Sunday, September 24, 2006


"You must have a lot of free time", an acquaitance said to me during a luncheon meeting. She made the comment after I shared with her how I made the efforts to learn about the community when I first move to St. Louis. I explained that I picked up all the free community newspapers even the Seniors News. I believe that it is the best way to learn about issues that are not covered by mainstream media yet important to residents living in the community. I also mentioned that when I see an article or a business person receiving an award, I would send a note to the person as a way to begin or maintain the relationships.

No, I don't have a lot of free time. I just know how to effectively organize my time and set priority. I take care of things that are important and need to be done right away. I learn not to try to do all ten things if I only have fifteen minutes. I also learn to let the house get meshy for a few days. I set aside time to hand write notes and send by traditional mail (regular postal service). I still send my husband "love notes" to his office after 17 years of marriage.

I don't talk much about my work and community involvement to my mother and siblings. Because my husband and I do not have children and I make it known that I don't care for cooking, people always assume that I have a lot of free time. "Are you busy?", someone asked me last week when she called to ask a question related to residential construction. Sometimes I would give an answer such as, "I get paid for doing nothing at work." or "I am waiting for my nails to dry."

My work involved managing the office and membership activities for the Association. Phone calls to the executive director would get routed to me when he is not available. Setting committee meetings, Board meetings, and weekly account payables occupy my daily calendars. Organize golf tournaments ranging from 100 to 270 golfers and an anniversary party on the Eads Bridge for 400 guests are just a few projects that are part of my workload. At the Eads Bridge celebration, the Mayor of City of St. Louis presented the proclamation and there were many state representatives and senators attending.

This week I am working on putting together a bi-monthly newsletter, finalizing the details for a weekend retreat for the current and past Board members and their spouses. The retreat involves a Friday night dinner for 45 people and a Saturday night dinner for 30. Friday and Saturday mornings, with breakfast buffets, will be discussions about the future of the Association. The afternoons will be golf since it is part of networking and team building. The retreat will be at Lake of the Ozarks and I hope to relax and enjoy the fall scenery.

Upcoming events will be the annual Christmas Party and 40th Anniversary Gala for an estimate of 300 guests. In between these major projects are planning education seminars for the members and follow up correspondence.

In addition to regular office hours, I also attend Board and membership meetings that usually end around 9:00 p.m. There are weeks when my evenings are committed to Board of Aldermen meeting on Monday, membership meeting on Wednesday, training for Stephen Ministry with my parish on Thursday and weekends are reserved for football (college games on Saturday and NFL on Sunday). During commercials, I do housework, clean up my home office and catching up on reading the newspapers.

Whether attending meetings or being in the office, I consider the activities are part of a day's work. The most important thing is that there is a purpose and that I find fullfilment in how I spend my time.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


No, I am not a runway model. I never was. I thought the title would be catchy because of the recent news about the banning of chopstick skinny models in Spain. Other countries including the United States plan to follow the lead. This issue has been around for a long time. We all know that the fashion industry set an impossible standards for average women who want to look good in the same clothing worn by the models.

In 1992 I received an award from Federal Express. The company sent a markup artist, a professional photographer and a representative to take my photo for the company's magazine cover. The photographer mentioned that a modeling agency in Grand Rapids, Michigan was looking for an Asian model and he suggested I send a photo to the agency. I did and the following week I accepted my first modeling assignment.

It was nothing glamorous. I had extra makeup, different hair style and a few different outfits for a local department store. I was paid $150 for two hours of standing still and trying to look pretty. Other assignments following were a training video for Amway Corporation and another employee orientation video for Upjohn Phamarceutical Company.

All of the modeling assignments did not require a beautiful face and a body with all the right measurements. My husband always tells me that I am beautiful. I know that I am average looking and with the right amount of cosmetics and a little of dress up, I could be considered attractive. I am aware of men looking my way at social events and have received a few flattering compliments. For a middle age married woman, I tried not to wrap up in the physical aspects. I am not like some women who are gullible when other compliment that they are sexy or that they look so young.

Of course I could never be a runway model. I am only 5'3" and considered overweight. With a round face and a flat nose, I don't meet the standard requirement of exotic pretty face. What I don't care for is when someone calls me "shorty". I know other people, men and women, who are much shorter than me. When attending functions in the Asian American community, with my high heels, I could tower over many men. Of course, when standing next to my brother L, I am always short compared to his 6' frame.

At a recent event, a business associate touched the top of my head and said that I was so cute. I firmly told her that was very rude of her and that her behavior was inappropriate. I also told her that I was offended and did not wish for the incident to happen again. She apologized and repeated that her action was prompted by the fact that I was so cute. I firmly countered that her action was offensive to me.

As the saying goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Whether a person is skinny or well-built, short or tall, attractive or average looking, it is most important that we accept ourselves the way we are and not allow society, fashion magazines, television commercials or another person decides how we should look or feel about ourselves.

So here is my confession, I never was a runway model, I would never be a runway model. I am happy with being healthy, able to see, talk, hear and function without needing assistance from anyone. And this afternon I will pamper myself with two scoups of ice cream. It is my Life, and I will enjoy it. Go ahead, You should enjoy Your Life too.


I read from a self-help book that if you want to be productive, you must spend your time wisely. The author suggested that you put 52 marbles in a jar. 52 marbles represent 52 weeks in a year of your life. At the end of each week you take out a marble and recount how you spend your time during that week. Was it another 60-hour plus work week? Did you spend quality time with your family? Did you do something you enjoy? Or was it a typical 7 days full of rushing around trying to keep up with many demands?

The author stated that as the marbles begin to disappear from the jar, the empty space symbolize your life either you have live your life to the fullest or the days and weeks have been wasted.

When Mr. Steve Irwin, the famous Crocodile Hunter, passed away a few weeks ago, most of the comments I heard was that he died doing what he enjoyed as a person who loved animals and nature. I don't think the statements were any comforting to his family. I am sure Mr. Irwin wanted to see his children grow up and he himself grew old with his wife. I watched a few of Mr. Irwin's documentaries and enjoyed his Australian accent and energetic manners. His presentations were full of excitement and daring which enticed the audience to feel as if they could jump right in and wrestle the crocodile with him. I know one thing for sure that Mr. Irwin lived his life to the fullest.

I do not have a jar with marbles. At the begining of the year, I write down projects I hope to accomplish and review them quarterly and at the end the year. There are items that I could proudly say "Mission Accomplished" and other projects that are forever on-going but not sure when would be done such as losing 20 lbs or speaking Spanish fluently.

I read an article in the New Scientist Magazine entitled, "How to live to 100 and enjoy it". The list of suggestions include things that I already know such as watch what you eat, get physical and mental exercises, smile and laugh often, be social and explore new experiences. The list also mentioned about where you live combined with race and income could determine your longevity.

The study further reported that life expectancy is 70 years for people who live in St. Louis, Missouri. I am 45 years old and if I live to be 70 years old, I will have 1300 weeks = 1300 marbles in the jar of my life. I will try to spend my life wisely. I will try not to worry too much about things that are beyond my control. In my job, I will do my best to handle the workload that I am responsible for. But I will not allow my job to define my life. I will take control of how I treat others and will accept nothing less than a respectful and professional working environment.

I will be truthful to my passion of learning, being active in my community, helping others and growing in my Christian faith. I will stay connected and letting my family know that they are very important to me. I will take time to enjoy my life by doing something simple such as staying at the library, at the museum, at the botanical garden as long as I wish to and not rushing to the next errands.

Whether I live to be 70 or 100 years old, I will enjoy each minute of my life and not overly concern whether I am productive or not based on some self-help books. I will not allow society to define whether I am successful or wealthy based on the accumulations of earthly materials. I will base my life on the love I receive from my family and my relationships with others. I will remember to smell the roses. And I will make sure I don't lose my marbles!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I have been serving as a member of the City's Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. I am one of the sixteen volunteers selected. We have been meeting once a month on the third Monday since May 2006. We discussed various topics of future planning, redevelopment, business retention, possible changes in residential and commercial zoning and we spoke of the two dirty words, "Property taxes". Where I live we do not have City residential property taxes. We only pay State property taxes. The City has been able to provide excellent public services using revenues generated from sales taxes since the City used to be shopping destinations. With the recent major commercial development called "The Valley" in a city nearby and the shopping malls conveniently located near major highways, people no longer willing to put up with traffic along the main street in the City. It is not the question of if, it is the question of when the City needs to establish residential property taxes to sustain its level of services.

Last night we discussed the Future Land Use Categories which include proposals of lifestyle centers, town squares and mixed use developments with detailed architectural, urban design and landscape plans. One of the areas that is considered for re-development is cluster of apartments that were built in the 1960's. I don't know anyone who lives there. For this area, these apartments are not attractive and considered "substandard conditions". There are other apartments in the City that are in similar situation. The reason developers did not yet replace these apartments with half a million dollars town houses because it is a potential political hot button if the City does not provide affordable housing.

My husband and I live in a modest ranch style house we purchased about 12 years ago. On the main floor, there are three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a family room with fireplace, a small dining room and a small kitchen. I don't mind the small kitchen since I don't cook. We have a comfortable basement where my husband set up his office, large area for a dry bar, pool table, comfortable sitting area, good size of storage space and laundry area. We hope to put in a half bath in the future so we don't have run up to the main floor when nature calls.

Our two car garage is filled with my husband's tools and only enough room to accomodate his Thunderbird. My 2002 Mazda parks in the driveway and the 1996 Ford truck parks on the street. We have a good size backyard and a small front yard.

There are many new subdivisions in the City with houses that are sold for over $600K. The homes are approximately 10K square foot and they are built on small lot of land. I would rather have a small house on a large piece of land and not having to look out my windows seeing my next door neighbor in her housecoat.

There are other proposals for new residential developments in single family homes subdivisions. I thought of the people who live in these old neighborhoods. Little that they know that in 5 or 10 years or less, developers will knock on their door with a letter asking them to sell their house. Sure, the developers will pay up to 150% of the market values for their house. But where would these 60-70 years old people go to find decent home in the price range that they could afford since most of them are retired people with limited income.

I became involved in the City because I want to be an informed and educated citizen. Many times laws are being written and legislations being passed without any objections from the people until it is too late. I am not trying to stop the City from implementing a sound policy for future development but I hope we will consider the human factors when consider approving any plannings that would effects the people in the community. After all, a man's house is his castle. Let's hope that developers will keep their hands off mi poor but humble casa.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I finally purchased a laptop after almost a year since I asked my brother L for his advise. L shared with me his love of Mac computer and I learned that he hates everything Microsoft (sorry Mr. Bill Gates, not everyone loves your wonderful products). I have no opinion of the Mac because I only used a few times when working at various temporary jobs. I only learned enough to handle office correspondence. I am comfortable with Microsoft products and PC because that is what I used in all my full time office positions.

Most of the time I am being stereotyped as having the knowledge and the intelligence when it comes to computer. I guess I am not one of the Asian Americans who excel in computer, math, science, music or achieve perfect scores on SAT test. I know enough to use the machine or search for information on the web. I learned a few things along the way to trouble shooting some simple matters. Reading my brother's blog when he described his work or entries about computer, I could not understand a thing he wrote.

As I tried to set up my laptop to various components L advised me to have - docking station, wireless mouse and keyboard, I became frustrated because of the installations. I wish I could just open the package, connect the AC power adapter to the AC power jack and connect the USB cable to the docking station and the other end to a USB port to my computer. I even purchased a chillmat since I did not want my laptop to overheat. Hopefully the battery will not be recalled or causes trouble like Dell or Mac laptops. I learned that there is always a thing called "Installing the Device Drivers". I learned installations for the docking station, the wireless keyboard and house and the printer. I also learned that the cable for the Lexmark Z42 is not compatible to the port on my laptop. I had to spend almost $45 for a cable in order to use a printer that costs only $60 on sale!

There is a big question of how I should environmentally discard my old monitor. I checked websites of locations in St. Louis that recycle computers and electronic items. All the locations will charge either $15 for each monitor or 20 cents per lbs. I don't know how much the monitor weigh. There is no pick up service. The closest location is about half an hour drive from where I live or my office. (My office is about 15 minutes from my home.)

I remember a few years ago, a charity organizations set up in my church's parking lot for people to drop-off old computers. I did not have anything to discard then. I will try to find the best way to discard my old computer without incurring expenses. I know my brother L would want me to be environmental friendly person. I recently purchased a Shake Lite at $10 each. You simply shake back and forth the flashlight to generate light. The flashlight does not depend on batteries. It contains a magnet and produces its own power when being skaken back and forth.

Did I mention that I also signed up with Charter Communications for high speed internet service? It is so much better than the dial up we used to have. I just hope I don't get run over trying to get on the superhighway of the World Wide Web.

Monday, September 04, 2006


"There was little debate and no one showed up to protest", Mr. Jeffery Whitteaker, Mayor of City of Valley Park, Missouri said. The City Ordinance No. 1708, An Ordinance Relating to Illegal Immigration Within The City of Valley Park, Missouri, passed unanimously by the Board of Aldermen on the 17th day of July 2006.

The Ordinance began with "WHEREAS, the Board of Aldermen of the City of Valley Park finds that illegal immigration leads to higher crime rates, contributes to overcrowded classrooms and failing schools, and destroy our neighborhoods and diminishes our overall quality of life; and". You could read the rest of the ordinance on

I find it interesting that in the Valley Park News Update report written by Mayor Whitteaker that "The high level of security and exceptional quality of life in Valley Park are reflected by the low crime statistics provided by the St. Louis County Policy Department." What about the higher crime rates caused by illegal immigrants? Did St. Louis County Policy Department overlook all the crimes committed by illegal immigrants? Low crime rate and Quality of life in Valley Park is still exceptional as of June 2006. Did high crime rates and the neighborhoods were destroyed by illegal immigrants 17 days later?

According to the article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Friday, August 4, 2006), the mayor who drives a truck for a local excavation company heard about the ordinance on the radio and thought it was a good idea. Yet, Mr. Whitteaker couldn't point to specific evidence about all the terrible things illegal immigrants have done to his beloved city. Valley Park, a city with population of 6,500 have received media attention and the mayor have been busy with appearance and interviews resulted from the passing of the ordinance.

"I knew it would be a big story," said Mr. Joseph Turner, a 29-year old activist with a proposal to target illegal immigrants. Mr. Turner, "a proud nationalist" said "I believe this country is superior and I believe our culture is superior to all others." I agree that America is the most blessed country in the world and I am grateful living in this great country. I am, however, not sure which culture or whose culture Mr. Turner is referring to?

These arguments have the same tone similar to the resentment in the late 19th century when the Chinese "coolie" were accused of taking railroad building jobs from Americans. The same sentiments have enticed communities to point at an old recliner or broken toilet seats in the front yard as illegal immigrants problems. Did anyone compared crowded apartments to mobile home neighborhood with a fancy name such as Magnolia Estates?

I believe we must have a sound policy on illegal immigration. I support controlling the borders and national procedures to manage illegal immigration. I am not an expert nor knowledgeable on this subject. I am a natural U.S. Citizen. My family arrived as political refugees and we immediately recognized as legal residents. As an Asian American, I was told that the law only target illegal Hispanic immigrants and that should not concern me. This kind of thinking reminded me of a comment made by a great uncle, "I don't care if the neighbor's house is on fire, as long as it is not my house."

I will continue to follow up on this story and plan to attend Valley Park Board of Aldermen meeting. I want to meet the people who passed the ordinance and to understand the importance of this law in the City of Valley Park. In the meantime, I will watch the closing doors and make sure the doors won't hit me since lessons from the past have proven that doors could swing both ways.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


"FREE order of 10 oven baked Brownie Squares with purchase of any Large pizza", the advertisement from Domino's Pizza stated. The ads also mentioned the availability of Fudge Brownie Dipping Sauce. I don't have anything against Domino's Pizza or any pizza companies. I enjoy eating pizza and brownies. Most of the time I prefer thin crust pizza with mushroom, green pepper and Italian sausage. My husband selects jalapeno, pepperroni and hamburger for his toppings.

What I don't understand is do we, the already overweight consumers, need to be tempted by the 10 brownies added to the large pizza and all the extra toppings? How about places such as American Buffets, Chinese Buffets, Ponderosa, offering all you can eat for $10.99? It is not enough that we have become a fast food society, now we have become the land of plenty cholesterol.

During a recent physical check up, I was informed by my family physician, Doc M. that my total choleserol level at 231 and LDL cholesterol level at 146 are borderline high risk. Since my HDL cholesterol level at 63 which is ideal, Doc M did not prescribe any medication. He did warn me to monitor my diet, lose weigh (the Body Mass Index (BMI) informed me I need to lose about 25 lbs), exercise and take on more physical activities.

Note: LDL is low-density lipoprotein = the bad cholesterol; the optimal level should be below 100. HDL is high-density lipoprotein = the good cholesterol; the ideal level should be 60 or more.

It is ironic to think that when my family lived in the refugee camp in 1979 after we left Viet Nam by boat, we did not have enough food to eat. Twenty six years later I have to try to control my intake of food because we have too much food. When we first arrived in a small island in Indonesia after surviving the horrid storm during our five days journey at sea, we were so weak from not eating for almost two days. The next few weeks, our daily meals consisted of a bowl of rice and a few pieces of fish or small portion of vegetable. When UNICEF and CARE finally came to the camp, we received ration of rice, a few canned meat, plenty of canned sardines, sugar and lot of ready to eat noddles.

My husband and I joked about how "beautiful" we looked in our wedding photos. We were both slim when we first got married in 1989. I used to be able to use a bandana as a belt and tie the loop twice. Now I would need two bandanas to keep my pants in place. My husband has gained a lot of weigh the last few years. C is consider obese and a high risk when it comes to bad cholesterol. He was on medication and have not been successful in losing weigh or starting any exercise program.

My nephew, J, is only 6 years old and he is already 30 lbs overweight. J has a very good appetite. Like most of us, J enjoys eating sweet and constanly telling Granma L that he is hungry. During my recent visit to NYC, I witnessed the tantrum J displayed when he demanded a second ice cream sandwich. My sister V and I tried reasoning and reminded J that he just had a slice of pizza in addition to the first ice cream sandwich. J calmed down after he realized that his crying and screaming would not produce any more food.

Walk into any grocery stores, any corner shops like Walgreen or Taget, and you could see evidence of Ameirca being the land of plenty. Even gas stations have become a place of temptation with displays of candy, snacks and frozen meals. Half of the television commercials target viewers' hunger with juicy steaks, jumbo shrimp, chicken covered with sautee mushroom, or fish entree (supposed to be healthy) swimming in heavy cream sauce. What about the half a pound burger by Hardee's that only a manly man would appreciate?

I believe we need to take responsibility for our eating habits. The food industry, especially fast good restaurants, will continue to temp us with clever advertisements and attractive commerials. But don't blame McDonald for making you fat. They don't drag you or switch your arms and force you to take your kids there. The grocery stores in my area are taking note that the customers are working people and even though we don't have time to cook, we would like to eat healthy food. Dierberg's Supermarket offers a wide range of freshly ready-to-eat dinners in small portions. There are many choices such as cutting back on snacks, eat less and choose a vegetable dish once in a while instead of the 12 ounce Kansas City steak.

I am not sure where I am going with this. It is only making me very hungry. Now where did I put that coupon for 10 brownies and a large pizza?


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