Thursday, June 28, 2007


"Big Weekend SALE - Shop Early - Extra Savings",

"Jump into July with Hot Values - Celebrate the Holiday with Great Savings",

"12 months with no payments, no interest"

The headlines jumped out at me in large print, not just the advertisement pages, but in all the sections of the newspaper. Retailers wanted to make sure that shoppers would be tempted to make unnecessary purchases by these great sales. I don't think most consumers need more encouragement of spending their money. We are a nation of "buy now", whether we need the items or not and forget about how to pay the bills later.

I thought it is humorous in selecting the title of this entry as my adoring fans know I dislike shopping. It is hard to believe that as a woman, living within 20 minutes of driving between two major shopping malls, yet the last time I went to either mall was a few months ago! If I enjoyed shopping, but lived in New York and not knowing how to drive, I would depend on my husband taking me shopping at those major outlets in New Jersey. I would not make my husband wait for me while I shop, so I usually go by myself if I need to do some shopping.

I remember from my days in Viet Nam when my Mom took me and my cousins, TH and PL, shopping for clothes, I was not interested in selecting the right fabrics or the latest styles. My Mom used to get upset and said that I was difficult.

I still have a few clothing articles I wore the day I left Viet Nam. Looking at the blue shirt with two front pockets, a pair of black pants, a white soccer jersey with two vertical black stripes on the long sleeves, I am surprised that these items survived the seven months in the refugee camps. There are also a blue skirt with two front side pockets, a pair of grey wool pants and a stonewash purple jacket. I have no idea whether these items were from Viet Nam or were given to me by someone in the refugee camp. I only remember that we could not bring luggages with us during the escape, so we wore many layers of clothing. Good things we did because it was cold at night. I do remember wearing a short red corduroy jacket at the beginning. Later, when my sister CH kept saying that she was cold, I gave her the jacket. I wonder when I last wore the jacket or it was too worn out to bring along to America.

I remember picking out the white soccer jersey to wear on the journey. Knowing the danger and possible death, I thought I would like to be buried in my favorite clothing.

I don't remember much how often we rotate the clothing and what we used to wash our clothes. Definitely there was no luxury of detergent, washing machine or even bars of soap. How did we manage with so few "outfits" in the seven months in the refugee camp?

I do remember the first time my sister CH and I went shopping for new clothes. The first day at the refugee agency, we were taken into a room full of donated clothing and told to pick out whatever we needed. My uncle also gave us some used and new clothes. Almost a year later, when we saved some money, we made our first shopping trip at Conway, a clothing store at the corner of 30th Street and Broadway, a few blocks from Macy's Department store.

That was the year when women wore bright colors, flash dance shirt was in fashion, ruffle dresses with half a dozen colors and I was still skinny and able to wear designer jeans. We had a great time shopping for new clothes and a good feeling that we shred a little bit of the past behind. Perhaps it was the feeling that we finally pass the huddle of being a charity case and that we were able to take care of ourselves. The next time someone tells me "Money does not buy happines", I will respond that money does buy happiness when you no longer wearing donated clothes, and you removed the price tag on a new clothing item that you paid for with the money you have earned.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


It was a new penny, and under the sun its glittering caught my eyes. I picked it up and carefully put it in my pocket after I showed my father the shinning penny. I don't remember whether we were walking home or towards the subway, Pelham Parkway station (#4, 5 or 6 trains in the Bronx) to go somewhere. I only remembered the location near the park, two blocks from our apartment building when I saw my first American penny. It was February or March 1980. In the beginning, the refugee agency provided the rent for the apartment and a few hundred dollars for food and essential household items. Uncle Ping's wife gave my Mom one hundred dollars in cash as a welcome gift. With six of us in the family, we understood the money would not last long but it was a lot of money for our family as newly arrival refugees with only the clothes on our back. Intellectually I recognized there was little monetary value but I was so happy to pick up the shinning penny as if it was a gold coin. I even looked around to see if anyone would rush towards me and reclaimed the penny.

I remember my Mom used to buy subway tokens with the pennies she saved. The booth clerk made known his/her displeasure of having to count all the pennies (I think it was 50 cents for each token back in 1981) by throwing the token down the opening instead of pushing it thru. Mom would express in Vietnamese her feelings at the clerk for being rude before walking away.

My husband teases me about being careful with my money. I don't know whether my experience living in the refugee camp and my early days in America had made me a frugal person to this day. However, I am proud to say that I usually plan my purchases wisely. For example, though I had great respect for president Ronald Reagan, I was not willing to pay $35 for the recently published book, "The Reagan Diaries" edited by Douglas Brinkley. So I waited until the bookstore put the item on special members only discount at 40% ($14.00) off the listed price. Combining with the balance of $12.54 from a gift card I have earned from other purchases, I paid $8.46 for the book. What a deal!

I try to save money whether for personal purchases or for work. Like the time I waited for a coupon, buy 1 get 1 free, combined with a $20 off on purchases over $75. I saved a total of almost $50 for office supplies at my workplace.

While I was in Toronto, Canada, I saw an article about the Bank of Canada recommended that the Canadian government should eliminate the production of future pennies. A survey was conducted and reported that pennies are tossed into jars instead of being put back in circulation. Economists claimed that it is more hassle and costly to continue to produce pennies. In keeping with the average day's net pay, the study also suggested that a $5 coin be introduced. I learned that Canadians already have $2 coins which I had a bit difficulty trying to distinguish among the quarter, one dollar and two dollars coins.

I don't pick up pennies from the ground as often as I used to. I do believe, "A penny saved is a penny earned". Every cent saved will add up. However, I confess that I was one of those "penny-wise and pound-foolish", a person who is stingy about spending small amounts of money but spends recklessly on expensive items. (Like the time when we paid $600 for each ticket to the Superbowl XL.) However, having a good time at the Superbowl and experience once-in-a-lifetime championship game is priceless. For everything else I will save up my pennies.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


A recent article in Sunday Parade magazine entitled, "7 Symptoms men should never ignore", brought to mind a regret I have and wishing I could have warned my Dad about the early signs of colon cancer.

By accident, my Mom discovered the bright red blood in the stool after my Dad came out of the bathroom, she insisted that he see the doctor. The surgery was scheduled quickly to remove the cancer in the colon. Unfortunately, it was too late as the cancer already spread to the liver. After two years of chemotherapy, the liver cancer took my Dad's life. He was only 66 years old. How I wish my Dad did not ignore the critical warning signs.

After I turned 40, I decided to undergo a colonoscopy. It was unpleasant but I knew it was important to take care of this as prevention and early detection. My sister and brothers also had the exams as we are considered high risk based on family history.

I am dedicating this entry to the memory of my Dad and encourage everyone, particularly the men, to take better care of their health by paying attention to the symptoms and make an appointment for a check-up immediately.

Chest pain - Don't discount as only heartburn and pay attention to less obvious signs.

Shortness of breath - It could be signs of congestive heart failure.

Unintended weight loss - Everyone tries to lose weight but not when it occurs suddenly and quickly. It could be an overactive thyroid gland or the first hint of cancer.

Blood in the urine or stool - Don't brush off and assume it is only hemorthoids. Early detection for colon cancer, kidney or bladder disease should be in order if there is bright red or dark blood in the urine or stool.

Changes in urination - A simple physical exam could help find early detections of prostate cancer.

Leg swelling - Could be underlaying cause and early warning of heart, kidney or liver disease

Skin lesions that don't go away - Wounds or ulcers that don't heal after a few days could be early clues of diabetes or skin cancer.

Please remember to have annual physical exam and remember real men take care of their health so that they would be around for a long time to take care of their families.

Please visit for a complete article on this Special Report on Men's Health.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I am finally somewhat recovered from the disappointment of watching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup when the Aneheim Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators and captured their first Stanley Cup. I came home late from a Board of Directors meeting and only saw the last few minutes of the game. I did not watch the Stanley Cup presentation as I could not stand seeing "you know who" hoisting the Cup as part of the celebration.

It was not a good week for me starting with the Detroit Pistons eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was not much comforting that the San Antonio Spurs buried the Cavaliers in a sweep on their way to their fourth NBA championships in nine years. The Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers are the only other teams in NBA history with four championship titles.

I selected the title, I'm a loser, in keeping with my fondness of the Beatles. Don't worry, I am not turning into a self-pity, forty-plus person who is facing midlife crisis, mobbing around feeling sorry for myself. Of course, I could be blamed for being a jinx based on the true facts from an incidence took place at the St. Louis Blues practices in 2004. That was the year when the Blues signed Chris Osgood from the New York Islanders. (Remember the year when the Red Wings sent Osgood to the Islanders to make room for Hasek.) I began going to see the team practice on the Saturday mornings. There were many fans, mostly kids waiting to the end of practice session to get autographs from various players.

I only wanted to meet Chris Osgood but there were always long lines and Osgood did not stay long after he was done. So I decided to get autograph from another goalie named Brent Johnson. His grandfather is Sid Abel who played for the Detroit Red Wings in 1938-52, traded to the Chicago Blackhawks and back to the Red Wings in 1957-58. Two weeks later, Johnson was injured, sent down to minor league and then traded to the Phoenix Coyotes. (Johnson currently is listed with the Washington Capitals.)

A few weeks gone by, I was again in line waiting for Osgood and when I saw the head Coach Joel Quenneville, I asked for his autograph. Lo and behold, the following week he was terminated when the Blues loss their 10th straight game the night before.

Still determined to get Chris Osgood's autograph, I went back to the ice rink the following Saturday. My husband still laughs whenever he tells the story about how the minute I walked towards the rink, Chris Osgood took off from his goalie post, skated so fast to the opposite side where I was and almost disappeared like a laser beam to the locker room. CP explained that Osgood heard about how I jinxed Johnson and Coach Quenneville. The words have been whispered around the ice rinks to all hockey players not to sign autograph for the short, chubby Asian woman.
Perhaps the best thing I could do for my favorite team is to cheer for the opponents and jinx their players with my request of autographs.

Monday, June 11, 2007


We are proud to announce that our deer daughter, June, gave birth to a healthy baby. Heidi is our first deer grand-daughter. Only three days old, Heidi already is prancing around the yard. We are so happy to become first time grand-parents.

What a coincidence that after almost 12 years, we finally saw a deer in our backyard, right on the weekend when we celebrated our 18th Wedding Anniversary. We thought the name "June" would be fitting for the mother. We were not sure the gender of the fawn, so we decided on the name "Heidi". We got married at St. Hedwig Catholic Church in Detroit. (My brother VL is a punster and would appreciate how we transformed "Hedwig" into "Heidi".) We considered Heidi a fitting name for the baby deer. If the fawn was a male, then Patrick would be the name as I was baptised at St. Patrick's Church a year after we got married.

I first spotted June on Friday evening, as I looked out the kitchen window. I was surprised to see her standing in the middle of our backyard. I called my husband who was on his way home from work. I could not contain my excitement, I also called Mom and my sister CH. I told my husband that the deer looked heavy and subdue. The next day, we found a fawn hiding in the brush outside our spare bedroom window. Our neighbors started to come over to see the baby. It was an exciting weekend for the neighborhood.

I tried calling a nearby Wildlife Center and was told not to do anything as the deer did not need any help from us human. Here is another example of the wonderful world wide web. I found out from many wildlife websites about deer and their fawns. I learned that female deer give birth from late May to early July. The peak of births occurs in mid-June. That did not stop us from feeling special that a baby deer was born right on our wedding anniversary. The doe usually has only one fawn at her first birth. Wow, Heidi is the first born, just like grandma.

The fawns learned to lay low in the grass and well camouflaged by the spots on their coats and nearly odorless to provide protection from enemies who use their sense of smell to locate prey. That was the reason Heidi laying low in the shrubs. As we tried to stay away and only watched from the kitchen windows, June was keeping watch on Heidi with both her ears standing straight. I learned that if June was not nearby, she did not abandon her baby. The mother stays away from her fawns to avoid attract undue attention to the babies.

By Saturday afternoon, June and Heidi became comfortable with us. We were able to move real close and my husband captured many precious moments using his Canon camera and a good zoom lense. One of the photos showed June gently nudged Heidi to get up when the baby fell down. CP also captured a few photos of June feeding Heidi or June cleaning Heidi. At one point, it looked as if June was trying to teach Heidi to jump over the fence. Heidi came close to the fence and from her bleating, it sounded as if she told her mother that she was not ready.

The most wonderful moment happened on Sunday morning as we again watched June and Heidi pacing in our backyard. All of the sudden, Heidi started runnung around the yard, easily maneuvered around the utility shed, a few sharp turns around the apple tree. There was no verbal communication, yet from the way June turned her head, we knew she offered encouragement to Heidi as the baby became stronger and tried to show that she was fast enough to keep up. And then both mother and daughter took off together towards the nearby park.

We waved goodbye to June and Heidi, our deer daughter and grand-daughter. We hope they will come back to visit, not only when they are hungry or need a place to stay.

(Saturday, June 16th - June came back in the morning for a few hours and CP thought June wanted to wish him a Happy Father's Day.)

Monday, June 04, 2007


I think of my nephew JL often. JL is six years old and lives in New York. I would love to spend time with JL and together we would enjoy all the fun things St. Louis has to offer. I would simply love watching JL while he rides the bike around the neighborhood. Looking at JL, I often thought of VL when he was my little brother, sitting in the back seat of my bike and the time when we walked around the neigbhorhood picking up soda bottle caps.

There are many fun things in St. Louis for families to enjoy that do not cost a lot. I wish we had more time when JL visited us in 2005 so we could visit a few more places/activities (in random order) in addition to the Gateway Arch, the Zoo and the Science Center:

Grant's Farm ~ This is a very hand-on place, wonderful for kids and I know JL would enjoy feeding a bottle of milk or hand-feed the goats or riding the train around the farm. The Budweiser Clydesdale stables, both the clydesdale and foals are on exhibit. The grounds include Grant's Cabin, the log home built in 1856 by Ulysses S. Grant.

World Bird Sanctuary ~ About 200 birds make their home at this 305-acre sanctuary. Part of the park is a refuge and rehabilitation for injured birds. On display are owls, falcons, eagles, pelicans, hawks, vultures and pigeons.

Lone Elk Park ~ I did not know about this place and it is less than 15 minutes driving from my house. There are the eponymous elk (some are over 600 pounds and 8 feet tall), the hulking bison, 2,000 pound buffalo, wild turkey and white tailed deer.

Dental Health Theater ~ There are 16 illiminated teeth, each about three feet long and a five-foot tall toothbrush on display. There is an antique dentist's chair (without the instruments used in the movie "The Marathon Man" starring Dustin Hoffman, where the main character was asked, "Is it safe?" while his tooth was being pulled off as a torture). Kids learn about taking care of their teeth thru a puppet show and a 45-minute presentation.

Let's end this entry with a sweet note ~ JL, VL and my Mom all love sweet, so does my husband - it runs in the family.

Custard Heaven ~ What is custard? Custard typically contains 10 percent butterfat and 1.4 percent egg yolk and is more dense than ice cream. St. Louis most famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard serves concrete that consists of devil's food cake topped with custard, hot fudge and whipped cream. Or you could get a vanilla custard with hot fudge, caramel and pecans. My favorite would be a smoothie that is made with coconut, pineapple and a healthy banana.

I thought my brother (VL enjoys running and completed the New York City Marathon a few years ago) would enjoy reading the next event, not in St. Louis, but is still fun to participate ~

Tour De Donut in Stanton, Illinois ~ A 32-mile ride that starts and ends with glazed donuts being served to all participants. The glazed donuts are available at two stops 10-mile in between along the route. Here is the sweet deal, for every donut eaten, participants get 5-minute off their time at the finish line.

As my brother is trying to get JL to slim down and do more physical activities, let's hope VL will not think that I am a bad influence on JL for talking too much about custard and glazed donuts.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


"I am not available," I yelled out to my husband as the phone started to ring. I was trying to watch game 3 of the Stanley Cup (hockey) between Ottawa Senators v. Anaheim Ducks and game 6 of the NBA (basketball) Eastern Conference between the Detroit Pistons v. Cleveland Cavaliers. I was in the living room watching the hockey game on the large screen television. I position the television in the family room so I could have a direct view of the Pistons game from where I was sitting in the living room. I kept an eye on both games switching channels during commercial breaks.

My husband still teases me of being a sport fanatic about the time when I commented, "Who would be calling during the Superbowl?" when the phone rang during the game. CP said (and I agreed) that not everyone in the country cared about Superbowl if their teams were not in the game. Before-Tom Brady (BTB) and Before-New England Patriots (BNEP), I did not care much about Superbowl either. I agree that there are other important things in life than sports.

I think watching sports give people (or a short, chubby, middle-age woman like me) a feeling of being part of something beyond their own inability, the physical shortcomings. I could yell at the players for losing the puck or Ben Wallace not making the free throws or Tom Brady throwing an interception. For a few hours, I could pretend that my opinions matter and when my team won the game, I was there to celebrate the victory, forgetting about the boring routine of daily tasks.

For the 2nd straight years, the Detroit Pistons, being the top-seeded in the NBA Eastern Conference, did not reach the finals. Just like the Red Wings, the Pistons won the first two games but crushed the fans by losing the next four games to the Cleveland Cavaliers. For all the three-pointers by Prince, Hamilton and Wallace, the Cavaliers won game 6 with 15 points lead. They will face San Antonio Spurs in game 1 in the NBA finals on Thursday, June 7.

I am pleased to report that the Senators played a strong and solid game against the Ducks to win game 3 (5-3). It was a great game, especially the go-ahead goal deflected by the Ducks' player into his own net. You could tell how much I dislike this player that I won't even mention his name. This player has records a mile long of using his physical status to do harm to others. I never forget the incident when he tried to hurt Steve Yzerman knowing fully that Stevie played with one bad leg and a knee awaiting surgery. Let's hope for a repeat of performance from the Senators on game 4, Monday, June 4.

So that was how it happened - you win some, you lose some.


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