Celebrating Life Once a Year?

Today, we said goodbye to John, my brother-in-law. I attended his funeral service online.

John was a wonderful brother-in-law. We had many discussions on many different subjects. We didn’t always agree with each other, but we respected each other a lot. He was very nice to my family: taking us out to eat, playing mahjong with my parents, babysitting my great niece… One time I was interested in learning how to create personal story videos, John was the first person volunteering to be my testing subject.

At the funeral service, everyone had a fond story to tell; clearly, we’ll all miss him in our own way.

As beautiful as the service was, as sad as I was knowing John is not with us anymore, while listening to all those wonderful stories about John, I couldn’t help wondering why we kept doing this after the person is gone. Why can’t we have the service (for some people, maybe “this kind of gathering” would sound better than “service”?) while the person is still alive? Maybe once a year after a person has reached a certain age?

For those who have older parents, maybe, there is something on the subject to think about. We can call it “Celebrating Life Once a Year!” That does sound good, I think. What do you think?

On second thought, maybe this doesn’t limit to older people. Maybe we just celebrate everyone’s life once a year. I am even more satisfied with that!

Thanks for visiting my blog. Wear a mask. Stay safe. We’ll get through this COVID-19 thing together!

Posted in Memoir, photo and thoughts | 26 Comments

Hello, World

During the years that I was working as a computer programmer, quite often, I had to learn a new computer language. It doesn’t matter if you learn it in a class or from a book, the very first exercise, usually, is writing a program to print “Hello, World”. In a way, this exercise is comforting, because I knew it too well; but, on the other hand, it was kind of boring, so I often skipped it.

Now that most of us (people in every country) stay at home all the time, for some reason, I feel the world has become smaller, and we are closer. I have an urge of shouting “Hello, China”, “Hello Italy”, “Hello Spain”… “Hello, World” … “How are you?”

And… when I pray for COVID-19 to end, I can hear other people’s voices, praying in their own language, their own faith…

Stay safe, my friends.

# # #
Another long break from blogging… I know. I am currently taking 4 Buddhist lessons, and soon I will start my 5th. When I was young, I wasn’t a good student, only studied enough to pass the course ;-). (Hmm… it seems weird that I always enjoy learning, but I don’t like to study… have to figure this one out.) Anyway, study has consumed most of my time. (For those who remember the StoryWorth project I was working on… yes, it is still going. It’s the 14th week now. However, in recent weeks, every week I barely made the deadline.)

Living in a cold place, we don’t go out often in winter. At the end of the fall, if my neighbors happen to see us, they usually say something like “Take care; we’ll see you next year.”

This past winter was no exception. It was cold right from the beginning, and both Wei and I had experienced a few minor health problems (we are ok now), so we stayed at home even more.

Then, there came this COVID-19 thing. I am swamped with my homework and projects, so staying at home is “almost” welcomed. Wei, on the other hand, started showing signs of cabin-fever. Once in a while, we drove around; most of the time we didn’t get out of the car. We stopped at a local zoo once, only 5 other people were there. (The zoo is closed now.)

Since we are quiet people, and we are in the high-risk group, friends and relatives started checking on us, asking how we were doing. “Life as usual,” I said.

One day we went to the grocery store. I had heard that there was a shortage on hand sanitizer, toilet paper, rice, flour… Still, those empty shelfs shock me. There were only two packages of chicken left, only 40% of eggs… Luckily, we found everything we needed. On that day, I had discovered another good thing on aging: you don’t eat much; you don’t need much. After visiting the grocery store, I no longer responded with “Life as usual.” Instead, I would say: “We’re ok. Hope you are ok, too.”

Finally, I want to share with you a photo of my great-nephew. Hope it will make you smile like it did to me.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Posted in photo and thoughts | 22 Comments

Fine Dining

Yesterday while I was walking on the treadmill, my husband was watching an episode of Chef’s Table that featured chef Massimo Bottura. One of Massimo Bottura’s “famous” dishes has only 6 tortellini on the plate.

“He is right… people wouldn’t appreciate the ingredients if you gave them a lot to eat, but with so little food on the plate, I would still be hungry after eating dinner there,” I said.

“If you don’t want to be hungry, you can always eat at other places,” my husband said. He then went upstairs to get dinner ready.

I came upstairs after I was done walking, and found a plate on the table in front of my seat.

“That’s your dinner, dear,” my husband said.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Posted in photo, Writing | 7 Comments

What were your favorite toys as a child?

This is the third week since we started StoryWorth project. The question I received on the first week was: What was your Mom like when you were a child? And the second week was: What do you like most about your siblings? This week’s question is: What were your favorite toys as a child? Here, I am sharing what I wrote in this week with you. The format I am trying to follow is: I will answer the question first; then, I will answer the question from a mother’s point of view; and finally, I will end with an old journal entry (entries), just for fun. I just want to give you an idea of how this goes. I want to add that I will revise them later. In other words, I know there are plenty of English mistakes… sorry about that.

# # #

When I saw this question, my first reaction was: “But, I didn’t have any!” Come to think of it, growing up I had no idea what toys were. The good thing is that since I didn’t know what they were, I wasn’t missing them either.

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, one of my dad’s students gave me a doll with eyes that closed when lying down. I was more amazed than excited. But after watching it 3 or 4 times, I became bored and put the doll aside, never played with it again. This may not be easy for those, who have played with dolls, to understand. Let me explain… we, particularly kids, learn by watching. Back then, housewives did the chores while carrying babies at their back or in the front; babies, often, were not even in a comfortable position. I had not seen any woman holding babies in their arms, showering with affections. I didn’t get a feeling that having a baby was such a great thing; I didn’t know what to do with a doll. (I couldn’t put Candace down after she was born. On the second night, nurse forced me to leave Candace in the nursing room with other babies; she gave me a sleeping pill so I could get some sleep. I am glad a part of being a mother does come naturally – no need to google, I mean 😉

When I was in high school, we had a Hula Hoop. I don’t remember where it came from; suddenly it was there. I was pretty good at it, could keep it going forever. Sometime we had to take turns – your game is over when you dropped the hoop. I remember feeling embarrassed because the hoop just wouldn’t fall off. (I bought a Hula Hoop a few years ago. To my surprise, I couldn’t keep it on for 3 seconds. After practicing, it was improved to 3 minutes… no way near my previous record.)

Another toy we had was a paddle with an elastic string attaching to its center and a ball attaching at the end of the string. I played once in a while, wasn’t too crazy about it.

Instead of playing with toys, we listened to the radio and played games.
We tied the rubber bands together to make a rope. Two people held two ends and threw the rope into big circles; we would take turns jumping in the middle.

We also roller skated for a couple of years. One could rent the skates at facilities. Karin and Shao were pretty good at it. They did some dance routines.

1966

Kids in our neighborhood (11 of us) often got together to play Hide and Seek. We defined a home base – usually it was an olive tree. The seeker would stand by the home base, closed his eyes and counted to 10, while everyone else was scurrying off to find a place to hide. If you were able to touch the home base while the seeker was away looking for hiders, you won (the seeker, often, hung around the base.) If the seeker found you, you and the seeker were in a race to see who could touch the base first, and whoever touched the base first won. The game would be over if someone was caught by the seeker, and this person, who was caught by the seeker, would become the next seeker. We played this game on almost every holiday for many years. Thirty years after coming to U.S., when I went back visiting Taiwan, I had a great time meeting all my childhood friends.

Marble-Ball game was another fun one. We dig 5 small holes on the ground: one in center and 4 holes are 5 to 7 feet away in north, south, east and west from the center hole. One of those 4 side holes was defined as the home base. We started the game from the base, shooting the marble to the center hole by using thumb and index finger to squeeze the marble out. The first person who could finish visiting all holes, and return to the base would win the game.

In the marble-ball game, if your marble was near your opponent’s marble, you could use your marble striking your opponent’s marble, sending his marble far away from his destination to slow him down. Many years later, Jeanne, the girl who lived next door, still remembered how we all prayed hard not to land our marble ball next to Chris’, because it would take us two shots to get back to where we were.

Since our front yard was a rectangle shape, we played Badminton from time to time (just hit the shuttlecocks back and forth, no nets). Since Chris and Karin were much older, they could keep it going for a long time without dropping shuttlecocks. I enjoyed watching them play.

We also played a game called “Avoid Ball” (not sure how to translate it). We were divided into two teams. The team who owned the ball would throw the ball toward the other team. If a member got hit by the ball, but was not able to hold on to the ball, he would be eliminated. On the other hand, if this person was able to hold on to the ball, then his team could start attacking the other team. At one of those games, Shao’s ball hit right on my face, so I cried. If I remember it right, that was the last time we played the game.

We also came up with a bicycle game: two people riding on bikes, trying to force the one another to get off the bike.

Sometime, I would ride my bike aimlessly on streets: if I saw a green light, I went forward; if I saw a red light I turn to the right. Sometime we simply rode bikes back and forth in our yard.

On New Year’s Eve, we played heads and tails with Dad. Dad would give each of us some quarters. He then spin a quarter; we put our bets on the table (one quarter usually) and guessed head or tail. If we were right, Dad gave us a quarter (whatever the number of quarters we had bet on); otherwise, we lost one. (Chinese has an old saying that if the children stayed pass the midnight on New Year Eves, parents would live longer. Playing a game was a nice way to keep us awake. 😉

I have very little feelings toward the toys I had had, but the game I enjoyed the most was “heads and tails” – that was probably the only time of the year that I saw Dad relaxing and having fun.

# # #

When Candace was little, like all other parents, I wanted to buy every “good” toy for her, but, at the same time, since I didn’t grow up with tons of toys, I didn’t really understand what toys were for, and ended up spending a lot of time at a teachers’ store that was full of educational stuffs. One day, during my lunch hour, I saw a singing lion singing “You are My Sunshine”. I stood there for at least 5 minutes, kept playing the song, thinking how lucky I was to have a lovely daughter. It was clear to me that there was no way I would leave the store without the lion, so I did.

Later, we bought one “My Little Pony” for her; she really loved it, and that made our lives easier — we started buying all little ponies in all stores and soon she had more ponies than any toy store combined.

We also played a few games with her: we use quarters to play math game (she thought it was a game ;-); we played hangman while waiting for food at restaurants (or working on math problems).

# # #

3/4/1987

My “big” alarm clock wakes me up again this morning.

Around 5:40, every morning, Candace starts squeezing her body against mine and a minute later, her head would be on top of my chest. Trying to make her sleep comfortably, I quietly get out of the bed.

Since she was born, Candace is a black-belt blanket kicker. After we cover her with a blanket, it only takes a second or two for her to kick the blanket off. But, strangely, after squeezing me out of the bed, she sleeps like a baby. But, is that a tiny victory grin on her face?

3/5/1987

I told Candace how she woke me up every morning. She laughed and said, “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“I tried, but no matter what I do, you wouldn’t wake up.” I lied. How could I? She needed sleep!

“Mommy, don’t you remember?” she said, her face brightening with a mysterious smile. “You have to tickle me to wake me up.”

# # #

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Posted in Memoir, Writing | 20 Comments

At This Age…

After posting my last entry, I was getting ready to go to California to celebrate Thanksgiving with our daughter. I was excited. On the day before Thanksgiving, my husband woke me up at 2 A.M., and told me he had a diarrhea. We talked a little bit and then I fell asleep. He woke me up again at 3 am, telling me to get an ambulance because he was suffering a terrible stomach ache. The ambulance came and took us to ER in a nearby hospital. Four hours later, all test results came back ok; he had a nice sleep; I was exhausted. When we left ER, my husband was still not 100% recovered, but he felt much better. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and next day, we were happy to come home.

Two days after we came back, while trying to do the laundry, I threw my back out. I fell to the floor and couldn’t get up. My husband was 25 feet away in the kitchen, but since the TV was on, he couldn’t hear me calling him. I managed to walk on knees to the bedroom, and luckily, my phone was on the bed, which I could reach without getting up. I lay on the floor, calling my home number to get my husband’s attention. He finally answered the phone on my third try – he thought it was a junk call. He tried to help me to get up, but it hurt too much. So, I lay on the floor for one day and slept on the floor on the next day. Five days later, I was finally recovered. (Does this remind you of the TV commercial on medical alert systems? Now, I try to carry my phone all the time.)

And that was not the end of it. Two days later, my husband’s blood pressure was shooting up; we were back to the ER again. His blood pressure was unstable for another week.

So, we had a rough time. Good thing that my back ache didn’t happened at the same time he needed to go to the hospital. I wondered if it is time to start getting information about senior homes. But since we are ok now, I don’t think about senior home as hard as before.

Our daughter and our soon-to-be son-in-law came home for the Christmas. We had a lovely family time. Seeing how excited our daughter was on the Christmas day (waiting for opening gifts) was quite interesting. In a way, it brought me back to the time when she was a little girl.

Have you heard of StoryWorth? Well, one of the gifts I received from my daughter was a subscription for StoryWorth. Every week the company will send me one of the questions that my daughter picked, and I will answer her question in writing. When I submit my story, the company will send a copy to my daughter and it will also store the story on their website. A year from now, it will print a book for us. I like this gift a lot. It will motivate me to write more personal stories and share them with my daughter. Some of you may want to check this out. My husband also got the same gift. (There are also other companies doing the same services.)

At this age, my mind is racing with time, wanting to complete a few more projects, but my body doesn’t seem to care what my mind wants. What’s next, I wonder.

Happy 2020! And thank you for visiting my blog.

(The photo was taken by my soon-to-be son-in-law. He took it after taking a 10 minute lesson from me on ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. No post processing – I was impressed! 😉

Posted in photo, photo and thoughts | 31 Comments

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #70: Monochrome

This is my submission for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #70: Monochrome.

For challenge #70, Patti invited us to explore the world of monochrome. She said, “For an extra challenge, try adding a bit of color to a black and white image.”


We have taken many photos of this tree. It grows in the middle of a farmland; we couldn’t get closer. I always wonder what kind of tree it is.


One of the houses we had lived in had an oak tree in the backyard. I thought acorns were cute, but my husband didn’t like them, because they messed up the yard.


I found this mushroom at the end of a wooden bridge in a state park. I wanted to take a closer look, but my husband was already 30 feet in front of me, so I clicked and left.


Some of us rather take an action than speaking words. Some couldn’t comprehend actions. 😉


We went to see Tundra Swans on the other day. It was cold, but at least they had each other, I thought to myself.

Thank you, Patti.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Posted in photo, photo and thoughts, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged | 31 Comments

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #68: Layered & #69: Seeing Double

This is my submission for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #68: Layered and #69: Seeing Double.

Sorry for being late for challenge #68. I was very impressed with Amy’s post about Plitvice lakes, and was anxious to submit mine, but I had never thought of “layers” in photos (don’t know why) and had a hard time to select any photo for the challenge. However, a week later, “layer” started making sense to me. Here are a couple of photos I had taken at North Adams, Massachusetts ;-).

Thank you, Amy.

Challenge #69… Tina said, “This week, let’s double our pleasure and focus on things that come in twos.”

Looking out of the window, I saw my neighbor and his son raking leaves in our front yard. Well, they were raking… 😉

Thank you, Tina.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Posted in photo, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged | 16 Comments

Wedding Photographing, Anyone?

This is a long post… (sorry.)

My nephew, Jeff, got married at the end of Sept. A year ago, shortly after he announced his engagement, my sister said to me, “Kids want to save money; they probably will ask Wei and you to be their wedding photographers.”

Stress free is what we treasure the most in our retirement life. What I understand about wedding photographing is that you only have one chance to get each photo right, and some (most?) brides (mother of bride?) are not easy to please. After hearing what my sister said, I was nervous, scared, and exciting at the same time. Who else, other than my wonderful nephew, would consider giving us such an opportunity?

Still, I highly recommended them to hire a professional photographer, whom they could be angry with if things didn’t go as expected (definitely not his aunt!) 😉 Later, they said they preferred having us to enjoy the wedding; they hired a professional photographer. They asked if we minded to take some get-ready photos and the First Look photos. I felt relieved. Still, I watched tons of wedding photographing videos, just in case.

We were as prepared as we could be. We drove to Vermont; each had two cameras (so we didn’t have to change lenses), four external flashes (one for each camera), two tripods, lighting stands, lighting umbrellas, extra batteries, and extra memory cards. I had compiled a shot list; I even had some images in my head.

Well, all those videos I had watched didn’t help much. ;-( Walking into the makeup room, immediately, I got my first surprise. The make-up room was one bathroom in a beautiful 126 year old home. Like any old house during that period of time, each room is small. A small table was placed between the toilet seat and the sink; a small portable round mirror was on the table. The hairdresser had her curing iron… etc. plugged in by the sink, wires dangling. Other than taking a few shots behind the bride, my only logical choice was to shoot while sitting on the toilet seat.

The subject would be sitting in front of windows in a sunny day; the light condition was challenging, to say the least. One bedroom (small) served as the bride’s changing room. It has two twin size beds in it; with suitcases, and other things piling on the floor, the walking path was less than two feet wide. Two windows locate at each end of the outer wall and a table was placed in front of one of them. If I wanted to take a photo of the bride standing by the window to take an advantage of the natural light like professionals had suggested, I would have to stand on top of one bed. No room for tripod, lighting stands… etc.!

In most of those wedding videos I had watched, I saw a big well-lit room with a large mirror. Using natural light, selecting the spot, utilizing the mirror… they said. Their room, apparently, had plenty of space for everyone to move around! But that wasn’t true for the room I was in. I took a few photos of the bride standing in front of the mirror, which was hanging on the closet door, and found out later that the mirror has something (dust?) all over it, so my photos were covered with a thousand white dots. (Is it photographer’s job to make sure the mirror is clean?)

The above photo was the result after spending hours cleaning up the white spots. I cropped the photo to the minimum so I didn’t have to be the slave of those unwanted dots.

Allowed time was another surprise. In those videos, it seems like each photographer has an assigned time (short or long) that he can pose people in a couple of different ways. In reality, their schedule was very tight and they were behind. I didn’t want to slow things down further, so I tried to stay out of their way while clicking. When I finally got a free moment, I thought I could take photos of the rings, flowers, dress, shoes… etc. since one of my cameras had a macro lens just for this purpose. Well, flowers were not delivered yet; my sister had no idea where rings were. We managed to find the dress and shoes (a photo of shoes was posted on my previous post), and that was it. At the end, I didn’t need my other camera at all.

First Look – am I the only ones who didn’t know what First-Look was? I thought it was for groom and bride to meet their families after they got dressed. 😉 I found out what it was 20 minutes before it was supposed to happen! Wei and I hurriedly scouted the location and came up with some ideas. Good thing that Andrew, the professional photographer, had arrived. Even though I had an idea how to shoot, but Andrew’s idea was even better (Experience!).

There were a lot of surprises, to say the least. But each one was a fun challenge. I was thrilled! I am still excited. Come to think of it, getting involved in wedding photographing ONCE should be on my bucket list; the only reason it wasn’t there was that I didn’t think I could make it happen. Thanks to my nephew and his wife for taking a chance on us.

I want to thank Andrew Cate (the professional photographer they hired, remember?) Some wedding photographers don’t allow other photographer taking photos at the wedding. Andrew not only allowed us to take photos, but also shared his talent and knowledge with us. He is kind, warm and he is a great photographer.

After having this experience, I have a newfound respect for all wedding photographers, particularly a nice one like Andrew. It’s really not an easy job! At the end, I learned that shooting documentary or candid photos fit me better. I want to tell stories.

It was a beautiful, romantic, and moving wedding. Standing there with my nephew waiting for the bride to arrive, thinking of all the joy this boy (young man) has brought to us in all these years, I almost cried. Best wishes to my nephew Jeff and his wife Emily.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #67: Candid

This is my submission for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #67: Candid.

Anne-Christine said: “Taking photos of people or animals when they have no idea that you’re doing it is called candid photography.”

I love candid photos. It seems to me that when someone posing for a photo, the excitement (surprise?) part of a photo would no longer be there. 😉


At a farmers market in Vermont… the light was irresistible.



I saw similar emotion on their faces. The man on the left had a sign saying: “Retired teacher (I think it was “teacher”… I don’t remember). Pension not enough for living.” (Something like that.) How can anyone forget him?

A ring pop was the reward of being a ring bearer at the wedding. Whatever worked… but blue? 😉

Thank you, Anne-Christine.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Posted in photo, photo and thoughts, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged | 23 Comments

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #66: Filling the Frame

This is my submission for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #66: Filling the Frame.

First, a little explanation… I haven’t blogged for a long while because: (1) as time flies by quicker and quicker, working on my bucket list had become more and more urgent 😉 And since I am onto that subject, I may as well do some serious thinking about life in general, which I have done from time to time in the past. (2) One of my nephews got married at the end of Sept; my husband and I were honored to be a part of photographing team. Our first time! That meant a lot of studies, and preparations. I will write about that later.

Patti in her wonderful article said that before she learned “Get close to your subject” and “Think about how to frame the shot.”, her images, sometime, seemed lacking drama and did not convey the artistic “message” she was hoping to convey. I love this wise lady! Now I know why I like cropping photos so much! In one of photographing workshops that I’d attended, I jokingly said, “There is no bad photo, only bad cropping.” I remember that after repeating what I said, my instructor had a mysterious smile on his face.

So, do you frame it right when you take each photo, or, like me, you make sure you get enough material on each photo so you can later crop it to convey the artistic “message”? For me, this is not a choice. I don’t have enough experience (Talent? Practice?) to recognize the right frame within the limited time I have to shoot each photo, so I do what I do. However, I like to add that cropping allows me to see more possibilities!

Sunflower at Northwoods Orchard:

Just a tomato:

Bride’s shoes:

Flower Girl (my grandniece) at rehearsal:

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Posted in photo, photo and thoughts, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged | 26 Comments