Reminder to Self: Anything Can Happen at Any Moment

In one minute there are sixty seconds.  In one hour, there are 3,600.  In a whole day, there are 86,400 individual seconds that can't be retaken.  Each second is a moment of possibility when anything can happen.

I try to remind myself that regularly.  Sometimes it's daily.  Other times it's hourly.  Most of the time, it's by the minute.  When I'm enjoying time with my family, grinding at work, or meditating alone, I try my hardest to make each moment count. 

It amazes me to think that in any particular moment so much is already happening.  Right now, parents are singing lullabies to their children as they fall asleep.  College students are cramming for finals.  Somewhere in the world it is morning and the sun is barely kissing the land while the moon watches over where I sleep.  Somewhere out in the world loved ones are spending precious time together.  And all over the world, babies are being born. 

In one moment, I decided to be an educator and that changed my life drastically for the better.  It only took a moment for me to decide to stop worrying and enjoy the present.  Almost every life altering decision I made was made in a moment.

Now that I think about it, tomorrow is going to be a lot more awesome than I originally thought; it's a cluster of thousands of possibilities waiting to happen.

Why Do People Love Holding Babies?

Ever since I became a dad, I've noticed many interesting aspects of parenthood. Being a parent forced me to be more responsible, selfless, and much more sleep deprived. It's been such a joyful journey for the last year, so much that finding the right words to describe it has been my challenge for the last few days writing this article.

One really interesting part of the experience is that people really want to hold my son, especially when he was a newborn. All of my friends and relatives of all ages wanted to hold him. (They still do, but it's more of a struggle since he recently learned how to walk and wants to walk everywhere.) I don't blame them at all, he is a wonderful bundle of joy.

I myself can't get enough of holding him. I love carrying him around wherever we go. When he is asleep, there's something very moving about holding him safely and securely as he serenely slumbers. Too bad I can't do that forever. I've been told many times to enjoy these moments while I can; children grow up so quickly. I try as much as I can.

Besides my son being so amazing, (I'm obviously biased) I don't know for sure why people want to hold him so much? I can only speculate.

Perhaps babies represent new beginnings; that this little human being has all the potential in the world. They are untainted by hate, greed, or pain and has limitless possibilities.

Maybe babies signify that the world will go on. We all have seen that there is a lot of ugliness in the world and sometimes even I am weary of the future. But now that I am a dad I have to believe that the good in the world will keep on going so that my son and other children will have a wonderful world to grow old in.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm right. I just know that holding my son is one of the biggest joys I have every day.



Thinking Big: Facebook Status Updates for 2022

Being able to envision a positive outlook for the future is really important.  It helps me think about my goals and how to get there.  It allows me to dream big and inspires me to work hard to make it reality.  It proves the old adage, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

2022 is ten years from now.  Assuming that Facebook is still up and running, here are what I'd like my status updates to be in the year 2022:

My son brought home his report card today. He got all As!

My wife and I are celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary this weekend! Thank you sweetheart for making me the happiest man on the planet :)

Finally! All my student loans are paid off!

After 11 years in my career, I still LOVE my job! (That last promotion helped too.)

Time to clean the house again.  All 6 bedrooms take forever to get through!

Thank you all for supporting Nourishment Notes! We have 543,146,121 people following us on Facebook and we're still growing!

If I Was an Astronaut, My Perfect Day Would Be...(a tribute to Neil Armstrong)


If I was an astronaut, my perfect day would be like a daydream.
I’d float in the spaceship and enjoy the serenity of the universe.  With the universe as my playground, I would let my imagination run wild.  My goals would skip between the stars and taunt me to reach for them.  The sun would tell my brain to “be as bright as me” and tell my heart to “shine brighter than me.”
I would watch the world spin around its axis.  I’d like to see the world without wars, hunger, or suffering.  I’d like to see love, generosity, and gratitude swiftly spread and surround everyone on the planet.  It would be nice to watch the world come together in support for the peace and justice.  The entire planet would be so consumed with positivity that I’d be jealous I was in outer space.
I’d watch people look up wonder how I got all the way up here.  I’d find joy in knowing that somehow my life inspired others to aim higher, reach further, and dream outside the box. 
And as I end my day, I’d fall asleep happy, as happy as any astronaut could be.

Recipe for the Best Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie EVER


Last year, my friend Jamie made the most delicious pumpkin dessert I have ever had.  It was a pumpkin ice cream pie that many of my friends couldn’t stop talking about.  It was so good, I had to ask for the recipe and it was too good to keep it all to myself.  Enjoy.

Ingredients:
 
1 container vanilla ice cream
32 Ginger Snap cookies
2/3 cup Toffee bits
1 cup Pumpkin puree’
2/3 cup Brown sugar
2 Tsp. Pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
1 container of defrosted cool whip
¼ cup Butter or margarine
8” or 9” Spring form pan

 
Directions:

1st, Crush the 32 cookies finely in a Ziploc bag, mix with melted ¼ cup of butter, and press into bottom of pan. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes.

2nd, scoop out half of the vanilla ice cream and let sit in mixing bowl for about 10 minutes till soft. Then, mix with 1 cup of cool whip and toffee bits until they are well blended. Spread over cookie crust and freeze for 1 hour.

3rd, Soften left over ice cream, mix together pumpkin puree’, spices, and brown sugar. Then blend together with softened vanilla ice cream. Mix well and spread as top layer. Freeze for 8 hours.

 

How Life Likes to Prove Me Wrong

Life always isn't what it seems to be; it's much more.

This is one of the best parts of life.  It always has a way of sneaking up to people and surprising them with a challenging thought.  I actually like being proven wrong if the evidence shows something positive.  For example, I don't know how many people give to charity.  I'd like to assume that there is a great amount, but my guess is cautiously conservative, less than 50%.  If some sociologist conducted a study and found out that the actual percentage of people in society that contribute to charity is more than 50%, I would definitely be happy to be proven wrong.  If I ever have a negative outlook or preconception, I always hope I'm wrong. 

When I feel like a pessimist, life tends to show me that I'm not seeing the world right.  In some way, shape, or form, I realize that that my day is better than I thought it was, my problems aren't really that bad, or my life is more beautiful than I thought.

Even when I'm an optimist, life still likes to prove me wrong. Whenever I think an aspect of this world is wonderful, it finds a method (either subtle or obvious) to show me that no matter how great this world is, it's actually greater than that.


How Building Blocks Teach Kids to Think Big

I'm not going to lie, I love playing with blocks.  I loved it as a kid.  I love them so much, about a week ago, my wife and I bought our fourteen month old son some building blocks.  Since the ones we bought were meant for little kids, think of them as really large Legos.  They work almost the exact same way.

Almost every day, my son and I play with them together.  It's part of our dad-son bonding time.  Sometimes I build towers and he destroys them.  Other times he passes me all the pieces from the container one at a time and I build a structure as he passes them to me.  Sometimes he'll take a piece and add it to the stack I'm working on. 

Playing with him not only develops our relationship, it also teaches him how to share.  He is sharing his toys with me along with his time.  By playing with him, I'm teaching him all that and a little more.

It helps him learn logical thinking skills.  The blocks can only interlock when they're right side up.  All of the pieces are designed to connect that way.  If he wants to build something, he needs to recognize this order.  It also helps him with his reasoning, analytical thinking, and problem solving skills, which can be helpful in any career he chooses to be in. 

It helps him develop spatial thinking skills.  Not all the pieces are the same length or height.  Different pieces fit differently.  He needs to learn that two pieces can't be in the same space at the same time.  If he wants to be an architect, doctor, engineer, or anything with design and math, he will need these skills.

It helps him develop creativity and divergent thinking skills.  He can build anything he wants to.  He can build towers, airplanes, animals, or anything that comes to mind.  There isn't a specific way he has to make any of that; he can build anything in any way.  Great companies and products are made from people thinking creatively. 

Sometimes playing with blocks is more than just playing with blocks.

In the Sunshine

I love the sun.  I love the way that it wakes up my skin.  It tells me, "Good morning!" despite the drowsy state I'm in. 

The sun gives light.  I love how it illuminates everything in its path.  It helps me enjoy every little thing on this planet.  When it shines brightly, that's its way of saying, "Everything is alright."

It gives warmth.  I love how the sunshine makes me feel like it's giving the whole world a hug.  When it's nice and warm, it tells everyone, "Go outside and play."

The sunshine is good.  It gives life.  It reminds me of summer days, quiet mornings, and momentous memories. 

I want to live in the sunshine for as long as I can.

Why Hard Work is Always Necessary

"Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade."
- Rudyard Kipling

Whenever I get overwhelmed, frustrated, or intimidated with what life throws at me, I tell myself that all things worth doing require a lot of hard work. 

I try to remind myself that success requires effort.  People don't win games by sitting in the sidelines; they jump in the action and play hard.  As Dr. Phil said, "Life rewards action."

If I want to do well in school, I have to pay attention in class, take good notes, do all the assignments, and study hard.  In order to lose weight, I can't just wish I was lighter.  I just can't join a gym.  I need to work out, sweat, and do it consistently.  To have a nice house, car, or some fancy electronic gizmo, I need to work hard to earn and save up for it.  Without the effort, achieving any goal (small, big, simple, or complex) is not possible.

In order to have a nice garden, I have to fertilize the soil, plant the seeds, water it frequently, and do whatever it takes to make the garden flourish.  This is true with every achievement in life.

Forgot About #Thanksgiving?

In my humble opinion, Thanksgiving doesn't get all the love it deserves.  It gets sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas and is often overlooked.  At most retailers, Christmas items and decorations are sold right after (and sometimes even during) Halloween.  Thanksgiving deserves a whole lot more recognition for its influence in American society.

Halloween gives people the opportunity to dress up in costume as whoever they would like to be.  Various theme parks have Halloween themed events during October.  There is so much interest in Halloween that there are Halloween stores that sell costumes and other related items all year round.  It seems like it's more commercially celebrated than Thanksgiving. 

The Christmas season seems to expand more and more every year.  When I was younger, my family would put up all the Christmas decorations and do all the holiday shopping after Thanksgiving.  But now, Christmas decorations and holiday sales expand further into November and even in October.

Even Black Friday is invading over Thanksgiving.  Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving that unofficially starts the beginning of the holiday shopping season.  This is the first year that retailers such as Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us have their "Black Friday" sales on Thursday, the actual day of Thanksgiving.  There are mixed perspectives on this.  Some people are infuriated that American commercialism has expanded into the Thanksgiving holiday.  Some see it as a way to start their holiday shopping earlier.

Some people don't even celebrate Thanksgiving because of its history.  The "first Thanksgiving" has been taught to children as a story of the Native Americans saving the American settlers joining together in a peaceful feast.  Others see it as a primary example of American colonialism. 

Regardless, I think that Thanksgiving has a significant purpose in society.  I believe that we are better off with it than without it.  It is a yearly reminder to be thankful for what we have by sharing food and our time with people that we love. 

Our Favorite Quotes on Gratitude (Happy #Thanksgiving)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to share these words of wisdom to remind us to keep gratitude in our hearts.  To all our friends around the world, we would like to wish you all "Happy Thanksgiving!"

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
- John F. Kennedy

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
- Marcel Proust

"When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude."
- Gilbert K. Chesterton

"He (or she) is a wise man (or woman) who does not grieve for the things which he (or she) has not, but rejoices for those which he (or she) has."
- Epictetus

"Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly."
- Tony Robbins

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."

- Oprah Winfrey

"Baby" Food (and what it shows about adult eating habits)

As a parent, I want my son to have the best start in life and all the opportunities in the world.  I want him to start off on the right foot.  He was born healthy, and I want him to stay that way as long as possible.

He has never been formula fed, eats mostly organic or natural baby food, and my wife does a great job of making him freshly made meals at home. 

So far, our son has eaten much healthier than how my wife and I did when we were younger.  Like most parents, we want him to have a better life than we did.  For us, it's a daily challenge to find healthy food for our son to eat when we're out.  At restaurants, we'd like to see more healthy choices than macaroni and cheese. 

When we shop, we buy food that is as healthy as possible. We prefer foods that are made with whole wheat. For juice, we get our son only 100% juice. We avoid food overloaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Our son hasn't eaten any junk food, and we don't plan on feeding him any.

For some reason, the healthiest food in almost any grocery is in the baby section.  That's where it's easy to spot natural food made with whole grain wheat.  That's where 100% juice lies.  Meals and snacks contain fruits and vegetables loaded with nutrition.  It's like society only cares about people's health when they are babies; as they get older, it's more acceptable to stuff their faces with junk food. 

I'll admit, I've grown up eating a lot of fast food.  Right now I can think of my favorite fast food items for both breakfast and lunch.  For the past few years, my eating habits have been getting better because I've taken an interest in cooking and I actually am starting to like eating vegetables.  I do give in to my fast food cravings once in a blue moon.

I felt like a hypocrite because I want my son to eat healthy and stay away from junk food yet I don't hold myself to the same expectations.  As his father, I need to be a powerful role model in his life.  So because of that, I've decided to eat more "baby" food.  I've deliberately made conscious decisions to eat more vegetables, more foods made with whole grain, and less junk food.  Why should healthy food be only for babies anyway?

My Mellow Morning

 
This morning, as the whole world awakes, I'm having a few mellow moments to myself.  I'm currently reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien while drinking pumpkin spice flavored coffee with sweetened condensed milk (yum!). 

It's nice to delve into a book and be submerged in it.  It lets my imagination run wildly.  It's good to read eloquent words that can be thought provoking.  This is just one way of many to relax on a Sunday morning before the whole week begins.

And as the rest of the world slowly wakes and catches up with me, I find comfort in feeling a little more energized than usual.  I feel like my batteries were fully charged overnight and in this morning.  I know that this week will be a good week.

Cast Iron Green Bean Casserole Recipe

 
Thanksgiving is almost here, and what for many people in the United States, it's a time to celebrate gratitude by sharing a feast with family and friends.  For me, it's all about sharing good food with good people while making good memories.  To add on to the sharing aspect of this holiday, here is my cast iron green bean casserole recipe:

You will need:
  • A cast iron skillet (I use a 12 inch), dutch oven, or any casserole dish
  • Three tablespoons butter
  • Three tablespoons olive oil
  • Two cups of fresh mushrooms  (sliced or chopped)
  • 1/4 of a white or sweet onion (sliced or chopped at the same consistency of the mushrooms)
  • Cleaned and trimmed fresh green beans (enough to fill up the baking container, approximately 7-8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • One container of condensed mushroom soup
  • One container of fried onions

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
  2. On the stove top, heat up the butter and olive oil in the cast iron skillet. (If you are using a casserole dish, use a large pan.)
  3. Add the mushrooms and saute them until they start to turn brown.
  4. Add the onions and saute until they start to turn golden brown.
  5. Add the green beans and saute until they start to soften and turn brown.
  6. Add the water and condensed mushroom soup.
  7. Stir thoroughly until the mixture until all the components are completely heated.
  8. Turn off heat. (If using a casserole dish, transfer the contents from the large pan to the casserole dish.)
  9. Sprinkle 2/3 of the fried onions on top of the casserole.
  10. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes.
  11. Take the dish out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining fried onions on top for a crispy texture.
  12. Enjoy with friends and family!

Serendipitous Beauty

I love it when life surprises me with a simple breathtaking view.  It reminds me that beautiful things are everywhere, I just have to realize it.  Here are some examples of when life surprisingly revealed some marvelous views to me.



 
 

At the San Diego Zoo (and what I want my son to learn from our visit)

My wife and son observing a zebra at the San Diego Zoo.
Last weekend I took my family on a day trip to the San Diego Zoo.  It was a fun family trip that my wife and I knew that our thirteen month old son would totally love.

My son absolutely loves animals.  Whenever we're outside and he sees other people with dogs, he points and walks toward them in amazement.  In his baby lingo, he tries to talk to them (it's actually really adorable).  Not only that, he likes to chase after the neighborhood cat on the way to the mailbox.  He has been the loudest and most excited when he sees the animals for adoption at the local pet shop.  He especially likes to reach and call out to the cats.  Since he was so intrigued at the pet shop, my wife and I knew that he would have a greater time at a zoo.

Tourists riding by the rhino exhibit.
I think I had just as much fun at the zoo (maybe a little more) than he did.  We saw elephants, giraffes, rhinos, zebras, crocodiles, hippos, camels, orangutans, gorillas, parrots, and other animals that I usually see only on TV.  They all were majestic in their own way.

Seeing how wonderful nature was reminded me how illustrious this wide world is.  If there was something I wanted my son to learn from this trip, it was to develop a respect for nature.  I want him to be knowledgeable of the animals in the planet's ecosystem and live a lifestyle that will help preserve and protect the environment they live in.  I know he is only thirteen months old and he probably won't remember this trip, but I believe that it was good for his development.  He was exposed to the wildlife of the one world we live in and it could be the start of a lifetime of ecological learning.

An elephant plays in the sun.
Two giraffes and a gazelle peek around.



Why Alone Time is Good for the Soul

Time alone gives people the chance to self-reflect, relax, and not worry about the world around them.

As I write this, I'm by myself.  It's 1:19 AM and I am enjoying every minute of it.  I have my coffee, pen, and paper (and sometimes a good book), which is all I usually want when I just need some moments to myself.

I love being able to feel like the world is holding still.  It gives me some inner peace.  Even though I know the Earth is still spinning on its axis, I can pretend that it's going to leave me alone until morning.

Sometimes I feel like I need a vacation from my own life.  I absolutely love my life; I'm more than happy with my wife, family, friends, and career.  Being able to be alone for a certain amount of time gives me the mental and emotional retreat to recharge my batteries and love them all even more.

How I Learned the True Value of Determination

A high level of determination is vitally important in achieving success.

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I knew I wanted a graduate degree.  I didn't know in what, but I did know I wanted to get at least a master's degree in something.  In order to do that, I knew I had to get good grades no matter what class I had or who my professor was.

In one of my Sociology classes, Treatment of Law Violators, I really had to test my determination and push myself.  Dr. Dennis D. Loo, a brilliant Ivy League educated professor, taught this class.

By the way that he lectured, you could tell he was very intelligent and witty.  His vocabulary often went over our heads and his notes/diagrams on the chalkboard looked like advanced physics.  I constantly rushed during class to keep up. 

On my first midterm for the class, my grade was a C.  It was a test that most of the class, including myself, considered to be difficult.  Cs aren't grades good enough to get into grad school.  If I really was to go to graduate school, one of two things needed to happen: either the class would get easier or I would have to work much harder.  Since the first option wasn't going to happen, the second one needed to happen.

The next day I walked into class with more determination than I've ever had before.  I walked right up to the front, sat down, took out a college dictionary, and was ready for business.  Dr. Loo gave me a puzzled look.

I looked right at him and said, "I'm not going to let you be my grad school dream killer." 

He then started laughing hysterically and responded, "Grad schools won't reject you just because you get a C on a test."

"Well, I want to increase my chances as much as possible." I replied.

So throughout the rest of the quarter I worked and studied harder than I ever had before.  I took notes furiously in class and transcribed them later in detail.  Whenever there was a word in the lecture that I didn't understand, I instantly looked it up in class.  There was even an instance when Dr. Loo asked the class, "Do you know what (insert high level Sociology term) means?" and everyone in class looked at me because they knew I would look it up.  If there was a topic or theory I didn't fully understand, I discussed it with Dr. Loo during his office hours.

After an intense 10 weeks, my final grade was a B+ (although it really should have been an A).

I learned from this experience that in order for me to get to where I really wanted to go in life, I had to do whatever it took to get there.  This is when I really learned the value of determination. 

Years later, I went to grad school and earned an MA in Education.  As an educator, I strongly believe that all my students, despite their various backgrounds, can be successful given the right circumstances, maybe some luck, and a whole lot of personal determination.