Talking to strangers

“Don’t talk to strangers!”

This is a phrase that’s often heard in our society. We tell our kids not to talk to strangers for safety concerns. As adults, we usually don’t talk to strangers because we are conditioned not to talk to strangers except for “Hi” and “Bye,” or we do so for privacy concerns. As a kid I was very shy. I didn’t talk much, even at home. My father is a man with few words. I probably never talked to strangers. But somehow things have changed over the years. I can’t pinpoint to what caused the change. I just noticed in the last few years that I enjoy talking to people, even strangers. I have an inquisitive mind and like to know what people do and think. It doesn’t feel so natural and comfortable to me to be around people in close proximity and people don’t talk to each other. I often take the initiative to start a conversation. On a recent flight to San Diego, I sat next to a man in his sixties. He came on board the last minute. I jokingly said to him when he walked toward his seat next to me: “You are a last minute person.” He didn’t say anything, maybe he didn’t hear me well. He started dosing off after he took the seat. I was quite disappointed to have a seatmate who was not talktive. So I focused my attention on reading the travel book about San Diego I had with me. Half way through the flight and after a drink and pretzel snack for refreshment, my seatmate finall awoke and became fully alive. He asked me what I would be doingin San Diego. I was happy to talk. So we chatted. He told me his son is a Delta pilot, that’s why he can fly for free, often boarding the plane at the last minute when there are free seats left. When he said he is a coach and speaks at Christian camps around the country, my interest peaked. Questions started flooding my mind. I learned that he is Len Marinello, Coachfor Christ. He speaks at Camps Farthest Out.He just finished a camp meeting in Iowa. Camps Farthest Outstarted in 1930 by Glenn Clark, a coach and professor at Macalester College in St. Paul. Now it’s an international organization with camps around the world. In addition to faith, Camps Farthest Out, we also talked about books,kids, San Diego, etc. Time flies by really fast when you enjoy a conversation. Before we departed, Len prayed for me. He also gave me a booklet “The Lord’s Prayer” by Glenn Clark. He said he would take me sight seeing in San Diego had he not have to leave the town again the same evening or early next morning for another camp meeting. I was so glad I talked to a stranger. Yesterday eveningas I was walking along the Harbor Island Drive enjoying San Diego at dawn, I talked to a guy who was video recording the San Diego downtown scene. He is from San Jose. He told me about his Youtube videos of San Diego sunsets, pointed out the landmarks in the area and recommended his favorite local seafood restaurant. A few minutes down the road, I talked to a couple who a few months ago sold everything they owned including the house and moved to San Diego to live on the boat. I asked them how it was to live on water. We enjoyed a nice conversation about living and life. When I walk away from conversations with total strangers, I often feel happier and inspired, because I always learn something new from people. I for sure am not afraid of talking to strangers and I will not stop talking to strangers. Check out another realted post: Privacy for a price

Home exchange for low cost traveling

With a potential Minnesota state government shutdown, state employees are thinking of ways to cut down cost and use the extra free time wisely. A colleague shared with me a website she has signed up for home exchange and low-cost traveling. is an online tool for home swap. It provides an opportunity to “make yourself at home… anywhere in the world” and to “live like a local, not a tourist.” Currently there are 40,000+ listings in 142 countries. is not a free service. Paid membership is required for listing. There is a$9.95 monthly fee. Exchange is guaranteed or your 2nd year is free. If you enjoy traveling and like to travel a lot. It might be beneficial to join.

Yahoo your writing

I have been using Yahoo for my private email for more than 10 years. I found I can not only use Yahoo to send and receive emails, I can also use my Yahoo e-mail account as a quick and convenient writing tool. When I have notes to write down, when I want to copy something from the Internet and save it for future use, when I want to keep a list of e-mail addresses or useful websites, I compose a message in Yahoo and save it as a draft. I keep some messages permanently in the draft folder, because they contain information I use regularly. Others are deleted when I no longer need them. I can access my Yahoo account and the information I saved wherever I am as long as I have Internet access — at home, in my office, in libraries, at conferences, etc. It’s more convenient than having the information saved on any computer’s hard drive. I also have a Google Gmail account,but since I started with Yahoo email first, I use it exclusively. For the tips I am sharing here, Google Gmail works too. Whether you Yahoo or Google your writing, it works the same way.

Morning walk, nature talk

On days I don’t go to work, I enjoy taking a walk in my backyard when I have time.

I always start with walking a circle around my veggie garden to check how things are growing. 

My Chinese chives come out every year in spring and are always the first thing ready for the dinner table. Romaine salads grow pretty fast and are usually ready for consumption in a month. My zucchinis are still in baby stage. But they grow fast and can change size day by day. However, with the cold and rainy weather lately, things can slow down. 

After my walk around the garden, I take a little walk around the golf course.

Walking and immersing in nature, looking at the greenery and flowers, hearing birds singing, breathing in the fresh air, feeling the breeze of wind and the positive energy, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The beauty, peace and serenity can’t be put into words.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” So I posted here some pictures from my morning walk to share with you. Let your mind take you for a nature walk.

More photos can be viewed on my Facebook page.

Learning about miniature gardening

I love gardening. So when I saw a gardening demonstration and swap event announcement in the local newspaper, I wanted to go.  I didn’t even pay attention to the specific topic. 

The event, held on Saturday, June 18 at the R.H. Stafford Branch Library, was really interesting. I didn’t know what to expect, but was happily surprised to see three miniature or fairy gardens on display when I walked into the room.

Ginny from the Library demonstrated how to create miniature gardens including a Japanese Zen garden.

Attendees brought plants divided from their own gardens, gardening books and magazines, and other gardening related materials to swap.

I went home not only with some new knowledge about gardening, but also with a few plants for my garden.

I wish I had brought my camera to take some photos of the miniature gardens on display.

If you want to see what miniature gardens look like, check out this blog post 20 outstanding miniature gardens.

More photos of miniature gardensfairy gardens or Japanese Zen gardens can be found on Google images website.

Ginny is starting an email distribution list for garden enthusiasts for future gardening events and swaps. If you are interested in sharing gardening ideas and plants, let me know, or simply leave a comment here.

Minnesota women legislators

If you ever need information on Minnesota women legislators or Minnesota state laws affecting women since 1920, a new website with the Minnesota Women’s Legislative Timeline and Minnesota women Legislators Past & Present can be very handy.

The interactive online tool was created by the Legislative Reference Library of the State of Minnesota and the Office on the Economic Status of Women, funded by a grant from the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants Program.

The timeline features  state laws that were significant milestones for women in the state of Minnesota and shows the legislative progression of women’s rights in Minnesota since women earned the right to vote.

For more info, check out the press release or contact Robbie LaFleur, Director of the Legislative Reference Library,  at or 651-296-8310.


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Closed during shutdown

There are 15 days left to a possible state government shutdown in Minnesota.

Today Gov. Mark Dayton filed a petition in Ramsey County court with his recommendation of what to keep open and what to close if state government shuts down on July 1.

Gov. Dayton suggested that 13,250 people, about one third of state employees, remain on the job in a government shutdown to provide critical services, such as police and prison guards, disaster and public health response, medical assistance and tax collection.

The petition recommends that 29 state agencies retain minimal staffing while 46 close entirely. Agencies that would keep the most workers in a shutdown are Human Services, Corrections, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs.

As for the Department of Transportation where I work, only 217 workers out of more than 5000 employees will keep their jobs, according to the recommendation. They work in areas of emergency highway repair, aeronautic navigation, emergency communication networks, and truck permitting.

The other services performed by over 4000 employees are deemed non critical.

When you travel on Minnesota highways during the shutdown, be prepared that the rest areas on highways will be closed. Remember to bring your own device or find a restaurant to do your business when nature calls.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Highway construction projects will be put on hold.

Sorry for the inconvenience. 

Let’s hope that no tragedies, big or small, will happen during the shutdown.

Sorry we are closed for business.

Hopefully our governor and the Republican legislative leaders have  worked out a budget deal by June 30 to prevent any inconvenience, tragedies and hardships from happening to anyone.

For more info on what Gov. Dayton wants to keep open and close in a shutdown, visit this post by Don Davis.

The heavy cost and burden of a government shutdown

Last Saturday I got my layoff notice from the Minnesota Management & Budget dated June 10, 2011.

I am just one of about 42,000 state workers who got the letter in the mail with the bad news of the impending shutdown effective July 1, 2011.

But the effect of a possible shutdown reaches far beyond the 42,000 state workers.

I heard that just from MnDOT alone, over 6,000 certified letters were mailed out to contractors and vendors to inform them about the possible shutdown. (The number increases to over 10, 000 in the next week)

Yesterday I was talking with someone from my church about the government shutdown. She told me that her business that provides technical training has already seen the negative effect of the possible shutdown because no new students are enrolling in the program due to the uncertainty with the state aid situation.

I know managers at state agencies have been heavily involved in contingency planning in the last few weeks. State workers are worried about their jobs, insurance, payments, etc. The uncertainty has caused anxiety and low productivity.  

The cost of preparing for a possible government shutdown, both visible and invisible, is hard ot measure. For sure, it is a costly process.

It seems like a waste of money at a time when we should be more resourceful.

In preparation for the layoff, I applied for unemployment benefit today as suggested by the union. I hope I do not have to use it.

Whatever happens in July is out of my control. I can’t do anything about it, so I won’t lose any sleep over it.  

I am glad that I have lived my life with the principle of  saving for rainy days so I don’t live from pay check to pay check. If I have to depend on my biweekly check to survive, then I would be in panic mode now.

But I do worry about my family’s health insurance. Without my job, we will have no health insurance.

I can feel the heavy burden that a possible shutdown has on people and see the Domino effect it has on businesses.

I support Governor Dayton’s balanced, compromise plan which protects our families and communities from devastating cuts.

I hope our Democratic Gov. Dayton and the Republicans who control the state House and Senate can reach an agreement before July 1 to avoid a shutdown. Each party has to give up something and make some compromise in order to get the budget resolved.  

My way or highway is no way to go.

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Fresh from the garden


Saturday was a perfect day for gardening and weeding.

The soil was still soft from the rain, the temperature was cool and there was no hot sun beaming down in the morning.

Working in the garden, weeding, transplanting and picking fresh salads, and working on the flower beds in the front yard was what I did in the morning.

Gardening is relaxing and therapeutic for me. I could spend all day doing it, without getting bored. Only my back won’t like it so much.

After a few hours of work, I rewarded myself with a big bowl of Romaine salad and cilantro. It was great to be able to pick my own veggie from the garden and eat it whenever I want.

The following two articles are from my Woodbury Bulletin columns.

The joy of gardening  

Lessons, garden style

5th grade recognition at Middleton

My daughter is graduating from the Middleton Elementary School.

The 5th Grade Recognition ceremony took place at school this afternoon. I was glad I was able to attend, having to skip the afternoon part of an all day conference I attended.

Middleton Principle Julie Nielsen welcomed everyone. My daughter along with several other 5th graders performed the song “Fireworks” by Kate Perry.

Students who participated in extracurricular activities during the school year were recognized and stood up.

Each 5th grade student was called by the classroom teacher and presented with a recognition certificate by the Principal.

Then we watched a DVD presentation of photos of the graduating classes. Each student will receive a copy to keep.

The event ended with a closing remark by my daughter’s teacher Ms. Angie Schock. She is the funnest teacher we ever had. Everyone loves her.

PTA provided refreshments following the ceremony.

It was a great and memorable event.