Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I found this card while cleaning out my office. I usually purchase cards with the intention to send a message of encouragement and to let the person know that he/she is not alone. I don't remember whom this card was intended for. How appropriate that I found it this week, just when I needed to know that God's love for me is constant and that I should trust in the Lord with all my heart. A much needed reminder that God shall direct my paths.
If you are feeling powerless (that is exactly how I feel right now), let Him carry you in His arms - let His strength be your strength. Remember, there's nothing God and you can't do together. (As long as I don't forget that God is in control, I will be work thru whatever is coming my way.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I took these photos a few weeks ago when we went to a classic cars show at the Museum of Transport. Summer is traveling time and also to do whatever you might not be able to do when it is cold. Below are the last few items from the Parade magazine (June 5, 2011) on Great ideas to try for this summer.

24. Explore America's ancient ruins (I did not know we have ancient ruins considering America is only 235 years old.) Recommended places are Cliff dwellings Mesa Verde in Colorado or Chaco Canyon, New Mexico;

25. Sleep beneath the stars in one of more than 50 national parks. (We plan to visit Yellowstone National Park in September but I prefer a real hotel room.)

26. Dip a toe into the Atlantic Ocean (done that when we were in Coney Island) and Pacific Ocean (done that in Santa Monica Pier);
27. Write a gratitude letter to a teacher who made a difference in your life (what if I don't have one?)
28. Bake a real apple pie - from scratch (I assisted my husband, does that count?)
29. Catch a concert by an American legend (We got tickets for a U2 concert on July 17th - wonder if he brings his checkbook to pay taxes!)
30. Appreciate fall's follage (done that many times - we got nice view driving in a convertible);

31. See a bald eagle soar (I am still bitter that we did not see that when we were in Alaska. It was as if the eagles all went to Florida!);

32. Admire the pyramids of Las Vegas (but they are so fake);

33. Plan a vacation - Have a wonderful summer everyone!

Friday, June 24, 2011


As we are preparing for our Lincoln Highway adventure, I really appreciate all the modern convenience we have compared to the pioneers during their westward journey riding in a covered wagon with all their earthly possessions, down to simple necessities for cooking, cleaning/washing supplies, and everything might be needed. There were no hotels, no restaurants, no mobile phone and at times, there were no roads or passable routes. Oh, one more thing, there were no credit cards or ATM machine either!

Here are a few more items on the bucket/wish/to do list:

11. Volunteer to be a poll worker on Election Day (Done that - A few years ago, I worked as one of the judges at a local Election polling place);

12. Enjoy a minor league baseball game (I am not into baseball, so with the potential NFL lockout, I might have to start going to football games at local high school);

13. March in a parade (I might consider riding on a float on St. Patrick's Day, wearing a t-shirt that say "Don't kiss me, I am not a real Irish!);

14. Take a kid to Disney World (my nephew has already been there so many times - I have to think if there is a "well behave" kid I could take to Disney World);
15. Learn the second verse of our national anthem (done that);
16. Ride the Ferris wheel at a country fair (this would not go well with my motion sickness!);
17. Seek out the best Fourth of July fireworks (In 2005 when my nephew, JL who was 5 years old at that time, came to visit us, he sat on my lap while we were watching the fireworks in the park, JL unexpectedly turned around, put his arms around my neck and said, "I love you", then he kissed my cheek. That was the best fireworks in my life!);

18. Get a passport (done that);
19. Send a letter to your U.S. Senator or representative (done that);

20. Mail a care package to a service member (done that);

21. Make your own Halloween costume (maybe I will dress up as Chris Osgood complete with a goalie mask and a hockey stick);

22. Tailgate at a football game (we did at a Rams' game);

23. Go on a road trip. Choose a classic route: Route 66 (done that); the Pacific Coast Highway (done that); we still need to ride along the Great River Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Lakes Circle tour, and Maui's Hana Highway.

More items in the next post.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


My husband and I celebrated our 22nd Wedding Anniversary this month. I ordered a marble cake (our favorite choice instead of the white or yellow cake). I chose white icing and red lettering because red/white are the colors of the Polish flag, to honor my husband's heritage. The young lady at the bakery did a good job decorating the cake with the rings tied together.

My husband sent me the above beautiful basket of flowers. However, the order got mixed up and was not delivered to the office when it was supposed to. Turned out the delay caused the flowers to be delivered on the day after "the incident" took place. The flowers really made my day because I was very upset, not wanting to be at work yet trying hard to continue performing my job in a professional manner. It really made you believe that everything (delay of the delivery) happens for a reason (to remind me of the love from my husband and that I was not alone)!

I took the basket home and placed it on the kitchen counter so I could enjoy both the flowers while looking out the window watching Yan and Yvette (yellow finch). There were ups and downs in my marriage. There were good times and there were bad times. There are still not-so-nice times and I am still learning how to be a loving, supportive, respectful and prayerful wife to my husband. The last 22 years were not all wonderful and the next 22 years might not be smooth-sailing. Just for today, I am reminded of God's Blessings and take comfort in trusting that He will provide what we need and He will keep us together in faith and in love.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Last July (2010) we completed our adventure on Route 66 from the Beginning in Chicago, Illinois to the End of the Trail at Santa Monica Pier in California. This year (2011) we will begin our cruising on Lincoln Highway. I read that Route 66 is the Mother Road and Lincoln Highway is the Father Road. I laughed and commented to my husband when I saw the front cover of Parade Magazine (Sunday, June 5, 2011) - photo below - Jimmy Fallon's list including Go to Graceland (we did it in Feb. 2001 and again May 2011); Take a ride on Route 66 (been there); See the Grand Canyon (done that)!

The featured article began on page 11 listing other items/places that Fallon also would like to do such as singing onstage with Paul McCartney (in 2002 we saw Sir Paul in concert) or soaring over the Serengeti in a hot-air balloon (well, we went to the hot-air balloons festival at Forest Park). Fallon also listed getting an RV and drive across the country (my husband would rather drive the T-bird or the Mustang).

Here are what on other people's "bucket list" compared to our "done/wish list" - not in any particular order of importance:

1. See Mount Rushmore (we are planning to do that in September this year).

2. Eat real BBQ in Memphis, Tenn. or Kansas City, MO (done that) - Austin, TX is still on our list to visit;

3. Watch a lawn mower race (done that in Claremore, Oklahoma);

4. Visit a Farm (Not sure if this will count - back in 1987 when I almost married a man from the Netherlands who moved to Canada to be a pig farmer. It is a long story with a sad ending and I don't want to talk about it!)

5. Participate in a tradition that's so odd, it has to be American, like the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island (we not done it yet) or the sidewalk egg-frying competition in Oatman, Arizona (we were in Oatman and almost did not get out of town because a burro blocked our way until we gave him a carrot);

6. We hope to stand at the base of a really tall tree like the giant sequoias in California;

7. Own a pair of cowboy boots (done that);

8. Attend a religious service of a faith different from your own (will have to table this item for now);

9. Invite someone new to Thanksgiving dinner (good idea but bad idea since I don't cook!);

10. Read the Constitution (after I finish reading both the Old and New Testaments);

Check back later for other items on the list. Feel free to share your lists.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


My Dad passed away in February 2001. I was 40 years old, yet I felt so lost as if I was a 10-year old child losing a parent. Ten years later, at times I still got emotional thinking of my Dad. I miss my Dad. I needed his guidance, especially the last few weeks. How I wish I could talk to my Dad. I needed him to tell me exactly what I must do.
"Con khong cha nhu nha khong cot" is a Vietnamese expression that "Children without a father is like a house without pillars". Thus, without pillars to hold up the structure, the house would collapse. I understand that I am capable of taking care of myself. But no matter at what age, I am still my father's daughter. Dad's passing left a wound that never completely healed. Being the oldest child, I have a special bond with my Dad. I will always be the 10-year old holding my Dad's hand real tight as we tried to get into the stadium in Sai Gon, Viet Nam, for a sold-out soccer game.
Last night Dad visited me in a dream. We had a real nice conversation.

Dad: Con khoe khong? Ba thay con co ve lo rau. How are you my dear daughter? I could see that something troubles you.
TOTA: I miss you and I need to know you are near. (I told Dad about the incident of unprofessional conduct inflicted upon me at my workplace.)
Dad: You handled it very well. You defended your dignity and honor and I am proud of you. I was in that meeting with you. Did you not feel my hand touching your right shoulder when you presented the challenge to those in the room? They saw my intense piercing eyes and said to each other, "the man next to TOTA must be her Dad".
TOTA: I am so angry at the jerk. How dare he humiliated me? I will make him pay for what he did and also so that he won't harass another woman. I will demand that management take responsibility to provide a safe and respectful working environment for all the staff.
Dad: That was excellent when you took the stand and spoke up at the meeting. But remember what grandpa said, "when a mad dog bites you, you just don't bite the dog back." Take it from me, I was humiliated and insulted by those who threaten to report to the communist government that I worked for an American company. I had to swallow my pride when I was attacked. If I fought back, I would be sent to jail. Your mother would not be able to take care of all 4 kids. I had to beg, I had to bow to those in power because they held our passage to freedom. No matter how angry you feel right now, you must not act in haste. Just like we did when we prepared for our escape, we must be careful and not let others know our plans. Remember, I am always with you. Be proud of what you have accomplished. Sleep well, my dear daughter, be ready for tomorrow, it will be a bright day!
TOTA: Thank you, Dad. I love you. Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


A few weeks ago, my husband alerted me when he saw a yellow finch in our backyard. I only caught a glimpse of its brilliance yellow. The next few days I looked out the kitchen window, anxiously kept watch but "Yan" never came back. (I came up with the name "Yan" as a Finnish name for baby boy - it is perfect for a male yellow finch, don't you agree?) Hey QQ, are you impressed with my "punstering", finch = Finnish?

I went to a local Wild Bird Marketplace and bought the above feeder and a pound of "yummy food". The young lady at the store was very helpful, and she assured me that "Yan" and his friends will be visiting. I am very pleased to report that I have enjoyed many hours of "bird watching" since we put the feeder out under our patio. That was "Yvette" in the above photo. I learned that the male finch has bright yellow overall, black wings with white edging, black cap and forehead, pinkish orange, pointed and conical bill. The female, Yvette, has dull yellow (that is so unfair), dark, blackish wings with wingsbars and lack of streaking.

This little bird was checking out the "Communication Condominium" but decided not to sign the lease. We might have to hold another open house and lower the price. Perhaps we could add sports program including NHL Center Ice as an incentive to close the sale! (It would be difficult for me to get inside the mailbox to watch hockey games - haa haa).

The meeting on Tuesday, June 14th went well. I was calm and maintained a high level of professionalism. I felt good for standing up and defended my dignity and honor. I challenged the leadership to show that they are educated, smart business people of good characters, high values and will do what is right and honorable.It was a special treat when we saw the above red bird. Was it red-billed firefinch? Or cassin's finch?

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I did (taking the photos and sharing these images with my faithful readers - haa haa).

I continued to attend daily morning Masses. (Fr. CD inspired me with his homily that instead of giving up something during Lent, we should be doing more like attending daily Masses.) I prayed for strength. (I don't pray, "God, please get that son of a B!{&#".) I don't want to be bitter or revengeful. My former boss in Michigan told me that "revenge often leaves a hallow victory". I still keep in touch with RJS because I have great respect for him. He is a man of characters, strong faith and he lifts up those around him.

It is a beautiful world and I am reminded that we should not let a few "rotten apples" ruin what is good. I am grateful for the support from my family, friends and even from those I never met (thanks, Alisa - for your kind words). I will be stronger and wiser.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Congratulations to the Boston Bruins on capturing the 2011 Stanley Cup championships. The Bruins played well and really dominated the series. I did not make any predictions or sharing which team I cheered for because I did not want to jinx the Canucks. Well, that did not make any difference. Not being Canadian, yet I was greatly disappointed that the Canucks could not bring Lord Stanley home. I love the Original Six but I would prefer the Canucks winning the finals over the Bruins.

It was painful to watch Game 7 last night (Wednesday, June 15th). Actually I had to be at the Board of Adjustment meeting starting at 7:00 p.m. (that was when the game started). I told the chairwoman that knowing that we needed five commissioners for voting, I gave up watching the 1st period of the game. I was promised a medal for commitment to civic duty! As soon as the voting was done, I said, "I had to be rude and get out of here. See you all next time." Usually we would hang around talking after the meeting but not when it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

I lost all hope when the Canucks allowed the shorthanded goal late in the 2nd period. I watched the traditional handshakes (one more reason why I love hockey - whether the players are forced to shakehand, it is still a great symbol of sportmanship) and the MVP and Stanley Cup presentation. I am still asking the questions most of hockey fans are trying to find the answers, "What happened to the Canucks? How could #22 and #33 and Luongo and the Canucks fell apart so badly?" I will tell Henrik Sedin, next time, go ahead and touch the President's Trophy already! Well, only 100+ more days before the next hockey season starts. I guest I could spend my spare time learning how to cook and improve on my house-keeping skills - NOT!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I was getting ready for work when the phone rang (actually it was my cell phone because like most people already did, we got rid of our land line), it was my husband asking if I could display the flag in front of our house. Usually CP would be in charge of "raising" the flag, but he was in a hurry to get to work early and forgot that Tuesday, June 14th was Flag Day. We noticed that our house was one of the few homes in the entire subdivision that consistently displayed the flag on major holidays.

As I displayed the flag, I thought how ironic that there would be a work-related meeting in the afternoon when I had to defend my dignity as a person and as an American citizen. (I am unable to share the details here. I will at the appropriate time in the near future.) The purpose of the meeting was to discuss an inappropriate behavior and unprofessional conduct by an individual inflicted upon me as I was doing my job at an event sponsored by the organization/my employer. I never care to play the race card nor playing a victim. But I do wonder whether after 31 years living in America, do people still see me as a helpless refugee/ an Asian immigrant, thus an easy target of harrassment? Do people see me as a foreigner speaking English with an accent and not a proud American?

Does the perpetrator/jerk believe that he would get away with his inappropriate behavior because I would not stand up for myself? Do other people look the other way because I was just a lowly office staff, especially being Asian, I should be used to being treated less? I might be a victim of unprofessional conduct but I would not allow myself to be victimized. This incident pales in comparison to our escape from Viet Nam, survived the boat journey, the refugee camp, starting over in New York City. I am fighting back. I am prepared for a long battle. I will overcome and I will be stronger. This is America and I am an American.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Back in April, I wrote about the robins (April and George) building a nest under our front porch. April would yell at us for disturbing her children when we went in and out of our house. I posted photos of the beautiful blue eggs and April's cute "kids" after the eggs hatched. My husband did not appreciate that after living "under our roof" rent-free and "all the worms" they could eat, the whole family left without a word of appreciation. It was worse that they left "stinky marks" all over our freshly painted porch. CP removed the nest, cleaned the area around it but a week later, CP found a few straws that looked like a foundation for another nest. To deter another "freeloader", CP placed an eagle book-end (top photo) at where previous nest was built.

We thought the eagle book-end was a clever idea! A few days later, we were surprised when we found a nest with two beautiful blue eggs (above photo) in the flower basket (photo below). The location of the nest was even closer to our front door compared to the previous location (enlarge the photo and you will see the eagle book-end where the other nest was built). Now we would be yelled at by the mother when we coming out and going into our house, and also we have to be extra careful when we water the flower basket. (It is getting to be more like "eminent domain" where the government taking away private property for the benefits of public interests.)Compared to April and George, May and Garry were much more aggresive and confrontational. A&G would fly away and yelled at us from the tree. M&G after flying away, would swoop back in an intimidating manner, while we walked from the front door to the driveway. Even when I already got into my vehicle, the bird would swoop by the car door, continuing to holla, "Get away from my kids. Or I am going to kick your sorry @$#!".

It got worse after the eggs were hatched. M&G increased their offensive tactics, flying low and in a ready-to-attack formation. One time, it swoop by my ear as I was standing between the glass door but did not open the main entry door quick enough to get inside. The neighbors must have a good laugh watching me "arguing" with the robins, "Who asked you to build your nest so close to our front door? This is my house and my flower basket. I am not afraid of you and your kind."

The only nice thing about the nest in the flower basket was the good photos I was able to take. When M&G were not around, CP took the basket down so I could take close up images. May also produced four eggs, just like her cousin, April. We did not take photos of the chicks out of respect for their "privacy". We watched and saw two baby birds screaming for food. Then we noticed that M&G were not around the next few days. Sadly, when we finally took the basket down and looked inside, we found a dead chick. We burried it in the backyard. What happened to the other chicks will be turned over to "Cold Case" detectives for further investigation.

Friday, June 10, 2011


These photos were taken a few weeks ago when we drove around Forest Park after a visit to the Missouri History Museum. I noticed that the annual outdoor Shakespeare Festival was being set up, ready for its 4-week run of "The Taming of the Shrew" production. The free festival began in 1997. According to the website,, the festival employed renowned regional and national directors, stage designers and professional actors. I have never been to a performance because I thought it would be only community theatre actors. I guess I was wrong!

As I was taking the photos, a man who dressed like the fortune-seeker character Pertruchio yelled out, "Stop taking photos of the stage!" I responded, "It is an empty stage." He did not look happy at my comment. Pertruchio insisted that I stop taking photos because "it is all copyrighted." (You could hardly see the details in the photo since I was far away from the stage.) I smiled and walked away after saying, "Have a nice day" to Pertruchio. Perhaps someone would explain to me about this copyrighted when it is outdoor, free admission and the festival should be glad that I am promoting it by writing about the play in my blog.

I thought of Qaptain Qwerty and wonder if he would enjoy going to the festival. The Shrew will run from May 27th thru June 19th. You could either bring a picnic basket, coolers with your favorite drinks, (or purchase food/drinks/snacks from concession stands) a lawn chair (rental available) or a blanket. If we attended the festival and brought a blanket, my husband' snoring probably would drown out the actors on stage and we would get kick out of the festival!

The temperature has been in the upper 80s with lot of promise of a typical hot and humid St. Louis summer. I decided to get a pedicure so I could wear these shoes I just bought last week. With new shoes and a pedicure, I feel I am ready for summer!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


For more information about the Black Madonna Shrine and details about the Grottos, visit

Our Lady of Sorrow grotto

Gethsemane Grotto

Grotto of St. Peter, St. James and St. John

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Assumption Grotto

St. Francis Grotto

St. Joseph Grotto

Our Lady of Perpetual help Grotto

Monday, June 06, 2011


The last two years, we attended Memorial Day services at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, We no longer wish to attend the service because the occassion that was supposed to honor the men and women who gave their lives defending our nation has turned into opportunity for politicians to give speeches about themselves and why they should be elected or re-elected. This year, on Monday, May 30th we decided to attend Mass at the Black Madonna Shrine in Eureka, Missouri. A group of AARP members from Chicago, Illinois were also there for their annual pilgrimage to the Shrine. The members were Filipinos and they were the most faithful and joyful worshipers I have ever celebrated Mass with. It was a privilege to share the celebration with them.

The Black Madonna Shrine and Grotto was constructed in 1938 by Brother Bronislaus Luszcz, a Polish native, of the Franciscan order. The Shrine is dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa and is a replica of the shrine in Czestochowa. Brother Bronislaus spent 20+ years of his life building the rock grottos all by hands, without mechanical tools.

Visit to read more about the Shrine, the Grottos on the ground and other information such as nursing home and schedule of liturgical services.

The above icon of the Madonna and the mosaic wall of the Chapel (below photo) were created by Frederick Henze .

In 1958 an arsonist set fire to the altar which burned the chapel. It was hard to believe that the shrine was also vandalized many times.

The image is known as the Black Madonna because of its dark skin tones.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Children's Memorial Garden at The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois.


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