A Bit of Wisdom from Einstein

"Look deep into nature, and then you understand everything better." -Albert Einstein

Ever since I was a little kid, I've loved being outside. When my parents let me play outside, I would run, play on my skateboard, and bike around the neighborhood. Even as a boy scout I loved nature. Camping trips were one of my favorite activities because we got to escape from the city and see land untainted by concrete structures. All throughout school, I loved recess and lunch time simply because I got to be outside. Even now as a working professional, taking a break outside or getting off work is really rejuvenating.

Think about it. There must be a reason why people love going to the beach in the summer. There must be something to why people like taking walks in the park and hikes in the mountains. Why else would people want to retreat themselves into the wilderness without the accomodations of modern technology?

I think Einstein was smarter (and wiser) than people gave him credit for.

Why I Read to My Son

I've loved books ever since I was a little kid.  As a four year old, I would wait for my mom to finish washing the dishes after dinner so I could listen to her read Peter Pan to me.  When my parents would shop at Target, they would let me hang out in the book section.  After they were done, they would come find me and I would have a book already picked out.  When my dad picked me up after school, he would bring me to the library to do my homework.  If I was good (I usually was), he would check out a book for me.  I'll admit, whenever my parents took me to a bookstore, they almost always would spoil me by buying me a book that I wanted. 

As an adult, I still love books.  I love almost everything from fictional novels, biographies, business, or anything that I may be in the mood for.  One of my favorite things to do is go to a bookstore (usually Barnes and Noble), walk around, and let my mind wander.

When I was studying to be an English teacher, one of my professors had a discussion with my class claiming that students who weren't read to as children were more likely to be illiterate than children who were read to.  The next day I instructed my students (who were below average in English proficiency) to write a paragraph about their favorite children's book.  Most of them could not complete the assignment because they didn't have a favorite book as a child.

Now that I'm a father, I do my best to instill my son with a love of literature.  When he was first born, I read to him Harry Potter as his first bedtime story.  My wife does a great job reading to him every day.  Every time one of us pulls out a book, he gets really excited.  He loves watching and listening to us.  He even knows how to turn pages.  When we're at the children's section of a bookstore, he wants to touch EVERYTHING.  Anytime we go out, we have to bring his books to keep him entertained.  I think it's safe to say that so far he likes books.

My hope that he grows up maintaining his love for books.  I want him to be able to access great works of knowledge and literary art.  I want him to be able to use his imagination and extend it past what he thinks the limit is.  I want him to appreciate poetry.  I want him to see books as less of a hassle, but more of vessels to opportunity.  That way, his love for literature enhances his literacy, helps him do well in school, enables him to achieve the career of his dreams, and helps him have the life that makes him the happiest.

Why We Need a Day Off

In the United States, more and more people are believing that the workaholic mentality is a good career strategy.  This is when people consider it a good thing to work more than eight hours a day, even if their overtime is unpaid.  These people think it's looked up upon to sacrifice and work during lunch.  Having a "working lunch" supposedly shows that a person is really productive and hard working.  Taking work home is also becoming a popular practice.  Work is slowly taking over the lives of more people in the United States.

Yesterday, I did something that I rarely do; I took a day off.  I had a morning doctor's appointment, but after that, I was free for the day.  Even though I have Saturdays and Sundays off, there was something liberating about being off when I was usually at work.  I woke up two hours later than I usually do.  I spent time with my family.  We went out to lunch.  I got to take a nap.  I had some time to read, write, and be lazy in front of the TV.  It was great.  To me, the day felt calmer and brighter.

I understand that there are people who have to work more than eight hours a week to make ends meet and provide for their families.  I also know that there are people who have important responsiblities and can't take time off unless their job is done (I'm one of them).  These people work hard because they have to.  What I'm advocating is taking a day off whenever possible.  It's good for our mental and emotional health.  It gives us more time for us and our families.  It helps us retreat from the routines and stresses of work.  It allows us to evaluate our lives and recalibrate for the days to come.

My Life Stories in Six Words

When I first discovered Twitter, I was amazed what people could do with messages/tweets that were 140 characters or less. In 2010, Twitter was used as a mass communication tool in Iran during their revolution. In the United States, celebrities, politicians, and everyday people had a voice on the same field in the online Twitter universe.

A while back, I had a Twitter phase where I would spend my day figuring out how to brilliantly express myself in less than 140 characters. Most of the time I felt it was impossible. The ideas I wanted to shout out to the world couldn't fit in a tweet. If I did fit it in a tweet, I found my messages to be simplistic.

I wonder what novelist Ernest Hemingway would have tweeted. According to literary legend, he was asked to write a narrative using only six words. He wrote: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn. This tale inspired the Six Word Memoir Project by SMITH Magazine. People are challenged to write a memoir in exactly six words; no more, no less.  So I took on the challenge of writing my own Six Word Memoirs about six different phases of my life:

Reality versus Fantasy: imagination rules everything.

Growing Up:
Art and Life, wrestling each other.

Will work for a good Life.

One man, big world; getting along.

At last, I found my Destiny.

Rise, rush, and rest. Then repeat.

Quotes that Today Threw at Me

Life is full of serendipity. Here is a compilation of all the quotes that found me throughout the morning. Some were on teabags. Others were on email signatures. One was found on a poster. All are awesome.

"Truth is the only safe ground to stand upon."
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"Love is not love which alters when it altercation finds."
- William Shakespeare

"The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work."
- Vince Lombardi

"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run."
- Babe Ruth

"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and dissemination of truth."
- John F. Kennedy

Quotes found on the tags tied to tea bags.

How a College Diploma is More Than an Expensive Piece of Paper

Higher education has been under attack more than I've ever seen before.  Some politicians have spoken out saying that encouraging students to go to college is elitist.  The news media keeps talking about the rising costs of college and that it's not worth it anymore, especially for those who major in the humanities or liberal arts. People often mistakenly see college for the sole purpose of getting a job and making money.  While that is true, it is only part of all the benefits of going to college.

No one can ignore that it costs money to go to college; and the cost isn't getting any cheaper.  It is expensive to obtain a higher education.  Certain schools are more expensive than others, but it is still costly.  Some may argue that the climbing costs of college is widening the educational achievement gap between socioeconomic classes.  No matter how expensive a college education is, it is a worthwhile investment. 

These are, in this educated educator's opinion, the three most important benefits of having a college degree (not in any particular order):

Expanding Your Network
When I went to Cal Poly Pomona, I was taking classes with people around my age, within similar interests, and about the same stage off life.  This is when my friends and I met a lot of our closest friends.  It is often said that college is where you meet your friends for life; the aphorism exists for a reason.  I also got to build relationships with people in my major that opened doors for me in my career.  My various internships gave me real life work experience that complimented what I was learning in the classroom.  When I graduated, I was more prepared and employer-marketable than the typical college graduate.

A Higher Quality of Life
Trust me, a college degree does give people a higher quality of life.  I guarantee it.  A higher education expands people's opportunity for higher paying jobs.  That leads to raising one's annual and lifetime earning potential.  People with a college degree on average have a lower unemployment rate (4.1% in June 2012) compared to those with a high school diploma (8.4% in June 2012).*  Last year, people with a bachelor's degree had median earnings of $1,053 a week compared to $638 for those working with a high school diploma.**  Having more wealth helps people ensure that their basic needs met.  It also gives people and their families additional opportunities to enhance their lifestyles such as being able to afford more health care, attend and send their kids to educational activities (tutoring, summer camp, etc), and enjoy various recreational activities (sports teams, dance classes, skydiving, etc).  I can honestly say that the quality of my lifestyle would not be as high without my education.

More Social Capital and Leverage
I came out of college smarter, wiser, and more mature than I was when I first entered.  All the facts, theories, and concepts I learned in class (especially the complex ones) heightened my intelligence.  It expanded my view of the world.  My college experience made me open my mind to various perspectives.  It made me see the world in new and mind bending ways.  Something about what I experienced made me more mature.  It may have been all the people I interacted with, the broad range of material, the discipline it takes to graduate, or a mixture of it all.  I may never know.  What I do know is that my college education has helped me make more informed decisions in every choice I make (which usually leads to "better" results). 


*Bureau of Labor and Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm/

**Bureau of Labor and Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm/

Conversation: If you could do something nice for anybody, what would you do? Why?

Acts of kindness are always good.  It creates a ripple effect that spreads good around the world.  If you could do something nice for anybody, what would you do? Why?

My Education Revolution

This morning I was watching reruns of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  I'm a big fan of Jamie, not just for his cooking skills, but mostly for his passion for positive social change.  The episodes today took place in Huntington, West Virginia, which has been called the most obese city in the United States.  Americans have a reputation around the world for eating junk food and being overweight.  To go there, make people more aware of healthy eating habits, and see the dangers of obesity and processed food requires special courage.  Teaching people how to cook fresh healthy meals was the easy part.  Changing people's old habits and stubborn attitudes was the real challenge. 

It reminded me of why I became an educator.  Besides lazy eating habits, Americans also have a reputation for educational underachievement and not valuing education as much as the rest of the world.  I wanted to positively impact society the best way I could by being a high school English teacher.  Not only did I want to teach people to read, write, think, and listen, but also dream big, think critically, and give them the tools necessary to live the lives they dream of.

I decided to teach in San Bernardino, CA.  It's a community consumed by poverty, violence, and all the problems that go along with them.  Youth here have to grow up with that right in their faces.  They are also affected by low expectations, low confidence, and low self esteem.  I came here to empower the youth by giving them the highest quality of education possible and as much opportunity as that can give them.  Like Jamie Oliver, I've gotten a lot of resistance, been frustrated, and there are many factors beyond my control.  Still I try.

Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to move a mountain than it is to get certain students to write a response to literature essay.  I've experienced a lot of students who have stewed in failure so many times that the hardest thing for them to do is simply try.

Once in a while, I feel like giving up.  I'm sure Jamie Oliver has felt it too.  What helps him going is his genuine passion to help people.  I believe that is also what keeps me going, just that he and I have different approaches to our revolutions.  Before I taught my first class of the day, I made the choice to start an educational revolution here.  Hopefully it will start a ripple effect that affects society as a whole. 

Let the revolution thrive today and every day...

Remaining a Child at Heart

Growing up is overrated.  If you've read Angels and Demons or The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, you would know that the protagonist, college professor Robert Langdon, wears a Mickey Mouse watch to remind him to always be a child at heart.  It is imprtant to play like a child and dream like one, but it is also vitally important to remain a child at heart in everything that we do.

Every time I observe my son play, I see its significance.  He watches the world with wonder.  Every time we go anywhere outside, his face is lit up with amazement and excitement. He discovers life with pure curiosity.  From toy balls to leaves and grass, he examines every little thing like it's the first time he has touched it (which is the case half of the time).  He looks at the world without prejudgement.  The littlest things make him happy (currently, an Elmo doll).

99.9% of the time, I am teaching something to my son.  How to stay a child at heart is what he teaches me.

The Hip Mama Paradox

By Maria Cowell, Guest Author

You have to have a lot of moxie to go by a moniker like Hip Mama. Or some seriously sophisticated swag and head-turning looks. After all, a hip mama must be some kind of babe or completely self-actualized woman. But the truth is I am pretty average in the swag, looks and self-actualization departments. I don't have much of those. What I do have is a reminder that I am not really in control and never have been. And I thank God for that.

During my days of never ending diaper changes and pacifiers (my kids') I happened upon a book entitled "The Hip Mama's Survival Guide," by Ariel Gore, an account of one mom navigating her way through early childhood. Her kids’ childhood, not hers.

"I have two kids and have it all together, so I must be pretty hip myself, "I thought. In fact, why not proclaim my hipness to the world through a vanity plate for my kid-toting, red-hot, mini-van?

And so I did. I order the plates and promptly forgot all about it in my day-to-day life as a busy young wife and mom.

If type A personalities are ones who are always in control, always have a plan, always have everything mapped out, then I was an A+. My life trajectory was simple: get top grades in high school to get top college scholarships, graduate with honors, get an awesome job in my field, meet a wonderful guy, have a great career, the 2.5 kids and white picket fence. By my mid-30s, the trajectory was right on speed and angle.

And then the trajectory plummeted.

One day at MOPS (Mothers-of-Preschoolers) my daughter, Sophie, could not stop asking for water. She was lethargic and disoriented. We rushed her to the hospital and she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Normal blood glucose levels are 80-120. Hers was 661, a number I will never forget. A number that would have put her in a coma if we had waited any longer. She was only three.

I entered a world no parent ever wants to enter. I now had a child with a chronic illness for which there was no cure. A world of painful finger prickles and intrusive needles. A world of constant worrying about my child going blind or losing a limb. What if I messed up the insulin dosage and put her in a coma? I was terrified.

Two days after her diagnosis my vanity plates arrived in the mail. HIPMAMA. In bright blue letters. Mocking me. In my sleep deprivation and crushing fear, I did not feel very hip. I felt defeated, overwhelmed and out of control. I looked at the plates and burst into tears. There was no way I was putting those on my van. I packed them up, ready to ship back to the DMV. They sat on the desk, forgotten, for over two weeks as I took a crash course in Diabetes Care 101.

But then something happened.

In His gentle, loving way, God reminded me that I had never been in control. He had. He had been before Sophie was diagnosed and He would continue to be in her lifetime and mine. It wasn't my supposed hipness or education or anything else that enabled me to navigate life. It was God's grace and benevolence to me in all situations good or bad.

So, I put the plates on and enjoyed them and all the fun chuckles and comments they inspired. And boy, were there some doozies!

Fast forward ten years and history repeated itself. My 15-year old son, Sophie's older brother, came down with the same symptoms. We took him in but I did not need to hear the doctor's diagnosis. I already knew his pancreas was shot. That night by his bedside at the hospital, I cried, and cried and cried. Unbelievable! Why is this happening to our family? Why do I have to have two kids with this horrible disease when other people, awful people, people not as kind or loving as me, don't have a care in the world?

But you can't stay at the pity party forever.

You eventually have to go home and move on with your life. And in the process of dealing with the adjustments, I found my own attitudes adjusting. In little increments, I began to have more empathy for others living in unchangeable situations. Difficult relationships, chronic illnesses, unfulfilled longings. I learned to talk less and listen more.

Thanks to modern technology like insulin pumps and glucose meters, my kids have a fairly normal life (if adolescents can be termed "normal"). You can't tell by looking at them that the night before they were crying tears of frustration about their diet limits, or high sugars kept them vomiting all night. They keep that to themselves. Likewise, I started understanding for the first time that we don't always know what is really going on with people, what others wrestle with in the night watch. They keep that to themselves.We may look normal, but we all have private struggles and giants facing us down.

I don't want to hyper-spiritualize my kids' situation or trivialize it by saying it was to teach me a lesson. I don't claim to have such knowledge. Only God knows why things happen as they do. I just know that the impact on all our lives has shaped us and helped us trust God more. It has helped me be more sensitive to others' battles.

And so a vanity plate that smacks of narcissism is a paradox in my life: a visual of my humble dependence on God. A daily reminder of the moment I began to realize how unhip I truly am. And for that reason alone, it's a moniker worth keeping.

What are the paradoxes in your life? Whether you are a person of great faith, some faith or no faith, how do you handle the curveballs life throws? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Maria Cowell is a marketing professional at a private K-12 school in Los Angeles, and a former reporter and editor for newspapers in LA and Glendale. Follow her musings, meddlings and moments at http://hipmamamedia.com

A Life Lesson through Improv Writing

The rough draft of this article was hand written on the
back of an art class flyer.
I write almost on everything.  On the back of receipts, fliers, and scrap paper is where I usually scribble down my notes.  I don't keep a fancy journal.  It's rumored that famous writers Bruce Chatwin and Ernest Hemingway favored to write in moleskine notebooks.  That's cool for them, but that's not my style.  I don't have a fancy desk where I compose and edit.  Wherever I'm at, that's where I write.  At the breakfast table, living room floor, in the car, or wherever I'm eating lunch is where I put words to paper.  I let life inspire me by allowing myself to be present in every day interactions and not restricting myself to isolation.  Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, or whenever I get a free moment, I write.

This is also my way of teaching myself  to do the best I can with what I have.  It's a lesson I try to teach my students daily through setting an example.  Life won't always give me the perfect conditions for writing (or anything else really), so I must be flexible.  The ability to improvise and adjust to any situation is an advantageous life skill.  Professional athletes always have to adjust to their opponent, playing field (home court advantage is a real factor), and how they mentally/physically/emotionally feel that day.  It applies to businesspeople, emergency room doctors, police officers, lawyers, and teachers.  It's a trait that enables people to be successful in any walk of life.

For me, this daily writing obstacle course is my way of training myself to tackle everything life throws at me.  If I can make the best of any circumstance, who knows what I'll be able to accomplish.

Happy 94th Birthday Nelson Mandela!

Words really can't describe Nelson Mandela. His impact on this world is immeasurable.  He is an inspirational leader known to people around the world.  He is a champion for social justice.  For the first part of his life, he was a political figure for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, was elected president of a new democratic South Africa in 1994, and continues to be a role model for peace.

To honor and celebrate his 94th birthday, here are six of our favorite Nelson Mandela quotes:

"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."

"It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die."

"Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty."

"It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences."

"Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end."

"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."

From Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations

Thinking Beyond the Clouds

Outside view of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, CA.
I remember going to the Griffith Observatory as a kid and being amazed at all the displays on everything beyond the sky.  Luckily, I was able to visit once again with my family a few weeks ago.  The observatory has been renovated since I was last there, and I was fascinated with what I saw.  My wife and I were showing our nine month old son models of planets, asteroids, and even got to see a moon rock up close.

Even though he is really young, what I really want my son to gain from this experience is the ability to think big and think outside of his normal point of view.  Outer space is something that we don't see with our naked eyes on a daily basis.  To study outer space requires using our imagination to think about what we can't sense directly.  It challenges us to think beyond our individual daily realities.

Tourists exploring models of the planets in the solar system.

Maybe that's why science fiction shows and movies like Star Trek are so popular.  They show humanity with advancements in technology and space exploration.  It's an idea of what can be possible.

When my son is older, my wife and I will take him to the observatory again and more often.  Hopefuly he will be able to truly aim higher than the stars.

A close up view of an actual rock from the moon.

The Simple Power of Determination

The one time I was in beautiful Portland, Oregon, I presented my then current research at the Pacific Sociological Association Conference.  I felt privileged to be one of the few undergraduates chosen to present.  I was a bit nervous, so I asked one of my professors, Dr. Loo, to meet me for lunch, go over my presentation with me, and give me some advice.

I consider Dr. Loo to be an anomaly.  He is from Hawaii, studied Government at Harvard, and earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz.  What also amazed me was that he was a male Asian American Sociology professor, which is a rarity.  He was (and continues to be) the only one that I know of in existence.  During our lunch, I had to ask him, "Dr. Loo, do you have a secret to your success?"  I stated every fore mentioned reason why I thought his success was unique and wanted some insight.

He replied, "Well, I would have to attribute it to an undying sense of determination."

"That's it?" I thought to myself.  I thought the answer would be more complex.  It took me a little while to realize that it really was that simple, and it really is that hard.

Being willing to do whatever it takes to succeed is a fundamental and advantageous life skill.  Whatever the goal is, whatever the challenges are, or whoever we are, determination is a key factor to success.  Dr. Loo probably had a lot of obstacles to face to earn his Ph.D.  They're probably the same ones that face people who aspire to walk the same path.  What made him and others who earned similar success is that he was able to overcome those obstacles.

Even though it's years later, this simple advice has always stuck with me.  With all my goals in life, being determined to achieve them is, to me, the most critical factor.

Teaching Virtues (not vices)

A couple weeks ago, I was at a baptism and once again given the honor of being a godfather.  Baptism is a Christian (specifically Catholic in this case) ritual for religious purification.  Watching my new goddaughter being baptized was a really remarkable thing.  Water was poured over her forehead to cleanse her from sin.  It was a way to give this baby a spiritual new beginning.

As her godfather, I promised to support her and her parents in guiding her spirtual path.  I was now part of a team that pledged to show her the way to heaven. 

It made me think a lot about sins and vices.  Growing up, she will be exposed to ignorance, hate, greed, and other dark aspects of humanity.  She will see blatant racism.  She will see that on the playground and in life not everybody plays fair.  She will see people's inhumanity to others.  On the plus side, she will also see love, hope, and compassion.   As humans, we all have both virtues and vices, and I hope that she learns more virtues than vices into her character.

As a (god)father, educator, and human being, I try my best more and more every day to set an example for younger generations.  I teach through my example.  Hate, prejudice, and other vices are taught, but thankfully so are virtues.

Ode to Super Moms (especially my wife)

My wife is a super mom.  For the past few days, she has taken care of our sick son and me.  We both got sick around the same time and without hesitation, she did everything that was needed to fully take care of us.  In the past, it was hard enough to care for a sick baby.  I can't imagine how hard it was for her to single handedly care for our son and me while retaining her sanity.  The best part is, she did it all without complaining; not even once.

My cousin Rose and her husband have five kids: four boys and one girl.  Her house reminds me of the Brady Bunch because there is always something going on.  If you were to ever meet her, it would be obvious that she is definitely a super mom.  When people ask her, "How do you do it with five kids?", she simply responds, "I just do it. I have no choice."

Being a super mom is a selfless commitment.  Life becomes more about your family than yourself.  It's a job that you can't call in sick for, take a vacation from, or quit.  A lot of people (myself included) don't understand how difficult motherhood is.  Moms are underrated.  Celebrating Mother's Day once a year isn't enough.  That's why I'd like to simply say, "Thank you." to all the super moms out there today and every day.

Sign Roderick's Birthday Card

Dear Roderick,

Happy Birthday!

Everyone Who Commented Below

12 (former running) Quotes to Motivate Money Saving

Saving money is important, especially now during the "Great Recession."  According to the 50/30/20 Budget Plan, people should be saving 20% of their income in savings, emergency funds, retirement accounts, and other investments. 

Lately on Pinterest, I've seen an enormous amount of motivational quotes to get people to go running.  While physical health is definitely important, so is being economically stable.  So to help inspire people to start saving money, I've added/modified (in parenthesis) saving money themes into motivational running quotes. Enjoy!

"Skinny is not sexy. (Saving money) is."

"Nothing tastes as good as being (financially) fit feels."

"Be the (investor) you were too lazy to be yesterday."

"When you're struggling, imagine your dream (retirement)."

"A (budget) is a personal triumph over laziness and procrastination."

"Just go. (Opening the Roth IRA) is always the hardest part."

"I feel like every (dollar) I (save) reveals the (lifestyle) I should have had all along."

"Nobody can want it for you, you have to want (financial independence) yourself."

"Miracles don't happen. Effort happens.  Thought happens. (Saving for college) happens."

"If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't start (saving money), you're always in the same place."

"You can have results (on your financial statements) or excuses, not both."

"Push yourself (to save 10% of your paycheck) so when old friends see you, their jaws drop."

going somewhere? (a poem by Andrea Hamilton)

Andrea Hamilton is one of my favorite musicians, period.  She writes from the soul, plays the guitar and piano with masterful elegance, and sings with honest heart.  Her music has touched and fulfilled my soul on many occassions.  I think of her music sometimes as old friends I share past memories with.

For all of you, here is a previously unpublished poem of hers that I'd like to share...

For more on Andrea Hamilton and her music, check out: andreahamtiltononline.com

Little Pieces of BIG Happiness

A simple note that made my day/week.
"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they make the best of everything they have."
- Author Unknown

When I was back at Cal Poly Pomona, my friend Francine told me, "I believe that the happiest people in life are the ones who find happiness in the little things."  I can't remember the context of the conversation or why she told me that, but I took her advice to heart and it has stuck with me ever since.

It's always in my mind when I think about what makes me happy.  Every day I discipline myself more and more to find satisfaction in what I already have and not want more than I actually need. 

Fresh coffee in the morning, knowing that I have a great job, and knowing that my family can't wait to see me when I come home are some examples of the little things in life that bring me great happiness.

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Birthday USA! From all of us at Nourishment Notes, we would like to wish you a happy Independence Day.  May you celebrate our freedom this July 4th safely with loved ones.

Ode to Real Dads

"Anyone can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad."
- Author Unknown

It's not easy being a Dad.  It's a tough yet supremely rewarding job.  To all Dads out there, we salute you.

Real Dads...
  • change diapers (especially the really poopy ones)
  • aren't too cool to watch Yo Gabba Gabba with their kids
  • aren't afraid to cook (ordering take-out doesn't count)
  • are masters of making the monsters in the closet or under the bed go away
  • are okay with driving a family van
  • puts their family's needs above their own
  • teach their kids the difference between right and wrong
  • aren't afraid to show emotion
  • teach their kids values (and how to avoid vices)
  • show that it's fine to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them
  • teach their kids it's okay to cry (even if they have boys)
  • respect the mother of their children
  • lead by example
  • are gentlemen
  • do what they can to make sure their kids have a happy life
  • do all they can to make sure their families have a roof over their heads, clothes to wear, food on the table, and lots of love
Thank you Dads for all that you do!

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake Recipe

Close view of all the layers of the ice cream sandwich cake.
Let me tell you upfront, I love ice cream sandwiches and have since I was a kid. Until Saturday, I've never heard of an ice cream sandwich cake.  When I first saw it served, a whole bunch of nostalgic memories of childhood came up.  I was hooked at first bite.  The combination of vanilla ice cream, chocolate graham cookie, Cool Whip, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and chocolate shavings were satisfyingly refreshing. 

Here is how to make it:

What you'll need
  • Cake pan
  • Grater
  • Ice cream sandwiches (enough to cover the surface area of the cake pan twice)
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (or any other can you'd like)
  • Cool Whip
  1.  Take the cake pan and cover the bottom with a layer of ice cream sandwiches. (Use any brand you like.)
  2. Cover the sandwiches with a thin (about 1/4 inch) layer of Cool Whip.
  3. Cut up Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (about 4-6, depending on the size of the cake pan) and sprinkle on the Cool Whip.  (You can also replace the Reese's with any chocolate candy you prefer.)
  4. Add another layer of ice cream sandwiches on top.
  5. Add on top another layer of Cool Whip.
  6. Use a grater and shave chocolate (you can use leftover Reese's) on top.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for about 40 minutes before serving.

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Savoring Santa Monica Beach

I love the summer time.  Santa Monica Beach is one of my favorite coastal playgrounds.  The combination of the two make the essential summer experience for me.

There is something about being there that makes it almost magical.  When I was there the other day, it was almost perfect.  Walking barefoot on the warm sand as it exfoliated my feet made me feel like I was more connected with nature.  I always want to fly a kite when I feel the ocean breeze blow around me.  Standing in the sunshine made me thankful for the beautiful California weather that I got to enjoy.  Seeing how large the sky was made me imagine how big the world really is and that I am just one part of it.  Watching the waves crash on shore was mesmerizing and theraputic.  I could watch that for hours.  Standing on the shore as the cool water passed over my feet reminded me that water doesn't come from just bottles and faucets.  All of the action on the pier screamed of pure summer fun.

I can't wait to go back again (hopefully before summer is over).

Motivational Quotes of the Week: Business

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
- Calvin Coolidge

"You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take."
- Michael Jordan

"Unless a man undertakes more than he can possibly do, he will never do all that he can."
- Henry Drummond

"I'm convinced that one of the reasons that I've been successful is that I've almost always competed against people who were bigger and stronger but who had less commitment and desire than I did."
- Ted Turner

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself."
- Edward de Bono