I’m the King of the Castle


“I’m the King of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal!”   In my youth, this was a common phrase we would scream when one of us got to stand at the top of a snow pile.

These snowplow creations were evident in many parking lots around town after a heavy snowfall.  As youngsters, these were the mountains that we climbed.  The challenges of not being hit by a snowball in minus 30C weather was meant with enthusiasm.  It was a great get together for the neighborhood kids and it always ended up with one of us going home crying because someone got too exuberant.  However, the next day it would be the same thing over again.

However, the reward wasn’t only to get to the top of the hill but what comes after.  I would go home and replace my cold wet clothing with my flannel pajamas and then stand over top our hot air vent.  My shivers would melt away.

The Endurance Marathon

Grand Central Station  (This was taken moments after getting off the shuttle)

November 2, 2012 at 10:30 PM EST

The cancellation of the New York Marathon due to Hurricane Sandy had become a test of endurance for us.

The week leading up to the Marathon, we watched closely the damages and heartaches that were caused by Sandy.

There was mixed emotions.  On one hand, I couldn’t understand why they would want to have the race.  Then on the other hand, I couldn’t understand why they would want to cancel it.

When Bloomberg announced that they were going to go forward with it, I appreciated the determination of New York’s resilience.  However, we heard from individuals who thought this was a wrong decision.  Again, my mixed emotions crept up.  What was right or wrong?  Should we go or not?

At first, we thought the decision was going to be made for us.  Every day all flights into La Guardia had been canceled.  These cancellations continued up to the day prior to our departure.  It was at that moment, when they announced La Guardia was in full operation, I hauled out my suitcase and started packing.  I’m an easy packer.  Depending upon my destination and time of year, I will determine what gets to visit my suitcase.  This time it will be a couple pairs of blue jeans, sturdy shoes and three different black tops in various degrees of thickness and sleeve lengths.

The day of our departure, Saskatoon was met with a snowstorm.  The plane that should have taken us out of the city at 6:00 a.m. never made it into the city the night before.   We were advised that unscheduled airplanes were on their way from Calgary to Saskatoon that should resolve the issue.   Our expected times of departure went from 6:00 AM to 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM.   As each delay was broadcast over the PA system our connection in Toronto to New York became more fragile.

I knew the pickup time by “Supershuttle” will need to be moved.  The “Supershuttle” representative advised me that all the shuttle services were canceled.  We will have to make other arrangements to get ourselves into Manhattan.  He also indicated that the only transportation running were the cabs and even they were in short supply so be prepared for a lengthy wait.  He was talking hours and not minutes.  At this point, we were prepared to call the whole thing off.  But a challenge is a challenge and if we had to do it, we would.

We were 35,000 feet up in the air over the Great Lakes when we found out the Marathon has been canceled.  Another decision had to be made.  Do we turn around in Toronto and head back home?

The US Customs is located at the Toronto Airport and not La Guardia.  Once we retrieve our luggage from the Canadian conveyor belt we could check with Westjet to see about a return ticket.  After some deliberations with all sorts of pros and cons, we thought that since we had gotten this far, we might as well continue.  So we plopped our luggage on the American Conveyor belt and headed off to Customs.

It was the US Customs agent who drilled more fear into us.  There is a gas shortage in New York.  Good luck in getting a cab!  We were about to board an airplane to New York not knowing if we will get into Manhattan.  We had no choice.  Our luggage was already on the plane. The last resort was grabbing the M60 bus to the Astoria Blvd station and take the yellow line.  However, we weren’t even sure if the buses or subways were running.

We landed in La Guardia with so  much apprehension.  The airport was eerily quiet.  The dozen or so passengers that disembarked with us were the only ones in the baggage claim area.  As we waited for our luggage, I decided to do some investigative work.  I found one shuttle service that would take us to Grand Central.  It would be a 20 minute wait and it only costs $13.00 per person.  The weight on my shoulder vanished.  When we got to Grand Central (see picture), we were able to catch the free subway to our hotel.

In general, the experience was a bit nerve wracking.  Not knowing has always been an issue for me.  It all came together at the end.  However, it was the shuttle service operators and the hotel reception that made it all worthwhile.  These people were all smiles and comforting.  We felt like their number one concern was making sure our entrance to New York was free from stress.

I thank them for this.


The longest relationship I’ve had with a non-living entity would be with “Mug”.

Purchased in the summer of 1974 in Edmonton, Alberta, it has been by my side ever since.  Certainly, there are other possessions that have been with me longer.  However, they sit hidden in cupboards, drawers, boxes, and places where they will probably remain until the day I die.  I don’t have a day to day relationship with these things.

It is the relationship I have with “Mug”.  It is fiercely loyal.  It is there every morning waiting to hold my coffee when I read the morning paper.  It has been there when I may not been feeling good and need a shot of NeoCitron.  It has been there when I want a cup of hot chocolate or tea to ward off the cold prairie winters.

There is an understanding in my household that I’m the only one that uses “Mug”.  It sits amongst all the other mugs in the cupboard, but Rod will always bypass it and use another one.

“Mug” has been there when I met Rod,  when we got married, when we bought our first house, when Amber was born.  I would use it everyday during those times.

Me and “Mug”, BFF.

The Coke Box

In the Chinese tradition, it is expected for family members to pitch in and work at the family business.  As with many Asian families, this was the cafe.

At our cafe, we were always well-stocked with all the chocolate bars, potato chips, pop, and cigarettes.  It was my job to work at the cash register and handle the sales of these well-stocked items.

I was very proficient in making change for these purchased items.  If you gave me a one dollar bill for items totaling thirty-five cents, I knew exactly what change to give back without having to use a calculator.  35 cents, one nickel = 40 cents, one dime = 50 cents, two quarters = 1 dollar.  Easy Peasy!  Why I failed miserably in math?…I have no idea.

In those days, 35 cents could get you a bottle of pop, a bag of chips and a bag of jelly beans.  A large pack of cigarettes was 25 cents and the small pack was 20 cents.   You can guess by now that I’m going back to the early 60s.  I would have been about seven or eight years old.  Too short behind the cash machine my chin could touch the top of the counter.  Therefore, I used a wooden Coke Box  exactly like the one you see at the bottom of the pile in this picture.

Flipped over, I stood on the bottom of the box.  From there, I could reach behind me for any pack of smokes and hand them to the buyer.  The gentlemen who made the purchases were so confident in me, they didn’t even have to tell me what type of cigarettes they wanted.  I would have the pack in their hands before they could say “Boo”.  What a hustler!


l to r.  Unknown little girl, my Mother, my oldest sister “Lucy” on my paternal Grandmother’s lap, my Father

The last time I was with my Dad, I was 5 months old.  Since I’ve seen photos of him, I knew he existed.

When my family immigrated to Canada 56 years ago, he stayed in China with my oldest sister.  His arrival to Canada was coming later.

I never knew anything about him.  I didn’t know what he did for a living; why he didn’t come with us or if he even thought of us.  It was at my paternal Grandfather’s funeral, that I found out my Father had passed away years before.

My mother is not a talkative person.   In my younger days, I use to prod her with questions about him and she never responded with any details.   I wasn’t fluent in Chinese and she wasn’t fluent in English.  I use to dream up fantasy stories:  he was a spy, he was royalty…   Once I got into my teens and my oldest sister arrived without him, I realized he was never going to show up.  I stopped thinking about him.

Over the years, I watched how my daughter Amber takes after her Dad in more ways than she takes after me.  These character traits, just like physical traits, cannot be denied that they are handed down from generation to generation.

Recently I was asked if I ever thought what my Dad was like.  I didn’t hesitate, “He was me”.  Unlike my Mother and siblings, I could only surmise that I took after my Dad.  So, I guess I knew my Dad.  I knew him better than anyone.

Amber, The Happy Camper

A recent camping trip made me revisit a memory which occurred in the year 1983.

We had gone to Waskesui Lake for the annual family camping trip.  We acquired a campsite right next to the washroom facilities for a possible Amber bathroom emergency.  Amber, at the age of 3, was fully toilet trained but my Motherly-angst kicked in.

Picture it!  A beautiful summer day.  Sunny skies.  A light breeze.  Birds singing.  Rod visits the royal throne.  Magazine in hand, he embarks on a solitary journey.  A minute or so goes by and Amber gets impatient.  She knew where he was and decides to embark on that same path.  Keep in mind, the path was only about 75 feet away.  She was in my line of sight all the time.  I watched her as she stood outside the men’s side of the washroom facilities.

Now picture this!  A washroom facility made out of wood and metal compartments.  Windows wide open to let the ominous odors out and the fresh air in.  Rod was enjoying his peace and quiet when out of nowhere, a squeaky voice comes through echoing into every nook and cranny of that washroom.  “Daddy!  Are you in there?  Are you taking a poop?”

Apparently, another occupant was in the facility and all Rod had to do was to remain quiet hoping this squeaky voice was directed to the other individual.  Now every parent out there knows their child’s distinct voice.  Like a group of penguins, you know the call of your mate.  It is unique and it belongs to them.  But Rod is stubborn and remains silent.  Maybe Amber will tire and move on.  But she kept it up.  “Daddy!  Are you in there?  Are you taking a poop?”

Relief, as the other individual left and Rod was able to respond.  By advising little Amber that yes indeed he was in the bathroom, he allowed her to satisfy her curiosity and yes indeed…move on.





Children and their Parents

The quiet moments and enthusiasm between parent and child are shown in the set of six photos.

The excitement at sporting events such as the Rider Green and White Day, LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

The quiet moments at the Japanese Tea Garden and Tijuana.

A child spinning an umbrella beside her mother at a Jazz Festival.

I can’t think of anything more special then a bond between parent and child.

My Canadian Family


Five months after my birth  I arrived on Canadian soil.  My mother tells me that I slept through the whole trip from Hong Kong to Humboldt.  Growing up in a Chinese restaurant, I had my afternoon naps in the midst and commotion of dishes, cutlery and loud voices placing food orders.  When I say I can sleep through a tornado, you know why.

Shortly after our arrival into Canada, tuberculosis struck my Mother.   She was sent away to a Sanatorium for treatment for a lengthy period of time.  Because my father remained in Hong Kong, my sister and I were placed in the caring hands of a wonderful family, the Schreiners.

In this picture, I would be just over a year old and the scowl you see on my face is the same one I wear every day.  I’m not angry about anything, I just find myself constantly analyzing everything around me.  So…it is an analytical face.

From left to right, my sister Lyn, my analytical face, Linda, Alan (a.k.a. Buzz) and Bob.  These siblings and their parents represents my loving Canadian Family.  This was the family that made all my childhood memories special and I thank them with all my heart.