Author: Qin Tang

Choosing civility

Back in 2009, I read Dr. P. M. Forni’s book “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct.” The book was Washington County Library’s first book selection for its “One County, One Book” program.

In the book, Forni identifies 25 rules that are essential in living a civilized life, in connecting effectively and happily with others.

In today’s world, where thoughtful behavior and common decency are in short supply, we need a periodical reminder on how to be civil and become a civilized person.

  1. Pay attention
  2. Acknowledge others
  3. Think the best
  4. Listen
  5. Be inclusive
  6. Speak kindly
  7. Don’t speak ill,
  8. Accept and give praise,
  9. Respect even a subtle “no”
  10. Respect others’ opinions
  11. Mind your body
  12. Bbe agreeable
  13. Keep it down (and rediscover silence)
  14. Respect other people’s time
  15. Respect other people’s space
  16. Apologize earnestly
  17. Assert yourself
  18. Avoid personal questions
  19. Care for your guests
  20. Be a considerate guest
  21. Think twice before asking for favors
  22. Refrain from idle complaints
  23. Accept and give constructive criticism
  24. Respect the environment and be gentle to animals
  25. Don’t shift responsibility and blame


How to use a freezer effectively?

This is a question someone posted in an online newsletter I read, and I felt like responding after reading it. So here is the Q&A:

Q: “Two years ago, my husband and I decided that we needed an upright freezer. We figured that with a family of four, we could buy in bulk and save. I use a price book, and I’m good with sales. It seemed like a good idea, but now I’m beginning to wonder if it really is a money-saver. Lately it’s hard to find really good deals on meat, or it seems like all I have is one type of meat like all chicken or all beef. Plus, occasionally a piece of meat isn’t packed right and gets freezer burned. Does anyone have advice on how to use a freezer effectively?”

A: I have been using a chest freezer for about 10 years. I found it very useful. Since I am not a big meat eater, I don’t buy a lot of meat.  But I use the freezer for a lot of other things in addition to freezing meat.

I make extra food when I have time and freeze some for busy days when I have no time to cook.

When I have leftovers that I don’t want to use right away, or food close to expiration date, such as crackers, bread, flour, milk, I put them in the freezer so they don’t get spoiled.

I freeze fruit for making smoothie. When strawberries, blueberries or bananas are on sale, I buy more than I need and freeze them for future use. My daughter doesn’t like fruit except bananas, but she loves smoothie. I made smoothie for her so she would eat more than just bananas. Now my kids love the home-made smoothie so much, they make it every day on their own.

In my freezer there is also fast/convenient food that my kids like and can make on their own if they are hungry and I am not around, such as frozen pizza and chicken nuggets.

I also freeze certain vegetables from my garden or bought at the farmer’s market in summer or fall when there is abundance and the price is good.

Freezer is not just useful for food, it can also be useful for other stuff.

For example, you can freeze your pantyhose to extend its life. Wet your pantyhose and squeeze out most of the excess water before placing them in a freezer bag. Freeze them for at least 24 hours.  After 24 hours, remove the pantyhose from the freezer and let it thaw naturally. Freezing actually strengthens the fibers, allowing the material to last longer.

My freezer is usually full. I might run out of space, I don’t run out of ideas or items for using the freezer.

Free eBooks

If you have an iPad or an eBook reader such as Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader, you might be interested in finding free electronic books, or eBooks to read.

Yes, there are plenty of places where you can download free eBooks. You can save money of buying eBooks if you don’t have to read the latest bestsellers.

A good place to start is the local public library. Washington County Library has an eBook collection.

If you are a newbie, take a free eBook classe offered by the Washington County Library. These classes feature demonstrations of the free eBook downloads available through Washington County Library. Attendees will also be able to physically review some of the eReaders currently on the market.

For the class schedule in R. H. Stafford Branch Library, visit the library’s website.

In addition to the local public library, there are other resources on the Internet where you can download free eBooks. Here are a few popular ones.

1. Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free eBooks. Founded in 1971 by Michael Hart, the Purpose of Project Gutenberg is to encourage the creation and distribution of electronic books. Project Gutenberg is a global coordinated volunteer effort to digitize and distribute the great works of history.

Project Gutenberg offers over 40,000 free eBooks. Among them are free epub books and free kindle books. You can download them or read them online. No fee or registration is required.

To see the Top 100 lists, visit this website.

Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Portal  provides free public access to eBooks by Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing. Self-Publishing’s purpose is to create a cloud service for contemporary writers to share their works with readers. This Portal allows authors to share their works with readers as well as allows readers to provide comments, reviews and feedback to the authors.

There is no charge for using this service. Registration is not required for reading or downloading the publications or comments. However, registration is required to upload a book or post a comment.

Project Gutenberg eBooks are downloadable in PDF file format and are compatible with the iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most other reader devices.

Some other countries also have their own Project Gutenberg. They are considered sister projects.

2. Internet Archive

The Internet Archive digitizes text, movies, music, software, and websites. Its text collection includes more than three million items in both the public domain or written under Creative Commons license.

The Internet Archive Text Archive contains a wide range of fiction, popular books, children’s books, historical texts and academic books.

OpenLibrary is an interface to the published books on Internet Archive  and links to other online book collections. Over 1,000,000 free eBook titles are available.

3. Online Books Page

The Online Books Page lists over 1 million free books on the Web.

4. provides free eBooks in all genres, including mMany Project Gutenberg titles. Features include reader recommendations and search by genre. Easily accessible for mobile devices. There are more than 29,000 eBooks available for iPad, Kindle, Nook, and most other eReaders.


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Killing ourselves with junk food

If you have traveled to other countries, you have probably noticed that there are not as many obese people in other countries as in the U.S.


The answer is simple. Just ask this simple question: Which country eats the most junk food? Which country consumes the most soft drinks?

Americans consume more junk food than anyone else. Fast food restaurants are everywhere, convenient and inexpensive. It’s cheaper to eat junk food than healthy food.

Americans drink more soda than anyone else. If you look at this soft drink consumption by country stats, you will see that the US has a big lead over the next country.

Recently I took my kids and a few of their friends to a local movie theater. I have never been to the movie theater even though I have lived in town for 11 years. When kids walked in, they went straight to the food counter to buy drinks and snacks. I saw kids and adults with trays of junk food that included a soft drink, a bucket of popcorn and a bar of candy. No wonder there were quite a few obese kids and adults in the theater.

We have such an abundant life in this country that we don’t have to worry so much about survival. We want more fun, more pleasure and more entertainment, which brings more junk food. Don’t we all eat more junk food when we have parties and celebrations, go on vacation or go to entertainment places such as movie theaters or Minnesota State Fair?

My favorite booth at this year’s Minnesota State Fair was by YMCA in the health building. They displayed different soft drinks and let you guess how many sugar cube were in a can or bottle. There are 19 sugar cubes in a small bottle of Pepsi. It was a very simple and visual teaching/learning tool. I was glad I was able to show that to my kids.

If you want to find out how much sugar is in your favorite soda, check out this Sugar Stacks website .

People die from different causes and diseases, such as diabetes and heart attack. I often wonder how many people actually die from junk food which might be the root cause for various diseases.

I even thought that junk food could be considered as a kind of WMD (weapon of mass destruction), because it brings significant harm to a large number of humans. The only difference is the harm is not forced on us by an enemy, but we willingly and happily bring the harm to ourselves, while our friendly enemy is laughing on the way to the bank.

It saddens me to hear that some people only drink sodas and no water. I heard about kids in China who drink sodas and no water because they consider soda superior and drinking soda more prestigious than drinking water.

I think we are slowly killing ourselves with junk food, if consumed carelessly.


2012 Woodbury Days

Today I volunteered with my kids at the Woodbury Days Info booth.

Every year since I moved to Woodbury in 2001, I go to Woodbury Days, except maybe a couple of times when I was out of town for vacation. For me, Woodbury Days is not only closed to home, but also more personal and manageable than the Minnesota State Fair. I would rather miss Minnesota State Fair than Woodbury Days.

2006 was a year of change for me. My volunteer work for Woodbury Days also started in 2006.

My kids always went along to Woodbury Days since they were 3 and 1 years old. As they got older, they also got involved in volunteering with me.

The other day my kids laughed at me for my new hair cut: “Hilarious! you look like a kid.” Now at age 14 and 12, both are taller than I. Now I do have to look up to them. Does that make me a kid? I would rather be a kid than an old woman :-)

It wasn’t long ago that they were kids. How time has changed!


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Winning at 2012 Minnesota State Fair

Today I was excited to find out that my kids had another good winning year at the State Fair. I can’t wait to share the good news and some pictures of their winning works.

I am most proud of my daughter Amy for winning the 1st place again for her poem collection – “There once was a 12 year-old girl : selected poems – 100 Limericks.”

Every year since 2009, Amy submits a collection of 100 poems or more to the Minnesota State Fair. Her poems won the 1st place in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

In 2011 she won the 2nd place. We were disappointed that she didn’t get the 1st place. Later when we got the item back from the State Fair, we figured out a possible reason. Some pages in the collection were bound upside down. It was a last minute job and we didn’t review it to catch the problem. If we hadn’t make the mistake, she might have won the first place also.

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

  • 1st for poem collection
  • 2nd for acrylic painting  (lion)
  • 2nd for colored pencil drawing (bird)
  • 3rd for pencil drawing (self-portrait)
  • 4th for pastel drawing  (puma)

My son Andy received two awards:

  • 4th for pencil drawing (bear)
  • 4th for research papers (The Manhattan Project)
To my kids – Congratulations for the achievements. Thanks for your hard work. I am so happy for you and very proud of you.
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State Fair and Woodbury Days – time to volunteer

The Minnesota State Fair starts this Thursday and the Woodbury Days this Friday. I go to both events every year, in the last few years also as a volunteer.

On Friday morning I will be volunteer at MnDOT booth in the State Fair Education Building. On Saturday morning, I will be at the Woodbury Days’ Info booth.

I once wrote a post titled Why volunteering?

I like to get involved in community events to be informed and engaged. However, during the current season of my life, I don’t have a lot of free time, so my volunteer activities are limited. But volunteering once a year for the State Fair or Woodbury Days is manageable.

I bring my two kids with me. In the last few years, they have volunteered along with me for Woodbury Days or other organizations. I want to install in them this spirit of voluntarism. As I said in my previous post Voluntarism: “The unmatchable spirit of voluntarism found in this country is part of what makes United States one of the greatest countries, if not the greatest country on earth now.”

A community is as good as its people. The more people get involved and engaged, the better the community becomes.

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Letter to the editor

The following letter to the editor that I wrote after reading the first Superintendent’s viewpoint article to was published in today’s Woodbury Bulletin.

New superintendent’s words, vision appreciated

Welcome Keith Jacobus to District 833 and to the community as the new superintendent since July 1, 2012.
I enjoyed reading his first Superintendent’s viewpoint article in Woodbury Bulletin (Aug. 1, 2012). I appreciated the opportunity to read about his vision for the district, his core beliefs, and his leadership approach. I can’t agree more with him when he says: “education will open the doors and fulfill the hopes and dreams of our students … it is imperative for every student to love coming to school and to love learning.”
It worries me when a child says: “School is boring. I don’t want to go to school.” It bothers me when people have no interest in learning.
Yes, it is imperative for every student to love coming to school and to love learning. For that to happen, it is imperative that school is challenging, students are inspired and encouraged to learn and to reach their full potential.
To love learning is to develop a growth mindset that values learning and growth.
School plays an important part in ensuring the success of every child. But it takes a village to raise and educate a child. Parents, schools and communities all have an important role to play. Only by working together can we provide the best opportunity for every child to learn, to succeed, and to become life-long learners.
I am looking forward to reading more of the Superintendent’s Viewpoint articles by Keith Jacobus. Wish him the best as he embarks on this new superintendent journey. The superintendent transition wasn’t a smooth one for the community, I am hopeful that Superintendent Jacobus will bring community together and will bring positive changes to the district.

My first posting on Craigslist

I have known about Craigslist for years, but had not used it to sell anything until today.

Today I posted my very first ad. It didn’t take much time to post the ad and add the picture. Actually it was much easier than I expected. No wonder Graigslist is so popular.

A friend recently moved out of the state. She left a desk behind. She put it out in her front yard with a Free sign, but no one has taken it. So she wanted me to post an ad on Craigslist and give it away. That’s what I did.

Using Graigslist was really simple, here is the process which takes only a few minutes.

  • Go to the Graigslist home page
  • Select a location (in my case, I selected Minnesota and then Minneapolis/St. Paul)
  • Select a category (such as for sale, music instrument, or free)
  • Click on the Post button on the upper right corner
  • Enter your email and add your content note about the item
  • Add a picture or pictures. This is optional
  • Check your email inbox to find the email with a link to confirm your ad. You can publish your ad, edit it, or delete it.

I was so encouraged by the simple process, I posted my 2nd ad right away to sell my daughter’s 1/2 size violin.

If you want to sell or give away your stuff, Graigslist is a good way to go. I have two friends who moved recently. Both had success using Graigslist.

Update: I posted the ad for the desk at 11 pm. It was gone early next morning when I checked the front yard after  receiving an email inquiry.  That was fast. I had to remove the ad.

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A quick update









In Budapest with my cousin whom I hadn’t seen for almost 30 years


It has been a month since my last posting. For the last two months, I have not blogged much. I was on vacation and on the move a lot. My family and I made two big trips.

In June we went to Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York for 10 days. In July, we traveled to Europe for three weeks. During the trip, we went to Sioux Falls (South Dakota), Berlin and Potsdam (Germany), Budapest (Hungary), Rome and Venice (Italy), Paris (France), London, and Chicago. We visited relatives in Budapest and Berlin.

After the two trips, my kids still have more than one month to go before school starts. A summer break of three months is way too long for kids to be away from school. I still have tons of photos to process and upload to my Facebook. I will get to them.

Starting with this post, my blog also has a new look, not by my choice.

I actually liked the way my blog looked before, mainly because I customized the header myself. I used the same theme since the beginning, but it is no longer available. So I had to choose a new theme. Along comes the new look.

I decided to use this current one, a clean simple white theme. The simple and minimalistic look speaks well to how I view life should be.

As life has got back to normal, hope I will have more frequent posts.






Eliminating stiffness of air-dried clothes

I like to air dry my clothes, especially in summer when it’s sunny and I can put a cloth line on my deck and let the clothes dry naturally. 

Using clothesline is the most environmentally friendly way to do laundry. It not only saves energy, it is also good for the clothes, because it lasts much longer than when machine dried. The clothes smells fresh. A sun bath for the clothes is good for the health.

Some people don’t like using clothesline because the stiffness of air-dried clothes. There are some things you can do to prevent the stiffness.

If stiffness is your concern and excuse for not using clothesline, check out this article Eliminating Line Dried Clothing Stiffness.

The Great Courses and The Art of Public Speaking

If you want to learn from the best professors at the best universities, try The Great Courses.

The Great Courses produces college-level courses taught by the most engaging professors from universities like Oxford, Stanford, Princeton, and Georgetown. I don’t know how I got on their mailing list, but I regularly receive the catalog from The Great Courses. They offer more than 390 courses in science, literature, history, philosophy, business, religion, mathematics, fine arts, music, and better living. It’s interesting to look through the catalog and read about the courses offered.

However, I haven’t tried anything until recently.

I was in the local public library and happened to notice a title from The Great Courses that interested me: The Art of Public Speaking, with two DVDs and a course guidebook.

The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History, by Prof. John R. Hale from the University of Louisville, is a 12-lecture course. Each 30 minute lecture shares a technique and strategy used by history’s greatest public speakers. You will learn the essential skill of what makes history’s enduring speeches so unforgettable.

Prof. Hale touches the three key components of successful public speaking:

  • How to prepare for public speaking: overcome stage fright, control your voice and body, use humor, and personalize your delivery.
  • How to craft a great speech: use stories, examples, logic, and impressive visual images.
  • How to handle your audience: focus on your audience, persuade them to agree with you, invite them to share your vision, and inspire them to change.

In essence, to be a great public speaker, you should

  • Speak from personal knowledge: Use personal experiences to allow your audience to better connect with you. In polite conversation, talking about yourself is frowned upon; in public speaking, it’s essential.
  • Organize your facts into a story: When drafting a speech, find the underlying stories in your topic and organize your information around these stories. You’ll find it easier to remember your speech, and your audience will engage more with your message.
  • Weave familiar references into your speech: Using familiar quotations when addressing your audience can establish a common ground. They may not be your words but, when used sparingly, they can infuse your speech with added power.

The 12 lectures are:

1. Overcome Obstacles—Demosthenes of Athens

Practice, hard work, memorization, the acceptance of failures, and other skills are essential to overcoming obstacles from stage fright to speech impediments.

2. Practice Your Delivery—Patrick Henry

Key to effective speaking is using your voice and body to reinforce your meaning. The power of a speech lies not so much in words as in vocal and physical elements like tone, pitch, facial expression, and posture.

3. Be Yourself—Elizabeth I to Her Army

In order to make the deepest possible connection with your audience, it’s essential to talk about yourself—your experiences, your emotions, even your weaknesses.

4. Find Your Humorous Voice—Will Rogers

Use humor and jokes. The secret of effective humor is to ensure that each laugh makes a point and focuses your audience’s attention on the topic.

5. Make It a Story—Marie Curie on Discovery

Make your speech, whenever possible, a story. Organizing information into a story to give your details weight and vividness. Using storytelling to make your points memorable.

6. Use the Power of Three—Paul to His People

A speech—and the examples and anecdotes it uses—should be planned in threes. Every speech, every story has three parts – a beginning, a middle, and an end, or introduction, body and conclusion of the speech. Also present things in threes. Two of something seems in opposition; three of something seems a completion.

7. Build a Logical Case—Susan B. Anthony

Logic should always guide the sequence of your thoughts.

8. Paint Pictures in Words—Tecumseh on Unity

Narrow your focus to the individual words and phrases you use in your speech—each of which can make your topic unforgettable.

9. Focus on Your Audience—Gandhi on Trial

Focus on your audience is one of the essential elements of actually giving a speech. This is how to deliver your speech to—and connect with—specific audiences.

10. Share a Vision—Martin Luther King’s Dream

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most iconic speeches in modern history. More important: It’s the perfect example of a speech with the power to inspire.

11. Change Minds and Hearts—Mark Antony

Sway emotions and opinions by appealing to sentiments, repeating facts, and using props.

12. Call for Positive Action—Lincoln at Gettysburg

Include a clear call to action near the conclusion of your speech, and always craft a strong ending.

I really liked the first great course I checked out.

Networking tips

The following article of mine on networking tips was published in the May/June 2012 issue of Information Outlook, the magazine of the Special Libraries Association.

Tips for Networking

By Qin Tang, MLS

When I think about networking, it’s not so much about what to do–it’s more about a state of mind, about being, about building trust and relationships.   With this in mind, I would like to share 10 tips for networking.

Be authentic. Be yourself. Be original. Be genuine. To be authentic means that your statements, actions, words, and deeds are aligned with your underlying character. You must be yourself, because if you are not, it will be obvious   to others around you. So don’t try to be someone else to impress others,  or try to hide your true self. One way to be original and authentic is to tell   personal stories that are unique to you.

Be curious. Being curious and asking questions can increase your knowledge while also opening new doors and relationships. Take the initiative and engage people in conversations. When you show interest in people and ask them questions, they generally are happy to talk.

Be approachable. Be approachable when other people take the initiative and   start a conversation with you. Sometimes people will ask an ice-breaking question that might sound insensitive or mindless to you, but their intention is simply to engage you in conversation. Don’t be offended by other people’s questions or comments.

Be present. Nothing is more valuable than your time, so give the gift of your presence in times of need. Be attentive and focused when you are with someone. Practice active listening. Pay attention to your body language. Use your cellphone or other electronic devices only when there is an emergency.

Be open. Share your genuine thoughts, feelings, successes, failures, joys, concerns, and fears with people. When you are willing to be vulnerable, you will open up hearts and possibilities and deepen friendships and relationships.

Be humble. Nothing turns off a person more than someone who is arrogant. No one enjoys being around someone who knows it all or thinks he knows it all and likes to put others down. Everyone has unique talents, skills, and experiences to share.

Be respectful. Being respectful is an integral part of being professional. Be respectful of other people and their time. Keep your promises and honor your commitments.

Be mindful. People come in all sizes, shapes and colors, with different backgrounds,   belief systems, values, opinions, and preferences. Be mindful of the differences. Don’t judge others or make assumptions.

Be positive. Everyone likes to be around people who are positive and emanate positive energy. Be a person who has a big smile, a kind word, a grateful heart, and a gentle spirit.

Be appreciative. Always, always thank people for their service, their assistance, and their gifts. A thank-you note via e-mail is good; a hand-written note is even better. A thoughtful gift, no matter how big or small, can create a memorable impression and a lasting relationship. A small gift along with a hand-written note would be most impressive and greatly appreciated.

I want to end with a few personal experiences to illustrate my points. I have an inquisitive mind and like to ask questions. I enjoy talking to people and getting to know them, even strangers. So I often initiate conversations, especially when I am around people very closely, such as sitting next to someone during a flight. In fact, a couple of the most interesting and deep conversations I have had with other people occurred on flights.

You never know whom you will meet or what you will learn. For example, a gentleman   walked into the library recently to request a Wi-Fi password. When I learned that his last name is Coleman, I asked whether he was related to the prominent Coleman family in St. Paul (Nick Coleman, Sr. was a state senator, Chris Coleman is currently the mayor of St. Paul, Nick Coleman is a well-known newspaper columnist, and Pat Coleman is a curator and librarian with whom I would be meeting the following week for work-related reasons). To my amazement, he said, “Yes, I am.” He was Emmett Coleman, a vice president at Comcast. I felt connected instantly, and we had an interesting conversation.

Recently, three librarians from the Donaldson Company in Bloomington, Minnesota,   visited our library, which had just received an award for a remodeling project.   The Donaldson librarians wanted to learn about our experience, and they received a warm welcome along with a library tour.

A few days later, our library staff was surprised by the delivery of milk and freshly baked chocolate cookies–a thank-you gift from the librarians at Donaldson. This experience has certainly created a special bond between the   two libraries.

QIN TANG is a technical services librarian at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.   She can be reached at

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Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to my dad in Suzhou, China.

My dad is an unique individual. What I love most about him is he is the best handyman I know.

My grandfather passed away when my father was still an infant, leaving behind 6 kids and a wife. When my father was still a teenage, he left his home town in northern Jiangsu Province for Shanghai to make a living for himself. He started by making hand towels, later worked in a textile factory.

My dad didn’t have any education opportunity. He didn’t go to school. He didn’t read and didn’t like to read, though he could read newspapers.

Even though my dad is not an educated man, he is very smart and talented, especially with his hands. He learned to do a lot of things. He made all the furniture in our home. He could do plumbing and electrical work. He was the Mr. Fix-it at home and in the neighborhood. He could fix almost anything. He could make keys, repair bicycles, shoes, pots, you name it. We never had to ask anyone else for help around the house. If there was a problem, he could always find a way to fix it.

Now my dad is 80 years old, still pretty healthy. He attributes his health to the exercises he did when he was younger. He used to walk to work every day. He ran and played basketballs. His biggest health problem is his joint pain. He used to shower himself with cold well water for cooling down whenever it was very hot. He thought the joint pain was the result of that.

My mom used to do all the domestic work – grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, etc. A few years ago, my dad took over the domestic work because my mom’s health deteriorated.

My dad actually learned to cook when my parents were here in the US helping me take care of the kids. Once he learned to cook, he didn’t like my mom’s cooking. My mom was happy to not have to cook any more and let him be the chef. I have to say he is a better chef than my mom.

My dad has an amazingly good memory for phone numbers. While I only remember a handful of phone numbers, he seems to remember every relative’s phone number and we have a lot of them. I am amazed by his talents.

My father is a man with few words. He is quiet and doesn’t say much. He is content and considerate. He doesn’t show affection and never tells me he loves me. But he shows his love with his acts of service.

When we moved to the current house 11 years ago, my parents stayed with us for one month before they had to leave. My dad helped me make a vegetable garden, put up some shelves in the garage and basement, without many tools to work with.

Hi Dad,  I love you and miss you. Happy Father’s Day from Woodbury to Suzhou! Wish you good health and happiness!

Thank-you to all teachers

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” — Henry Adams

Today after reading the last email update to parents from my son’s 8th grade math teacher at Lake Middle School, I had an overwhelming feeling of appreciation for him and all teachers. It also reminded me of my favorite teacher (Remembering my favorite teacher). Because of this one favorite teacher I had, I always have a special spot in my heart for teachers.

As school is coming to the end this week for our District, I want to say thank-you to all teachers. Let the following email I sent to my son’s math teacher serve as thank-you note to all teachers my kids have at LMS and teachers everywhere. Even if you have not taught my kids and I don’t know you, I know you have impacted someone in your class and made a difference in his/her life. For your teaching, dedication and love for the kids, I want to say thank-you.

Mr. Rasmussen,

I am so glad you are Andy’s math teacher. He said you have made the class fun. Honestly math is really boring in my mind, maybe because it was not my favorite subject and I am not good at it. So to be able to make math (or any subject) fun is really a great accomplishment for a teacher. Kids are more interested in learning when the subject is fun or when the teacher makes it fun. A teacher really plays an important role in how well kids learn and what they are interested in. Often times it’s because of the teacher. 

Thank you so much for your effort in making math fun, for your love for the kids. I feel your truly care for the kids. Reading your final email brought tears to my eyes.

Thanks for always taking the time to write and keep parents informed.  

I hope next year Andy will have great teachers like you. 

With appreciation,

Qin Tang

Soft leadership

Soft leadership is a new concept I read about today in the Spring 2012 issue of Leader to Leader, a journal on leadership published by Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute.

Among the 10 articles in this issue, the one titled “Soft leadership: Make others feel more important” by M. S. Rao really resonated with me.

Even though the concept of putting soft and leadership together as a leadership style or types is new, I think the idea behind it is certainly not new.

We know to be a great leader, we need soft skills, i.e., people skills. Rao blends soft skills with leadership to come up with this new term of soft leadership.

Rao lists 11 characteristics that distinguish great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, MLK Jr., Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama:

  • Character
  • Charisma
  • Conscience
  • Conviction
  • Courage
  • Communication
  • Compassion
  • Commitment
  • Consistency
  • Consideration
  • Contribution

His list overlaps with the list I shared in my article The 30 C’s of leadership.

I can’t agree more with what Rao says about soft leadership:

“Soft leadership touches on caring, connecting, and communicating with people to accomplish desired goals. Soft leaders are basically people-oriented rather than task-oriented. They empathize with others and look at the issues from a human perspective. They have compassion toward others … Soft leadership involves making others feel important. Always look at their strengths and appreciate sincerely.”

I see many leaders fail because they don’t have good soft skills. Great leaders always have excellent people skills.

If you want to learn more about soft leadership, read the journal article or Rao’s book with the same title.

My ER scare and lessons learned

I had an emergency visit to the hospital for my 14 years old son on Wednesday evening. I can’t remember the last time I had to go to ER for anyone in the family. It must be several years ago.

Here is what happened and the lessons learned.

After dinner on Wednesday Andy went out to play some basketball outside as he usually does, for about half an hour. Then he came in and worked on the computer for a while. I was working outside in the garden when he told me that he didn’t feel well. He just noticed that his heart rate was very fast. He had some stomachache and was dizzy/weak. At this time his heart beat was about 120 a min.

I thought it might be food related. He had ham for dinner. The ham had been in the fridge for a while.

So I took him to Woodbury HealthPartner Urgent Care around 8:45 pm, shortly before it closed at 9 pm.  The doctor ordered an EKG test to measure the heart rate. The result showed regular beat, but higher than normal at 108. The doctor recommended us to go to ER.

So we moved on to the ER at Regions Hospital in St. Paul and arrived at 10:10 pm. There were over 10 people in front of us. Andy’s situation was not life-threatening. So we had to wait.

We waited for more than 2 hours before we were seen by a resident. At this time, Andy was feeling much better. His heart beat has slowed down to about 90. The resident doctor ordered the same EKG test and also a blood test.

Then more waiting for the result.

Meanwhile a doctor stopped by to check and talk. His diagnosis was Tachycardia, abnormally fast heartbeat. The doctor said it is not uncommon for kids between 5-20 to have this condition. It’s not life-threatening. If it happens again and the heart rate is less than 150, just relax and rest. There is no need for panic.

I asked what caused the sudden heartbeat. It was the first time that Andy ever experienced this. He is healthy and has no medical issues.

The doctor didn’t point to any specific causes, besides saying that it was not unusual for his age.

I was glad that nothing serious was going on. By the time we left ER close to 3 am, Andy’s heart rate was normal. He felt fine, just tired. We were in the ER for 4.5 hours, mostly waiting.

When we got home, it was shortly after 3 am. We slept in the next morning, missed school and work.

Today I updated a co-worker on my ER experience. She said it sounded like dehydration.

As soon as she mentioned the word dehydration, a light bulb went on in me.

From the time we got in the car to drive to the Urgent Care, till we got home, Andy had been drinking water constantly. I had never seen him so thirsty. He drank two bottles of water. He had to refill it from the hospital water fountain.

It made sense now. Andy’s condition could be caused by dehydration. For kids in the 5-20 age group, they are usually very active physically, playing sports. They can easily get dehydrated if they don’t pay attention to their body’s need for water. By the time they feel very thirsty, they can be already in the very serious condition. We are supposed to drink water before we feel thirsty.

I did some research on the Internet. I found that Tachycardia can be caused by exercise or stress. This fast heart rate usually returns to normal range with rest and relaxation.  Dehydration also can cause tachycardia, when the dehydration is treated, the heart rate usually returns to normal.

I know the importance of drinking water. Almost every day I remind my kids to drink water. I once read a book titled “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” by Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj” and also wrote an article on the healing power of water.

So what are the lessons learned for myself?

Drink more water, especially for kids during and after their physical activities.

Skip Urgent Care if it’s not a minor issue. Anytime it involves heart or other important parts of the body, go to ER directly, to save the extra time and money. The UC doctor will most likely refer the patients to ER anyway. They don’t want to take risk and get in trouble. Better safe than sorry. It’s the patients who have to pay, not them. I can understand that.

Have patience when visiting ER, especially at Regions Hospital. A friend commented on my Facebook that Regions is the slowest around here. I was glad to find two computers in the waiting room. I was able to go online, check my email, post on my blog as planned, and update my Facebook page.

I didn’t feel the doctors gave me a satisfactory answer to my question about the cause. I remember mentioning the fact that Andy had been very thirsty and drinking a lot of water, but I don’t remember anyone mentioning the word dehydration. It seems so obvious now that it was dehydration. Once Andy started drinking water and drank constantly, his condition got better and the heart rate slowed down.

So most importantly, learn and be informed. Take good care of our bodies by drinking more water and eat healthy. And don’t rely blindly on anyone else. Even the doctors don’t necessarily know all and give the best advice.

The instruction on Andy’s discharge sheet reads: “Please follow up with your primary care provider in 3-5 days.”

No, thanks. I don’t think it’s needed now I really know the cause of the problem. I can save the time and money this time.

31DPC – Day 31

This is day 31 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 31

New International Version (NIV)

Sayings of King Lemuel

31 The sayings  of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.

2 Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!

3 Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings.

4 It is not for kings, Lemuel— it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer,

5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

6 Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!

7 Let them drink  and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.

16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

0 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

2 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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31DPC – Day 30

This is day 30 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 30

New International Version (NIV)

Sayings of Agur

30 The sayings  of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance.

This man’s utterance to Ithiel:

I am weary, God, but I can prevail.

2 Surely I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding.

3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.

4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands  have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters  in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name,  and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!

5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

7 “Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown  you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

10 “Do not slander a servant to their master, or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.

11 “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; 12 those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; 13 those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; 14 those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour  the poor  from the earth and the needy from among mankind.

15 “The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry.

“There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’: 16 the grave,  the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

17 “The eye that mocks a father, that scorns an aged mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.

18 “There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: 19 the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman.

20 “This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’

21 “Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: 22 a servant who becomes king, a godless fool who gets plenty to eat, 23 a contemptible woman who gets married, and a servant who displaces her mistress.

24 “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: 25 Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; 26 hyraxes are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; 27 locusts  have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; 28 a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.

29 “There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing: 30 a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; 31 a strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a king secure against revolt.

32 “If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! 33 For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”

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31DPC – Day 29

This is day 29 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 29

New International Version (NIV)

29 Whoever remains stiff-necked  after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

2 When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.

3 A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.

4 By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy forbribes tear it down.

5 Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet.

6 Evildoers are snared by their own sin, but the righteous shout for joy and are glad.

7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

8 Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger.

9 If a wise person goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.

10 The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright.

11 Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

12 If a ruler  listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.

13 The poor and the oppressor have this in common: The Lord gives sight to the eyes of both.

14 If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.

15 A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.

16 When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall.

17 Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

18 Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

19 Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.

20 Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.

21 A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent.

22 An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.

23 Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

24 The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies; they are put under oath and dare not testify.

25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord  is kept safe.

26 Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.

27 The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright.

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31DPC – Day 28

This is day 28 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 28

New International Version (NIV)

28 The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.

3 A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

4 Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them.

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.

6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.

7 A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

8 Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.

9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.

10 Whoever leads the upright along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance.

11 The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.

12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.

13 Whoever conceals their sins  does not prosper, but the one who confesses  and renounces them finds mercy.

14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.

16 A tyrannical ruler practices extortion, but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign.

17 Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder will seek refuge  in the grave; let no one hold them back.

18 The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.

19 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

20 A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

21 To show partiality  is not good — yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.

22 The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them.

23 Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.

24 Whoever robs their father or mother and says, “It’s not wrong,” is partner to one who destroys.

25 The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord  will prosper.

26 Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

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31DPC – Day 27

This is day 27 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 27

New International Version (NIV)

27 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

2 Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.

3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.

4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

7 One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

8 Like a bird that flees its nest is anyone who flees from home.

9 Perfume  and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

10 Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster  strikes you— better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.

11 Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.

12 The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

13 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.

14 If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.

15 A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; 16 restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.

17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

18 The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit, and whoever protects their master will be honored.

19 As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

20 Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes.

21 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.

22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.

23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; 24 for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.

25 When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, 26 the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field.

27 You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family and to nourish your female servants.

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31DPC – Day 26

This is day 26 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 26

New International Version (NIV)

26 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.

2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.

3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools!

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.

5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

6 Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.

7 Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

8 Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool.

9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

10 Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.

12 Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.

13 A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!”

14 As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.

15 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

16 A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly.

17 Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

18 Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death

19 is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”

20 Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.

21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

22 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.

23 Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.

24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit.

25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts.

26 Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

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31DPC – Day 25

This is day 25 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 25

New International Version (NIV)

More Proverbs of Solomon

25 These are more proverbs of Solomon, compiled by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah:

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

3 As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

4 Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel;

5 remove wicked officials from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established  through righteousness.

6 Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men;

7 it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.

What you have seen with your eyes  do not bringhastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?

9 If you take your neighbor to court, do not betray another’s confidence,

10 or the one who hears it may shame you and the charge against you will stand.

11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given.

12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.

13 Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master.

14 Like clouds and wind without rain is one who boasts of gifts never given.

15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

16 If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit.

17 Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house— too much of you, and they will hate you.

18 Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.

19 Like a broken tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.

20 Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound,     is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals  on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

23 Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look.

24 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

25 Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.

26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked.

27 It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep.

28 Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.

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Training tomorrow’s leaders

Ms. Jan Buikema and SLC president Jane Crosby-Schmidt

Do you want your children to become future leaders and be successful in life?

If so, start them early and young. Encourage your children to get involved in school and community activities.

Tonight I went to the Student Literacy Council (SLC) Banquet at Lake Middle School (LMS). My 6th grade daughter is a first-year council member. The SLC members and families were invited to attend the annual end-of-year banquet to celebrate the students’ hard work and achievements on this year’s SLC.

The SLC, with the guidance and help of the LMS teacher and SLC advisor Ms. Jan Buikema, organized the event. I was very impressed by how well it was organized. The SLC president Jane Crosby-Schmidt, vice president Hannah Eggert, secretary Amanda Weber, and board of directors all spoke at the event. The leadership skills that these young people demonstrated was really impressive.

I think SLC (or other student organizations) is a great place for students to get involved and a great training ground for them to develop their leadership, organization, communication, networking and social skills. Students who participate in extracurricular activities learn leadership skills and often demonstrate leadership potentials at young age.

As I listened to these young people speaking tonight, I could picture them doing great things and being great leaders down the road in high schools, colleges, and workplaces. They got a head start in their leadership development journey by joining SLC or other organizations.

Both of my kids are introverts and shy. I often encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities. They did participate in some activities such as Academic Triathlon, Math League, Math Masters, but they don’t have much interest in doing other types of clubs. So I was glad my daughter who likes to read agreed to join the SLC last year when she entered 6th grade at LMS.

Amy got a ribbon (as a council member) and the 3rd place award for volunteering the most hours (a surprise). I hope she will continue her work on the SLC next year, to develop more leadership, organization, communication, networking and social skills.

31DPC – Day 24

This is day 24 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 24

New International Version (NIV)

Saying 20

24 Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company;

2 for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.

Saying 21

3 By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;

4 through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Saying 22

5 The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength.

6 Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.

Saying 23

7 Wisdom is too high for fools; in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.

Saying 24

8 Whoever plots evil will be known as a schemer.

9 The schemes of folly are sin, and people detest a mocker.

Saying 25

10 If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!

11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs  the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

Saying 26

13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.

14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Saying 27

15 Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous, do not plunder their dwelling place;

16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

Saying 28

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,

18 or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.

Saying 29

19 Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked,

20 for the evildoer has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

Saying 30

21 Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with rebellious officials,

22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them, and who knows what calamities they can bring?

Further Sayings of the Wise

23 These also are sayings of the wise:

To show partiality in judging is not good:

24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.

25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them.

26 An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

27 Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.

28 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause — would you use your lips to mislead?

 29 Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.”

30 I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;

31 thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.

32 I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw:

33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest —

34 and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.


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31DPC – Day 23

This is day 23 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 23

Saying 7

23 When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you,

2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.

3 Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.

Saying 8

4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.

5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Saying 9

6 Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies;

7 for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

8 You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments.

Saying 10

9 Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.

Saying 11

10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,

11 for their Defender  is strong; he will take up their case against you.

Saying 12

12 Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.

Saying 13

13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.

14 Punish them with the rod and save them from death.

Saying 14

15 My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed;

16 my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.

Saying 15

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.

18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Saying 16

19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path:

20 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat,

21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Saying 17

22 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.

23 Buy the truth and do not sell it—wisdom, instruction and insight as well.

24 The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.

25 May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!

Saying 18

26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways,

27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit, and a wayward wife is a narrow well.

28 Like a bandit she lies in wait and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

Saying 19

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?

30 Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.

31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!

32 In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.

33 Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things.

34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging.

35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?”

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31DPC – Day 22

This is day 22 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 22

New International Version (NIV)

22 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

2 Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.

3 The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

4 Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.

5 In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls, but those who would preserve their life stay far from them.

6 Start  children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

8 Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.

9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.

11 One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.

12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.

13 The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the public square!”

14 The mouth of an adulterous woman is a deep pit; a man who is under the Lord’s wrath falls into it.

15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.

16 One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

Thirty Sayings of the Wise

Saying 1

17 Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach,

18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.

19 So that your trust may be in the Lord, I teach you today, even you.

20 Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge,

21 teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth, so that you bring back truthful reports     to those you serve?

Saying 2

22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court,

23 for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life.

Saying 3

24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered,

25 or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.

Saying 4

26 Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts;

27 if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.

Saying 5

28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.

Saying 6

29 Do you see someone skilled  in their work? They will serve  before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.

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31DPC – Day 21

This is day 21 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Charles Swindoll, in his Insight for Living Bible Study Guide Selected Studies from Proverbs, chapters 7 & 8 titled “You and Your Tongue” and “The Poison in Your Mouth,” talks about the power of the tongue and mouth that can do good or evil.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” — Prov. 18:21

What are the right use of the tongue?

Here are four wise ways the tongue can be used for good.

  • Wise counsel, sound advice
  • Reproof, rebuke, spiritual exhortation
  • Encouragement
  • Witnessing, teaching, comforting

What are the wrong use of the tongue?

  • Deceitful flattery
  • Slander, talebearing, and gossip
  • Arguments, strife, and angry words
  • Boasting and foolish talking
  • Profanity and vulgarity
  • Lies and Exaggerations

How can we restrain our tongue? – by asking and answering these four questions before we unleash our tongues.

  • Is it true?
  • Is it confidential?
  • It is kind?
  • Is it necessary?

Remember that your word us a reflection not only of your character, but also of God’s.

Proverbs 21

New International Version (NIV)

21 In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.

2 A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.

3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

4 Haughty eyes  and a proud heart—the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin.

5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

6 A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right.

8 The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.

9 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

10 The wicked crave evil; their neighbors get no mercy from them.

11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.

12 The Righteous Onetakes note of the house of the wicked and brings the wicked to ruin.

13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out  and not be answered.

14 A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.

15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence comes to rest in the company of the dead.

17 Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.

18 The wicked become a ransom  for the righteous, and the unfaithful for the upright.

19 Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

20 The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.

21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

22 One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty and pull down the stronghold in which they trust.

23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

24 The proud and arrogant person —“Mocker” is his name—behaves with insolent fury.

25 The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.

26 All day long he craves for more, but the righteous  give without sparing.

27 The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable — how much more so when brought with evil intent!

28 A false witness will perish, but a careful listener will testify successfully.

29 The wicked put up a bold front,  but the upright give thought to their ways.

30 There is no wisdom,  no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.

31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.

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31DPC – Day 20

This is day 20 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Charles Swindoll, in his Insight for Living Bible Study Guide Selected Studies from Proverbs, chapters 9 & 10 titled “You and Your Job,” talks about work ethic among Christians and takes a close look at Christians as employees in the mirror of Proverbs.

Here is Solomon’s personnel files in Proverbs, the work force Solomon portrays, their habits and attitudes.

Employees Nobody Wants

The Sluggard – laziness, whining

  • He had trouble getting started.
  • He is restless – filled with inner plans he never implements.
  • He is costly to the business.
  • He is often very defensive.
  • He is a quitter.
  • He lives under self-delusional excuses.

The Deceiver – a smooth, sweet-talking type

  • He appears to have a life of ease, but it’s really empty and without purpose
  • The deception may be exciting initially, but its end is bitter and hard to hear.
  • He lacks a sense of loyalty

The Greedy – who chases after riches

  • He attempts to find security in money.
  • He never slows his fanatical pursuit of riches.
  • He is extremely selfish.
  • He will get burned because of his greed.

Employees Nobody Wants

The Diligent – someone who is sharp, decisive, keen

  • He shows discipline and determination.
  • He demonstrates an alert awareness.
  • He is a rare and valuable find.
  • He is a reservoir of plans and ideas, innovative and creative.

The Thoughtful

The Thoughtful Boss -

  • He is genuinely concerned about the lives of his employees.
  • He has understanding and insight.

The Thoughtful Employee -

  • He is committed to his job.
  • He is loyal to his employer.

The Skillful –

  • He is efficient.
  • He possess the technical expertise to carry out his job with competence.


Proverbs 20

New International Version (NIV)

20 Wine  is a mocker  and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

2 A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; those who anger him forfeit their lives.

3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

4 Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

6 Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?

7 The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.

8 When a king sits on his throne to judge, he winnows out all evil with his eyes.

9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?

10 Differing weights and differing measures— the Lord detests them both.

11 Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure  and upright?

12 Ears that hear and eyes that see— the Lord has made them both.

13 Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare.

14 “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer— then goes off and boasts about the purchase.

15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

16 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.

17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

18 Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.

19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.

20 If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

21 An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end.

22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

23 The Lord detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.

24 A person’s steps are directed  by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?

25 It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows.

26 A wise king winnows out the wicked; he drives the threshing wheel over them.

27 The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

28 Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love  his throne is made secure.

29 The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.

30 Blows and wounds scrub  away evil, and beatings  purge the inmost being.

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31DPC – Day 19

This is day 19 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 19

New International Version (NIV)

19 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.

2 Desire without knowledge is not good—how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.

4 Wealth attracts many friends, but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.

5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.

6 Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

7 The poor are shunned by all their relatives—how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.

8 The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish.

10 It is not fitting for a fool  to live in luxury—how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!

11 A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.

13 A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

15 Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.

16 Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.

17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.

18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again.

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

22 What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.

23 The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

24 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!

25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

26 Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace.

27 Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

28 A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.

29 Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.

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31DPC – Day 18

This is day 18 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 18

New International Version (NIV)

18 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

2 Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.

3 When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach.

4 The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.

5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice.

6 The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating.

7 The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.

8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.

9 One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

10 The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale.

12 Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

13 To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.

14 The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

16 A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

17 In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.

18 Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart.

19 A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.

20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.

21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

22 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.

23 The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly.

24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

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31DPC – Day 17

This is day 17 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 17

New International Version (NIV)

17 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.

4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

5 Whoever mocks the poor  shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster  will not go unpunished.

6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

7 Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool— how much worse lying lips to a ruler!

8 A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; they think success will come at every turn.

9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

10 A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.

11 Evildoers foster rebellion against God; the messenger of death will be sent against them.

12 Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly.

13 Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil  for good.

14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

15 Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent — the Lord detests them both.

16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?

17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

18 One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.

19 Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.

20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.

21 To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.

22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

23 The wicked accept bribes  in secret to pervert the course of justice.

24 A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes  wander to the ends of the earth.

25 A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him.

26 If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good, surely to flog honest officials is not right.

27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.

28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

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31DPC – Day 16

This is day 16 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 16

New International Version (NIV)

16 To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

4 The Lord works out everything to its proper end — even the wicked for a day of disaster.

5 The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord  evil is avoided.

7 When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace  with them.

8 Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.

9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

10 The lips of a king speak as an oracle, and his mouth does not betray justice.

11 Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making.

12 Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness.

13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right.

14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, but the wise will appease it.

15 When a king’s face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.

16 How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!

17 The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives.

18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.

20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

21 The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.

22 Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools.

23 The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.

24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

25 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

26 The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on.

27 A scoundrel  plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.

28 A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

29 A violent person entices their neighbor and leads them down a path that is not good.

30 Whoever winks  with their eye is plotting perversity; whoever purses their lips is bent on evil.

31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

32 Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

33 The lot is cast  into the lap, but its every decision  is from the Lord.

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31DPC – Day 15

This is day 15 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 15

New International Version (NIV)

15 A gentle answer  turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

3 The eyes  of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

5 A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure, but the income of the wicked brings ruin.

7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not upright.

8 The Lord detests the sacrifice  of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

9 The Lord detests the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness.

10 Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die.

11 Death and Destruction[a] lie open before the Lord — how much more do human hearts!

12 Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.

17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.

18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.

20 A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.

22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers  they succeed.

23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word!

24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.

25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.

26 The Lord detests the thoughts  of the wicked, but gracious words are pure  in his sight.

27 The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live.

28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

29 The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.

32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.

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31DPC – Day 14

This is day 14 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Charles Swindoll, in his Insight for Living Bible Study Guide Selected Studies from Proverbs, chapters 13 titled “You and Your Heart,” talks about the problem of spiritual heart disease and the importance of watching over the heart.

Biblically, the term heart represents the whole inner being, in contrast to the external side. It not only includes the motives, feelings, affections, and desires, but also the will, the aims, the principles, the thoughts, and the intellect.

There are various kinds of hearts:

  • A scheming heart
  • A cunning, sensual heart
  • A wise heart
  • A deceptive heart
  • A hurting heart
  • A tranquil heart
  • A righteous heart
  • A glad heart
  • A haughty heart
  • A heart of rage
  • A pure heart
  • An envious heart
  • etc.

What is it that determines the kind of heart we will have?

1. Our thoughts – We are what we think about.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. (Prov. 23:7a)

Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap your character. Sow your character, reap your destiny.

2. Our speech – The tongue does more than just reveal what’s in our hearts, it sparks other thoughts and consumes the thoughts of others around us.

3. Our money – Our hearts are shaped by how we spend our money.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke 12:34)

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23)

The heart is where the Holy Spirit communicates truth. So guard that. Preserve that.

Proverbs 14

New International Version (NIV)

14 The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

2 Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways.

3 A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.

4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox  come abundant harvests.

5 An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.

6 The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.

7 Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.

8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.

9 Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.

10 Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.

11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.

12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

13 Even in laughter  the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.

14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good rewarded for theirs.

15 The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.

16 The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.

17 A quick-tempered person does foolish things, and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.

18 The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

19 Evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

20 The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends.

21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

22 Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.

23 All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

24 The wealth of the wise is their crown, but the folly of fools yields folly.

25 A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful.

26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.

27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

28 A large population is a king’s glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined.

29 Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God.

33 Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known.[b]

34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.

35 A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful servant arouses his fury.

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My Mother’s Day gifts

For Mother’s Day, my kids gave me 13 poems (I have been a mother for 13 years), a hand-made card, and a rose my daughter drew in the last two days.

Nothing could make me happier than that they created specially for me.

For the last several years, my kids have always given me poems and hand-made cards for Mother’s Day, Birthday, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, or any special occasions. This is what I want and ask for. I never want them to buy me any gifts.

When we were in a store on Saturday, my kids wanted to buy me something for Mother’s Day, I told them I didn’t want anything from the store. They knew what I expected from them.

Last night, as I was about to read to my daughter bedtime stories, I asked her how many poems she had written, she said: “Only one. I have no talent in writing poems. Anyone who knows rhyming words can think of sentences and write poems. I am not good and I don’t want to write poems any more. And I don’t want to enter the State Fair competition any more.”

I was surprised by her words. In fact, I felt so saddened, tears came flowing down my eyes and I couldn’t read to her any more. So I said “Good night” and left her room.

I always see Amy as someone who has a special talent in poetry. She entered the State Fair competition in the last three years and won every year. I always encourage her to write poems. The thought that she would stop writing just broke my heart.

So I wrote a note to her:

Hi Sweetie,

When you told me that you have no talent for poetry and you don’t want to write poems and enter State Fair any more, I felt really sad and heartbroken. I couldn’t read to you because I couldn’t help my tears flowing.

You do have big talent for writing poems. They have brought me the greatest joy. There is no gift that brings me more joy and means more to me that the poems you have written for me. I hope you will continue writing and giving me poems for Mother’s Day, Birthday, Christmas, New Year, Easter and other special occasions.



I was so happy that my kids didn’t disappoint me today. I received the poems, the card and the drawing they created specially for me for Mother’s Day. The gifts meant more to me this year than ever.

To my kids – Please keep writing and creating. Your gifts from your hearts, minds and hands are the only gifts that will truly make me happy.

31DPC – Day 13

This is day 13 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 13

New International Version (NIV)

13 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.

2 From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence.

3 Those who guard their lips  preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.

4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

5 The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.

6 Righteousness guards the person of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

7 One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

8 A person’s riches may ransom their life, but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes.

9 The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.

10 Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

11 Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

13 Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects  a command is rewarded.

14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

15 Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.

16 All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose  their folly.

17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

18 Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.

19 A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil.

20 Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

21 Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous  are rewarded with good things.

22 A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

23 An unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away.

24 Whoever spares the rod  hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline  them.

25 The righteous eat to their hearts’ content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry.

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31DPC – Day 12

This is day 12 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 12

New International Version (NIV)

12 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

2 Good people obtain favor from the Lord, but he condemns those who devise wicked schemes.

3 No one can be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted.

4 A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.

5 The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.

6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.

7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous stands firm.

8 A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped  mind is despised.

9 Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.

10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

11 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

12 The wicked desire the stronghold of evildoers, but the root of the righteous endures.

13 Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble.

14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.

15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

16 Fools  show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.

17 An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies.

18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.

21 No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

22 The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

23 The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.

24 Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.

25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

26 The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

27 The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.

28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

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31DPC – Day 11

This is day 11 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 11

New International Version (NIV)

11 The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.

2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

4 Wealth  is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

5 The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

7 Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

8 The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead.

9 With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape.

10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;  when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

11 Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,  but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

12 Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

14 For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.

15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.

16 A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth.

17 Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.

18 A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.

19 Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death.

20 The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights  in those whose ways are blameless.

21 Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.

22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.

24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

25 A generous  person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

26 People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.

27 Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it.

28 Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

29 Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.

31 If the righteous receive their due  on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!

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31DPC – Day 10

This is day 10 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 10

New International Version (NIV)

Proverbs of Solomon

10 The proverbs  of Solomon:

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.

3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

4 Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

5 He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

7 The name of the righteous is used in blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot.

8 The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

12 Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

14 The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

16 The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.

17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

18 Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.

19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.

20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

21 The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.

22 The blessing of the Lord  brings wealth, without painful toil for it.

23 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.

24 What the wicked dread will overtake them; what the righteous desire will be granted.

25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm  forever.

26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke  to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them.

27 The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.

28 The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.

29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil.

30 The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land.

31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue  will be silenced.

32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favor, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.

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31DPC – Day 9

This is day 9 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

The study outline done by Mark A. Copeland titled Two Invitations (9:1-18) is a great resource to help understand Proverbs 9.

Charles Swindoll, in his Insight for Living Bible Study Guide Selected Studies from Proverbs, chapters 5-6 titled “You and Your Daughter,” compares and contrast two sets of women as portrait in Proverbs 9 and other chapters to help us learn about the qualities that can help our daughters become godly women.

The Foolish Woman vs. the Wise Woman

The Foolish Woman -

  • She tears down her house.
  • She is destructive.
  • She is boisterous.
  • She makes a mockery sin.
  • She is deceptive.
  • She is quarrelsome.

The Wise Woman -

  • She builds her house.
  • She understands the value of being wise.
  • She is constructive.
  • She develops a caring spirit.
  • She cultivates the skills of her hands.
  • She knows how to handle money.
  • She knows the blessings of hard work.

The Sensual Woman vs. the Virtuous Woman

Signs of the Sensual Woman – 5 distinctive traits

  • By her words
  • By her friends
  • By her lack of spiritual commitment
  • By her appearance
  • By her attitude

The Virtuous Woman -

She is trustworthy, diligent, capable, committed to her family’s well-being, prudent, generous, strong, kind, has integrity, speaks wisely, and is appreciated by her family.

The Contentious Woman vs. the Gracious Woman

The Contentious Woman -

  • She strives on stirring up conflict and unhappiness.
  • She has an unchecked stubborn will.

The Gracious Woman -

  • She has a gracious, humble, teachable will.
  • She is accepting and appreciative, thoughtful and considerate.

The Indiscreet Woman vs. the Godly Woman

 The Indiscreet Woman -

She lacks the ability to choose between the tasteful and the tasteless, the appropriate and the inappropriate, right and wrong, good and bad.

The Godly Woman -

  • She fears the Lord.
  • She knows her source of genuine beauty is her inner character.
  • She cultivates an inner Christlike beauty that’s eternal.

The wise and foolish influences in our lives:

  • Foolish influences – TV, advertising, movie, music, peer pressure, magazines, pop stars
  • Wise influences – Bible study, volunteer work, time with parents, music and books with godly themes …

Proverbs 9

New International Version (NIV)

Invitations of Wisdom and Folly

9 Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.

2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.

3 She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city,

4 “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says,

 “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.

6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.”

7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.

8 Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.

9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,  and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

11 For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

13 Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing.

14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city,

15 calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way,

16  “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says,

17 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious! ”

18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.

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31DPC – Day 8

This is day 8 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

The study outline done by Mark A. Copeland titled Wisdom’s Plea To Be Heard (8:1-36) is a great resource to help understand Proverbs 8.

Proverbs 8

New International Version (NIV)

Wisdom’s Call

8 Does not wisdom call out?  Does not understanding raise her voice?

2 At the highest point along the way,  where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud:

4 “To you, O people, I call out;  I raise my voice to all mankind.

5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.   

6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.

7 My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.

8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.

9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold,

11 for wisdom is more precious  than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.

13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;  I have insight, I have power.

15 By me kings reign and rulers  issue decrees that are just;

16 by me princes govern, and nobles—all who rule on earth.

 17 I love those who love me,  and those who seek me find me.

18 With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver.

20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,

21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me and making their treasuries full.

22 “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;

23 I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water;

25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,

26 before he made the world or its fields  or any of the dust of the earth.

27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

30  Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,

31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

32 “Now then, my children, listen to me;  blessed are those who keep my ways.

33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;  do not disregard it.

34 Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

35 For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord.

36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”

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31DPC – Day 7

This is day 7 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

In the first seven chapters of Proverbs, chapters 1-4 are about purpose and benefits of wisdom. Chapters 2:16-19, 5-7 are warnings against adultery.

The fact that Proverbs repeatedly flashes warning signals alerting us to the peril of adultery, is no coincidence. It has reasons and significance.

The repetition implies that the danger is urgent and serious. It was a serious problem in Solomon’s day, and it is a serious problem no less today.

The peril of adultery includes:

Destruction – Adultery destroys one’s wealth, body, soul, and reputation.

Proverbs 2:18-19 —  Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.

Proverbs 5:5 — Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.

Proverbs 6:32 — But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself.

Proverbs 7:27 — Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.

Shame and Regret

Proverbs 5:11 — At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.


Proverbs 6:27-29 — Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.

As I think about the seven chapters I read so far and look at the news headlines in the last few days, I marvel at the wisdom of King Solomon, and ultimately the infinite wisdom of God.

Many great men  in history, including King David, father of King Solomon, fall on adultery.

Had the former senator and presidential candidate Johnny or the CIA guys who are in the current news headlines or the many names who appeared in the headlines in the past listened to and obeyed the warnings against adultery in Proverbs, their destruction and shame would have been avoided.

BTW, I found a great online resource for preaching, teaching and studying of Bible – Executable Outlines. Read this one on The Peril Of Adultery.

Proverbs 7

New International Version (NIV)

Warning Against the Adulterous Woman

7 My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.

2 Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

3 Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and to insight, “You are my relative.”

5 They will keep you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words.

6 At the window of my house I looked down through the lattice.

7 I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense.

8 He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house

 9 at twilight,  as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in.

10 Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.

11 (She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home;

12 now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.)

13 She took hold of him  and kissed him and with a brazen face she said:

14 “Today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.

15 So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!

16 I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt.

17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.

18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

19 My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey.

20 He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.”

21 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk.

22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer  stepping into a noose

23  till an arrow pierces  his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.

24 Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say.

25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.

26 Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng.

27 Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.

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31DPC – Day 6

This is day 6 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 6

New International Version (NIV)

Warnings Against Folly

6 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge   for a stranger, 2 you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. 3 So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go to the point of exhaustion and give your neighbor no rest! 4 Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. 5 Free yourself, like a gazelle  from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — 11 and poverty  will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

12 A troublemaker and a villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, 13  who winks maliciously with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, 14 who plots evil   with deceit in his heart— he always stirs up conflict. 15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly  be destroyed—without remedy.

16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17  haughty eyes,         a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18  a heart that devises wicked schemes,         feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19  a false witness  who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Warning Against Adultery

20 My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 21 Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. 23 For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction   are the way to life, 24 keeping you from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.

25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.

26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life. 27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? 28 Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? 29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.

30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. 31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. 32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. 33 Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away.

34 For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. 35 He will not accept any compensation;  he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.

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31DPC – Day 5

This is day 5 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Check out the Sermon outlines based on the book of Proverbs by Mark A. Copeland for help with studying Proverbs 5.

Proverbs 5

New International Version (NIV)

Warning Against Adultery

5 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.

7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. 8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, 10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich the house of another. 11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. 12 You will say, “How I hated discipline!  How my heart spurned correction! 13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. 14 And I was soon in serious trouble  in the assembly of God’s people.”

15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer —  may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. 20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?  Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?

21 For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. 22 The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. 23 For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.

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31DPC – Day 4

This is day 4 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Proverbs 4

New International Version (NIV)

Get Wisdom at Any Cost

4 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. 2 I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. 3 For I too was a son to my father,     still tender, and cherished by my mother. 4 Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. 5 Get wisdom,   get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. 6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. 7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 8 Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. 9 She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown. ”

10 Listen, my son, accept what I say,  and the years of your life will be many. 11 I instruct   you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. 12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. 13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. 14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. 15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. 16 For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. 17 They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

20 My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 24 Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

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31DPC – Day 3

This is day 3 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Again, I am using Charles Swindoll’s Insight for Living Bible Study Guide Selected Studies from Proverbs to help me in the study.

In this book Swindoll doesn’t go chapter by chapter through the book of Proverbs, except at the beginning and then again at the end of the book. Instead he pulls verses from different chapters together that focus on a particular topic, such as fatherly advice for raising sons to be honorable men, the qualities that help daughters become godly women, the use of the tongue, employees nobody wants or employees everybody wants.

Today I read chapter 4 titled “You and Your Son” that talks about fatherly advice for raising sons to be honorable men.

Five areas of teaching:

1. Teach him to stand alone – Proverbs 1:10-19 highlights the need to teach our sons the importance of having biblical convictions and being willing to stand up for them, even when that means standing alone.

  • First teach him what a good friend really is.
  • Second, remind him of the consequences of wrong.

2. Teach him to be open to God’s counsel – A tender heart toward God is one of the hallmark of true manhood.

  • First, teach him to respond to our counsel. If he treasures our counsel as a child, then treasuring God’s counsel in his adulthood will be an easy transition.
  • Second, we must help him see the value of other people’s correction.
  • Third, we should share the experience of our life with him.
  • Fourth, we’ve got to spend sufficient time counseling our sons.

3. Teach him how to deal with temptation – The two areas of temptation mentioned most in Proverbs come from the opposite sex and overindulgence in food and alcohol.

4. Teach him how to handle money – There are four basic areas of financial responsibility:

  • Giving
  • Earning
  • Spending
  • Saving

5. Teach him the value of hard work – Hard work pays off. It is a mistake to give to a child without allowing him or her to experience the value and reward of hard, diligent work. Parents should give their children specific jobs to do around the home. Help them find ways of earning money and sharing in the expenses of their education. That will help prepare them for living on their own.

Two added ingredients – Constant delight and consistent discipline. Our sons need to know that we care and delight in them so they won’t be discouraged.

The most important son ever born and lived is Jesus. We can’t make the kind of men out of our sons that the Scriptures teach until we first come to know God’s Son for ourselves. Raising a godly son begins with know the Son.

Proverbs 3

New International Version (NIV)

Wisdom Bestows Well-Being

3 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled  to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.[b]

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; 20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; 22 they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. 23 Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. 24 When you lie down,   you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, 26 for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot  from being snared.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”— when you already have it with you. 29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. 30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason— when they have done you no harm.

31 Do not envy  the violent or choose any of their ways.

32 For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence. 33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. 34 He mocks   proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. 35 The wise inherit honor,     but fools get only shame.

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31DPC – Day 2

This is day 2 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

Again, I am using Charles Swindoll’s Insight for Living Bible Study Guide Selected Studies from Proverbs to help me in the study.

Swindoll points out four tools or disciplines needed to extract King Solomon’s treasures.

The Conditions

1. Discipline of the Written word –

  • First, possess the right attitude toward God’s Word.
  • Second, saturate our mind with God’s Word. The right handling of God’s Word includes hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on it. Such diligent cultivation will result in a rich harvest of wisdom.

2. Discipline of inner desire –

  • First, have an attentive ear. Ask God to make you attentive to wisdom’s voice.
  • Second, cultivate an open heart.

3. Discipline of prevailing prayer – consistent fervent prayer

  • First, proclaim the need for discernment.
  • Second, request understanding.

4. Discipline of daily consistency –

  • First, seek wisdom with diligence.
  • Second, pursue it with patience.

The Results – awe and intimacy

  • The fear of the Lord – a deep, awesome respect.
  • The knowledge of God – a bosom nearness to God.

The Promises

  • First, from within: our hearts will be filled with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
  • Second, from without: God will provide protection.
  • Third, from above: God will direct us into successful pursuits – righteousness, justice, equity, every good course – that give satisfaction.

Proverbs chapter 2

New International Version (NIV)

Moral Benefits of Wisdom

2 My son,  if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — 3 indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, 13 who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. 18 Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 19 None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.

20 Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. 21 For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; 22 but the wicked  will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

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31DPC – Day 1

This is day 1 of the 31 Day Proverbs Challenge to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May.

The book of of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, the wisest man ever lived on earth. He gained wisdom by asking God.

When Solomon succeeded his father David as king over Israel, God said to Solomon in a dream: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5). The young King Solomon could have asked for anything he wanted. Instead of asking for riches and long life, he asked God for “a discerning heart,” he asked for wisdom.

God was true to His word: “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise  and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. (1 Kings 3:12).

Just as King Solomon gained his wisdom by asking God, we can gain wisdom by asking God. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

What is wisdom?

Charles Swindoll says in his Insight for Living Bible Study Guidde Selected Studies from Proverbs: “Knowledge is not enough to meet life’s problems. We need wisdom, the ability to handle life with skill. Being wise means being skilled in godly living. Having God’s wisdom means having the ability to cope with life in a God-honoring way.”

Proverbs teaches us the skill of living life harmoniously, effectively and successfully. Proverbs enriches our ability to cope with daily life and other people.

Wisdom is not knowledge and intelligence. One can have great knowledge and intelligence without great wisdom, and vice versa.

We should rely more on God’s wisdom and less on human intelligence, because God’s wisdom is limitless while human intelligence is limited.

Proverbs 1 mentions three key sources of wisdom: the fear of the Lord, a father’s instruction, and a mother’s teaching – all three impart wisdom.

LeRoy Eims says fearing God is to “reverence God, serve Him, worship Him, obey Him, and love Him, that is a picture of the beginning of knowledge. And only fools despise it.”

Beginning in verse 20, Solomon presents wisdom as a person. Wisdom speaks to us personified as a woman. Charles Swindoll explained in his Selected Studies from Proverbs some basic facts about wisdom:

  • Wisdom is available. She is not shy, but very accessible and easy to find. She goes out of her way to speak to us through God’s Word, creation, and the lessons of daily life. But we often refuse reproof, because we are self-centered, proudful, insensitive, indifferent and defensive.
  • Wisdom comes to us when we accept and adjust to God’s reproofs. Sometimes God’s reproofs come to us directly through His Word. Sometimes He also uses indirect means to correct us through life’s experiences or other people.
  • Wisdom can be ignored and spurned. Our problem is not exposure to wisdom, our problem is putting her words into practice.
  • Wisdom spurned bears serious consequences.

Proverbs 1

New International Version (NIV)

Purpose and Theme

1 The proverbs  of Solomon  son of David, king of Israel:

2 for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; 3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,knowledge and discretion to the young— 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— 6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom  and instruction.

Prologue: Exhortations to Embrace Wisdom

Warning Against the Invitation of Sinful Men

8 Listen, my son, to your father’s  instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9 They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

10 My son, if sinful men entice   you, do not give in   to them. 11 If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for innocent blood, let’s ambush some harmless soul; 12 let’s swallow   them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; 13 we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; 14 cast lots with us; we will all share the loot ”— 15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; 16 for their feet rush into evil, they are swift to shed blood. 17 How useless to spread a net where every bird can see it! 18 These men lie in wait   for their own blood; they ambush only themselves! 19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.

Wisdom’s Rebuke

20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; 21 on top of the wallshe cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech:

22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate   knowledge? 23 Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. 24 But since you refuse   to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, 25 since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, 26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;     I will mock when calamity overtakes you — 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,     when disaster  sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.

28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,     and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

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31 Day Proverbs Challenge

This past Sunday, Todd Hyland, one of the two interim Co-Pastors at Spirit of Life Bible Church, challenged the congregation to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs through the month of May. There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs and there are 31 days in the month of May.

I decided to accept his challenge. A chapter a day in a month should be easy to remember and do, and it could energize my spiritual life and change my life for the better.

What can I gain from reading the Proverbs?

Wisdom! That’s what I need and want.

Wisdom is skill in godly living. I know I need more wisdom so I can become more skilled in godly living.

Reading the book of Proverbs will help me attain wisdom and discipline, live a prudent life, teach me to do what is right, to obey God, because the fear of the God is the beginning of knowledge.

Though I have the desire to learn about and read the Bible, I must admit, I am not always  good and faithful at reading it every day. So the challenge will provide me a good opportunity to do something I wanted to do.

I have Dr. Efe Agbamu as my accountability partner. Efe was the Park High School principal when she was named Minnesota’s Secondary Principal of the Year in 2011. Now she is back with St. Paul Public School District as the Executive Director of Dual Language Programs & World Languages. With her teaching and leadership background, I am sure she will keep me well on track.

Today I was home, off from work. This idea came to me early in the morning. Why don’t I post my challenge and daily readings on my blog? There might be other people interested in doing the challenge. Besides, if I make the commitment and make it public, I will be held more accountable.

I got into action, really excited.

In the morning I went to the basement and found my German Bible I had not touched in years. I plan to read the Proverbs in English, Chinese and German. Reading the same content in different languages will not only increase my understanding, it will also help refresh my German language skills.

Since I moved from Germany to the US over 20 years ago in 1991, my German language skills suffered beyond repair. I wanted to pick it up before I forget all. After all, I spent 9 years of my life studying German, and I shouldn’t let it all go.

I spread my Bibles in English, Chinese and German on the table and started reading to get a head start. I had the Google Translator on the screen to help me translate words I didn’t know or remember.

To help me navigate between the different versions and languages more easily, I turned to the Bible Gateway website and had the Bible online as well. This cool website offers Bibles in all kinds of versions and languages. I can also make the font bigger to be easier on the eyes. Copying and pasting favorite verses are just a few clicks away.

In addition to read the Proverbs, I will also use Charles Swindoll’s Insight for Living Bible Study Guide Selected Studies from Proverbs to help me in the study.

Another great online resource is Executable Outlines – Free sermon outlines and Bible studies! There you will find Sermon outlines based on the book of Proverbs.

Here is what I will do for the next 31 days:

  1. Read one chapter in Proverbs every day.
  2. Read the book Selected Studies from Proverbs, a Bible study guide by Charles  Swindoll from Insight for Living.
  3. Post the chapter of the day on my blog to share with readers.  I will highlight my favorite verses.  
  4. I will also post selected verses or the link to my blog on Facebook to share with others.

Now I am ready for the challenge to begin tomorrow. Hope you will join me in growing deeper in God’s Word and wisdom!

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Sharing faith – why, what, how and when

The following materials on witnessing and sharing our faith were presented by Evangelist Paul Ridgeway at the Witnessing and Evangelism Seminar held at New Life Academy in Woodbury on April 28, 2012. I talked about it in yesterday’s post.

Thank you Paul for sharing your knowledge about and love for Jesus so generously with me and others who are interested.

Paul Ridgeway

What does WITNESSES stand for?

ACTS 8: 4-8, 25-40

W  –  WILLINGNESS to be led by the Holy Spirit vs. 26,29,39

I   –  IMMEDIATE response & obedience vs. 27

T   –  TACTFUL approach vs. 30

N  –  NOTICE interest & openness vs. 31,34

E  –  EXPLAIN Gospel verbally vs. 35

S  –  SCRIPTURES must be used vs. 35, Isaiah 55

S  –  SHARE Jesus vs. 35

E  –  EMPHASIZE repentance & commitment vs. 36-37

S  –  SYSTEMATIC follow-up vs. 38 baptism and follow-up

Sharing Our Faith:  WHY?

  1. Because God has commanded us to do so. The final words of Jesus while on earth      (Acts. 1:8) and also the Bible (Rev. 22:17) speaks concerning this.
  2. Because it demonstrates our love for God. Christ said that if we truly love Him we      would keep His commandments (John 14:15).
  3. Because all are lost! (Romans 3:10 & 23).
  4. Because our sharing is God’s chosen method to tell all people. He could have used      angels, but He didn’t. Only redeemed sinners can tell lost sinners about Christ. (Romans 10:14-17).
  5. Because God desires to save all people. (Acts 4:12; 2; Peter 3:9;  1st. Timothy 2:4).
  6. Because someone once shared his or her faith with us. It may have been a faithful      Bible teacher or a godly pastor, or, a praying parent. In other words, they have the right to expect that we will do for others what they have done for us. WHO SHARED THE GOSPEL WITH YOU?

Sharing Our Faith:  WHAT?

  1. God’s Word says all are sinners, condemned to hell. (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:10,  11, 23;  Romans 5:8 & 12; Revelations 20:15).  Sadly 40% of those “professing to be Christian do not believe there is a hell.”
  2. There is nothing a lost person can do on his or her own to save themselves. (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:9).
  3. Christ was born, crucified, and resurrected to save lost people from their sin (John 3:16 & 17;  1st. Timothy 1:15).
  4. To be saved a sinner must believe God’s Word and invite Christ into their heart by faith. ( John 5:24; Acts 16:31).

Sharing Our Faith:  HOW?

  1. First, we must be clean vessels. God reminds Isaiah the prophet of this, “Be clean, You who bear the vessels of the Lord” ( Isaiah 52:11). David the sinner prays for forgiveness and cleansing. Upon receiving this he states, “Then I will teach the transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You ( Psalms 51:13). While God does not demand gold or silver vessels, He does require CLEAN ONES. “I want to live right, so God can use me, at any time and anywhere”.
  2. We must be able to clearly give out the simple facts of the Gospel without getting bogged down with profound theological concepts. Philip the evangelist demonstrated how to do this when he dealt with a sinner in the desert. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35).
  3. We must avoid arguments and stick to the basic issues of men and women and their sins and Christ’s blood. Often unbelievers will attempt to sidestep the Gospel by asking unrelated questions, such as “Where did Cain get his wife?” Don’t “SHOW OFF YOUR KNOWLEDGE” but “SHOW THEM THE SAVIOR”.
  4. We must use the Word of God. Paul’s tremendous success as an evangelist can be linked directly to his consistent use of God’s Word. ( Acts 17:2; 18:28;  II Timothy 2:15;  3: 14-17).
  5. We must depend on the Spirit of God. ( John 3:15; Acts 6:10; I Corinthians 2:4).

Sharing Our Faith:  WHEN?

  1. Revival meeting in Chicago on the night of October 8, 1871. Evangelist asked people to think about making a decision for Christ and to come back the next night prepared to make that decision. THERE  WAS NO NEXT NIGHT. The Chicago fire broke out and 250 people lost their lives, and nearly four miles of buildings were consumed. The evangelist vowed never to end a service without giving an invitation to accept Christ immediately.
  2. The question of when we should share our faith is directly tied to when a sinner should accept Christ. The Bible is clear that God’s accepted time is TODAY. ( Hebrews 3:15; 4:7;  II Corinthians 6:2; Isaiah 55:6). The reason is simple, a sinner has no assurance whatsoever that he or she will live to see tomorrow. ( Proverbs 27:1; Luke 12:19; James 4: 13-15).


  • Every Hour of the Day:      10,000 people
  • In One Day:                       240,000 people
  • In One Week:                     1.68 Million
  • One Month:                         6.72 Million
  • One Year:                            80.64 Million
  • Seventy Years:                     5.644 BILLION

Thus, we are to witness ANY TIME, ALL THE TIME, IN ANY PLACE AND IN ALL PLACES. The Apostle Paul shows us how this should be done. He witnesses everywhere, in a prison at midnight (Acts 16: 25-31). And, he even witnessed on a sinking ship during a dark and stormy day (Acts 27: 20-25).


SOS EVANGELISM     “Scriptures On Salvation”

Always ask for PERMISSION to witness to someone.

Three questions to ask someone you are witnessing to:

1. Do you ever think of spiritual things?

2. Have you ever thought about becoming a Christian? (Note: The question is not “are you a Christian” but “have you ever thought of becoming one?”)  Good reason for this wording.

3. If someone were to ask you what makes a person a Christian what would you say?  THIS IS CALLED THE “X-RAY QUESTION”. IT WILL SHOW YOU IF THE PERSON IS SAVED AND IF THEY KNOW HOW ONE MIGHT BE SAVED.


1. PRAY   PRAY   PRAY   PRAY   PRAY   PRAY   PRAY   PRAY   PRAY – Pray without ceasing. The “prayers of the righteous person is powerful and effective”, James 5:16.

2. Pray and be ready to SHARE with others. Show an genuine interest in them.


     S-Secular Life

   H-Home Life



    E-Eternal Life

3. Pray for Openings:

  • Pray for Open Eyes: John 4:35 “ Open your eyes and see the fields white unto harvest.”
  • Pray for Open Doors: Colossians 4:3.
  • Pray for Open Mouths: Ephesians 6: 19-20. Make known the mystery of the mystery of the Gospel.
  • Pray for Open Scriptures: Psalms 119:18. Open my eyes to see the wonderful things from Your law.
  • Pray for Open Hearts: Luke 24:32. Hearts burning when he opened Scriptures to us.    JESUS WILL COME IN, Revelation 3:20.


  1. Ask God for you to “weep for the lost” and then take action.
  2. Ask God for “Divine Appointments” because “He directs your path”.
  3. ASK GOD FOR FAVOR. Acts 2:47.
  4. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit ( Luke 12:12).  He will lead and guide you.
  5. Always ask for permission to share the “Good News” with a person.
  6. LISTEN to people, their needs, their story and their questions and answers.
  8. Carry Gospel tracts. Gods Word “will not come back void.”
  9. Think of ways you can “show Jesus and His love to a lost world:”
  • Leave a good tip and ask waitress/waiter if you can pray for them.
  • Leave tip for hotel maid with Gospel tract. Also, for anyone you are tipping.
  • Pray before meals in private and public. Ask associates if you might bless the meal. That is a soft witness.
  • Think how you can show “kindness” to others. FAMOUS TELEGRAM OF GENERAL WILLIAM BOOTH OF THE SALVATION ARMY.
  • People that are going through a crisis or troubles, call them or send them a personal note to encourage them. Visit them, offer to help.
  • Give Gospel tapes, CD’s or DVD’s about Christian themes or ideas that can help the person who does not know Christ.
  • Invite people with you to special services where Christ would be presented.
  • Offer to pray for people, and, if they ask, agree you will pray. And, start “right then” with a prayer for them. Ask God to remind you of their needs and keep a prayer list.
  • SMILE at people, especially those that are serving you. Gas station, grocery store, etc.. Say thank you and “God bless you.”
  • Be a Word and Deed Christian. But, let’s not “Love People Into Hell” by not telling them about Jesus but still be nice, kind neighbors. Romans tells us “Blessed are the feet of those who BRING GOOD NEWS.”


  1. When witnessing, if you don’t know the answer or understand the question, be honest with the person you are talking to. Tell them you will get back to them with the answer.
  2. Be considerate of a person’s time and their work situation. Do not let your witness hurt someone’s job situation or cause them stress. Ask if you could meet with them at another time.
  3. It is more important to tell people “what the Bible says” than “what I think.”
  4. Pray as you meet with a person to the Lord privately, asking for guidance, favor and the right words. And, most importantly show love and humility.
  5. Remember, He that is within you (the Holy Spirit) is greater than he that is in the      world (Satan). Satan is a defeated foe, dangerous, but, still defeated under the power of God.
  6. Ephesians 6:10-18 put on the FULL ARMOUR OF GOD daily, especially when witnessing.
  8. The Bible says a “wise person” wins souls. And, that there is a special crown/reward for Christians who witness and lead people to Jesus. God rewards on faithfulness in spite of what “results” from our witnessing.
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Paul Ridgeway on witnessing and evangelism

Paul Ridgeway is a career accomplished event planner for big events such as Super Bowls, visits by heads of state including the former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to Minnesota, Minnesota Remembers (the memorial event with 40,000  people at the state capitol just a few days after the 9/11  terrorist attacks). He also has a tender heart and love for witnessing and evangelism for Jesus Christ.

I had never heard the name Paul Ridgeway, though I knew about or even participated in big events he organized, such as the Luis Palau Twin Cities Festival, a massive two-day evangelical  revival on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds in St. Paul in August 2004. Well, until this morning when I attended the last session of the 4-part series “Business Is My Calling” at New Life Academy in Woodbury.

Today’s session titled “Tell Them, Because Eternity is Forever” by Evangelist Paul Ridgeway was about witnessing and evangelism. Paul shared powerful testimonies and interesting stories he experienced in his eventful career and life. I really enjoyed his teaching and was very impressed by his boldness and humbleness in sharing the Gospel with others.

I will share Paul’s presentation in the next post.

Here is an article about Paul from Twin Cities Business.

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Free summer nature camps

Every year, the School District 833 offers various free summer camps through the Office of Equity and Integration.

This summer, two nature camps are offered to elementary students only (entering 1st – 5th ) – Native American and Belwin nature camps.

Native American and Belwin Outdoor Science Summer Camp – 2 Weeks (One week at Belwin’s Nature Preserve and one week at American Indian Magnet)

  • Dates:    June 18-22 and June 25-29
  • Times:   9am – 2pm weekdays

Belwin Outdoor Science Summer Camp – 1 Week

  • Dates:    July 9-13 OR July 16-20
  • Times:   9am – 2pm weekdays

There is no cost for the camps – free tuition, free transportation, free breakfast and free lunch. Transportation will be provided to students of South Washington County Schools.

Detailed and registration information can be found on the OEI website. As space is limited, registrations will be taken in the order they are received and must be completed by April 27.

Odd days or even days – a parenting tip

Being a parent of two preteens who are less than two years apart, I have had my fair share of frustration.

My kids fought over things big or small, such as who got to use the laptop computer. They argued about who did what.

“I need to use the computer, but he/she won’t let me.”

“Why should I do this, when Andy doesn’t have to?”

“How comes Amy doesn’t have to do it?”

It was frustrating to hear their same arguments again and again.

I found a simple yet quite effective solution, using odd days and even days.

My son’s birthday falls on an odd day, my daughter on an even day. When it is an odd day, my son gets to use the computer first for an hour, then he has to let his sister use it the next hour. They take turns. On odd days he washes dishes, on even days, she washes dishes.

Once the ground rule was set, the arguments diminished considerably. No more fights and complaints as it used to be. I simply ask the question: “What day is today?” It settles before they argue.

They still argue and complain sometimes, but it’s so much better now.

I am glad I have more peace and less frustration at home now.

A blessed life

“God bless you!”

“May you be blessed!”


These are the words I often hear people use, and I have used them myself sometimes.

But what is a blessed life?

A nicer car, a dream house, the ideal job, wonderful children, more money, better health, a more comfortable life … a little nicer, better, or more of everything?


A blessed life is a life with Christ.

Yesterday evening I went to a presentation by Dr. David W. Pao at Twin City Chinese Christian Church. Dr. Pao is Professor of New Testament and Chair of the New Testament Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. His topic was about a blessed life. He used Jacob in the Bible as the example.

Dr. Pao said having a blessed life is to know what God’s plan is for your life and what your role is in God’s kingdom.

I think a blessed life is also a fulfilling life. A fulfilling life is the result of have your purpose, talents and values aligned.

Do you know what your purpose is in life? What gives meaning to your life?

What are your talents, gifts and skills that distinguish you from others?

What is important to you? What do you value and stand for as a person?

When you identify your talents and values, and know how to use your gifts to serve the Lord and the needs of others, you have your purpose, your calling in life. If you ignore your talents, values and purpose in life, no amount of external success can make you feel fulfilling and complete.

May you have a blessed life!

2012 Woodbury Citizen’s Academy graduation

The 2012 Woodbury Citizen’s Academy graduation ceremony took place  at the Eagle Valley Golf Course Clubhouse today at 6:30 pm.

22 members from the community graduated from the third Woodbury Citizen’s Academy.

During the last nine weekly sessions, participants learned about all aspects of Woodbury community: city government, public safety, community activities, city works, history, education, local media, business, and voluntarism.

Alisa Rabin Bell, Executive Director of Woodbury Community Foundation, welcomed the guests that include the graduating class, WCA alumni from last two years, Woodbury Community Foundation board members, Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, Woodbury City Administrator Clint Gridley,  State Representative Andrea Kieffer, Washington County commissioner Lisa Weik, etc.

Dick Hanson from Woodbury Community Foundation delivered the keynote address. Then each class member was presented with a graduation certificate and a copy of the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

I was part of the first Woodbury Citizen’s Academy in 2010.



To-Enjoy list

Today is April 15. I finally got my tax returns done and ready to go, two days before the IRS tax filing deadline which is on Tuesday, April 17, 2012.

For me, it was a big accomplishment and relief.

I don’t like doing tax returns, that’s why I tend to procrastinate and wait till the last days.

With the tax returns behind me, now I am thinking about the May 15 deadline of paying the semi-annual property tax.

Sometimes it feels like that life is just a never-ending to-do list, both at home and at work.

Cooking, dish washing, laundry, cleaning, bills, taxes, doctor appointments …

Staff meetings, stats, performance reviews …

Some of the things we do in life are just things we need and have to do, not what we really enjoy doing.

To-to list has a negative connotation to me. When we have a lot of things on the to-do list, life becomes weary.

To bring balance to our life, I think we should create a “To-Enjoy” list. At least once a day, ditch the to-do list and enjoy something from the “To-Enjoy” list.

My To-Enjoy list would include:

Reading, writing, gardening, walking …

This weekend, as well as last weekend, I spent several hours working in my garden, replanting and composting. I totally enjoyed it even though it was labor. I get lost in time when I am gardening.

Life is a never-ending to-do list. We need a To-Enjoy list to make life more bearable, enjoyable and exciting.

The Vacationer, the Prisoner …

In a training environment, there are generally four different types of people – the Vacationer, the Prisoner, the Expert, and the Explorer /Learner.

The Vacationer sees training as a time to get away from work and routine tasks, an opportunity to just sit back, relax and daydream. He might come late and leave early, take long lunches  or breaks. He is in a vacation mode.

The Prisoner is someone who has been sent by management and personally doesn’t want to attend the training.  The Prisoner is in class because of a job requirement. He would rather be any other place than in training.  This student is resistant to anything and everything presented.

The Expert is someone who knows it all and loves a challenge. He thinks he already has the knowledge or information. He likes to challenge the trainer on every topic.

The Explorer/Learner is the person who loves to learn and explore new ideas. This type of student will usually sit at the front of the class, often arriving early and staying late to ask a lot of questions.

I usually seek and participate in training because I am interested and want to learn and grow. I see myself as an Explorer/Learner. I always sit at the front of the class and ask questions. Sitting at the front of the class reduces distraction and allows me to listen better and pay more attention to the trainer.

We all feel like a vacationer, a prisoner, an expert and an explorer from time to time during training. The frame of mind we bring into training affects the process and the outcome of the training and learning.

When I attended the Emerging Leaders Institute training in the last few months, I think everyone of the 30 classmates was an Explorer/Learner, because we wanted to be there. It’s so much more beneficial and fun to be in the Explorer/Learner frame of mind and in the class with other like-minded people.

Proactive wellness and living

Guest column by Melanie Bowen, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

Setting and achieving goals are the real spices of life. It helps us to look forward to the future. When we have a life list, a bucket list so to speak, we have direction. We have a sense of purpose. When we feel that we have fulfilled our purpose then we feel a sense of accomplishment. A sense of accomplishment gives us a greater sense of well-being. Regardless of your age, health status, even if you were diagnosed with a disorder from mesothelioma cancer to arthritis, anyone can benefit from making a life list and maintaining personal goals.

Part of proactive wellness is taking charge of your health. Making goals and accomplishing tasks can promote a healthy quality of life. Through writing your desires, wishes, and accomplishments on your life list you be able to start living for the future.

Undertaking smaller tasks will give you more confidence to reach for the larger ones. When writing down your desires, wishes, and goals break them up into smaller pieces. Sometimes it helps to see the bigger picture when you break it up into smaller segments. For instance, here is what you can do to help plan a cruise to the Caribbean. The first step is to research prices. Next, find the price that best suits your budget. Research tickets, cruise lines, flights, and find the right date. Once you find those things book your trip and you are done! It’s that simple. If you continue these steps with other goals will quickly find that you have overcome the obstacles associated with completing goals. Even if you have purposed to start a community project take on the smaller aspects of that goal until that project has come into being.

Finding the spice of life and looking forward to the future doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. You can participate in proactive wellness through making a life list. You can overcome the obstacles that try to hinder progression towards reaching your goals. What will you do with your life? How do you want others to see your life? Will you have the courage to face your fears and reach your goals? Don’t wait! Start now and look toward the future.

Check out a new online resource for more on living with illness, from the voice of those going through it to the voice of those that shine inspiration into the hearts of others: Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

Smart trust

Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World” is the title of a newly published book by Stephen M. R. Covey and Greg Link.

This Wednesday, Covey joined MnDOT’s monthly Commissioner’s Reading Corner book discussion and talked with employees about trust building strategies via a video conference.

Building and increasing trust with the citizens of Minnesota is something MnDOT has been working on since the I-35W bridge collapse in 2007 and the current Commissioner Tom Sorel took the leadership position several months later in 2008.

In the book as well as in the discussion, Covey talks about five actions that produce Smart Trust:

  1. Choose to Believe in Trust
  2. Start With Self
  3. Declare Your Intent … and Assume Positive Intent in Others
  4. Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
  5. Lead Out in Extending Trust to Others

Covey is also the author of the popular book “The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything.”

In that book, Covey introduces the trust phenomenon across 5 waves. Understanding these 5 waves will enable you to behave in ways that establish trust and allow you to become a leader who gets results by inspiring trust in others.

  1. First Wave: Self Trust. The key principle underlying this wave is credibility.
  2. Second Wave: Relationship Trust. The key principle underlying this wave is consistent behavior.
  3. Third Wave: Organizational Trust. The key principle underlying this wave, alignment, helps leaders create organizational trust.
  4. Fourth Wave: Market Trust. The underlying principle behind this wave is reputation.
  5. Fifth Wave: Societal Trust. The principle underlying this wave is contribution.

Covey also identifies 13 behaviors that builds trust:

  1. Talk Straight
  2. Demonstrate Respect
  3. Create Transparency
  4. Right Wrongs
  5. Show Loyalty
  6. Deliver Results
  7. Get Better
  8. Confront Reality
  9. Clarify Expectations
  10. Practice Accountability
  11. Keep Commitments
  12. Listen First
  13. Extend Trust

Stephen M. R. Covey  is the son of Stephen R. Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Leaving a legacy

“Business Is My Calling” is a 4-week study currently offered by the New Life Church in Woodbury to enhance leadership skills in the business world.

Today’s session, the third in the series led by Dave Seehusen and Dan Wiersum, was about how to balance living generously and leaving a financial and spiritual legacy.

For info about the study and the topics covered, visit New Life Church website.

I would like to share some of the things I learned at today’s presentation.

First, thank-you to Dave and Dan for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, and to the authors whose books are the foundation of the study, especially Ron Blue, author of twenty books on personal finance.

Why live generously?

God owns it all – Genesis 1:1

Matthew 6:19:  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”

Luke 16:11:  “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

Why does God want us to give generously?

  1. To help the poor
  2. To the temple (building, repairing, maintaining)
  3. For the priests, ministers, His workers

Why do we give?

  1. To receive a tax deduction
  2. To feel good
  3. To move toward “Jesus’ level of generosity”

Leaving a Financial Legacy

(Adapted from Ron Blue’s book Splitting Heirs : Giving Your Money and Things to Your Children Without Ruining Their Lives)

Five Undeniable Truths:

  1. We will all die.
  2. We will take nothing with us.
  3. We will probably die at a time other than when we would like.
  4. Someone else will get our stuff.
  5. We can decide only before we die who gets our stuff after we die.

Wealth Transfer Decision-Making Process

Life Overview – The Why

  • Take stock of your life
  • Understand why God put you on earth
  • Understand your unique design
  • As a steward of all He has given you, how would He want you to use it?

Decision 1 – Transfer – To Whom

  • The Treasure Principle: You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.
  • The Unity Principle: Your spouse completes you, not competes with you.
  • The Wisdom Principle: Transfer wisdom before wealth.

Decision 2 – Treatment – How Much

  • The Uniqueness Principle: Love your children equally, and treat them uniquely.

Decision 3 – Timing – When

  • The Kingdom Principle: Time your wealth transfer to maximize its use by you, your heirs and kingdom servants.
  • The Givin’ While Livin’ Principle: Do your givin’ while you’re livin’ so you’re knowin’ where it’s goin’.

Decision 4 – Title – What

  • The Stewardship Principle: God owns it all

Decision 5 – Tools & Techniques –  How

  • The Tools Principle: Estate planning tools & techniques help you accomplish objectives, but are not the objective.
  • The Trust Principle: Never use a trust because of a lack of trust.
  • The K.I.S.S. Principle: Keep it as simple as possible.

Decision 6 – Talk – Communicating the why, who, how much, when, what and how

  • The Expectation Principle: Communicate to align expectations with plans.

Leaving a Spiritual Legacy

As Christians, we should share not just our wealth, but also our faith with our children, grandchildren, and others, in order to leave a lasting legacy.

The following letter that Dan wrote to his granddaughter is an example of passing on your faith and leaving a spiritual legacy to the next generations.

Letter and Hope Chest to My Grandchildren

by Dan Wiersum

April 13, 2011 

My Dear Luka, 

You are one year old today. I distinctly remember the call I received from your Dad a year ago telling us of your arrival. You were born a half a world away in Hawaii, so it was several weeks before your Grandma and I would see you. We couldn’t wait. What fun it was getting to know you, learning how to bounce you, watching you endure a bubble bath and taking you for walks on the island paradise where you lived.

Now, I am pleased to give you a hope chest I made just for you—a practice I do for each of our grandchildren on the occasion of their first birthday—to keep as a constant reminder of your Grandpa’s love and hopes for God’s best in your life. 

Although your Grandma and I do not have great material wealth to give to you, we have something of great value to share with you—a spiritual legacy we’ve learned from our parents and received from God that lasts for eternity.

I want you to know that your Grandma and I have trusted in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and we desire the same for you. We pray this prayer daily for you: 

We pray for Luka today, O God, that you would fill her with the knowledge of your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that she might live a life worthy of the Lord, and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to your glorious might, so that she might have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified her to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 2:9-14, paraphrased)

Luka, your hope chest will likely be filled with baby toys for awhile, then little girl dolls and soccer balls, and clothes, and items for when you marry, and sweaters, and blankets. Just know that whatever items you fill your hope chest with, that my heart always will be filled with love for you, hoping—and praying—for God’s best.


Your Grandpa Wiersum

Emerging Leaders Institute Graduation


MnDOT Team who participated in the 2011-2012 ELI - Philip, Krysten, Erik, Qin

I love to write. Writing is my passion. It’s fun for me.

In addition to writing this blog, I occasionally write for the MnDOT employee newsletter “Newsline.” I like to submit and contribute whenever I have a chance, even though I am not part of the communications staff who creates the online newsletter.

My latest contribution to today’s edition of Newsline (March 28, 2012)was about the Emerging Leaders Institute Class 2011-2012 Graduation Ceremony on March, 23, 2012. It took place at the historical James J. House on Summit Avenue in St. Paul:

Four employees graduate from Emerging Leaders Institute

I am also looking forward to the April 4th Commissioner’s Reading Corner book discussion with author  Stephen M.R. Covey, who will join MnDOT via conference call to lead a discussion of his  book “Smart  Trust.” Covey will discuss trust building strategies and government  trust.

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Academic Triathlon Awards Ceremony










The 2011-2012 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. Principals or their representatives from participating elementary and middle schools were present to honor the students from their own schools.

Academic Triathlon is an after school enrichment program offered to students in 5th-8th grade through the District’s Gifted & Talented Office. Laura Vogel from District’s Gifted and Talented Services presided over the awards ceremony. Superintendent Mark Porter was also present to offer his congratulations and to hand out medals to each student.

Every USAT participant received a customized medal. It has “2011-12 USAT” on the front and participant’s name and school on the back of the medal.

This year, District 833 had 29 teams of 5th-6th graders and  8 teams of 7th-8th graders with 189 students in total participating in the USAT.

There were 46 coaches who helped the teams practice weekly and organize the meets. They certainly deserve a lot of recognition. Without these parents serving as volunteer coaches, the program would not be possible.

Thanks to all the coaches, including my son’s coaches Todd Nelson, Jim Fenner, and my daughter’s coaches Donna Gilles and Milli Gupta for your hard work and efforts. Thanks also to Laura Vogel and her colleague from District G&T Services for coordinating the USAT program, and to all educators for your support.

My son’s team from Lake Middle School won the first place at the regional meet on 3/2/2012. My daughter’s team, also from Lake, did very well at the three practice meets, but got the second place at the regional meet. It was disappointing for the team that they didn’t advance to the state level.

What happens next is the first place team from each regional meet will go to the State Tournament to be held on Saturday, April 14 in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Good luck to all the teams from our District that will go on to the state meet.

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Be a leader who inspires and transforms

[Final presentation at Emerging Leaders Institute on 3/23/2012, Part.1]

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” 

This is a quote by John Quincy Adams, the 6th US President. I like it as a definition for leader.

I started working at MnDOT in 2000 as a technical services librarian. My job responsibility was cataloging, so I worked more with library materials than with people.

My work was detail-oriented and challenging in some way (technically and intellectually), but not stimulating and challenging for me, content-wise. I liked my job, however, cataloging reports about hot-mix asphalt, traffic flow, work zone safety, snow plow, pavements or bridges all day was not exciting and fulfilling.

I remember a former coworker, whose work was monotonous and not intellectually challenging, said more than once: “I come to work to relax, and I go home to work.” With two little kids at home, I also felt more relaxed at work than at home, like my co-worker.

For the first 7 years, I was more or less disengaged. With disengaged, I didn’t mean I didn’t do my job well. I was just not very interested in and involved with what was going on within the organization outside of my office, and with the leadership. I mostly just knew the people in my own office.

I had two commissioners during those 7 years who were not visible and engaged with employees, at least that was my impression. I hardly saw them and knew what they were doing.

Then on Aug. 1, 2007, the I-35W Bridge collapsed. MnDOT was in spotlight, in a bad way. A few months later, former MnDOT Commissioner Carol Molnau was ousted by the legislature. A new Commissioner came on board.

When I read the news and found out that the new Commissioner was a Woodbury resident, and his kid went to the same school as my two kids, I was curious and excited. At that time I was writing a weekly column for the local newspaper in Woodbury. I wanted to meet him and introduce him to the local community.

Commissioner Sorel accepted my invitation for an interview. I met with him, his wife and his son at Woodbury Central Park, and wrote an article about him for Woodbury Bulletin.

After Sorel became the Commissioner, he had a meeting with employees in the Central Office cafeteria. He introduced himself and his family. He talked about his leadership philosophy of servant leadership and shared his vision of rebuilding trust and being transparent with the public. He was a lot more personal, visible and transparent than the previous commissioners I knew.

When the new org chart came out with Sorel as the new commissioner, I noticed a change. Instead of having the commissioner on the top of the org chart, as we always had, he placed the citizens of Minnesota on the very top, followed by the governor, the commissioner was the third in command.  It was a change that most people probably didn’t even notice. But it made a great impression on me. It showed humility in him.

A few months later on my birthday, I received an email from Commissioner Sorel wishing me happy birthday. It was a total surprise. Then I learned that every MnDOT employee received the happy birthday greeting on his/her special day. A simple act of kindness and thoughtfulness, it touched people. [TouchPoints – leadership moments]

When Sorel attended staff meetings, he often talked about and recommended books he read. I love reading and learning. An idea born at a staff meeting prompted my action.

In July 2009, I approached Commissioner Sorel to start a Commissioner’s Reading Corner book discussion program, he supported the idea.

In April 2010, MnDOT Commissioner’s Reading Corner officially started with Commissioner Sorel leading the first book discussion. Read the interview here.

The purpose of the monthly book discussion is to encourage learning and leadership development, to facilitate conversations between leaders and employees.

So in the last 3-4 years, because of one leader who inspired me personally, I became more engaged and involved. I sought out opportunities to contribute to the organization beyond my office and my regular job responsibilities.

In addition to the Commissioner’s Reading Corner, I was involved in organizing the brown bag learning and other health and wellness events at MnDOT. I also helped organize the first two Minnesota State Capitol Run @ Work Day 5K event in 2009 and 2010.

When I interviewed Admin Commissioner Spencer Cronk for ELI in Oct. 2011, I told him about MnDOT Commissioner’s Reading Corner. He became interested. A few months later, in Feb, 2012, he started a similar book discussion program called AdminReads. He emailed me and said: “Your work with the MnDOT Commissioner’s Reading Corner has inspired Admin to launch our own book club! Thanks for the great idea.”

I wanted to be a leader like Commissioner Sorel who inspires and transforms lives.

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The 30 C’s of leadership

[Final presentation at Emerging Leaders Institute on 3/23/2012, Part.2]

The 30 C’s of Leadership is part 2 of the final presentation I did today for my completion of the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) program which started in September 2011. It summarizes the lessons I have learned in the last few years through reading of leadership books, through attending ELI, through my observation of leaders I know or interviewed. The 30 C’s are listed in alphabetical order.

1. Can-do attitude – Whatever attitude a leader has will affect those that follow. Be positive and passionate. A can-do attitude brings positive energy and team spirit into the work place.

2. Celebration – Recognize and celebrate accomplishments and milestones. Work hard and play hard. It builds and strengthens relationships, lifts up spirit, provides a sense of pride and confidence. Dispense ARE (Recognition, Appreciation and Encouragement) generously. They make people feel more confident, motivated, and inspired.

3. Change – A leader is a change agent.  He not just accepts and adapts to change, but also leads change. Change starts with YOU. All significant change begins with self-change. Be open-minded and have a zest for learning, growing and living. Develop resilience through physical, mental and emotional stretching. 

4. Character – Character is the essence and core of the leader. Character is a choice, doing the right thing. It’s about integrity and intent. A leader is a person with character, has good moral values, does what’s right and act with integrity. 

5. Charisma – Charisma is the ability to draw people to you, is the quality that makes people want to follow you.

“When it comes to charisma, the bottom line is other-mindedness. Leaders who think about others and their concerns before thinking of themselves exhibit charisma.” ~John C. Maxwell

6. Clarity – Have clear vision and purpose. Be clear about your expectations. If you want people to perform well, they need to be clear about their roles, responsibility, authority and accountability. Be transparent. Communicate in clear, simple and precise terms, so people can understand complex concepts. 

7. Coaching – An effective leader invests in people and grows new leaders through coaching, mentoring, guiding, inspiring and empowering them. Give feedback promptly and effectively. Growing new leaders can have a lasting and transformative impact.

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” -- Ralph Nader

8-9. Collaboration and Cooperation – Collaboration and cooperation create a team spirit. They provide a sense of ownership and empowerment.

10. Commitment – Commitment is persistence with a purpose, sticking to your beliefs and choices. Believe in something and follow through. Have a set of values, principles or beliefs and then faithfully adherent to those beliefs with your behavior. Commitment ignites action. It separates doers from dreamers. Commitment is one of the most important factors in success.

”Making commitment builds hope; keeping commitment builds trust.” – Roger Merrill

11. Communication – Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. Communication is not just what you say. It’s also how you say it. It involves the ability to speak and write well, the ability to translate your vision into actions, the ability to speak in a way that is well received as intended. The key to effective communication is simplicity. 

12. Community – Encourage community building within and without the organization. What you do effects the larger community in which you work and live.  Give back to the community when you can.

13. Competence – A competent leader knows what he/she is doing and selects people who know what they are doing. Doing the right thing the right way at the right time. It’s about your capabilities, talents, expertise, and track record of results. It involves both the intellectual and emotional components, the hard technical skills and the soft people skills.

14. Confidence - Believe in yourself and in others. Your confidence inspires others to follow you and believe in you. Have self-confidence with a healthy dose of humility. Have self-confidence and inner strength to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Finding and retaining the best and brightest people available requires confidence.

15. Conflict resolution – A leader must have the ability, courage and emotional maturity to effectively handle conflict and to talk openly about high-stakes, emotional and controversial topics in a respectful and positive way rather than avoiding it the problem. You can only resolve conflicts or differences if your relationship is grounded in mutual respect and trust.

16. Connection – Be connected with yourself and know who you are. Also connect with people and build relationships inside and outside of your organization. Connect with open and sincere communication. Know your people – speak to what they care about, ask about their dreams, find out about their histories.

“We are connected to everything else but ourselves. We have become a world of human doers having lost connection to our heritage as human beings.” — Kevin Cashman

17. Conscious awareness – Build awareness and have a deep understanding of yourselves and others. Know your strengths and weakness, observe yourselves through your own eyes and the eyes of others. Create an inventory about your strengths, talents, personality, values, developmental needs, achievements. Building awareness requires the willingness to take an honest look. Integrate more reflection & introspection into your life. Take time to reflect and to be. Reading, journaling, meditation, reflection, prayer, nature can bring awareness and positive energy to your life.

18. Consequence – Take total responsibility for yourself and for leading others, especially for failures. Accept consequences of your actions. Hold everyone accountable. This builds trust.

19-21. Consideration, Compassion and Caring – Hire the right people, train them, trust them, respect them, listen to them, appreciate and encourage them, try to know them and understand them at a deeper level, be there for them when needed. When you are considerate, compassionate and caring, you capture the heart, mind and soul of people.  When you take care of your people, they will take care of your business.

22. Consistency – Say what you mean and do what you say. Treat people fairly and equally. Consistency and predictability provides safety and security and trust.

23. Core talents, values and purpose – A leader’s core talents, values and purpose must be aligned in order to have a fulfilling career and life.

What are your core talents, gifts and skills that distinguish you from others? What do you value and stand for as a person? What gives meaning to your life? What is the difference you want to make and what is the legacy you want to leave in this world? When you identify your core talents and your core values, and know how to use your gifts to serve the needs of others, you have your core purpose, your calling in life. If you ignore your core talents, values and purpose in life, no amount of external success can make you feel fulfilling and complete.

24. Courage – Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do or uncomfortable to do. Leaders often have to make tough, unpopular decisions and challenge traditions. It takes courage to accept new challenges and take risks. It takes courage to hear things that challenge your beliefs, ideas and decision. It takes courage to see, to acknowledge, and to embrace both the positive and negative aspects of who you are. It takes courage to hold yourself and other people accountable when something is wrong.

25. Creativity – is bringing into being of something which did not exist before, either as a thought, a product or a process. It is the ability to build something from nothing, see what nobody else has seen, think what nobody else has thought, do what nobody else has done.  Creativity drives the success of your company and career.

26. Credibility – Credibility involves both character and competence. It is the foundation of trust, trust is the foundation of relationships. Leadership is relationship.

27. Credit – Give credit when credit is due. No one wants to follow someone who takes credit for success while blaming others for failure.

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie

28. Control – Have self-control and be able to control your emotions. But let go of the need to control and micromanage others.

29. Culture – Building a culture of openness, transparency, trust, innovation to allow ideas, thoughts and creativity to flow freely. Creating a culture of diversity and pride to foster loyalty and commitment and bring out the best in people.

30. Curiosity – Curiosity is the building block of creativity. Curiosity and creativity lead to innovation. Leaders are life-long learners. Keep learning, growing and improving.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

Cultivating these 30 C’s of leadership is important in our journey to grow as a person and a leader. No one  becomes a good leader in one day. It’s a slow learning process. Good leaders continue to learn and develop their skills.

Keep these 30 C’s of leadership in mind as we work on becoming better leaders every day.

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Difference between leadership and management

Have you ever thought about the question, why people want to follow and work for or work with certain leaders/managers, but not others.  I think one of the reasons lies in the difference between leadership and management.

Leadership and management are related and can overlap and complement each other. A good manager can be a good leader, and vice verso. But they are not the same. There is a difference. A good manager is not necessarily a good leader, and a good leader is not necessarily a good manager.

You can be someone without any leadership position and authority, but people still willingly follow you and want to work for you. Or you can be someone in a supervisory position, yet you don’t have any followers.

Admiral Grace Murray Hopper said: “You manage things; you lead people.” Management is about things, leadership is about people.

So what is the difference?

  • The manager’s job is to manage work – to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to lead people –  to inspire and motivate.
  • The manager plans details. The leader sets direction.
  • The manager wants power. The leader gives away power.
  • The manager relies on control. The leader lets go of control and inspires trust.
  • The manager appeals to your head. The leader wins your heart.
  • The manager has subordinates. The leaders has followers.
  • The manager administers. The leader innovates.
  • The manager imitates. The leader originates.
  • The manager maintains. The leader develops.
  • The manager has a short-range view. The leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager travels on existing roads. The leader explore new roads.
  • The manager asks how and when. The leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line. The leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager accepts the status quo. The leader challenges it.
  • The manager takes credit. The leader gives credit.
  • The manager operates out of fear and distrust. The leader operates out of confidence and trust.
  • The manager brings transactional change. The leader brings transformational change.
  • The manager does things right. The leader does the right thing.

People follow leaders who inspire and motivate, not managers who can only manage things.

If you want people to follow you, you have to inspire people, not manage people. You can’t manage people, you can only inspire people.

Welcome summer

The weather we are having this week is unbelievable. It is still winter and spring will officially start next Tuesday, but it already feels like summer.

I had shorts and short sleeves today. I got a little sweaty when I took a walk in the afternoon. My son looked at the thermometer wondering if it’s time to turn on the air conditioner.

Welcome summer!!

On Tuesday I composted all the food scraps I accumulated over the winter months, a ritual I do every year in spring.

Yesterday I plowed the garden and planted some vegetable seeds. I can’t wait for having my own vegetables from the garden. I hope for an earlier and longer growing season this year.

I am so thankful that we had a very mild winter this year. We hardly had snow in Twin Cities. This was really not a typical winter for Minnesotans. I think I only had to shovel snow twice. My 13 year-old Dodge Caravan survived another winter without any problem. I survived winter driving without any headache.

I am so glad winter is over and summer is here, at least I hope it will stay like this for a while.

Women’s Conference “Divine Destiny”

Spirit of Life Bible Church in Woodbury welcomes women in the community to attend the two day conference “Divine Destiny” with special speakers Kim Bassin (Women’s Ministry Leader, Lowell, MI), BreAnna Hedlund (Abundant Life Youth Pastor, Duluth, MN), Laura Henry (CAN National Women’s Ministry Director, Mesquite, TX).

The conference, sponsored by the Apostolic Christian Network and organized by Abundant Life Church in Duluth and Spirit of Life Bible Church in Woodbury, will be held on Friday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. through lunch.

The cost is $35, including continental breakfast & lunch on Saturday.

Please register and pay online here.

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Be silent and listen

Do you know that the two words, listen and silent, use the exact same letters?

I didn’t know it until today, and thought it’s either a clever design or an interesting coincidence.

Isn’t it true, in order to listen, we have to be silent?

When we listen to someone, often times we are not actually listening. Our mind is miles away, thinking about something else, or thinking about a response. We don’t pay close attention to what’s said. It shows in our body language – we are absent minded and restless, we don’t make eye contact, etc.

An important part of effective communication is good listening skills – attentive and active listening.  Attentive and active listening requires that we give our full, undivided attention to the other person and quiet down our mind.

Be silent and listen attentively. If we can practice both at the same time, we will be better listener and communicator.

We live in a world filled with physical and mental noise that never eases, from the moment of waking up in the morning to the moment of falling asleep at night.

I remember one day while I was in the office, the power went off suddenly. I couldn’t believe how quiet and nice it felt without the background noise. I was so used to the background noise coming from the ventilation system, the clock, the computer and other electronic devices, I didn’t even notice the noise that surrounded me until it was gone all of a sudden.

In addition to the physical noise, we are also in a constant state of mental noise. Mental noise is the inner conversation or inner monologue that constantly goes on in our mind. The constant chatter of the mind never stops. The mind often repeats the same thought, usually a negative thought, over and over again. The mental noise steals our inner peace and joy.

How do we shut down the mental noise and calm and quiet your mind?

Be silent. Breathe consciously. Meditate. Go within.

In silence, we can listen and hear our inner voice, God’s voice and discover our true self.

Be silent and listen.

Reading Promise

Today I went to R.H. Stafford Library with my daughter to meet the author Alice Ozma, whose book “The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We shared” was Washington County Library’s “One County, One Book” selection.

Alice talked about her book and answered questions from the audience.

My daughter asked me to buy her a copy. In return, I asked her to make her promise of reading the book and also writing her own book when she reaches Alice’s age (23).

Amy agreed.

I am very hopeful that she will keep her promise. So I am looking forward to the day when I will be sitting in the audience and watching my daughter talking about her book and singing her book. I will be the first one to ask her for an autograph :-)

TouchPoints – leadership moments

Yesterday I received an email at work from MnDOT (Minnesota Dept. of Transportation) Commissioner Tom Sorel, with the subject line “Greetings from the Commissioner.” It says:


Best wishes to you on your Birthday!

Hope you have a great day today, and every day in the year ahead. 

Tom Sorel 

I received the birthday wishes from the Commissioner, not because I am special. Every employee at MnDOT has been receiving the greetings on his/her birthday since Sorel became the Commissioner in 2008.

So this was nothing new to me and I was not surprised this time as I was the first time when I received the email.

I knew the message was sent out automatically by the computer and Commissioner Sorel didn’t actually write every single message once he had it all set up with the IT folks.

Still I was touched by the simple message every time I received it.

It reminded of the book I recently read about – TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments by Douglas R Conant and Mette Norgaard.

In the book the authors show that a leader’s impact is built through hundreds of small and ordinary moments in time. Developing “TouchPoint” mastery by focusing on three essential components: head, heart, and hands can transform individuals and organizations, one magical moment at a time.

This simple message of birthday greetings from the Commissioner is just that, a touch point, when you feel touched in your heart and mind.

No tax refund please

It’s tax season. So tax is a hot topic of conversation.

Unlike most people, I don’t like tax refund. While most people are excited about getting their tax refunds every year,  as if they win a lottery or get a gift from Uncle Sam, I am happier if I have to pay Uncle Sam every April.

Does it sound odd? Let me explain.

A tax refund is not a gift from Uncle Sam. You get a refund because you overpaid the tax in the previous year. You give money to the government for use at zero interest rate. Now you are getting your overpaid money back.

If you put your money in the bank, you expect to receive some interest in return. But if you give money to Uncle Sam, don’t expect to receive a penny of interest.

In addition, you don’t automatically get your money back. You have to file your tax return to ask for the money to be returned to you.

The average tax refund in the last two years is about $3000.

What can you do with the $3000 you give Uncle Sam for zero interest?

First, you can pay down debt, such as your credit card debt which usually have very high interest rate, your mortgage, or your car loan.

Second, you can put the money into savings to build up an emergency fund, while also earning some interest.

Third, you can invest the money for retirement or other long-term goals.

Whatever you do, your money is working for you every month instead of working for Uncle Sam.

The one argument I hear often for preferring a refund is: “If I receive the money in my regular pay check, I will just spend it.” Then have the money deducted automatically from your pay check and put it into a separate account.

When it comes to finance, we need some discipline, self-control and delayed gratification, in addition to some knowledge and common sense.

In the last 20 year of my filing tax returns, I rarely got a refund. I usually had to pay some federal and state taxes. My goal is not to get a big refund, but to have the smallest refund possible so I can keep more of my hard earned money for the year, or to pay the government, but not as much as I would have to pay a penalty.

If you have been getting a refund every year and want to reduce refund and increase your take-home pay, simply contact your payroll office to change your withholding and adjust your W-2, so less money is withheld each month for taxes.

Remember a tax refund is not a gift from Uncle Sam. It’s your money, and you should keep it.

For me, the hard part every year is not paying tax and writing the check to Uncle Sam, it is to get my act together and to actually file the tax return. Doing tax return is such a dreaded task, I often procrastinate it and wait till the last week or last weekend before the deadline. Since there is no incentive for me to file my tax return early, I will wait as long as possible before I have to write my check to Uncle Sam.

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Leadership presence

Friday, Feb. 24 was the last day of my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) training with guest speakers. Dean Hyers and Pete Machalek from SagePresence did an interactive presentation on “Enhancing Your Leadership Presence.”

“Save the best for last” was how I felt after the presentation. I really enjoyed it. I was captivated and engaged the whole day. What a treat and experience!

Among the 15 presentations with guest speakers we had over the course of the ELI training in the last six months, this presentation was probably my most favorite one. It’s one of the best, of not THE best.

Dean and Pete talked about how to master the art of presenting yourself and your ideas to audience through inspiring connections, compelling messages and dynamic delivery.

Developing the ability to forge powerful connections with people, designing compelling messages that lead your audience to where you want them to go, engaging them and retain their attention with reliable dynamism are crucial skills for leaders. Being an effective communicator and presenter is an integral part of being an effective leader.

Dean and Pete did an awesome job. I have learned a lot and have a lot to review, digest, and practice.

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Committed to reading

Today must be a day about reading.

On my way to work I listened to the Faith Radio Morning show with Ted Ross and Michelle Strombeck. It was an interview by Dr. Bill Maier with Pat Williams, Vice-President of the Orlando Magic about the life of Coach John Wooden and what we can all learn from his life.

Sport is not a subject I am interested in, but I listened to this interview with great interest, because Pat Williams was talking about the importance of reading in general and in Coach John Wooden’s life in particularly. One of John Wooden’s Seven Point Creed is “Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.” 

John Wooden passed away in 2010 at the age o f 99.

Another interesting news I heard today was about the death of Berenstain Bears co-creator Jan Berenstain at the age of 88.

Jan and Stan Berenstain, the co-authors and co-illustrators of the Berenstain Bears, based their books on their children and grandchildren, created more than 300 titles. Their books have been released  in 23 languages  and some 260 million books have been sold.

I remember reading all the Berenstain Bears with my kids when they were little. We were excited every time we found a new title in the series. My kids and I all loved the Berenstain Bears books. They were our favorite children’s books.

Later on my way home I stopped at the library to pick up a book for my son. I also found a copy of the Washing County Library’s “One County, One Book” selection “The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We shared.” I had read about this book and wanted to read it.

So far I have only read one chapter. It has definitely inspired me to continue reading to my kids and renewed my commitment to reading.

I started reading to my kids when they were babies. We often went to the library to check out books. They got their own library cards when they were toddlers.

After they learned to read themselves, I don’t read to them any more except at night. My 13 and 12 year old kids still enjoy being read to before bedtime. Usually I spend 10-20 minutes reading a few Bible stories to them.

My promise from reading the Reading Promise is to keep reading to my kids as long as possible.

Homegoing celebration for Pastor Frank

Pastor Frank Sanders


Pastor Frank Sanders Homegoing Celebration

Spirit of Life Bible Church Pastor Frank Sanders, Jr. passed away on Feb. 17, 2012, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. I bid farewell to him this past weekend. What an amazing homegoing celebration I witnessed for Pastor Frank.

The visitation took place on Friday, Feb. 24, from 4-8 pm at Spirit of Life Bible Church. I went after work at 5 pm and was surprised to find so many people waiting in line. It took me one hour to go through the line. The visitation was extended for more than an hour.

I know all the church members from SOL, but over 90% of the people who came to the visitation were not church members, so I didn’t know the people who stood in line in front of or behind me. But we all had one thing in common. We were there to pay respect to the man whose life had impacted us one way or another.

The homegoing celebration was held on Saturday at 10 am at Apostolic Bible Institute. Over 1000 people attended the service. The auditorium was full. People from all walks of life came to celebrate and remember Pastor Frank. Among them were his childhood friends, his former Sunday school students, his hockey friends, his Olympic hockey team members, his former coworkers at AmeriPride, his church family from SOL and his extended family with three children and 10 grand kids, brothers and sisters and lots of relatives.

Pastor Frank’s children and friends shared memories and tributes that brought tears and laughter to the audience. His children and SOL worship team also shared several songs that were Pastor Frank’s favorites.

I have been to a few funeral/memorial services in the last few years, but I have never seen so many people at once. The fact that so many people came to his visitation and homegoing celebration speaks volumes for what a great man Pastor Frank was.

What impressed me the most was to see a couple of his friends back again after their last visits not long ago. Pastor James Larson from the Anchor Church in San Diego preached at SOL about a month ago. Pastor Al Gossan Jr. from Holland, Michigan visited SOL three weeks ago. Now they came again for the final farewell. What wonderful friends Pastor Frank had! These are only two I knew. I am sure there are some others I don’t know.

Pastor Frank passed away at the young age of 62. But he had lived a great life and had a great impacted on many people. He touched many lives he came in contact with while he was alive, now he continues to touch people in his death.

Great customer service, near and far

I bought a new Actiontec GT784WN modem last November at Best Buy. It worked fine for about two months. Then it stated to act up and I started to have problem with Internet connection and phone function (my phone is connected to the modem).

Initially when I lost the Internet connection, I just turned off the modem and turned it back on. It would solve the problem. But soon it got worse, and I had to turn the modem on and off or unplug the power more frequently every day. So I called the CenturyLink (used to be Qwest) customer service to find out if there was anything wrong with the line and to get help. I called three times on three consecutive days. They checked on their end and found nothing wrong with the line. They asked me to perform certain tasks, in hope to solve the problem. It looked promising, but a day later, I still had the same problem, only worse. After the third call, I was told the problem was mostly likely caused by the defect modem. I needed to get a new one. The next day, the modem was totally kaput and I couldn’t resurrected it no matter how many times I unplug the power cord.

Every time I call customer services, I like to ask people where they are located, out of curiosity. So when I called the CenturyLink customer services, I asked the same question to all three reps I talked to.  I got the same response: “Philippines.”

I was a little surprised as I was used to the idea of most offshore call centers being located in India. This was my first time talking to a customer service rep in Philippines. Now I can see why this is also a popular offshore destination.

English is an official language in the Philippines. Filipinos speak English with no accent. When I talked to the three reps, I couldn’t tell that they are not Americans. Had I not asked them, I could easily mistake them for Americans located not far from me, somewhere in the States.

The day my modem died, I took it back to Best Buy. I was able to exchange the old one for a new one. Now my Internet and phone are both working well. I am happy that the connection problem was finally fixed.

Our world is definitely getting flat and smaller. Nowadays, when I pick up the phone to call customer services, the person who answers the call is likely half the world away, yet it feels like home.

I was grateful that I received great customer services from both companies, near and far. For me, it doesn’t really matter where the reps and call centers are located, locally or globally. As long as I get good service and the help I need, I am happy.

Goodbye, Pastor Frank

Dear Pastor Frank,

I am very saddened by the news that you have left us today at 3:55 pm. I missed you for the last three Sundays and will miss you in the days to come.

I am glad I got to know you at Spirit of Life Bible Church and had you as my pastor for the last 7 years. I loved listening to your preaching. Your passion for God and your love for people came through in all your sermons. I will miss your preaching.

I am glad you shared your life story in the book From Silver to Gold : One Man’s Pursuit of the Ultimate Prize and left us something  to treasure and wonderful memories to carry within us. I am glad I read your book and was able to share a few thoughts with you just a few days ago.

I feel relieved that you no longer have to suffer the physical pain and you are in a better place now. You are home now with your beloved parents and your heavenly Father.

I know I will see you again someday. Till then, please let me hear from you sometimes, someway, somehow.

With tears and love,



Rev. Franklynn Bonn Sanders, Jr.

(March 8, 1949 – February 17, 2012)

Pastor of Spirit of Life Bible Church. Age 62 of Woodbury, MN. Formerly of Oakdale, MN. Loving husband, father and grandfather. After a heroic fight, Frank passed away from pancreatic cancer, on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 at home surrounded by his wife and kids. Preceded in death by father, Franklynn, Sr., mother, Cecilia and infant son. Survived by wife, Kathy, children, Timothy (Tricia), Jennifer (James) Mains and Jeremy (Lana); grandchildren, Owen and Declynn Sanders, Haley, Ayden, Charlie and Benjamin Mains, Jacob, Brennen, Caleb and Keegan Sanders; brother, Allen (Nancy) Olsen; sisters, Lillian (Gary) Weisbrod, Bonnie Weisbrod and Rebecca (James) Payzant; many nieces, nephews and countless friends, family and the church family of Spirit of Life Bible Church. Former hockey standout and North St. Paul High School Distinguished Alumni, University of MN Gopher, Minnesota Fighting Saint and US Olympian hockey player. Pastor of Spirit of Life Bible Church, Woodbury, MN. Retired Service Manager, AmeriPride Services. Visitation Friday (Feb. 24, 2012) from 4-8 PM at Spirit of Life Bible Church, 690 Commerce Drive, Woodbury. Funeral Saturday Feb. 25, 2012 at 10:00 AM (Visitation from 9-10 AM) at APOSTOLIC BIBLE INSTITUTE, 6944 Hudson Blvd, Oakdale. Interment Forest Lawn Cemetery. We greatly appreciate the love and care Frank received from Dr. Quevedo, Mayo Clinic; Mark and Chris, Woodwinds Cancer Center and Jill from HealthEast Hospice. Thank You!


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The most popular (surprising) post

When I wrote the post The Top 20 Bad Leadership Traits last May, I simply put together a list of 20 attributes that make a bad leader.

The idea for the post was floating through my mind for a few days and won’t go away. So I did spend quite some time thinking about it, but not much time writing it. It is definitely not the best post I have ever written. I would have never thought that it would become the most popular post on my blog.

Almost every day now, this post is the most viewed one among the 600 plus posts I have written since Nov. 2009. That is very surprising to me.

Here are some of the commonly used search terms that bring readers to my post:

  • characteristics of a bad leader
  • bad characteristics of a leader
  • qualities of a bad leader
  • qualities of bad leaders
  • bad qualities of a leader
  • traits of a bad leader
  • bad leadership qualities
  • bad leadership traits
  • bad leadership skills
  • bad qualities in a leader
  • bad qualities leadership
  • qualities that make a bad leader

As you can tell, the search terms used are very similar.

I can’t imagine someone would think, “I am a bad leader and I want to find out what makes a bad leader like me.”

Most likely, the readers who have landed on my post are the ones who are dealing with someone who is not a good leader.

We have so many books on good leadership and what makes good leaders. Yet, from what I can tell through my blog, so many people are interested in the opposite, the bad leadership and what makes bad leaders.

Of the many posts I have written that are related to leadership, The Top 20 Bad Leadership Traits is the only one on bad leadership. And it’s the most popular one. This is quite a telling story in my mind.

Do we have more bad or not so good leaders than good leaders? Do we have more leaders who are discouraging or disappointing than leaders who are encouraging and inspiring? I hope the answer is no.

It could be that only the people who have issues with their leaders in the organization would take the time to research and read about it, and the people who are happy with their leaders won’t need to bother with it.

Whatever the reason, it’s an interesting thing for me to observe and think about.

Signs of resilience, or lack of

Resilience is the ability to recover or bounce back quickly from illness, change, or misfortune. It is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity and tragedy, such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial problems.

The topic of resilience has come up a lot lately. I have read articles and  attended meetings on how to build resilience in uncertain and difficult times.

What are the signs of resilience? And what are the signs of lack of resilience?

I found a good answer in the book “Leadership from Inside Out” by Kevin Cashman.

The following lists come from the book, with a few additions from me.

Signs of resilience

  • Abundant energy
  • Ability to focus deeply
  • Ability to change and adapt
  • Ability to manage strong feeling, emotions and impulses
  • problem-solving skills
  • Internally driven motivation
  • Optimism and confidence
  • Strong relationships and social network
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Vitality and enthusiasm
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Little or no usage of caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol
  • Achievement with ease
  • Optimal productivity
  • Feeling “on the top of” situations

Signs of lack of resilience

  • Nervous, manic energy
  • Wandering, unfocused mind
  • Externally driven motivation
  • Negativity
  • Strain in relationships
  • Dullness, lack of inspiration
  • Depression and fatigue
  • Regular usage of caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol
  • Achievement via strain and effort
  • Less than optimal productivity
  • Feeling “overshadowed” by situations

Leadership interview – Patrick Coleman


Patrick Coleman

Last Friday I had the great pleasure interviewing Patrick Coleman, Head of Acquisitions at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS).

For people who are familiar with Minnesota and St. Paul politics, Coleman is a well-known name. Pat Coleman comes from that prominent family in St. Paul. His father was the former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Nick D. Coleman, and served as senator from Ramsey County from 1963-1979.

His older brother is the political columnist Nick J. Coleman. His second youngest brother is the current St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. His other siblings include Maureen (died 55 years ago at age 2), Brendan (lives in Prague), Meghan (Doctor of Chiropractic in Mankato, MN), and Emmett Coleman (Comcast Vice President).

I first met Coleman last year while working on a digitization project for MnDOT Library, funded by the Minnesota Digital Library. Coleman shared resources from the MHS Library collection that I needed for the project. We met a couple of times and had interesting conversations about books, politics and his family.

Coleman is one of those few people I have met in life who emanate positive energy, who have a big heart and a gentle soul. I do not necessarily know them well, but the first impression and my intuitive sense tell me there is something special about them. Coleman is definitely a gentleman.

Last month when I was looking for someone to do a leadership interview for my Emerging Leaders Institute assignment, Coleman came to my mind. When I contacted him, he happily agreed to meet with me. I was so thankful that he took time from his very busy schedule to do the interview.

So last Friday, over a cup of coffee, he answered my questions and shared his background, his experience and his leadership lessons with me.

Because of Coleman’s unique family background, I had to start with a couple of unique questions that I don’t ask other interviewees.

“Are leaders born or learned? How much does nature or nurture play a role in becoming a leader?”

“It’s a combination of both,” says Coleman.

Coleman is the second of seven children in the family. As a kid, Coleman spent more time than any of his siblings at the Capitol listening to his father and other politicians debating. However, instead of following his father’s footstep and becoming a politician, Coleman is more attracted to the world of books, literature (especially Irish literature), Minnesota history and nature. His brother Chris has the natural talent to be a leader. He speaks well in public, connects easily with people and makes them feel heard and understood. He makes tough decisions. Making tough decisions that do not make everyone happy is the hardest part of being a leader for Coleman.

Growing up in a family with members well known in the community has its blessings and also challenges.

“Obviously there are a lot of opportunities, such as meeting with political figures, getting to know a lot of people. But there are also challenges. People have higher expectation of you and make assumptions and judgment about you. You are expected to do well and behave a certain way.”

When I asked Coleman whom he admired as a leader and who has inspired him to become a leader, he introduced me to a few people – Kathleen Vellenga, Peter Magrath, Nina M. Archabal, and Peter D. Pearson.

The first person Coleman mentioned was former state Rep. Kathleen Vellenga, “She got a lot done, with a big heart.” Kathy was a house representative from Ramsey County and served seven terms from 1981 to 1993. Coleman managed several election campaigns for Kathy, “a great person and a great leader.”

Peter Magrath is a higher education administrator who has served as president at multiple American universities. He was the eleventh president of the University of Minnesota, serving from 1974 to 1984, when Coleman’s father was the Minnesota Senate Majority Leader. Later Magrath married Coleman’s stepmother, Deborah Howell, who was an editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the Washington Post. In January 2010, while the couple was vacationing in New Zealand, Howell was hit by a car and died tragically. Magrath is a family friend and has become a father figure to Coleman. “When I have questions and need someone to talk to, I go to Peter.”

Nina M. Archabal, who served the Minnesota Historical Society for 33 years and 23 years as its director, was a great leader in good times and bad times. She experienced rapid growth and financial hardship during her long career at MHS and had to make some tough decisions. “She handled it well.”

Peter D. Pearson, president of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, is another inspiration for Coleman. “Pearson helps make The Friends a nationally recognized, award-winning organization, the best of the kind in the nation.”

“What are the most critical attributes to successful leadership?”

Coleman says leaders need to have abundant energy. They have to believe, to really care about what they believe, are engaged and involved with passion and energy.  Peter Magrath is such a person with a lot of energy.

Successful leaders are smart and competent. They constantly challenge themselves and look for opportunities to change, to grow and to contribute.

“What challenges do you see that leaders face in government?”

Coleman says the main challenge is money and economy. The second is communication. In the old days, legislators used to fight on the floor, but they would go out for lunch together and still be good friends, despite their different points of view and personal beliefs. Now politicians demonize each other and say all bad things about each other. This prevents them from working together effectively and moving forward.

For someone like Coleman who started handing out campaign literature at the tender age of four, being civically engaged is an important responsibility of every citizen. “I can’t imagine not going to vote and not being an active member of the local community.”

In response to my question about his experience as a leader, Coleman says humbly: “I don’t feel like a leader.”

Even though Coleman does not officially hold any prominent title like some of his family members do, he is a leader in his own right.

Coleman is involved in the following non-profit organizations on the board of directors.

Currently, Coleman is enrolled in the spring 2012 class of Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program at Georgetown University in DC. It’s a leadership development program designed for leaders working in nonprofit sector. Once a month he flies to DC and stays there for three days to attend classes. It’s an intensive program, with attendees from around the country and a few from other countries.

“I am the oldest student in the class,” Coleman says. Some people think he is crazy. At age 58, it’s time to take it easy and enjoy life, but instead he has taken on more challenges, while paying everything himself, including tuition, flight and hotel. “It’s never too late to learn.” I can’t agree more with him.

“What are some of the most important lessons you have learned as a leader?”

“To be a leader, you have to be willing to get involved in things that will positively affect your community, impact the world or make a difference in someone’s life.” Coleman adds. “Knowledge is power. Continuing learning and challenging yourself is one key factor in your ongoing development as a leader.”

Coleman has a big heart for books and nonprofit. He still wants to do more and better at an age when most people are thinking about working less or even retirement. I admire his youthful energy and his desire for making a difference.

Not surprisingly, one of the proudest accomplishments in Coleman’s life has something to do with books. He played an important role in saving the Minnesota Book Awards from disappearing.

The Minnesota Book Awards was created over two decades ago by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library.  Over the years it was led by several different organizations, at one time by the Minnesota Center for the Book. In 2000, due to financial crisis, the Minnesota Book Awards could not be sustained. At the time, Coleman was serving on the Minnesota Humanities Commission board. He shepherd the Minnesota Book Awards over to the Minnesota Humanities Commission for a few years. Eventually the Awards returned to its original home with the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library.

In 2009, Coleman was honored with the Kay Sexton Award for his contributions to the state’s book community.

Coleman has been an acquisitions librarian at MHS for 33 years. What’s his favorite part of the job?

“Spending money and buying hard to find books that add value to our collection.”

If anyone wants to donate to the MHS to help preserve Minnesota history, Coleman would be happy to hear from you.

Coleman shares his love for Minnesota’s history and books through his blog 150 Best Minnesota Books. He is compiling a list of the 150 best books in Minnesota.


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A letter to my pastor

I got teary-eyed reading the latest update about my pastor Frank Sanders, Jr. on his CaringBridge website. His daughter Jen does a fabulous job writing the updates. She can make me laugh or cry almost every time I read her update. Today is no exception.

Recently I read Pastor Frank’s autobiography “From Silver to Gold.” I was deeply touched by his life story.

The following is what I wrote to him on his CaringBridge website today after reading the latest update about his health.

Dear Pastor Frank,

I loved reading your book. You and Tony did a great job. I am so glad you were able to finish writing the book and to share your life story with us.

You are a hero to many people, not because you were a great hockey player, but because you are a great man of God, a great youth minister, a great pastor, a great friend to many. With a big heart and a gentle soul, you have touched and changed many lives.  Though your path from silver to gold was filled with difficulties and challenges along the way, you made the right choice by following God’s calling on your life and living the purpose God has for you. I admire your obedience and faithfulness. Your life is truly an inspiration.

You chose the right path. You did well and finished well. I think God is looking down on you and telling you: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I only wish there were more pages in the book because I wanted to continue reading. I am sure you have more stories to tell and more testimonies to be included. I would love to read a new and expanded  edition. Your kids, especially Jen, are great storytellers and writers themselves. I am sure you can work together and add more stories to the book.

Thanks for writing and sharing your life story. You will always live in my heart.

With love,


Library closure is a loss for the community

I was thinking about going to the public library tomorrow afternoon to return a book and check out this year’s One County, One Book selection The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma.

I went to the library website to read about the book and was reminded that, due to budget cut, all Washington County Branch Libraries are now closed on Sundays and Mondays, effective Jan. 3, 2012. For more info, read the notice.

My kids and I had often visited the Woodbury Branch on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes we eagerly waited for the door to open at 1 pm. We enjoyed our library visits on Sunday afternoons. Instead of rushing in and out of the library on our way to some other places on other days, Sunday afternoon was a time for taking it slow and relaxation.

Nowadays my kids read more eBooks on their iPad. They download eBooks from the library. I have been reading more books checked out from my own library where I work. So our Sunday afternoon visits to the Woodbury Branch to get print books are not as frequent as it used to be.

The reminder that the library is no longer open on Sundays and Mondays still felt like a big loss to me. It’s a loss for the community, especially for people who love reading and books, and for people who need to use the computers or other resources in the library.

Having the library closed on two consecutive days makes it even worse.

In winter when it is cold outside and there is not much to do, library is a cozy and great place to go, for everyone, from the young to the old. It’s too bad that all our branches in Washington County have to be closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Asian interpretation of American grading scale

I learned from my daughter that there is a different, an Asian interpretation of the American grading scale.

For American parents:

  • A=Awesome (You’re doing great. Keep up the good work!)
  • B=Above average (You’re still doing good, but you can do better)
  • C=Average (You could be doing better, but it’s acceptable)
  • D=Below average (You need to try harder to make it up)
  • F=Failed (Well, you failed. Hopefully you can get a better grade later so you can pass)

For Asian parents:

  • A=Average (Acceptable, anything below that is unacceptable, but you can still do better and get an A+)
  • B=Bad (You are already at a below average because all the other Asians are getting A’s)
  • C=Crap/Crushed/ (You are doing terrible)
  • D=Death (I am going to kill you)
  • F= N/A (You can’t get an F because you are already dead)

There is some truth to it. The first time I heard my daughter saying it, it stopped me for a second to think about it.

Whenever I question my daughter about her grades, she reminds me of the different interpretation of the grading scale for American and Asian parents.

“It’s bad for you, but it’s still good for American parents.”  She tries to put things in perspective.

Luckily, my daughter usually gets good grades, so I rarely question and worry about her grades.

Misfortune begets fortune

“塞翁失馬,焉知非福” is a popular Chinese proverb. According to Wiktionary, it literally means: “When the old man from the frontier lost his horse, how could one have known that it would not be fortuitous?”

A common English translation is “A setback may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.”

Here is further explanation of the story behind the proverb:

It can be difficult to foresee the twists and turns which compel misfortune to beget fortune, and vice versa. There once was a (father), skilled in divination, who lived close to the frontier (with his son). One of his horses accidentally strayed into the lands of the Xiongnu, so everyone consoled him. (But) the father said, “Why should I hastily (conclude) that this is not fortunate?” After several months, the horse came back from the land of the Xiongnu, accompanied by another stallion, so everyone congratulated him. (But) the father said, “Why should I hastily (conclude) that this can not be unfortunate?” His family had a wealth of fine horses, and his son loved riding them. One day (the son) fell off a horse, and broke his leg, so everyone consoled (the father). (But) the father said, “Why should I hastily (conclude) that this is not fortunate?” One year later, the Xiongnu invaded the frontier, and all able-bodied men took up arms and went to war. Of the men from the frontier (who volunteered), nine out of ten men perished (from the fighting). It was only because of (the son’s) broken leg, that the father and son were spared (this tragedy). Therefore misfortune begets fortune, and fortune begets misfortune. This goes on without end, and its depths can not be measured.

Lately I have been thinking about this Chinese proverb a lot.

When life is nice and easy, we tend to become comfortable and complacent. We go through our daily life without much thinking and reflecting. We like routines and don’t want any change. But when life throws some challenges and problems at us, we stop and think. We take actions and make change, because we have to deal with the challenges and problems. We have no choice.

Change can be a good thing. Often times it is.

If you are experiencing any loss, challenges and problems in life, please think about this proverb and the story. Remember, a bad thing can turn out to be a good thing in the end. You just never know.

Touched and blessed

Last month on January 15, a group of students from the Minnesota Teen Challenge visited Spirit of Life Bible Church in Woodbury.

With their songs and testimonies of overcoming personal challenges and abdictions and finding a new life in Jesus Christ, they touched and blessed the congregation.

A few days later, the congregation was once again touched and blessed, by a letter sent by the mother of one of the Teen Challenge students who visited Spirit of Life Bible Church on that day. She came from South Dakota and attended the Sunday service with her son.

With her permission, I want to share her letter to Spirit of Life Bible Church:

“I am the mother of Patrick who is a student at Teen Challenge in Minnesota.  My husband and I live in South Dakota, and attended your worship service the weekend that you hosted the members of Teen Challenge.  I wanted to express my deepest and most sincere thank you for welcoming those young men and for the prayers and petitions you put forth for them.

I can say without reservation that I, myself, have never felt more welcome upon entering a congregation.  Your members exude a joy and love that permeates the very walls of your church. In particular, Cheryl, whom I sat by during the service, has that joy and love for our Lord, Jesus Christ, through her welcoming smile and gentle spirit.  She lifted the parents of the Teen Challenge students in prayer and held my hand.  I have never cried during a service before, but just could not hold back the tears because the struggles go beyond those in addiction to their families and friends.  Many times it is easier to place blame and say to just give up the addiction or give up on the one you love and I was one of those who used to think and do the same until my son started using.  But that message did not come through at Spirit of Life.  Instead, it was a message of hope and love and prayer for those who are struggling – students and families alike.  A young mother in front of me also turned around and hugged me, crying and praying for us all.  Again, my tears did not stop and I believe they were tears of healing.

So, once again, thank you for that weekend for our sons and brothers.  May God richly bless your ministry and members.  Please give them my utomost thanks.”

I wish the best for these young men who touched me and blessed me with their presence and stories, and also for their families who stand by them, support them and love them, like this mother did.

Blessings also to the Minnesota Teen Challenge for helping the young people who need help.

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Through the Labyrinth – book interview

Photo by Jim Byerly

Below is an interview I did in January 2012 with Fay Simer, Senior Transportation Planner at MnDOT, about the 19th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series: Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders  by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli.

Tang: What motivated you to step up and want to lead this book discussion?

Simer: I think the topic of how women become leaders is relevant, particularly in the transportation industry, a field traditionally dominated by men.  I saw the topic had not yet been brought up as part of the Commissioner’s Reader Corner and I thought this book could add something to the discussion series.

Tang: Why did you pick this book?

Simer: Many authors on the topic of women’s advancement essentially tell women that they either need to behave “more like men,” i.e., more aggressively, or “more like women,” i.e., more collaboratively. Through the Labyrinth stood out to me because it discusses the merits of different leadership styles and helps readers understand how their application in different professional settings is typically perceived by others.

Tang: What do you like most about this book?

Simer: The authors identify building social capital as an essential tool used by women who have achieved notable professional success.  As a board member of the Women’s Transportation Seminar in Minnesota, a professional organization with a mission to advance women in the transportation field, this book validates my belief in our work and the relevance of the group’s mission.

Tang: Traditionally, the biggest problem women face in their careers is a glass-ceiling in leadership positions.   Nowadays, more women are in leadership positions. However, female leaders still face more obstacles and challenges than their male counterparts. What kinds of issues do women leaders have to struggle with today?

The book confirms that many of the usual suspects still contribute to the “labyrinth” of obstacles women face in their climb to the top.  Married women still spend more hours per week on household chores and child-rearing than married men (though men’s participation is increasing steadily); women still face stereotypes regarding what behaviors and attitudes are appropriate for their gender, and many organizational cultures do not support women seeking leadership experience.  The point is that there is no clear path for a woman seeking to attain the top of her field; many women negotiate these barriers on their own.  Discussing these barriers openly will help us learn how to better support women collectively as they advance in their careers.   

Tang:  You have taken on a leadership role with the Minnesota Women’s Transportation Seminar. What kind of dilemma and obstacles have you experienced as an emerging women leader?

Simer: I am the type of person that needs to be challenged and I like pushing myself in different directions.  One of the things I appreciate about my board position on the Women’s Transportation Seminar is the opportunity to take on roles that aren’t part of my job description at MnDOT.  Whether I’m organizing an event, leading other volunteers, or setting the board’s initiatives for the year, I like the chance to be creative and to push myself to try different aspects of leadership activities that are new to me.

Tang: The authors say, to increase gender equality in the workplace, change must take place on four levels: the culture, the organization, the family and the individual. What can MnDOT and what can individuals do to improve our workplace for women leaders?

Simer: The book points out that an organization’s social culture can obstruct women’s access to advancement opportunities as much as individual prejudices.  The authors note that demands for long work hours, travel, and the ability to relocate- necessities in many managerial positions, can be especially difficult for women, who typically have more household obligations than men.  In addition, the book notes that women face challenges obtaining appropriately demanding work assignments, called developmental job experiences that are prerequisites for promotion.  I think these are areas that leaders at MnDOT could take a closer look as they determine how to distribute advancement opportunities equitably across the organization.

Tang:  What are the most important lessons you have learned from the book? What are the most important ideas you would like people to take away from this book?

Simer: Studies on corporate executives and boards of directors in US firms find that the inclusion of women is associated with stronger financial performance.  Young men entering the workforce are more likely to question why they don’t see women in managerial positions than why they do.  Promoting parity among women and men’s leadership opportunities is an organizational concern, not a “women’s” concern. 

Tang: What lessons have you learned in your career that you would like to share with other women and would benefit other women to become more successful leaders?

Simer: I place great value on the relationships I’ve had with mentors throughout my career development.  My advice is to seek out people with qualities you admire and to learn as much from their leadership style as you can.

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

Simer: I love reading!  For anyone interested in an honest and insightful account of one woman’s rise to the top of her field, I highly recommend Katherine Graham’s Personal History.

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The Power of Full Engagement – book interview

Photo by David Gonzalez

Below is an interview I did in December 2011 with Eric Davis, Enterprise Risk Management Project Manager (He was MnDOT Human Resources Director at the time) about the 18th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series: The Power of Full Engagement : Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

Tang: Why did you pick this book?

Davis: In the first chapter, the authors ask their readers “If you could wake up tomorrow with significantly more positive, focused energy to invest at work and with your family, how significantly would that change your life for the better?  As a leader, how valuable would it be to bring more positive energy and passion to the workplace?  If those you lead could call on more positive energy, how would it affect their relationships with one another, and the quality of service that they deliver to customers and clients?”

There is so very much competing for our time, attention and energy.  Feeling starved for time, we assume we have no choice but to try and cram as much as possible into every day.  But as the authors point out, managing our time efficiently is no guarantee that we will bring sufficient energy to whatever it is we are doing.  The authors assert that “energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”

Tang: What do you like most about this book?

Davis: The book offers a number of case studies and a few were uncomfortably familiar. I recognized in myself many of the same destructive habits that may have allowed me to meet some short-term goals, but risked my long-term health and most important relationship.  I took some inspiration from these stories and applied the author’s principles for key energy management principles.  Although I can’t claim to habitually renew my energy in all four dimensions of life (physical, spiritual, mental, emotional) as the authors advise, I do generally recognize when my engagement and energy predictably falters and know I need to make energy renewal a priority.

Tang: Recently the Office of Human Resources has been conducting an Employee Engagement Survey agency-wide, one division at a time. Is this the first time MnDOT has done such a survey? What do you try to get out of the survey and what do you plan to do with the result?

Davis: No.  There was a department-wide, comprehensive attempt to assess employee satisfaction and engagement in the 90s.  Unfortunately, the results were not very actionable and it was difficult to respond to identified concerns.  The approach of using a limited set of questions focused on actionable items known to influence an employee’s engagement and conducting the survey in divisions of the agency allows leaders to more effectively respond to what we learn from the survey.  In that sense, I think what we are doing now is more valuable and effective. 

Tang: Is there anything from the book you learned that has been helpful in this survey effort?

Davis: The authors write “Leaders are the stewards of organizational energy – in companies, organizations and even in families.  They inspire or demoralize others first by how effectively they manage their own energy and next by how well they mobilize, focus, invest and renew the collective energy of those they lead.”

The survey gives MnDOT leaders some valuable insight into what employees believe about their own experience and the opportunity to better influence engagement. 

Tang: The book mentions a Gallup poll showing that less than 30 percent of American workers are “fully engaged,” 55 percent are “not engaged” and 19 percent are ”actively disengaged.”  How engaged are MnDOT employees based on our Employee Engagement Survey result so far?

Davis: So far, the survey suggests the majority of MnDOT employees are highly engaged.  In general, the majority of MnDOT employees report they understand what is expected of them at work, have access to the necessary tools and resources to do their work, understand how their job makes a difference and are willing to give their very best efforts to get a quality job done.  Perhaps one of the most encouraging things we’ve learned from our survey is how nearly every MnDOT employee takes tremendous pride in serving the public.  Despite the public and political discourse that at times can be very hostile to public employees, MnDOT employees have sustained a strong sense of pride in the service they provide to the public. 

Tang:  What does it mean to be fully engaged?

Davis: To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritual aligned with a purpose greater than our immediate self-interest.  As the authors explain, “It means being able to immerse yourself in the mission you are on, whether that is grappling with a creative challenge at work, managing a group of people on a project, spending time with loved ones or simply having fun.”

Tang:  What are the core principles of full engagement?

Davis: The authors explain full engagement requires:

(1)   Our ability to draw on four related sources of energy, our physical capacity, our emotional capacity, our mental capacity and our spiritual capacity.  Peak performance under pressure is achieved when all levels are working together.

(2)   Our ability to balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse.

(3)   Our ability to push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic what that elite athletes train.

(4)   Our ability to incorporate positive energy rituals – highly specific routines for managing and renewing our energy for sustained high performance. 

Tang:  What can you as the HR director (Or What can MnDOT) do to help employee become more or fully engaged physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?

Davis: As leaders we need to model and encourage everyone we work with to recognize and act on the wisdom of occasionally “stepping off the endless treadmill of deadlines and obligations” to take time for our reflection and renewal.  Emails, cell-phones, and the like can easily addict us to the urgent and now and fill us with an inclination to live our lives in a perpetual state of crisis management.  However, sustained high performance depends as much on how we renew and recover energy in these four dimensions of our lives as how we expend it.  When leaders attend to the well-being of employees and people feel strong and resilient, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritual, they perform better.   They win, their families win, our communities win, and MnDOT wins.

Tang:  What are the most important lessons you have learned from the book? What are the most important ideas you would like people to take away from this book?

Davis: Stress is not necessarily the problem, nor is the quantity of time available to us.  “The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quality of energy available to us is not.”  As the authors succinctly assert, “Performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy.”  While in our lifetime there will undeniably be real life crises and tragedies, difficult relationships, toxic environments, but we often have more control over our energy that we ordinarily realize.  “The more we take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered and productive we become,” Loehr and Schwartz.

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

Davis: “Most of us are just trying to do the best that we can.  When demand exceeds our capacity, we begin to make expedient choices that get us through our days and nights, but take a toll over time.  We survive on too little sleep, wolf down fast foods on the run, fuel up with coffee and cool down with alcohol.  Faced with relentless demands at work, we become short-tempered and easily distracted.  We return home from long days at work feeling exhausted and often experience our families not as a source of joy and renewal, but as one more demand in an already overburdened life.”

“Will and discipline are far more limited resources than most of us realize.  If you have to think about something each time you do it, the likelihood is that won’t keep doing it for very long.  The status quo has a magnetic pull on us.”

“While it isn’t always in our power to change our external conditions, we can train to better manage our inner state.  We aim to help corporate athletes use the full range of their capacities to thrive in the most difficult circumstances and to emerge from stressful periods stronger, healthier, and eager for the next challenge.”

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

Davis: I often find I’m reading more than one book at a time and would like to cultivate a habit of just reading one book at a time so I can enjoy and learn from the book better.  I permit myself to divide my attention a bit too thin.  Riding the bus for my morning and evening commute is the best time for me to read.  I like to have a book to read for my education and development in the morning and something strictly for fun and enjoyment after work.

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Disciplined Dreaming – book interview

 Below is an interniew I did on Sept. 29, 2011 with Tiana Carretta, Commissioner’s Office Intern & Building Services Intern. We talked about the 15th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series: Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity by Josh Linkner.

Tang:  Most people at MnDOT don’t know you. Before we talk about the book, would you please share a little bit about your background?  

Carretta: I started at MnDOT in May 2009 at the Maplewood Lab where I also worked at the MnROAD Facility. I came to the Commissioner’s Office in June2010. In August, I started an architecture internship in the Building Services Dept. I am currently working part-time in both the Commissioner’s Office and in Maintenance. I am finishing up my last semester in the Architecture Program at the University of Minnesota and will be graduating this December.  

Tang:  You participated in our March book discussion on Millennials and the different generations in the workplace. How is your experience of working at MnDOT as a Millennial?  

Carretta: I think one of the best things about MnDOT is that there is an array of different generations that are all working together to make MnDOT a world class organization. I think every generation has a different way of working and I’ve had a great experience learning from both seasoned and newer employees.  

Tang: Why did you pick this book?  

Carretta: Commissioner Sorel recommended this book to me. He thought I would like it because it’s about creativity. I think because my major is in the creative field, it was a good pick.   

Tang: What is the book about?  

Carretta: The book is about how to increase creativity, fuel competitive advantage, and build successful businesses. The author uses a 5-step process to achieve the goal — ask (define objectives), prepare (mind, culture, and environment), discover (ways and techniques of creativity), ignite (the sparks of creativity) and launch (implementation). The author attempts to engage all readers to develop their creativity muscle through a disciplined process.  

Tang: What do you like most about this book?  

Carretta: I like the book because I think I can relate to it on a personal level. In the Architecture program, every day I work designing and creating. In a way, the ideas in the book validate what I am doing every day at school. I think for MnDOT, the book is helpful in defining ways to expand our creative thinking. While I think MnDOT employees are innovative, the book explains new ideas and techniques to think about and try that would generate even more creative and innovative ideas. 

Tang: What do you not like about this book?  

Carretta: Although the real life examples used in the book are all from the private sector, I think that there is a lot to learn from them about being an agile, creative organization. Learning about developing creativity is especially important for the public sector because we have constrains and challenges that the private sector does not have.  

Tang:  What is the most important idea(s) you would like people to take away from this book? 

Carretta: I think the most important idea is that everyone has the capacity and potential to be creative. As the author explains, creativity is one of the most important ingredients of personal and business success.  The book provides practical and applicable ways of developing creativity.  

Tang:  After working at MnDOT for two years, what is your impression of MnDOT’s culture and environment in terms of creativity? What are we doing right to build a creative culture and environment? If we are not doing well in this area, how can we improve?  

Carretta: Although I’ve been here for a little over two years, I still think of myself as a newer employee because I’m constantly learning more about MnDOT. For example, when I worked on the new display case in the CO Ground Floor lobby, I learned about the many innovative and creative projects that earned MnDOT its awards.  

In the offices that I’ve worked at during my limited time here at MnDOT, I think that the organization is doing a nice job building a creative environment. The Commissioner’s Reading Corner is a nice example of our creative culture. 

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

Carretta: Creativity is defined as “the ability to think of a common idea in an uncommon way.” — Randall Dunn. p. 25  

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.” — Abraham Lincoln. p. 109  

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

Carretta: Because I’m in school, most of my time is dedicated to assigned readings for my architecture classes. In my spare time, my favorite online newspaper is Fast Company Design as it tracks trends in the design and business worlds.

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The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – book interview

Photo by Jim Byerly

Below is a book interview I did on Aug. 1, 2011 with Tracy Hatch, MnDOT Chief Financial Officer. We talked about the 14th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.


Tang: Why did you pick this book?

Hatch: I picked the book because I’ve read other work by this author and really enjoyed his perspective. John Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has written more than 50 books, primarily focused on leadership. I have read two of them – Failing Forward: Turning Your Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success (2000) and The 360° Leader (2006)

Tang: What do you like about this book?

Hatch: The book was first published in 1998 and then revised and updated in 2007 as the 10th anniversary edition. In the book the author sums up everything he has learned about leadership over more than 40 years and distills it into the 21 principles. They are very concise, practical and applicable. I also like the real life stories and examples he shares to illustrate the lessons and principles.

Tang: Among the 21 laws discussed in the book, which one resonated more with you and why?

Hatch: The law of process – leadership develops daily, not in a day – speaks more to me than the others.

Leadership development is an on-going learning process of self-discipline and perseverance. Leaders are learners. Maxwell says: “Leadership doesn’t develop in a day. It takes a lifetime. To lead tomorrow, learn today.” You need to be intentional about your priorities and what you spend your time on.  There are always so many things demanding your time and attention, the law of process really spoke to me about being deliberate in those choices.

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

Hatch: “The best place for a leader isn’t always the top position. It isn’t the most prominent or powerful place. It’s the place where he or she can serve the best and add the most value to other people.” – p. 52

“To build trust, a leader must exhibit competence, connection, and character.” — p. 64

“People will tolerate honest mistakes, but if you violate their trust you will find it very difficult to ever regain their confidence. That is one reason that you need to treat trust as your most precious asset. You may fool your boss but you can never fool your colleagues or subordinates.” – P. 64 

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

Hatch: I enjoy reading. Except for some classics, I mostly read nonfiction – biographies, politics, leadership and management. Unfortunately I don’t have much time to read right now, but I always have a book within reach in case I can steal a few minutes for it.

Tang:  Tell us a little bit about your background.

Hatch: I am a native Minnesotan. I went to Northwestern College in Iowa and have a degree in Business Administration. I have been with the state government for 15 years. I have worked at the departments of Correction, Education and Human Services before coming to MnDOT.

Tang: You started your career at MnDOT in March 2009 as budget director. In March 2011 you were promoted from your position as the business manager for Operations Division to MnDOT’s chief financial officer. Congratulations for your promotion. What is your secret?

Hatch: You better ask my boss and colleagues the question.  

I want to go back to the quote I shared earlier: “To build trust, a leader must exhibit competence, connection, and character.

I think it’s a combination of character, competence and connection. In my first two years at MnDOT, I worked hard to understand the MnDOT business, gain knowledge about the different offices, build relationships and trust with people, and become a more rounded person. I think coming into the department with a fresh perspective  and the MnDOT knowledge I’ve gained over the past two years has really helped me to prepare to take the step into this position.

Tang:  Luck might also play a role. I think Commissioner Sorel has been very intentional in promoting younger generation to the upper management level. I remember when I interviewed him for the book on millennials and generational differences, I asked him about job assignments and promotion based on capabilities that millennials are accustomed to versus seniority that often happens in government, he said he looked at people’s capability and performance, not their years of services. Our MnDOT reorganization and upper management change at the beginning of the year was a testimony to his words.

Hatch: I agree.

Tang:  What are some of the new things or lessons you have learned in your new role that you would like to share?

Hatch: I gained a new appreciation for the staff in the Office of Financial Management, and all of the staff that work in administrative areas throughout the department, who work really hard every day behind the scenes.  The administrative functions are as complicated, difficult, and important as all of the other portions of our business.  I’m continually amazed at the dedication and commitment of the staff. I very much appreciate that they all love this department and, as we say, bleed orange along with the rest of the department.  I appreciate all MnDOT employees. After all, it’s what we all do together that makes MnDOT work.  WE ARE MnDOT…and proud!!

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Moneyball – book interview

Below is an interview I did on May 9, 2011 with Nick Thompson, MnDOT Division Director for Policy, Safety & Strategic Initiatives. We talked about the 13th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis.

Tang: Why did you pick this book?

Thompson: I know I picked a book that is an unusual selection for the Commissioner’s Reading Corner. The book was published in 2003 and I read it in 2005. It stuck with me because of the transformational change in the story. I see it as an example of approaches we need to take in the public sector.  There are not many books that I will read twice, but this is one of the few I was interested in reading again. I like the author Michael Lewis. I read everything he publishes. 

Tang: What is the book about?

Thompson: The basis for the book is the question Michael Lewis asked himself – how did the Oakland A’s, one of baseball’s poorest teams as measured by payroll, managed to achieve a spectacular winning record?

Lewis explains how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, was able to maximize the market of talent with a minimum of spending. Beane used a new kind of thinking and an innovative method of business intelligence and leadership to build a successful and winning baseball team with a smaller budget than the competition. His way of doing business challenged the conventional baseball wisdom and changed the way baseball is played.  He challenged a way of thinking that was around for a century because they had to in order to get results.

Tang: Did you read and like the book because you were a baseball fan?

Thompson: No. Actually the book turned me into a baseball fan. It changed my thinking on baseball. Now I look at baseball from a new and different perspective.

Tang: What do you like about this book?

Thompson: I like how the author uses storytelling to present and solve complex problems in an engaging way.  As an organization, we face similar complex issues, and through effective storytelling we can have a better dialog with our customers and solve the issues and challenges we face.

Tang: What are the most important things you take away from this book that can be applied to your work or life?

Thompson:  Transformational change requires creative thinking and an innovative approach to problem solving. Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional thinking and wisdom in order to bring about transformational change. Defy tradition. Just because we have always done things this way doesn’t mean we can’t try new things and new ways of doing things.

Use data and information intelligently to solve complicated problems and make efficient decisions. Ask questions differently to bring about new ideas and solutions. Instead of focusing on problem solving, use business intelligence to play ahead of the game.

On many fronts at MnDOT, we are trying to find ways that lead to the transformational change. With our funding and budget challenges, we need to find ways to make low cost investments that have higher impact and can yield better results.

Tang: Can you please share an example to illustrate what you mean?

Thompson: MnDOT’s initiative Toward Zero Deaths is a good example of using data analysis and traffic accident information to reduce traffic fatalities on Minnesota roads. For examples, instead of looking at each fatal crash separately, we analyze the data and find commonalities among all crashes, and find solutions to prevent similar crashes from happening.  We also step away from just an engineering approach to the problem.  We ask different questions, we look at our data and information differently, and we build and operate our highway systems in many ways differently then we did before TZD.  And the results have been very positive.

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

Thompson: “…at the bottom of the Oakland experience is a willingness to rethink baseball: how it is managed, how it is played, who is best suited to play it, and why.”

“Major League Baseball had no sense of the fans as customers, and so hadn’t the first clue of what the customer wanted.”

“If you challenge the conventional wisdom, you will find ways to do things much better than they are currently done.”

“…intellectual courage was his (Billy Beane) contribution.  He’d had the nerve to seize upon ideas rejected, or at least not taken too seriously… and put them into practice.”

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

Thompson: I did not grow up as a reader. What turned me on to reading after graduating from college were some espionage and thriller books by Tom Clancy and John Grisham.

Now I like to read nonfiction books – history, especially during the era of industrialization, and biographies. I read about Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. A recent book I read was The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

Now I don’t spend as much time in books, but I read extensively web and magazine articles across a wide variety of topics.

To find reading materials, I read some book reviews and go to bookstore to browse.

Tang: Last, but not least, congratulations for your promotion. In January you were promoted from the Office Director for Policy Analysis, Research & Innovation to the Division Director for Policy, Safety & Strategic Initiatives. It was a big promotion. How has life changed for you? What are some of the new things or lessons you have learned in your new role that you would like to share?

Thompson: I am still in the learning phase. It’s a big learning curve for me – dealing with new responsibilities and new issues, getting to know the different offices within the Division and meeting new people. I enjoy working with the new team. It’s been great and fun. I am looking forward to the new challenges that come with the new position and responsibilities.


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Discover your talents

Everyone has talents, God-given gifts that come natural to him. Talents make us feel engaged and energized or in “flow.” When we are in “flow,” we lose self-consciousness and lose track of time. When we are in “flow,” we experience an inner sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Knowing your talents can enrich your life and enhance your career. When you have a clear picture of what your talents are and how your talents can contribute value to others and make a difference, you will live a more purpose-driven life.

I had some ideas about what my talents are and what I am passionate about, based on my own observation and understanding. But they are just things I like to do or value. They are not so clear conceptually and not well-articulated.

Recently I took the Play to Your Strengths Talent Quiz, create by Faith Ralston, as part of my leadership training with Emerging Leaders Institute. The result brought more clarity to me and helped me understand myself and my strengths better.

Ralston identifies four types of talents:

  • Diamond Innovator
  • Club Activator
  • Spade Implementer
  • Heart Motivator

The talent assessment shows that I am a Diamond Innovator.

Diamond talents are creative, innovative, knowledgeable and curious. They are good at
doing research and generating ideas. They think outside of the box and envision innovative solutions. They like to think about what’s new and possible. They need freedom to explore.

Diamond talents are the ones who ask: “What about this? Have you thought about trying
that?”  They like to challenge the status quo because they see better ways to get things done.

Diamond talents love to learn and grow, to explore new ideas. They enjoy participating
in seminars and new learning experiences. They seek stimulating environment and look for outlets for their creative mind. This is especially true of me.

Diamond talents can be disconnected from reality and sometimes arrogant. They need to
practice patience. Managing time and priorities is a challenge. Taking time and delegating to others is another growth area.

For more info about the four types of talents, read the article Discover your
unique talents
 or the book Play Your Best Hand: How to Manage the Four Types of Knowledge Workers–and Stack the Odds for Maximum Success.

To discover your talents, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you good at?
  • What are the gifts you have that make a difference and an impact in the world?
  • What engages and energizes you?
  • What makes you feel in “flow” and lost in time?
  • What are the things you would do even if you don’t have to and will not get paid?

Or you might want to take a talent or strength assessment quiz.

See you later

A friend, whom I mentioned in my January 15 post, passed away on Jan. 16, following 8 months of battle with cancer. Her untimely death left me surprised and sad. In fact, the local Chinese community is grieving as the result of her death.

We met each other through some mutual friends and had partied together many times. Even though I don’t know her very well, her unexpected illness and death had an impact on me.

She passed away at such a young age. She was younger than me. She left her husband and two teen daughters.

I attended her memorial service on January 21 at Wulff Woodbury Funeral Home to pay her respect. It was a very moving and emotional service. The room was so packed that people had to stand in the lobby. In attendance were her family members, college classmates, coworkers, friends, friends and teachers of the family members.

There were no dry eyes left at the service.

While I grieved like everyone who knew her, I also found some comfort in knowing that my friend was baptized the day before she passed away. She is in a better place now.

Many of my friends in Woodbury are from China and are atheists like I was. I hope this tragic event has not only touched their hearts, but will also open their eyes and understanding to eternal life.

I believe there is life after death. Death is the beginning of a new life.

To my friend, I say: “Sorry to see you go. Rest in peace. See you later!”

2012 – the Year of the Dragon

For most people, the New Year and the celebration were already behind them. But for Chinese, the New Year is just starting today.

In China, today is the first day of the Chinese New Year in the traditional lunar calendar.

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, every year corresponds to one of twelve rotating animals – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

2012 is the Year of the Dragon. 2012 is also my “Ben ming nian,” the year of my Zodiac sign.

“Ben ming nian” refers to the year in the Chinese lunar calendar that corresponds with a person’s year of birth once every twelve years.

I was born in the Year of Dragon. All those born in 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, or 2012 have dragon as their Zodiac sign. Every twelve years after my birth year is my “Ben ming nian” – 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, etc.

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

powerful, strong, energetic, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, fearless, passionate, decisive, ambitious, pioneering, creative, innovative, artistic, generous, loyal, warm-hearted, charismatic. Can be hot headed, quick-tempered, sharp-tongued, tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.

To find out what your Zodiac sign is and learn more about the personality characteristics of your Zodiac Sign, or to find out who the notable dragons are, check out the following links:

Chinese Zodiac – Dragon

Wiki – Dragon

Chinese zodiac

Personality Characteristics of Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

The Chinese Zodiac Characteristics

Chinese Zodiac Calendar & Horoscope, Animals with Personality Traits, Yin & Yang

In Chinese astrology, the year of the dragon is the luckiest

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

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

Performance review and Porter decision

Last month after I came back from a three-week trip to China, I was surprised to read in Woodbury Bulletin that South Washington County School Board didn’t renew Superintendent Mark Porter’s contract that will expire in June 2012.

No detailed explanation about the decision. I was curious and wondered why.

A few weeks passed, still not much detailed information was made public by the school board. But there were numerous letters from readers who questioned the school board decision and showed support for Mark Porter and his leadership.

I don’t know Mark Porter personally and don’t know anything about him and his leadership ability. I only saw him at school events. The most recent one was on Nov. 2, 2011 when he and his wife (who teaches at Lake Middle School) attended a joint band concert at Woodbury High School. I appreciated his support for the concert and for the band students/teachers through his appearance.

Imagine how many school events like this he attends every year as the superintendent, it’s quite a commitment and effort on his part.

From what I read and heard, our school district has been doing well under Porter’s leadership. At least I haven’t heard anything bad.

The one thing that bothered me the most about this decision was the school board failed to do the annual performance review with Porter as they should have.

If Superintendent Porter had not performed well in the last three years, the school board should have provided feedback through the annual performance review and given him a chance for improvement. They should not surprise him with the decision to not renew his contract without ongoing dialogue and feedback.

The school board should not surprise the public with the decision and not offer any reasonable explanation.

I liked school board member Jim Gelbmann’s Jan. 11 viewpoint article in Woodbury Bulletin: “School Board can, should reconsider Porter decision.” He was one of the two school board members who opposed the decision.

Like the Dec. 21 Woodbury Bulletin editorial says: “School Board owes public explanation for Porter decision.”

The school board needs to be more transparant in what they do in order to gain the trust from the public.

Trust is a sacred commodity. Once lost, it’s hard to regain it. Trust can only be built through openness and transparency.


Cancer, cancer, go away

Today this kid’s song came to my mind.

Rain, rain, go away
Come again some other day
We want to go outside and play
Come again some other day.

I want to say:

Cancer, cancer, go away
Never come back another day
We want to enjoy life and live
Never come back another day.

Cancer, hospice, those are not words you want to hear, but I heard them twice today from two different sources.

My beloved pastor Frank Sanders has pancreatic cancer. His health is deteriorating. It’s hard to see him suffering so much physically.

Pray for Pastor Frank Sanders’ healing

A friend from Woodbury, only in her 40s, is also suffering from cancer. She was an athletic and vibrant woman in excellent health just 6 months ago. But cancer has destroyed her health.

Cancer is stealing both their lives away.

I know cancer can take their lives physically, but God gives them eternal life. No matter what happens to their bodies, their spirits are eternal and live on.

As someone said: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Still I hate to see them suffer physically!

There is heaviness and sadness in my heart. I only wish I could sing that modified song and make my friends’ cancer go away.

God, may you bless my pastor, my friend and their families, and give them peace and comfort as they go through this difficult journey. May your healing power come upon them. May they feel your love and presence in spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Priorities in life, pt. 2

Yesterday’s post was mainly prompted by a recent argument I had with another person on this topic.

I think the priority list should be God first, marriage second, and children third. But the other person had the opposite point of view – children first, everything else a distant second.

That’s exactly what Mike said in his comment to my post: “Priority list= Children first…everything else a distant second.” His comment didn’t surprise me, because I heard it before.

Let me clarify what I meant to avoid any misunderstanding.

When I said “children third,” I didn’t mean they are not important and can be neglected by parents in any way. For me it’s a given, that parents have to take their parenting responsibilities and take good care of their children – love them, nurture them, feed them, cloth them, teach them, educate them, discipline them, keep them safe and healthy. I do not argue again this at all.

When parents say “Kids are my #1 priority,” I think they have the good intention to be the best parents to their children, the question is: “Is this the right path to take?”

Parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To raise happy, responsible and well rounded children, you can’t ignore other relationships in life and focus all your attention on them.

Let’s use gardening as a simple analogy.

Think of God as the foundation or the fertile soil that’s critical for growing a good and healthy plant.

Think of marriage as the environment or the location where there is plenty of sun to grow a good and healthy plant.

Think of your children as a plant.

If you focus all your attention on the plant alone, without paying attention to the foundation and environment, you can do all you want, you can under-water it, over-water it,  or water it just right, your plant will never turn out as good as you would like to see.

If you truly love your kids, you need to love their mother or father first and work on the marriage. Without a strong marriage, no child can flourish. Just like a plant that can’t flourish without good soil and a sunny location.

This book by David Code “To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First” might be a good resource to check out.

Here are some quotes by David Code from the article Priorities: Children or Spouse?

Here’s the biggest myth of parenting: The more attention we give our kids, the better they’ll turn out. Where are the results? Studies show today’s parents spend more time with their kids, and yet today’s kids don’t seem happier, more independent or successful. They seem more troubled, entitled and needy.

To raise healthy kids, simply put your marriage first and your children second. For many of today’s couples, the children are priority No. 1 one and marriage is priority No. 10 — and few of us make it past the top three priorities on our daily to-do list.

Our marriages are important, but not urgent. So we neglect to feed and water our marriages, which die so slowly and quietly that we don’t even realize our mistake until it’s too late. But not only do we lose our marriages, we set a poor example for our children’s future marriages, and we also create highly anxious households where our kids soak up that anxiety and then act out.

Priorities in life, pt. 1

I believe the priorities in life should be

1. God comes first
2. Spouse is second
3. Children are third
4. Work, school, friends, etc come next.

God’s priority plan provides the recipe for a successful marriage, a happy life, and for raising responsible children.

If we don’t set our priorities right, we suffer the consequences with failed marriages, dysfunctional families, irresponsible and self-centered kids, etc.

I want to live my life in God’s way. In my heart I desire to do the right things. But I know I don’t always do what I know I should do, for a variety of reasons – lack of time, personal will, discipline, cooperation, understanding, etc.

A new year, a new beginning. My New Year’s resolution is to follow God’s priority plan for life.


Want to know your neighbors?

Do you know your neighbors?

Chances are good that you don’t.

Some of you might not even know who lives next door, what their names are, let alone who they are and what they do.

If you are curious about your neighbors and want to know who they are, or if you are ever in need to know what their addresses and phone numbers are, there is a very handy website for it, which I learned from my coworker Karen today.

White Pages – for your neighborhood

Go to the website and enter your address. You will get a satellite picture showing your house and those of your neighbors who live in your immediate area, and a list of the neighbors with their names, addresses and phone numbers.

You can use the info to make friends with your neighbors, to create a neighborhood directory or to organize a block party. Whatever you do with that info, do something good to build and connect communities.


Happy New Year

I came back from my three week trip to China on Dec. 29, in time to celebrate the New Year with my family and friends here in the US.

I spent the whole time with my parents in Suzhou.  Since I didn’t travel much, I didn’t take a lot of pictures. Today I posted some of the photos I took in China on Facebook.

With that, I would like to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year. May you have good health, happiness, love, joy, peace and God’s blessings in 2012.

Greetings from China

From my hometown Suzhou, China, I would like wish my family and your family in the US  M E R R Y   C H R I S T M A S !!!

I am in China for three weeks. I made the unplanned trip to visit my mom who was in the hospital for almost one month. She was in critical condition with heart and kidney failure due to complications from diabetics, high blood pressure and low heart beat.

My 78 year old father took care of my mother day and night in the hospital, with help from my brother. It was hard for me to be far away from my parents and felt helpless.

My mother was discharged from the hospital one day before I arrived home on Dec. 8. She is recovering well.

Even though I wished I had come home a little earlier to be a help for my parents while help was most needed, I am glad I can be home now. I treasure the quiet time I get to spend with my parents.

Every day I am with my parents is an ordinary day. I am living in a slow motion mode here. My day usually goes like this – Get up, breakfast, grocery shopping, lunch, dinner, go online checking emails, and then go to bed.

No stress, no driving, no snow. Good food, better health. Life is quiet, peaceful and good for now.

But life is getting harder for my parents as they get older.

They are glad to have me home for three weeks. This is the longest time I get to spend with them alone since I left China for Germany 25 years ago in 1986. I know it will be hard for them to see me leave again in a few days. And it will be hard for me to leave them behind, not knowing when we will see each other again.

China is 14 hours ahead of US (CT). Christmas is over. We don’t celebrate Christmas here. But for me, this is one of my most memorable Christmas. Having the opportunity and time to be with my parents is my best Christmas present this year.

I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones.

A true leader and public servant

I know leadership is not about position or title. It’s not about power or authority. It’s not about status or wealth. Leadership is about character, competency, and credibility. It’s about influence and relationships.  But none of these statements was so convincing to me until I met Lynn Wehrman and had a chance to work with her at MnDOT on some projects in the last couple of years.

Wehrman had no title, no official position and no power at MnDOT, but she was one of the best leaders I personally know, respect and admire. She has the character, competency, and credibility. She is one of the most skilled, talented and competent employees I have known. She can get things done efficiently and effectively that might take a few people to do. She had passion and worked with enthusiasm on projects on her job and outside of
her normal job. Her influence and relationship touched people beyond MnDOT to
other state agencies and positively impacted people’s lives. She was a great
public servant who puts the public interests at the front.

Sadly, Wehrman left her 6 year career at MnDOT last week to pursuit a more fulfilling career on her own.  Before Wehrman left her job, I had a chance to interview her and talk with her about leadership.

Tang: Whom do you admire as a leader, and why?

Wehrman: My former boss at Norwest Bank who empowered me and gave me autonomy to do my job. When I started my job there, the first thing he told me was: “I don’t know how to do your job. You are the expert in your area. My job is to support you so you can do your job and do it well.” He is the boss by which all other bosses are measured. He doesn’t even know he had such an influence on me, because I never told him.

Tang: This is a good example of a leadership moment that can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone, sometimes people don’t even realize it but its effect can be felt years later. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned as a leader and employee?

Wehrman: A leader who doesn’t appreciate and support his/her people can kill their enthusiasm and take their enthusiasm and engagement and turn it into disillusionment and despair.

Tang: What are the most critical attributes to successful  leadership?

Wehrman: As the leader, you are the glue that meshes together the talents and skills and brings people and things together. You are the facilitator. You must work harder than anyone else. You have to give recognition when credit is due and take responsibilities when something is wrong. You are the servant. Leadership is humility, not glamorous.  You make people feel included and appreciated. You believe something should be done and then do it, not do it with selfish expectation, because what you can get out of it and what’s in it for you.

The by-product of being a good and effective leader is recognition, respect, satisfaction. But they are not the primary purpose and motive in the first place.

Tang: What is the hardest part of becoming a leader?

Wehrman: Not micromanaging people, being open to other ideas and opinions, looking at yourself first before pointing fingers at others, keeping expectations out of the game, letting go of the need to feel right and to feel you are the smartest one.

Tang: What challenges do you see that leaders face in government?

Wehrman: Incentive to be complacent and corrupt, little support in creating things that benefit the public.

Tang: In what ways have you seen people in non-leadership positions use power and influence?

Wehrman: Being persistent and patient is important. Ask and educate are the keys to achieve what you want.

Last week I received the following good-bye email from Wehrman that she sent to a few friends.

“Today has been my last day as a State of Minnesota employee.  I will be leaving to a new venture and am content about the work I was privileged to accomplish, and the people I got to know, as a public servant.

I just wanted to say thank you for working with me, beside me and for allowing me in your life for the past 6 years.  I will carry the memory of you, and what we shared as coworkers and volunteers, in my heart as I move into the next exciting phase.”

As I read it, I felt a great loss for myself and for MnDOT and for the State of Minnesota, for losing a good friend, a talented employee and a great public servant. On the other hand, I am happy for her to have successfully started her own company WeCO in providing website accessibility and become her own boss. I am convinced that she will be successful in her new venture.

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“From Silver to Gold”

The autobiography by my pastor at Spirit of Life Bible Church, From Silver to Gold : One Man’s Pursuit of the Ultimate Prize, written by Pastor Frank Sanders and a fellow church member Tony Ducklow, is finished and just published.

A book buying and signing session will be held after church service on Sunday, December 11 at Spirit of Life Bible Church.

To learn more about the book and to purchase a copy online, go to

Read my previous posts about Pastor Frank Sanders:

Pray for Paster Frank Sanders’ healing

Poor in wealth, rich in love

Thankful for friends

In my last year’s Thanksgiving post Thankful for friends, I talked about my Thanksgiving party and the turkey that a friend of mine prepared for me and delivered to my house for the party.

This year, my friend performed the same act of kindness. She bought,  prepared, baked and delivered a turkey to my house, along with mashed potatoes, cranberries and also meatballs. My family had the yummy turkey for lunch.

I told my friend we got catering service without paying a dime.

Later we went to another friend’s house for turkey dinner. My Chinese friend married an American guy who is good at making traditional turkey dinner.

So we had turkeys twice on Thanksgiving. I feel blessed and I am really thankful for the friends I have. I am grateful for their kindness, generosity and friendship.

I hope you also had a blessed Thanksgiving holiday with your families and friends.

Thankful for my kids

My son Andy is doing well at school. At teacher’s conferences, I always get good comments about him being a good student. I usually don’t have to worry about him doing his homework on his own, completing school work on time and bringing home a good report card every time one is issued. He had all As on his last report card.

Band is Andy’s least favorite subject. He doesn’t like playing his instrument. So this is the only subject I have to remind him every so often. Lately I noticed that Andy had not been practicing his clarinet at home as he should have. I was concerned and nagged him every day to practice and finish his assignments on time so he doesn’t get a bad score on band.

One day after Andy finished a band assignment on Smart Music, I asked him what the computer score was when he submitted the assignment. Then I criticized him for not spending more time practicing, not putting in more effort and not getting a higher score above 90. He broke down and said: “Mom, This is hard for me. I tried my best. Even when I get a higher score, you will still not be happy. I am never good enough for you.”

Obviously Andy was frustrated and venting. But Andy’s reaction hit me.

I don’t think of myself as a Tiger Mom. I am usually happy with his report card. Even when he got a B, I wasn’t hard on him. But like many Chinese parents, we tend to have a very high expectations of our kids. The joke among us parents is (actually someone was talking about it last night at a friend’s party), when our kids get a score of 99, instead of simply saying: “Nice job. I am proud of you,” we often focus on the missing point and ask: “Why didn’t you get a 100% perfect score?”

My kids once told me what ABC on the report card means for American kids and for Chinese kids.

The ABC on report card –

For American kids, A is for Excellent, B is for good, C is for average.

For Chinese kids, A is for Average, B is for Bad, C is for Crushed.

I laughed when my daughter first told me about it. I thought it was funny and on the point.

I had to apologize to my son when I saw him crying and realized how my high expectations and negative comments were hurting him. I should have known that you can’t motivate someone with negative comments.

I asked Andy what he wanted to hear more, he said: “You did a nice job, but there is still room for improvement.” That’s very fair.

In this quiet early hour on Thanksgiving Day, as I reflect on the recent incident with my son, I am filled with gratitude for my kids. I am thankful for them, for who they are and for how well they are doing. I should never take them for granted. I should always encourage them more with positive comments rather than discouraging them with negative comments.

Today, when my son wakes up, I am going to tell him: “Thanks for being a good kid and thanks for doing a nice job with your school work, just remember, there is still room for improvement.”

Power and leadership

Stephanie McGovern, leadership consultant and coach, owner of High Performance Systems, was the presenter at my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) training on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011.

In her presentation titled “Achieving results through personal power and leadership,” McGovern talked about some basic principles of power and influence, what is power (Energy + focus = power), the different kinds of powers and power sources. Some of the topics she covered include:

Three categories of power:

  1. Coercive power (Power over) – To force, pressure, comel or threaten someone to act in a certain way to achieve a goal.
  2. Covert power (Power under) – To control a situation behind the scene to achieve your desired outcome.
  3. Collaborative power (Power with) – To work together using each other’s individual power to achieve something greater than one person can achieve alone.

Three arenas of power:

  1. Personal power (relationship with self) – the ability to achieve desired outcome; act in alignment with your strengths, skills, purpose, values, beliefs; and have confidence and trust in yourself.
  2. Interpersonal power (relationship with others) –  the ability to influence others to do what you want without use of formal authority or positional power. It requires an ability to understand what others want and need and to help them get it as well as a willingness to pursue what you want and need. Interpersonal power creates collaboration, trust, alignment with common goals.
  3. Organizational power (relationship to the environment and the system) – the ability to work within an oprganization to create outcomes that supports the needs of the individuals in the organization and the overall goals of the organization.

Personal power base – the 4 P’s:

  1. Purpose – What is my outcome?
  2. Passion – What do I really care about?
  3. Personal responsibility -What’s my part?
  4. Possibilities – What could I do?

The blame game:

  1. Blaming – disowning problems
  2. Fixing – owning others’ problems
  3. Complaining – dwelling on problems

The winner’s game:

  1. Reframing – move from blaming to responsibility
  2. Coaching – move from fixing to encouraging others
  3. Problem solving – move from complaining to positive solutions

Reasons for resistance:

  1. I don’t understand it.
  2. I don’t like it.
  3. I don’t like/trust you.

Dealing with resistance:

  1. Listen
  2. Make it easy to understand
  3. Make it safe to change
  4. Identify and understand underlying needs
  5. Find a common goal
  6. Invite joint problem solving

The all-day training was a mixture of PowerPoint presentation, group discussions, partnership work, and games. It was informative, interesting and engaging.

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The 5 languages of appreciation in China

Dr. Paul White, who co-authored with Dr. Gary ChapmanThe 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People,” left a comment on my post about the book. He asked about the cross-cultural applicability of the 5 Languages.

I would like to respond and say a few words here. Since I am more familiar with China where I grew up, I will use China as an example.

I think human beings have the same needs and wants no matter where they are from and where they live. Everyone desires to be loved and to be appreciated by others, and desires to love and appreciate others, expressed in these 5 languages. So the 5 languages of love and appreciation concept should be applicable in all cultures.

But cultural differences do affect how the 5 languages are played out in life.

In China, position and power dominate the relationships in the workplace. The concept of servant leadership is non existing. Whoever has a higher position has power over the people below him. Employees are to serve the people in power who don’t see a need to appreciate their employees. The attitude of most leaders/managers/business owners is “You should be thankful that you have a job and work here.” In most cases, you need to know someone, bribe someone in order to get a good job.

So in terms of showing appreciation in the workplace, it’s not managers/supervisors, but employees who need to express appreciation to the people in power in order to get a better job, get a promotion, and to win favors.

As my brother recently told me: “If my boss asks me (not someone else) to do something, especially something personal for his family, I feel appreciative because I have a chance to serve him and I feel trusted.”

While I see a good balance of using all the 5 languages in the US (except physical touch in the workplace), that’s not the case in China.

The predominant language of love and appreciation is tangible gifts. People love to give gifts, or to be more accurate, they feel obligated to give gifts. They feel obligated to give gifts (often times cash, gift cards) to people in power, to teachers, to doctors, and others in order to win favors.

Chinese people are not huggers and are not physically and emotionally expressive aspeople in the western culture. So physical touch is not a primary language in the Chinese culture. Family members don’t usually hug each other, let along in the workplace. A handshake is what most people do.

Words of affirmation, quality time and acts of service are not as important as tangible gifts, but used more than physical touch.

I don’t think people in China write thank-you cards as they do in the US. They express their love and appreciation (whether out of heart or oblication) through tangible gifts. Usually no words need to be said.

Sad news

A phone call with my brother in China changed my mood totally and left me sleepless. It’s 3 am now, but I am as wake as can be.

As usual, I called my parents in China on Friday evening. My brother picked up the phone. He was trying to reach me at the same time.

Mother is in hospital since Thursday, Nov. 10. She fell about a week ago and suffered bruises. A few days later, she couldn’t get out of bed. My mother has diabetics and low heart beat. Now she can’t walk and has troubles with breathing. She is in intensive care. Doctors said she needs a pacemaker.

Being so far away, I am no help for my parents.

Unlike here in the US, visiting doctors and going to hospitals are quite an ordeal in China. It’s not as simple as making an appointment and showing up for the appointment. You have to go through a lot more hassles and deal with some issues. You better have connection and know someone in the hospital.

So in the last few hours I was trying to reach someone who might know someone in the hospital where my mother is now.

I contacted a friend via email and phone. He is a heart doctor and a pioneer in his field. So he is known among colleagues. He just got off the plane and responded to my plea for help with a couple of short sentences: “Contact the head of the Department and tell him that I referred you. Let me know if you have problems.”

In China, the most important thing is connection. To do anything important, you need to find some connection. Connection makes a big difference. Now I feel better. Even though I can’t be with my mother and help her directly. I am glad that I was able to help her a little bit indirectly.

My brother also shared with me another sad news, a real tragedy that just happened to a high ranking leader in his organization. According to my brother, that individual is a very respected leader and person. He once helped my brother switch a job and get a better job, even though my brother didn’t work for him. He was just being very kind.

His only son died in a car crash on Nov. 6, along with another Chinese student at the University of Dayton in Ohio. I searched the news with the last name only and found it online, including this University of Dayton student newspaper article. Both victims’ families are now in the US.

It’s hard to imagine what those two families are going through. Any life lost at such a young age is very sad. Now I feel some connection with one of the families, the sadness feels a little stronger.

I couldn’t help but pause for a moment and think about life and how fragile life is. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. We are quite helpless on our own.

A good friend of mine left for China last week because her brother-in-law in his fifties died suddenly while riding on motorcycle. It was a very unexpected event. She told me after she received the sad news that her only regret was that she didn’t share the Gospel with her brother-in-law. Now it’s too late.

It’s a lesson she was trying to share with me which I should take into heart.

The 5 languages of appreciation

Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of the bestselling book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” (see my previous article The Five Love Languages). Recently he co-authored with Dr. Paul White a new book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace applies the 5 love language concept to the workplace.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation are:

  • 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.

People in the workplace need to feel appreciated in order to enjoy their job, do their best work, and continue working over the long haul.

As a supervisor or manager, you need to communicate appreciation, encouragement and support for your employees whenever possible. If you want your employees to feel appreciated and valued, you must speak their primary appreciation language and encourage them in ways that are meaningful to them.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace helps you discover your and your coworkers’ primary appreciation language – the language that speaks most deeply to you emotionally, and your least valued language of appreciation – your potential blind spot.

When supervisors and managers can effectively communicate appreciation and encouragement to their employees, the following results can happen:

  • higher levels of job satisfaction
  • decreased cases of burnout
  • reductions in employee turnover
  • healthier relationships between managers and employees
  • improved attendance, performance and productivity
  • greater customer satisfaction
  • a more positive corporate culture and work environment.

Motivating by appreciation

One of the best ways to motivate people is by expressing your appreciation. Making people feel appreciated is what a great leader does. It is listed on the top of the 5 leadership principles by Jack Myrick.

In his book The Shipbuilder: Five Ancient Principles of Leadership, Jack Myrick talks about the following five leadership principles:

  1. Make them feel appreciated
  2. See their potential, not their flaws
  3. Lead with authority, not power
  4. Love them first
  5. Make them feel they are part of something special

If you want to know more about motivating by appreciation, I would highly recommend the book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace:Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Gary Chapman and Paul White.

I will talk more about the book in the next post.

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Three motivational theories

Leadership and motivation go hand in hand. A great leader is usually also a great motivator. Part of becoming a leader is to learn what motivates people and where motivation comes from.

There are various motivational theories. Listed below are three popular ones.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs presents different motivations at different levels. The hierarchy of needs, listed from basic (lowest) to most complex (highest) are as follows:

  1. Level 1: Physiology – need for food, shelter, health
  2. Level 2: Safety and Security – need to feel safe
  3. Level 3: Social – need to belong (belongingness, love, friendship)
  4. Level 4: Self-esteem – need to be recognized for accomplishments
  5. Level 5: Self actualization – need to find meaning

According to Maslow, a need motivates us as long as it is not satisfied. When your need at any one level is satisfied, the needs of the next level become more critical.

First, people are motivated to fulfill basic biological needs for food and shelter, as well as those of safety, love and esteem. Once the lower level needs have been met, the primary motivator becomes the need for self-actualization, or the desire to fulfill one’s individual potential, find meaning and purpose.

Frederick Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory

Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory, a.k.a. intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, concludes that certain factors in the workplace result in job satisfaction.

He defined two basic categories that impact motivation.

  1. Motivators (the job itself) which give positive satisfaction – challenging work, increased responsibility, growth and development, achievement, recognition for accomplishments.
  2. Hygiene factors (environment) that do not motivate if present, but, if absent, result in demotivation – salary, status, job security, fringe benefits. The name “Hygiene factors” is used because, like hygiene, the presence will not make you healthier, but absence can cause health deterioration. Hygiene factors, when satisfied, tend to eliminate dissatisfaction, but they do little to motivate an individual to superior performance or increased capacity.

David McClelland’s motivation theory

David McClelland (1917-98) developed achievement-based motivational theory. In his book “The Achieving Society,” McClelland defined three types of motivational need:

Achievement motivation

The “achievement motivated” person seeks out challenging or competitive goals and advancement in the job. There is a strong need for feedback as to achievement and progress, and a need for a sense of accomplishment.

Authority/power/influence motivation  

The “authority motivated” person has a need to be influential, effective, to lead and to make an impact, and is concerned about how he is perceived by others. There is also a  need towards increasing personal status and prestige.

Affiliation motivation

The “affiliation motivated” person has a need for friendly relationships, to be liked and held in popular regard, and is motivated towards interaction with other people. These people are team players.

Related posts:

  1. Situational leadership styles
  2. Managerial skills
  3. Feedback skills
  4. The 12 blocks to listening
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The 12 blocks to listening

To be an effective leader, you have to have effective communication skills. An important part of developing effective communication skills is to develop effective listening skills.

The first step in developing effective listening skills is to be aware of the barriers to effective listening, and to understand and eliminate those barriers that block effective communications.

There are 12 commonly known blocks to listening.

1. Comparing – Comparing makes it hard to listen because you are too busy trying to compare one person with another.

2. Mind Reading – Instead of paying attention to what is said, you try to figure out what the other person is really thinking and feeling in an effort to see through to the truth.

3. Rehearsing – You do not have time to listen or pay attention to listening when you are
rehearsing what to say. Your whole attention is on the preparation and crafting of your next comment.

4. Filtering – When you filter, you listen to some things and not to others. You hear what you want to hear, and avoid what you don’t want to hear and let your mind wander.

5. Judging (prejudging)

If you prejudge someone or label someone negatively, you do not pay much attention to what he says.

6. Dreaming

You are half-listening, and something the person says suddenly triggers a chain
of private associations. You are more prone to dreaming when you feel bored or anxious.

7. Identifying

You take everything a person tells you and refer it back to your own
experience. Everything you hear reminds you of something that you have felt,
done, or suffered. You launch into your story before they can finish theirs.

8. Advising

You are the great problem-solver, ready with help and suggestions. You do not have to hear more than a few sentences before you begin searching for the right advice.

9. Sparring

Your focus is on finding things to disagree with. The way to avoid sparring is
to repeat back and acknowledge what you have heard. Look for one thing you
might agree with.

One subtype of sparring is the put-down. You use sarcastic remarks to dismiss
the other person’s point of view. A second type of sparring is discounting.
Discounting is for people who cannot stand compliments.

10. Being Right

You will go to any lengths to avoid being wrong. You cannot listen to criticism, you cannot be corrected, and you cannot take suggestions to change.

11. Derailing

You change the subject suddenly. You derail the train of conversation when you get bored or uncomfortable with a topic.

12. Placating

You want to be nice, pleasant, and supportive. You want people to like you – so you agree with everything. You half-listen, but you are not really involved.

Related posts:

  1. Situational leadership styles
  2. Managerial skills
  3. Feedback skills


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Feedback skills

Giving and receiving feedback are important skills to have for everyone, especially for supervisors and leaders. Leaders who provide effective feedback can direct, engage, motivate, inspire and empower others in a very powerful way.

While positive feedback is a great motivation, critical feedback provides greater opportunities to grow and develop. Learning how to use positive feedback to praise and critical feedback to correct effectively can improve communication and relationship. You become a better leader if you can master the skills of giving and receiving feedback.

In her book Feedback Skills for Leaders: Building Constructive Communication Skills Up and Down the Ladder (2006), a revised edition of Giving and Receiving Feedback (1998), author Patti Hathaway talks about how to deal with critical feedback and give constructive feedback.

There are three types of critical feedback – valid, unjustified and vague critical feedback.

1. Valid Critical Feedback – The feedback is based on facts and truth.

2. Unjustified Critical Feedback- often expressed in broad, general terms that are unrealistic, untrue, and may be spoken in anger. It can be a result from a difference of opinion, of not living up to someone else’s expectation. It may come from the critic’s feelings such as jealousy, fear, insecurity, or arrogance. This type of critical feedback may say more about the critic than it does about the person being criticized.

3. Vague Critical Feedback – People often do not communicate their expectations clearly. For critical feedback to be genuinely helpful, it must be expressed in specific, concrete terms, so that others can understand the expectations and take appropriate action if needed.

There are three stages of response to critical feedback.

1. Awareness – When we are being criticized, our natural instinct and response are counterattacking, becoming defensive or becoming a silent victim. These responses of putting critic down or passive reaction do not promote a climate for dialogue and to build a relationship. The right approach to handling critical feedback is to be aware of the critical feedback and then move quickly to assessing its merit.

2. AssessmentAssess whether the critical feedback is valid, how the feedback was
delivered, and the intention of the critic.

To determine whether critical feedback is valid or invalid, ask yourself several questions:

  • Do I hear the same feedback from more than one person?
  • Does the critic know a great deal about the subject?
  • Are the critic’s standards known and reasonable?
  • Is the critical feedback really about me? Or is the critic
    merely having a bad day or upset about something else?
  • How important is it for me to respond to the critical

If you respond positively to most of the questions, the critical feedback may be valid. If you respond negatively to most of the questions, the feedback is likely to be invalid.

3. ActionIt’s important to check the facts and consider your response carefully. Remember – do not react!

Here are some action strategies for dealing with critical feedback.

Fogging – When faced with unjustified critical feedback, avoid counterattacks. Keep your self confidence and self-esteem, and don’t take the critical feedback personally. Acknowledge the possibility that there may be some truth to the critical feedback, but do not become irrational. Uses active listening skills to paraphrase the critical feedback while adding a fogging statement. Another approach is to disagree politely.

Admitting the Truth - For handling valid feedback, the first thing we
must do is accept it as valid. Accept your mistakes and faults. Thank your critic
for bringing the problem to your attention. Say what you will do to correct the
mistakes. Ask your critic for suggestions.

Requesting Specific Feedback – Requesting specific feedback is the most effective technique in handling critical feedback, especially feedback that is vague.

To give constructive feedback, remember to set realistic goals and expectations, research
the facts, choose your timing, and most importantly, be specific – using the
DASR method.

Describe -

  • Describe the behavior and action, not the “motive.”
  • Describe teh situation and outcomes you want.
  • Describe a specified time, place, and action.
  • Use concrete terms.

Acknowledge -

  • Acknowledge and express your negative feelings calmly.

Specify -

  • Ask for a change in behavior.
  • Specify the concrete actions you want stopped or performed.

Reaffirm -

  • Reaffirm the other’s ability to make the change.
  • End on a positive note.

Giving and receiving feedback is a gift for leaders and will help you become more effective.

Related posts:

  1. Situational leadership styles
  2. Managerial skills
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Managerial skills

In 1955 Prof. Robert Katz developed the three managerial skill model.

According to Katz, there are three managerial skills that every manager needs.
These are:

  1. Technical Skills –  the ability to perform the given job. The lower-level managers require more technical skills.
  2. Human Relations (Interpersonal) Skills – the ability to understand, communicate  and work with people. Human relations skills are required by all managers at all levels of management. The reason for that is all managers have to interact and work with people.
  3. Conceptual Skills – the ability to see the big picture, to visualise the organisation as a whole. It includes analytical, creative, problem-solving skills. The top-level managers require more conceptual skills and less technical skills.

Managers working at different levels of management require different levels of skills. The level of importance of each skill set is directly correlated with the management level that the person has in the organization. As managers moves up in the organization, they need more conceptual skills and less technical skills.

Related posts:

  1. Situational leadership styles
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Situational leadership styles

Marilyn J. Corrigan, Leadership and Communications Consultant from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was one of the two presenters at my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) training on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011.

In her 4 1/2 hour presentation titled “Dynamic Leadership,” Corrigan covered a lot of topics including characteristics of effective leadership, difference between effectiveness and success, good to great leadership (5 levels of leadership), managerial skills, situational leadership styles, DASR feedback methods, motivational theories, and effective listening skills.

Below and in the next few posts, I will share more details about some of these topics. I will start with  situational leadership styles.

The situational leadership model was developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard in
1969. In 1985 Blanchard refined the model and it was named The Situational Leadership II (SLII) model. It is one of the most well known models in leadership theory.

The Situational Leadership Model has two components – the Leadership Style and Development Level.

According to the situational leadership model, there is no one best leadership style. Effective leaders are the ones who are able to adapt their leadership style according to the situation – match the appropriate leadership style to the individual’s or group’s development level.

Leadership Style

Leadership style is explained in two different kinds of behavior: Supportive behavior and Directive Behavior.

  1. Supportive Behavior – This people-oriented behavior involves two way communication and focuses mainly on emotional and social support.
  2. Directive Behavior – This task-oriented behavior focuses on goals to be achieved and actions to be taken.

The leadership styles can be classified in four groups:

  1. Directing style/S1 – High directive, low supportive.
  2. Coaching style/S2 – High directive, high supportive.
  3. Supporting style/S3 – Low directive, high supportive.
  4. Delegating (Empowering) style/S4 – Low directive, low supportive.

Development Level

Development level refers to the follower’s degree of competence and commitment. The four levels describe several combinations on competence and commitment.

  1. D1 – Low competence, high commitment (don’t know what they don’t know).  Start with Directing Style (high directive, low supportive)
  2. D2 – Some competence, shaky commitment (overwhelmed by what they don’t know). Go to Coaching Style (High directive, high supportive)
  3. D3 – Moderate competence, moderate commitment (knowledgeable but not too motivated). Move to Supporting Style (low directive, high supportive)
  4. D4 – High competence, high commitment ((knowledgeable and motivated). Move to Delegating Style (low directive, low supportive).

Effective leadership lies in matching the appropriate leadership style to the development level. Otherwise there will be problems and conflicts.

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Becoming Extraordinary Leaders

“Becoming Extraordinary Leaders” was the title of the presentation by Jack Zenger at my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) training on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011.

The presentation was based on his research and book The Extraordinary Leader : Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders.

Using “The Leadership Tent” as the conceptual framework, Zenger talked about the following five elements of a great leader:

1. Character – The center pole represents the personal character of an individual. It is the core of all leadership effectiveness. A great leader must display integrity and honesty.

2. Personal Capability- This tent pole describes the intellectual, emotional, and skill makeup of the individual. It includes technical and professional expertise, analytical and problem-solving capabilities, ability to create a clear vision and sense of purpose for the organization, and self-development.

3. Focus on Results – This tent pole describes the ability to have an impact on the organization. It means being capable of getting things done, taking initiatives and driving for results.

4. Interpersonal Skills – This tent pole includes all the interpersonal and people skills, such as communicating, inspiring and motivating others to high performance, building relationships, developing others, collaboration and teamwork.

 5. Leading Change – This final tent  pole focuses on an individual’s ability to produce change within an  organization.

Zenger also talked about 10 fatal flaws that consistently lead to leadership failure:

  1. Not inspiring due to a lack of energy and enthusiasm
  2. Accepting mediocre performance in place of excellent results
  3. Lack of clear vision and direction
  4. Loss of trust stemming from perceived bad judgment and poor decisions
  5. Not a collaborative team player
  6. Not a good role model (failure to walk the talk)
  7. No self-development and learning from mistakes
  8. Lacking interpersonal skills
  9. Resistant to new ideas, thus did not lead change or innovate
  10. Focus is on self, not the development of others
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Showing my pastor appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Have you done something special for your pastor to express your love and appreciation?

Last Sunday at Spirit of Life Bible Church, my pastor Frank Sanders and his wife Kathy was showered with hugs and cards by the congregation. As the couple stood by the alter, families lined up on both sides. One by one, they went to the alter and expressed their love and appreciation to the Pastor couple. It was very moving to see the impact  Pastor Frank and his wife have on the church and its people.

I gave my pastor and his wife a handwritten thank-you note along with a gift card. I also praised my pastor publicly on  Faith Radio and entered him into the Clergy Appreciation Month drawing.

Today I learned from a church member that I won two books because I entered my pastor into the pastor appreciation drawing. She heard the news on the radio this morning. So that’s cool. I hope he will like these two books.

October is almost over. But there is still time to do something for your pastor. And you don’t have to do it in October. You can show appreciation any time, any day and any month.

Everyone likes to be appreciated. Pastors, who are often overworked and underpaid, deserve more appreciation and encouragement than anyone.

My doctor visit and recommendations

This week I had a doctor visit at the HealthPartner Clinic for the annual physical exam. And I learned something new.

At the check-in, I was given a brochure by the receptionist. I didn’t pay attention to it because I found some more interesting materials to read in the waiting room.

After I was called in by the nurse and after she was finished with the initial exam, I was left alone in the room to change and to wait for my doctor.

It was a long wait. I had finished reading the whole magazine and the doctor still didn’t show up. Not knowing what’s going on, I got inpatient.

Dressed in my hospital gown, I opened the door, stuck my head out and asked the nurse standing in the hallway where the doctor was.

A few minutes later, my doctor finally came. She apologized for the delay because she had to do something for the other patient. That’s OK with me as long as I was told what’s going on.

The doctor did a few manual exams here and there on my body. She asked if I had any concerns. I did.

I have had shoulder, neck and back pain on and off. They come and go. So I asked the doctor about it. She advised me to take Ibuprofen whenever I have the pain. I said I was not interested in the pain medication. I was not concerned about the pain, but I was concerned about the cause of the pain. I didn’t want to take pain medication to not feel the pain. Pain medication doesn’t solve the problem for me, it only covers it up. Then my doctor said I should do physical therapy. She didn’t say anything about what I could do to prevent shoulder, neck and back pain.

I also asked the doctor about any effective treatment for nail fungus that doesn’t have any side effects like the oral medication has. She mentioned laser treatment. Then she left the room to let me change.

After I finished changing and while I was waiting for the doctor to come up, I picked up the brochure to read because I had nothing else to do. I was glad I did.

The brochure was about preventive care visits and billing. It says when patients come in for the annual preventive care visit, if they also discuss with their physician a medical issue unrelated to their annual exam and the physician spends extra time to talk about and assess other concerns, it is considered as two distinct services in one visit and as the result the physician will bill twice, one for the routine preventive care visit and one for the illness related office visit. The process is known as split billing. In this situation, the patient is responsible for paying a copay and/or deductible related to the “non-preventive” portion of the visit.

Immediately, this raised a red flag in my mind. Because I did ask my doctor about two concerns unrelated to the preventive care, I could be billed for it and have to pay copay and deductible.

When my doctor came back, I asked her about the billing. She hesitated a little bit and said she won’t do split billing because she didn’t spend a lot of extra time.

I wondered whether the result would be different if I had not asked her about the billing and if I had not waited for her for a long time. The time I spent waiting for her was a lot longer than the time she spent with me for the visit.

So here is the new thing I learned.

During the annual physical visit, when the doctor asks what concerns I have. I am supposed to keep my mouth shut and not discuss any concerns I might have.

My question is, why do physicians ask patients about their concerns? They should stop asking: “Do you have any concerns?” It feels like a set up now.

I have been thinking about changing my doctor since this last doctor visit. I wanted to find someone who

  • doesn’t rush in and out the room,
  • is interested in dealing with the causes of any issues I have than just prescribing medications to deal with the symptoms,
  • is more knowledgeable about alternative medicine,
  • does a better job caring for the patients.

Today I paid a visit to Weili Shen’s Acupuncture Woodbury. I had always wanted to try acupuncture, but never did before.

My first acupuncture visit was great. I will definitely go back and intend to continue in the years to come.

I believe acupuncture will do a better job in preventing and healing a lot of medical concerns. Even if you don’t have any concerns, acupuncture can still be good for your overall health and well-being. Any it doesn’t have any side effects.

BTW, if anyone has a recommendation for any good family doctor in Woodbury, please let me know.

If anyone needs a recommendation for an acupuncturist or orthodontist, I would recommend the following:

Weili Shen – Acupuncture Woodbury

She started practice in Woodbury only four years ago, but has already gained loyalty of  patients some of whom have to pay out of their own pockets to visit her.

Read a related article about her and acupuncture.

Dr. Robert E. Eng – Mendota Heights Orthodontics

He is my son’s orthodontist with offices in Mendota Heights and St. Paul. He has the honesty, integrity and trustworthiness that I often don’t feel in other doctors.

Last week I visited Dr. Eng with my son who the dentist said needed braces. After the visual exam, Dr. Eng told me, my son could benefit from braces, but he doesn’t necessarily have to have braces. It was up to me to decide. I like him for putting patient’s interest first instead of his own interest.

I mentioned Dr. Eng in a previous article.

14 traits of a great place to work

In the article “Discover the secrets of becoming a great place to work” by Patti Lee-Hoffmann (Leader To Leader Journal, No.61, Summer 2011), the author talked about 14 traits of a great place to work.

The 14 traits are:

  1. Artwork, Music, and Performance - Great companies encourage employees to express themselves in a variety of ways, including through art, music, and performance.
  2. Everyone a Leader – Great companies build leadership from within the organization—from top to bottom, as well as across departmental boundaries.
  3. Firing Customers and Clients - Great companies are not afraid to fire a customer when ethical, financial, legal, or other considerations require it.
  4. Company and Community Are One – Many great companies have become an integral part of the communities in which they are located. They contribute to their communities in many ways—far beyond just providing jobs and paychecks.
  5. Company-Wide Meetings – While most companies have meetings, a much smaller number have company-wide meetings that involve everyone in the organization at the same time or place—either in person or virtually by computer link for building communication, relationships, knowledge, and trust.
  6. Focusing on the Environment and Sustainability - Great companies have a focus on sustainability and the environment.
  7. Constantly Challenging the Status Quo – Great companies focus on continuous improvement that results in reduced waste, improved product quality, reduced rework time, faster response times, lowered costs, and the development of more innovative products and services.
  8. Egoless Leadership – Leaders of great companies remember that they do not work alone—it takes the active support and engagement of employees at all levels of an organization to create a business that is built to last.
  9. Future Focus – The leaders of great companies keep an eye on the future. They are constantly exploring new product and service offerings and new ways of doing business.
  10. A Truth-Telling Culture – Great companies practice management honesty and transparency—treating their employees as partners instead of hired help.
  11. Ignoring the Conventional Wisdom -Great companies lead their industries instead of following them—they break new ground and take risks that more conservative organizations are unwilling to chance.
  12. Employees First - Great companies put employees first. In doing so, they build employee engagement and loyalty.
  13. Storytelling – Great companies do a great job of telling employees, customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders about the good work they’re doing, and the positive impact they are having on their communities and the world around them.
  14. Action, Not Talk – Becoming great requires not just talk, but action—a lot of action.
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The 7 E’s of mentor leadership

I am currently reading Tony Dungy’s latest book The MentorLeader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently, co-authored with Nathan Whitaker.

I am not a fan of any sport. I only knew Tony Dungy from the interviews I heard on radios over the years.  He wrote three books. This is the first book I read by him.

Among the leadership books I have read, this book is one of my favorites. I like the writing style, the contents, and the approach to the subject.

Here I am sharing a very small part from the book on the 7 E’s of mentor leadership.

“I cannot move the ball forward with positive, nurturing leadership until I engage with those I am blessed to lead. Once I’ve engaged with them, I am able to educate and equip. Throughout the process, it is essential to encourage, empower, and energize in order to finally elevate the people around me.”

Engage – It’s impossible to mentor from a distance. Without engagement, you cannot lead effectively. A true open-door policy is a matter of attitude and approachability, not just whether the office door is propped open.

Educate – Education is an essential building block of mentor leadership. Because mentor leadership is all about helping others become the best they can be, it is built on a foundation of teaching, helping, and guiding. Mentor leaders must take a hands-on, one-on-one approach to mentoring individual lives.

Equip -Mentor leaders create an environment in which others can be productive and excel. They provide the tools and equipment needed for everyone to be successful in their assignment and to ultimately accomplish their mission. In essence, they strive to furnish what is needed for the task – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and to accomplish the mission. Educating and equipping go hand in hand. 

Encourage – Encouragement is the fuel that powers our efforts to engage, educate, and equip.Mentor leaders care, lift others up and encourage. People need affirmation and encouragement. 

Empower – True empowerment is preparation followed by appropriate freedom. At some point, a mentor leader must turn others loose to do their jobs. 

Energize – Great leaders energize, motivate and inspire those they lead. They do this intentionally. 

Elevate – The ultimate goal of every mentor leader is to build and grow other leaders for long-term, sustainable success. The regenerative idea that leaders produce leaders, who in turn produce leaders – is a powerful concept for mentor leaders and their organizations. At the heart of this regeneration is the principle of elevation – raising people up. Raising up leaders is the truly selfless goal of every mentor leader, the culmination of focusing on others. To elevate your followers means to help them reach their God-given potential, even if it means preparing them to replace you. As a mentor leader, the success of the people you’ve elevated is what you like to see. You want the organization to continue to thrive after you are gone, to be in better shape when you leave than when you got there. It’s not about getting the credit; it’s about helping the organization, and everyone in it, be the best they can be. An organization that remains totally dependent on a particular personality is one that has not been properly led. 

These 7 E’s describe a progression of steps that will help you mentor others while you lead them to reach their potential. They are the methods of a mentor leader for maximizing the potential of any individual and organization for ultimate success and significance.

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Leadership and ethics

Leadership and ethics are the main topics on Day 3 of my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) training on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.

Carolyn Trevis, Assistant State Negotiator with Minnesota Management and Budget talked about the Code of Ethics for Employees in the Executive Branch.

Dr. David Schultz, a Professor at Hamline Unversity and an expert in government, nonprofit, and business ethics, led the discussion on ethics and values, the relationship between personal and workplace ethics, the differences in ethics across sectors – private, non-profit, public sectors and in personal life.

When I had the interview with Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens on Monday, we touched upon this topic of ethics. I was surprised to hear that not only the Mayor doesn’t make a living wage, but she also has to pay for all expenses herself when she attends community events – buy her own event tickets and pay for her own transportation. Being a Mayor is like a full time job, but there is hardly any financial reward.

I knew there is a high ethical standard for the government officials and employees in the United States, but I didn’t realize it is so strict.

There is a popular (ironic) saying in China that the best place to be a government official is China. Being government officials and employees bring enormous financial rewards, directly through salary and benefits, but mostly indirectly through gifts and bribery.  The higher the position, the more power and rewards you enjoy.

If I tell average citizens in China what government officials and employees in the US can and can’t do, they would laugh and would not believe me. It’s unheard for them in China. Ethics as we know here hardly exist in real life in China.

When it comes to ethics in the public sector, the US and China are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

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Woodbury photo contest winners awarded

The winning photo with my daughter in the front yard of our house.
Accepting the certificate from Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens. Thanks Kris Janisch from Woodbury Patch for the photo.

Yesterday evening I went to the Woodbury City Council meeting to receive the award for my photo “The Wonder of Autumn Leaves” that won honorable mention in the People category in the 13th annual Focus on Woodbury photo contest, sponsored by Woodbury Magazine.

First, second and third place winners in five categories, 8 honorable mentions and readers choice were awarded. The Readers’ Choice winner was selected by online voters.

Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens and Debbie Musser, editor of Woodbury Magazine, awarded the prizes at the beginning of the City Council meeting.

I would like to thank Woodbury Magazine for sponsoring the event and making it an easy process, and thanks also to City of Woodbury for their support.

The 2011 Focus on Woodbury Photo Contest Results are posted on Woodbury :

Reader’s Choice: Mother Fox and Kissing Cub by Beth A. Kuehlwein (61 votes)

Landmarks: 1. Woodbury Heritage House by Michael Dupont; 2. Country Sunset by the Oehlke Barn by Colleen Davis

Activities: 1. Little League Slide by Dianne Towalski; 2. Cricket-winning Moment by Nancy Pretty Sargunam; 3. Pitcher Perfect by Shannon Rode

Pets: 1. Explorations! by Janet Hartje; 2. Koi by Steven Shor; 3. Puppy BFF by Jessica Lloyd; Honorable Mention 1. Fascinating Red by Ilya Kravchik

People: 1. Watch Out by Sandra Stephens; 2. A Girl and a Flower by Cala Iverson; 3. Puppy Kisses by Kathy Weigelt; Honorable Mention 1. The Wonder of Autumn Leaves by Qin Tang; Honorable Mention 2. Brotherly Love by Amy Curnow; Honorable Mention 3. A Rainy Day by Cala Iverson

Nature: 1. Daybreak by Ben Ricker; 2. April Snow at the Wood Duck House by Tom Ziegler; 3. Ojibway Park Chorus Frog by Megan Jones; Honorable Mention 1. Coming in for a Landing by Nancy Ribeiro Miller; Honorable Mention 2. Purple People Pleasers by Shannon Rode; Honorable Mention 3. Reflections by Alison Schneider; Honorable Mention 4. Beetle Mania by Ron Long

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Leadership interview – Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens

This is the second in a series of interviews I am doing with established and respected leaders on the topic of leadership as part of my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) assignments.

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting with Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens who became the new mayor of Woodbury on January 12, 2011 — the 1st woman and the 5th in the city’s history.

Being a resident of Woodbury for over 10 years and being a loyal reader of the local newspaper, Woodbury Bulletin, for the same amount of time, I am familiar with the names of people who are active in the community – from city and county governments, school district and non-profit organizations to local businesses. I knew Mayor Stephens from a distance, through newspapers, but had never met her in person. So I was glad to have a chance to meet and chat with her in Central Park this morning.

Stephens is a lawyer by trade. She wanted to be a lawyer when she was in high school. But in her heart, she is also a volunteer, a community leader and a public servant.

Stephens’ leadership role started when she was at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. She was involved in the Student bar Association.

During her 26 years of living in Woodbury, Stephens has been very active in serving the community through various organizations – Woodbury Jaycees, Woodbury Athletic Association, Woodbury Soccer Board, New Life Educational Foundation, Woodbury Prayer Breakfast, Woodbury City Council, Woodbury Community Foundation, etc.

Stephens’ life experience is a testimony of a servant leader.

When I asked her what the most critical attributes are to successful leadership, I was not surprised by her response: “Servant, humility and empowerment. Many leaders are driven and task-oriented. But relationships and being people-oriented are more important to successful leadership.”

I asked Mayor Stephens whom she admires as a leader, and why, she said her father and her husband.

“My father is an cardiologist and my husband is a lawyer. They both have successful careers and competency. But more importantly, they have characters and high integrity. They are trustworthy, authentic and likable. They act the way they are inside. They communicate well. They always want to do better, be better and learn more. They know how to set the priorities right – faith, family and work – and have a balance in life. My husband likes to read, write and teach about leadership skills. He is writing books on leadership.”

Stephens agreed with my comment wholeheartedly when I told her: “You are so blessed in every aspect of your life.”

“Yes, I feel very blessed and thank God every day. I have a very loving and supportive husband. He is behind me in everything I do – resigning from my partnership to spend more time with our children, running for the Woodbury City Council and Mayor. He provides the financial means for me to do what I love to do. I have two wonderful children. Now I have a grandchild and another one on the way. I love the job as the Mayor and serving the community. I am truly blessed.”

The Stephens worship at the Eagle Brook Church which just opened a Woodbury Campus at East Ridge High School last month.

“What are the hardest part of becoming a leader?” I asked her.

“Making and acknowledging mistakes. Being accountable for what you do. I know I don’t know everything and I am not good at everything. But I am surrounded by smart people. I make sure that I am open to other people’s opinion and learn from them.”

A word of wisdom from Mayor Stephens:

“Don’t let the low points in life frustrate you and discourage you from trying again. Don’t let the high points cause you to rest on your laurels and stop you from reaching higher.”

As I left our meeting, I couldn’t help but thinking that if everyone could set priorities right in life, his or her life would be really blessed, just as Mayor Stephens and her family have experienced in their lives.

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Leadership interview – Commissioner Spencer Cronk, part 2

For part 1 of the interview, check the previous post here.

February 8, 2011, the newly elected Governor Dayton appointed Spencer Cronk as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Administration. So Cronk is on the job as the Admin Commissioner for less than 8 months when we met for the interview on Monday, Oct. 3.

I was interested in getting to know some leaders in the state and local governments and learning some leadership lessons from them.

I did prepare in advance a list of questions I wanted to ask Commissioner Cronk. But we ended up having a very casual and free flowing conversation. Our conversation on leadership was mostly centered around the topic of what leaders do to connect with and engage their employees in their organizations.

I shared what Commissioner Tom Sorel has been doing at MnDOT in the last 3 years to engage and empower employees, based on my observations and experiences. Then as I was listening to Commissioner Cronk talking about what he had done or is doing at Admin, it became clear to me that he had already made some positive impact within his organization in the 8 months he has been on the job.

We came to the conclusion that to connect with and engage employees, the key ingredients to success are visibility, communication, participation and appreciation. A great leader is someone who is visible and approachable, who communicates effectively and keeps communication open, encourages participation and shows appreciation.

Let me share some examples Commissioner Cronk did to illustrate the points.

As a state agency, Admin provides a broad range of business management, administrative and  professional services and a variety of resources to other state agencies, local governments and to the public. Among its responsibilities, the department maintains 22 state-owned buildings, including the State Capitol. Admin has about 500 employees.  Some janitors work the night shift. Commissioner Cronk made the effort to visit those employees who worked the night shift in other buildings. He was surprised by the feedback he received doing little things like this.

Once a month, Cronk offers the opportunity of having “Coffee with Commissioner” to employees who have birthdays on that month. That’s a great opportunity for him to have some face-to-face time with employees and hear their concerns and feedback. Employees have a chance to meet, talk and connect with their Commissioner. They feel heard and appreciated. It’s a win win for both sides.

Cronk sends out emails to keep employees updated regularly. Employees really appreciate his open and regular communication. It builds transparency and trust.

In the process of revising the mission statement, he sought employees’ input and involvement. Through participating in the process, employees feel valued and engaged. They are more likely to be committed to their work and working harder.

Commissioner Cronk’s leadership philosophy is servant leadership. He sees his job and his agency’s job as being a servant to others.

Our meeting time was up before we could get into the questions I prepared. Commissioner Cronk graciously agreed to get back to me with the Q&A. So more to come…

Leadership interview – Commissioner Spencer Cronk, part 1

This is the first in a series of interviews I will be doing with established and respected leaders on the topic of leadership as part of my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) assignments.

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting with Minnesota Dept. of Administration Commissioner Spencer Cronk.

I first met Commissioner Cronk at the ELI opening ceremony at the Minnesota State Capitol on Sept. 15. He was one of the invited guest speakers. He appeared to me as both an emerging leader (judging from his youthful look) and an established leader (from his experiences and positions). I was impressed and intrigued. I wanted to know where he comes from and how he got where he is now. He is the first one I asked for an interview. I was glad he accepted my request. We met today in his office.

When I walked into his office, the first thing I noticed was how organized, tidy and uncluttered everything looked. I had never seen anyone’s office so nice and clean. When I made the comment and compliment about it, Commissioner Cronk jokingly said since he is only 8 months on the job, it is easier to keep things uncluttered. He challenged me to visit him again in a year to reevaluate the situation.

He did agree with my comment. He said he likes to keep everything organized and clean from clutter. He cleans up his email inbox and his desk every day before he leaves work.

What a nice trait to have as a person and especially as a leader! Being organized is the first step to being efficient. I know Commissioner Cronk is big on finding efficiencies in large organizations, creating a leaner, more cost-effective government that can do more with less, and developing more efficient processes that deliver better results for the public.

In today’s economy, citizens are living with less. The government should do the same.

I asked Commissioner Cronk about his background and life experiences. What he shared was very interesting.

Cronk grew up in Hopkins, Minnesota and went to Hopkins High School. His mother is from Jordan, Minnesota, and his father is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. So he is deeply rooted in Minnesota.

He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in rural sociology with honors in 2002. In 2000, he spent his junior year studying and researching in Kenya, Africa. It was an eye-opening and life-changing experience for him. The experience in Africa taught him to look at the life and the world from a broader perspective. He also learned to appreciate more of what we have in life in the US.

After graduation, Cronk worked in Oakland, California for the National Community Development Institute. He was a Public Affairs Fellow with the Coro New York Leadership Center. While serving as Executive Director of Organizational Development and Senior Advisor for the Department of Small Business Services for the City of New York under Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration, Cronk also completed the Harvard University’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program.

After Cronk left his job with the City of New York in 2009, he spent a couple of months in Argentina traveling.

In July 2010, Cronk came back to Minnesota, to his roots. He felt he could make a bigger impact in his home state.

Cronk supported Mark Dayton in his campaign for governor. He believed in Dayton as a better leader for the state.

When Dayton won the election, he appointed Cronk to be the Admin Commissioner. Cronk brought fresh ideas and new energy into Dayton’s new administration.

Talents  and timing, preparation and opportunity all worked together in Cronk’s favor.

In a future post, I will share some of my questions and answers from Commissioner Cronk on leadership.

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Limit school lunch spending and waste

I once talked about school lunch, food waste in schools and limiting my kids’
spending on their school lunch in the article titled “More
healthy lunch, less messy lunchroom

My kids knew they should not buy extras including desserts and soft drinks at
school. If they do that, I will simply put a limit on their account so they
can’t spend more than the amount for their regular lunch.

Yesterday I found out that my daughter has “forgotten” the rule. Since she
has just transitioned from elementary school to middle school, there was no
limit set on her account to prevent her from breaking the rule. She purchased
soft drinks and cookies several times in the last couple of weeks, because some
of her friends did that too.

When I called and talked to the cashier at school to set a limit on my
daughter’s lunch account, she said: “Good for you.”

I don’t like wasting food. I found the wasteful behavior in the school
lunchrooms terrible. Some kids don’t finish their lunch and throw a lot away.
They buy more what they like and throw away the stuff (mostly veggies and fruit)
they don’t like.

I know if I allow my kids unlimitd spending, they will buy more junk food and
waste more healthier food.

I don’t tolerate my kids’ wasteful behavior. At home, I make sure that they
eat everything they have on their plates. But I can’t control what they do at
school. However, through setting a spending limit on their account, I can
control their spending and thus preventing them from buying unhealthy food.

It’s important for me to teach my kids to be resourceful with our food and
money, and to be mindful with our environment. I want to do what I can to help
them build healthy eating habits and to keep the lunchroom from becoming a waste

10 unhealthy thinking patterns

What comes first, thinking or feeling?

What we think affects how we feel. If we have healthy thinking, we feel better. If we have negative thinking and self-talk, we will have negative emotions.

In a recent study on resilience, I learned about the following 10 unhealthy thinking patterns or thinking distortions. The research was pioneered by Dr. Aaron Beck, widely regarded as the father of cognitive therapy. It was later popularized by Dr. David Bums in his book “The feeling good handbook.”

  1. Extreme thinking (All-or-nothing thinking) – Thinking in absolute terms, like “always” and “never.”
  2. Overgeneralization – Taking isolated cases and using them to make generalization.
  3. Mental filter – Focusing on negative aspects of an event while ignoring the positive.
  4. Disqualifying the positive – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary reasons.
  5. Jumping to conclusions – Based on little or no evidence, mind-reading (assuming special knowledge of the intentions or thoughts of others), fortune telling (predicting without special knowledge).
  6. Magnification and minimization – Distorted thinking that twists facts, exaggerating the positive traits of others and magnifying your own negatives.
  7. Emotional reasoning – Decisions based on intuitions or personal feelings rather than on objective facts and evidence.
  8. Should statements – Thoughts focused on “should” or “ought to be” rather than reality, having rigid rules which “always apply” no matter what.
  9. Labeling and mislabeling – Explaining by naming with “absolute labels  (loser, bossy, shy, perfect, cheater, wishy-washy.)
  10. Personalization – Assuming responsibility foe events over which you have no control, magical thinking.

If we pay attention to what we think and how we self talk, we can recognize the unhealthy thinking that’s going on inside of us which affects how we feel.

If we want to feel better, we need to think better by making true and fair statements to ourselves to replace untrue or unfair statements.



Governor Dayton’s puppy on Facebook

I am not a fan of animals, never a lover of animals, because I didn’t grew up with any animals in my family. Actually I get nervous around any living creatures that are not human beings. So I am not usually interested in animal related subjects.

But yesterday when I read in the newspaper about Governor Dayton getting a new puppy and the “Guess the Puppy’s Name” contest, I thought it was interesting.

Today I visited Governor Dayton’s Facebook page and also his existing puppy Mingo’s Facebook page. I found Mingo’s Facebook page more interesting and humorous.

Creating a Facebook page for their pets is a clever use of social networking tools for the elected officials. It adds a human dimension to the non human side of politics. It creates a bond between people from all walks of life, regardless of what position you have.

I had to “like” Mingo’s Facebook page even though I don’t really like animals. I even suggested the name “Paulo” for the new puppy.

Whoever maintains Mingo’s page does a great job.

Updates on 9/26/11:

The “Guess the Puppy’s Name” contest was over on the first day. Emily from Duluth correctly guessed the name of Governor Dayton’s new puppy – Itasca. She won a dinner with the Governor at the restaurant in Minneapolis owned by his two sons.

Here is the comment I left on Mingo’s Facebook page:

“I beg to differ. Itasca sounds girlish and a little long and hard to pronounce. I like “Paulo” better. The contest was a great idea. I wish your Dad had let the public suggest a name and then he would pick his favorite one from the ones suggested. A naming contest would be even more fun. The contest and the fun wouldn’t be over so quickly.”

I think Mingo’s website and the contest are not only fun ways to engage the public, but they are also great PR ideas. I wonder how many people like Governor Dayton more because they are animal lovers and like the puppies he has.

Mingo and Itasca might even win some extra votes for Governor Dayton if he runs for any position in the future.

Living the traditional way

I did laundry today – 3 short sleeve shirts, 5 long sleeve shirts, 2 pants and 1 skirt.

I know you are thinking, what’s so interesting to write about doing laundry? A lot of people do laundries on weekends.

You are right. Doing laundry is a boring job. There is nothing interesting about it.

But as I was washing my clothes this afternoon, it dawned on me that the way I am doing it is something interesting and special, at least it’s not conventional – I hand washed my clothes and let them air dry.

I don’t hand wash all my clothes, only the ones that are more delicate or I like and want to keep them for longer time.

When I grew up, we didn’t have any electronics at home – no wash machine, no dryer, no microwave, no TV, no refrigerator. The only thing we had was a radio.

I remember we had to wash clothes in the river that was by our house, or drew water from the well to wash clothes.

Last year when I visited my hometown Suzhou, a very modern and prosperous city in China, I was surprised to see a couple of people still washing their clothes in the river (see the picture I took last year). What’s changed is the water is cleaner now that it used to be, and there are cars parked by the river.

I bought my mother a wash machine in 1989 when I returned to China for a visit from Germany. It was a rare commodity at that time. I needed a special ticket to buy it at a designated store in Shanghai. And the tickets to buy electronics such as TVs, wash machines, and refrigerators were only given to people who returned to China from overseas. The ticket itself could be sold for a lot of money.

To this day, my mother still likes to hand wash her clothes, usually small items. She uses the wash machine only for heavy and big items. What’s why the wash machine I bought her 22 years ago is still in good working condition.

Like my mother, I also like to hand wash some of my clothes. I don’t use dryer for most of my clothes. Especially in summer, I usually use clothesline and let everything air dry naturally.

I found that most clothes are not worn-out, but washed-out or dried-out, i.e., they are kaput because of using the wash machine and dryer.

I have clothes that I wear at work and clothes that I wear at home. When I get home from work, the first thing I usually do is to change my clothes. Because I take good care of my clothes, I don’t have to wash them all the time. When I wash the delicate and favorite ones, I do it by hand. As the result, my clothes always last a long time.

And I don’t watch TV. I also cook my meals from scratch every day.

So to some degree, I am still living the traditional way. That’s my choice. I like it.

EXCO – new fall classes

EXCO: Where anyone can take or teach a class and all the classes are FREE!

What is EXCO? It stands for Experimental College. I wrote about it in a previous post.

Visit for full class listings and to register, or click on the link from each class below.  Most classes will begin in late September.

Politics and Organizing
Questioning   Ourselves
Making Headlines, Making Change: Media Work for Social   Justice Activists
World War II: A Rich Source of Metaphor for our Time

Money, Society and the Spirit: Becoming Conscious About Money

Writing and Performing Political Theatre

How to Listen to and Appreciate Classical Music
Experiment in Collaborative Creativity.

House Dance Nation (Youth Only)

Belly Dancing

Building an   Earth Oven
Queer Theory and the Hebrew Bible

Introduction to Marxist Theory

Health and Wellness
Mind-Body Meditation

Expressions for Wellness & Effectiveness (EWE) Workshops

Gourmet Vegetarian: The Diet of Sustainability
Good Vibes: Energy Healing & Increasing Bliss
Kiswahili Discussion Circle

Navigating American Sign Language Access in Your   Activism
Commuting by Bicycle at Sibley Bike Depot

Complete Bicycle Overhaul at Sibley Bike Depot   (September)
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Radical Parenting Art & Discussion Workshops

The Movies: Cultural Enrichment or Co-Dependence?
Indigenous Imperative: Native Thought and its Implications for Our Future


Honorable mention

Today I received an email from Debbie Musser, editor of Woodbury Magazine, informing me that my photo – The Wonder of Autumn Leaves – received honorable mention in the People category in the 13th annual Focus on Woodbury photo contest.

This year, a total of 267 entries in the five categories were submitted for the contest which is sponsored by Woodbury Magazine.

First, second and third place winners in each category and 8 honorable mentions were selected, and online voters will select a Readers’ Choice winner. To vote, go to the website.

Prizes will be awarded at the City Council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m. Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens will be awarding the prizes at the beginning of the meeting.

I was happy to receive the honorable mention. Even if I don’t win anything, I am still glad I participated. My interest and participation in the annual Woodbury Photo Contest dated back to 2005 when my picture of my son won the first place.

I am not a photographer or even an amateur photographer. I only use a so called idiot camera to point and shoot pictures. But I like participating in this community event. Being a winner of any kind is just an added bonus to the fun.

Learning about Minnesota

Here is a summary of Day 2 at the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.

Annette Atkins, professor of history at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict in Collegeville, spoke on Minnesota history. In her presentation “Minnesota: a historical perspective,” Atkins made history quite interesting and alive, instead of just presenting data and facts. Atkins authored three books, one of them is Creating Minnesota: A History From the Inside Out (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2007).

Tom Gillaspy has served as the Minnesota State Demographer in the Minnesota Department of Administration  since 1979. He presented on “Demographic change and Minnesota state government.” According to Gillaspy, Minnesota has been very successful in economic and population growth. Minnesota has one of the lowest poverty rate in the nation, and has higher income and higher home ownership. Minnesotans are highly educated.

Two past legislators, Dean Johnson and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, talked about leadership from their own experiences.

Dean Johnson is a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and a former member, majority leader and minority leader of the Minnesota Senate. He is the only Minnesota Senator to have led both caucuses in that chamber, and one of only two to serve as both Minority and Majority Leader. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and also a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher is a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. She served as the Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2007-2011. She was the DFL-endorsed candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial election, the first woman to earn major-party endorsement for a gubernatorial election in Minnesota.

Bill Landherr, Enterprise Learning & Development Manager at Minnesota Management & Budget, gave an overview of the 360 degree feedback assessment. Each ELI participant will do the assessment sometime in October.


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ELI at Minnesota State Capitol

The opening ceremony of the 2011-2012 Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) took place in the Capitol Rotunda at the Minnesota State Capitol this afternoon.

The event started with welcome and opening remarks by Brenda Norman, Division Director of Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB), Lynn Anderson, Deputy Commissioner of MMB, Spencer Cronk, Commissioner of the Dept. of Administration, Cheryl Hennen, past ELI participant from Dept. of Human Services, and Bill Landherr, Traning Director of MMB.

Roseville High School Choir performed a few songs during the opening ceremony. We had a class photo taken afterwards.

Then our group of 30 participants were divided into two small groups for the first meeting. We introduced ourselves and talked about the purposes and goals of the program.

We ended the first day with a tour of the magnificent capitol building.

To view some photos, go to my Facebook.


The brighter side of life

This morning as I was leaving for work, I found out that my 10 year-old garage door quit working. It could only go up about 10 inches high.

I tried to manually open it, but the double door was so heavy, I couldn’t lift a thing. I didn’t know what’s wrong and how to fix it.

Fortunately, I have a neighbor I can count on when I need help. I dialed Tracy and Dave’s phone number right away. Dave came over from his shower. He told me that one of the springs broke. He lifted the garage door up for me so I could get my car out and then let it down.

Tracy gave me the phone number for a local company that fixes garage doors. Later around dinner time, the repair man came. It took him 20 minutes to replace both springs. Now the garage door is back to work.

Thanks God that the garage door didn’t break at night or in winter. And thank God for having a wonderful neighbor who is always willing and happy to help.

Just a few weeks ago, Dave and Tracy helped my son get the lawn mower started and back to the working condition.

I am so thankful for having this wonderful couple live next door.

When life throws little or big things at me – broken garage door, having to buy a new instrument, problems at home and work, etc. – worries, anxiety, sadness creep in. Life gets weary and heavy. It’s the small acts of kindness from neighbors, coworkers and friends that can lift me up and make my life a little more lighter and enjoyable.

On a brighter side, I had a wonderful opportunity today at work to meet with three other 2011-2012 Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) participants and three past participants from MnDOT. MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel, who is a strong believer and supporter for leadership and personal development, invited us to the meeting to get to know each other and send us off to the leadership and personal development journey that will start tomorrow with ELI. I am so looking forward to starting the program tomorrow.

Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival


Tonight, if you look up at the sky, you can see a full moon.

Today is the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival in China. It is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated in China and around the world where Chinese live.

The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.

In  2008  the Chinese government declared this traditional holiday as a public holiday.

You can’t have a Moon Festival without mooncakes. Like the moon, mooncakes are round and they are also sweet. They symbolize togetherness and happiness. Families get together to celebrate the festival, enjoying the full moon and eating mooncakes.

Yesterday I had a potluck with a few Chinese friends. We saw each other in the church in the morning and decided on the spot to have a potluck to celebrate the Moon Festival together in the evening. Then we went straight to an Asian grocery store in St. Paul to buy mooncakes.

Our potluck celebration in Woodbury was not as festival as it would have been if we were in China, but we had the authentic mooncakes. And we enjoyed each other’s company and food.

Reader’s choice for Woodbury Photo Contest

Submissions for the 2011 “Focus on Woodbury” Photo Contest are closed. Now it’s time to vote for your favorites. One photo will be selected as Readers’ Choice.

Voting goes from Sept. 9th – 30th.  You may vote for as many photos as you like once every day till Sept 30th.

I submitted three photos for fun.

As a contest participant, I have prejudice and wanted to vote for myself. But there are a lot of other photos I like too. It’s fun to look at all the photos submitted and vote for the favorite ones.

I really like this new process and format of submitting, viewing and selecting photos for the contest.

A few years ago, the Woodbury Photo Contest was mainly sponsored by the City of Woodbury. To participte in the contest, I had to get the photos printed, framed and delivered to the Woodbury City Hall. Winning photos were displayed in the Central Park. Selected photos were also published in Woodbury Magazine. But I couldn’t see all the photos submitted.

Now thanks to the technology and sponsorship by Woodbury Magazine, I could just sit at my home computer, select my photos, submitted them online, view all submissions and even vote for the Reader’s Choice photo.

That’s is quite an improvement. And it’s also more fun to participate.

Woodbury Days Appreciation Party

The Woodbury Days Volunteer Appreciation Party took place this evening (Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011) at Carver Lake Park in Woodbury.

It was a party to celebrate the success of Woodbury Days (Aug. 26-28, 2011) and to thank Woodbury Days Council and board members and 160 volunteers who worked together to make Woodbury Days a success.

Photographer Tom Dunn took pictures at the Appreciation party as well as during the three day long Woodbury Days event. As a tradition, a group picture of volunteers was taken.

I hope to get a group photo from Tom and post it on this page in a few days.

Getting rid of ants naturally

Every year in the spring or summer, some ants show up in my house uninvited, from nowhere. I usually spread some baking soda along the edge of the wall where ants are found. After a while they disappear. The trick works, easy and inexpensive.

Today I found some more tips on how to get rid of ants in the house naturally on the Dollar Stretcher website. I want to share the information and save the link for future reference.


First school day photos

I like to take some photos of my kids on their first day of school. I think I have done it every year.

Today I got home earlier so I could surprise my kids and take a few photos when they got off the school bus.

To my dismay, they ran faster than I could point and click. They ran away from me and into the house before I could take any good photos.

I was not going to give up. I had to command them to come out of the house so I could take photos. They finally did, but they were not so happy to have photos taken, especially my son.

It’s getting harder to make them do things as they get older. But I will not give up taking their first school day photos. I plan to keep doing this ritual till they graduate from high school in a few short years.

Looking through the first school day photos and watching them grow over the years from kindergarten to high school in a few photos would be a nice thing to do later in life.


Back to school, back to busyness

Tomorrow, the Tuesday after the Labor Day, is the first day of school in our South Washington Country School District 833. I am glad my kids will be going back to school, after three long months of summer break. So I am looking forward to it.

But back to school could also means back to busy activities and crazy schedule. Extra-curriculum activities and church activities resume after school starts. It could be hectic if I have to drive my son to one activity and my daughter to another in the same evening.

I try to schedule my kids for activities for which I can share carpooling with friends, so we can help each other if needed.

Our back to school craziness started today when my daughter felt she didn’t have what she needed for school tomorrow – a different violin or violin accessories. And she couldn’t find her violin book she used in last school year. She was really in a bad mood for not being ready with orchestra supplies. She said she told me about her violin needing some work, but I didn’t know it was urgent and didn’t take action. Now she was frantic.

I didn’t feel like going shopping for a new violin in the last minute and with my daughter in bad mood. But I did spent a lot of time reading online about buying violins and checking local music stores. I also talked to friends who know more about violins than I do.

Fortunately, we will be able to borrow one from a friend whose daughter is in the same grade/school as my daughter. Now she will at least have a different violin to use in the first few days of school until I figure out what to buy for her.

Today I felt that the busyness and craziness have already started even before school officially starts.

Surprised and humbled

As I mentioned in my post Why do I blog?, part of the reasons why I blog are to express myself, to journal my day and my life events, to preserve memory for my children, and to share what’s on my mind.

So I  will write regardless if anyone else is interested in reading my blog. In fact I hardly know people who read my blog.

Certainly, it would be nice to have a big number of followers who subscribe to and regularly read my blog, or to have a lot of comments and feedback to my posts. But it doesn’t bother me if that doesn’t happen, because I know there are too many excellent blogs out there and I am in no position to compete with them for readers.

As long as my daughter reads my posts, I am happy.

Today when I clicked a referrer link, I was surprised to find my blog listed on a page that also includes blogs by those big name bloggers whom I recognize and admire, whose blogs I subscribe to and read regularly – Will Unwound, zen habits, The Personal Excellence Blog, Prolific Living, Tiny Buddha, etc.

The page titled Motivation, inspiration, productivity, minimalism, etc. is “the best collection of many famous and some less-known blogs on motivation, inspiration, personal development, productivity, life coaching, positivity, simplicity, minimalism, frugality, entrepreneurship, healthy living, blogging, etc.” I don’t know how my blog got on that page and who the creator Nishant Mishra is. His profile is in the Arabic language and I couldn’t understand a word.

It feels strange to see my blog listed in such a place. But I do feel honored and humbled to be on the same page with the other well-known bloggers. I don’t feel I deserve such an honor.

And I am thankful for Nishant Mishra who created the page. I love it. It includes my favorite blogs and covers all the topics I am very interested in myself.

I think this is a perfect opportunity to send my “A thank-you a day” note which I haven’t done yet for today.

Wealth divides familes

Last night when I called my parents in Suzhou, China, a cousin from Shanghai happened to be visiting. I don’t even remember how long I haven’t seen him in person, it could be 30 years or more. I never met his wife. Now their daughter is expecting a baby. How time flies.

We chatted for more than an hour on the phone. It was mostly about families and relatives and the problems they are experiencing as the result of the housing situation in Shanghai.

My father, the youngest in the family, had four brothers and one sister (only one brother and one sister-in-law are still alive). They all had big families with 3-5 children. In our family, I only have one surviving older brother. But I have a lot of cousins in Shanghai.

The housing situation in Shanghai is very tough.  Often times three generations and married siblings live together under the same roof in a place that belongs to the parents, as it was the case with some of my cousins. Housing is so expensive, ordinary folks can’t afford to buy anything. It costs more to buy a house or an apartment unit in Shanghai than in most places in the US.

If you happen to live in an old crowded neighborhood that the government wants to redevelop, then you hit the jackpot.

The government pays you to move to the new apartment buildings. The units and the size you get in exchange for the old one depend on how many people are living in the old residence or registered on the old residence record. If you happen to have your name registered on the old residence record, then you are qualified to get a new apartment unit or the equivalent amount of money. In Shanghai it usually means you become a millionaire overnight.

Three of my father’s siblings used to live in the same old neighborhood that was redeveloped in the last few years. Some of their children (my cousins) were lucky to be living with their parents, because they all got new apartments or lots of money, while others who didn’t live with their parents got nothing or very little. Favoritism by parents and unfair treatment of siblings created such a tension between parents and children, and between siblings. Parents and children, brothers and sisters are deeply divided, some even stop talking to each other.

Because housing is so expensive, relocation is often your only chance to move to something better. Everyone is fighting for survival and for himself. I was told nearly all families who had to relocate experience similar problems. It happens in Shanghai, and all over China right now.

It’s a sad situation. But I think in the foreseeable future, things will get better, because there will be no more siblings to fight with each other. With only one child in most families in urban areas in China, they basically get everything from their parents.

However, China is also facing another big problem. It will be for a long time. The younger generation is so spoiled by their parents, they are very dependent.

My cousin told me that her adult daughter and her husband both work for the airline industry and make very good income. When they got married, both sides of parents paid for their housing, car, furniture, the expensive wedding and everything else to start the new life and family. Now the young couple can’t cook. They either go out to eat or go to parents homes to eat. They bring their laundry for their parents to wash, even though they have wash machine at home. My cousin and his wife go to his daughter’s apartment regularly to do cleaning for her.

I had heard enough of this kind of stories, I was not totally surprised, yet I was still surprised. I didn’t know what to think. A lot of weired and unbelievable things are happening in China. I was just concerned about the next generation and China’s future.

A Thank-You a day

Today I went to Borders Bookstore to kill some time I had between dropping off and picking up a friend’s child for gymnastics. I knew Borders is closing the store in Woodbury and everything is on sale. I just wanted to look around and check it out.

I saw a 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.

It’s a simple idea and can be easily practiced. So I thought why not do it myself, starting today.

I had just visited Lake Middle School for the parent information night and met  some teachers for my two kids for the first time. Writing a thank-you note to the teachers is a good thing to do.

So that’s what I did after I got home from Borders.

I sent thank-you notes to three of teachers I met today, two for the first time.

As I am writing this post and thinking about writing thank-you notes now, I realized that I had already sent thank-you/congrats/best wishes kind of notes today and the day before. Actually I have done it regularly, if not daily, without thinking about it.

But starting today, I will definitely be doing it daily and more intentionally.

I know it’s good for our soul to be appreciative and have an attitude of gratitude.


2011 Woodbury photo contest

Today I submitted three photos to the 2011 Woodbury photo contest.

The 13th annual “Focus on Woodbury” photo contest runs Aug 1-31. Entries are due by tomorrow, Aug. 31.

Woodbury Magazine is accepting submissions in the five contest categories: People, Nature, Pets, Events and Activities, and City Landmarks.

The contest is open to people who live, work or go to school in Woodbury. Entries are limited to three per person.

Winning photos will receive gift certificates to Woodbury restaurants and businesses, as well as the chance to be published in the Woodbury Magazine or city materials.

Residents also have a chance to view the photos online September 10–30 to vote for a favorite photo to be dubbed Readers’ Choice.

According to Woodbury Magazine, more than 330 photos were entered into the contest last year.

Winning at 2011 Minnesota State Fair

I am not a fan of the Minnesota State Fair and the famous fair food, but I go to the Fair almost every year since I came to Minnesota in 1999.

In the first couple of years I went because it was new for me. And I lived in an apartment on Energy Park Drive in St. Paul, not too far from the Fair. I could get on a shuttle bus right across the street from my apartment.

In the next few years I went to the Fair to take my kids and parents there.

In the last few years I went to the Fair to volunteer at MnDOT booth and to check out my kids’ winning works on display in Education Building.

This year all four items they submitted won a prize. I was surprised that my daughter won the 1st place in needlework, 2nd place in poems and 3rd place in report. I was hoping that she would win the 1st place again in poems as she did in the last two years. But instead she won the 1st place in needlework she did at school.

My son won the 3rd place in poems.

It was fun to enter the State Fair competition. I just wanted to encourage my kids to develop some skills in creative arts, work harder and do their best by entering the State Fair competition and hopefully winning something.

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Time to volunteer

This week I will be busy with volunteering.

Last night I  attended the Woodbury Days’ Volunteer Meeting at Eagle Valley Golf Club House to receive my volunteer T-shirt and instructions.

Today I helped at my kids’ Lake Middle School during the Back to School event.

Tomorrow I will be at Minnesota State Fair and volunteer at the MnDOT booth.

On Saturday I will be at Woodbury Days and help at the Information Booth.

I have been volunteering at Minnesota State Fair and Woodbury Days for several years and enjoy doing it.

I like meeting new people and talking with people. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to go out and be somewhere with others. I often feel I receive more than I give when I volunteer.


Are all produce at Farmers’ Markets grown locally ?

I love Farmers’ Market. In summer I often buy vegetables from the Farmers’ Markets in St. Paul or Woodbury to supplement what I have from my own garden.

According to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market website, “All produce must be locally grown. Value added products must be produced locally using local products. You are not allowed to buy and re-sell produce at any of our locations.”

But I have alwasy wondered about whether all produce are really locally grown. I saw vendors selling produce from neatly stacked cases in June when they are still in early growing season in Minnesota.

A few days ago I talked to the owner of a wholesale store in St. Paul. He told me he sells produce to vendors for resale at Farmers’ Markets, because our growing season is too short in MN.

I am not sure where the owner of the wholesale store gets his produce. I think it’s very likely that not all of the produce he sells are grown locally.

So if he sells his produce to the vendors for resale at Farmers’ Markets, it’s safe to say that not all produce are home grown by the vendors themselves. It’s possible that not all of the produce sold at Farmers’ Markets are locally grown.    

I don’t know the answer for sure. I am still wondering “Are all produce at Farmers’ Markets grown locally as required?”




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A wish came true

On Aug. 11, I was notified that my application to the 2011-2012 State of Minnesota Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) was approved. I am one of the 30 state employees and emerging leaders from across state government who were selected to participate in this leadership development program, designed to help participants become successful and effective in the workplace.

Today I received the confirmation and welcome letter. The first session and opening ceremony will be on September 15th at the State Capitol Rotunda.

I feel very grateful for being accepted into the program. I am so looking forward to this great learning and networking opportunity.

Retreat at Mount Carmel

Over this weekend (Aug. 19-21) I attended the Evangelical Fall Retreat sponsored by the Minnesota Faith Chinese Lutheran Church in St. Paul.

The retreat took place at Mount Carmel in Alexandria , MN. From Woodbury, it is 2 1/2 to 3 hours of driving. Mount Carmel is a great place for church retreats, family reunions and other events.

Our invited speaker is Dr. William Ho from Seattle. He talked about the signs of the end time and how to be a good father. He is the father of 4 amazing children who all entered university by the age of 14 or younger (one at the age of 10).

This was my first time to be at a retreat. I really enjoyed everything.

  • The nature – Mt. Carmel is a place with beauty, so peaceful and refreshing. It gives people a taste of heaven as Pastor Johan Hinderlie from Mount Carmel Ministries said.
  • The presentations by Dr. Ho – He is 72 years old, but his energy was amazing. He still travels on mission trips to China and around the world to preach.
  • The fellowship with Chinese friends – I got to know some people better. The testimonies were encouraging.
  • The church service – Pastor Johan Hinderlie’s sermont on Romans 12 titled New heart for new commands or “Donuts (Do not) and buts” was short but powerful and memorable. He used a box of donuts to illustrate his points.
  • The boat ride – Pastor Johan Hinderlie gave us a boat ride on Lake Carlos.
  • The food – was tasty and healthy, with lots of salads and fruits. You get hot water, coffee, tea milk anytime you want. 
  • The convenience – Everything is close and within short walking distance.
  • The weather – It was perfect.

I posted more photos on my Facebook page.

For more info about Mount Carmel, contact (320) 846-2744 or

Tracking your flight status – live and free

If you are picking up someone from the airport and want to know the status of the flight – whether it has arrived or not – you can simply enter the airline and flight number in the Google search box.

For example, entering “Delta 1668″ will bring you the status information of the flight. 

But if you want to keep track of your flight – where it is at any given moment, FlightAware is the best website to use.

FlightAware can quickly and easily track a flight. It tells where in the air the plane is. The only information you need to do so is the airline name and flight number or the departure and arrival cities.

FlightAware provides live flight data, airport information, weather maps, flight planning, and navigation charts, as well as aviation news and photos. 

With FlightAware, you will never have to wonder when your expected flight will arrive. 

Faith is …

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” — Hebrews 11:1

Pastor James Baker, senior pastor of Peace Church Ministries in Mesquite, Texas, is the guest speaker at the Family Conference at Spirit of Life Bible Church this weekend. It was a great conference.

Today morning he talked about what faith is.

Faith is —

  • believing when I don’t see it
  • obeying when I don’t understand it
  • giving when I don’t have it
  • persisting when I don’t feel like it
  • thanking God before I receive it
  • trusting even if I don’t get it


Become a future ready leader

My article Become a future ready leader (see below) was posted on the SLA (Special Libraries Association) future ready 365 blog.

Become a future ready leader

In the last few years, I have learned a great deal about what makes a great leader through intensive reading on leadership, attending workshops, interviewing leaders and witnessing a true leader in action. That leader is – Tom Sorel, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, where I serve as a librarian. I would like to share a few things I have learned.

Let’s start with the basics of what leadership is about.

In Leadership Challenge, authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner say leadership is not about position or title, power or authority, status or wealth, being a CEO, president or a hero. Leadership is about relationships. It is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. It’s about character and what you do.

The fact is, everyone can be a leader. You are a leader in some way even if you don’t hold an official title in the organization. You are the most important leader in your organization, in your family and your life. Learning leadership skills is everyone’s business. Leadership opportunities are everywhere.

To be a better leader and a future ready leader, we need to move away from the traditional leadership styles that are individual-centered and to a more relationally oriented style – transformational leadership, democratic leadership, servant leadership and collaborative leadership.

This new approach to leadership means rather than having a hero who tells us what to do, we need a servant who inspires us, empowers us and helps us do the work ourselves. Leadership is shifted from “power over” to “power with.”

A true leader is a transformational leader, not a transactional manager. A transformational leader helps his or her followers become self-empowered leaders and change agents. Transformational leaders can articulate vision and values clearly so their followers, the new self-empowered leaders, know where to go and what to do.

In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author John Maxwell says: “To lead tomorrow, learn today. Leadership doesn’t develop in a day. It takes a lifetime.”

Starting today, cultivate the following characteristics of great leaders:

  • Characters – “Leadership is character in action.” – James Hunter
  • Competence – Your emotional intelligence is as important as your IQ, if not more important. Hire people who are competent and smarter than you. “Competence is doing the right thing, the right way at the right time.” -Sheila Murray Bethel
  • Collaboration – Seek to forge alliances both inside and outside of the organization. “Including colleagues and constituents in decision-making and problem solving strengthens organizations and builds participants’ commitment.” – David D. Chrislip
  • Compassion – Create a caring, respectful, people-centered culture within your organization. “Take care of your people and they will take care of your business, not just because they have to, but because they want to.” – Lee Cockerell
  • Connection – Connect with yourself, connect with others personally, and connect to the world. Forging the bond between people can strengthen teamwork. “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” – John Maxwell
  • Continued learning – All great leaders are lifelong learners.
  • Empowerment – “Only secure leaders give power to others. Leading well is not about enriching yourself, it’s about empowering others. Believe in people and give your power away.”  – John Maxwell
  • Humility –Have a humble spirit. Admit mistakes and learn from them. To be the best leader is to be the best servant. Choose service to others over self-interest.
  • Humor and fun – Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have a sense of humor. Laugh at yourself so others will laugh with you. Celebrate and make work fun.
  • Inspiring and motivational – “Leaders are to influence people and inspire people to act.” – James Hunter
  • Mentoring and legacy – “When you invest in others, you gain the opportunity to create a legacy that will outlive you. The best leaders lead today with tomorrow in mind by making sure they invest in leaders who will carry their legacy forward.” – John Maxwell
  • Openness and transparency – Openness in mind, heart, policies and dealings encourages curiosity, creativity and innovation.
  • Trust – Character and competence are the foundations of trust; trust is the foundation of leadership. When you believe in people, they will believe in themselves and rise to greatness.
  • Vision, purpose and values – “Leadership is getting people to want to do what you want them to do because they share your purpose, vision and values.” – Kevin Freiberg

Along the leadership development journey and in your practice as a leader, pay attention to the following pitfalls:

  • Having tunnel vision
  • Micromanaging
  • Demanding perfection
  • Having low self-esteem and confidence
  • Having emotional insecurity and immaturity
  • Making decisions based on emotions
  • Acting as a roadblock between upper managers and employees
  • Acting differently in front of their superiors and subordinates
  • Blaming others for failures and taking credit for others’ successes
  • Making assumptions without fact-checking
  • Reacting negatively to criticism.
  • Showing favoritism
  • Being rules-oriented rather than people-oriented

Learning about leadership skills from reading and attending classes is important; learning from other leaders is equally as important. Both good and bad examples can teach us valuable lessons.

But what’s even more important in this process is application and practice. We become better leaders by applying our learning, knowledge and experience to our everyday lives. To become better leaders, we must be willing to change and grow.

Wherever you are in your organization and in your life, start the leadership journey today with the first step. Be the leader you were created to be and be future ready.

Qin Tang is a librarian at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. After graduating from college in China, she studied in Germany for five years on a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service  receiving her MA in German. She came to the U.S. in 1991 and fell in love with libraries as she spent countless hours reading and using the Madison Public Library to learn English. She received her MLIS from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1994. Qin has worked in public, academic, corporate and government libraries. She was profiled in the March 2007 issue of Information Outlook - “A roundabout route to Minnesota”.  Qin is also a writer and blogger. Read her article “There is no place like the library” and connect with her via LinkedIn or Twitter @TangQin.

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The Healing Power of Water

My article The Healing Power of Water was published online in the August edition of The Edge.  A previous article on green living was published in the April 2010 edition.

The Edge is a monthly magazine published in Twin Cities that explores all aspects of
holistic living – the experience of living authentically, the integrative
approaches of complementary healing, eating consciously, the arts, metaphysics
and the intuitive arts, our integral connection with nature, spirituality and
the mysteries beyond.

I enjoy reading this magazine.

Here is my Aug. 2011 article in The Edge:

Every morning, the first thing I do, or before I eat anything, is to drink a glass of water. Ever since I read the book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, by Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, several years ago, I make sure that I drink lots of water to avoid dehydration and to stay healthy.

Our body needs water to flush out toxins as well as to keep the system flexible, lubricated and running smoothly. But on some days when I am very busy, I either forget or don’t take time to drink enough water. The busyness of life gets in the way of doing what is good.

Getting my two kids to drink water is also a challenge.

“I am not thirsty,” they often respond to my request of drinking water, though I can tell from their dry mouth and dark colored urine that they clearly are dehydrated.

There are so many choices of drinks out there. Soda, juice or sugar drinks are all so much more attractive for kids than plain water.

I see dehydration as a common thread to our health problems as the result of our busy life and modern lifestyle.

Dehydration is mainly caused by not drinking enough water to replenish liquids lost from breathing, sweating and urination. Vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss and other illnesses and diseases can also cause dehydration.

What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration? Thirst, dry mouth, dark colored urine, dry skin, skin flushing, fatigue or weakness are some of the initial signs and symptoms of mild dehydration, when the body has lost about 2 percent of its total fluid. When the total fluid loss reaches 5 percent, the following signs and symptoms of dehydration can appear: decreased urination, increased heart rate, increased
body temperature, extreme fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, tingling
of the limbs, etc. When the body reaches 10 percent fluid loss, it can cause severe dehydration with symptoms such as muscle spasms, racing pulse, dim vision,
painful urination, confusion, difficulty breathing, seizures, chest and abdominal pain and unconsciousness. Ten percent fluid loss and above can be fatal.

The average person loses between two and three liters of water a day through breath, perspiration and urine. For our body to function properly, we ought to drink at least eight glasses of water.

Don’t wait till you feel thirsty to drink water. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

According to Dr. Batmaghelidj, a dry mouth is not a reliable indicator of dehydration. The body signals its water shortage by producing pain. Dehydration actually produces pain and many degenerative diseases, including asthma, arthritis, hypertension, angina, adult-onset diabetes, lupus and multiple sclerosis.

If you suffer pain or other illness due to dehydration, don’t expect your doctors to find the cause. What doctors usually do is to give you medication to kill the pain and treat the symptoms, not to find the cause of the problem and eliminate it.

Dr. Batmaghelidj’s message to the world is, “You are not sick, you are thirsty. Don’t treat thirst with medication.”

Healthy living starts with something as simple as drinking enough water. Our health is dependent on the quality and quantity of the water we drink.

Water has the power to heal the body and to sustain life.

Please do not let the busyness of life and the modern lifestyle get in your way of tapping into the healing and life-sustaining power of water every day.

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Peace come from…

Peace is a precious gift. It’s priceless. You cannot buy it. Whether you have it or not does not depend on your social and economic status.

Where do peace come from? How do you stay calm and have peace in your heart and mind when facing troubles, trials, tribulations and tragedies that life inevitably throw at us?

In the book Listen to the Heart, author Bobbie Reed talks about the fruit of the spirit and where peace comes from.

Peace comes from

  • believing in God
  • staying close to God
  • doing good
  • knowing you’re where you’re supposed to be
  • letting go of fear
  • never giving up hope

Peace comes through trust.

Peace comes with forgiveness.

Peace is a choice.

Peace can be made.

Peace is experienced in the present.

I am so thankful for the peace I have. I don’t lose sleep over government shutdown, layoff, stock market crash, getting old, having troubles at home or at work. I have peace.

What a precious gift it is to have that peace of mind and heart!

May you have peace, have peace of mind, no matter what your life circumstances are and how big troubles, trials, tribulations and tragedies you are facing in life.


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101 ways to be a better person

If you are interested in becoming a better person, check out the Personal Excellence Blog by Celes and her post “How to be a better person: 101 ways.”  

Celes is also starting a new  “Be a Better Me in 30 Days” (30BBM) August 2011 Challenge.

Personal development is a life long pursuit. We should never stop working on ourselves, instead we should commit ourselves to working on getting better every day.

The magic of face to face conversation

Nowadays email has become such a popular communications tool in the office, we talk less and less with our coworkers face to face.

More and more of our working time is spent on emails. We constantly write emails and respond to emails. We even email people who sit right next to us and can easily talk to. We can sit all day in front of the computer taking care of business via emails.

At the same time, our office phones are getting very quiet. When we call someone, there is often no response. The person we try to reach can be either out of office or busy and doesn’t want to answer the phone right now. Sometimes we can even get a response quicker when we communicate via email than via phone.        

Today I had to take care of some business at work that involves people in different offices. I needed quick response and quick action.

Normally I would use emails to communicate, but I didn’t want to email back and forth and wait for responses. When my calling didn’t get answered, I simply walked to a different floor and talked to the person face to face. We were able to get things clarified, questions answered, apointment scheduled and actions taken right on the spot within a few minutes. It was quick and efficient.

Afterwards I had a sudden revelation that face-to-face talk is still the most effective and efficient communications tool. How sad that we don’t do that more and instead let email become the dominant communications tool.

I am not against email. It is really effective in some situations, such as communicating with more than one person at the same time. All I want to point out is  don’t overuse email and don’t forget face-to-face conversation.

There is magic in the direct human contact.

Raising sons

In the same book I talked about yesterday, “Selected Studies from Proverbs” by Charles Swindoll of the Insight for Living Ministry, there is also chapter on “You and Your Son.”

Charles Swindoll describes 5 areas of teaching that are essential if our sons are to grow up to be honorable men of God.

Here is a summary of the chapter.

1. Teach him to stand alone

  • Teach him the importance of having biblical conviction and being willing to stand up for them – even when that means standing alone.  
  • Teach him what a good friend really is.
  • Teach him the consequences of wrong.

2. Teach him to be open to God’s counsel

  • Teach him to respond to our counsel. If he treasures our counsel as a child, then treasuring God’s counsel in his adulthood will be an easy transition.
  • Help him see the value of other people’s correction. If he learns to respect the correction of his teachers, coaches, grandparents and friends, it won’t be so difficult to respond to God’s discipline later in his life.
  • Share the experiences of our life with him.
  • Spend sufficient time counseling him. Our presence and availability will shape his personality and his future.

3. Teach him how to deal with temptation

  • Sexual temptation. 
  • Temptation to overindulging in food and alcohol.

4. Teach him how to handle money and the 4 basic areas of financial responsibility 

  • Giving – to God and to the poor. 
  • Earning – Learn a skill and make a living.
  • Spending – Spend and invest wisely.
  • Saving – Learn the importance of delayed gratification. 

5. Teach him the value of hard work

  • It’s a mistake to give to a child without allowing him to experience the value and reward of hard, diligent work.
  • Give him specific jobs to do around the home.
  • Help him find ways of earning money and sharing in the expenses of his education.
  • Help prepare him for living on his own.

I think most of these ideas also apply to raising girls.

Two additional ingredients mentioned in the chapter are constant delight and constant discipline. Our kids need to know that their parents care and delight in them so they won’t be discouraged by constant discipline.

Today I was listening to Dr. David Jeremiah‘s Turning Point Radio Broadcast from July 23, 2011 titled Children Need Cheerleaders from the series The Joy of Encouragement, he talked about 4 ways how parents can be better cheerleaders of their children, get off their back and get on their team.

  • Encourage them with focused attention.
  • Encourage them with individual affirmation.
  • Encourage them with genuine appreciation. 
  • Encourage them with physical affection. 


Raising daughters

Raising kids is hard work.

Some parents say it’s easier to raise boys than girls, or vice verse.

For me, my daughter was easier when she was little. Unlike my son who cried a lot as a baby and always wanted to be held, my daughter was happy and content. She didn’t cry when she was put to sleep or woke up like my son did. What a relief for me.

But as Andy and Amy got older, both are teenagers now, I found my girl is harder to raise than my boy.

Andy is more mellow in his personality. When I ask him to do something, he often says: “Yes, Mom.” It’s easier to talk him into doing something.

Amy, on the other hand, is very strong-willed. When I ask her to do something, she often says: “Wait!” or “Later!” which can take hours, or worse, nothing will be done. She has been butting heads with me more which is frustrating for me.

Yesterday I asked Amy to clean up her room and put stuff away before she left for a trip. She refused to do it and was upset because I didn’t give her iPad back for recharging as she wanted. She cried and cried, and then cried herself to sleep before lunch time.

After lunch, she did pick up her stuff, but did so with an attitude, an attitude she often displays when I ask her to do something.

“Why do I have to do it?”

“Why, I have already done it.”  

If obeying your parents means do it right away, do it completely and do it with a good attitude, it means my kids have a long way to go to become obedient and I have a lot to learn as a parent to teach them obedience.   

If it takes a village to raise a child, I am one of the many who influence her life.

I so want my daughter to grow into a godly woman.

Today I was reading the book “Selected Studies from Proverbs” by Charles Swindoll of the Insight for Living Ministry. The book is also available on CD.

In the chapter on “You and Your Daughter,” Charles Swindoll describes what a godly woman is using comparison and contrast from Proverbs –

The wise woman vs. the foolish woman

The wise woman is constructive instead of being destructive.  

The gracious woman vs. the contentious woman

The gracious woman is accepting, appreciative, thoughtful, considerate, kind, compassionate, and loving.

The  virtuous woman vs. the sensual woman

The  virtuous woman has character and integrity, is trustworthy, diligent, committed, prudent, generous, strong, capable, excellent, and efficient.

The godly woman vs. the indiscreet woman

The godly woman fears the Lord, cultivates an inner beauty that’s eternal and not external, and has a gentle spirit.  

As a parents, I need to help my daughter realize the value of being wise, develop in her a caring spirit, cultivate the skills of her hand, teach her how to handle money and open her eyes to the blessings of hard work.

As a parent, I often feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities in raising my kids and inadequate in my abilities to do the parenting job. I do have a lot to learn and grow.

In my next post, I will talk about raising boys and share the tips from the same book by Swindoll.

System glitch causes display problems

Dear Readers,

Lately due to a system glitch, this blog has experienced problems with correctly displaying the contents. I have notified Forum Communications – the company who owns the website Hopefully the problems will be fixed soon.

Thanks for your patience.

First day back to work at MnDOT

After 20 days of the Minnesota government shutdown, I was contacted by my supervisor yesterday afternoon (July 20) to go back to work today.

The shutdown was over. The waiting was over. The anxiety was over. So was my homecation. I was happy to go back to work today. I got up early and left for work a few minutes early.

At the entrance of the Transportation building, I was, like every other employee walking in, warmly greeted by our MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel and his management team with a cheerful “Welcome back!” and a handshake or a hug. They had been waiting at different entrances shortly before 7 am when employees started to come in.

Coffee and donuts were available which added some bitter-sweet touch to the event.

Reporters from media were on site to report the event and interview people. Check out this MinnPost article MnDOT workers get a warm ‘Welcome back!’

Our office managers also handed out a hand written note from Commissioner Sorel to every employee. In the note, Sorel extended a personal welcome back and thank-you. He ended the note with “We are MnDOT!!” – a slogan and an initiative his management team created in the last couple of years.

“We are MnDOT”expresses the pride of being a MnDOT employee. “We are MnDOT” videos share stories about who we are, what we do, and what makes MnDOT great.

Later in the morning we had an office meeting to go through the checklist that the management team had worked on in the last couple of days to help employees ease back to work. Our office managers also expressed their personal welcome back and thank you.

Around 8 am, Governor Dayton stopped by at the Transportation Building to greet returning employees. At noon, he sent a thank-you note via email to all state employees.

In the afternoon at 2 pm, Commissioner Sorel and Deputy Commissioner Bernie Arseneau conducted a web cast for all employees. The web cast started with a “We are MnDOT” video. Then both leaders again welcomed everyone back to work. They shared what happened during the shutdown, talked about return to work checklists and resources, and how to resume business.

It sure felt good to be welcomed back at work and to be valued.

Thanks to Commissioner Sorel and his management team, I feel proud to be working for MnDOT and being a part of “We are MnDOT.”

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A time of rest and renewal

It’s the 19th day of the Minnesota government shutdown. Without doubt, the shutdownis a bummer to my pocketbook. It hurts financially. But to be fair, the forced time off is good for the body, mind and spirit. In our over worked, overwhelmed, and over-committed society, having the time of rest is a blessing. Instead of alarm clock, driving and traffic, staring at the computer all day long, to do list, deadline,stress, pressure, I can get up late,go with the flow, work in the garden, eat whenever I want, read, relax and take it easy. However, by the end of the day, I do feel a little bit guilty. The day goes by so fast,it feels likeI haven’t get anything done. Yesterday (07/18/2011) I heard Chip Ingram from Living on the Edge talking aboutGod’s Boundaries for Abundant Living. In his daily broadcast, he talked about silence, solitude and sabbath and why having Sabbath, a time of rest is good for us – so we can be spiritually refreshed, physically renewed, emotionally charged. A time of rest can protect our body from wearing out, give us time to slow down, to think and reflect, to recharge and recreate. It looks like today might be the last day of the shutdown. Gov. Dayton has called the Legislature into a special session at 3 p.m. today. Once the bills are approved and signed by Gov. Dayton,state employees will be called back to work. There will be some mixed feelings on the first day of back to work.

A true leader shines in times of crisis

One fortunate result of the very tragic event of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007 was the leadership change at MnDOT.

Tom Sorel became the new MnDOT Commissioner in April 2008, replacing Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau who was removed from her position as Transportation Commissioner by the State Senate in February 2008.

A true leader is often born in times of crisis. A true leader always shines in times of crisis.

Tom Sorel became the new leader at MnDOT during the crisis of the I-35W bridge collapse. Now he shines again during the current government shutdown crisis.

MnDOT has had three commissioners since I started working there in 2000 – Elwyn Tinklenberg, Carol Molnau, and Tom Sorel. I have nothing to say about the first two commissioners, because I rarely saw them and hardly knew them. I was never impressed by anything they said or did.

But the current Commissioner Sorel stood out in times of peace, and especially in times of crisis.

I have been impressed by a lot of things he did within the agency in the last 3 years. He is a servant leader who has humility and character.

The first thing Sorel did as the MnDOT Commissioner that impressed me was to change the org chart. In all the previous MnDOT org charts, Commissioner was at the top of the chart. But he added Minnesota citizens and then the Governor above his name as the Commissioner.

He is a leader who genuinely cares about employees. I was surprised, as everyone else at MnDOT, to receive a personal Happy Birthday message from Commissioner Sorel. Yes,the note was computer generated and he really didn’t write every single note to every employee. Nevertheless, his idea and thought touched people.

Last Friday Commissioner Sorel sent an email to all employees and encouraged all to write letters to him to express their thoughts about the shutdown and recovery to begin the healing process.

He is a leader who treats employees with respect. He always says that all MnDOT employees are leaders and ambassadors for the agency. And he truly encourage employees to be leaders.

He is a leader who connects and communicates well with employees. He joins employees in the annual Twins baseball game. He participates in meetings and events and makes himself visible and approachable. Before the shutdown, he made an effort to do webcasts or send emails regularly to give updates on the contingency planning.

He is a leader who inspires employees to be their best. He is not a micromanager. He trusts people and gives people confidence to do their jobs.

Servant leadership is Commissioner Sorel’s leadership philosophy and style. He has walked the talk and really set an example as a true servant leader.

Even though we are still in the shutdown crisis and there is a lot of personal and organizational challenges and work ahead, I am confident, we will recover quickly as an agency under Commissioner Sorel’s wise leadership.

MnDOT is better because we have a true leader who can lead not only in times of peace, but also in times of crisis.

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Shutdown frustration

The Minnesota state government shutdown is ending its second week tomorrow with no resolution in sight. It’s getting increasingly frustrating for everyone effected, especially the state employees. We didn’t expect the shutdown would last longer than two weeks. I started worrying about the financial consequences of the layoff. In the next few months I need to pay back money borrowed from a relative to buy the current house 10 years ago because she is in the process of buying a house herself. My van is over 10 years old. I just spent $300 for repairlast week and I need to save morefor a replacement in the next year or so. I have a coworker whose spouse also works for the state. Now they are both laid off. They are worried about mortgage, child support, etc. I even worry about the plants I left in the office. They will surely die if not watered after two weeks. I had them for years. They are part of my life. I don’t want to lose them. Adding to the frustration is the process of applying for the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance. The UI website is not a user friendly site, to say the least. Everyone of my coworkers reported problems and expressed frustration with the application process. We are information professionals and we used to help people find information. Now we need help to complete our UI application. I started my online application in June before I left for a trip, to get a head start. I even talked to a UI representative and was ok’ed to do so. Last week I was told that it was wrong and I had to changeit. But I couldn’tmake the simple change myself, they had to do it for me. A coworker checked a wrong box in his application, he couldn’t go back to uncheck it. The UI staff had to deletehis account and start fresh for him. This morning I logged in to my accountto request benefit payment. I had trouble completing it. I couldn’t even find my employer -State of Minnesotaon the employer list. When I called the UI for help, I got hung up 5 times with the message: “You needa touch tone phone to use the system” even though I do have a touch tone phone and I just used it last week to call.Finally I tried my cell phone andI got talk to a live person after two attempts. Since I applied for UI in June, I got close to 10noticesfrom the UI. I was told that they were system generated and I should just ignore and discard most of them. This was just a small example of the waste and the loss of resources as the result of the government shutdown. Think about the local restaurantsand other type of small businesses in St Paul or other locations that lost a lot of customers who are state employees. I read the other day in the paper that the Farmer’s Market in downtown St. Paul lost a great deal of business due to the shutdown. Think about the contractors and vendors who depend on state businesses. In this shutdown game, everyone loses and no one wins. Our elected officials need to work together, stop being childish and silly, give up some of their own agendas in order to reach the compromise and gain the result forthe common good. The news about our government shutdown was reported in the local newspaper in my hometown in China. A few days ago when I called and talked with my brother, he laughed with unbelief about what’s happening here in the US. He couldn’t imagine that any government in China would shut down like this.

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A bullying experience

During the school year, the topic of bullying comes up quite often in emails from schools or school district, or in projects my kids do for class. I never paid much attention to it. Because in my mind, it’s not something I need to worry about. Whenever I ask my kids whether they are bullied by others at school, they always say no. My kids are good students. They have never caused any trouble at schools. Their teachers always comment that they are great students to have in class. So I never thought they would bully others. But on Monday I witnessed something that made me pause and think about bullying from a new perspective. On Monday my kids started a middle school camp provided by our school district. There is bus pick up and drop off at Middleton Elementary School. Because of the state government shutdown, I am out of work and am able to drive my kids to and from school for the camp every day. I also provide rides to two other friends’ kids. On the first day as we were leaving the school parking lot for home, the boys noticed that one of the campers they knew from previous class was riding home on his bike. They called his name from the van and started laughing at him. That made me uncomfortable. Suddenly I realized that it was a kind of bullying, even though they didn’t do or say any nasty things. But what they did could make the boy feel uncomfortable. “Stop it, boys!” I told the laughing boys immediately, “This is bullying. You are making him uncomfortable. Instead of laughing at him, you need to respect him more for what he is doing. He takes care of himself and is more independent and courageous than you are.” And they stopped their laughing right away. Honestly I respect the boy more for his independence and courage to take care of himself without relying on his parents providing transportation. It doesn’t matter whether he chose to bike willingly or had to bike because his parents couldn’t drive him. Learning to be independent and responsible at an earlier age help build character and develop resilience. Back at home, I reminded my son again that it was wrong to laugh at the boy. He said he didn’t start it, but it didn’t matter. Even if he didn’t start it, it was still wrong to be a willing participant or a spectator who did nothing to stop bullying. I realized through this experience that bullying among kids are more common than I thought. I should pay attention to not only whether my kids are victims of bullying but also whether they bully others. Yes, I knew my two kids fight with each other and bully each other often at home, but I didn’t realize that they could be bullies at school as well. It’s a wake up call.

Unwarranted complaint

The other dayI felt very embarrassed by making an unwarranted assumption and complaint. I receive quite a few emails every day, including several e-newsletters and blog posts.Usually I don’t have time to read them all. Based on the subject headings, I open and read some of the messages and ignore the rest and leave them unopened. While I was on vacation in San Diego, I received an email notice from WAA regarding the WAA basketball registration for the 2011-2012 season dated June 28. I didn’t give it much thought and attention at that time. Last week as I went through some of my old emails, I reread the WAA message. To my dismay, I noticed that”Fees increase on July 1, 2011.” Because I didn’t receive any previous notice regarding the basketball registration date and fee increase, and the June 28 notice didn’t indicate that this was the 2nd or 3rd or final reminder, I assumed that it was the only notice sent out by WAA. I was not too happy about the short notice. I wish I could have more than two days of advance notice to register. As someone who is not shy of making comments and giving feedback, I sent a quick reply email to WAA without much thought: “You didn’t give us much time to register before the fee increase.Basically only two days of advance notice. Sorry I was out of town and missed it.” After I hit the send key, I felt uneasy. I wish I had not sent it or at least said it in a nicer way, not so accusatory. The next day I got the response from WAA: “There were six weeks to register, that email was the third notice sent.” Now I felt really embarrassed for making assumptions and unwarranted complaint. Just because I didn’t receive the previous notices didn’t mean that they didn’t exist. I shouldn’t have made the assumption and judgment so quickly. I had to apologize with a follow-up email. I wish this email exchange never happened. ButI learned a valuable lesson. Before I criticize or complain about anyone or anything, I need to check the facts, and not make assumptions based on my own observation and limited knowledge. Otherwise I will make a fool of myself.

Motivated by competition

In summer 2005, my 7 year old son Andy started selling golf balls inour backyard facing the Eagle Valley Golf Course. He did that in the following summers as well. At the beginning, Andy was excited of selling golf balls and making some money. He could make a few hundreds a summer. But every year, he gets less motivated. Last year, he only did it a few times thatI could count on one hand. I always ask Andy to divide the money he earned and save part of it for college, put some in the savings account, leave some for giving, and have the rest for spending. He said because I didn’t let him buy whatever he wanted, he was not interested in selling any more. That could be part of the reason. But in my opinion,that’s not the main reason. I think he gets bored of doing it as he gets older. This year, half of the summer is over and he hadn’t shown any interest in his old business until yesterday when he saw three neighbor boys had a golf ball stand in our backyard and were playing and selling golf balls. This morning Andy went to the basement and got his golf balls organized. Afterward he resumed his business. I think my son is certainly motivated by competition. I was reminded of an incident a few summers ago. Andy hadn’t been interested in doing business for a while. Then one day when we got home and he saw a neighbor girl was selling golf balls in her backyard facing ours, he got excited. He run to the basement and set his golf ball stand out on the opposite side of the girl’s stand. He thought it was fun. To his surprise, our neighbor family was not amused and happy by his action.They moved her stand a few steps ahead of his. Later in the evening, the girl and her mom knocked on our door. We didn’t have contact as neighbors, so I was surprised to see mother and daughter at our front door. The mother complained about my son’s action.She told me that it was not fair that my son took his stand out when her daughter was already out there with her stand. He shouldn’t have competed with her daughter. I wasn’t sure what to say. I apologized. Later that evening, I wrote a long letter to the mother. First I apologized for what happened. I promised her that we would honor her request and my son would not sell golf balls again whenever her daughter is out there selling her golf balls. But I also pointed out that she needed to face the reality of competition. Competition is part of life. It is motivational for some people. In the letter I also pointed out that she really had no right to tell us what we could do or not doin our backyard. My son could sell golf balls whenever he wanted on our property, regardless of who else was also doing it. I welcomed her daughter joining my son selling golf balls at the same time if she wanted to. I didn’t think that parents should get involved in the business of their kids. They are doing it for some fun and making some money. It’s fun to have company and some competition. It’s motivational. Why should parents get involved and make it so seriously? My son hasn’t been very interested in his golf balls business again. As promised, he never takes his stand out whenever the neighbor girl is out there. That was an interesting experience. Today on his first day of business this summer,Andy made over$20. He was promised that he can spend his money in China when he goes on the trip in a couple of weeks.

Societal evolution

I have been reading a book on leadership titled “A new breed of leader: 8 leadership qualities that matter most in the real world” by Sheila Murray Bethel. In a section about wisdon from the past, the author talks about John Alexander Tyler who wrote about democratic societies’ evolution in the mid-1800s. I found the following description on societal evolution very interesting. SOCIETAL EVOLUTION The average longevity of formerly great civilizations was about 200 years… and each of them passed through the following evolution: From bondage to spiritual faith, From spiritual faith to great courage, From courage to liberty, From liberty to abundance, From abundance to selfishness From selfishness to complacency, From complacency to apathy, From apathy to dependency, From dependency right back to the bondage where it all started. How far along this cycle have we moved? Are we somewhere in the abundance-selfishness-complacency-apathy phase? What do you think?

My trip to San Diego and Las Vegas

I have been living in the US for 20 years and traveled to both east and west coast states, but never been to San Diego and Las Vegas. So it was nice that my family got an opportunity to travel and spend 10 days in both places. To summary the trip – I really like San Diego, but not Las Vegas. If I have to rate both cities as the best/worst place for living,on a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), I would give San Diego a “9” and Las Vegas a “2.” San Diego is a beautiful city with perfect weather. Every day it started cool in the morning and ended cool in the evening, but the sun always shined brightly during the day. It didn’t feel hot, but surprisingly my kids got sunburns. In San Diego, we visited Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, USS Midway Museum, Coronado Island and the famous Del Hotel, Balboa Park (my favorite), Zoo, andSea World. Balboa Park is a must-see San Diego attraction.The Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park. It’s home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo. The gardens in Balboa Park are my favorites.I visited about 10 gardens – Alcazar Garden Botanical Building Cactus Garden Casa del Rey Moro Garden Desert Garden Marston House Garden Palm Canyon Rose Garden San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection Zoro Garden The Spanish Village Art Centeris also very unique and beautiful.Over 30 artists have their studios in one location. You can talk to the artists and see their works. I talked tothe Chinese painter Lucy Wang (Studio 4) and sand artist Mary Renner (Studio 16A). Watching artists at work was eye opening. From San Diegowe drove to LA to visit a friend and stayed overnight. The next morning we drove to Las Vegas. I found Las Vegas kind of boring and soulless. However, the hotels and casinos were interesting to visit. They are big and unique. To get discount show tickets, we went toa time share presentation.It was interesting to see how sales people trying to sell time share and to learn a few new things, such asRCI -the world’s largest timeshare vacation exchange network. I posted some photos from the trip on my Facebook.

Generosity begets generosity

I just came home from a 10-day vacation to San Diego with a side road trip to Los Angles and Las Vegas. On my flight home from San Diego on the 4th of July, I had a really brief and insignificant conversation with a Delta flight attendant. But somehow it taught me a lesson and stuck in my mind. So I would like to share. On my Delta flight to San Diego 10 days ago,guests were asked and given the choice of either having a tiny pack of peanuts (weight 0.42 oz.) or a pack of Biscoff (two small cookies). But on my flight back, I noticed that the flight attendant didn’t ask anyone for his/her choice. He automatically passed out three items to everyone – peanuts, Biscoff and mini pretzels. I was impressed by this male flight attendant’s generosity, or Delta’s generosity on this 4th of July holiday. So when he came to my seat, I had to make a compliment. I said: “Thank you for being so generous today!” He was surprised by my compliment. So I explained why I said so. He told me that on their morning flight, they give out less because they have to save for the afternoon return flight. Now he had a lot left. “Heck, why shouldn’t I give out more? I hate it when someone asks to have both peanuts and cookies and a flight attendant says no.” I said “Thank you” again. Before he turned away from me to serve the next customer, he asked me:”Would you like to keep this can of tomato juice?” Nowadays whenflight attendants serve drinks, they usually pour you a small cup, but not give you a whole can. I guess my compliment of his being generous prompted him to be more generous. Isn’t thata simple example of what it means”Generosity begets generosity?” When you do something for another person who expresses appreciation in return, you will want to domore for him.

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.

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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.

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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.



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.

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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.

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

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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.

Memorable birthday cards

When my kids have birthdays, I always make my own cards for them. Likewise, they always make their own cards for me as well. We love doing that.

For my son’s last birthday in May, I made one that includes:

  • A photo of the birthday child and a happy birthday picture cut out from a used birthday card on the cover.
  • “Celebrating 13 years of life” along with some important data on page 2 – exact birthday place and time, the home address at the time of birth and the current address, birth weight and height, the current weight and height for a comparison, the name of the doctor. I really had to dig for the information.
  • A handwritten message and an inspiratinal quote cut out from a used birthday card on page 3.
  • What we did to celebrate the birthday on page 4.

Making my own cards takes time and some effort. But I like to make each card unique and interesting.

Today I happened to read two interesting stories about birthday cards and would  like to share.

A Star Tribune article titled “Once a joke, boomerang birthday card now tradition” (June 4, 2011, available online for a limited time) tells the story of two sisters who have been sending the same birthday card back and forth since 1975. The same card has made 73 trips through the U.S. mail.

Why not? I am all for reuse and recycle. These two sisters are way ahead of the green living movement.

Suzanne Beecher shared in her Dear Reader column on May 31, 2011 (Yes, I am always days or even years behind in my reading) a unique birthday card “What I Know About Grandma” from her two grandchildren. I had a good laugh.


What is your Grandma’s name?
Paul: Suzanne James: Grandma

How old is she?
Paul: I don’t know.
James: Three.

What does she do?
Paul: Grandma plays with me. And Grandma likes to do the sprinkler with me.
James: She goes like this…(and then he dances).

What’s her favorite food?
Paul: Soup James: Candy

What’s her favorite color?
Paul: Pink James: Purple

What’s her favorite movie?
Paul: “Dinosaur Train”
James: “Dora the Explorer”

What does she like to sing?
Paul: Classical James: ABCs

Where does she take you for fun?
Paul: Dr. Al. He pushes on Grandma back.
James: The circus.

What is the best thing about Grandma?
Paul: Grandma loves me and she bakes with me.
James: I love Grandma.

Won’t every grandma love to receive such a unique birthday card?

VBS options around Woodbury

Every year I compile a list of VBS offered by local churches that I am aware of, with registration and contact information, VBS date, theme, age and fee requirements.

Below is the 2011 list. I hope this list will make it easier for you to choose a VBS for your kids.

Please check the church websites or contact the churches for more information.

Christ Episcopal Church
7305 Afton Road, Woodbury, MN 55125
Register no later than Friday, July 1
Monday – Thursday, July 18 – 21, 9:00 – 11:30 am
“Hometown Nazareth”
Family Night Potluck Picnic Thursday, July 21 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m
Age 3 – 9
$30/child with a $75 cap per family

Grace of God Lutheran Church
420 Hayward Ave, Oakdale, MN 55128
Register online at
651-730-4900 or email
Monday – Friday, July 11 – 15, 9:00 – 11:30 am
“Hometown Nazareth”
4 years – 6th grade
$15 per child (suggested donation)

Guardian Angels Catholic Church
8260 4th Street N, Oakdale, MN 55128

Monday-Friday, July 25- 29, 9:00 -12:00
“Inside Out & Upside Down on Main Street”
Ages 4-12

King of Kings Lutheran Church
1583 Radio Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
Check the summer programs for more information about VBS and other camps
Phone: 651-738-3110
Vacation Bible School
Ages 3 (by 9-1-10) through completed 3rd grade
June 20-24
(Morning Session): 9:00-11:30 a.m.
(Afternoon Session) 1:00-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $30 per child (includes t-shirt and CD) 

Resurrection Lutheran Church
9925 Bailey Road, Woodbury MN 55129
Monday – Thursday, June 20-23, 9:30-Noon
 “PandaMania – Where God is Wild About You!”
Age 3 – 4th grade (completed)
Family fun night  at 6:30 p.m. Thursday
$30 per child ($35 after May 31, maximum $75 per family)
Monday–Friday, July 11 -15, 9 – 12:00
4th – 6th grade (completed)
Further info at
Saint Peter Lutheran Church
880 Neal Ave. S., Afton, MN 55001
Contact Shannon Hecksel at or 651-436-3357
Monday – Friday, June 20 – 24, 9:00 am – noon
“Big Jungle Adventure: a Faith Journey with Jesus”
Preschool – 4th grade
Free (lunch included)

Spirit of Life Bible Church
690 Commerce Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
Register online at
Tuesday-Friday, July 26-29, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
“Hometown Nazareth — Where Jesus Was a Kid”
Program and picnic @ Noon Friday, July 29
K – Grade 6 (grade child is entering in 2011-2012 school year) 

Woodbury Baptist Church
6695 Upper Afton Road , Woodbury , MN 55125
Sunday-Thursday, Jul. 24-28, 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
“PandaMania – Where God is Wild About You!”
Each evening will begin at 5:30 pm with a supper. 
Age 4 – 5th grade 

Woodbury Church of Christ
4920 Woodbury Drive, Woodbury MN 55129
Register online at
Monday-Friday, June 20-24, 9:00-12:00
“PandaMania – Where God is Wild About You!”
4 years – 6th grade

Woodbury Community Church
2975 Pioneer Drive, Woodbury 55125
Register online at
Phone: 651/739-1427
Registration Deadline: June 20, 2011
Monday-Friday, June 20-24, 2011, 9:00-12:00
“PandaMania – Where God is Wild About You!”         
Preschool – 4th Grade

 Woodbury Lutheran Church
7380 Afton Road, Woodbury, MN 55125
Register online at
Monday–Thursday, June 20-23
Choose between morning session 9:30 – 12:00 or afternoon session (12:30 – 3:00)
 “Big Jungle Adventure” (preschool)
For ages 3 – current Kindergarten (Must be 3 years old by 9/1/2010)
Monday–Thursday, July 11 -14, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00
“SportsLife Camp” (elementary)
1st – 5th grade (completed June 2011)
$35.00 ($45.00 after June 1st)
Monday–Friday, Aug. 1 – 5, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
“Art Camp” (elementary)
2nd – 5th grade (completed June 2011)

Woodbury/Peaceful Grove United Methodist Church
7465 Steepleview Road, Woodbury, MN 55125
Check out summer camps brochure online for info about other camps
Contact Jan Slagter 651-738-0305 or

Monday-Friday, June 20-24, 9:00 – Noon
“Shake It Up Cafe”   
Age 3 – 5th Grade

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The top 20 bad leadership traits

The leadership books I have read in the last couple of years mostly focus on the top leadership qualities or traits of great leaders. Some examples are:

  • Personal characters (honesty, integrity, trustworthy, humility, etc.)
  • Clear vision and purpose
  • Strategic thinking
  • Passion for what you do
  • Competence (intellectual and emotional)
  • Openness and risk-taking
  • Collaboration
  • Accountability, admitting mistakes and learning from them
  • Leading by example
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • Continued learning and growing
  • Inspiring and empowering
  • Hiring people who are competent

Lately I have been thinking about what makes bad leaders. Just as there are many qualities or traits that make good leaders, there are many qualities or traits that make bad leaders or bad managers.

Here is a list of the top 20 bad leadership traits I came up with. I welcome your additions and comments.

  • Having tunnel vision
  • Micromanaging
  • Being incompetent
  • Being rules oriented and not people oriented
  • Demanding perfection
  • Having fear and doubts regarding employees’ competence
  • Having low self-esteem and confidence
  • Having emotional insecurity and immaturity
  • Making decisions based on emotions
  • Acting as a roadblock between upper managers and employees
  • Acting differently in front of their superiors and subordinates
  • Blaming others for failures and taking credit for successes
  • Showing favoritism
  • Reacting negatively to criticism
  • Making assumptions without fact checking
  • Not willing or not able to change and adapt
  • Not willing to learn and grow
  • Not taking no for an answer
  • Not listening
  • Not caring about how their actions impact others
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MnDOT Commissioner’s Reading Corner

My article about MnDOT Commissioner’s Reading Corner (CRC) was published in the Spring 2011 issue of the Special Libraries Association/Minnesota Chapter’s newsletter and posted online.

This article provides some background info about the CRC. Most of my CRC book interview articles have been posted on this blog.

I have been working on this project since 2009. Doing book interviews has become the most interesting part of my job now.

Through my work on CRC and other projects, I got to meet Commissioner Sorel and know him a little bit. All I can say is he is a  great leader – trusting, inspiring and enpowering. He is the best leader I personally know.

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Grateful for libraries

A few times a month I take my kids to the local public library to return/check out books. We have done so since they were toddlers. And they both got their own library cards before they could even read themselves.

I enjoy visiting library and I am excited when I find interesting books to read.

Going to library is fun and convenient. 

When I was living in Madison, Wis. and Oak Park, ILL., the local public libraries were within walking distance. I could walk to the libraries and I often did so.

Now living in Woodbury, a newer and suburban city, I can’t walk to the library any more, but it’s still very close. It takes about 5 minutes of driving.

I am so used to visiting libraries, using libraries and working in libraries that I don’t think much of it any more. In fact, I take libraries for granted.

But once in a while, something happens. It makes me pause for a moment and think about how great libraries are and how grateful I am for them.

Yesterday I had a phone conversation with a college classmate living in Beijing. I asked her if she uses public libraries in Beijing. She said no. She has to buy books for her children or borrow books from the library at the German school her kids go to.

I was surprised and wished her answer would be different.

China has changed so much in the last 20-30 years in transportation, infrastructure, education and society in general, but not much has changed in terms of public libraries and the use of public libraries. Libraries in China are not as accessible to the public as it is in the US.

Beijing, the capital of China, has a population of 22.5 million people. It has 24 public libraries including 4 children’s libraries. Among them, the Capital Library is the largest.

The National Library of China is also located in Beijing.

For comparison, let’s take a look at New York, the most populous city in the United States, with a population of 8.1 million in 2010.

New York Public Library is the largest public library in the US and consists of 87 libraries. 

So there are 87 public libraries in New York serving 8.1 million people and 25 public  libraries in Beijing serving 22.5 million people.

Remember Beijing is the capital of China and most likely has more libraries than any other cities in China.

No wonder public libraries are not so acceccible in China. My friend said it’s not worth to use the public library in Beijing. Considering the travel time and cost, it’s cheaper and much more convenient to buy books.

That’s why people in China generally buy their own books instead of borrowing books from the public libraries. Bookstores are very popular and busy. People sometimes stay in  bookstores for hours, not to buy books, but also to read books.

After my phone call with my friend, I felt really grateful for having easy access to public libraries in the US.

National Library of China 

Listing of Public Libraries in China

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A book inspired by the gardens of China

I came from China. My hometown Suzhou is a well known ancient city in China with a history of 2500 years. The city is renowned for its beautiful classical gardens, pagodas, stone bridges and rivers around the city. It is, therefore, a great tourist attraction. The city has been called the “Paradise on Earth” since ancient times and is also known as the “Venice of the East.”

From ancient times to the present, Suzhou gardens have inspired countless poets and writers to write their poems, articles and books. Their beauty and inspiration are timeless.

What a happy surprise for me to find out that someone from Woodbury who lived thousands of miles away from Suzhou, was so inspired by the Suzhou gardens during her first and only trip to Suzhou that she wrote a book on Fengshui titled “Trough the Moon Gate : Five-Element Perspectives on Environmental Energy : the C. L. E. A. R. approach to Fengshui inspired by the gardens of China.” The book was designed by Karen Hollingsworth with artwork by Jeannine Zumbach Ohora.


I first met Caroline Lehman through my column writing for Woodbury Bulletin. I got to know her more after she did a few brown bag presentations at Mn/DOT.

You can read a sample chapter of the book on Caroline Lehman’s website. 

To view some pictures of Suzhou gardens, visit my Facebook page where I posted the pictures I took from my last China trip in 2010 (Humble Administrator’s Garden
and Tiger Hill Garden) and also the following websites:

Feeling down and sad?

Some day when I am feeling down and sad, I try to look for things that are positive and lighten up my mood. If I stop and look, I do find them.

Yesterday I was feeling very down, as I look back, I see clearly several things happened that warmed my heart, brought smile to my face and really brought my mood up again.

The day before yesterday I sent a thank-you note to someone at work for a job well done and I cc’ed his big boss. He emailed me back yesterday to thank me for the nice note. A thank-you note always makes people happy.

I was able to go to a yoga class. I haven’t had time to do yoga lately. It made me feel good to stretch and relax my body and mind.

When I got home from work, my daughter said: “Mom, guess what I got for my MAP math test?” She got 264, a big 18 point jump from her last MAP test. I was happy for her and proud of her.

In the evening I got a phone call from an elderly lady in Woodbury. I recognized her voice. She used to read my columns in Woodbury Bulletin and love my articles. We had lunch together once. She said she meant to send me a Christmas card, but she had health issues and wasn’t able to. She has been thinking of me and missed my columns (I stopped writing for the paper two years ago). When her family got together lately, they still talked about my articles. She apologized for not sending me the Christmas card and for calling me, but I really appreciated her surprising phone call. I needed that encouragement.

Later in the evening I received an email from another former Woodbury Bulletin column  reader whom I got to know a little better and have had more contact. She asked me a Chinese related question. I did some research on the Internet and responded to her question. She is such a kind and gentle person with positive energy and a very appreciative attitude. I love helping her and being in contact with her.

I remember I once received the following message as a forward. It’s a good reminder that things happen for a reason.

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON…It is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a Godsend and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. Sometimes they die. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. Your need has been answered, and now it is time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON…It is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

Walk around the capitol

Here are some photos I took while walking around the Minnesota State Capitol today. It was a gorgeous day with perfect weather for the annual walk.

Blue sky, just right temperature, greenery, blooming trees, monuments on the mall, walkers, kids on field trips, buses … everything looks beautiful.

When we look around and look up instead of always looking down, we will find that God’s beauty is all around us.

I posted about 70 photos on my Facebook

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My profile in MARC record

In my professional life as a librarian, I have cataloged thousands of items – books, journals, VHSs, CDs, DVDs, websites and Kindles – on all kinds of subjects.

Biographies? yes, but I have never cataloged a person directly.

Today I read about other librarians’ cataloging of weird things, a couple of them talking about cataloging babies and sending birth announcement on a library catalog card. I thought that was a very creative idea.  

Just for fun, I have created a catalog record for myself.

For people who are not familiar with cataloging and MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging Records) coding, this doesn’t make much sense. But Librarians will understand. 

Hope you get a laugh out of this.

100 0  God.

245 10 Qin Tang / created by God and produced by Faxin Tang and Xuezhen Bian.

246 13  Zhenfang Tang, 1964-1970

250    3rd ed.

260    Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China : The Fourth People’s Hospital, 1964 at 12:55 a.m.–

300    1 child (7 pounds 4 oz) : black hair black eyes ; [18?] cm.

500    Includes body, mind and spirit.

500    Weight and height change over time.

500    Exact birth date not given for security reason.

500    Certain names changed for privacy concern.

500    Sequel to: Guangming Tang and Guangling Tang.

600 10 Tang, Qin, 1964-

600 30 Tang family.

655  4 Child of God.

655  4 Librarians.

655  4 Writers.
655  4 Bloggers.

655  4 Chinese Americans.  

700 1  Tang, Faxing, 1933-

700 1  Bian, Xuezhen, 1934-

700 1  Tang, Guangming, 1957-1958.

700 1 Tang, Guangling, 1961-

700 1  Tang, Andrew.

700 1  Tang, Amy.

785 01 Andy Tang.

785 01 Amy Tang.

856 4


Natural lawn care service recommended

After several days of rain, the dandelions are popping up everywhere in our yard.
Personally, I don’t care if we have dandelions or not. It’s not important for me to have a perfect green, weed-free lawn. But when our yard is the only one in the neighborhood with the yellow flowers, it stands out. I think the yellow flowers look pretty, but I don’t think our neighbors will like that.
My husband got tired of taking care of the weed problem. This year he decided that he is done with it and we need to get someone else to do the job.
So I contacted a few companies to find one who will take over our lawn care/weed control job.
After some comparison shopping, we chose BioLawn in Oakdale, for two reasons – it’s natural lawn care and it’s a good deal.
If you are interested, check this company out.
575 Schommer Dr, Suite B
Hudson, WI 54016
Phone: 1.888.BIOLAWN (1.888.246.5296)
According to its website, BioLawn uses all natural and organic products whenever possible. I like that. I want to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
And I think I also got a good deal.
They offer the first treatment free, up to $69. During this week only, they offer $20 discount for customers if they are willing to start the lawn care program right away without waiting first for the onsite analysis because with the current higher demand, it will take a few days to do that and they don’t want to lose potential customers. And if you prepay for the season, you get 5% off as well.
Our yard is big, almost 12000 square feet. And our regular price per application is $82. Now after the discounts, we pay $243 for 4 treatments, better than the other offers I got.
From the phone contact I had so far with one of the owners and another person who handled the payment, I found them to be very nice.  I felt good about my choice.
At this time, I can’t say anything about their products and end results. But I am very hopeful.
If anyone has any negative experiences with BioLwan, please share in the comments.
In the past, when I recommend any local businesses (I did a couple of times) on this blog, I did so because I really liked their services. And I did not personally benefit from the recommendation in any way.
This time, there is an incentive for me to recommend and refer people to BioLawn. As I was told, they offer a referral reward. If any reader decides to use BioLawn, and tells them that I referred you, I get a referral reward. I just want to be honest and up front with you.
Please know that I won’t recomment the business and refer people to it if I don’t personally believe in its value and if I don’t think it’s a good deal.  
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Hot pot dinner

A friend called me Friday afternoon and asked: “Would you like to come to my house this evening and have hot pot dinner together? I just thought about this.”

That’s what we did. My family of four went over to her house after work and had hot pot dinner with her family. The kids played together while we adults sat and talked. 

Hot pot dinners are popular in China, especially in winter. It’s an easy way to get together with friends and have a meal together – no advance cooking is necessary. You only need to prepare some meat and vegetables.

My friend prepared some raw thin slices of beef, fish, shrimps, meatballs made with pork, shrimp and tofu, mushrooms, seaweeds, tofu, and bean thread noodles.

I brought some vegetables – squash, spinach, lettuce, Napa cabbage, Bok Choy and cilantro.

As the dipping sauce, we used soy sauce, sesame paste, chili oil and fermented bean curd.

My friend set two pots filled with boiling broth on the dinner table – one pot with spicy ingredients for adults and another one without for kids. 

With the hot pot, each person dips and cooks his own food in the hot pot briefly or picks whatever he wants from the pot.

Hot pot meals are easy, tasty and convenient. It’s a great way to get together with friends and enjoy a meal and conversation.

We thought it was just past 10 pm when we left my friend’s house, but her clock was running more than an hour behind. When we got home, it was almost midnight.

Time flies by so fast when you enjoy your time with friends.

One-pot meals

Do you ever feel stressed out by the thought or question – “What’s for dinner?”

What do you do if you have less than an hour to prepare a nutritious and home-cooked meal?

I have a solution for you – one-pot meals.

Lately I have been trying to simplify my family meals during the weekdays. Instead of cooking rice, 2-3 vegetables and a soup separately, then washing several pans and pots every evening, I just make one-pot meals. I cook everything in one pot.

I no longer stir fry vegetables separately every day, instead I add them in one pot along with some meat for the kids.The meat is usually already cooked ahead of time on the weekend. I cook a pot of rice once or twice a week. Basically what I need to do every day is just to wash and cut the vegetables and put everything in a pot. This way I can make a meal in half an hour. 

Cooking Chinese food can be messy for the kitchen. But making one-pot meals is no fuss and no mess.  Cleaning-up is relatively quick and easy. Now I have less plates, bowls, pans and pots to wash.

With my daughter doing swimming three evenings a week that starts before 6 pm, I have less than an hour to cook dinners. One-pot meals are a perfect solution for having a stress-free, home-made meal without spending too much time in the kitchen. They are not only easy, but also tasty.

The following pictures show several one-pot meals I made lately. Please don’t ask me for the recipes, because I don’t use any recipes and I don’t measure anything when I cook. I simply use whatever I have at hand. So I don’t cook the exact same meal twice. Either the ingredients will be different, or the taste will be different.

You can find a lot of one-pot recipes on the Internet if you need some ideas.

  Cauliflower, zucchini, eggs, meatballs, carrots

Tofu, broccoli, carrots, beans, chicken, black mushroom

Rice, potatoes, carrots, peas, corns, chicken

Vegetables and rice

Being resourceful

Today while I was in the lady’s room washing my hands, a coworker made a comment after she noticed the way I did it.

“Thanks for reminding me not to waste water.” Then we got into a little conversation on ways to save water. 

Here is how I wash my hands, whether at home or at work – I lift up the handle to get my hands wet, push it down to stop the water and get soap to rub my hands, then turn on the water again to rinse my hands – I do it without thinking, because it is a habit.

I often remind my kids to not let the water running constantly while washing hands and brushing teeth.

I know not everyone appreciate the way I do things.  I have heard sarcastic comments such as: “How much water are you saving?” or “How much does the water cost?”

Yes, in the grand scale of the universe I am not saving much water, maybe just a drop of it. But in my mind, every drop counts, the oceans, the rivers and the lakes are made of little drops.

Yes, water doesn’t cost much, especially in the United States where natural resources are bountiful. I can certainly afford to pay for as much water as I would possibly use. But that’s not the whole point.

The point is, I do not want to waste resources unnecessarily. It doesn’t matter whether I can pay for it or not, whether I can make a big difference or not.

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Joyful, prayerful and thankful

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New International Version, ©2011)

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New King James Version)

I didn’t grow up with any religion in China.

My parents don’t believe in God or any religion. My grandmother was a Buddhist. But it didn’t have any effect on me.

I didn’t lay my hand on a Bible until I was in my 20’s, when I was a student studying in Heidelberg, Germany.

One day a Christian named Christian Schlicksupp spoke to me on the street and invited me to his New Apostolic Church. He followed me to where I lived. Later he visited me and  gave me a German Bible and other reading materials.

That’s how I began to visit his church with him.

But I didn’t read the Bible. It was hard for me to understand and make sense of it. It was hard because I didn’t understand the background. It read more like a fiction than real to me.

Over the years, as I visited church and listened to sermons more often, I started to understand more. And I can understand the Bible better now.

However I confess I am not good at reading the Bible regularly as I should do, and I am not good at memorizing any Bible verses. As one gets older, the mind doesn’t retain new things so easily. Many verses sound familiar to me when others speak about them, but I can’t tell which book they are from and what chapters and verses they are, except for very few ones I can know by heart, such John 3:16.

So when I heard about the book “100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart” by Robert Morgan, I was interested in reading it. I would like to memorize more Bible verses.

I have been reading Morgan’s book in the last few days. Today I read about the above quoted three verses from the first book of Thessalonians. Morgan’s explanation does help me in understanding and memorization.

The three verses comprise one of the shortest paragraphs of the Bible, yet they are very powerful.

Rejoice always – “As biblical joy pervades one’s personality, it puts a smile on the face, a sparkle in the eye, a bounce in the step, a warmth in the voice, a confidence in the heart, and a composure in the demeanor.” Don’t you want to be someone like that?

Pray constantly – Prayer is a practice to cultivate and a presence to enjoy. Pray anywhere and everywhere, without ceasing.

Give thanks in everything - We can’t always give thanks FOR everything, but we can always give thanks IN everything.” — Ruth Bell Graham.

These three Bible verses tell us to be joyful, prayerful and thankful. 

Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. Always, Constantly. Everything.

These three verses, when memorized and practiced, can alter our attitude at any given time.

It’s not too hard to memorize these few words, I can and I have. The hard part now is to put them into action.

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Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Parade

We had a beautiful sunny Saturday in Twin Cities. It felt like summer. 

It was a perfect day for being outside enjoying the nice weather.

I went to the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Parade in St. Paul with a friend and our kids. The Parade startet shortly after 10 am. It begun at Plato and Wabasha, and then went down Cesar Chavez Street, ending at Cesar Chavez and Ada.

This was my first time going to the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Parade.

Actually I was more interested in the Living Green Expo at the State Fair ground than the Parade, and intended to go after the Parade, but the kids were hot and tired from walking. We ended up going back home after the Parade.

Here are some photos from the parade. My favorite ones are the library bookmobile and Cub Foods shopping cart.

Little Teal Book of Trust – book interview

I recently interviewed Kevin Gutknecht, Mn/DOT Communications Director. We talked about the 12th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series, Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Teal Book of Trust: How to Earn It, Grow It, and Keep It to Become a Trusted Advisor in Sales, Business and Life.

Tang: Why did you pick this book?

Gutknecht: I like the color teal. But seriously, I think trust is an important issue in today’s society. It is a foundation for everything we do at work and in life. It is at the foundation of every relationship. We have to trust that people will get the work done, that they will keep their word and keep confidential information entrusted to them. Without trust, there won’t be strong relationships and success.

Tang: What do you like the best about the book?

Gutknecht: I like the author’s optimistic approach and outlook. For example, he says you trust others until they give you reasons not to do so. I agree with that approach. He has a lot of experiences in sales and his examples are based on his experiences. The book is practical and offers common sense advice. It’s simple and easy to read.

Tang: Is there anything new you learned from the book that is profound for you?

Gutknecht: I didn’t really find anything in this book that is new, that most people don’t already know. It’s all common sense. It’s just easy to lose track of common sense in our daily lives. This is a good book to re-read periodically to remind ourselves of that common sense.

Tang: Please share an example of what you found is a good common sense reminder for you.

Gutknecht: Trust yourself. You can’t trust others until you trust yourself. When you are in a decision-making job, it’s important to trust yourself once you have done your work. Trust your judgments, instincts, abilities, wisdom and actions. Don’t second guess yourself. Second-guessing can make you lose confidence in yourself.

Tang: In the book the author talks about the ultimate role that one can achieve with respect to trust – a trusted advisor. Trusted advisor status is about people seeking and taking your advice both as a counselor and a confidante. Being a trusted advisor is not simply a responsibility, it’s an honor! It’s not something that you force on someone, it’s something that must be earned. It’s not a title, it’s an earned designation. Can you think of someone in your work or personal life that served as a trusted advisor for you? What characteristics does he/she have?

Gutknecht: Over the years I have a number of people in my military and professional lives who have been and are trusted advisors to me.

They all have a wealth of common sense. They are experts in areas I am looking to them for advice. I have known them for awhile, know who they are and know their families. We have established a bond together.

Tang: I think the topic of the book is very fitting for you as Mn/DOT’s Communications Director. You came to the position more than a year after the I-35W Bridge collapsed, during the time when the public trust in Mn/DOT was at one of the lowest points in history. What have you or what has Mn/DOT done in the last three years to rebuild the trust with the public and also the trust with the employees? How successful is the effort so far?

Gutknecht: We have worked on several key components in rebuilding trust. First, it’s transparency – tell facts and truth. The best policy I know for meeting the public’s right and need to know and also to build trust with employees is “Maximum disclosure with minimum delay.” We need to think ahead and plan well when we communicate about what we are doing as an agency. We have worked hard to accommodate any requests from the media and public, answer their inquiries quickly in ways they can understand and not in too technical of terms. Listening is another important component. We show others that we care through active listening. And we make changes as we can.

Success is difficult to measure this soon after the collapse. Trust and credibility have to be earned. We will continue to work hard at earning public trust by being transparent and responsive.

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

Gutknecht: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” – Back of the book cover.

“You can’t trust others until you trust yourself.”– P. 18

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

Gutknecht: I was a reader as a kid, My parents and schools encouraged me to read. I remember my elementary school did reading contests to see who read the most books. I participated in those contest and counted my books.

In 2007-2008, when I was doing an online graduate program at the US Army War College, I read a lot of books on military history, foreign policy, and leadership.

Outside of work, I enjoy reading fiction, especially science fiction and military history for entertainment. I just finished reading Stieg Larsson’s Trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

Tang: Any other thoughts regarding the book, Commissioner’s Reading Corner or reading in general?

Gutknecht: The book is worth reading and rereading periodically to remind ourselves of the importance of trust and credibility.

I think the Commissioner’s Reading Corner is an excellent idea. It gives us an opportunity to step back and look at things from a different perspective, to improve our communication and leadership skills.

Financial freedom

What brought me to this topic today?

A blog comment I made yesterday and a blog post I read today.

Yesterday while I was reading someone’s blog, I made a comment of what financial freedom means to me personally.

I said  for me, financial freedom doesn’t mean to have all the money I want and be able to buy everything I want. It means not to be a slave of money and possessions, to be free from the desires of wanting more and better. Be content.

In my article Financial sense can lead to security I shared how you can achieve financial security and freedom.

Today I just read a post by Leo Babauta titled Breaking Free From Consumerist Chains. I really like it because it speaks to me.

Here is the full article:

Breaking Free From Consumerist ChainsPosted: 25 Apr 2011 06:00 AM PDT

‘Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends…. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.’ ~Henry David Thoreau

Post written by Leo Babauta.

We are not consumers. We are people.

We are not living lives meant to earn money in order to support a shopping habit, or a large home and two cars, or lives of luxury eating and entertainment.

We are not living to support the corporations. And yet, if you were to take an objective, outsider look at our society, it would seem that we are.

We spend our childhoods — precious years that are far too fleeting — in schools geared to give us the best chance at getting a job. We then graduate and are highly pressured to go to college (getting into large debt in the process) so we can have the best chance at getting a good paying job. Then we claw at each other for the coveted but limited good paying jobs, and the winners are rewarded with big homes and SUVs and nice clothes (and lots of debt to go with all that). The losers are stuck in menial jobs they hate, envious of others they see on TV with luxury lives, eating cheap fast food and consigned to shopping at bargain outlets.

Either way, we find our path as consumers. And everything is solved by consumption — when we’re stressed, we shop. When we want to be entertained, we buy the entertainment. We buy our food in packages, we fix our failing health by buying exercise clothes and equipment. We fix our debt by buying personal finance books and taking out a second mortgage.

Our lives are beholden to our shopping habits. We are slaves to corporations, doing work we loathe for stuff we don’t need.

What if we could break out of it?

What’s the alternative?

The funny thing is, there are millions of alternatives. But we’ve been so trained to believe there is only one way, that we can barely imagine something different.

What would life be like without advertising, shopping malls, online shopping, working for large corporations, wearing large logos all over our clothing, having Apple logos over every device we own, watching movies and television shows developed by large corporations and made for the masses?

It would be quieter, maybe, with more free time. Without having to buy so much, we would work less. What a revolutionary concept! And yet it is: developments in technology have not resulted in less work, but more (a must read: Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness).

It would be more focused on people instead of stuff. It would be healthier, as we would (likely) move more, get outdoors more, eat less fast food and more real food.

That’s all idealizing, of course, but it’s an alternative I could see happening. We’d have to break free of the consumerist mindset first.

Steps to Freedom

We must first become more aware of what has been done to our minds. When we watch an ad on TV, in a movie, on the web, what urges does this bring up in us? Why are we watching the ad in the first place? Can we avoid it?

Watch less TV. Avoid malls and shopping. Block ads on the web (and yes, I’ve heard the arguments about stealing money from content producers, and I’m not convinced — I make money without ads).

Buy less. When you have urges to buy, consider whether it’s a true need or just a desire. Learn to be content with life as it is, rather than wanting to buy things to make it better.

If there’s something you truly need, consider borrowing it, or making it yourself, or finding it used. If you buy it new, try to buy it from a real person rather than a corporation — a small businessperson or craftsperson. It might be more expensive but cheap turns out to be the most costly of all.

Get creative. Find free forms of entertainment. Form a cooperative of creatives and workers rather than a corporation. Pool resources, form libraries for everything.

Learn to build things and sew things and cook and grow. It’s ancient technology, but it still works. It’s simple and it’s all we need.

Eschew the values of the corporations, of consumption and desire.

Become free. You deserve it.

‘There must be more to life than having everything!’ ~Maurice Sendak

Eight R’s for a greener earth – Repair

In an article I wrote three years ago titled “Eight R’s for a greener earth,” I talked about repair as one of the eight Rs for a greener earth.

Here is what I wrote:

This is probably the toughest one to do in the U.S.

We live in the culture and society with a throw-away and disposable mentality. If something breaks or simply doesn’t look good any more, out it goes and we have to buy a new one. A big reason is it’s often more expensive and troublesome to repair it than buy a new one. Besides, we don’t have the time, knowledge and skills to do it like our parents’ generation has done.

My dad is the best handyman I know. He fixed everything in our home when I grew up. He could make a lot of things himself, from big items such as furniture to small items like keys. He fixed bicycles, shoes, pots and pants. Whatever broke, he could fix it and do it himself.

But people in my generation are very different now. Life has become so busy and complicated, often times we only know how to buy which was made very easy with the invention of credit cards instead of how to repair.

When I visited my parents in China last year, one of the things I noticed and liked over there is you can walk in their neighborhood and find people that do all kinds of repair work – tailors who make, repair, and alter garments, shops that fix bicycles and motorcycles, electronics, changes watch batteries, make keys, etc., all within walking distance.

But when I visited the newer development areas in town, the living conditions are more like that in the US. There are nicer apartment buildings and more beautiful surroundings, but less stores and services are within walking distance.

Anyway, what brought me to this topic today is my eye glasses I have been wearing for more than 7 years.

A few years after I bought the pair of glasses in Jan. 2004, the frame broke (I forgot what the cause was). As I was shopping around for a new pair, I asked at the stores I visited whether they could fix my old pair of glasses, no one said it was possible.

Finally one of the sales women at the last store I visited gave me the contact info for Kent Optical (phone number 651- 451-6011, 1000 Robert St, Saint Paul, MN 55118) and said to try my luck there.

I was glad I didn’t buy a new pair. It turned out that Kent Christy, the owner of Kent Optical, was able to repair my eyeglass frame using what I think is the method of welding. I paid about $20 for the repair. It’s less than 10 % of what I would have paid for a new pair.

My repaired glasses lasted a few more years until last weekend. While I was removing it with one hand (I should have done it with both hands), it broke again in the same spot. Today I went back to Kent. He fixed the frame again for me, without charge.

What great customer services!

I asked Kent how his indepentently owned business is doing and how he survives in this economy with so much competition from national chain stores. He said he has been in his business for over 20 years and gets repeat customers and new customers by word of mouth. He doesn’t use a computer, let alone a website.

Kent showed me a copy of the Twin Cities Consumers’ CHECKBOOK. I think he has the highest rating in the Opticians/Eyeglasses category. I found that he got good reviews online as well.

I was not surprised by the excellent consumer report and online reviews. I couldn’t be more happier with his services myself. I will definitely give him the highest/best rating.

I know eventually I will have to buy a new pair of glasses. But as long as my old one still works, I will keep using it. Even when I buy a new pair, it can still be used as a spare one.

I just like to use things up until nothing is left or it’s totally broken, before I buy a new one. The less I throw away, the better for the environment; the less I spend, the more I keep. That makes me feel good.

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Summer camps

Every year South Washington County School District offers some free summer programs through its Office of Equity and Integration.

My two kids have participated in the Valley Branch Nature Camp and Eagle Camp in the past. This year they both are old enough to participate in the GAAP Middle School Program and the Eagle Camp.

I am excited to have these summer opportunities and looking forward to sending them off to the camps, taking a trip and spending some relaxed time at home during the three month summer break.

For more info about the summer programs, visit the South Washington County School District website.

Turning words into pictures

If you have time and want to do something fun and creative, you can play with Wordle.

Wordle is a visual way of displaying text. It’s a tool for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. They are customizable by color, shape, and prominence.

The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

You can enter text or a website/blog url on the “Create” page, and Wordle will make a design with the most frequent words in the text, ignoring filler words like “and” or “the.”

Wordle is free and easy to use. 

Wordle is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license and can be shared and remixed.

For more information on Wordle, and to create your own word clouds, visit

I created the word cloud image shown at the top of the post using mostly the words from my blog post 100 blog posts, 100 words.

Here are a couple of examples I found on the Internet that I think are pretty cool.

Sweet Misery

My daughter likes candies. And that’s a concern and problem for me.

I don’t buy a lot of candies for her, only occasionally for holidays or as a reward. Since candies are her favorite thing, she asks for candies as a reward for good works or achievements.

I try to monitor and control how many candies she eats. So I take her candies away and give her a couple or less than a handful of pieces a week. If I don’t watch over her, she could eat a bag of candies  in two days. 

She still eats more candies than I give her. She gets candies from school or other people. I often find candy wraps here and there.

When it comes to candies, my daughter lacks some self-control. 

I often tell her about the harm candies can do to her health. Her teeth have cavities. Long term affects of eating too much candies can be worse than bad teeth.

I often tell her that she can eat all the fruits she wants every day, without limitation, but candies have to be limited to the minimum. But she is not interested in fruits. She only likes banana. I can have all kinds of fruits on the table, she won’t touch it at all.

Lately I have been doing smoothies and make her eat that, so at least she is getting a little more than just a banana on most days. And that was a great progress for her. For years, she only ate a banana a day, no other fruits.

Yesterday I asked her to watch a documentary film about Aspartame titled Sweet Misery.  Aspartame is in a lot of candies, sodas, yogurts, and snacks.

You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.

I hope someday my daughter will come to her own realization and stop her “candy addiction.” I can’t police her all the time. She has to take the responsibility and have more self-control.  

Other food related films I have watched and would like to watch are Supersize me and Food, Inc.