Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Greetings and Family Update 2009

Family photo from 2009

I think I skipped the 2008 update and maybe even the 2007 update. Too busy? yes. Trying to be green? yes. Too lazy? yes.

The newest members of the household are two white and black kittens: Skitty and Chimecho. We adopted them from our neighbor and church friend, Melissa, who does rescue work. We had been reluctant to have cats because Peter is allergic but he bravely said he would try to live with them. And I am happy to report that two months later, his allergies are doing OK. Skitty is a male cat with a very affectionate personality, friendly and playful. He likes to hide his toy mice under the stove and he is a purring machine.

Skitty's sister, Chimecho, is more aloof, but she likes to show off by jumping onto the canopy above Vanessa's bed and walking along the two-inch wide posts. Both Skitty and Chimecho get a bit wild at night, tearing around the house and knocking things down. They also like to "Sumo" wrestle each other, which we find quite entertaining.

Joshua and I are very attached and can't imagine living without them now.

Joshua is almost 8 and a 2nd grader at Ohlone Elementary School where he's in Mandarin Immersion. He's picked up more and more vocabulary and sometimes you can catch him singing Chinese songs. He's dropped Kung fu lessons although he did make it thru white belt, yellow belt and green belt. His after-school activities are ice skating at Winter Lodge and reading tutoring as his English reading needs some extra work.

Vanessa is leaving for India today, an adventure trip she planned with her roommate for winter break. They'll be gone for over five weeks and are taking their backpacks, sleeping bags, and small suitcases. A junior at SF State, Vanessa is a Communications major, but is still singing at clubs when she can. She got a lucky opportunity to visit Prague over the summer and even got a night tour of the Prague zoo from Milada (my sister's former exchange student). Vanessa worked as a server at the Cheesecake Factory in SF Union Square and she'll continue work there if she can when she returns. She is planning to study abroad in Paris for senior year.

I'm hanging in at Sun Microsystems which should soon be acquired by my former employer, Oracle. The acquisition has been delayed by the European Union, but we hope it will take place in January 2010. It's fun for me to re-connect with my former Oracle colleagues but it has not been fun to see many of my Sun co-workers being laid off.

I have been writing a tiny bit but getting rejections when I manage to send out a manuscript. I'm inspired by my writer friends who are getting published: Christy Hale with East-West House (2009) and Heidi Kling with Sea (to appear in 2010).

Peter has been taking care of the house and been visiting the doctor a lot. Quite by luck, I was reading a book on sleep when I noticed he had every symptom for obstructive sleep apnea. He went thru an overnight sleep study at Stanford which found he has a severe case. He's still struggling with therapy but at least we now have a reason for his poor health. Last year his bronchitis lasted for months and became pneumonia!

We traveled back do DC for a Chin-Lee family reunion over the summer. In May, Vanessa and I visited Austin where we have an investment home. Peter, Joshua, and I also travelled to Tuscon (for my work) and Albuquerque and Raleigh where we have investment homes. This was the first time for us to see the homes that we bought in 2007 (at the top of the market).

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Cool Kwaanza, Nifty New Year. We hope to see you in 2010.

Holiday Greetings and the Year-End Report

AADP Bone Marrow Drive & Benefit Book Signing

I've been in the bone marrow registry for over 20 years when my coworker at Tandem Computers was diagnosed with leukemia. A few years after being registered, I was an initial match for someone. Unfortunately, I wasn't a perfect match but I find it awesome that you can save another person's life with a fairly simple procedure.

The Asian American Donor Program recruits people for the registry and they are having a registration drive:

Date: Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009
Time: 10:30 to 3 pm
Place: Cupertino Library, 10800 Torre Drive

You can also help AADP in another way...Yes, you heard it here first. They are having a benefit book signing with three local authors, Dr. Lam Do, whose son received a life-saving bone marrow transfer from a Seattle policeman, Linyao Wu, and myself.

Pick up a holiday present, save a life, all in one trip.

I'll be signing copies of "Almond Cookies and Dragon Well Tea," "Amelia to Zora: 26 Women Who Changed the World," and "Akira to Zoltan: 26 Men Who Changed the World."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Goldilocks and the Three Houses

Goldilocks and the Three Houses
Written By Cynthia Chin-Lee, a friend of InnVision the Way Home

Once upon a time a young wife named Goldilocks was looking for a house for her family. (You may remember her; she once had a strange encounter with a bear family in the woods.) She met with her real estate agent, who took her to visit three houses in Silicon Valley where she wanted to live.

The first house she visited was a grandiose estate with ten acres of land, seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms. “Oh my,” she said. “This is way too large for my family to live in and I would be spending too much time cleaning those seven bathrooms!” As they were leaving, she noticed three bowls of porridge on the counter in the enormous kitchen. Since she was hungry, she took a bite of the porridge in the biggest bowl. Ouch. It was too hot. She tasted the porridge in the middle bowl. It was too cool. Finally she ate a spoon of porridge from the small bowl. It was just right. So she ate it all up. And then she thought, “Why does this remind me of something that happened to me before?”

The second house she visited was a smaller home on a smaller lot in town. It had three bedrooms and one bathroom and a rather dumpy kitchen. “Oh my,” she said.” This is way too small for my family to live in, and it doesn’t have any place for our golden retriever to roam.” As they were leaving, she felt tired and sat down in a big leather chair in the living room. It was too hard and uncomfortable. She moved to a medium upholstered chair, but it was too soft. Finally, she plunked down into the smallest chair and rested for several minutes. It was just right until she leaned back and the chair fell apart right there. “Oops, we better go,” she told the agent.

The third house she visited was a medium-sized house, of about 3,000 square feet on a generous lot of two acres, wooded with heritage oak trees, redwoods, and Japanese maples. It had three nice bedrooms and an impressive gourmet kitchen. “Oh, wow,” she said.” This is just perfect for my family of four to live in. “It even has a fenced area for our golden retriever to run around in.” She stayed a long time at the house, admiring the crown molding, hardwood floors, and the vaulted ceilings of the gorgeous kitchen. Goldilocks enjoyed cooking and her husband loved to entertain. She thought to herself. “The kids will like the family room and exploring the tiny creek running through the lot.”

She stayed so long that she felt sleepy and wandered off to one of the bedrooms, the one with the large custom closets and a sliding glass door that opened to the landscaped garden. First she lay down on the big bed. It was way too hard. Then she tried the medium bed. It was way too soft. Finally, she lay down on the small bed. It was so nice and comfy that she quickly fell asleep, dreaming of the home in Los Altos Hills with the beautiful Bay and mountain views. But then the real estate agent roused her from her dreams.

“Goldilocks get up! You fell asleep again.”

Goldilocks was quite startled but she was so glad the real estate agent was not a big mad bear family. She sighed in relief. “I love this house and it’s just right for my family. How do I get it?”

“Buy a few tickets from the Los Altos Hills Home Raffle! Go to and click on the raffle link to download an order entry form or call 1-877-225-2111 to buy tickets by phone. You’ll help InnVision serve those without homes. For a mere $150, you’ll have a chance to win this perfect home, close to everything in Silicon Valley, but a tranquil haven in the country. And there are no bears here, Goldilocks!”

Cynthia Chin-Lee is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University, a graduate fellow of East-West Center in Honolulu and a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Cynthia's books are available from and Kepler's Books, an independent bookstore in Menlo Park, CA.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What I learned at my family reunion

Some of you might know that my brothers, sister, parents and I had a family reunion in Washington, DC, recently. We came from Vancouver, WA, San Francisco, San Diego, Alabama, Shanghai, Silver Spring, and Virginia. Besides the fun of seeing everyone, including, my siblings and their spouses, my nephews and nieces and their spouses and my great-niece, and my auntie and cousins, I always like to think about what I learn from the clan gathering.

I learn about myself and why I am the way I am. Like why do I walk fast? (Yes, my 80-year old mother walks fast and I guess that's why I'm like that.) Almost always punctual (a definite family trait)! In my family, if they say meet at 12 noon and you get there at 11:55 am, you're already 10 minutes late.

Why does my husband stay up late into the wee hours of the morning? Well, his mom and brothers do, too. It's their family culture.

What do I remember of DC? The green-ness of the city's tree canopy! Even riding on the shuttle from Dulles airport into DC, I breathe a sigh of relief when I see the incredible green tree canopy and the fields on the airport access road. Vanessa and I took the red-eye flight from LA so we were exhausted. But I slept well at my parent's home, which still feels like home, a comforting, secure place.

My parents still like to watch a lot of TV, but because of the conversion to digital format, some of their TVs are no longer working. Instead, I got to watch the kitchen TV loop in Spanish and English about the digital conversion... This seemed silly but my mom had to show me that something was wrong with her TV.

Some of the things we did: party at Peter and Eleanor's home, a visit to the US Botanical Gardens (my first time there since it was rebuilt), dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill (which was very nice) an old, elegant restaurant near the White House, pizza and pasta and slide show (Thanks, Rachael and Zach), seeing my first friend whom I've known since we were 3 years old (she found me on Facebook), Dianne; photo session; dinner at Connie and Jack's palatial digs in Virginia, swimming at the co-op pool, church, a visit with long-time friend Judi, a walk with Dianne around our childhood neighborhood, including the "Lot" which was sort of our own Terabithia.

We met old friends and distant relatives, some of whom I used to get somewhat annoyed by. Now, after so many years, I just smile and think that I don't really get to see them much (once a year, once a decade?). Why be judgmental? What can I learn from them?

Peter, Joshua, and I also saw the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, the Hope diamond, and two IMAX movies (Night at the Museum, Smithsonian was one of them). We took the Metro some of the time and drove some of the time. The weather was exceptionally kind, warm but not too humid. A few sprinkles here and there but no overpowering downpours.

When I moved to the Arlington side of town to be with my in-laws, I went thru Internet withdrawal since they do not have service. It was difficult; I've forgotten how much I depend on email and web. I survived though and was glad I didn't have to type on a keyboard or mouse.

Final note: At the family reunion, I felt welcome and relaxed. I felt at home. I recall that Robert Frost line: Home is where they have to take you in. And it's still a good feeling to have.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Working the World

So this online social networking stuff is pretty new to me and very exciting, but I'm quite comfortable with social networking. I once taught classes in networking and used to call myself the Networking Queen.

In 1981, I left the safe confines of graduate school at the University of Hawaii, where I was an East-West Center fellow and jumped into the working world in San Francisco. Those of you old enough to recall the early 80s might know that the economy then was quite sluggish. Jobs were very hard to come by. Remembering the networking pamphlet I read at the Harvard Career Center, I decided I better put networking to the test. After all, I was a liberal arts graduate with no obvious marketable skills.

I networked my way to a job which was low-paying but took advantage of my linguistic skills in Chinese. I became a purchasing agent with Clement Chen and Associates, a development firm in San Francisco and worked on the first joint venture Sino-American hotel in China: the Jianguo Hotel in Beijing. While I was in Honolulu, I looked up Senator Hiram Fong whom I had met in DC (maybe when I was an intern on the hill or maybe even when I was a Presidential Scholar?) Anyway, he invited me (all of us actually) to look him up in Honolulu. And so I did!

Senator Fong knew my father so I was not as bold as I sound. I grew up in Washington, DC; we were also Chinese American and politically active. When I looked him up, he was very welcoming and invited me to at least a few parties at his home. At one of these parties, a birthday party for his son, I met a Honolulu attorney who did business in Taiwan. After chatting with him, he mentioned his friend Clement Chen who was building a hotel in Beijing. I remembered this tidbit and when I left Hawaii to move to San Francisco, I called him and asked his permission to contact Mr. Chen.

It ended up that this led to my first job after college and a fascinating year working in San Francisco and traveling to Beijing. I was soon hooked on networking, so much so, that I wrote a book published in 1991 called It's Who You Know. It's out of print now but you might be able to find it in the library or on

If you have a networking story, please share it with me. I love hearing them. I will start sharing some of my online networking stories. Even though I have been online networking for a short time, I have a few good ones. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What I'm learning about social media

Hey, there! I'm in social media class at Ft. Mason in San Francisco.

My classmate asked me if I ever had a blog. Well, sort of. I started two blogs a while ago and then never posted. Ha. I guess I got social media paralysis. There was that blog on Amazon and then there was that blog on Livejournal. But then I couldn't go on.

So here I am two, three years later. This class by Lynn Hazen and Susan Taylor Brown, my fellow children's book authors, is going to get me going. I will not be afraid to blog into the world!

I also have an internal Sun blog. For those of you who don't know, I work at Sun Microsystems as a Publications Manager. I have an internal blog for Sun employees only. I guess it's time to go beyond the confines of the Sun Microsystems firewall.