Playing like Children

How important is it to stay a child at heart?  I truly believe that it's crucially important to dream as we did as children, but how important is it to play like children?  How important is it to play with imagination?  How much of us remember playing or doing anything like nothing else mattered?  In the past, I've heard that how we play is a reflection of how we do EVERYTHING.  If I play with only 80% effort, then most likely I only put in 80% effort at work.  If I play by the rules, then that's how I am in life. 

We use playing to teach children about the value of teamwork, focus, determination, and especially mental and physical discipline to develop them into thriving adults.  These skills are relevant to every field in the global economy.

Maybe playing is more important than I originally thought.

In-N-Out (so good for so many reasons)

I love In-N-Out Burger. It's not just because I love double cheeseburgers. It's not just because it started in my hometown of Baldwin Park, CA. It's because it represents a special side of goodness: great business practices.
It's almost too good to be true. They have a commitment to quality where no food is frozen, prepackaged, or processed. It's great tasting fresh food that is fairly priced. They treat their employees well. Starting wages for their restaurant employes is $10 an hour. In-N-Out is closed on holidays so that their employees can spend time with their families. They also work for the greater good of society. The In-N-Out Burger Foundation has been supporting agencies that fight child abuse and neglect since 1984. 
Whenever I bite into an In-N-Out burger, I feel good not just because the food tastes great and doesn't cause me to go broke, but I know I'm supporting a good company doing good work in the world.

Serendipitous Latin Wisdom

A few months ago, I was caught off guard when I saw a quote etched in the front wall of a clothing store.  I was walking around Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and didn’t expect to see this as part of the architecture:


Being curious, I took out my smart phone and looked up what it meant.  It’s a Latin proverb that loosely translates to, “From possibility to reality.”  Google translates it to, “From being able to be.”  A more elaborate translation is, “It is impossible to determine one’s possibility from one’s reality.”  To me, this quote and all its various translations are empowering.

I don’t plan on studying Latin any time soon to fully grasp the quote’s meaning, but I get the point.  My past may influence my future, but it cannot determine it!  Everything I ever wanted to do, I should do, because I can do. 

Dream like a Child

Yesterday, my family and I were at the bookstore and my son fell asleep in his stroller. There is something special when you see a baby sleep. It's a symbol of peace and serenity. One funny thing is that once in a while, he laughs in his sleep.

When he does that, I wonder what he dreams about. Does he dream about his mom and me? Does he dream about baby toys or does he dream about playing? Whatever he dreams about, I want him to dream big; really BIG. His dreams haven't been tainted by greed, hate, or ignorance. He hasn't been told that he "can't" do something because of his gender, race, or age. I want him to be whoever he wants to be. I want him to be in any career he is passionate about and be the BEST in it.

When I've talked to elementary aged children, they often aspire to be astronauts, teachers, scientists, and even president of the United States. In contrast, when I've asked my high school students what they aspire to be, some say psychologists, some say teachers, and a few want to work for a business. Most say, "I don't know." I usually have to repeatedly drill them with more questions to get an answer out. It's an unfortunate thing.

I hope my son can hold on to his dreams for his whole life.

Memorial Day (a day of honor, respect, and thanks)

This Memorial Day, on behalf of all of us at Nourishment Notes, we honor all of our American heroes who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

Multipurpose Cleansing

When I took a shower today, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a security guard back when I was in college. He said that whenever he has a bad day or is in a terrible mood, he takes a shower. It not only cleanses him physically, but to him, it symbolized a total cleanse. He would imagine the water washing away all his anger and other negative emotions.

Water is a universal symbol for cleanliness. Many different religions use water to purify. For example, Christians use water to baptize their followers by "washing" away their sins.

When I take a shower, I feel not just clean, but also rejuvenated. It's like I'm a newer and fresher version of me. Maybe a shower isn't just a shower.

Pray like a Community Organizer

During my undergraduate years at Cal Poly Pomona, I spent a week in Delano, California studying about Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers Movement first hand.  I visited the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America as well as many historical sites of the movement. 

One of the people I learned about and inspired me was Pete Velasco.  He was a Filipino American activist that organized and protested alongside Cesar Chavez during the 1965 Delano Grape Strike and even served as the Secretary-Treasurer for the United Farm Workers for over a decade.

This is his prayer.  It's simple, beautiful, and powerful.

Thankfulness (my gratitude list)

Gratitude is very powerful. It's the reason the phrases, "Count your blessings" and "Be thankful for what you have" have been socially rampant for generations. For me, being thankful grounds me; it keeps me down to Earth. It reminds me that there is an abundant amount of good in my life.

I've been told by many people to make a "gratitude list", a list of what I'm thankful for. It would reinforce my mind, heart, and soul with positivity.  It's something I recommend to everyone to try at least once.  (You might be surprised with the results.)

So here's what I'm thankful for:
  • my family (I have the best wife, son, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and relatives...I love you all!)
  • my friends (My true friends have always been supportive through everything, and vice versa.)
  • my faith (God has shaped who I am and is continually developing His relationship with me.)
  • my life (I am glad and thankful to be alive.) 
  • my health (I'm fortunate.)
  • my career (I'm lucky to be able to do what I love every day and do it well.)
  • my education (My education has shaped who I am and I want to give it away for the greater good.)
  • my home (It's where my heart is.)
  • my car (My 2002 Celica GTS has everything I want and has always kept me safe.)
  • books (especially "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee)
  • books that make me see life differently ("Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom)
  • poetry (see "Sonnet 116" by William Shakespeare)
  • art (Beauty is everywhere.)
  • cooking (It's one of my favorite hobbies that brings people together.)
  • good food (It nourishes me on the inside and makes me happy.)
  • movies that make me think (The Matrix)
  • music that makes me feel emotion (such as "The Scientist" by Coldplay)
  • music with deeper meaning ("Gravity" by John Mayer)
  • memories with family and friends (There are countless of them.)

*(This list can be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone any number of times)

Perspective (the way I see it)

Is the glass half empty or the glass half full? (If I was thirsty, I would still drink the water.)

I know that it's supposed to be a conundrum that reveals if we are optimists or pessimists.  If you say that the glass is half full, then you're an optimist and you're a negative pessimist if you say it's not.  To me, it's BOTH half full and half empty.  That's my holistic perspective.  Having to pick one is like asking, "Do I have a left eye or a right eye?"  Obviously, I have both. 

I understand the importance of being positive, but I won't allow myself to ignore the other side completely.  Balance is a hard concept for many people.  Not everything is simply black or white; there are many gray areas.  Understanding the complexity of these gray areas in life are important.  For example, there are many pros and cons of buying a used car that you should consider before you purchase one.  It takes more perspective to see how large, thick, dark, or light the gray areas are (it's not just 50 shades).

Whenever I look at an issue, I try my best to see it from a balanced perspective.  It's not always easy, but it's sometimes necessary.

Thinking Outside the French Fry

Yesterday, I went with my family to Freddy's Food Court, a weekly food truck event at Neighborhood Christian Fellowship in Covina, CA to check out their culinary offerings.  It was a nice community gathering with food, karaoke, face painting, and families. 

I usually like to see which food trucks have the long lines; it usually is an indicator that the food is good.  One of the trucks with a big crowd was the Tornado Potato truck.  It wasn't french fries, it was a different spin on it. 

What they do is skewer a whole spiral cut potato on a stick and deep fry it.  You can also substitute a zucchini for the potato or stick a sausage within the potato spiral.  Then you have a choice of flavor seasonings from garlic parmesan to ranch; we tried the jalapeno flavor.

Being french fry fans, we enjoyed it.  It tasted like a hybrid between a potato chip and french fry.  I appreciated the creativity behind it.  They took something regular (such as french fries) and produced it in a way that people haven't seen before.

It inspired me to challenge myself to be more creative.  How can I see what I usually encounter in life in a whole different way?  That'll be my brain teaser for today.

Flower Smelling Skills

Today during my lunch hour, I took a walk around the building, simply because I had to.  I needed a break from the walls and paperwork that have been playing staring games with for hours. 

I wanted to feel some warmth and fresh air.  It was nice to see things under sunlight versus indoor light bulbs.  I usually walk to meditate and reflect on my day: everything that's going on at work and what I'm goinig to do when I get home. 

I've done this walk probably dozens of times before, but today was different.  On the left, I saw a bunch of white flowers growing.  I've walked past them on previous walks, and I didn't realize they existed because I was usually stuck in my head.  But today I "stopped to smell the flowers" (not literally).  I put aside the distracting busy thoughts and realized what was in front of me all along.

I know it's a cliché, but for me it was a moment of clarity.  Sometimes life lessons have a funny way of sneaking up and surprising me.  Tomorrow, I will be better at "smelling flowers."  I'm going to try to not let distractions get in the way of enjoying the awesome things in front of me.

Giving (myself)

The more mature I get, the more I want to give. At home, I want to give my family ALL my time, attention, and energy. At work, I try to perform at my maximum efficiency and effectiveness from the moment I step through the entrance until I step out to the parking lot. As for myself, I push myself to be better every day. I have weaknesses, vices, and areas of improvement. I know I'm not "perfect", but I also subscribe to the mindset that we all are "perfect" just the way we are. For me, it takes a lot of hard work, effort, and discipline to self improve, but I still try my best.

I've always been a big believe in karma. I like the idea that my actions cause a continuous chain reaction that and its impact is socially immeasurable. So,I try to give myself in every possible positive way in the world. I consider giving an investment. If I can make the world a little better by investing my time, energy, knowledge, wisdom, skills, and monetary resources, then I should. Why not?

So tomorrow I plan on giving a little bit more than I have today...and that will be the plan again tomorrow.

Amazement (looking for wonderful surprises)

One of the things I admire most about life is that it's always full of surprises.

When I watch the news, it looks like there are tragedies on every corner.  It seems like the world is slowly coming to its demise.  It's easy to be pessimistic about the future.

As an educator, I hope to be surprised on a daily basis.  I want the expectations that past experiences have taught me to be disproven.  I want all my students to succeed, especially the ones who seem like there is no possible way they'll "make it."  Their individual stories point toward future failure. 

I hope that they prove destiny wrong.  I've seen some who actually have.  I've also seen many who haven't. 

Still, no matter what the past has shown me, I hope to be pleasantly surprised in any possible way; like being in awe of a palm tree growing out of a concrete parking lot between a brick wall and barbed wire fence.

Good Morning!

On the way to work yesterday morning, everything I encountered reminded me of "On the Pulse of Morning," one of my favorite poems by Maya Angelou. One thing I love about mornings is that it seems that there is a peacefulness inherent in it. Everything looked bright and new. Looking up, I saw the mountains clearly on the edge of the land. The trees had this fresh look on them. The air felt cool and refreshing. It was as if every part of nature woke up to greet me to say, "Good morning." And it was a good morning.

In the last stanza of the poem, Angelou writes:

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

What I love about the ending is that she signifies how powerful saying, "Good morning" is. This simple sentence and simple gesture is immeasurably impactful. It's something we say to our family when we wake up. It's something that strangers say passing each other in coffee shops, bus stops, and on sidewalks. It's a simple way to wish someone that they start their day in a positive way. It's an easy way to spread joy to all those you encounter.

So this morning, I plan on saying,"Good morning" to everyone I see.

Roderick Conwi is the Executive Editor at Nourishment Notes. He is also the author of The Procrastinator's Quick Guide To Getting It Done. To get powerful insights that enhance your day, join his free newsletter.

My Lucky Stars

Right now, people on this side of the world are getting ready to go to sleep. Everyone has their different rituals. Some people read to their kids. Others watch a late night show. And some people pray.

As the night makes the present more still, I am thankful. Gratitude is good for the soul.

I'm thankful for my family, friends, colleagues, and everyone in my life who has helped shape who I am. (Even if I haven't seen or talked to you in years, I'm still grateful for you.) I'm thankful for being able to do what I love to do everyday (and get paid for it!).

I'm happy and grateful for what I've been blessed with.

House Hunting (not "home hunting")

The other day I went house hunting. I went with my wife, 8 month old son, and Melvin, my close family friend and real estate agent. We were looking for a typical family home. Somewhere where my wife and I could raise our family in. A place for family to gather during the holidays. A place to have friends over. A place where my son could play, learn, and grow into the man who he dreams to be.

Right now we live in a small apartment in Southern California. It's a nice apartment in a nice part of town. The major downside is how small the space is. Our apartment is almost bursting at the seams. There really is no space for anything new. Baby toys and supplies are everywhere. My wife has been stretching her brain to creatively find new ways of making things fit. Although we love this place, we WANT to move into a house of our own.

We didn't make an offer on any house so far, and my wife and I are fine with it. We are perfectly happy just where we are right now. We're like sardines in a can, but we're happy sardines. All we really NEED is each other to make a "home." We're healthy, have a refrigerator full of fresh food, and we don't have to worry about bankruptcy (knock on wood). If we don't find a house, we could live here for a few more years.

Wherever we end up (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that a great house comes our way), I'll be perfectly happy there.