Why I Tell My Son I Love Him Every Day


While playing with wooden trains with my son yesterday, a memory came to me. I don't know why or how it came to me, but it's something I've thought about only once in a few years.

When I was a youngster (around elementary school age), I remember a priest telling a story in one of his sermons. He said that one day he found a man crying alone at the back of the church. The priest went up to the man and asked him what was wrong. The man told the priest that his son just died. In an attempt to comfort him, the priest told him that his son was now in heaven with God. Then the man told the priest that he wasn't crying because his son died; he was crying because he didn't tell his son that he loved him.

Even though I don’t remember exactly who the priest was or specifically how old I was, the powerful message still stuck with me years later. 

When our son was born, my wife and I agreed that even though we didn’t have all the money to spoil our son financially, but we would give him all the love we could possibly give.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t tell him that I love him.  Even though he is only 17 months old, I know he can understand that in some shape or form.  Heaven forbid that anything were to happen to either of us, but no matter what, he would know that he is truly loved and his father absolutely loves him.

The Ultimate Sign of Trust

When I was in college, I learned many pearls of wisdom from the conversations I had with my academic advisor.  In one of our many conversations, she told me that the ultimate sign of trust was allowing someone to babysit your kids.  She was a mother of two young daughters and that conversation still sticks with me today.

When my son was born, I knew I was going to be a little overprotective.  He is my first and only child (so far) and I'm also a little bit of a "control freak."  I like things done in a particular way.  I'm a big believer in the saying, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."  It's how I do my daily tasks and for the most part, it's how I am as a parent.

For the last seventeen months, my wife and I have been the main caretakers/bodyguards of our son.  She would rather care for him full time as a stay-at-home mom than work and pay someone else to babysit him.  She, I, or both of us are always with him.  You could say that we both are pretty overprotective.

I didn't think I was going to be that overprotective, but I became increasingly so when I saw people handling him.  When people held him, some weren't as careful as I wanted them to be.  Since he was big for his age, people thought he was older, and were swinging him around like he was older.  At one holiday party, relatives were so excited to hold him that they didn't listen to my directions.  I told them that if they held him, they had to hold him while sitting down and couldn't pass him to anyone.  The moment I let a relative hold him, it all hit the fan.  People ran around with him, and wouldn't sit down when I asked them to.  They passed him to each other without being mindful that he was only four months old at that time.  My wife almost had a heart attack watching his head bop up and down since people forgot that he wasn't old enough to hold his own head up yet. 

I've also noticed my parents and parents of adults didn't like to listen to me.  In their mind, they've raised kids before (even if it was decades ago), they know what they're doing, so don't need to listen to me, even if it's my own kid.  All this is just made me more apprehensive in letting other people babysit him.

The only person that we have trusted to babysit our son is my wife's friend; let's call her Caitlin (cause that's really her name). She watched him at our home when he was fourteen months old so that my wife and I could go on a movie date.  It took a lot for us to trust her with our son.  She has babysat many children before, works well with children, and has always been a trustworthy person.  As far as I know, she followed our directions dutifully and she even sent picture messages to our cell phones to let us know that everything was alright.

I know that it's not always going to be this way.  Eventually, my son will start going to school.  While he is in school, I'm going to have to trust his safety and well being to his teachers and the rest of the school staff.  As he gets older, I'm going to have to trust more people who will interact with my son in some shape or form. 

At the same time, I will have to trust my son.  It's going to have to happen.  I can't watch him 24/7.  I refuse to be a helicopter parent that constantly hovers over him.  He will be exposed to bad influences.  People will tempt him in devious ways.  From now and for the rest of his life, I'm going to have to trust my parenting skills and trust that he will make the right decisions when it's necessary.

I am definitely not going to let go of the leash completely.  I'm always going to keep an eye on him in one way or another.  I'm going to keep a watchful eye to an appropriate extent.  Control must be balanced with trust.  As he gets older, I hope to be able to trust him more and slowly let go.  I guess being able to trust my son with himself might actually be the ultimate sign of trust.

Words of Wisdom for Daily Life

Words have a way of enlightening us.  They help us feel something meaningful.  Sometimes they can be inspiring and uplifting. Other times words can be very thought provoking.  Here are some words to think about:




















How to Make the Most Riveting Biography Possible

"I hope you live a life you're proud of."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

If there was a biography written about me, I wonder what it would say. Would it be interesting enough to publish?  Will anyone actually be willing to spend money to read about my life?  I would be curious to know who actually would be interested in reading it. Would this book be a New York Times Bestseller or found mostly in the clearance section of used book stores?

What kind of person would it portray me to be?  Will it say that I always did what I thought was right?  Did I try my hardest no matter what?  Did I stare in the face of evil and smile?  After people finished the book, would people say, “That guy lived a damn good life?”  Would it have enough adventure to make Indiana Jones jealous?  Would it have an epic love story that people would read at weddings for centuries?  Will it be filled with charm, hard learned lessons, and a happy ending? 

What kind of legacy did I leave behind?  Did I bestow honor upon my family and all future generations?  Did I make a significant mark in history?  Will people look to my story for inspiration?  I’d like to think that I would be known for making a positive impact on people (my family, friends, and everyone I interact with), but who knows?  Every day I try to live an exemplary life, especially with the obstacles and curve balls that get thrown at me. 

The only way to ensure that my biography is the most adventurous, enlightening, and inspiring story ever read is to make it that way…now.

Try Something New for Breakfast: Swiss Chard with Onion Frittata

Food is often the doorway into the heart.  Ever since I made this for my wife, it's been one of her favorite breakfast dishes.  I like to think of a frittata as an upscale omelet.  The wonderful thing about frittatas is that it can be varied with different ingredients substituted for Swiss chard or onion, but I think this version is absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard (approximately 1.25 lb)
  • 1 diced onion
  • 7 eggs (I recommend the organic brown free range type)
  • 6 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper (I recommend fresh cracked black pepper)

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut out the stems from the Swiss chard leaves.  Finely chop the stems and the leaves, and keep them separate.
  3. In a large oven safe pan (about 10 inches in diameter), drizzle olive oil and warm up the pan on medium heat.  Add the onions and the chopped Swiss chard stems until they start to brown and soften (about 4-5 minutes). Then transfer the onion and stems to a cool plate.
  4. Scramble the eggs in a large bowl.  Then add the garlic, Parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of black pepper.  (The amount of salt and pepper vary to taste.)
  5. Mix the cooked onion and Swiss chard stems into the egg mixture.
  6. Reheat the oven safe pan on medium heat and add another drizzle of olive oil.  Pour the entire mixture into the pan and let it cook until the edges start to solidify (about 5 minutes).
  7. Then place the entire pan into the oven for about 8-9 minutes for the eggs to cook thoroughly.  (I like to stick a toothpick in it to make sure there isn't any uncooked egg in the center.)
  8. After the frittata is cooked, remove it from the pan and slice it into wedges like a pizza.
  9. Eat, share, and enjoy!

Why the "Worst" Teacher I've Ever Had May Be the Most Important One

When I started elementary school, I (like many kids) loved school.  From kindergarten to elementary school, I enjoyed going to school, hanging out with friends, and learning something new about the world.  In first grade, I was in awe watching baby chicks hatch in the classroom.  In second grade, math started to really make sense for me (I actually understood multiplying and dividing instead of merely memorizing tables).  In third grade, I discovered self-expression in writing and art.  The science projects in fourth grade spawned a curiosity in biology and physics.  In my report cards, I earned mostly As and Bs with an occasional C.  It seemed all good until I hit the seventh grade.

That year, I had a self-righteous teacher that made me hate school.  She played favorites.  The girls were typically on her good side and was continually  biased against the boys.  She was usually mean and publicly humiliated people in front of class.  I remember one time she was upset that most of the class didn't pass their History test, so she decided to read some of the students' ridiculous answers.  One of the answers she read was indeed mine.  She didn't reveal who the answers were from, but we definitely knew if it was ours.  I can still remember how it felt to have the teacher mock me with my classmates laughing.  I can honestly say it didn't motivate me to do any better.

I don't remember which specific point it was, but I shut down.  The downward spiral started.  I stopped trying.  I gave up.  I hated school and I hated being there.   I saw no point in trying.  I despised my teacher and everything she did.  Soon I started to not do any of my assignments as a form of rebellion and all of my grades dropped. 

Luckily for me I had really supportive parents that encouraged me to do well in school no matter what it took or who my teacher was.  I eventually picked up all my grades but the damage was done. 

For every school year afterward, I wasn't the same.  I became complacent with Cs.  My study habits changed.  I didn't try as hard.  I didn't care about school as much as I used to.  My self-confidence and self-esteem was lower than it used to be.  Even as I succeeded in high school and college, I still had to face these demons. 

Almost ironically, now I'm a high school English teacher.   Most of my students are performing with low confidence in their academic skills and have set the bar low for educational attainment goals.  The surrounding community isn't known for academic success; it's known for poverty and violence.  Many of my students don't see education as priority.  Many have parents who didn't graduate from high school.  Substance abuse is prevalent.  When I see people walking down the street or down the halls of schools, I see a good amount of people walking with their heads hung low.  Sometimes teaching here feels like trying to knock down a brick wall with a toothpick.

An issue that typically comes up with schools in communities of low socioeconomic status is the culture clash between teachers with an advanced education (usually from middle class backgrounds) and students who come from low income families.  The criticism is that these types of teachers have a hard time connecting to the every day realities of their students. 

Even though I grew up in a middle class background, I've found a way to connect with my students, which helps us all in the classroom.  Many of them hate school; I can relate to that.  Some are scared to try; I know how that feels.  They need to learn, just as I did, that they need to succeed in school despite how they feel about it or their past experiences. 

I act with empathy, but still maintain my high expectations for them.  To lower any of their expectations because of their background would be doing them a disservice.  In connecting with them, I also challenge them to have higher expectations for themselves.

In a way, my seventh grade teacher helped prepare me for my present day challenges.  Maybe part of the reason why I am a successful educator is because I struggled in her class.  It gave me experiences that help me relate to students I currently serve.  Even though I considered her the worst teacher I've ever had, she may be way more significant than I thought.

My Destiny (a haiku)

Morning warmth and light
You are today's best sight
and my life's delight.


Have an Awesome Idea? Go For It! (a kickstarter project with Ana Bernal)


Throughout our lives, we see many mind-bogglingly creative ideas.  The pet rock, slinky, and the spork were ideas that might have seemed crazy at the time of inception, but became wildly successful.  Great companies like Apple and Facebook started as a serendipitous idea.  I believe that there are many great ideas in this world, yet only few actually come into fruition.  That’s because only a handful of people have the courage, persistence, and determination to turn their dreams into reality. 

Ana Bernal of the Tierra Dulce Shop is one of those people.  Her Kickstarter campaign, “MakeYour Own Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Cookies Kit” is an example of one person can be brave enough to take an idea and venture through unchartered entrepreneurial land. 

In order for her to raise the necessary funds for this project, she needs to raise $14,500 in seed money on her Kickstarter website.  Like all ideas, in order to be successful, it needs to have the support of many people.  All the funds need to be earned by March 17th.

Every great accomplishment has a significant amount of risk involved.  There is always the possibility of failure, which is what keeps many people from trying in the first place.  Despite all that, Bernal is going for it.

Here are some insights and words of wisdom that Ana learned from this process.

What gave you the idea to start selling Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Cookies Kits?
 The Sugar Skull Cookie Kit came from an idea that came from brainstorming session with my sister via text message.  I always start this way, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and you can fill in the blank.  It is the same way we had created the Edible Sugar Skulls for our little online shop. We had been offering those for the last two years and it looks like we need to start making them more official and more market ready.  During the end of the Day of the Dead season last year, we wanted to add something that was totally different and fun to make and get people more involved with Day of the Dead projects. And the Sugar Skull Cookie Kit popped out of the blue. To be quite honest I had no idea how I was going to start. I just started looking for answers and slowly they started coming together and showing me a path to take.   

What inspired you to take the leap and start your Kickstarter campaign?
I took the leap of faith to start a Kickstarter campaign for the Sugar Skull Cookie Kit when I knew this idea would not go away. I thought about it a lot and was searching for a way to make it happen.  By chance I came across a cookie kit at a store and looked at the side panel for the company name and maybe a website. Luckily, they had many options and even offered a private label!  I sent in my information and about a week later I get in contact with Stephanie and she gave me an idea on what it takes to bring a cookie project to life.  I could not believe I had actually found a company willing to work with me and capable of creating exactly what I wanted.  The details and terms were to order 5000 units and the entire project would cost $14,500 approximately.  I was trying to figure out how I can make this project happen – since I’m a substitute teacher I don’t get paid the big bucks.  A friend suggested I check out Kickstarter and suddenly the possibilities started to become clearer.  On New Year’s day, I began putting it together – determined to make it happen, one way or another. Kickstarter is a way to reach a dream and make it into reality.

What advice do you have for people who have an idea for a business or product and want to turn it into something profitable?
My advice is very simple: Just take the first step and go for it.  If you have an idea for a business or a product, ask the questions you need to start making it happen. Believe it or not, Fear is probably one of the biggest problems people have when going into business. I definitely had it, even though I wanted something that would set me free for years, I was too afraid to see the road ahead!  Until one day I was determined to make it happen – so I started with a few things to sell on Etsy and it very slowly started to build up.  So do not give up on your projects, keep persistent – if you love your project, it won’t feel like work at all.  Build confidence and start believing that whatever you are developing will produce the results you want. You can certainly make choices that can change your life. It is not a set formula; you have to find the way. I am very willing to talk to and help out with the resources and any advice I can give.  But most of the time it is not the product or business people want to start – it is the confidence and persistence to see it through to the first milestone. Remember you are the one who can make your creations profitable.


For more information or to help support the “Day of the DeadSugar Skull Cookies Kit” Kickstarter Campaign, click here.

12 Love Quotes to Make Any Valentine's Day Card Extra Special

"I love her and that's the beginning of everything."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

"In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities."
- Janos Arnay

"For love is the beauty of the soul."
- St. Augustine

"The life and love we create is the life and love we live."
- Leo Buscaglia

"The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite."
- William Shakespeare

"Love doesn't make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile."
-Elizabeth Browning

"Like music on the waters is thy sweet voice to me."
- Lord Byron

"I love you, not only for who you are, but for what I am when I am with you."
- Roy Croft

"All love is sweet, given, or returned."
- Percy Bysshe Shelley

"You're nothing short of my everything."
- Ralph Block

"There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved."
- George Sand

"In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything, and two minus one equals nothing."
- Mignon McLaughlin

Ready (a poem)

It's time to live curiously
live dangerously by discovering what
      needs to be known.

The truth is,
the truth needs to be uncovered
to empower those with hearts aching
for a glimmer of hope to be discovered.

Let love be revealed!
What is it?
Can it be touched?
It can definitely be felt.

I want to wonder about something wonderful
Dare to dream and hold on to hope.
I thirst to know what I know I don't know.

Life, tell me that there's still good
out there being
where love is where it should.

Hungry? Here is a Recipe for Spicy Tex-Mex Chili with Corn and Nopales

If you love chili, here is a spicy Tex-Mex version that can be easily made at home.

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb ground beef (or tofu crumbles, for vegetarians!)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (remove the seeds if you don’t want it too spicy)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can sweet corn  (drained)
  • 1 can black beans (drained)
  • 1 can pinto beans (drained)
  • 1 can kidney beans (drained)
  • 1-2  tbsp chipotle sauce (or chipotle in adobo, chopped and seeded)
  • 2 pads of nopales (diced)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp red chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt


Directions:
  1. In a large pot combine the garlic, onion and jalapeno with the olive oil.  Cook for 5 minutes on high until softened.  Add the meat (if using) and allow to brown completely.  Season with salt.  Add the cumin and chili powder.
  2. Add the tomato paste.  Mix the tomato paste into the meat until completely incorporated.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes, chipotle sauce, oregano, brown sugar and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil.
  3. Add all of the beans, corn, and nopales.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  Taste before serving, add salt or chili if necessary.
  4. Serve with sour cream and cheddar cheese.  Enjoy!

Chris Kirkpatrick is the author of two books of poetry, Learning to See from the Blind and Mixed Metaphors and is currently working on his third book "I Don't Know What to Tell You."

The Final Word (a poem by Chris Kirkpatrick)

Nothing is more
Impossible

Than a mind that
Says

With every
Fiber of itself,

“I’m done.”
One might rather

Raise
The continental

Shelf
Or hurl himself

Headlong
Into the sun.


Chris Kirkpatrick is the author of two books of poetry, Learning to See from the Blind and Mixed Metaphors and is currently working on his third.

Love (a somewhat sonnet)

Let's talk about this:
what's true is spoken
more than just from the lips.

Its meaning most mortals misunderstand;
      it is a feeling,
            a journey,
                  a reason for all things good.

It inspires profusely
      and transpires wildly.

When said it multiplies in meanings
      in infinite descriptions
for an infinite degree of feelings.

When only said to you
it is the most true:
I purely and entirely do.

Aibishter (a poem by Chris Kirkpatrick)

Despite opinions
To the contrary

No superlative
Is necessary:

From this
Altitude

1 + God
Is still a majority.


Chris Kirkpatrick is the author of two books of poetry, Learning to See from the Blind and Mixed Metaphors and is currently working on his third.

Minimalism (a poem by Chris Kirkpatrick)

Boil it all down
To syrupy
Nothing,
And you’ll have
 
A taste
Of what many

Have longed for—
And too rarely

 Found.


Chris Kirkpatrick is the author of two books of poetry, Learning to See from the Blind and Mixed Metaphors and is currently working on his third.

Why New Shoes Shouldn't Be Kept Hidden in the Closet

If you're like me, I love Converse Chuck Taylor shoes.  I wore them all throughout college, for everday leisure, and at every job that allowed it.  I've worn them at formals, funerals, and I even wore a brand new black and white pair on my wedding day.  This is definitely my favorite type of toewear. 

Last week I found an amazing pair for $15 at a Converse store.  Lucky me, they were on clearance and was 50% off.  They were blue with a special smooth blue material used instead of the regular canvas.  The unique quality of the shoes and low price was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

This pair was way fancier than the shoes I normally wear.  A part of me wanted to keep them nice and not wear them. Then the other part of me smacked the other part and said, "Wear them! Why not?"

I came to enlightened realization that life really is limited and short, so I might as well wear them while I can. These shoes really do rock.

Just like many of the blessings I've been given in life, it would be a shame to keep them hidden away in the closet 94% of the time.

Mosaic (a poem by Chris Kirkpatrick)

1

Some things seem
So inherently

Fragile
They must have been

Created
With the sole intent

To be broken.

2

After the accident…

3

It’s the words
Unsaid

That hurt the most:
The subtle knife

Cuts clear
To the bone.

4

There was little left but pieces…

5

There was the re-breaking
I remember vividly:

“This will make you stronger—“
Oh, promises promises.

I’ve heard it all before.

6

Take what I have…

7

I’m speechless.
My tongue will not
Betray me.

Read my lips:
Sometimes silence
Is safety.

8

These bits of me.

9

I want to be positively
Beautiful
When the light

Shines through
And the world
Sees me standing there

Smiling. Oh Lord,
That would be
The greatest miracle!


Chris Kirkpatrick is the author of two books of poetry, Learning to See from the Blind and Mixed Metaphors and is currently working on his third.

All After Flipping Through a Travel Magazine (a poem)

 
I'm tired of being only where I can see!
This world has more than my mind can grasp of reality.
Sometimes I'm ashamed of what I know,
Of all the infinite illustrious wonders around
and all the possibilities that surround.
There is more I want to discover.

I have seen so much,
yet there is so much more I haven't.
There is so much I know I want to see
and so much more I don't yet know I want to see.
And there will be much more to come.
With all my time I can't possibly see it all.

There are more people to meet
More friends to make and
more friends to make family.

I want to experience something new,
to appreciate something really eye-opening,
and feel the freshness of here and now.
I want to see more, do more, and be more.

How Hope and Faith are Necessities in Teaching

There are many tools that educators use to enrich the minds and lives of their pupils.  We use cleverly constructed lesson plans, the most effective teaching methods, and the latest technology in the classroom.  We think of everything and anything that we can think of that will help our students learn.  On top of that, we pour our minds, hearts, and souls into our craft.

In a few days my students (along with many other 10th graders) will be taking the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).  It is the test that every public high school student in California needs to take in order to earn a high school diploma.  It comprises of an English and Math exam.  If they don't pass, they can't graduate.

I have many students that will pass with no problem (especially the English section), but there are others that will struggle to pass.  These are the students that have struggled in school, been continually absent in class, suffer from low academic self-confidence, or recently moved to the US and English is a new language to them.  They are the ones who try to pass without much optimism.  Many of them have taken the test before and each time they don't pass, they lose hope.  Every day I use every ounce of my heart, mind, and soul to find a way to inspire them to really try to pass the CAHSEE and eventually move on to bigger and better things.

My students come from a community that suffers from high levels of poverty and flourishing violence.  It is common for people to have friends and family on welfare, trapped in drug addiction, or have no high school education.  My students who come from backgrounds like these seem like they're doomed to a tragic path laid before them, but as their teacher, I have hope for them.

Believing in the possibility of something in the face of impossibility or improbability is the real power of hope.  No matter what past evidence may negatively suggest, I have to have hope that my students can succeed.  It's a vital part of being an educator.  If I have no hope for my students, then I shouldn't be there. 

For the past few months I've really been pushing my students do well in all their classes, but I've been especially preparing them to pass the CAHSEE.  I've been utilizing the most effective lessons and teaching strategies in class.  Also I've been in constant communication with their parents and their other teachers to ensure that they don't fall behind or plan additional tutoring sessions to work on their reading comprehension, literary analysis, and writing skills.  I have faith that all my hard work, long hours, blood, sweat, and tears will be worth it. 

Hope and faith are essential tools in my classroom.

Why I See Myself in Everyone

I know I'm my own individual person.  There is absolutely no one else in this world like me.  Even though I'm one in infinity, I see a piece of me in everyone.

Whenever I get irritated, angry, or frustrated with someone, it's really easy to react by saying something regrettable or imagining the other person's head imploding.  Instead of reacting in a negative way, I draw a connection between us. For whichever reason it may be: someone being ignorant, inconsiderate, or purposely hurtful, I think back to a time I was that way.  There have been times in my past that I have been hurtful, whether it was on purpose or not.  Doing this helps me put myself in other people's shoes.  Instead of being angry at them, I become more understanding and find a proactive way to deal with the situation.

If I come across people who need help, I try to think back of times when I needed help.  When my students need my assistance, I think back to the times in high school I struggled in Chemistry or in college when I got kicked in the groin by College Algebra.  I succeeded due to my persistence, determination, and the fact that other people helped me. 

I am always inspired by people who accomplished great feats.  Somehow they make me believe that what they have done is possible for me too.  I aspire to inspire people like President Barack Obama, write like Maya Angelou, be creative as Thomas Edison, have the temperament of Jackie Robinson, and the generosity of Warren Buffett.  I see a little bit of myself in them, and I believe it makes me a better person.

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Scruples (a poem by Chris Kirkpatrick)

I have them
In a jar
And let them out
To breathe:
                      such
Is the extent
Of their excursions.
 
Otherwise,
They just sit there
On the mantle—
 
Staring back at me.


Chris Kirkpatrick is the author of two books of poetry, Learning to See from the Blind and Mixed Metaphors and is currently working on his third.