How can we be a better friend?

We are all unique in our essence, in our abilities and in our personal qualities that allow us to contribute positively to the lives of the people we love most and the people around us.  Many times, although we are aware of these wonderful people who are part of our lives, we tend to spend our time being able to fulfill our responsibilities and obligations and we do not do enough to show our love and our appreciation to these people.

I have been very lucky to have seen friendships that lasts a lifetime and through my own experiences, I have been a witness of the importance that a solid friendship can have in our lives.  After thinking for a while, I have come up with a list of the actions we can do for our friends. These actions do not have to be large or elaborated, but they have to be initiated by the love and gratitude we feel.

  • If you know of someone close to you who is recovering from an illness or struggling with a disease, make a casserole or lasagna and take them home, without asking if they want it or not, just knock on the door and hand them the plate so they have a meal (or two).
  • If you know of someone close to you who is recovering from an illness or struggling with a disease, make a casserole or lasagna and take them home, without asking if they want it or not, just knock on the door and hand them the plate so they have a meal (or two).
  • Participate in those activities that your friends are coordinating and need help or participants.
  • Go to the soccer, baseball, or dance recital of one of your nephews, especially if it is an important championship. Your friends will appreciate your sharing such a special moment in their lives with them.
  • Help a friend who has just started working on a new job, either with new unknown software, or by offering advice on his / her new line of work.
  •  If your friends are trying to make a change in their health and are taking actions to be healthier, support them and encourage them.
  • If your friends are asking for volunteers to help them in moving to a new house or painting their house or setting up a new office and you can, sign up and help them.
  •  Give a compliment if they got a new haircut or are trying to eat healthier.
  • Give thanks for something they have done for you, no matter if time has passed, take the time to say thank you and express appreciation

We all have high expectations of our friends, but at times is good to ask ourselves, are we doing all we can to make sure our friends feel loved and appreciated by us.  Next time you have the opportunity to show it, take it. You are cultivating a lifetime of great moments and experiences shared.

Family Rules Loving Life Personal Journal

Lessons Learned from my Mother

My mother has been a constant inspiration in my life.  She is kind, compassionate, realistic, assertive, composed and self-assured.  She is, by all I believe in, the wiser person I know. The use of “common sense” has always been her go-to-solution to all and every problem or situation and it is my goal to pass the “common sense” approach to my kids.

She has gone through the loss of her son, which is a pain that as I have learned, never goes away.   She has worked hard “38 consecutive years” as she says it, climbing up the professional ladder without holding back, always with loyalty, professionalism, honesty, and integrity. She has been, is and will be my idol. My go-to-person when self-doubt, fear, pessimism, and doubt snicks in my heart.

Through the years, I have seen her suffer, adapt, change, dream, conquering happiness and peace, learning over and over to enjoy life, be loving and caring (and patient) to my dad, and be 100% available to my needs and wants.  

After going through my own self-improvement program and in my pursuit to understand my life purpose, I have come to realize that she is not perfect, however, that realization just made me love her more since although she has her own challenging shortcomings, she has managed to be stronger than anyone I know.  She has taught me life lessons that today I am sharing with you:

  1. Balance it out.  My mother would always tell me to balance it out.  Put the positive on one side and the negative on the other and make decisions based on the outcome.  From professional decisions, to love, to friendship, to education, it can all be put in the balance and decisions are made knowing the positives and negatives of each possibility.
  2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes: Before judging try your best to put yourself in their shoes.  We don’t know what that person has gone through, we don’t know the whole story. Kindness and compassion should be your first impressions instead of baseless judgment.
  3. Be strong.  My mother is a stoic person. She is the embodiment of what a strong mind and a generous heart and profound faith can do together.  Even when I have gone through my good share of very low moments she has been compassionate but very clear… you are strong, you are mighty, you are a force, you are what you need to be to overcome anything.
  4. Got to be humble.  We are no better than the person next to us.  What we own and what we do for a living says nothing about who we are.  Be humble and treat everyone with kindness and compassion. Always smile, always shake hands, always exchange kind words, treat everyone (including those that are clearly making the statement that they have more than you) with respect and kindness.  
  5. Honesty goes a long way.  She always believes she was sufficiently smart to get to where she was professionally when she retired, however, she was always very honest when she would say that along the way she met people far more qualified than her, but that it was her honesty and integrity that made her a solid candidate for every promotion she accomplished while working.  If you don’t have integrity in the workplace, people will see through it. You can always be trained in the job, but integrity is what you bring with you.

At any time of my day, during a good moment or a low moment, I remember my mom and imagine how she would react, or what would she chose, or how she would handle the situation I am in, and by following her example, I have been able to move forward and in the positive direction.  I am grateful to her. I am grateful for her heart and her soul. I am grateful for her love. I am grateful for her lessons.

Mom and me

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First time traveling solo…

traveling solo

When I was 16 years old my parents offered me the opportunity to go to Bournemouth, England to study English and I happily said yes.  The English course would take 4 weeks and after its completion, I would fly to Rotterdam, where my cousin was currently living, and stay with her for a week or so.  Once I arrived in Rotterdam, I and my cousin started planning out what I could do during the day while she and her husband were at work. She proposed for me to go to Bruges, Belgium for the day by train, my cousin would drop me off at the train station and after a 2-hour train ride, I would arrive at Bruges.  I was anxious about going by myself to a new city, but I felt confident with my improved English skills and felt genuinely excited to go.

I arrived at Bruges train station around 10:00 a.m. It was February so it was cold, although not freezing.  I walked from the Train Station to the City Centre to the Markt guided by the city map my cousin had given me. I walked the Historic Centre and through the channels by the lake. I remember vividly standing at Rozenhoedkaai for what it seems to be a very long time, looking at the water while seating on a bench, with my thoughts overfloating me.  I felt the excitement of being in a new place, of discovering the beauty of this amazing city, the freedom to walk at my pace while taking pictures and enjoying the peace within my silence.

After having a long lunch which consisted of Belgian waffles and a Coca Cola I continued to walk along the water, looking at my map while following my instincts, buying Belgian chocolates and small souvenirs and after eating fries with mayonnaise (European style), I walked back to the train station to find myself back in Rotterdam.  

During the years to come (24 years since then), I have had the opportunity to travel alone many times, Syria, Greece, London, China, among other places.  Always finding the perfect moment in which amazement meets self-enjoyment and happiness shows up, but I always go back to 16-year old me, sitting on the bench looking at the bridge in Bruges, Belgium and I cannot help but smile, knowing its true that old saying… To remember is to live again. 

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Recipe of the Week… Chicken Wings with Potatoes… YUM!

mari's book review (2)

This week I would like to share a quick, easy-peasy, uncomplicated meal that I usually cook when I need a fast meal and an even faster clean-up.

For the chicken wings:
2lbs chicken wings
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp avocado oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the chicken wings and pat them dry. In a bowl put the wings, add the oils and salt and pepper and make sure it covers the wings. In a baking sheet, place the chicken in a single line and place them in the oven for 25 minutes, after 25 minutes turn them and place them back in the oven for another 25 minutes. Enjoy!!!

For the potatoes:
1 small sack of potatoes (small ones or big potatoes cut into pieces)
1 tbsp of olive oil (or more depending on the number of potatoes)
1 tsp paprika
Truffle Salt
Black Pepper

Boil the potatoes for 8 minutes until a knife goes through smoothly. Drain the potatoes and cut them in half or small pieces. In a non-stick pan (I use the same one I used for boiling the potatoes) heat the olive oil and once it’s hot add the potatoes, add the spices and continue to fry the potatoes until they are golden brown. Enjoy!!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash the chicken wings and pat them dry.  In a bowl put the wings, add the oils and salt and pepper and make sure it covers the wings. In a baking sheet, place the chicken in a single line and placed them in the oven for 25 minutes, after 25 minutes turn them and place them back in the oven for another 25 minutes.  Enjoy!!!

For the potatoes:
1 small sack of potatoes (small ones or big potatoes cut into pieces)
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp paprika
Truffle Salt
Black Pepper

Boil the potatoes for 8 minutes until a knife goes through smoothly. Drain the potatoes and cut them in half or small pieces. In a non-stick pan heat the olive oil and once it’s hot add the potatoes, add the spices and continue to fry until they are golden brown. Enjoy!!

This duo is always welcome when served in my home. I add a simple salad (spinach and avocadoes) to add freshness to the meal.  Clean-up is easy and fast and takes minimum effort and is budget-friendly.

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe.

 

 

Mari Park

 

Family Rules Got to love my children Kitchen Confidential Loving Life

Mari’s Book Review – The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

mari's book review

I picked this book from my dad’s library in one of my visits to Panama. Actually, I picked book number 3 without knowing it is a 4-book series and started reading it. Soon enough I realized that I needed to stop and get books 1 and 2 immediately. I remember I was on a weekend getaway in Austin with my family and insisted I needed to go to the bookstore to get the books right away, I could not wait until we got back to Houston the next day.  I got the book number 1 at the bookstore and bought 2 and 4 online. I was one happy girl.

I must disclose that I read them in Spanish which is my native language.  I do read both in English and Spanish, but for this particular series, since I started in Spanish I decided to continue in Spanish. 

The book was mesmerizing. I submerged myself in the Barcelona of 1945  following the end of the Civil War, and at the beginning of the first chapter, I was captivated. As I imagined myself inside the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books”, a secret library hosting millions of forgotten books and where you have to choose one book out of all the books to take with you, I was hooked in the storytelling and drawn to the main character Daniel after he chooses the book “ The Shadow of the Wind” by Julian Carax.

The book is a fictional gothic drama, beautifully written, filled with mystery, intrigue, and characters that you simply can’t put down.  The characters are so well defined, and bring the story alive as each of their past is revealed. The city of Barcelona is described with great detail, and with a tangible love for the city, its restaurants, its streets, its avenues, and its people.

The author’s storytelling draws you inside the narrative, as a witness of the unraveling storyline, making you complicit of every discovery, every new clue, and every new plan.  Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a unique writer with a capacity to make you witness the emotional rollercoaster that each character goes through the story.

100% recommended.  

 

Additional Information as found in Goodreads

Paperback, 487 pages

Published: January 25th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)

Original Title: La sombra del viento

ISBN0143034901 (ISBN13: 9780143034902)

Edition: LanguageEnglish

Series: El cementerio de los libros olvidados #1

Literary Awards :Barry Award for Best First Novel (2005), Gumshoe Award Nominee for Best European Crime Novel (2005), Borders Original Voices Award for Fiction (2004), Dilys Award Nominee (2005), Humo’s Gouden Bladwijzer (2006) Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger for Roman (2004), Prix des libraires du Québec for Lauréats hors Québec (2005), One Book One San Diego (2015), Premi Llibreter de narrativa Nominee (2002)

 

International Book Reviews Loving Life Writer's drawer

Question of the week…

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I have been thinking about ways to engage with you, the reader, and have decided to do, every Thursday, a “Question of the Week” segment, in which I will ask a fun, insightful, interesting and hopefully smart question that will challenge you to answer it.  You can answer it out loud on the spot, use it for your journal entry, or just reflect on it for the next couple of hours or days.

The intention is to invite you to reflect and make you aware of your thoughts and feelings while you answer the question… creating a mini mindful moment.

The question of this week is:  If you had an extra hour every day, how would you spend it?

When we ask ourselves this question, we tend to gravitate towards those actions or activities that we “keep putting off” mostly because of the “lack of time”.  Some of the most common answers are:

  • I would exercise
  • I would cook a healthy dinner 
  • I would take time to converse with my husband and children (or parents or friends)
  • I would study to further my education (go back to school or a work-related course)
  • I would practice meditation or work towards mindfulness
  • I would start my own business
  • I would start a hobby (or go back to it)

This question, when we answer it honestly, can reveal things that are sincerely important to us since we are no longer blaming the “lack of time” as the culprit for not doing them.

Think about that extra time and what you would do with it. Maybe you will realize what is truly important to you, and rearranging your schedule to make it happen can be something worth looking into.  All is possible within our reach and our time schedule. Yes, we do need to rearrange and prioritize, but we can do it.

 

 

Mari Park

Family Rules Loving Life We got married Wholesomeness is healthy

7 Tips for making a bedtime routine that works for you…

CREATING AN UNIQUE BEDTIME ROUTINE

With years of trying to perfect multitasking (and never really accomplishing), I have come to the conclusion that following a routine makes it easier for me to accomplish all that is needed to be done. I have a morning routine, a working routine, an afternoon routine, and a bedtime routine.  I have already shared with you morning routine tips and now want to share tips for making a bedtime routine that can work for you as it works for me.

My bedtime routine starts right after the kids go to bed and my “mom role” is turned off, here are my tips:

  1. Finish cleaning the kitchen / tidy up the living room:  I take the time to clean the kitchen, do the dishes, clean the stove, wipe and tidy up the kitchen island, swipe the floors and tidy up and declutter the living room.  Since I do this every day, it really takes no more than 15 – 20 minutes to complete this task and there is no better feeling than waking up to a clean and fresh kitchen.
  2. Check the calendars and to-do list: I take 10 – 15 min to answer any pending emails, check my family calendar and update my to-do list for the next day. Also, any bills or home expenses are done or updated at this time. 
  3. Take a shower: There is no better way to put an end to a day than by taking a shower. It’s the best way to wash off a hectic, crazy, and non-stop day.
  4. Beauty routine:  I am turning 40 in June so the closer I get to this date the more I pay attention to my beauty routine.  I keep it simple, by cleansing my face well and using face oil or serum and finishing with a face and eye cream. Twice a week a do a facial, usually a sheet mask.
  5. Read a book: From a self-help book to a mystery thriller to a romantic novel or a magazine.  Reading is a way that I calm down and take the time to relax and let my mind enjoy the wonderful world of books. I personally keep about 5 books in my nightstand and go one after the other.  If you are not a fan of reading, you can take this time to write in your journal or listen to a book, rather than reading it.
  6. Practice Gratitude:  You can use an app or say it out loud or write it in your journal.  Acknowledging what you are grateful for will give you inner peace, love for the people in your life and faith for a better tomorrow.
  7. Meditate:  Take 5 – 10 minutes to meditate right before you go to bed, it can be a breathing exercise or a guided meditation and you can use an app or even a YouTube video as a guide.  Meditation is key in helping you be present in the moment.
  8. Turn off the light… is nighttime!

No matter what your bedtime routine consists of, having one will create a sense of accomplishment at the end of your day.  It will also allow you to make sure that the last part of your day are dedicated, in part, to your self-care.  These tips are meant to inspire you to create your own, from adding a time to watch TV to going for a run or doing yoga, create a routine that works for your interests and passions.  And if for any reason, we have to deviate from our routine, it’s fine… there is always tomorrow’s bedtime.

 

 

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