Sunday, December 28, 2008

Live and Learn

It is that time of the year again, the time to make New Year resolutions. What resolutions are yours? I have two. First, make efforts to learn more and learn quicker; second, be greener (environmentally, not money, which I do not have much control :-).

My dear friend Nadia just came back from London after visiting her mom. I emailed her to ask how was her mom doing. Nadia emailed back with a fascinating picture of her mom, the 83 years old had a Mac laptop on her walker. She learns computer stuffs and skypes! “Yesterday she was on strike about the computer and said since she has it she doesn't pray enough.” Nadia told me in email.

I love this picture, Nadia’s mom sets the perfect example of live and learn. I dedicate this Happy Monday flower arrangement picture to Nadia’s mom, wish her good health and best luck in the New Year 2009 (my ceramics teacher Danny has the physical flower arrangement, I thank all my teachers).

Enjoy the picture, Happy New Year and Happy Monday!

In friendship through flowers,

Thanks Nadia to allow me share the picture within Happy Monday reader community.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

I only celebrate Christmas after I came to States.

I spent my very first Christmas at my sponsor Mary’s Christmas party. At the party, Mary’s friend Ceci, an old American lady, prepared Christmas gifts for every guest whom she knew or not (I recall there were at least 80 guests). I got a kitchen towel. I treasured it for many years before I finally used it.

I spent my second Christmas at Moorhead, Minnesota where I attended graduate school. It was a white Christmas and frozen cold. Most of the students went home for the holidays in the winter break, it was very lonely time for the foreign students who could not go to home. When my American mom Betty invited me to her home for Christmas dinner, I was so happy. In my memory, it was a very warm evening. Though I could not remember what I had, I always remember the warm, caring holiday mood. I am not a Christian, Christmas has no religion meaning to me, but from my very first Christmas, I got the universal spirit that is far beyond the religion.

I wish the Christmas spirit with you in this holiday season. Happy Monday and Marry Christmas!

In friendship through flowers,

The Christmas Gift

One day in Spring 2005 I asked Danny, my ceramics teacher, to make me a sake set. He agreed but warned me:

“You know that you will have to wait, do you?”

“I am patient.” I promised.

Danny has a unique attitude when making ceramic art works. He does it only when he is in the right mood. We, the students, thought that he wastes his talent by not making more.

It was a long wait, indeed. To give Danny enough time, I expected it for the Christmas, when that failed, I dreamed it for the Chinese New Year, that dream did not realize. After I finally gave up, I got the container the following summer and then 2 cups in the fall. Honestly speaking, it was worth the long waiting. Danny had tried several times in order to get the container mouth right, so the flow would be very smooth when pouring the sake. He also tried twice for the cups to get the perfect glazing. Danny said that he would make me a matching sake warmer, which I am still waiting for, maybe by next Christmas I will have the whole set. So far, this sake set has been the most long waited Christmas gift I have ever received. I will not use the set for sake until I get the whole set and find a perfect occasion, before that happens, I enjoy it with flowers and I showed off to my ceramic friends.

Since I came to the United States, I had celebrated Christmas many times and received many Christmas gifts. I treasure them all, not only the gifts, but also the caring mind. Among all of the gifts, there was a very special one.

It was December 1992 when I graduated from graduate school, I had no time to do job hunting while I worked on my graduation project. I only had hundred dollars left in my bank account. I wanted a job to make some money for living. Just then, Dr. OK Young, my father’s Korean friend in St. Paul, MN, called me. She had a surgery to remove the cancer few days ago and was wondering if I could stay with her for a while to help taking care of her. Without any hesitation, I agreed. To me, Dr. OK Young had also been a good friend. She told me many times that I should let her know if any time I needed any help including financial help. I was alone in the States, I needed that insurance to have a piece of peaceful mind. She made me feel that I had a home away from home. While I stayed with her, she offered numeric times to give me money for my help. I could not accept the money from her since I did it for the friendship. I tried very hard to hide from her about my financial situation.

One day, OK Young’s Korean friend Sunny came to visit. Sunny took me with her to visit her Chinese friend, Hong. Hong came to States few years early than me. He is a tall handsome man with dark skin. That time, he owned a popular Chinese restaurant in Albert Lea, a city about two hours drive from St. Paul. Hong treated us lunch at his restaurant. He is very scholar like and I had hard time to connect him with his restaurant business. After lunch, Hong played erhu, a Chinese music instrument. He used to play erhu at orchestra, his play was very moving. Three of us enjoyed the day together.

Before Sunny and I left, Hong handed me an ordinary looking envelop and told me that was the Christmas gift for me. After weighted the envelop on my hand and felt the shape of the inside subject, I laughed and told him that I knew that was an audio tape. I loved the music played at his restaurant and had asked him for a copy earlier. He smiled to me and encouraged me to open the envelop. Inside, there was the audio tape as I expected, but there was also his gold visa card. He explained to me that he thought I might need money. He had no time to get a card for me, I could use his and he would authorize all transactions from me on the card. I had no idea how he figured out my situation, maybe he knew it since he was a poor foreign student himself before. I was moved to cry. Not expecting the tears from me, Hong did not know what to say or what to do to calm me down than handed me paper tissues. When I finally stopped crying, he said that I could use the card to buy an air ticket home or something I would need for my job interviews. Since he insisted, I thanked him and accepted the gifts.

I never used that card. I cut it half and treasured it along with the envelop with me. I have his tape in my car and played from time to time, especially around Christmas season every year. His trust and warm caring mind have accompanied me and encouraged me on my way to advance. Whenever I had a chance, I passed his spirit to others.

I wish everyone a very merry Christmas. Enjoy the arrangement and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,



Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Holiday Bazaar

Every second Friday in December is the annual holiday bazaar at Ikebana International San Francisco chapter. My teacher had been the sale chair for last year’s and this year’s holiday bazaar, the students were asked to donate arrangements for sale.

This is the traditional season in which many organizations do their fund raising. My name had made onto many organizations donor list in the past years, I received letters from them for new donations every year. In my priority, food and education are the very basic ones, arts are important, but not that important comparing with food and education.

This Sunday, I attended Soar Education Foundation’s board meeting, I have been volunteering at SOAR, a nonprofit organization, for over 9 years. We provide scholarship for the poor bright students in rural China to get their education. The meeting was to decide 2009’s budget. We made a very painful decision that we will not take any new students in 2009 due to the lack of donation, we have to full fill the promises we already made by continuing to award our existing students though. Emotionally, we do not want to do that, but after read the numbers, we had no choice.

It is tough for us to face the economic down turn, but it is even tougher for those who will lose their education opportunities. If you can help, please do.

Enjoy the arrangement and Happy Monday!

In Friendship Through flower,

Monday, December 8, 2008

Flowers In the Office Lobby

Thanksgiving holiday has passed. However, I am still in the Thanksgiving holiday mood. Every year, starting from Thanksgiving holiday, I take the time to do something for others (yes, including arranging flowers) to say “thank you”, especially those helped and supported me in the past year. This year, I realized that I should say big “thank you” to those who challenged me in the past year. I do it slowly, so I enjoy the process more.

When I took ikebana class this Sat. my teacher offered me the option to use amaryllis by paying extra. I fall in love with the flowers at the very first sight, and immediately knew where to place the arrangement – the office lobby. Saturday night I dropped off the materials in the office and I will rearrange it Monday morning for my coworkers to enjoy.

I used amaryllis before, I did not keep the arrangements, I gave them away. This time, I will have the opportunity to learn more about amaryllis by observation, especially, I will find out its vase life (my teacher said three weeks, that is long comparing with most of cut flowers).

Hope that you enjoy the arrangement as well and Happy Monday!

In Friendship Through flower,


The lobby table:

On the following Thu, when amaryllis blooming:

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Good Example for me to Learn

Most of the foreign students need a sponsor to come to States to study. Mary sponsored me. This Sat. I went to Altadena to see her. Mary was a foreign student herself. She went to this country from Korean after the Korean War. During the war, she was in the refugee camp for few years and did not get chance to study much in the high school. She finished her education, with her talents and hard work, she started as a researcher, and later, she served different management positions, including the vice president in University of Minnesota. After she retired, the university sent her certificate to recognize her unique contribution.

When she first came to the States, there were three months when she needed a place to stay. Ceci, an very kind American lady, offered Mary to stay with her. On my very first Christmas day in States, Mary invited me to her house. It was a huge party with many foreign students and visiting scholars, Ceci was there and she prepared Christmas gifts for everyone, she knew or not. That was my very first Christmas gift, a kitchen towel. I treasured it for many years before I finally used it. Ceci helped many foreign students like Mary when they needed help. When Ceci gets old (she is 94 years old now), Mary had been taking very good care of her. Currently, Mary visited Ceci in her nursing home once a week. Consider Mary’s own health condition right now, which is not an easy thing to do.

On Sunday, Mary and I went to visit Ceci together. Ceci enjoyed our visit. I was happy to see Ceci again.

Mary is not only my sponsor, she taught me in many ways by setting herself as a good example for me to learn and follow. I always appreciate that Mary sponsored me so I could come to this country, get chance to explore all possibilities. I had told Mary many times in the past, I wish that she lived closer to me, so I could bring her fresh flower arrangement every week, this time, I made the arrangement for her and brought it to give to her. She was pleased and enjoyed the arrangement.

Hope that you will enjoy the arrangement as well and Happy Monday!

In Friendship Through Flower,


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Let’s Be Thankful!

Last Friday, my teacher gave an ikebana demonstration at Ikebana International San Francisco branch’s monthly meeting at County Fairy building inside Golden Gate Park. I, with12 other members, displayed arrangement there. Before the demo started, each displayer was asked to give few words about her own arrangement and their thoughts of being thankful.

When it was my turn, I gave the name of the materials I used: eucalyptus bark, California buckeye, winter bud, and heliconia. There are too many people and things in my life I am thankful, I had no enough time to list all. I always discover something special to thank for. At that moment, I was so thankful that the buckeye fruits did not fall, since without the fruits, the arrangement would look very bad. Actually, two fruits had fall down earlier, my teacher and my friend helped me tied them back while I was making the arrangement.

Since the Thanksgiving holiday 4 years ago, every night before I go to bed, I think about the people and things to thank that day. I have benefited from the practice. I noticed that the level of my gratitude to my surroundings had significantly increased and that contributes to my over all happiness. In the beginning, my gratitude was limited to what I have and what others have done for me. Later, the list to thank keeps expending, I have more and more to appreciate.

This April, I attended a writing workshop. At the workshop, the students were given writing assignments to finish within limited time. I had attended the same workshop few times before. In the past, I had no problem to finish the assignments on time using a notepad and a pen. However, that time, I had my laptop with me and used Word, the spelling and grammar checks were on by default, that made the spelling and grammar mistakes visible to me. When I saw the red underline, I kept going back to make corrections. I failed to finish at list half of my assignments within the time limits. That was when I first realized how unpleasant for you, the Happy Monday readers, to read my grammatically incorrect essay every Monday. With the distraction, you have read my essays, gave me feedbacks and encouraged me to keep up. I deeply appreciate. It has been my motivation to improve my English writing. With the help and encourage from all of you, I will write good English some day.

Enjoy the arrangement, Happy Monday and Happy Thanksgiving!

In Friendship Through Flowers,


A reader passed me an interesting article:
Fall of the Buckeye Ball