Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Taking some time off blogging

In case you are passing by, thought I'd let you know that I'm taking a time off from blogging for now to work on some stuff that I have been putting off for a long time. Have a great day! Have fun! and keep exploring!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rose Bush

I like rose bushes but the last time I tried growing one, it didn't flower for years and then died because the pests were eating its' leaves faster than it could grow them back. Roses are quite prone to pests, like aphids, caterpillars, bugs including different types of plant diseases. So I had stopped trying to grow them till last year when we bought our first rose bush here in Canada. To my surprise, it survived the hot summer, the onslought of bugs, itchy worms and aphids (with the help of some bug pesticides) and even survived the thick ice last winter. It now has a few buds again this year which I am anxiously waiting to bloom. With the success on our first rose bush, my husband gave me two new rose bushes (red and yellow) last week to add to my would be collection. I can't wait to see their first blooms. This is one of them below.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Winds of Change

I am learning photoshop. I was amazed at the many tutorial videos found on line. The old ways of learning something new is changing.

Here's another I am planning to explore. It is a web application in which allows one to compose pictures and convert them into panoramic 3D compositions allowing viewers to pan around the subject as well as zoom in on objects of interest. It is a great way to present images outside from the traditional two dimensional pictures. Makes me want to travel and take a lot of pictures. Here's one of the creators doing a demo of what it can do. Pretty amazing stuff. Reminds me of what someone had recently said that we are now moving from the age of information to the age of collaboration. It is applications like this that makes it a possibility.

And it is people like these who make it happen. I can't help but be filled with wonder and a deep yearning to do something.
Robert Noyce (one of the founders of Intel) once said:
"Don't be encumbered by the past. Go out and do something wonderful."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Things I saw this Week that Made Me Smile

An old man boarding the bus on a sunny windy day with a big rectangular purple hat on his head (it looked like a Russian type of hat that I see in the movies)

A big block of ice on a bench, slowly melting under the sun and upon close inspection contains a flyer frozen in the middle of the ice block advertising a whalewatching trip north or somewhere cold.

A guy in the bus stop dressed in light beige business suit, brown shoes, grey socks and a purple tie.

Listening to Brene Brown's TEDs talk about the power of vulnerability. 

A very persistent sea gull who patiently waited in the middle of the road (at risk of getting hit by a car every 5 seconds) intently staring across a man who was eating pizza. The man dropped half of his pizza accidentally while trying to "communicate" with the seagull and the seagull got its pizza in the end.  

Seeing my now 5 year old emerge from her room dressed up with long sleeves, tight pants and polka dots skirt and a helmet all ready to go out biking.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Sock Bunny

Spring is here! Happy Easter everyone!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Things I learned from Suzuki Violin

If there was an instrument that would "pull my heart strings" so to speak, it would have to be the violin/cello. The sound that both these instruments make feels enigmatic, nostalgic, classical and everything "emotional" for me. Although I like the fast pieces when it's played live, I prefer listening to the slow ones when played on audio players. So when we were thinking of having Julia learn an instrument, there was no question in my mind that it would have to be the violin (I do have the keyboard for her to "play" musical notes when she likes to and have tried with limited success in getting her to stick to it for more than five minutes). I looked around for a good teacher and was recommended to the conservatory of music here in Victoria. I learned that they have a Suzuki violin program for kids starting at 3 years old which surprised me. Could one really teach violin to kids that young? Julia is 4 years old, so the thought that she's a year older than the minimum at least made me think she might learn something..like maybe at least hold a violin. That would already be quite an achievement. If I found it quite challenging to have her stay for a few minutes 'banging' on the keyboard keys, I didn't think she would have the attention span of learning to hold a violin over her shoulder and putting her chin on it for a few minutes. But then, I was glad to find out later that I was wrong.

The Suzuki program required the parent to learn the instrument too and be the "second" teacher to the child. Sessions were only thirty minutes once a week, so the bulk of the "labor" in training the child daily falls on the parent.  "Parent" and "daily" are the key words that made the difference. For one, it was an entirely different dynamics when both child and parent were being taught at the same time. The child sees the parent as student and the parent sees her child as a colleague. It was a very different feeling and perspective to have and it worked quite well between Julia and me and her dad (as her dad and I take turns attending the sessions). The daily practice too was quite challenging for us at first specially after coming from a hard day's work and we would rather be slouching on the couch than practicing and learning violin. But we had to do it, else we won't be progressing in the next session. And after a while, it became a habit. While on the first few runs, it was us calling Julia for violin lesson time every evenings, these days, it's her gathering us up for practice.

I began to realize that it wasn't just music we were learning and teaching her, we were teaching her discipline, persistence, confidence and the reward of hard work. I remember distinctly of the many times we had to practice correct "bowing" and it was quite hard for her not to touch the other strings, move from one string to the next and at the same time keep the arm from moving and only move from elbows to wrist. It was hard work for me doing it myself, how much more for a four year old! But we kept at it anyway, everyday for a week, we struggled through.. then one night, she finally got it and she smiled and looked at me and said, "Mama, I'm better." I didn't have to tell her. She knew it by herself. I never could have imagined this happening with a four year old.

She had her first performance on stage two weeks ago. We had just learned bowing on two strings and haven't played any tune yet and her teacher said she was doing so well, it's good to include her in her recital and gave us the first two lines of "twinkle, twinkle little star" to play. Her teacher haven't even heard her play it when she played it on stage the next week. I got all types of knots on my stomache just watching her walk up the stage, take her bow and place her tiny violin on her shoulder and played. A month ago, I wouldn't have believed it if anybody told me that my four year old could do this. It was just admirable how she stepped up to it and walked gracefully and with confidence in front of everyone. I found myself thinking, "if she could do this, she could do anything she wanted in her life."

Her last notes squeaked a little as her bow touched another string and because of this, she was disappointed with her performance. At the end of the recital when we congratulated her and told her she did great, she pointedly said, "Why do you say I did great, mama, I squeaked." She didn't want to watch the video I made of her after that and said she didn't want to play in recitals anymore. It seemed, she had experienced her first "failure". It was hard to see it on her. It took a lot of time and convincing to get her to realize she did something extraordinary. I don't even know if she even realized it yet, but at least she's back to running towards her violin again the minute she gets home. And through it too I struggled and wondered if it was even a good thing to expose ones child, so young, to these things... to failure, to persistence, to hard work/practice..to adult stuff. Maybe we should have let her have her childhood and protect her from these "painful" stuff for as long as we can... We'd never know now because we have already chosen a path for her to try on, at least on this one. And with deciding to walk, there is always the risk of falling. 

It is hard to believe that a month ago, we didn't have any structure at all as we went through our daily lives. When we got home, Julia mostly played computer games while her dad and I did the chores. But these days, while we are still able to do our chores (but not as efficiently as we might have liked), we have developed the habit of practicing violin after she takes her bath, then subsequently developed the routine of "study" - which is either reading, writing, crafts or drawing. It is great having this routine and we could see her develop and grow more each day and most importantly, see her be happier and having the confidence in herself. She is into dinosaurs now, which drives me nuts trying to "read" those tongue twister names but it gets her all excited so we do it, one syllable at a time... just as we learned violin, one note at a time. Everyday. I guess that is what life is about. Taking things one day at a time.. We had enrolled her to learn violin but it seemed to me that we learned a lot more than play music, we learned about life, together.

Julia (Age 4)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Of Grief, Death and Meaning

It has been sometime since my last blog entry. If anyone has come and visited my blog in between then and now, my apologies for not being able to update it often. Sometimes life brings stuff which makes me want to take the side road for a while and that has come for me when my aunt (whom I was close with) died last November 2010.

Things went too fast for me and maybe too slow for her. She was feeling a lot of pain during thanksgiving and was brought to emergency the next day where she was diagnosed with cancer in the liver. Then the day after that, the specialist told her she had a month to live, which we didn't believe. How could a very healthy being suddenly learn she has cancer and then have a month to live? In my mind, dying of cancer was having a slow and sometimes painful death, definitely not in a month. The rest of the days I spent visiting her at the hospital every night, walking through that whole building all for cancer patients and getting a glimpse of life in a way I have never seen before.

There's the woman, bald headed and wearing only her flimsy white hospital gown who sits on her wheelchair every dusk, smoking her cigarette with a tilt in her head that seemed to defy everything else around her as if saying to the world, "you can put all the cancer cells in my body but you cannot deny me of my stick of cigarette." I admired her for that. As I walked through the hall, I see a woman, softly reading the news to someone on the bed whom I suspect was her dad. One time, they reeled out a man outside of his intensive care room for a couple of his relatives to see him. He was on air respirator and oblivious to things around him but even then, just looking at him, covered in white sheets, bald and eyes closed, I could feel his strong aura. He had the charm and feel of one of those powerful men in mafia clans or that of a great politician who has come to the end of his days. I could just imagine how he might have been in those days when cancer hadn't slowly taken over. Richmond Pavillion, that's the name of the hospital wing for cancer patients who needed intensive care. It was a place where one can't pass through without having one's perspectives in life changed.

I saw my aunt breathe her last breath. It was like watching a fish which has just been taken out of the water and was now struggling to breathe. The breathe slows down and sometimes stops and then just when you panic, it resumes again till finally it stops and as one hopes the breath would come back, it doesn't anymore. And as I stared at this non-breathing body of my aunt, I wondered where was the essence that made my aunt, my aunt, go? I remember a principle in science class, energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed. Where was that "energy" that made this body move, and think and laugh and say "baloney me" whenever I tell a joke? As I reflected on the now unquestionable presence of a "spirit", I realized that other living beings must also have it, like a dog or bird. They probably have something which made then alive and which leaves their bodies when they die too.

My grief took me to looking for answers to my questions and I ended up reading a lot of books on spirituality these past months. One of them "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche gave me some comfort. I did not understand a lot of the things he wrote and I may never have the same belief as him but still it gave me comfort. It is a hard book to read when one is not in the right state of mind but if one has someone close to them who is dying or has died, it may be something that could provide comfort as it did to me.

And so here I am, finally coming back to write in my blog. And I suspect, I would write differently now that I feel like a different person and having a different perspective of things. I am still finding meaning in each moment and in everything I experience but I don't feel as lost now as I was a few months ago.

In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go? ----The Buddha, India