Sunday, February 27, 2011

On motivation and children's dreams

When my 11 year old daughter told me that she wanted to compete for her track and field in her school's activity next month, I was happy for her.

When she told me that when she is in secondary school, that she will try out to be part of the school sports team like volleyball, soccer, and basketball, I was happy for her.

When she told me that she plans to be a vet or an architect or an interior designer, I was happy for her.

Not because she is my daughter.

But because she is an ambitious young lady with big dreams. I admire women who can dream big. And I know that she will accomplish whatever it is that she wants to do because she works hard at it. Right now, she has been running outside with her older brother for training for the competition in next month's track and field. "I want to win Mom. " she told me.   "If I win, I get a medal and ice-cream."

We had a tougher time motivating and encouraging her older brother, at the same age, years ago. He had no motivation and interest to do well in school, despite our pleadings and even threats to transfer him to another school. You can imagine our frustration every time we get his school grades - they were low. Through all his challenges however, my husband and I encouraged him and celebrated his success in other fields where he excelled like drawing, playing the violin and sports. He eventually did well academically because his girlfriend excelled in school and he didn't want to be embarrassed about his school grades. On his last year of high school, he found out that he likes numbers and did well in his accounting classes. He then decided that he was going to university, major in Business and Finance. He had found his career path which now motivated  him to excel in the field.   These days, he is the one encouraging and coaching his younger sister to excel in school.

It is a challenge for parents to create an environment which our children will be motivated to do well in whatever it is that they want to do. Some children will find their "inner" fire earlier than others, while some may take a longer time. But the ingredients are the same:

1. show our unconditional love and support
2. celebrate their success, however small, and in whatever field they excel in
3. tell them that they are valued and important individuals with special skills and talents
4. listen, encourage and support them through their challenges
5. believe in them, and in their dreams.

Even if a child comes from a broken home or unhappy family circumstances, as long as one parent or family member loves him or her unconditionally, the child will grow up to be a responsible and highly motivated individual. Dr. Benjamin Carson comes to mind, as narrated in his book, Gifted Hands.   (please see my blog post on this.)

I believe that when there is love, our children will dream, aspire and work to be the best that they can be.

I hope you all have a nice week.

Beautiful Photo:  credit to Paolo Micheli

Real Life Story: Dr. Benjamin Carson

Benjamin Carson was born in Detroit, Michigan. His mother Sonya had dropped out of school in the third grade, and married when she was only 13. When Benjamin Carson was only eight, his parents divorced, and Mrs. Carson was left to raise Benjamin and his older brother Curtis on her own. She worked at two, sometimes three, jobs at a time to provide for her boys.

Benjamin and his brother fell farther and farther behind in school. In fifth grade, Carson was at the bottom of his class. His classmates called him "dummy" and he developed a violent, uncontrollable temper.

When Mrs. Carson saw Benjamin's failing grades, she determined to turn her sons' lives around. She sharply limited the boys' television watching and refused to let them outside to play until they had finished their homework each day. She required them to read two library books a week and to give her written reports on their reading even though, with her own poor education, she could barely read what they had written.

Within a few weeks, Carson astonished his classmates by identifying rock samples his teacher had brought to class. He recognized them from one of the books he had read. "It was at that moment that I realized I wasn't stupid," he recalled later. Carson continued to amaze his classmates with his newfound knowledge and within a year he was at the top of his class.

The hunger for knowledge had taken hold of him, and he began to read voraciously on all subjects. He determined to become a physician, and he learned to control the violent temper that still threatened his future. After graduating with honors from his high school, he attended Yale University, where he earned a degree in Psychology.

From Yale, he went to the Medical School of the University of Michigan, where his interest shifted from psychiatry to neurosurgery. His excellent hand-eye coordination and three-dimensional reasoning skills made him a superior surgeon. After medical school he became a neurosurgery resident at the world-famous Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. At age 32, he became the hospital's Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery.

In 1987, Carson made medical history with an operation to separate a pair of Siamese twins. The Binder twins were born joined at the back of the head. Operations to separate twins joined in this way had always failed, resulting in the death of one or both of the infants. Carson agreed to undertake the operation. A 70-member surgical team, led by Dr. Carson, worked for 22 hours. At the end, the twins were successfully separated and can now survive independently.

Carson's other surgical innovations have included the first intra-uterine procedure to relieve pressure on the brain of a hydrocephalic fetal twin, and a hemispherectomy, in which an infant suffering from uncontrollable seizures has half of its brain removed. This stops the seizures, and the remaining half of the brain actually compensates for the missing hemisphere.

In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Carson is in constant demand as a public speaker, and devotes much of his time to meeting with groups of young people. In 2008, the White House announced that Benjamin Carson would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Dr. Carson's books include a memoir, Gifted Hands,  and a motivational book, Think Big. Carson says the letters of "Think Big" stand for the following:

Talent: Our Creator has endowed all of us not just with the ability to sing, dance or throw a ball, but with intellectual talent. Start getting in touch with that part of you that is intellectual and develop that, and think of careers that will allow you to use that.

Honesty: If you lead a clean and honest life, you don't put skeletons in the closet. If you put skeletons in the closet, they definitely will come back just when you don't want to see them and ruin your life.

Insight: It comes from people who have already gone where you're trying to go. Learn from their triumphs and their mistakes.

Nice: If you're nice to people, then once they get over the suspicion of why you're being nice, they will be nice to you.

Knowledge: It makes you into a more valuable person. The more knowledge you have, the more people need you. It's an interesting phenomenon, but when people need you, they pay you, so you'll be okay in life.

Books: They are the mechanism for obtaining knowledge, as opposed to television.

In-Depth Learning: Learn for the sake of knowledge and understanding, rather than for the sake of impressing people or taking a test.

God: Never get too big for Him.

Author's Note:   A movie was made on his life, Gifted Hands, which is also the title of his book.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Where are you heading to?

As long as you know what you want, and where you want to go, it doesn't matter where you started. For some people, this may take many years as it takes a lot of courage and faith in oneself to know where you are heading to.

"It's not where you are today that counts. It's where you are headed." - Arthur F. Lenehan

Photo credit:
by Paolo Micheli

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Living in a "livable city"

What am I most thankful for today???

According to the recent Economist Intellegience Unit survey, I am living (beside it actually) in one of the top 10 most livable city in the world.   The city that  I am referring to is Toronto, ranked 4th in the list.   Two other Canadian cities were in the top 10, Vancouver is ranked No. 1 (for the past 5 years) and Calgary is 5th.

This survey just validates what every immigrant family know - that Canada is a good country to live and raise children.   It is peaceful and relatively stable without the unrest and troubles of other countries (Turkey, Libya, etc).    We do have access to health care, education, clean water and the basic government services.

You would think that Canadians are generally a happy people because of our blessings.   Some are, but some are complainers. People here gripe about taxes, roads, traffic, garbage, budget and a whole lot of other domestic issues, that gives  Toronto City, a not so picture perfect city to live.

Some of you might even be surprised to know that some Canadians suffer from depression due to work and stress.   I personally find this a paradox considering the relative wealth and stability of Canada compared to other countries.  Consider the global snapshot:

*1/3 of the world population live in extreme poverty with no access to basic needs like clean water

* almost half the world - over three billion people - live on less than $US 2.50 a day.

When one considers what most people don't even have, we are indeed blessed that we have the freedom and peace and even prosperity to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
So, when I hear people here complaining or getting depressed about their situation, I think of people in much worse situation than we are.    I just shrug away the negative comments and accept it as part of my decision to live in this city.   From the way I see it,  things don't look so bad after all.

Here is beautiful picture of Toronto city by night ~

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The courage to continue

When you see a "dead end" sign,

it doesn't mean "the end" of the road.

It only means that we might have to re-evaluate, maybe adjust our plans, go back a few steps, and find another way to get there.  It might take us a little longer to reach our destination, but we will get there eventually.

''Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.'' - Winston Churchill

Picture credit:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Always bring your own sunshine

We are in the middle of winter with temperature dropping below zero (C).    Sometimes the sun is out shining brightly, giving warmth to a cold and chilly day.   The weather outside is something we can't control given that we now live in Canada.   I used to live in a tropical country where there was just 2 kinds of weather, sun or rain.   My mood for the day was affected by the weather - I get grumpy when it is cold and wet, and happy when it is sunny and bright.

Now, I don't have that luxury anymore as our summer here in Canada is so short (just 3 months).   I realize that I need to have an "internal weather" in my mind, regardless of the weather conditions outside.  If not, and I let the weather and external conditions affect me, I will be grumpy person most of the time.   I know that it is not easy to be always  cheerful and upbeat  specially when you have problems in your life.  It takes a lot of effort and persistence to be cheerful and have a sunny disposition despite the challenges you have at home and at work.   But I find out that once my mind is set on having a "summer weather", that it becomes easier to share a laugh, a kind word, a helping hand and even an encouraging  remark or comment to others.

To help me have a "summer weather"  mindset, the colors in our home and in my room, are bright and warm; and in my office, I have pictures of flowers and beaches in my wall and in my computer.   If I feel grumpy and depressed, I talk to my family and friends, watch funny and light hearted movies, do my yoga or any physcial activity, or listen to upbeat songs, to shake off the "bad" mood.    And most importantly, I read a lot of stories specially inspirational  and uplifting articles to keep my thoughts focus on the good and blessed things we have in our life.

What about you?   What do you do to "bring your own sunshine"?

"Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine." -Anthony J. D'Angelo

~ Hope everyone is having a good week~

picture credit:  happythings.tumbr

Monday, February 21, 2011

On Communication: Let's chat~

I was attending a party with friends when I noticed two young teens seated beside each other.
You would think they would be talking to each other.   Well the adults were.  
The teens were looking and playing with their phones, and their gadgets.

I was thinking - what happened to old fashioned talking ???  

Is face to face conversation a losing art among the young people, and maybe the not so young, with the prevalence of modern communication gadgets? 

Ironically, the modern communication tools were created in the first place to bridge the distance and time when personal face to face communication is not possible.   The phones,internet and other tools are secondary communication devices.    No matter how convenient it is, nothing  can still replace the personal touch and response that comes with having a face to face conversation.  Issues and misunderstandings are resolved and worked out during face to face encounters.   Emails, texts do not.

So, let's chat.    

~ We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ~ Epictetus

Photo credit:   Nikos Zacharoulis

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The secret of great relationships

What one simple thing can you do to make a big difference in your relationships?

There is a story of a married woman who was very frustrated about her relationship with her husband.  She felt that the husband was not helping her in the home, was unresponsive to her conversations, and generally found fault with everything that he did.

The marriage counselor told her to try one thing:   To thank the husband for something that he did for the day, and not to expect any response from him.   So, she went home and tried to notice one good thing  that her husband did.   Sure enough, she noticed that he bought some groceries home.   She said, "Thank you for buying these items today".    The next day, she said, "Thank you for preparing my coffee."   She did this for the next few days, saying thanks to her husband for a chore or a deed, and not expecting anything in return.

The husband was at first surprised about the change of behavior but noticed increasingly that she was thanking him, more than once a day.   After a few weeks,   he said to her one day,  "Thanks for the supper - it was good."    From this time on, he started thanking her for the little things that she did.

When the marriage counselor checked with the woman after a few weeks, the woman said that their relationship was going great and that she was lucky to have a caring and thoughtful husband.

So what changed?

Just one simple word but it worked wonders ~

Here is a wonderful video about the secret of great relationships:  
The 100/0 Principle from Simple Truths:

Thank you to everyone who visits my blog!

Photo credit:  happythings.tumblr

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Family Day !

What entails your "family day" ?

In Canada, we are celebrating Family Day on Monday, Feb.21, 2011.

Though this is a nice excuse to have another holiday and have a long weekend, spending time with the family is a good break from work and school schedules.    The "family time" may be as simple as reading the book together or sharing the meal together as everyone is home, or going for a vacation.

Whatever is your type of "family day", enjoy the time with your loved ones specially when the children are young.   Children may not always remember their toys or clothes or room or the places they have been or their friends during their childhood years.

But they always remember the happy times spent with their family.

Family Day is observed in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan on the third Monday of February. This holiday celebrates the importance of families and family life to people and their communities.


Picture credit:  happythings.tumblr

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On staying positive: develop habits and interests that make you happy

One of my friends asked me how I can stay positive when confronted with rumors or negative talk from other people including those we read and hear about, including the internet chatter.

I have a simple solution - I tuned out the rumors and negative talk including “negative” internet sites. I don’t visit them because it’s a waste of my time, and not worth the aggravation or my emotional welfare. I want to have control over my thoughts and actions, so choosing which people, group or team or even internet site or forum, I want to be affiliated with, needs my careful consideration.   Just like choosing who to hang out with,  I like the company of people who are encouraging, positive and make me happy.

Since I use the computer a lot of the time (at work and at home specially now that it is winter), I avoid gossip blogs and sites that thrive in negative chatter or discussion. In my desire to learn about blogging, I have come across some good and entertaining blogs. The case in point is the photography community. I love landscape photography and beautiful pictures so joining the community of photographers is really heaven to me.  Here are some sites:

I would like to think that the way we see the world is a matter of perspective… it depends on where your eyes are looking at. Just like a photographer taking pictures,  we decide what images we want to capture with our camera.    Not that we should close our eyes to the other images in the background or not listen to a contrary opinion.   It is good to get a different perspective on things but it should be based on factual information and careful deliberation, not on idle chat and malice.   At the end, it all boils down to who you are listening to, and who you are believing.

What can you do to keep yourself positive and happy? Develop a habit or interest that keeps you happily absorbed in and makes you feel good about yourself for the next 30 days. Keep yourself busy  - learn or take up something new like a hobby or a skill or an exercise program like yoga or read articles from blogs that positively impacts you.  Before you know it, you will spend more and more time with the "new" habit or interest, just as you would with a friend who is great to be with.   I took up blogging and writing for my distractions and my cyber life is so exciting now.

The world is such a big place… there are still so many things to learn and discover. 

As for me, I am checking out the newest pics and blogs over at Cool Photography.

What about you?

picture credit: happythings.tumblr

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No one more deserving than you

Who is your biggest fan ?

It always surprises me when I hear people put themselves down or sell themselves short when we are discussing about doing something new or undertaking a challenging activity.   Not that I think I am superwoman or a genius or even a fearless woman with no insecurities.

On the contrary, I have personal challenges but negative talk about myself, internally and externally is something I am careful to never do.    I have learned over the years,  that much as I am blessed to have my family and friends who care for me, no one is going to look out for me 24/7 and 100%  intensity all the time... than me.

I am not talking about bragging and showing off to other people how great or awesome you are.   I am sure you are. What I am referring to is respecting yourself first and foremost.   Loving and believing in yourself and your abilities, and gracefully making amends when you are at fault.  Remember that people will respect you, the way you respect yourself.

Even though we have our family and friends as our cheerleaders in life,

the no. 1 fan of yourself is still ......   you.

"You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.  You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection."

Quote:  Buddha

Picture credit:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The best Valentine gift to give

Most people would say that flowers are the best Valentine gift to give.

It doesn't matter if they are red roses  

or yellow roses

or pink roses. 

It  doesn't matter if the flowers

came in a dozen

or just one.  Flowers are great gifts to give anyone.  

But for me, a pink home made card with a heart shaped message or baked cookies would be  fine as Valentine gifts as well.     

Actually, the last two are the  best Valentine gifts to give.   

The extra touch and time devoted to making it are priceless 

as they are gifts straight from one's heart. 

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone !

All flower pictures from

Love is a decision

One of the most important lessons in relationships I have learned is that
love is a decision.

It might have started as a puppy love or a crush or an emotional rush 
that makes your body tingle.

Then your friendship blossoms into something more serious.

What is the next step?

It is a decision.

To stay by each other through good times and bad times.

And it is a decision that must be affirm by two people
every single day.

Getting older with you is a decision.

So is spending all my days and nights with you.

Picture credit:  happythings.tumblr

Author's Note:  I was inspired to write this post as February 14 is just around the corner.  And oh - I am still married to the same guy I met when I was 20.   :-)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Simple beauty of nature

I live and work in the city most of my life.   So it is a challenge to catch and gaze on nature’s beauty when you are surrounded by roads, cars, noise, concrete sidewalks and buildings.  
The times I am able to catch a sunset or walk around the park or lake, are infrequent and few.   So it is a real blessing when I am able to, and just let the moment of solitude and peace seep into my mind and body.    
Nature speaks without saying anything ~ are we listening?

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” ~ Anne Frank

Picture Credit:   Agarkov Anton

In the eyes of the child

We often forget that the child views the surroundings differently from ours.

We were walking along the trail of the creek one summer, when my 11 year old daughter got the camera and started taking pictures.   To me, the surrounding meadows look wild, unkempt, and hardly worth a second glance.
From her pictures, my daughter saw something else.   She was crouching close to the ground, delighted to see flowers growing amongst the unspoiled plane.   She particularly noticed this white delicate flower growing serenely amidst the wilderness.
Through her eyes, I saw the beauty, simplicity and serenity of Mother Earth.

There are certainly a few things we can learn from our young children.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Who you think you are not

Find your passion and go for it! 

Whether you are thinking of doing something new or re-focusing on what you want to do, all I can say is TRY IT.   You will never know the depths and heights of your passion, and your true colors until you are actively engaged in doing the one thing that you love to do.  
“It is not who you are that holds you back

It’s who you think you’re not.”

Andes Sunset Eclipse, Argentina

The obstacle is the path

We can get lost and go into many stumbling blocks in our journey through life.
But if we believe in ourselves and in the Divine Hand that guides us, we will always find our footing, pace and direction.   Oftentimes, the path becomes clear after going through the challenges and “obstacles” along the way.

“The obstacle is the path.”

Zen Proverb
Baltic Sea Picture

Encourage others

Did I encourage someone today?

Student says “I am very discouraged. What should I do?”

Master says, “Encourage others.”

In reaching out to another person who needs our help, or simply just to cheer them on, we also feel uplifted.    In giving out a warm embrace or pat in the back to others, we also feel comforted.

And then we get to see that our problems and concerns are minor, compared to others.

Zen Quote
Photo credit:   19miracles.tumblr

Happiness is a simple thing

Laugh.    Find joy in simple things.

Happiness is a simple thing: you are happy when you are not trying to be happy.”

Picture credit:  happythings.tumblr

A Lift Up

Sometimes we need other people
to give us a nudge, a push and even a lift up
so we can go higher and achieve our goals.

So, hang out with people who can positively affect you.
Don’t listen to the voices of the complainers and naysayers.
Find your team of cheerleaders and help lift up each other!!!!

Never regret

Never regret.

If you had tried something and it turned out well, it’s wonderful.

If it didn’t,  it is an experience.