Saturday, August 25, 2007


Hello from St. Louis, Missouri.

It was a beautiful sunny day with temperature in the mid 80. I took a few photos to show case the park and the nice playground in my City. As anniversary present, my husband gave me a new camera that is so easy to take photos and all the hi-tech to upload photos, I am really enjoying this new found interest.

These scuptures are called "Wind Forest", (from left to right) Double Spinner, Oval Twister and Double Dancer. The scuptures are average 18 feet tall, and crafted of copper and stainless steel. The artist is Lyman Whitaker.

JL and I would have a great time here at this playground. The ground is covered with soft rubber materials, not hard concrete, and the surrounding area provides a clean and safe environment for kids to enjoy. There are picnic tables nearby and covered patios in case of rain. My brother would love the walking paths, bicycle trails, tennis courts and the displays of fun and creative art (below) around the park.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


There are situations no textbook or training programs that could prepare a woman on how to handle behaviors that are inappropriate in business settings. I take pride in being strong, assertive while maintain the highest level of professionalism. This week, an incident took place at a work-related function caused me to question my inner strength and my place in the industry that is still a man's world. Or perhaps some men in the construction industry are not yet evolved from its ape-form and the caveman mentality.

During our golf tournament where 99% of the golfers are men, I tried very hard to be courteous yet keeping the distance. One of my responsibilities was taking photos of the teams. As I checked off the list of the teams that was photographed, a man in the group put a golf club betwen his legs, moving it up and down in a sexual suggested manner, looking straight at me, saying "How do you like that?" I decided to ignore his comment and walked away. The other men (the witnesses) in the group told the "fool" to behave himself. I later reported the incident to the president and the executive director of the organization. They promised me that they would take appropriate action by banning the person ever participating in future activities sponsored by the organization.

This was not the first time I as a woman working in the construction industry endured such inappropriate behavior. In 2004, a guest came up to me after a meeting, making kissing sounds and commented, "How about some sugar, baby?". I took a few steps back, extended my right arm while giving the man a stern look, "This is a business function. Your behavior is inappropriate." I said it loud enough for others in the room to turn around. (Another employee from my workplace witnessed the whole incident and he complimented that I handled it very well.) I left the room and reported the incident to the president and the executive director. The man later called and apologized for his behavior. He was never invited to any of the functions.

A few months earlier also in 2004, at a baseball game sponsored by the organization as networking activity for its member, a drunken member accused me of messing up his schedule by assigning him to too many committees. When I tried to explain that it was the president of the organization who made the appointments, the drunken fool said loudly to me, "No, you are the one who F#$% up." There were at least three witnesses and I again walked away. I reported the incident to the executive director. Two days later, the "fool" called and apologized to me, promised that it would not happen again. He has not been to many functions since.

The question I have been asking myself, should I, as an Asian American woman working in the construction industry, have known that these incidents would happen? What do I expect as it is still a man's world, specially the construction industry where 99% of the work being done by men (because women don't have the physical strength to perform the work), the power still rests firmly in the good old boys' hands and everything from executive director position to sitting at the labor negotiation tables is controlled by men who refuse to consider women as business professionals. Women, no matter how well we present ourselves, are still considered less than capable and no more than "the gals in the office".

Should I just shut up and put up with inappropriate behaviors from these drunken fools? Should I insist (I have written once after an earlier incident) that the organization issue a written statement to all members and their guests that unprofessional conducts would not be tolerated? What about the next time that might involve physical touching or even assault? The organization should have zero tolerance policy regarding any kind of harrassment whether verbal or non-verbal thru body gestures. It is 2007, yet last week, I was forced to live in the dark ages, witnessing behavior of men in its ape-form before the evolution.

Friday, August 17, 2007


The title of this entry are words borrowing from Lesley Gore, an American singer and songwriter who was best-known for her 1963 Pop hit, "It's My Party," which she recorded at the age of 16. (Disclaimer - unlike Ms. Gore who declared that she was a lesbian, I am a happily married heterosexual woman. I am not gay, not that's anything wrong with it :) - wise words from Mr. Seinfeld). I am not gay, I repeat, I was never gay!

While my brother, Qaptain Qwerty, who does not have the luxury to search the internet for the exact spelling of the "guy who said whatever", I write as if I was still in college. Old habits from writing all the weekly essays while completing graduate program in communication at Saint Louis University are still with me. (My undergraduate degree was also in communication from Hunter College in New York City.) It would be a disservice to my readers if I did not provide the source of information or footnotes. My blog entries are written as if they were term papers submitting to professors ABC who would not hesitate to give me a B- for not citing or including a few publications, proof that I have done extensive research.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to write. After I completed each entry, I again spent a lot of time editing, revising and reading over many times before hitting the button "Publish Post". Like my brother, and many other bloggers, I am passionate about what I write in my blog. I write for myself, things I care about, trying to put into words about events that took place in my life before my memories become too blurry, but I also know there are people out there reading what I write. (I only know for sure that my brother VL reads my blog regularly.) I don't respond to any comments as I am not comfortable having further contact. I appreciate those who read my blog and sending their comments. At this time, I could only say "Thank You".

I publish on the weekends when I have more time to go over what I want to write or review what I have written. I usually come up with clever titles but fail to write something interesting or worthy to be published. I try to check my facts, spelling and include reliable sources. I freelanced for the Grand Rapids Press (Lakeshore Edition) in Holland, Michigan for about a year. How did I get that job? I sat next to the newspaper editor at a chamber luncheon and when I asked her whether the newspaper planned to cover the upcoming Lunar New Year or the growing population of Asian Americans in the area, the editor responded that they did not have reporters who could make contacts. Then she commented, "Would you be special correspondent for us and cover the Asian American community?" For almost a year, I kept my full time job while covering, interviewing and reporting events such as Tet (Vietnamese New Year), festivals, grand opening of a donut shop by a Cambodian family or a Korean/Chinese restaurant that closed on Sunday because the owner is a devote Christian.

While Qaptain Qwerty writes about computer stuff/Mac computing (I don't think the subject is boring, just that it is way beyond my head), I write passionately about sports - hockey, NFL and college football (boring and insignificant to QQ). We both write about childhood memories in Viet Nam, our early days as refugees in New York, our current employment (office politics and idiots we have to put with), and about random events in the world. While QQ posts his cartoons, since I have no talents (drawing or anything has to do with art), I try to post meaningful photos and details descriptions.

I will try to write without spending too much time thinking, editing, and revising. Blogging should be fun and in some ways, therapeutic. I feel connected with my brother thru reading his blog and writing (sharing my thoughts) in my blog. The entries about my Dad's passing allowed me to mourn and grieve the loss and the pains that was still fresh after almost 7 years. According to a research conducted by the Psychology department at the University of Texas, writing is an exercise of the heart and simply writing about issues that bothering you could help you sleep better. Expressive writing is associated with maintaining emotional and physical well-being. There you have it, blogging is good for your health. Just make sure you don't mention real people with real names, especially if you are writing negatively about your employer!

As the saying goes, "Different folks, Different Strokes", let's keep writing, whatever style, topics and passion that moves each of us. For TOTA, it's my blog, however/whenever/whichever I write if I want to.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Borrowing from the masthead logo (dated back to 1896) from the New York Times, "All The News That's Fit to Print," here are a few comments on the random blogs I have come across.

I found Patricia Winter's blog, after clicking "Next Blog" and her entry about sending handmade pocket-size dolls to a shelter for women in Holland, Michigan caught my eyes. That was a few weeks ago, since then I have added her blog to my daily reading. I appreciate what Pat and other ladies are doing with their Comfort Doll Project. According to her blog, this is a world wide effort, including people from oversea (Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, and England) sent their handmade dolls to Pat and when she gets a dozen, she would send the dolls to shelters in order of when she receives their requests for the comfort dolls. Each doll has a note tucked inside with a message of hope and encouragement, telling these women that someone cares about what they are going through. That they are unique, beautiful and worthy. The dolls are symbols of comfort when the women need the strength to rebuilt their lives and move forward from abusive situation or negative environment.

I don't read cooking, baking or vegetarian blogs. I am a woman with very little interest when it comes to home decorations, recipes, crafts and arts. It is because I have no talents and very domestically challenge.

I saw a few blogs for golf leagues, community blogs for golf courses, neighborhoods, school or family reunions, informational blogs for friends and family to keep in touch. I don't read political blogs as they are always one-sided. Just seeing the clock (in a prominent place on the sidebar) adding up the cost of the war in Iraq, I can tell what side (left or right), what political party and the agenda of the bloggers.

There are many blogs that are written by mothers with small children. I am surprised that people post photos and full names of their children. I am just too paranoid to do that and I don't even have children! I came across a blog from a lady who has 9 children and 12 grandkids. She mentioned in one entry that she was trying to learn how to upload photos to her blog so she could post photos of all her 12 grandkids. Maybe I could help her now that I know more and could do more with my new template (ha).

There are blogs written by individuals who suffer from mental illnesses, depressions, addictions and others who are unhappy with their lives and blogging provides somewhat a relief for their situation. Blogging gives people such as a lady who lives on a farm in Iowa, reaching out to others helps lessen the loneliness and isolation in her life.

I don't know why there are so many blogs in foreign languages come up whenever I click on Next Blog. There are a few blogs in Vietnamese. I have not found anyone from St. Louis or recognize who the blogger was someone I might know. There is an American blogger who lives in Paris. She has a new baby and lives in a house that is undergoing renovation. In one of the photos, there was no wall in their bathroom because her husband, who started a new job, did not have the time to purchase drywall and a new door.

Pastor Chad's blog, is another blog I enjoy reading. I found out about this blog from being on the email list of weekly sermons sent by Pastor Chad. The Pastor is the youngest (and only) son of RJS, my former employer in Michigan. (Please read my entry "Happy Birthday RJS" on February 19, 2007 about RJS being a great boss, mentor and a kind person I am so blessed to work for.) Chad was a high school student when I first started working at his father's company. We met a few times when Chad came into the office. A well-built young man, already over 6 ft. tall, Chad was planning for a football career. An injury in his senior year prevented Chad from getting an athletic scholarship to attend college. Chad began his freshman year at Northwestern University with a plan for pre-med. There is a saying, "A person could plan, but only God knows what the future would be." When I left Michigan, Chad had transfered to Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

A few years later, RJS informed me in an email that Chad was ordained a minister. I could tell that RJS was very proud of Chad. For a few years, Chad was a pastor at a church in Upstate New York. The young man whom I met almost 17 years ago, just turned 33 earlier this month, is currently a senior pastor at a church in LaFayette, Indiana. Pastor Chad and his wife are proud parents of three blonde hair, blue eyes boys. RJS mentions in his email how much he enjoys being grandpa and spending time with the grandsons who are the pride and joy in his life.

I really enjoy writing my blog and reading others'. I will add to my list of iRead Blogs when I find blogs that are of interest to me and worth mentioning to my adoring fans. Blogging has provided a great way to connect with friends and family as well as strangers and I look forward to reading all the blogs that fit to read.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Photo taken when JL visited St. Louis in 2005. It was a nice sunny day for blowing bubbles. JL enjoyed seeing the rabbits running around in the backyard.

My nephew JL turned 7 years old this month. As I am unable to have children and my only sister and the other brother are not married (not that being married is a requirement to have children in this modern time), JL is the first and only American born in my immediate family. JL was born in the year of the dragon, and in the same month as my sister, CH. My Dad was able to enjoy being A Cung (paternal grandfather in Hakka, our regional Chinese dialect) for only about six months before he passed away in February 2001.

I often wonder whether my parents would be disappointed if their first grandchild was a girl. (My Dad was the eldest son in his family and I (a girl) was the first grandchild). And whether my brother and his wife would try to have another child, and another child until a son is born to carry on the family name. A friend of mine, SY, was one of the three girls born to her parents. One time when I visited SY, during dinner, her father jokingly (could be that he was not joking at all) said that he had to leave Hong Kong because he could not stand the constant laughing that he could not produce a son.

When I look at JL, I see my little brother, VL and remember the time I rode around the neighborhood (in Viet Nam) with VL sitting in the wagon seat of my bicycle. I thought of our walks to school (De Tham School) in the morning, when we stopped by the sidewalk stands for breakfast (com tam or banh mi) and in the afternoon we would get some cold sugarcane drinks. One time the vendor handed me the glass that was almost spilled over, before giving the drink to VL, I took a big gulp. I remembered VL looking up (now I am looking up at VL) at me wondering if I was going to share with him the sweet cold drink, but he never made a big stink, just patiently waiting for his turn. VL has always been a child with good nature and a person who does not like to make waves or creating commotions or being confrontational and drawing attention to himself (unlike his eldest sister who loves the limelight and thinks the whole world should revolve around her.)

When JL visited St. Louis in 2005, he noticed his name written in the center of a heart shape drawn on the calendar by the side of the refrigerator in the kitchen. JL commented in his sweet voice, "You must be very happy I am here." We spent a week together with a few days in St. Louis and a visit to my distance cousin and her family in Memphis, Tennessee. My cousin has a small dairy farm and JL enjoyed the country living, playing with the dogs, looking for the peacocks and chasing after the ducks and the chicken. It was one of the happiest times in my life.

One day I hope to show my nephew the notes my brother has written about how happy JL's birth brought to our family. I still remember the excitement in my father's voice when he called and left me a message that my sister-in-law just gave birth to a healthy baby boy. An email (October 2000) from VL wrote that while my Dad felt weak after the chemotherapy treatment and stayed in his room most of the time, the only joy my Dad had was whenever my Dad saw JL. VL wrote "It's amazing how much joy the little guy brings with him". How JL was such a good baby that he usually slept through the night and whenever he woke up, he would roll his big eyes all around, make some cute throaty sounds, looked adorable, and sending signals that he was ready for his milk bottle.

One day I hope to share with my nephew the story of our escape from Viet Nam as boat people, our ancestors who are Hakka people, nomads from Kwangtung, China and how we emigrated to Viet Nam and then to America as refugees. I hope to share stories about our struggle and how we overcame the difficulties in the new land and our accomplishments in America. We all have high hopes for JL's future and I must admit I place very high expections what JL would become, giving the opportunities and advancement.

Happy Birthday my favorite nephew. Here is to a peaceful world in your bright future.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


All week, the temperature has been in the high 90 and reached over 100 midday. For several days, the extreme heat soared into the triple digits, bringing dangerous level of the hottest stretch thru the region, prompted warnings of excessive heat and heat-related illness. I saw in the newspapers records of the heat index on August 6, 1947 was 104; August 8, 1934 - 108; and August 9, 1934 - 110. The four-day forecast again calls for dangerous heat, isolated shower, hot and muggy temperature.

After almost 13 years of living in St. Louis, I am still not used to the hot and humid weather. In addition to following all the advice such as drinking lot of water, staying indoor (duh), and no unnecessary heavy activities (like jogging or running - ha), I thought looking at these photos taken during our Alaska cruise in 2002 would help.

We saw these sea otters at the Aquarium in Seatle, Washington. They were very active and playful. The zoo staff explained that sea otters love to float at the water's surface, and often sleep lying on their backs. In this photo, they looked so relaxing. I found another reason to love the sea otters not only because they are so cute, but also because they are meticulously clean. Using their bodies as serving tables, after finished eating, they wash themselves and clean their coat with their teeth and paws. Taking good care of their coats helps them to remain waterproof and insulated against the cold.

This would be a very nice "cooling centers" to be. Saturday, July 6, 2002, we were in Glacier Bay, I was wearing a fur hat, heavy coat with layers of clothing and gloves, trying to stand still for a photo, later I learned that it was over 100 degrees in St. Louis that day. We saw the massive glaciers but only saw a few brown bears, harbor seals and plenty of sea otters. Other people told me they saw whales and dolphins swimming along the ship, but I did not see either.

While at Glacier Bay, we heard the thunder-like loud noise, seconds later we witnessed the collapse of ice falling from the glacier (calving). I was a bit nervous but my husband explained that the Park Service would not permit ships to be close to the glaciers and particularly with passenger cruise ships must be at a safe distance.

This photo captured a beautiful waterfalls was taken at one of the stops along the way by motorcoach into Canada's Yukon. We passed thru Skagway, Alaska (known as the Gateway to the Gold Rush), boarded the White Pass train, enjoyed a BBQ lunch at a Trading Post and spent time in Skagway's downtown historical district where local residents maintained false-front buildings and boardwalks from the 1898 Gold Rush era.

My husband teases me about coming from a tropical country such as Viet Nam that I should have no problem with the heat in St. Louis. I reminded him that he once told me that I could no longer claim that I am Vietnamese as I live in America longer than all the years living in Viet Nam. In a perfect world, I would be in Alaska in August, then in Boston when football season started, alternate between Detroit and Canada for hockey and travel around the world the rest of the time.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


"I would like to thank my brother VL for his continued support and encouragement that enable me to overcome my technical shortcomings to start my blog a year ago and finally upgrading my template with many new & improved features. I accept this award, "Blog of the Year", with my utmost appreciation. I will try to write more often and add more features as not to disappoint my adoring fans everywhere. Thank you very much for this award. I am so happy."

I have been practicing my acceptance speech. I try to keep it short as not to get cut off right in the middle of my sentence by the music like they always do at the Academy Awards. Whether my unknown blog, Top-of-the-Arch (TOTA) would ever be recognized or not, I would like to invite all my adoring fans to join me in a celebration of an important milestone.

This month is the first anniversary of TOTA. One year ago, brother VL (aka Qaptain Qwerty) helped me create TOTA during my visit to New York. QQ showed me how easy it was to start my very own blog. The first entry had only one paragraph, "Hello World! It was a dark and stormy night......" It took some nudging from QQ, almost two weeks later, I started writing a "real" lengthy entry. I have been writing somewhat regularly, not as often as I would like. I also began to read VL blog daily, (and all the previous posted entries),, and appreciate the technical tool that keep us connected.

A commentary from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch once wrote that bloggers are people who hide from the real world, amused ourselves with our own opinions and that bloggers are "Sayers", not "Doers". The person wrote that bloggers write about the issues but don't actually do something productive in the community. A week later, I saw a response to that commentary for his self-appointed of "the village scold" berating bloggers without knowing how many people (myself include) actively participating in our community through various volunteer activities. The respondent also asked the other commentator not to paint all bloggers with a broad trivial brush as not all 70 million blogs are silly and a waste of time. I agreed with the writer that "Internet blogs are educational tools, allowing people to connect and share ideas with each other" as well as providing limitless discussions anytime, anywhere in the world wide town squares.

I have always enjoyed writing. It comes from my paternal grandfather (A Cung) who was a famous poet in his own circle and was a school teacher when he first emigrated to Viet Nam from China. I remembered when we visited, A Cung showed me porfolios of his published poems and displays of articles on the walls in his office. He told me he was proud of me when I published my first poem. I was 12 years old and was selected as editor for the class newsletter. I also was in debate teams and loved to participate in public speaking competitions.

Writing TOTA has been great for me as blogging has provided an outlet for my writing. I take the time to research about the subjects/topics. TOTA also helps me organize my memories about our journey from Viet Nam, our early years in America and about my personal experience. I don't discuss politics or my faith or my stands on many social issues in my blog. Previous experiences reminded me not getting into discussions that turned into major disagreements, heated exchange, thus personal attacks and physical threats.

I look forward to reading my brother's blog. It is an enjoyment for me. We still keep in touch thru phone calls and email (I enjoy instance messaging too). I feel as if the distance did not keep us apart. I also enjoy reading/searching for interesting random blogs, especially the hockey blogs. I understand that the technology should not be the be-all and definitely should not be the substitute for personal conversations and quality time with friends and family. With everything in life, it is up to the individuals to utilize the tools to serve their needs and for whatever purpose the information is to be used. For me, I enjoy blogging (thus writing) and learning how to use the Internet productively. In fact, I submitted one of my blog entries to a local newspaper and it was published last May. I was also selected as one of the guest columnists to write three more articles.

So that is what blogging is to me - Borrowing the phrase from Astronaut Neil Armstrong - One small blog for a chubby woman, one giant blog for mankind!


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