Preservation for the Future

Leo Tsai Photo Credit: Gallery Sun

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was invited to join my friend Jessica for a presentation on Art Restoration. I have always appreciated art and the words on the poster, “The Journey of Time through the Old Cities” rang to me. 

True to its slogan, Leo Tsai, the first Taiwanese master art restorer took us on a journey through historical cities from the birthplace of the Renaissance halfway around the world and finally back to Taiwan, stepping into the back doors of art preservation. 

His speech was simple, yet his words permeated with his passion and respect for each masterpiece and the artists who created them. From Brunelleschi’s Cupola and the Pietas of Michelangelo, to his enduring training under Italian master restorers, his love affair with Portrait of a Young Girl in New Orleans, his opportunity to be the first Asian restorer to work in the Uffizi, and bringing his experiences to preserve cultural heritages in Taiwan, we all listened intently and were mesmerized. 

His keen observations and unique perspectives bring to light two simple questions: What is important to you? And what will you do about it? 

While modern society undergoes lightning fast changes, often with an “out with the old and in with the new” attitude, what do we value at the end of the day? What will be lost if we simply conform to popular trends and never take a stand? I am still pausing to think. 

Time is an inevitable enemy to beauty of all sorts whether man-made or natural, yet the people who conserve its originality through the test of time are the front line, often unseen rescue team. 

I am grateful for people like Leo, so my children and grand-children can walk by a historical site in Tainan, or visit the Uffizi and be able to admire the intricate compositions and brushstrokes of ancient masters. Thank you for preserving for the future. 

More about Shun-Jen (Leo) Tsai: 

Leo’s Studio: TSJ Art Restoration (in Chinese) 

Leo on TED x Taipei (in Chinese) 


My First Scare

The first week I knew of my pregnancy, my doctor informed me I was already 5 weeks in. I felt great! My energy level was good as any other day and I was confident in accomplishing all the plans for the week. There was not a hint that I would slow down.

A Busy Week 

The week was packed, starting with a trip to see my grandma in Taipei (about 4.5 hours bus ride one-way). I made it there in time to reveal the good news to her and to my parents who joined through skype. Then, I had an overnight outing with a friend in Tainan before she returned to Canada. The week followed with full time work in the day and serving as a prayer staff in a summer youth camp at nights. Friday, I led a group of 30 people on a one-day official outing to the middle of Taiwan. Finally, on Saturday I attended a memorial service for a colleague’s husband.

Over My Limits 

I felt fine right until I got home from the service. A burning fever and nausea flooded me and I was sapped. Throwing up everything and barely able to eat, I knew I needed a) air-condition, and b) rest. It was also at that time that I started bleeding.

While some bleeding was completely normal during first trimester, I bled more in the beginning, then less and less for the next 2-3 days.

During this time, I was bed-ridden and having conflicting voices in my head. One, an unsure feeling terrified that something would happen to the baby. Another, a strong sense of peace and knowing that “He’s fine.” My prayer was that my baby, despite me not knowing my physical limits, would still be healthy and alive!

Getting Back on My Feet

God sent angels to help me through. My husband took up taking care of me, even cooking rice porridge (congee) when I couldn’t eat. Cooking was never his talent, he’s good at buying and heating food. I knew he gave it all with that congee, which he made from scratch and turned out pleasantly delicious. That hot bowl of food was a true remedy to a sick stomach.

On Monday, I felt better and called my ex-roommate Ya. The whole weekend, I didn’t really talk to anyone apart from my husband and sleeping. She learned I was also preparing for an end of the year get-together for my English students that night. As a fairy godmother, she volunteered to help cook for the kids. She took charge of the kitchen and magically produced several amazing dishes and saved the night!

Ya usually has nice hunches and deep perspectives. She told me that God has a plan for the baby and he’s going to be just fine.

Lurking Fears

To be on the safe side, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment the next day. The night before, I woke up with a dark fear. It was a terrible, uncertain feeling that I would go for the check-up and nothing would be there. The baby has left and I was in tears. Angus woke up, asked me what’s wrong and prayed for me. At that time, all I could remember was Ya saying the baby will be fine, and the solid sense of peace that overpowered my fears. All became calm and I finally went back to bed.

Healthy and Strong

The next day, to my amazement, the baby (at that time, a dark round circle) was still there! Not only did I see him on the ultrasound, but he had a strong heartbeat. Seeing the heart beating, I knew God is protecting my baby. The doctor prescribed me some progesterone pill and advised me to stay in bed for a few more days.

While my goal is to have a worry-free, happy pregnancy, I know that worries do come, and sometimes I do dumb things like not taking care of my body. Ultimately, God is in control and I can trust Him.

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

Jeremiah 29:11 The Message (MSG)



To my babe:

Thank you for courage and strength. Knowing you are not wasting your time growing and learning, I am humbled by your power to face life. Thank you for being a good fighter. Thank you for showing me how.

Diary of a New Mother: The Beginning

We had decided, between my husband and me that after our trip to Israel, we would grow our relationship of two into a family of three. I remember the first day we started dating. Angus asked me, “How many children would you like to have?”

“Four” I said, “How about you?”

“Three because I grew up with three” and quickly responded with a calculation, “Four plus three. Maybe we’ll just have to have seven!”

We laughed about it heartily on that cold winter night.

A year and three months after being married, and just two weeks after returning home from our Israel holiday, our home pregnancy kit came back positive for the first time. Perfectly timed, we didn’t expect our prayers to be so immaculately answered. We didn’t have jitters or doubts, just hardly believing we created a life that is growing inside. We were blissfully walking on heaven clouds for the first couple of days, still in awe.

It is truly amazing how mother instincts kick right in the moment we knew. I felt love, a strong love bonding me to our baby that seems to come from nowhere. Angus, whose distinct fatherly, caring personality that always existed, blossomed even more.

I used to wonder why some pregnant women smile so much? Now, I can understand why. It is the joy of being unconditionally in love with someone.

Of course, this is just the beginning of this story of love. Pregnancy, and I believe parenting will be a never-ending challenge. This is an account of how it happened when we first knew I was pregnant. I have plenty to share about the ups and downs of this roller coaster ride so far. It isn’t always going to be creamy and dreamy. Sometimes it’s gory and often messy and uncomfortable. All in all, “The most beautiful thing.”

Pacifier by Jen Wen Luoh

Pacifier by Jen Wen Luoh (Montreal, Canada) – 2010 

Imagining the Golden Days

Over the past few months, I have heard of dad working intently, eating every minute of his after work hours on his first memoir. Growing up, dinner was the time our whole family got together to reminisce our day. At the table, dad was always an animate story teller. Some stories, he had told over and over again, as we would say in Chinese 老到掉牙,”it is so old that teeth fall out.” At his first words, we would already say, “Oh yeah I know this one.” Yet we never grew tired of listening to the old tales.

A month ago, I finally received his final Chinese manuscript. Due to my poor Chinese, I took a much longer time in reading his 106 pages masterpiece. To compensate, I had read every single word.

Not only is my dad a good story teller, he is a talented writer. I am most impressed with his ability to detail the events of his life as early as 2 years old. I don’t even remember what happened in high school let alone elementary or toddler years.

What makes his book interesting beyond personal anecdotes is the way he relates to life in the “golden days” as I put it. The 50s and 60s of Taiwan was not glorious by any means. It was a time when everyone was poor and the only reason for living is to get by everyday. Under those harsh conditions, the stories overflowed with the rare beauty of simplicity, creativity and comradeship of the time.

Imagine a time when children ran wild in the mountains, catching mangos and longans they hit off trees and swimming in the lakes, only to dry their wet bottoms on hot sun-dried roads. A time when anyone can claim an uninhabited land and establish his family. A time when friends and neighbours lent sincere helping hands and have bonded deeper than blood. A time as rough as a rock, but as golden as the sun.

Photo Credit: Rolands at

Photo Credit: Rolands at Flavors of Taiwan

Essence of Reading

I’ve heard the saying that once the world knows you are a writer, the stories come flooding to you.

My favorite authors growing up were Lucy Maud Montgomery for her Anne series, Roald Dahl’s crazy stories and his unbelievable autobiographies, Gerald Durrell whose family and life couldn’t be more upside down, and oh Jane Austen, penned delicate lines of gentle and brave heroines whose ideals were beyond the confines of society.

It is fair to say that some had extraordinary circumstances that even imagination couldn’t have whipped up. Others led plain lives with little real-life stimulations, yet with a blank piece of paper and an inked pen created a world of possibilities.

In an era where words are watered down and books are adapted into movies and TV series, the essence of reading is gradually disappearing. Successful blogs are not carefully planned pieces with inspirational stories and ideas, but mostly “how-to” instructionals to fix anything from plumbing to marriages. Rather, more people write and more publications are made each year, but book sales are crashing down. With E-publications, who will need to buy paperbacks anymore?

My piece of warning – Hold on to your books! They will become rare collectors’ items in the near future. An afternoon with a paperback will be a long lost luxury. Old-fashioned me still remain determined to pass on the legacy of the joy of reading and writing, letting the pages unfold into a limitless canvas for my children to paint. I pray that they will see through creative minds, the beautiful things of life and tell never-ending stories for generations to come.

How Much Do I Want It?

Opportunities come and go, but this time, I have decided to step out into the open door right in front of me and explore the new world it leads to. Every door opens into a new story and I’m about to begin one that I hope to tell my children just before bed.

Ever since my contract was coming to an end, I thought of endless possibilities of what I could end up doing if I left my current job. Through this job, I learned and traveled beyond my imagination, and met precious mentors and friends for life. While there were times when monotony kicked in, but looking back, I have enjoyed it for the most part. My biggest pat on the back was to see a project through from beginning till the end.

End, yes, a beautiful black dotted “period” sealed the previous 3 years of my life and work at the Center. June 30th, 2014 is no doubt a milestone in my young career existence.

There is still grace, thanks to God and my caring boss and colleagues to ease me into this new life. Starting July, I will be working part-time, while spending the remaining of my time preparing and exploring my new ventures.

Being the big dreamer that I am, I have millions of projects already lined up, from crazy ideas to somewhat doable ones. Just taking the last 3 years of my life, here are a few things that crossed my mind:

• Operate my own farm, including driving tractors and combines
• Teach English
• Travel writer
• Be a voice talent
• Manage educational camps
• Be a buyer
• Open an online shop
• Be a professional blogger

As you can see, all the work I have mentioned involves me being an active decision-maker and realizer. In any case, I will be taking steps to start my own business!

The first business I will invest in is the business of “me”. No, it isn’t the self-centered “me”, but the marketable and versatile “me” that works for myself. This is the first time I will be working for myself, although I’d like to think that God is my boss.

After running in circles, this brings me back to the question – how much do I want it? Do I prefer comfort over life satisfaction? Or a well-paid job over achieving my dreams even if it means little profit to start off with? Can I give up a privilege or small enjoyments for a meaningful life? The questions go on and on.

How much do I want it?

This path I am taking is nothing new, I am just tired of limiting myself. I decided to walk the footsteps of pioneers on the road less traveled. I want to discover my own patch of land too.