Not Your Mom's, Dad's, or Uncle's Fry Bread

The Three Sisters Veggie fry bread.
If you've never had Native American fry bread before, you're missing out.  At pow wows I've been to in the past, it always seemed that this fried pastry, usually topped with powdered sugar, was the public's most popular food of choice.

Today I was at Neighborhood Christian Fellowship's weekly food truck event (Thursdays 5-9pm) with my family and I was amazed with Auntie's Fry Bread Truck.  It took the concept of traditional Native American fry bread and married it with contemporary flavors. 

The fry bread is flat, and is topped with various ingredients, like a taco.  They have savory dishes and sweet ones for dessert.  I had the Three Sisters Veggie, which was fry bread topped with grilled squash, onions, corn (those are the three sisters), with black beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese.  My wife and I thought it was absolutely delicious.  The flavors merged well together while the hot and crispy fry bread provided comforting texture.  For dessert, we had another fry bread topped with honey and powdered sugar (supposedly a pow wow favorite). 
Auntie's Fry Bread Truck.
I'm always inspired by people who take existing concepts and merge them with new ideas.  Auntie's "Native American Fusion" was a delicious way of sharing a little bit of Native American culture with all of us.

Fry bread topped with honey and powdered sugar.

Changing "Sick Care" to Health Care

Yesterday I took my son to the pediatrician to get his nine month checkup.  Nothing wass wrong with him; my wife and I were just looking out for his health. 

I, on the other hand, can't remember when I got my last check up. Every time I've seen a doctor within the last few years, it's because either I've had an infection or felt like I was dying.  I've only gone when something was wrong with me.

On TV, news articles, and from daily conversations, I've heard that in the United States we have more of a "sick care" system than a health care system.  Most people don't seek preventative care and only use medical services until they absolutely need it (I admit, I'm part of this crowd).

Change starts with me.  I really need to take better care of my health.  I want to live long enough to have a really long marriage and watch my son grow old.  So far, I've eaten pretty healthy, but I should exercise more and visit the doctor regularly, even when I think nothing is wrong.

4 Life Lessons Learned from Sitting in Traffic

Sitting in traffic isn't one of America's favorite pastimes.  Personally, it's not something I wake up in the morning looking forward to.  One of the things I try to do is turn life's obstacles into opportunities for growth. 

Here are four lessons that sitting in traffic has taught me and helped make me a better person:

1.  Patience is not just a virtue, but a necessity for survival. 
The best things in life are really worth waiting for.  If it's saving for a house, finding your soul-mate, earning your PhD, or climbing up the corporate ladder, it's going to take time and patience.  Learning how to wait is a necessary life skill.

2.  There aren't always shortcuts.
There have been plenty of times where I refused to sit in traffic, exited to take a "shortcut", but ended up wasting more time.  Usually what happened was a lot of people took the same route and it was still slow or the route I took wasn't efficient at all.  There are shortcuts in life and on the road, but some aren't worth it.  Real shortcuts require planning in advance and thinking smart.

3.  Timing makes a HUGE difference.
The time of day, day of the week, and time of year makes a difference in a road trip.  Driving towards a big city in the morning usually warrants more traffic than going on the weekend.  The importance of timing is the same in life too.  With dating, buying a house, finding the right job opportunity, or planning a wedding, timing influences so many factors.  Timing affects opportunities.  It's important to keep time in mind always.

4.  It's important to stay focused on the goal/destination.
The ultimate goal of driving is to get to a specific destination.  Being stuck in traffic can make anyone lose sight of that.  No matter what, it's important to get to my destination safely and in one piece.  Being goal oriented is important in being successful.  When I decided to become an English teacher, I knew I had to get my Secondary English Teaching Credential, pass the CBEST test, all four English CSET tests, pass TPA 1,2,3, and 4, complete an internship, and complete BTSA.  It's enough to deter many highly qualified people from the profession, but I ran at it at full force.  My current teaching position made it all worth it.

Everything is Feedback

I am the only one in charge of my life.  Everything in my life, big or small, is a result of my thoughts, words, and actions.  If I think today is my lucky day, I will act like it.  Positive thoughts produce positive actions and interactions.  Like my friend Kevin Marhsall told me in college," Be careful of what you think."

If my bank account is low, it's a result of my spending and saving habits.  The state of my personal relationships reflect how I prioritize people in my life.  Where I am in my career is feedback of my work ethics.  The quality of my cooking results from not just my cooking skills, but my attitude towards various recipes, ingredients, and taste.  If my food is sloppy in taste and presentation, it's because I didn't put forth enough focus and effort.  If anything I do is sloppy, it's because of the same reason.  How I do one thing is usually how I do everything.

It's almost impossible to be aware of every single piece of feedback life throws at me, even if it's obvious to most people.  I believe the important thing is to be aware of everything and pay attention to as much feedback as possible.  Being more aware is better than being less aware.  I choose to live my life with open eyes, an open mind, and an open heart.

My Favorite Quotes from Today

Every day is a different day. It's a gift that contains new people, new experiences, new ideas, and new lessons. Here are my favorite quotes from today:

"Choosing to live your life by your own choice is the greatest freedom you will ever have. It is only when you exercise your right to choose that you can also exercise your right to change. The end result of your life here on earth will always be the sum total of the choices you made while you were here."
- Shad Helmstetter

"If you're going to do something, make it matter."
- hp

"Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."
- Mother Teresa

"You don't lose weight by watching someone else exercise. You don't learn by watching someone else solve problems. Students have to solve them."
- Sebastian Thrun

"I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it."
- Charles Swindoll

"Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength."
- Eric Hoffer

Sunset at Redondo Beach

The Redondo Beach Pier.
Yesterday my family and I went to Redondo Beach, CA to spend some time together and enjoy fresh and local seafood.  Redondo Beach is a popular Southern California hot spot.  The sand and waves are fun to play on, the pier has lots of shops, restaurants, and even an arcade boardwalk. 

When we got there, the sun was on its way down.  The sun gracefully danced downward while illuminating the sand, water, and people.  It truly felt like a summer moment. 

One of my favorite memories was sitting on a pier bench with my wife, while drinking coffee, and watching the sun set over the ocean.  To see the sun gradually turn day into night at the edge of land and ocean was an unforgettable experience.  There is absolutely nothing like it.

Things that Nourish the Soul (based on my experience so far)

Holistically, we have a mind, body, and soul.  Learning nourishes our minds.  Food nourishes our bodies.  There are countless factors in life that nourish our souls.  Here are some methods my soul gets nourished that I'd like to share:
  • Books and coffee.
  • Date nights.
  • Family time.
  • Watching a rerun of an old favorite TV show.
  • Eating a home cooked meal (especially my mom's beef steak).
  • Drinking hot chocolate when it's cold outside.
  • Lemonade on a hot summer day.
  • A day at the beach.
  • Finding something that I was shopping for on sale.
  • Playing video games (especially old favorites).
  • A nature walk.
  • Getting a new haircut.
  • Ice cream
  • A conversation with an old friend.
  • Wearing a new shirt.
  • Fresh brewed coffee in the morning.
  • Jokes that make me laugh out loud.
  • Relaxing at home.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Weekend Every Day

A lot of people I know love Fridays.  For many, Fridays signal the end of the work week and the start of the freedom filled weekend.  It's the day that many people look forward to the most.  The restaurant, TGI Friday's, thrives on the appeal that "every day is Friday here."  Last year, Rebecca Black received nationwide popularity by making a song about this favorite day of the week.

Unfortunately, we all spend only 1/7th of our time on Fridays (that's 14.29%).  Even if we counted Saturdays and Sundays as "happy time," then that means we'd be happy just 3/7th of the time.

I'm going to try something a little bold and crazy.  I'm going to live every day like it's the weekend.  Even though I work Monday through Friday, I'm not going to wait until the weekend to have fun.  When I come home from work, I'm going to maximize my time with my family, friends, and everything I want to do.  Life is too short to only really live on the weekends.

My 6 Daily Impossibilities

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
(from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll)

This quote really made me think.  Why did the Queen think of believing impossible things for thirty minutes a day?  Why would someone attempt to believe as many as six fallacies in the morning?  It seems really illogical.  It's setting oneself up for disappointment.  Why would the Queen do this to herself?

Out of curiosity, I made my own list of six impossible things to believe before breakfast this morning:

1.  Today will be the best day of my life.
2.  All of my students will show up on time with their assignments complete.
3.  Today I will run a mile or two.
4.  I will have a stress free day.
5.  EVERYTHING on my To Do List will be complete today.
6.  I will flush out all negativity out of me.

Coming up with these was a lot harder than I thought.  It took more than half-an-hour (almost two whole half-an-hours).  It was a long and painstaking effort.  It was like my brain was fighting me through the whole process.  I guess it doesn't like thinking irrationally.

After pondering about it a little more, brainstorming and internalizing these impossibilities was pretty powerful; it was all about hope.  It's not about wishful thinking.  It's about taking what I (or society) perceived as impossible and bending my mind to make it a reality.  The more I believe any of my impossibilities, the more I am likely to make it happen.

People who did what was considered "impossible" were perceived as crazy by society.  They were the ones brave and crazy enough to believe that the "impossible" was possible.  Think of the Wright Brothers flying their airplane for the first time or Barack Obama being elected the first African American of the United States.  At one point in history, flying an airplane or having an African American president were thought of as impossible and crazy.  Maybe it isn't so crazy to be crazy after all.

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Reminder: Breathing is Important

"Don't forget to breathe" is what I usually say to someone that I see is stressed out or overwhelmed.  It's my simple way of supporting them with words of encouragement.  During times of distress, I want them to be able to step back, take a breath, relax, recover, refocus, and get back in the game. 

Lately, I've had to take my own advice.  Responsibilities for work and just life in general can be really overwhelming.  I remind myself of one of the "Life Laws" of Dr. Phil: Life is managed; it is not cured.  Obstacles will always be coming my way, I just need to get better at handling them. 

Personal time to think, reflect, and process my thoughts and emotions are vital for maintaining my mental and emotional sanity.  So once again, I must remind myself:

"Don't forget to breathe."

Company with a Cause: Ryan Suda

Ryan Suda at a Blacklava booth.
(Photo Credit: facebook.com/blacklava)
How many people do you know run a company with the goal of raising social consciousness about Asian American issues? Ryan Suda, owner/founder of Blacklava, did. In a society where it's not popular to stand up for Asian American issues, he did it anyway.

Started in 1992, Blacklava produced "clothing for a new state of mind." One of my favorite t-shirts is a Blacklava shirt that says, "I AM NOT A TERRORIST" (acquired during the G.W. Bush era when people who spoke out against the Iraq war were considered "terrorists"). Blacklava has now evolved into a merchandise empire offering (almost) all things Asian American.

To gain some insight, Ryan recently granted Nourishment Notes an exclusive interview.

What inspired you to start Blacklava?
It just kind of happened. I started Blacklava as a surf based t-shirt company. After failing miserably at that for about 4 years, I stumbled across an Asian American Studies class at Cal State Fullerton and also joined a Asian American theater company called hereandnow. The combination of the two led me to making shirts with Asian American themes. Blacklava the Asian American t-shirt company was never planned. As I learned new things and gained new experience, the company naturally evolved.

What would you say are the biggest factors of your success?
I have a good support system of family, friends, and a community of people who care and relate with the shirts that Blacklava sells. It also helps that I can work a 12 hour day like it was a walk in the park, on a sunny day with singing birds, sun rays, and the smell of bbq. This is a good and bad thing because I can plow through a pile of work that would make a normal person cry and totally feel proud of that.. but at the same time I realize that I can’t do that forever and will need a team of people to help me take this business to the next level. I can’t do this alone. I need to find a good team of people.

Where do you see Blacklava 10 years from now?
If I could totally tap into the part of my brain where reason does not exist.. I see Blacklava with a staff of 5-10 people. I want Blacklava to be in a building.. 2 floors.. no make it 8. My office would be on the 7th floor. The 8th floor would be where I live... because I hate traffic. Each floor would have a window that opened up to a water slide that would take you directly to your car. I don’t know how the slide would figure out what car belongs to you.. it just would. The downside is that you would have to climb back up the slide in order to get back to your office. We would fix that issue in year 11. Blacklava would have an amazing team of thinkers and creators. They would totally have fun and be very clear and effective with the messages that they would be putting on shirts. Blacklava would evolve from clothes to media.. short films, long films, commercials, and candy bars. That’s all I have for 10 years. Wanna hear what I have in store for 20?

If someone wanted to start a business right now, what advice would you give her/him?
Find mentors. Read books. Have a game plan. It’s better to do rather than to over think and not do. Take risks. Make mistakes and learn from them. Have fun. Understand how to leverage time and money. Be good with people. Learn to be a leader. Listen.  


If you were the keynote speaker at the Harvard Business School this year, what advice would you give to the class of 2012?
When you work in business, you'll get into situations where you'll doubt yourself or feel like quitting. The trick is to just accept that feeling and not make it "wrong", just let it be what it is: hard, difficult, tiring. By allowing those feeling to be not wrong, it helps you deal with it in a way where you accept the bumps in the road just as if it’s another element or experience when driving down your highway of life. That was kinda cheesy but hope you get the picture. I have to get back to work now Roderick. Now leave me alone.


To purchase Asian American apparel, CDs, DVDs, books, buttons, or birthday cards, please visit www.blacklava.net

Ryan Suda at Comic Con 2009 in San Diego, CA
(Photo Credit: facebook.com/blacklava)

Our Favorite Fatherhood Quotes

From all of us at Nourishment Notes, we would like to wish every singly dad out there, "Happy Father's Day!"  Fathers fulfill a special niche in the world.  To honor these men, here are our favorite quotes about fatherhood:

"A father is a man who expects his children to be as good as he meant to be."
- Carol Coats

"He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." 
- Clarence Budington Kelland

"My father, when he went, made my childhood a gift of a half a century."
- Antonio Porchia

"Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad."
- Anne Geddes

"Nothing I've ever done has given me more joys and rewards than being a father to my children."
-Bill Cosby

“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway...let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.”
C. JoyBell C.

"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.'
- Jim Valvano

"Fathers, like mothers, are not born. Men grow into fathers and fathering is a very important stage in their development."
- David Gottesman

"Noble fathers have noble children."
- Euripides

"I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week."
- Mario Cuomo 

"I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich."
- Colonel Potter in the TV show M*A*S*H*,

The Social Power of Food

I like making food (see picture of cinnamon coffee cake). It's a fun and tasty hobby. I like the process of taking ingredients and using tools (my favorite is my cast iron skillet) to make something delicious with them.

The process makes the finished product more satisfying and subliminally way more tasty. It's a personal way of nourishing myself.

It's also another way of giving. By cooking, I'm giving others the basic nutrients for living. There is something really fulfilling about that. I'm also making them happy by fulfilling their appetites and tantalizing their taste buds.

What I really love about cooking is that it brings people together. Recipes are one way to pass down family traditions. Families use mealtimes to gather around each other to share both food and each other's company. Food is considered an essential part of major celebrations: weddings, banquets, etc. People gather at restaurants for all different occasions: dates, business meetings, or for friendly conversations.

I love cooking for my family. I love making my wife happy while satisfying her appetite. She often prefers our home cooked meals over going out to eat. (We do go out on dinner dates once in a while though.) When she cooks for me, I can feel the love she puts into the food. And there is something more personal about having a home cooked meal with friends when they come over.

Food has the power to nourish people physically and socially.

Reducing the Summer Slide

Summer vacation is here for many elementary, high school, and college students.  Associated with it are freedom, fun, and recklessness.  It's usually what students (and teachers) look forward to in the later half of the academic year.  It's a chance to be away from school, do anything, and be irresponsible. 

It's also a chance to forget a significant amount of academic information and decline in reading, writing, and mathematical skills.  It's often referred to as the "summer slide."  Schools and teachers usually have to dedicate the first part of the school year to catch up students on what they lost during summer vacation. 

Based on my experience, here are some ways that students can keep themselves mentally active while promoting their self-development:

Summer School
This isn't just for students who didn't pass a class, it's also for students who want to get ahead.  One of my favorite classes in high school was Art.  I took it during summer school and I loved it.  I learned so much about art technique and art history it instilled a love for art in me.  Sometimes people think I'm an art expert by what I say. 

Summer Camp
There are summer camps for all ages and all interests.  There are camps for sports, science, girl scouts, boy scouts, theatre, and academic day camp.  As a youth, I loved going to different boy scout camps during the summer.  It was a nature retreat where I learned various outdoor skills (archery, fishing, mountain hiking), built strong friendships, and learned a lot about myself.

Summer Job
Getting a summer job is a great way of developing a student's level of responsibility.  It gives students work experience outside of the classroom.  It also helps them learn about the value of hard work and saving.  One of my most fun summer jobs was working as a lifeguard at a water park.  I earned minimum wage, which taught me the value of my time, hard work, and that I needed to discipline myself to save money. 

Volunteering
If all of the above aren't practical, there is always the opportunity to volunteer.  Students can volunteer at hospitals, churches, animal shelters, and other non-profit organizations.  It gives students the benefits of having a summer job but without the income.  In the past, I volunteered at different hospitals.  Not only did I learn basic hospital operations, but how to care for people, answer phone calls, and manage tedious paperwork.  It helped shape what I wanted to do as a career later on (I'm an educator).

Daily Goals (attitude affects everything)

Last summer, I sat at a coffee house with a few books and journals to give myself a little morning retreat.  I wanted to mentally and emotionally get away from the stress I was going through.  I was unemployed and had to support my family with a baby on the way. 

That morning, I decided that I would change my life by improving my attitude.  I wasn't a negative person, but I needed more positivity in my life. 

Everything would change from that day forward.  On the back of my receipt, I made goals for myself that would be repeated every day:

Breathe with anticipation.
I constantly remind myself to have an open mind.  Anything can happen today.  Good things can come my way, I just have to recognize opportunity when it's right in front of me.  There is always the possibility that life will surprise me in a wonderful way. 

Think with wonder.
Curiosity leads to new ideas.  Asking "Why?" or "How?" makes me think out of my usual pattern of thought.  If I observe and listen to everything around me enough, I might learn something new.  I am constantly surrounded by people and ideas that inspire me, I just have to see it.

Speak with understanding.
People gravitate towards people who are positive and genuinely care.  Acts of judgement, hate, and ignorance drive people away.  This is important since I will always be interacting with people, it's almost impossible to escape it.  Communicating from an understanding perspective is highly significant in building relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.

Act with passion.
Life is short, I need to spend my time wisely.  Life is too short to be bored.  It's too short to watch the clock and "kill time."  The more passionate I am about what I'm doing, the better I do.  This applies to my careers, hobbies, and daily tasks. 

Live with hope.
Every morning, I intend to start the day on the right foot. I attempt to start and end my day with a positive attitude.  That's my way of maximizing the possibilities of my day.

Fortunately, almost a year later, everything worked out.  I have a dream job that I absolutely love and my family is happy.

Life as a Game of Ping Pong (really)

During lunch, my colleagues and I usually like to play ping pong.  It's a way to alleviate stress from the day and have fun with the people we work with.  Today, as I defeated my friend Daniel (11 to 2), I had an epiphany about how ping pong is a whole lot like this game we call life.

This is how I see life like a game of ping pong:
  • Both are 90% mental and 10% physical.
  • There are rules to abide by.
  • I must be aware of my strengths and "areas of improvement" (formerly known as weaknesses).
  • Practice makes better (not perfect).
  • It takes time to get better at it.
  • Focus makes a huge difference.
  • Sometimes I miss, and that's okay.
  • My results are a reflection of my performance.
  • Consistency is a key to success.
  • It's a fun when I play people I like.
  • It pays to plan ahead and have a strategy.

The Cal Poly Pomona Experiment


Even back in my college days at Cal Poly Pomona, I was a big believer that love and peace are things that the world is in more need of. 

So one day I took about ten refrigerator magnets (mostly from pizza places) and transformed them into art masterpieces.  It was my way to symbolize and spread peace and love all over campus.  I glued newspaper on the magnets and then I drew a peace sign within a heart.  The interior of the heart was colored red.  Each of the magnets was hand made with slight deviations that made them unique, but they all still had the basic design. 

I hid all the magnets all over campus.  One was spotted on the side of a fire extinguisher.  Another one was hidden on top of a doorway.  They were hidden in the most obvious and subtle places.  I had hopes that people would randomly find one, smile, and think a little more about love and/or peace that day.
 
I wonder how many people have seen them.  I wonder if they helped influence anyone's decisions.  I wonder if they brightened someone's day.  I guess I'll never know.

I took one home and it's hanging on my refrigerator door. As far as I know, the other nine magnets are still around campus.

The Art of Being Frugal

Buy quality and hold forever is a famous piece of advice from billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett.  Although he is known for being one of the world's richest people, he is not-as-known for being very frugal.  One example is that he would rather spend a night at home playing bridge with friends instead of lavishly going out.  There is a reason why being frugal works.

Living below one's means is a way to ensure economic stability.  There is nothing wrong with choosing to make your money last longer.  The old saying, "It's not what you earn, it's what you keep." has a wealth of truth in it. 

My favorite way of being frugal is buying quality products and making them as long as possible.  It reflects Buffett's advice, but I first learned it from my mom.  For example, I have a 2002 Toyota Celica with about 275,000 miles on it and it still runs great.  I have a friend with a 2006 Pontiac Grand Am with 97,000 miles on it and it breaks down enough where he currently is looking for a new car.  I'm fortunate that I spend less on gas than he does (we compared), I spend less on repairs (my car hasn't broken down at all...knock on wood), and I don't need to look for a new car yet.  Buying a quality car has saved me a lot of money.

Here are some other ways I save money by being frugal, hopefully it helps you:
  • Use coupons (I got a free burrito at Chipotle today!)
  • Buy paperback books instead of hardcover.
  • Buy food that is on sale (usually, it's in season).
  • Pack a lunch to work instead of eating out. (It's cheaper and usually healthier.)
  • Buy in bulk (especially if it's on sale).
  • When shopping, I check out the clearance section first. (I sometimes find what I'm looking for there.)
  • Bundle services for a discount. (I pay only $50 a month for DirecTV and DSL internet.)
  • Eat at home before going to watch a movie. (Have you seen movie theater food prices?)
  • Share whenever possible. (It's GREAT for dates.)

10 Easy (almost effortless) Ways to Spread Kindness

When was the last time someone surprised you with an act of kindness? Good karma is contagious. If someone did something kind for your recently, you know how it feels. If you've recently done something kind for someone else, you know the warm mushy feeling in your heart.

Here are some simple, easy, and almost effortless ways of spreading kindness.

1. Paying it forward.
2. Opening the door for someone walking behind you.
3. Smiling. :)
4. Saying, "Good morning" or "Good evening" to people you encounter.
5. Tipping the coffee house baristas.
6. Asking everyone, "What floor are you going to?" as you push the elevator buttons.
7. Taking your friend's plate along with yours to the trash at a restaurant.
8. Grabbing condiments and utensils for your friends along with yourself when you're out to eat.
9. Remembering to say, "Thank you."
10. Trying any of the above everyday in any way.

Thriving (Yes, I can!)

There is absolutely nothing like a person succeeding when the odds is against her/him. We like stories like that. We watch movies about it.  We use these stories to inspire ourselves and others.

Last night I was at a graduation for Options For Youth (OFY) Public Charter Schools. They specialize in academic recovery and provide an alternative setting for students who don't fit in traditional high school.

The students who go to OFY attend for various reasons. Many of them were on the verge of dropping out of school. It's not uncommon to encounter students with parents who didn't graduate from high school, suffer from substance abuse, or are physically and mentally abusive. A lot are teen parents or have to work to help support their family. Others just want an individualized alternative to their community public school.

For most of the students I saw last night, the odds were against them, but they succeeded. Many of them thanked their parents and their teachers as an essential factor of their success.

As they walked, their faces were lit up with utmost pride. Watching them graduate was really inspirational. They were the roses that grew from concrete.

Exploring the World through the Eyes of a Child

One of the best things about being a parent is experiencing the world all over again through your child's eyes. 

It's amazing seeing how much we adults take for granted. 

Today my wife and I took our son to the park for a little outdoor relaxation. He looked like he was in awe of everything that he saw. The sunshine made his world brand new.  When the wind blew, he raised his little arms to feel it. He would actually notice the sound of the leaves swaying against each other, something I often don't think about.

When he sat on the grass, he acted like he discovered something no one has ever seen before (he usually plays on carpet). He examined the grass leaf by leaf. He crunched the fallen brown leaves in his palms and between his fingers. Crawling through the grass was like a jungle safari for him.

I'm so curious and excited to see how he sees everything else that is yet to come.


The Hardest Job I'll Ever Love

When I was going through my Master's program in Education one of my professors told me that teaching would be the hardest job I'd ever love.  There would be long hours, below average wages, and a lack of appreciation from society, but there would be other ways of being fulfilled.  Ultimately, I would have a career doing good in society by being a role model to youth.  I had no doubt he was right; when I actually started teaching, I fully understood where he was coming from.

Teaching made me grow.  It turned me into a tougher, more mature, and more responsible version of me. 

Later when I was expecting my first child, a friend told me that being a parent would be the hardest job I would ever love.  I thought to myself, "I've heard that before."  I had an idea fatherhood was difficult, but I assumed that it wasn't going to be that hard for me.

Parenting is really difficult; ask any parent.  Kids (especially infants) need constant attention.  The never ending diaper changing, feeding, cleaning, and entertaining is both physically and emotionally draining.  (I haven't had a full night of sleep in almost a year.)  As tiring as parenthood is, I absolutely love it.

It's always an easy decision to get up and do whatever needs to get done no matter how difficult the task is or how tired I am.  Love makes it easy.  I feel blessed and fulfilled every day. 

I love being a father; it's the hardest and most important job I'll ever have.

Creativity (living outside the box)

I haven't taken an official survey, but I think it's safe to assume that generally, being bored sucks.  Life is too short to be bored. 

Boredom feels like your brain cells are dying.  Repetition may be necessary to reinforce good habits, but tedium is daunting.  Not being challenged intelligently or mentally makes people feel "stuck."  They can be stuck in a college major they find unappealing or in a career where they feel like their skills are stagnant?  Who wants to waste their time away not being fulfilled or happy? 

I must admit, many of my creative ideas have come from being bored out of my mind.  Many of my best concepts have come from my mind wandering during boredom.  It's happened during meetings, conferences, and in line at the DMV.  It's usually a way to survive from "mental death." 

Creativity is how the brain resiliently keeps you mentally strong.  It provides new perspectives.  It finds new ways to solve old problems.  It shows your loved ones new ways of saying, "I love you." 

If being creative is thinking outside the box, I'm going to challenge myself a little more.  I'm going to breathe outside the box and spend more time exploring places I haven't seen yet.  I will to work outside the box and find new ways to make my job more fun.  I plan on communicating outside the box and go outside of my comfort zone to build stronger relationships with my family, friends, colleagues, and strangers (aka potential friends).

From now on, I'm going to live as much as I can outside the box.

The Flavor of Fresh Fruit

I almost forgot how fulfilling fresh fruit is.  For lunch yesterday, I was planning to have a simple ham sandwich (with wheat bread and mayonnaise made with olive oil and cage free eggs).  And yet in the fridge, I saw fresh avocados.  A part of me felt too lazy to cut it and put it into my sandwich, but thank goodness I wasn't that lazy.

The avocado made my simple sandwich much more flavorful.  It gave me a little reality check and reminded me how good fresh food is (it's really good).  There is nothing quite like getting something fresh from the market and eating it freshly prepared.

Later on that day, I jazzed up my strawberry cheesecake flavored ice cream by topping it with fresh raspberries.  I didn't cut it up or mix it in; just threw it right on top.  I can see why Pinkberry and Yogurtland make so much money.

There is little to dispute the health benefits of eating fresh fruit, but also, it just tastes really good.

No Purchase Necessary

This past weekend I was reminded that the best things in life truly are free. Some examples I've experienced are:
  • Spending time with family
  • Walking in the park on a nice sunny day
  • Eating a home cooked meal
  • Going to the library
  • Sending messages to friends and family
  • Watching an old favorite movie
  • Star gazing
  • Taking a walk in an indoor air conditioned mall on a hot summer day
  • Looking up and seeing a bright full moon
  • Testing a massage chair at a store
  • Looking at old pictures of great memories
  • Reading an old favorite book
  • Having a good conversation with an old friend
And the best "thing" of all is love. Love is free of charge. It can't be purchased, stolen, or taken. It can only be given.

Climbing Up (higher and higher)

For the past week, my son has been trying to climb up EVERYTHING.  He can't walk on his own yet, but he army crawls all over.  From the furniture, his toys, and even me, he tries to climb up everything in front of him. 

Most of the time, he falls.  Sometimes he bumps his head and cries like the whole world is ending.  Since I'm usually an overprotective parent, I want to protect him from everything, but I know that (like many other things in life) I must let him try so that he can actually learn and get better.

When he cries because he is hurt or frustrated, he does something that amazes me; he tries again.  Even as he cries miserably, he continually tries again.  For being so young, he is incredibly persistent.  He will grunt, cry, yell, and won't be satisfied until he climbs up what he has set his mind to.  When he finally achieves his goal (usually climbing the couch), he has a smile that can light up a room.  He acts as if he just accomplished something that he has never done before; and for an 8 month old, it is.

I hope that this is a sign of his future work ethics.  Whatever his goals are (becoming president, a teacher, or climbing Mt. Everest), I want him to have this same persistence; to keep on trying until he achieves his goal, no matter what.

Interconnectedness (we are one)

In the Jewish Talmund, it says, "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire." It reminds me that every living thing on the planet is connected to each other. I remember t hat we are all connected directly and indirectly to other people and everything in nature.

That's why when I commit an act of kindness I know it creates a ripple effect throughout society. If I were to buy a coworker lunch, that positive act would have a positive impact on her/his mood, and create positive interactions with all who s/he interacts with. (The ripple effect even continues with those people and so on.)

Recycling and being consumer conscious (buying "green" products and supporting "green" businesses) has been my way of helping protect our ecosystem. Even being kind to animals is one way I show my son to respect nature. My hope is that the ripple effect continues through him and others.

Opportunity is Everywhere (inside our minds and right in front of ourfaces)

"When opportunity knocks, answer it."
-Anonymous

Back when I used to work in sales, I was trained to apply the 8 Great Work Habits everyday on the job. My coworkers treated them like the sacred scripture of the business world. One of them is "Recognize Opportunity." I was trained to open my mind and eyes to every and any opportunity and seize it at once.

Even though I'm no longer in sales, this lesson applies in every profession and in this thing we call life. It's a lesson that's stuck with me ever since.

I've found that reaching out and taking the opportunities in front of me isn't the hard part, it's recognizing the signs of opportunity. In Think & Grow Rich (1937), Napoleon Hill describes opportunity as a trickster. "It has a sly habit of slipping in by the back door, and often it comes disguised in the form of misfortune or temporary defeat. Perhaps this is why so many fail to recognize opportunity." (Hill 1937)

I've been told many times by many people that a key life skill is being able to take obstacles and turn them into opportunities for growth. It's a skill I'm still in the process of perfecting (who knows how long that will take).

It seems to me that no matter how much I've grown so far, I still have much more room to grow. It's what makes life an exciting adventure.


Reference

Hill, Napoleon. "Introduction." Think & grow rich: original edition. Miami, FL.: BN Publishing, 2007. 3. Print.