases.

12 Most Contaminated:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

12 Least Contaminated: 

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya

Preventing and curing colds

Dr. Mercola’s article A Simple, Inexpensive Trick to Cure a Cold  has some sound advice for preventing and curing colds.

I agree with Dr. Mercola. For something like a common cold, let it run its natural course. Avoid taking over-the-counter cough and cold remedies or fever reducers as long as your temperature remains below 102 degrees and there is no serious complications.

In today’s world  where instant gratification is increasingly expected, people are overdosed and overly medicated. Whenever we have a health problem, we like to take a magic pill so we can get rid of the problem right away.

Most drugs and conventional treatment methods are overused. They don’t address the cause of the problem. They can do more harm than simply doing nothing ever would.

Nature runs its own course. Healing takes time. To get better, we need to be patient and work at the root cause. Don’t expect a magic pill to make you healthy. It might be able to make you feel better, but it cannot make you healthy in the long run.

Photos from Mount Putuo

Today I added some photos I took while visiting Putuoshan (Mount Putuo) in Zhejiang Province during my trip in China this summer. You can view my photos if you have a Facebook account.

Mount Putuo is one of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism, the others being Mount Wutai, Mount Jiuhua, and Mount Emei. Most visitors are not Buddhists, but simply tourists like me.

You can find lots of images of Mount Putuo if you do a Google search.

So far I have posted about 1/3 of photos taken during my China trip on my Facebook. More to go.


Faithful Buddhist pilgrims kowtow once for every three steps during their journeys to the top of Mount Putuo.


Worship with incenses.

Live a Better Life in 30 Days – Ebook available

 In September I participated in Celes’ Live A Better Life in 30 Days Challenge. It was a great experience.

Today I ordered a copy of Celes’ ebook Live a Better Life in 30 Days. The materials in the ebook are based on the 30DLBL Challenge program, with new tasks added.

The 30DLBL ebook includes a comprehensive guidebook that will walk you through 30DLBL AND a workbook with detailed templates for activities.  Templates include the 30-day action plan, the life wheel, life map, action plan, values map, reflection logs, etc.

I would like to get the book, review the materials, take time and do the challenge again or update the tasks I did in September.

I don’t know if I made it into the first 20 people who pre-ordered the book. If yes, I will receive my copy before the official release date of Nov. 25, 2010.

Confused about i.e. and e.g.?

I often get confused about these two abbreviations, i.e. and e.g., and how to use them correctly. 

Yes, I have looked them up in the dictionary and figured out the difference, more than once, but I still manage to get confused after a while. I have a hard time remember which is which.

Today I read an article titled “Using i.e. and e.g.: ditch the Latin book and follow these tips” by Mignon Fogarty in the July 2010 Regan Report. With the tips I learned, I hope I can finally remember the difference between these two abbreviations and know how to use them correctly without having to consult any dictionary again.

I.e. and e.g. are both abbreviations for Latin terms.

I.e. stands for id est and means “that is.” Because i.e. starts with i, use “in other words” as a memory trick. Or imagine that i.e. means “in essence.” I.e. is used to introduce a further clarification.

E.g. stands for exempli gratia and means “for example.” Because e.g. starts with e, use “for example” as a memory trick. Or imagine that e.g. sound like “egg sample.” E.g. is used to introduce an example.

I like card games, e.g., bridge and crazy eights. (It’s not a finite list of all card games I like; it;s just a few examples)

I like to play cards, i.e., bridge and crazy eights. (These are the only card games that I enjopy)

Use a comma after i.e. and e.g.

In a nutshell:

i.e.= in other words; in essence.

e.g. = example; egg sample,

The lighter side of librarianship

If you love library/librarian and humor (who doesn’t?), then you will also love Will Manley and his blog Will Unwound.

Will is a retired librarian and public administrator, and also a columnist. I have been reading his monthly column Will’s World in the American Library Association’s American Libraries Magazine for quite a few years. He has a great sense of humor. His writings on the lighter side of librarianship draw people to his columns and blog.

When I read his column or blog, I often find myself laugh or smile. I just read some of his newer posts, Greetings from Midway Airport, Male bonding, Copyright karma, etc. I couldn’t help but laugh again.

Check it out, if you are in need of some laugh.

Corrupt medical system

My Dad, 77 years old living in China, does not like to go to hospitals. He would rather suffer pain and discomfort than visit a doctor. He does not trust the corrupt medical system in China. Usually my mother goes to pharmacies and get some medications for him if needed.

But on Tuesday last week, my Dad had no choice but to go to the hospital. He experienced serious complications from his enlarged prostate (BPH). There was no way he could avoid a hospital visit.

He was immediately admitted to the hospital and had to stay there to do all kinds of tests. Finally this Monday, he went through the surgical treatment for several hours. The surgery was to remove the enlarged part of the prostate that constricts the urethra. Now he is still in the hospital recovering and likely will stay there for a few more days.

Like other patients in China, in addition to pay medical bills, my parents also have to worry about if and how they should hand a red envelop filled with money to the doctor in charge. My parents chose that hospital because a former student of my mother (My mother was a high school math teacher) is in charge of the department where my father seeks the treatment.

Doctors give patients expensive drugs because they can get a nice kickbacks. That’s nothing new and strange in China either.

It’s really an understatement that people in China are very frustrated with the whole medical system which is totally corrupt.

People in the U.S. also complain about the corrupt health care system in this country, but comparing to China, U.S. is in a much better shape. At least when we visit a doctor or go to a hospital, we never have to worry about bribe doctors and nurses, as it is common in China.

Picky eaters

I found it interesting and weird that people who grow up in the same family have totally different taste and preference for food.

My son Andy eats most of the food we prepare at home, vegetables and meat, except seafood. He loves and eats a lot of fruit, except banana from its original package, I mean peel.

My daughter, on the other hand, eats some seafood, but she does not like vegetables and fruit. There are only a few vegetables that she eats, and she eats vegetables only because she has to eat some no matter what. Normally we have two or three different kinds of vegetables on the dinner table, she eats only from one of them. She tries to eat as less as possible while I want her to eat as much as possible.

When it comes to fruit, Amy is even more picky. She only eats banana and doesn’t like anything else. Banana is all her fruit intake. She doesn’t even want to try other kinds of fruit. So one of my daily tasks is to make sure that she at least eats her banana every day.  That’s what she has been doing for her whole life (she is almost 11 now).

What’s weird is Amy likes her banana right out of its peel, unlike my son who hates banana out of the peel.

My son and daughter come from the same family background, yet have so totally different preferences. I don’t know why.  

I tried to think of some reasons that might have caused this difference, and look for something/someone to blame.

“What did I do wrong when they were babies?” 

“What was different when they were little?”

The only difference I could think of was my son was born in Chicago, Illinois and my daughter was born in Twin Cities, Minnesota.

Chinese people believe that kids become smarter when they eat more seafood. So when my son was born, I ate fish and had fish soup almost every day. The soup helped to increase the breast milk.

Chicago has Chinatown and it was easy to buy live fish. That’s what I had, a lot of fish and fish soup. I had more breast mild that my son could consume. I breastfed him for about 11 months.

My daughter was born after we moved to Twin Cities. I did not eat a lot of live fish and had fish soup when I breast fed her.  The breast milk fried out much faster. My daughter was on breastmild for almost 6 months. I remember I made my own baby food puree with carrots and other vegetables for her, as I did for my son. But my daughter definitely had more vegetables than seafood as a baby.

Could it be that when you eat too much of something as a baby, you develop a dislike for it when you grow up?

Is our preference for food something we were born with or is it determined by the environment?

Nature or nurture, which one is the determining factor?

I really don’t know the answer.

Lately I have been making smoothies for my kids every day. I use bananas, apples, strawberries or other fruit to make the smoothies. This way, my son gets to eat banana that he normally doesn’t eat and my daughter gets to eat fruit other than banana that she normally doesn’t eat. It’s a good solution. I am glad that Amy is willing to drink smoothies now. Before I made smoothies only for my son. Amy was never interested in it.

The only good thing about my kids’ picky eating behavior is that they never fight for food. They each can eat as much as veggies or fruit as they want, it doesn’t bother the other one, because they don’t like the same thing.

Candies and snacks are a different story though.

By the way, it turned out that my daughter is actually as smart as my son, if not smarter. So the Chinese saying that seafood makes people smarter has not proved to be true in our family.

The Things we believe in

Guest column by Gary Foreman

Aren’t you fascinated by the human mind. That we can think is truly amazing. The ability to evaluate the world around us and make decisions based on that input is a very important part of who we are.

Also curious is that sometimes we also have an ability to believe whatever we want despite the facts. Let’s take a look at some of the financial things that we might believe.

Bad things don’t happen to good people. We’d all like to believe it. Our car won’t break down. Others get sick, but not me. Therefore I don’t need an emergency fund or insurance. I can postpone the savings or insurance until I have more money. But, the truth is sobering. Every car will break down at some point. And almost all of us will spend some time in the hospital during our lives. Everyone needs a plan for handling the unexpected.

Because I did it before and didn’t get hurt, I can do it again. Just because you got away with a bad decision before doesn’t mean that you’ll continue to get by with it. Don’t automatically assume that you’ll be as fortunate next time.

Everybody’s doing it and so can I. It’s very rare that everyone is doing something dangerous. Usually it’s only a few people. And rarely do we know enough about their finances to know whether they’re really getting away with it. Even if they look prosperous, they may be getting calls from bill collectors and worry themselves to sleep each night.

Even if everyone’s doing it, it doesn’t mean that it’s smart for you. Several years ago, a lot of people were using variable mortgages to buy homes that they really couldn’t afford. Now we know that it wasn’t a good choice. Therefore, think through any move and how it might affect your personal finances.

I’m smart, so I’ll avoid problems. We’d all like to believe that we’re smarter than average. And, that our smarts make us less vulnerable to financial problems than the average guy. Sadly, our guard is down when we’re so sure of ourselves and we’re probably more likely to have problems. 

Decisions don’t have consequences. Many of us fail to see the connections between the problems that we’re having today and the decisions we made yesterday. We chose a new car instead of leaving the money in savings. Months later, the refrigerator breaks down and we don’t have the money to repair it. It’s the decision we made to take the money out of savings that caused the suffering today. To understand what went wrong, we often have to go beyond the first step. Sometimes the problem goes back a few steps.

Take a look at some of the things that you believe about your finances. You might just find that some of them simply aren’t true.

Gary Foreman is the editor of  The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletter. Would you like to be in control of your finances? Begin each day with Financial Independence, a free enewsletter designed to put you in charge of your finances!

Relaxed at the James J. Hill House

I had a rare opportunity to visit the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue in St. Paul Sunday afternoon (Nov. 14).

I attended a relaxation class with Beth Freschi, a life coach who teaches classes at Lauderdale Wellness Center. Throughout the year, Beth offers special events with a theme at the James J. Hill House. 

The relaxation class includes deep breathing, muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and the loving kindness meditation.

I have always enjoyed the relaxation class with Beth that she offers at Mn/DOT once a month. I feel very relaxed after each class. But this one is special, because it was held in the James J. Hill House, a building with historical significance. A few times I almost dosed off.

James J. Hill was the proud of St. Paul. His legacy in St. Paul includes not only the James J. Hill House, now part of the Minnesota Historical Society, but also the James Hill Reference Library in downtown St. Paul.

Snow is here, so is the challenge

Today we got the first snow of the season.

I woke to several inches of snow on the ground. It’s midnight now, still snowing.

My kids love snow. They were excited to go out to shovel the snow and play in the snow.

I, on the other hand, don’t like snow, for one reason. It makes driving so hard.

The place where I grew up in China is on the east coast near Shanghai. We didn’t have much snow. When we had snow, it didn’t stay on the ground for long. But here in Minnesota, the snow can stick around for months.

I learned driving after I came to the U.S. in 1991. I was in my late twenties. So both driving and driving on the slippery road do not feel natural to me, as it could be for someone who learned to drive in her teens and grew up in Minnesota.

What’s more, I was once involved in a fatal traffic accident in Germany. I was a passenger in a car. We were driving on the city street early in the morning on a weekend. There was hardly any traffic. A guy was crossing the street from the other side where there was no pedestrian crossing. We slowed down, but since he stopped in the middle island, we kept going. But suddenly he started walking again. He got hit by our car on the windshield and then landed on the ground. He was taken to the hospital and died. We were told that he was drunk. 

It wasn’t the driver’s fault, but still, the accident was a pretty dramatic experience for me as I was on the passenger side.

All these resulted in my dislike of driving. I avoid driving if I don’t have to. I am slow and careful when I drive.

I get really nervous when I have to drive on snowy days, especially when the road is slippery. A normal 20-minute drive to work can be a real challenge for me. It could take more than an hour or two.

The really scary experience occurs when you lose control of your car and it turns around by itself and you can’t do anything about it except feel your heart beat fast and say a quick prayer: “God, help!!!”

I don’t mind cold weather, as long as it doesn’t snow. In fact, super hot or super cold weather doesn’t bother me much.

I was accustomed to temperature changes while growing up. We didn’t have air conditioning and heating in the house at that time. No one else had either in our region.

During summer, the temperature could get to over 10o degree Fahrenheit. We slept on the wood floor or spent the night under the sky on a bamboo chair, with mosquitoes as our company.

During winter, the temperature gets down below freezing. We wore the same winter jacket inside the house and outside the house, and used hot water bottle to warm our bed and feet when we went to bed. The biggest challenge was to get out of the warm bed and get up to a cold temperature in the morning. But comparing to driving on the slippery road, that felt like a piece of cake now. At least my life was not in any danger.

Nowadays, life is really comfortable. There is always air conditioning or heating to make life comfortable. And we get quite spoiled. People often complain about too hot or too cold inside the building. Because we live in the controlled environment, we have less tolerance for any temperature change. That’s never a problem for me. I have a very high tolerance for temperature change, but a low tolerance for snow.

So far I have lived in three different states (Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota) in the U.S., all in the Midwest region. If I ever move away from the region, it’s most likely because I can’t stand the snow any more and the challenge to drive on snowy days and on slippery road is too much for me to bear.

Ask and you shall receive

I wrote a post titled “Ask and you shall receive” back in February. Something that happened to me today reminded me of this verse again.

I am pretty good at keeping my family’s finance balanced and organized. When I receive new bills, I enter them into my checkbook. I pay all bills on time. Most of them are paid automatically from band or credit card accounts. I only have to make sure that there is enough money in the bank account to cover all payments.

Normally I know when I need to transfer more money into my checking account to cover the expenses. But once in a blue while, I get so caught up in something, I would forget my financial responsibility of checking my account balance and replenishing it when the balance gets low.

In the last few days, I was spending more time on my writing life – blogging and visitng other blogs and websites, I totally neglected my financial life. When I checked my bank accounts today, I was surprised to find a negative number in red color in my checking account. And there was an overdrawn fee as well.

Oooops, I forgot I had a large credit card bill to pay. I didn’t enter it into my checkbook and I hadn’t checked my balance for a couple of weeks. So when the credit card bill went through last week, my balance went down to the negative.

I immediately transferred money into my checking account. Then I called my bank Hiway Federal Credit Union. I admitted that it was my fault and asked if they could reverse the fee.

I have been with the bank for about 10 years. It was probably the third or fourth time that incidents like this happened to me. Every time I called, I got what I asked for.

This time was no exception. They reversed the overdrawn charge for me once again.

I was grateful and glad that I asked, even though I was a little bit hesitant at the beginning.

“I am not the first time offender. They have already done that for me three times. They probably will say no this time.”  I thought.

But I went ahead and called anyway.

“Nothing to lose, just ask.” I told myself.

It took me only a phone call and a few minutes. But I got what I asked for. This experience simply reinforced my belief that “Ask and you shall receive.”

Live a life of significance

The Calling: Live a Life of Significance is a new book by Dr. Kurt Senske. It is also the title of a presentation by the author  at the Woodbury Lutheran Church tonight.

I have been in search of my calling and wondering how I can live a life of significance.

People often talk about success, because most people want to be successful in life, including me. But is success all I want? No. I am more interested in significance.

So what’s the difference between success and significance? How do you define success and significance?

Success is the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence. Success is attaining an external state of being. We associate success with fame, fortune, status, power, etc.

Significance is the quality of having great value or importance. Significance is a quality of being important, an internal state of  becoming.

Being significant is considerably different from being successful.

A successful person may achieve many things. When you are successful, you might be able to leave a big inheritance to your children.

But significant people serve. When you live a life of significance, you leave behind a legacy. Significance is all about relationships. The focus in not on wealth, but more on giving and generosity.

But how do you step from success to significance?

When I found out about today’s presentation on this topic via Woodbury Bulletin, I was really interested and wanted to go.

I was really glad that I went  and had a chance to meet the author and learn from him.

Dr. Kurt Senske serves as Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS). He holds a law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law, a BS in Business Administration from Valparaiso University, a master’s degree in International Relations from Schiller International University in Paris, France, and a PhD in Government from the University of Texas at Austin.

In the presentation, Dr. Kurt Senske shared his journey and talked about strategies and ways of living out our calling and living a life of significance: make God the center of your live, simplifying your live, caring for yourself, serving our family, profession, community and church, among others.

Thanks to Dr. Kurt Senske for writing the book and for your presentation tonight. I am looking forward to reading your book.

You can watch Dr. Senske on YouTube.

What does it take to be happy?

I have a Twitter account that I opened a few years ago. I was curious to see what it was and how it worked. Then I signed up to follow a few people and got followed by a few. But the truth is, I am not an active participant and have not really used it. I don’t have time to play with it.

Today I got the idea to write a twitter style response to the question: “What does it take to be happy?” as posted on the Tiny Buddha website.

My first draft is:

To be happy has nothing to do with being rich and having money. It has everything to do with your attitude and your state of mind. If you can

  • be positive, content, thankful and humble
  • do what you love and are passionate about
  • live authentically in sync with your belief system and values
  • live a balanced life in mind, body and spirit
  • have meaning and purpose in life
  • work toward your dreams and goals
  • find your true love and soulmate
  • make a difference and leave the world in a better place

you will be happy.

I thought I was pretty concise and to the point. But when I did a word count in MS Word, I have 422 characters. That’s way more than allowed in Twitter. A  tweet can only contain up to 140 characters. I had to cut 2/3 of the characters. 

Here is what I ended up with after making some hard choices:

positive content thankful humble, do what you love, live authentically, balanced in mind body spirit, find love soulmate meaning purpose, give and make difference.

That’s exactly 140 characters based on the word count.

But when I pasted it into the Twitter entry box, I was still over the word limit. The hashtag is included in the counting. In the Twitter world, the space is also counted. I had to trim my answer further down to be accepted by Twitter.

Here is the final result:

#lifeshardestQs positive content thankful passionate authentic balanced mind body spirit love soulmate meaning purpose give make difference

I like the longer version better.

No wonder I am not actively using Twitter. Blogging is much more fun for me than Twitter.

Living between two cultures

As a first generation immigrant, I live in between two cultures (or sometimes no cultures). If it doesn’t make sense to you, let me share an example.

How about holidays?

In China, the biggest traditional holiday is the Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival, which is celebrated sometime in January or February.

When I was growing up, the holiday was a huge deal. Every family spent several weeks shopping for food and at least one week preparing for the Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner. Kids got red envelops with lucky money, and wore some new clothes. At least once a year, we got to eat something or have something that we didn’t have regularly throughout the year. 

So the traditional Chinese New Year meant a great deal to me.

Since I left China in 1986, the holiday has slowly become a memory. Celebrating Chinese New Year outside of China is just not the same as in China.

In China people get a whole week off for the holiday. But it’s not a holiday in the U.S., so I don’t get a day off. There is just not the holiday atmosphere to celebrate it. The best I do is usually to get together with a few Chinese families and have a big dinner party.

When the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday comes in the U.S., the holiday atmosphere is there, and is everywhere, and I also get the day off, but I don’t feel emotionally so connected, because I didn’t grow up with the tradition.

So in the end, I celebrate both the most important Chinese holiday and also the most important American holiday. However, emotionally, I don’t feel I am deeply connected to either one.   

This “living between two cultures” phenomenon has also spilled over to my two children, even though they are both born in the U.S. They are suffering some consequences as being the second generation immigrants.

My two kids have asked questions such as:

“Why do I have to do so much homework while my friends are outside playing?”

The answer is because Chinese parents are more academically focused, are more demanding and have higher expectations of their kids. You should work hard and get all As at school.

“Why can’t I watch some TV and play some games like other kids do?”

Because you don’t have time for that. You have more important homework to do.

“Why do I have to do so much extra curricular activities, Chinese, math, piano, drawing, etc.?”

The answer is you should be thankful that you are not living in China. Your cousins in China are doing much more than you do here. 

“Why don’t we eat turkey on Thanksgiving like everyone else?”

Because your parents never ate turkeys until they come to the U.S. They prefer to eat chickens or ducks instead. Besides, they don’t know what to do with a big turkey.

When I think about it, it is really not just people like me, the first generation immigrants who live in between two cultures, but it also affects our kids, the second generation immigrants, or even the third generation.

That’s why it is hard sometimes for immigrants to find our identity.

Chicken McNuggets – what’s the scoop?

For people who eat McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, or chicken nuggets in general, I highly recommend that you read this article The chicken which should be banned by Dr. Mercola. And better yet, let your kids read it.

A few highlight from the article:

  • Only 50 percent of a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget is actually chicken. The other 50 percent includes corn derivatives, sugars, leavening agents and completely synthetic ingredients.
  • Chicken McNuggets, rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, are a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook.
  • Wholesome, health-promoting food is “live” food, and the hallmark of live food is the fact that it will decompose. The fact that these burgers, buns, and fries do not decompose, even after a decade or two, is a clear sign that it’s just not real food, and should not be part of your diet.
  • Consume as much whole, raw, organic and/or locally grown foods as possible.

I bet the majority of people in the U.S., especially children, eat chicken nuggets. My kids love them too. Chicken nuggets are regularly served in school cafeterias.

Granted, you need to read everything online or in papers with a grain of salt, but I think it’s safe to say, chicken nuggets are not healthy food and should be avoided as much as possible.

I hardly take my kids to McDonald’s. They probably could count on the times they eat McDonald’s kids meal in a year on one hand. We mostly eat home cooked meals made from scratch.

When I was living in an apartment in St. Paul about 10 years ago, I had a neighbor who was an oncologist. His family of three rarely cooked at home. Several times a week they went to McDonald’s for breakfast, or lunch or dinner. Naturally, he was overweight.

I had always wondered why they consumed so much junk food. As a doctor, he should have known better.

My point in sharing this is, don’t trust your doctors blindly. They don’t necessarily know more than you do, or walk their talk, or have your best interest in mind. You need to take your health matter into your own hands. It really starts with getting better informed and living a healthier life with less processed/junk food.

After reading this article on Chicken McNuggets, I am considering banning this food from my kids’ meal.

Other related articles:

Eating This Just Twice a Week Can Make You Gain Ten Pounds…

Most of What You Eat is Not Real Food

Teaching my kids Chinese

My two kids were born in the U.S. English is their native language.

As an immigrant from China, I want my kids to know their heritage. So I try to teach my kids Chinese. It’s hard.

Once my son started daycare at age two and learned English, he speaks English most of the time, and exclusively with his younger sister. They only speak some Chinese then they have to with grandparents. When I speak to them in Chinese, they respond in English. They can understand Chinese, but they don’t like to speak the language. They find it hard to learn. It doesn’t come natural to them.

Both went to Saturday Chinese school since they were five years old. On Saturdays during the school year, they had two 50-minute lessons of Chinese.

But starting with this school year, they both quit going to the Saturday Chinese school, at age of 12 and 10.

First my carpool partner decided to quit for her two boys. After some consideration, we decided to quit as well and do homeschooling.

My kids didn’t like going to Chinese school and doing Chinese home work. And it was a big commitment for us parents to drive one hour back and forth on Saturdays to the Chinese school and wait for three hours (They had math in addition to Chinese). It was always a hassle to get them to finish their homework during the weekdays. It added more stress to life.

Since we quit going to Chinese School in September, our life has become a little more relaxed. Now they learn Chinese at home.

This summer when we were in China, I bought Han Zi Gong on 5 DVDs. Han Zi Gong has 720 lessons. Each 6-minute lesson teaches about 5  Chinese characters. The lessons with a teacher and two kids as students are really fun to watch. The teacher does a super job explaining the origin, meaning and pronounciation of each character. Han Zi Gong is really a simple, effective and enjoyable tool to learn Chinese. I enjoyed watching it myself and had so many “Aha!” moments after I learned something new. Even though I know most of the Chinese characters and how to use them, but I don’t necessarily know the orgin of each character.  Chinese language is a beautiful language. It’s really interesting to learn the story behind the characters.

Besides watching a few lessons of Han Zi Gong every day, my kids have to read 1-2 stories in Chinese to me. Because they don’t go to Chinese school any more, I feel more responsible for their Chinese learning. So I actually spend more time helping them with reading than I did before.

So far they are doing good. I think our current homeschooling is working better. They are learning more effectively and we are not as stressed as before.

Read An introduction to Chinese language

Discovering my true identity

Today I went to the “Girlfriends Morning Together” retreat at Woodbury Lutheran Church. One of the presentations I attended and really liked was on discovering our true identity. It got me think about what my true identity is.

“Who am I?”

“Who are you?”

When we hear this kind of question, our first thought usually is: “I am Qin Tang (or any name),” “I am a mom,” “I am a librarian,” “I am a writer,” etc. 

Do these answers describe my true identity? 

First let’s find out what the word “identity” mean. 

The Webster Dictionary defines identity as: 

  • sameness of essential or generic character in different instances; sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing
  • the distinguishing character or personality of an individual  

Based on this definition, my name, my relational title or my job title do not really describe what my true identity is. 

A person’s name can change. My current name is different than what’s on my birth certificate, because I changed my name when I started school. Many women in the western cultures change their names after marriage. We can change our names for no reason. 

A person’s relational title can change due to the changes in life circumstances. I only became a mom after my son was born 12 years ago. Life circumstances can change suddenly and unexpectedly. We can not hang our identity on life circumstances. 

A person’s job title can change any time. We find jobs, change jobs, lose jobs, find new jobs so often, they do not stay the same. 

So if my name, my relational title or my job title cannot really describe who I am, then what is that sameness, the oneness that does not change for me from birth to death that can describe what my true identity is? 

My true identity can be found in Jesus Christ:

  • I am made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)
  • I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
  • I am a child of God. God is my spiritual Father (John 1:12)
  • I am a friend of Jesus Christ (John 15:15)
  • I am blessed coming in and blessed going out (Deuteronomy 28:12)
  • I am God’s workmanship to do good works (Ephesians 2:10)
  • I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • I am the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • I am the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)
  • I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
  • I am an Heir of God and a Joint heir of Jesus (Romans 8:17)
  • I am being transformed by a renewed mind  (Romans 12:1, 2)
  • I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)

In summary, I am not who I say I am. I am not who others say I am. I am what God said I am. I can do what God said I can do. I can be what God want me to be. 

To live an effective life, a life of significance, we need to know our true identity.

The Power of a Praying Husband

As a librarian and avid reader, I love books. I also like to give books as gifts.

One of the books I am going to give as a wedding gift to a marrying couple is titled “The Power of a Praying Husband” by Stormie Omartian. She is the best selling author of “The Power of a Praying Wife.”

The Power of a Praying Husband is an easy to read and practical book. It touches on twenty different areas in which husbands should pray for their wives – her husband, spirit, emotions, motherhood, moods, marriage, submission, relationships, priorities, beauty, sexuality, fears, purpose, trust, protection, desires, work, deliverance, obedience and future. 

I took a quick read of the book and found it helpful. I think if every husband who desires a great marriage reads this book and follow the advice, he has a better chance of being a great husband and having a successful marriage.

Read local newspaper – to be informed and connected

When it comes to local news and events in Woodbury, I think I am pretty well informed.

Sometimes when I tell my friends about special events in the local community, they seem to be surprised by what I know and wonder how I know so much about what’s happening in the community.

Well, I don’t have any magic tricks or special connections. The only thing I have is Woodbury Bulletin which I read every week from cover to cover, except a few sections I am not interested in.

For the almost 10 years I have lived in Woodbury, I have never missed reading a single issue of this paper. Even though I was out of the country for seven weeks this summer, I still saved and read the paper after I came back. As a result, I stay informed about what’s happening with city government, schools, churches, library, businesses, etc. in the community.   

I read other newspapers too, but none of them is so dear and close to me than Woodbury Bulletin. I care more about it because I am part of this community. 

We all know that newspaper circulation has been in decline in the last few decades, especially since 1990’s. As national and world news become more readily available on TV and Internet, along with the continued trend of urban sprawl, national and metropolitan newspapers have lost much of their readership.  

However, many smaller newspapers with targeted readership are doing OK or thriving, especially the suburban newspapers which focus on local news. While you can easily get national and international news from CNN and Internet, nobody provides local news but the local newspapers. 

The local newspapers are where we find local news that is more relevant to our daily lives. These newspapers are dealing with the lives of the people we might know in the community. They play an important role in informing, creating and supporting their communities. With an emphasis on local issues and everyday events, the local newspapers become an integral part of the community. 

I go on the Internet for the major news stories of the day where I can find more up to date information than the newspapers. But for local news and events, I mostly rely on Woodbury Bulletin.

In this week’s Woodbury Bulletin, I found a couple of events that I am interested in attending, a women’s retreat “Girlfriends Morning Together” (11/6/10) and author Kurt Senske speaking on “Living a life of significance,” (11/11/10), both events offered by Woodbury Lutheran Church.

I won’t have known about these events if I didn’t read the local paper.

If you want to keep up with what is happening in your community, if you want to get involved in community activities and events, then read your local newspaper. That’s what I do every week.

Blogs recommended

Internet is like a gold mine. When you look around and dig around, you will find treasures. The more you dig, the more you will find.

That’s how I feel when I come upon websites and blogs that interest me.

Today I discovered the following two blogs, by the same author Victorino Abrugar from Philippines. I really enjoyed reading his articles. Internet has made our world smaller. Now we can connect to people anywhere around the world. Geographic boundaries are no barriers any more.

If you are interested in personal development, check out the following two blogs.

SecretContents.com (The secrets to everything) is a personal, professional and spiritual development blog that banks every secret to success stories about life in general. Here, you will find fundamental and life-changing articles on topics about life, love, relationship, God, science, money, business, success, happiness, health, society, philosophy, self-improvement and just any topics related to our personal, physical, professional, spiritual, financial and entrepreneurial development. The site generally contains short but straightforward articles that offer a quick read which can be enjoyed by anyone in just a few minutes. Comprehensive and long articles are also occasionally published to enrich instructional and detailed topics such as “steps” and “list of” posts.

AmazingWisdom.com (Simple answers to life’s big questions) is a free web reference that answers life’s greatest and most controversial questions.  In facing our biggest questions, there can be no other knowledge or wisdom that can provide us the truest answers than the wisdom and knowledge of our Almighty God. The Wisdom and Spirit of God are in the Words. These Words are filled in the Holy Scriptures – the Holy Bible. The human knowledge or science provides us various theories and principles. However, up to this moment of time, most of these theories still need further scientific tests and experimentations to become facts and precisions. As new discoveries are found, many of these theories are proven to be blunders. But the Holy Bible, which is more than thousands of years old, has increased its credibility as years go by and as new discoveries our found. The roundness of Earth, the placement of Earth in an empty space, the multitude of the stars, the expanding of the Universe, and the form of the Universe like a scroll – these are only some of the true science that align to the Holy Scriptures.

Why is it so hard to apologize?

Just a few days ago, I wrote a post about the two magic words “Thank You” that can work wonders.

Today I kept thinking about the other magic words “I am sorry” that are as powerful as “Thank You” and can work wonders as well in a different way. And wondering why people don’t use them when they should.

Back in July, I paid and registered my son for the in-house basketball with a local athletic association. I never heard anything back from them after the registration.

Last year, my son had already started orientation at the end of October. But so far this year, nothing happened. So I got concerned.

Today I emailed the basketball program coordinators/directors of the athletic association to inquire about it and to find out when the in-house basketball would start.

To my surprise, I was told that the in-house basketball for my son’s grade level was canceled  in August due to low enrollment.  They tried contacting me back in August, but the email address and the phone number I gave them did not work.

Honestly, I was not happy to hear the news. We were looking forward to this basketball program to start. This is the only sport my son really likes and wants to do. I wanted him to get some exercises. I even tried to register him for SEMS swimming program two months ago, but there was no space available for his level. 

Now he couldn’t do basketball either.

I was more than not happy, I was a little upset.

Why didn’t they notify me earlier? How could both of my email address and phone number not work? I know both from the heart and won’t give them wrong information. They have my registration form with address too. How much effort did they put into contacting me?

There is really no excuse in my mind. In this day and age, finding someone is so easy and quick. I am in the local phonebook. I am also on the Internet. It won’t take much time and effort to find me and verify my contact information.

What upsets me more is the fact that I contacted the same people in September to cancel my daughter’s in-house basketball registration. And I told them I had to cancel one of my kids’ registrations because I could not drive them to their practices on the same date/time and at different schools. If they canceled my son’s program, they should have told me then when I contacted them. Now they are telling me that they couldn’t notify me about the cancellation because my contact info didn’t work. How should I think of that?

What upsets me even more is the fact that no one said a word of apology. How hard is it to simply say: “I am sorry for what happened.”

I understand that the athletic programs are mostly run by volunteers who have full time jobs and familes to take care of. I appreciate their sacrifice when they help with the programs and volunteer for the community. I know we are all humans which means we make mistakes. I do too. It’s all understandable.

But how hard is it for someone to say: “I am sorry?” That’s really all I wanted to hear. Even if they did everything right, and no mistake was made, it would still be a nice gesture to say: “I am sorry for any inconvenience this has caused for you.” Everything would be just fine.

But no such words. 

It hurts and saddens in some way.

To say these magic words, all it takes is a little bit of humility, responsibility and courage.

When we apologize sincerely, we can heal wounds, remove negative feelings such as frustration, resentment, anger, and transform our moods instantly.

Even my seven year old daughter seemed to understand that. You can read that story I shared in this article: The power of the written word

Pumpkin seeds

Just a couple of days ago, I mentioned that winter squash is my favorite food, especially the buttercup, butternut and acorn kinds. They are not only sweet, creamy and tasty, but also very nutritious and healthy food.

When I prepare winter squash, I always save the seeds. I roast and eat them when I have time.

Today I received the following article about the health benefits of pumpkin seeds in my email inbox. Good information to share here.

Pumpkin Seeds – Get Rid of Health Problems

Pumpkin seeds are one of nature’s almost perfect foods. They are a natural source of beneficial constituents such as carbohydrates, amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids. They contain most of the B vitamins, along with C, D, E, and K. They also have the minerals calcium, potassium, niacin, and phosphorous. Pumpkin seeds have mainly been used to treat prostate and bladder problems, but they have also been known to help with depression and learning disabilities.

Pumpkins are very high in potassium, and have good amounts of beta carotene and vitamin C. They are also a good source of calcium and fibre, and as well as other vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc and unsaturated fatty acids (good fats).

Fresh and cooked pumpkin is chock full of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, potassium, alpha-carotene, zinc, beta carotene, and lutein. It’s easy to add pumpkin to your favorite baked goods and dishes during the colder months, and the vitamins and minerals can help keep your health in tip-top shape during the winter. Pumpkin is rich, satisfying, and can be used in a number of recipes as a meal or in dessert; if you cook it in a healthy way, it might also give you an excuse to indulge in an extra slice of pumpkin pie this year! Still, eating pumpkin isn’t the only way to enjoy its natural benefits.

Nutritional Value of Pumpkin Seeds

Snacking on ¼-1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds can deliver the nutrients mentioned at the outset of this article, as well as calcium, vitamin K, protein and important omega-3 fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw, baked, roasted or toasted.

Because pumpkin seeds and good health share such an important relationship, plan to make pumpkin seeds a regular part of your diet. Keep a supply on hand and store the seeds in a tightly sealed container in your fridge.

Pumpkin seeds and onions mixed together with a little soy milk make a great remedy for parasitic worms in the digestive tract. To make this remedy, liquefy three tablespoons of pumpkin seeds that have been soaked three hours, one-half of a small onion, one-half cup soy milk, and one teaspoon honey. Take this amount three times daily, three days in a row.

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are flat, dark green seeds. Some are encased in a yellow-white husk, although some varieties of pumpkins produce seeds without shells. Like cantaloupe, cucumber, and squash, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds belong to the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family.

Nutty and salty with a crisp-chewy texture, pumpkin seeds make a nutritious and flavorful snack. Boiled, baked, or even raw, pumpkin seeds are packed full of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Just one serving (about 1/4 cup) gives you almost half the recommended daily amounts of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, vitamin K, and zinc. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and monounsaturated fats.

Pumpkin seed oil has an excellent ratio of those Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Often flax and hemp oils are rated as the best with pumpkin seed also offering a great source of these valuable plant fats important for cellular function and many of the systems in the body. Basically keeps your coat glossy, skin clear and a puts a spring in your step.

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10 Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

This Halloween, don’t forget to save those pumpkin seeds after you scoop them out. Pumpkin seeds are not only delicious but also provide many health benefits. Here are ten:

Prostate Protection
They promote overall prostate health and alleviate the difficult urination associated with an enlarged prostate.

Improved Bladder Function
In some studies, pumpkin seed extracts improved bladder function in animals.

Depression Treatment
They contain L-tryptophan, a compound naturally effective against depression.

Prevention of Osteoporosis
Because they are high in zinc, pumpkin seeds are a natural protector against osteoporosis. Low intake of zinc is linked to higher rates of osteoporosis.

Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Pumpkin seeds effectively reduce inflammation without the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Prevention of Kidney Stones
They prevent calcium oxalate kidney stone formation, according to studies.

Treatment of Parasites
They are used in many cultures as a natural treatment for tapeworms and other parasites. Studies also show them to be effective against acute schistosomiasis, a parasite contracted from snails.

Great Source of Magnesium
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds contains 92% of your daily value of magnesium, a mineral in which most Americans are deficient.

Lower Cholesterol
Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols, compounds that that have been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol.

Cancer Prevention
The same phytosterols that lower cholesterol also protect against many cancers.

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

When you’re carving your Halloween pumpkins, don’t throw away the seeds! 

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

1.  Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. (This is easiest just after you’ve removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.)

2.  Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat. If you prefer, omit the oil and coat with non-stick cooking spray.

3.  Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes.

4.   Let cool and store in an air-tight container.

How many trick-or-treaters did you get?


Do you count how many kids come to your house on Halloween night to trick-or-treat?

I got about 60 trick-or-treaters tonight. They came around 6:30 pm, and by 7:30 pm it became very quiet again.

I had less than expected.

It feels like the current economic recession has an effect on everything. For many families, income is going down, buying power is going down. This year, the number of trick-or-treaters has gone done as well.

Don’t blame the weather, because the weather was not very cold today, no snow, no wind. My daughter wore only a long sleeve shirt and a thin witch costum. She didn’t even wear a sweater.  

Or maybe some kids in the neighborhood have grown up and are beyond the age of trick-or-treating.