Monday, March 23, 2009

Change View Angle

Lately, I got inspiration from a arm posture of Chinese dancing called “shun-feng-qi (顺风旗)”. The name translated into English means flag in the wind. Its basic form is to have two arms up and enclosed. The arms and hands form a round shape like in many other Chinese dancing postures. There are verities of this posture. I noticed that I had been seeing “shun-feng-qi” posture everywhere, especially in the flowering branches when I arranged ikebana.

It was two weeks ago at my ikebana class, My teacher prepared flowering crabapple branches. The branches were very beautiful and feminine, of couse, they reminded me the “shun-feng-qi” dancing posture. I arranged them like "shun-feng-qi". After it was done and had my teacher checked, I moved it onto the nearby table to make room for my classmates. Then I joined my teacher and other classmates to study my classmates’ work.

When we finished study, I turned to my own arrangement and was about to take it down. My teacher and I got to see the arrangement from the side. It was about 90 degree off from the original view, from this new view angle, we found that the branches formed very nice frame. I kept the branches untouched, rearranged the protia flowers to have them facing front. The new arrangement came out much nicer than the original one. What a nice discovering!

This instance had served as a reminder for my daily life – not set limit, see things from different view angles, life will be much more interesting.

Enjoy the flower arrangement pictures and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,

Note, I “stole” the dancing posture picture from web site (I showed this article to teacher Yao). I will find a picture from public domain later to replace it. Only for the time being, I hope you have an idea of the posture to know what I talked about ☺.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Switch Roles

Spring is the most exciting season for ikebana arrangers. There are many floral branches and seasonal flowers to use. At my ikebana class, my classmate Rita brought us some azalea branches. Looked at the branches, I noticed there were few long ones, I decided to make an “one kind only” arrangement. “One kind only”, like its name suggested, is an arrangement using only one kind floral material, in most situations, it uses one kind floral branches. It is not easy to get azalea branches that are long enough to be used as main branch, since I had the opportunity this time, I would not miss it.

The arrangement came out very nice. I had trimmed off all the old leaves from last year to make the branches airy in order to show the flowers more. My teacher was pleased for my work.

After I took a picture of the arrangement, she suggested me to do one more study by using azalea branches as support. In the rearranged arrangement, the main stems were two tall green heliconias, azalea branches were in the bottom to support the heliconias.

In both arrangements, by its own or as support, azalea branches did great job. Azalea had set up a very good example for us to learn in our daily life.

Enjoy the arrangements and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,


Monday, March 16, 2009

Saint Patrick's Day

Right after I walked in my cubical Monday morning, my coworker stopped by. He looked at me, then said, “Where is the green?” I realized that it was Saint Patrick’s Day.

After my coworker left, I unpacked and got my stuffs being organized to be ready for the day. I noticed that there were green helleboruses on my desk! They were leftovers from Friday. I was invited by a dear HM reader to her beautiful garden to see the flowers. She gave me some to take with me. I took most of them home and left few at office. It was just like that I knew Saint Patrick’s Day coming so I left the green ones in the office! Using those green helleboruses, I made a simple Saint Patrick’s Day arrangement (picture is top-down view).

Wednesday night I googled Internet about Saint Patrick’s Day in order to prepare for the new Happy Friday, the Chinese version of the Happy Monday. I thought my Chinese readers would love to learn some Irish cultural.

When I google, I always learn something, even for the topics that I thought I knew about. It was no exception this time. I learned good deal of information about St. Patrick’s Day from wikipedia page and few official Irish websites.

St. Patrick's Day (Irish: Lá ’le Pádraig or Lá Fhéile Pádraig), colloquially St. Paddy's Day or Paddy's Day, is an annual feast day that celebrates Saint Patrick (circa 385–461 AD), one of the patron saints of Ireland, and is generally celebrated on March 17th. I had known that the celebration is associated with green color, but I did not knew that it was originally celebrated with St. Patrick's Blue, not green. It probably began around the 1750s when green was the color used for this holiday. It might come from the phrase "the wearing of the green" meaning to wear a shamrock on one's clothing. According to wikipedia, “At many times in Irish history, to do so (the wearing of the green) was seen as a sign of Irish nationalism or loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith. St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish. The wearing of and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs had become a ubiquitous feature of the saint's holiday.”

It was also very interesting to learn that Chicago River is dyed green each year for the St. Patrick's Day celebration (picture is from 2005’s celebration). I had worked two years in Evanston, the city next to Chicago, and I did not know that until after I read.

The most inspirit part of the reading for me was about the holiday celebration history and how the celebration was widely spread.

In the past, Saint Patrick's Day was celebrated only as a religious holiday. Though it became a public holiday in 1903, the holiday remains a religious observance in Ireland, for both the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Church. It was only in the mid-1990s that the Irish government began a campaign to use Saint Patrick's Day to showcase Ireland and its culture. The government set up a group called St. Patrick's Festival, with the aim to offer a national festival that ranks amongst all of the greatest celebrations in the world and project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal. The first Saint Patrick's Festival was held on March 17th, 1996. In 1997, it became a three-day event, and by 2000 it was a four-day event. Since 2006, the festival has been five days long.

The campaign was a very successful one. Currently, many parts of North America, Britain, and Australia, expatriate Irish and ever-growing crowds of people with no Irish connections also celebrate St. Patrick's Day. There is a yearly parade in Tokyo, Japan on this day too. People wear green-colored clothing, eat Irish or green food, drink Irish drinks, join the holiday parade. Through those celebration activities, people learn Irish cultural, increase the understanding with Irish people.

United States is a country of immigrants. When I was in graduate school, I took Speech Communication class. The students were given various topics to discuss and everyone was asked to deliver a five minutes speech on each topic. One of the topics was “United States as a salad bowl vs. a melting pot”. That was a very valuable lesson I learned. As an immigrant in this country, I take it as my duty to share my own cultural and heritage with others while I am learning from others. The salad will be more pretty or tastier if it is colorful. People can be Irish for a day wearing green, or Chinese for a day wearing red, the more we understand each other, the more we could tolerate and the more peaceful mind we will have for each other. There are more than hundred countries in the world, if we pick up one holiday to celebrate from each country, wow, how fun that could be! I can image that people will live very festive and harmony life!

Wish you all a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In Friendship through Flowers,


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friendship Through Flowers

Two years ago I gave a flower talk at WISHES. I made some friends there. They became Happy Monday readers and gave me a lot of supports. That was my very first flower talk, the beginning. Since then, I conducted multiple talks, and every time I gave the talk, I made new friends. I shared what I knew about flowers, ikebana and what I learned by applying the things I learned by practicing ikebana into my daily life. People enjoyed my talk, joined Happy Monday circle and introduced their friends to the circle. It is truly a process of friendship through flowers. I enjoyed this process, therefore, I had never turned down an invitation, I tried my best to cooperate the schedule.

The past Monday, Kristin, a friend I met when I gave talk at WISHES, invited me to Half Moon Bay Garden Club to give a talk. I had great time and made new friends.

Among the three parts of the talk, “flower, ikebana and beyond”, my own favorite is the beyond part. This is unique to my talk. In traditional Chinese teaching, in order to become a good person, one has to takes everyone and everything as the teacher. A flower arranger always deals with flowers, the arranger naturally takes flowers as the teacher. I shared with audience what I learned from flowers. I tell them stories, audience enjoyed with chuckles.

Human’s love to flowers is not limited by their age, gender, cultural or nation. The very famous Chinese handsome man, Pan An (潘安,247-300), he’s also named Pan Yue (潘岳), who lived in Jin Dynasty (晋代, 265–420), was not only handsome and talented in writing, he was also concerned about environment. When he servered as the head of Heyang county, he influenced and supported people to plan flowers, especially peach trees, everywhere in the county. Soon Heyang county was famous as “the county with flowers everywhere”. People lived harmony life in that environment. This story had been carried over as legacy for more than thoughrand years. To have flowers everywhere is one of my dream, I wish there will be a day when flowers are everywhere and people learn from flowers and behave like flowers. The world will be very beautiful by then. This has been the other drive force for me to give flower talks.

Hope you enjoy this Happy Monday, wish you a very Happy Monday.

In friendship through flowers,



I gave a talk at WISHES Thursday night. Sheri, the friend I made through flowers when I worked at HP, invited me. WISHES is a woman group based at Half Moon Bay. It is a very warm group. I arrived early and was in the kitchen to arrange flowers before the program started. The members arrived and were kept coming into the kitchen to get hot drink, Every one offered to get me a drink until I finally had a cup in my hand ☺.

That was my very first time to give such talk. I organized it in a PowerPoint presentation titled “Flower, Ikebana and Beyond”. In my talk, I introduced and compared the characters of the oriental and western styles of flower arranging; I gave brief history and background of Ikebana; I touched how to appreciate a flower arrangement and gain benefits in spiritual aspects by practicing Ikebana. I also shared my own path with flowers – how I was introduced and felt in love with Ikebana; the birth of Happy Monday emails and finding the way to make my own wish true.

I grew up with some psychological burdens and was finally free and happy in recent years. I knew how painful it was to live with burdens. My grand wish is to help those who are suffering as I did. I thought to get a PhD degree in psychology and become a counselor. I was holding the action since the financial concerns. Now with the feedback I got from the Happy Mondays and saw how my flowers touched others, I realized that I do not have to get a PhD, I may be able to reach more people in much larger scale than I originally thought. I found the better way to make my own wish become true.

Since I love flowers and Ikebana so much, I wish everyone practice Ikebana. But the point is, one can do anything who enjoys to do and benefit by doing it; share the benefits with others to benefit together; in turn, one can even benefit more through this process. One of my friend had shared with me her daughter Joy’s story. Joy loves to play go game (围棋), she started a go game club at her high school to share her passion with other students. Along the way, Joy learned a lot and she wrote the related stories in her essay to apply for college. She was admitted by Harvard University.

Close to the end of the talks, people asked me to share few Happy Monday stories. That brought laughter and sighs from the audience. Since that was a “friendship through flowers” event, how could I do it without sharing flowers? I made four ikebana flower arrangements to display before the program started, one in moribana style (in shallow container), one in nageire style (using tall vase), one in a tofu container and one using a paper cookie box. I wanted to show people how to use daily stuff for ikebana. I also brought with me four dozens of roses as gift to share with every one. WISHES made very generous donation to my favorite charity – SOAR Education Foundation.

When the talk finished, I had very nice chat with the audiences during the break. After the break, WISHES member Kristin reported for the status of the “care packages” project.
Lance Cpl. Christian Jensen, 19, Kristin’s son, now is serving with a military police unit in Al Taqaddum, Iraq. The unit deals with roadside bombs. Kristin worries about her son and channels her worry into sending care packages to Christian as reminders of how much he is loved at home. In one of Christian’s five-minute satellite phone calls, Christian let his family know how much he appreciated their thoughts. But, he added, many of the 55 men and 5 women in his platoon didn’t get the same from their hometowns. That touched Kristin and she started a donation drive for her son’s platoon. Regardless of political affiliation, people made donations to support the troops. In Dec. 17th, 2006, 82 of care packages with each soldier’s first name on it arrived Christian’s platoon and brought the holiday cheer to the soldiers who were not home for the holidays. The soldiers were delighted with the packages, but had little time to enjoy them. Within 48 hours of the packages’ arrival, an exploding bomb brought tragedy to the unit. Three members of the unit were killed, and two more seriously injured and taken to Germany for the treatment. One of the dead had been Christian’s roommate.

Now Kristin and her helpers are working on more care packages for Valentines Day, they are also considering getting in touch with the families of the soldiers who were killed. By the end of her report, Kristin read a thank you card from one of the soldiers who received the care package.

I was moved by the story. I gave Kristin the small flower arrangement in the tofu container and wished her best luck for her son. Beyond each individual group or personal wishes, peace on earth is the wish of all. Let’s do our best to make this grand wish come true!

Enjoy the flower arrangement picture and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,


Sunday, March 8, 2009

I Have An Idea - The Behind Sense Story

When I worked at HP, for every few days, my coworker Tom would remind me “It’s about the time”. Then we took a break from work and went to junkyard, where Tom helped me to collect “stuffs” which I could use for my Ikebana. One day in last summer, when we did our regular walk around in the junkyard, we discovered a bin with some cables. Most of them were black and grey, there were few colorful Ethernet cables and some orange optical fiber cables. I thought I could use them for my Ikebana. After we got permission, Tom and I worked very hard to sort out the color ones. The bin was deep and our hands could not reach the cables. It was difficult to separate the ones I like from the rest. When we finally got the usable ones, Tom’s T-shirt was wet.

Looked at those cables, I had an idea to weave them if I had enough. I told all my co-workers to collect bad fiber cables for me if they ever found them. Two months after I left HP, my HP co-worker Mike found me some more. I had enough cables but had no time to weave them and to detail the idea.

Few months later, when I plan for Ikebana International Flower Show, I reserved a floor space. I never made floor arrangement at the flower show yet, I had an idea to make a flower arrangement using palm boots. The Sunday before the show, I told the plan to my teacher and placed an order of the floral materials. “No, you had to use something else,” she said, “I planned to use palm boots.” There was only a week left and I was forced to change the plan on the spot.

After scratching my head, I remembered those orange cables. I placed an order to get some heliconias and some greens as filler.

There was no much time left for me to prepare. I had no time to work on it Sunday since I finally finished all my regular stuff including Happy Monday by 4am. I worked on both Monday and Tuesday nights until 3am. I washed the cables using soap, soaked them in the hot water to soften them. When they were soft, I straightened them, cut them into the needed length. I hung them in the laundry room to weave, in order to reach the top portion, I leaned on my knees on the counter top while weaving. The lights went off every 15 minutes set by timer. Which created some interruptions to my work. I only got about three fifth done when I went to my teacher Sumi sensei’s studio. Toshiko sensei was there and helped me. We finished the weaving together.

When I looked for the flowers I ordered, I could not find them. There were only 5 stems of large anthurium, 4 stems of pink anthurium and some greens I could use. Sensei helped me with the greens, I arranged the flowers. The finished work was very nice and with 360 degree view, that is even better than I originally designed. I was glad that I got the challenge.

I went to setup Thursday afternoon. When I was close to done, Tuan stopped by. Tuan is a very talented teacher in our school. He took a look at my arrangement, “Wow, very nice, you weaved.” Then he gave me suggestion to rearrange. With Sumi sensei’s permission, I tried Tuan’s way, after inserted 5 stems of the large anthurium, Tuan took the rest 4 stems pink anthurium in his hand. “You did not need more flowers, Irene’s arrangement needed more flowers, why would you give those to her?” Tuan suggested to me. “Sure, glad that I could help.”

The final arrangement was not bad. Although it was only 180 degree views with 5 stems of flower, the leaning flowers gave more inviting feeling.

From this process, I learned a lot. If the unexpected happened, take it as challenge and work hard for the final come.

In Friendship through Flowers,


Sunday, March 1, 2009


This morning, I received an email from a college mate. He sent to the classmates to remind us the gathering we attended a year ago in Shanghai.

The gathering was a good one. I was so happy to see the classmates after all the years, some of them I haven’t seen since the graduation. During the gathering, I got chance to talk to few male classmates whom I seldom talked to during the college years. I know that it sounds odd, but that was the case. At the time, it was not allowed to develop romantic relationship between the students. The management was very series about it. To avoid getting into trouble, most of students stopped talking to the students of opposite sex.

The classmate, who emailed, was the same one organized the gathering. We exchanged emails before the gathering and chat a lot during the gathering. We became good friends. When we said bye in Shanghai, I gave him a hug to thank him for organizing such enjoyable gathering. Both of us recalled that we did not shake hands before, in fact, we talked about ten sentences, at most, during four years of our college life. What a belated friendship.

Last month, I had lunch with a friend. I knew her since few years ago when both of us volunteered in the same non-profit organization. We did not communicate much during that time. Later she left and I did not see her again until I ran into her at a seminar on campus last year. We chat in the hallway when the seminar ended. We were happy that we got reconnected. Since then she became HM reader. She emails me with feedbacks almost every week. At lunch, she taught me a lot by sharing her life experience with me. She is elder than me, but we communicated without any age gap. She gave me an ikebana vase as gift at lunch.

The flower arrangement for this week was arranged in this special vase. The materials were from another friend’s garden. She is a flower arranger and a painter, she taught painting at college as well. Very few ikebana arrangers had formal art education. She is one of them. I enjoy talk to her and learn from her.

This flower arrangement is to celebrate the friendship. Enjoy and Happy Monday.

In Friendship through Flowers,