My Daily Rituals for a Meaningful Life

March 18, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention / Piano / Reading Will Save the World

I have a lot of goals and dreams in my life, and I am cultivating daily rituals to help me accomplish them.  These are incremental steps that I take on a regular basis to help me get further along in my goals. They may not seem like much, but in the overall scheme of my life, they make a huge impact.

Here are my daily rituals that I try to live by:

1. Drink lots of water every day in the morning.

One of the first things I try to do after waking up is drink one or two glasses of water. I also have coffee in the morning, but water is absolutely essential. After six to eight hours of sleeping in bed, your body needs nourishment. This is also an easy way to wake up and refresh your internal organs after a long night of sleep.

2. I make my bed after I get up every morning.

This happens immediately after I get up. Not only does this make my bedroom look more orderly and calm, but it makes coming home later in the day more pleasant. My bed is my sanctuary, and if it looks clean and cared for, it becomes a much more inviting oasis. Coming home to a messy, unkempt bed is a lot less pleasant.

3. I write every day.

These days, I have created numerous opportunities to write in my daily life. What I mean by “write” is the exercise of composing my thoughts clearly and expressively on paper or on my computer.  I have the options of writing for an assignment at school, in my daily journal, my blog, or for a post on social media. Usually, all or at least one of these options is available. I have found this to be the best way to learn how to communicate. If you can write well, you can speak well. These skills are valuable in any situation.

4. I play music every day.

I am passionate about performing music, and it is a lifelong pursuit no matter where I am or what I am up to. I know how to play the piano, the cello, and the ukulele. The piano takes up the lion’s share of my music time, but I love the contrast that the two other instruments create. Playing music engages my mind and body in a way that feels effortless, fun, and creative. Whether I am learning a cover song, writing one of my own, practicing several pieces from my original catalog, or just making stuff up, the act of using my body to syphon music out into the world is extremely fulfilling.

5. I spend time with my cat every day.

I am an animal lover at heart and a cat person. I try to spend at least 15 minutes of my time just focused on my cat Steinway. Cuddling and petting are the main activities, and these are moments when I can extend my attention to something other than myself. It works out best whenever I get home from school at the end of the day. He is often ready to purr and give me numerous cat kisses if I lie down to greet him. The affection from an animal that loves you unconditionally is healing and comforting.

6. I express gratitude outwardly every day.

I say out loud something for which I am thankful. Usually, my partner and I ask each other what we are thankful for every morning. This is a daily practice for us, and I also say “Thank you” to people as much as possible.  When you cultivate thankfulness, you become aware of the abundance in your life. This is as close to happiness as I have found on a daily basis.

7. Read a minimum of 20 pages of a book every day.

Let’s do some math. If you read at least 20 pages of a book every day, that amounts to 7,300 pages. Let’s say the average book is 300 pages long. After a year, you will have read about 24 books. There are people who have not even read that many books in a lifetime.  Reading not only exercises your mind and fine tunes  your comprehension skills, but it invites new ideas and sensibilities into your mental vocabulary.  You can learn something new, laugh, cry, and be enlightened through reading books.

Again, these daily rituals may not seem like much, but for myself, here is the big picture:

1. I want to live a long life in good health. Water sustains everything on this earth. It also sustains me.

2. I want to have mental and emotional well-being. Caring for a pet, having a safe and clean place to rest, and continually being grateful are the building blocks  for a strong heart and mind.

3. I want to be an accomplished musician. Playing music every day strengthens my musical muscles.

4. I want to write a book someday and be an articulate and effective communicator. Reading allows me to learn how others communicate, and writing as a daily practice helps me express my ideas better. Like everything else in life, practice makes you better and stronger.

If you have a goal in your life or something that you deeply value, look for ways that you can integrate them into your daily existence. Weave them into the fabric of your life and watch how they can make you stronger, more focused, and more aware.

The goal becomes the process, and this is always good.

-Roqué

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Intention Defined and Embraced

March 12, 2018

Intention

One of the topics I explore here at Bloom is intention, and I wanted to take a moment to define, embrace, and celebrate its significance in my daily life.

First of all, what is intention?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is defined as “a determination to act in a certain way”.  Note that it is not the act itself that grounds this definition but the determination to carry it out that does.  In my experience, one’s intention is the foundation for any act in life.  The presence of an intention means that there is an awareness of one’s actions and its consequences.  There is a purpose to every movement.  There is a resolve for every reason.

Simply put:

INTENTION=

determination+awareness+a sense of purpose+mindfulness+resolve

Intention is exponential.  It reaps dividends.

Back in 2006, I moved to Nashville, TN with the intention to be a more active performing musician. Mostly, I did not know what I was doing, but I let my intention inform my actions.  First off, I started out playing open mics in the city.  Then, I booked shows at small venues and even recorded a full-length album.  By now, I have performed at several great venues and even some festivals.  My intention to perform more informed all of my decisions.  It made my path clear and focused.

It has always been worthwhile for me to know what my intention is in every scenario.  All else falls into place once this determination is made.

Of course, the intention is not the end of any road.  There is still follow-through and maintaining motivation to cultivate. I have found that setting an intention is a way to energetically say to yourself, others, and the universe for that matter where your true desires lie.  This does not guarantee an easy road ahead, but it is a fundamentally important and empowering start.

-Roqué

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Asian Representation in Popular Culture

March 5, 2018

Creativity / Culture and Society / Intention

I recently wrote a post about the dominance of White people and culture in every facet of society here in America (you can read the post HERE.), and I have been thinking a lot lately about Asian representation in popular culture. Surely there are more than just classic martial art films? (Cue the sound of crickets endlessly chirping away.)

I look over at the African-American community. They have come such a long way. Last year, the film Moonlight won best picture. They have won Oscars in all of the major acting categories. They have formidable pop stars. (Beyonce and Rihanna anyone?) Rap, R&B, and Hip hop have become mainstream mainstays. They have brought us jazz, blues, and Michael Jackson. A man by the name of Barrack Obama showed us all how its done, and recently, they have given us Black Panther–the first real African American super hero franchise. They are AMAZING.

Then, I look over at the rest of us–the Asians, Latinos, and everyone from the Middle East. We have yet to fully stake our claim at the table.  You can argue that many opportunities are being denied us, but what we must ultimately do is stand up and show up.

Unless we actively share our art with the world, no one will hear our voices. As a person of color, I need to rise above the limitations, the whitewashing, the gentrification, and the marginalizing. I need to stand up and be heard.

The cultural landscape is not completely devoid of empowered Asians. I wanted to highlight a small handful of them here who are officially kicking some serious ass. They are forging a path for the rest of us. We will all stand up and follow .  .  .

Nathan Chen

He is, arguably, the Michael Jordan of figure skating. It was refreshing to see a Chinese-American be the face of the US Olympic team in the media and in commercials leading up to the winter games in Pyeongchang, Korea. Even though we’ve already had titans like Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan before him, it felt as if this time someone of Asian descent was legitimately embraced as marketable and worthy of  hype and attention.

By the end of the competition, he made history by being the first of any Olympian to land five quad jumps in a single program in competition. He’s bad ass, and I’m so proud of how the whole country rooted for him.

Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen

Asian women have been dominant forces in American figure skating over the past few decades.  Again, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan come to mind. Carrying on in this tradition are Mirai Nagasu who was the first American woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition and her teammate Karen Chen. Both of them have been US Champions and Olympians.  Gritty athleticism, hard work, and pure talent have taken them this far. I hope many more will follow.

Francis Lam

The show “The Splendid Table” on NPR has been a longstanding favorite among food enthusiasts in America and all over the world.  When its founder and host Lynn Rossetto Kasper announced that she was retiring, there was much trepidation surrounding the show’s future. It was not long before it was announced that Francis Lam would take over as host of the show. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking, as well as an easygoing and comforting over-the-air presence, he has taken the show into new directions toward international flavors and delicacies. He is the son of Chinese immigrants and is so good at his job!  Listen to the Splendid Table on NPR! He’s totally worth it.

Vienna Teng

In the indie music scene, she is well-known, revered, and beloved. Vienna Teng is a singer/songwriter and pianist whose music is rich with poetic lyricism and gorgeous melodies. I’ve been to her shows, and she is the real deal. Her piano work is first-rate. There is a gentle shrewdness behind each of her songs. She gives us narrative arcs that force us to cram our minds into tight and uncomfortable spaces, only to set us free by the final chords. Currently, she splits her time between a successful  indie music career and work as a climate change consultant for international corporations. Isn’t that amazing? If you haven’t heard her music yet, check her out.

I will be featuring more Asian artists and content creators in the future, and I too, will stand up to be heard.

You’ll see.

-Roqué

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The Life Lessons I Have Learned

February 25, 2018

Intention

If you’re going to take the time to read what I have to write , then I need to share information that might be helpful to you, and this week, I want to share a couple of life lessons I have learned. These are important concepts and intentions that have helped to shape who I am and how I go about my day. I have many lessons to share, but today, here are two worth noting.

Lesson #1: Generally, endlessly staring  at a screen is addictive and adds less value to your life.

Television, mobile phones, and tablets cultivate a passive existence. Staring at a tv or binging on Netflix may be hugely entertaining, and watching movies can offer a break from a stressful reality.  However, doing countless hours of it leads to a passive and sedentary life. Every minute that passes by while you stare at a screen takes away time that could be spent having a conversation with a friend or loved one or actively doing creative work that you love.

In my case, I gave up on cable television many years ago. I decided to prioritize everything else over watching tv. The benefits of this have far outweighed the losses. Sure, I became unaware of the latest shows, plot lines, and movies, but it meant that I got to focus on my music and art. It meant that I got to cultivate a clean and beautiful home. It meant that I could take a luxurious nap or a walk outside. Television is a window that lets you stare passively out into the world. I would rather open a door, walk outside, and explore the world myself.

For many of us, this would be a difficult transition to make. The best way that helped me was to cut off the distraction from the source. Ending my cable subscription not only saved me money, but it created a barrier against hours of passive, sedentary, and addictive television. I have applied this mentality to anything that forces me to fixate my attention onto a screen. I limit my time on Facebook and Instagram to no more than 15 minutes each per day. This means I do not get caught in an endless comment loop or argument, and I gain valuable time to focus on time-sensitive work or long-term goals.

I am not saying that all television and passive entertainment is evil. I do allow myself to watch a movie or binge on Netflix once in a blue moon as a way to relax, but I aggressively go for moderation with the knowledge of how addictive all of it is. I impose time-limits, and I stick to them.

Lesson #2: Drinking a lot of water is one act that provides multiple benefits.

I have made it a habit every day to drink as much water as I can. At school, I carry a water bottle that I fill up when ever it gets empty. At home, I drink water in the morning and before I go to bed at night. Here are the benefits that I have discovered from drinking water:

  • It helps with the flow of food digestion in your body.
  • It rids your body of toxins.
  • It helps you to stay full longer and to eat less during a meal.
  • It helps your skin stay hydrated and prevents dryness.
  • It gives you a boost of energy and minimizes lethargy.
  • Its lack of sugar and salt means that it does not negatively impact your blood sugar or blood pressure like other drinks do.
  • It makes you feel refreshed and is a way to cleanse and invigorate your body on the inside (the way taking a shower can do so on the outside.)There may be countless more ways that drinking lots of water improves your well being, but I have enjoyed these particular benefits in my life.

The one complaint I have heard from people about drinking water is that it makes you urinate a lot. I would agree that it does; however, taking the time to pee offers a momentary break in your day to relax, breathe, and let go. This is what I do when the opportunity presents itself, and it has turned out to be a great way to help me stay present and focused throughout the day.

Also, wherever I go, I make a mental note to know where the bathrooms are. Holding it in too long is uncomfortable and not good for your body.

There you have it. These are two simple life lessons I follow that have offered exponential value on multiple levels to my life. Avoid and/or restrict addictive media on any screen (tv, mobile, etc.), and drink water many times a day.

Thank you for reading, and if you find any of this helpful, I hope it leads to a more wholesome and worthwhile existence.

-Roqué

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How To Live In the Era of President Trump

February 18, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

This has not been easy, but over the last year, I have given President Trump the benefit of the doubt. There is often a learning curve in any occupation, and being President of the United States is right up there with parenting and sewage/sanitation worker as one of the toughest jobs in the world. During his first year in office, I have watched, I have listened, and I have learned.  I’ve taken the time to observe his behavior and to build my own mindset and protective shield.

First of all, in the interest of transparency, I was not and, at this point, do not plan to be a Trump supporter. I would have preferred that Hillary Clinton had won. Her platform simply aligned more closely to my beliefs and outlook. Her defeat was a bone-crushing loss for me as it was for millions of others.

Nonetheless, I wanted to see how Trump would traverse through the steep learning curve of his ascendance. Maybe he would surprise me and be a leader that I did not know he was. At this point, here are the impressions I have gathered:

  • He is often reactionary and defensive. Just read his twitter posts.
  • He likes to elicit strong reactions from people and incite controversy. Again, look at his twitter posts, his engagement with North Korea being a prime example. Divisiveness is his M.O.
  • He is often at odds with members of his own White House staff that he selected. The high turnover rate over the past year speaks for itself.
  • Russia. In spite of his denial of any collusion, there are numerous reports from various valid sources that something has transpired or is ongoing. Whether it was a whole lot of a connection or very little, this is the monkey that cannot seem to get off his back.
  • He thinks poorly of women. The recording of him talking to a friend about grabbing a woman’s genitalia just floored me. Women are more than just their genitalia, Mr. President. It is a sad commentary about the world we live in that a man such as this defeated a woman to obtain this job.
  • He has no objection to using people’s lives as a bargaining chip for political gain. I am referring to his desire to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) if he does not get his border wall. Clearly, this is his way of playing hardball, and it may get him the result he wants. This behavior is unconscionable, and it leaves thousands of DACA recipients, many of whom are children, at the mercy of deportation and separation from their families and livelihood.

I could go on and on, but I have expressed all I want to say about my observations of this man.

The question I have left is this:

How do we live in the era of President Trump?

Well, I have a few simple suggestions.

  • Become as informed as possible. Watch news and read articles from multiple sources. This will allow you to obtain a broader view of what is happening.
  • Do not get your news from social media. Algorithms and, apparently, foreign countries like Russia can manipulate what you see on Facebook, for example. This feels like a form of mind control, and we owe it to ourselves to think independently both for ourselves and our children.
  • Do not follow Trump’s example. Instead of being reactionary, be thoughtful and considerate. Respect women and all people (as well as everyone’s genitalia for that matter). If you disagree with someone at your job, don’t just fire them. Do the hard work that creates actionable solutions.
  • Register to VOTE and then VOTE. If you do not use your voice, you have no power.
  • Seek out leaders in your community who lead with compassion. These are leaders who prioritize people and their struggles over political gain and personal ambition. Lift them up in their campaigns and as they do their work. Think about President Trump and find the opposite of that. Pursue the opposite of that.
  • Focus on coalition and community-building. As individuals, we can only do so much. If we build collaborative partnerships with groups of people who share your compassion and willingness to effect change, your power grows exponentially.
  • Let compassion be your guide. DACA recipients are not a bargaining chip. They are innocent people and children who deserve kindness and the best of what humanity can give them.

Ultimately, we live in a time when we must step up to be better than and greater than we were before. We must seek out and lead with compassion. We must be more discerning than ever. We cannot be complacent.

There is a leader within each of us, whether we are guiding other people, our own friends and families, or ourselves.

If we collectively lift up and support the least of us—the downtrodden, the poor, the disabled, refugees, our immigrant neighbors and friends—our sum total is elevated. This simple math should guide us in these trying times.

Let’s go this way. Let’s live this way.

-Roqué

Please feel free to share this post or add the link to wherever you connect with like-minded people.


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Intention: The Value of Craftsmanship

February 11, 2018

Intention

I have been thinking about the intention involved in craftsmanship a lot lately. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is defined as “one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts”. To some degree, this implies that there is a dedicated focus on the actual skill and technical ability needed create or perform at an optimum level.

Typically, the word craftsmanship is associated with any kind of artistic and manual activity that demands  at least some amount of physical and proficient movement. Woodworking, painting, or pottery are activities that come to mind, but what if we could apply it to any kind of work that we like to do? What if we relate it more with how we approach our work versus that actual work itself.

For example, I love to write as a way to express my ideas, opinions, and to tell stories, and I also love all of the mechanics that come with doing academic work in a college setting. One of these is arguably more artistic than the other, but the attributes of craftsmanship can be applied to both.

As I writer, I can take the time to understand how to clearly and eloquently convey an idea or emotion. What kind of language does that require? How can I structure sentences  to accomplish this? What are the ways that words can flow on a page as opposed to being dry and clumsy? How can I make my writing more engrossing and easy to understand?

A craftsman would approach writing by asking these questions and meticulously finding the best applicable answers. He or she would focus on the skill itself and infuse thoughtful intention towards deeply understanding any and all fundamental concepts and doing excellent quality work.

My life as a college student could also strongly utilize a craftsman’s mindset. I could analyze how I use my time in order to ensure that I can keep up with deadlines and due dates better. I can figure out the study techniques that offer maximum retention and actual understanding of concepts for an exam, and speaking of exams, I can figure out and implement test-taking best practices for all kinds of tests. There are any number of possibilities.

Whatever the pursuit,  the only important component is that you focus on the skill itself and determine ways to execute it towards as close an approximation of excellence and mastery as you can.

Whether one’s life passion is artistic, menial, scientific, simple, or multi-faceted, it is easy to fall prey to the allure of fame, money, recognition, or any other external motivator. Alternately, the craftsman relates to the work itself on a day-to-day, or even minute to minute, kind of cycle that stays fully present and in the moment.  Anything involving the ego becomes secondary, if not completely immaterial. There is a singular priority based upon doing strong and competent work.

I am writing about this to explore the idea of exemplifying craftsmanship in all that I do as a student, musician, artist, and human being. This means feeding a constant curiosity to fine-tune any work that I do to its fundamental nuts and bolts and to do it as well as possible. What excites me most about this prospect is that it cultivates a lifelong state of being towards doing work that I can be proud of and that matters to me.

A life that is lived well is a life full of deeply worthwhile pursuits.

This is how I want to live.

-Roqué

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Roqué’s Winter Music Playlist

February 4, 2018

Playlists

There are certain songs and pieces of music that seem to be perfect for the winter time. The cold winds that blow and make you feel colder, the barren and dormant trees looming everywhere, and the never-ending gray clouds all create a mood of thoughtfulness and longing.

As an introvert, this has become my favorite time of year. There are no bright colors and rays from the sun to distract you from yourself. This is the time for me to fold inward and pursue contemplation. The feeling of warmth under a blanket is the most comforting experience. Warm coffee was designed for winter.  Music of a specific mood and timbre can be the best compliment to this marriage of jarring cold and decadent warmth.

Here are some of my music picks for this lonesome wintertime  .  .  .

Within by Daft Punk

I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it. The cascading piano line at the beginning just floors me.  Searching, lost, and oh so delicate .  .  .

Karma Police by Radiohead

This song accomplishes what has made Radiohead a towering artistic force. Lead singer Thom Yorke’s vocals haunt this song with a yearning for retribution .  .  .

Kansas by Vienna Teng

I have been a fan of Vienna Teng for many years now. Of all her wonderful songs, this one is my current favorite. You get a sense of desolation from these lyrics, in the way that a place like Kansas could only evoke .  .  .

Piano In the Dark By Brenda Russell

I am going to cover this song some day. It’s so good. An oldy but goody. If you’ve ever been drawn to someone so forcefully that every attempt to let go was futile, this song is for you .  .  .

On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter

I recently discovered this piece of music when it was featured during the opening and closing segments of the film Arrival (which is a beautiful film by the way). This music takes its time to build slowly, but when it gets to where its going, you’ll want to either cry  or find someone to embrace. There is something tender and rich about this piece.  I love it so much.

Fast Car by Tracy Chapman

There is an aching hopefulness in this song, the kind that grows out of trying circumstances and when doing your best just isn’t enough. It talks about making plans for a  better future against strong odds, when one flows desperately against a rising tide.  I’ve loved this song for many years, and it is a faithful winter standard  .  .  .

Never Is a Promise by Fiona Apple

There is a reason why I have covered this song at my shows for a long time.  It radiates defiance, the same way that trees resist a hard and cold wind in the darkest of winters. We are nothing if we cannot be defiant.  This song tells you to light your own fire in spite of what you may otherwise be led to believe.  A fire in winter never felt so good .  .  .

I may feature more songs for the winter before this season ends. Until then, enjoy the nakedness of trees and the tiny slivers of sunlight that break through the grey clouds.  Or, just enjoy the grey.  Every color deserves its time to be seen.

-Roqué

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Delicious Filipino Food on The Splendid Table

January 28, 2018

Creativity / Filipino Food

This week, I wanted to highlight a recent episode of NPR’s  food and cooking show The Splendid Table in which they explore the growing Filipino food movement here in America. Being a Filipino myself, I grew up eating some of the most delicious and flavorful foods from my home country.

I have always been sad that Filipino food is not as ubiquitous as Chinese or Japanese cuisine, but maybe this is actually a blessing.  Dishes like adobo, sinigang, and lumpia can continue to be the best kept secrets that they are, and they can be spared from becoming generic and homogenized.

Here is the episode from The Splendid Table.  Its engaging host Francis Lam interviews several Filipino chefs and talks about some great Filipino restaurants across the country.  Check it out and press play  .  .  .

 

One of this episode’s interviewees, Joanne Boston, also lists some of the more prominent Filipino restaurants throughout the country.  If you live in or will be visiting these areas, check them out!  If you have never had Filipino food, it is like nothing else from Asia .  .  .

Joanne Boston’s Suggested Restaurants for Filipino Cuisine in the US

San Francisco:

  • Buffalo Theory
  • FOB Kitchen
  • Tselogs
  • Alchemy Pop-Up
  • Pampaguena
  • Manila Bowl

SF Bay Area:

  • Patio Filipino
  • Attic
  • Fort McKinley
  • Hapag Filipino

New York:

  • Purple Yam
  • Maharlika
  • Ugly Kitchen

St. Louis:

  • Guerrilla Street Food
  • Skip to Malou

Washington DC:

  • Purple Patch
  • Bad Saint

Seattle:

  • Oriental Mart
  • Hood Famous Bakeshop
  • Lahi Pop-Up
  • Food & Sh*t Pop-Up

Los Angeles and surrounding areas

  • Irenia
  • LASA
  • Ricebar

Chicago:

  • Isla Pilipina
  • Hong Ning
  • Uncle Mike’s Place

If you find yourself in a Filipino restaurant and at a loss for what to eat, I would recommend chicken or pork adobo for starters as well as lumpia. Adobo is a sweet and savory flavor that is a Filipino staple applied to any kind of meat. If cooked well, the meat is juicy and tender and the sauce can be mixed in with  the warm and sticky rice that should come with it. These elements combine to make a dining experience that will make you want to hug somebody.

Lumpia is the Filipino version of a fried egg roll, except that it is generally meat based and tastes nothing like the Chinese version. It is usually packed with all kinds of seasoning and is unapologetically crunchy and oily. They are decadent and delicious.  You will want to eat a few of these.

This will not be the last time that I blog about Filipino food. I may share some recipes and show photos of what I have cooked. So far, I know how to make adobo, Filipino fruit salad, pansit, lumpia, and dinuguan. Learning tinola and sinigang are next up on my list.

Feel free to post any thoughts and questions you might have about Filipino cuisine. Find or make a dish and savor every bite.

-Roqué

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Reading Will Save the World: My Book Notes

January 21, 2018

Reading Will Save the World

Will reading save the world?  Yes.  This is an ongoing series about books and reading that I am carrying over from the previous incarnation of this blog.  Here at Bloom, I will continue to highlight books that I love but also delve deeper into my thoughts about what reading books means to me.  This week, I explain my book notes.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be an active reader.  In my mind, it means questioning the content as one navigates through the highs and lows of a book.  It means grappling with conflicts, contemplating ideas, and seeking insight.  Reading guides us into exploring stories that relate to our life experiences and emotions.

It is all of these things and more.

So then, my next question is how?  How do I become a more active reader?  Is it enough to just read the story?  I have come to understand that active reading is more than just reading.

It’s more like hunting for treasure.  As you read, your eyes move along until you come across a quote, an idea, a message, or a moment that elicits an emotional or physical response from you.  Maybe you laughed out loud.  Maybe you started to cry. Whatever it is that made you do that–wouldn’t it be wonderful to remember it? Maybe it is a brilliant quote or a poignant passage. Wouldn’t it be awesome to hold on to that treasure?

My answer to that question is an emphatic “YES!!”.

This is why I have started to take notes from most of the books I read; however, they are not just merely words scribbled down on paper.  I found a way to make it a little more creative and fun.

My friend and fellow artist Megan Kelley (@studiomnivorous on Instagram) takes the coolest notes when she is in an audience and listening to a speaker.  I’ve seen her doing this for months and decided to try it out for the books I read.  Here is a photo of what my book notes now look like thanks to her inspiring note-taking template:

These notes are from a book I read a while ago called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.  (This is a fantastic book by the way.  It serves up an insightful and decisive primer on how to live a meaningful life. )  I generally do not acquire this much information from most books I read,  but there was so much knowledge from this particular book that I wanted to  document it all for future reference.

With my book notes, I basically go all arts and crafty with them.  I use one notebook until the pages are done. I include the name and author of the book, and I make each idea or quote part of a visual whole on the page.  Not only is this a lot more fun than just writing something down, but it helps me to process the information better by allowing each note/idea to be its own vignette.

You do not have to be a graphic artist to be able to do this.  The goal is to enjoy yourself and make the notes look awesome on the page.  Use different colors.  Create shapes.  Be goofy.

Roqué Book Notes

If there is one hard rule that I follow, it is that the notes still need to be legible.  If you can’t read it later, it becomes worthless.  Remember that.

If I am reading the actual book and do not want to stop reading, I mark the desired passage with a pencil or fold the corner of the page.  This lets me get back to a noteworthy point later on to add it to my book notes.

You might find just two or as much as twenty items from a book that are worthy of documentation.  In either case, this is a fun way of keeping those treasures for posterity and future inspiration.  By the way, if you have a child who loves to read, this form of treasure hunting might be a way to make reading more engaging and enjoyable.

Go ahead.  Hunt for treasure. Take your own book notes.  Make them fun.

Special thanks to Megan Kelley for ongoing inspiration.

-Roqué

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My New Baby Grand Piano

I Am Not White, and I Have Less Power

 

 

My New Baby Grand Piano

January 14, 2018

Piano

Life is full of glorious surprises. I never imagined that I would ever own a grand piano of any kind. I have been content to play them at music venues and showrooms. They are notoriously expensive and justifiably so. Depending on the brand and condition, one would typically pay the same amount of money that you would for a brand new car. They are not cheap and certainly qualify as a long-term investment.

Well, rewind my life to almost two months ago, a friend of ours who works at the arts center in a nearby town called and told us that a local woman was offering to donate a grand piano to them. Perhaps they did not need one (!!!!!!!) because they declined her generous offer. Our friend was calling because he wanted to know if I MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN HAVING IT (!!!!!!).

I was bewildered while standing in our kitchen as I heard this.

A grand piano? Me? Whaaaaaaat?

I obtained the woman’s contact information, and we arranged a meeting a few days later. I arrived at her house, which sat high up on a hill. It had a view of gently rolling hills that people would pay thousands of dollars to see every day as part of their home. They rolled gracefully into a beckoning horizon. I had to pause and stare at it before I got out of my car.

She was incredibly charming when she first greeted me and ushered me into a house that was tailor-made for her and her husband. It was less of a house and more of a rustic cabin castle. It was somebody’s dream home. I walked into a living room that had a wall of windows that looked out into their stunning hilltop view.

There was so much to take in, but my eyes hunted for the object of my desire. I did not need to look far because it stood in the far corner of the room that stood opposite from the entryway. Prior to this, I had no idea what it looked like or even sounded like outside of knowing that it was a grand piano. To my surprise, it was a baby grand. A gorgeous and finely built baby grand piano.

I sat down at the piano bench and carried out my usual introduction whenever I meet a new piano. It is my equivalent of a friendly, gentle, and warm handshake. I slowly press down on one key on the treble side, usually an A or an E, and then something on the bass clef (whichever key calls to me I guess). The sound I receive from each key almost always tells me everything I need to know about the piano. My ears hear its timbre and tonal quality immediately. I have played enough pianos in my life to discern its character through this simple interaction. Pianos do not need to say much to tell you all that you need to know. You just have to listen.

From there, I might play a simple mid-tempo number or two just to get acquainted. This is not an exchange for showing off with a bombastic piece. To be overbearing is to be rude. Pianos are shy creatures.

What I heard when I met this piano was a rich tone buried deep underneath years of neglect. I knew instantly that it was not a lost cause, as many neglected pianos tend to become. With a little bit of work, I knew that this could be a fine instrument.

The offer for me to have the piano free of charge was made upon my conversation with the owner. I accepted the offer, and I walked out of that rustic castle as the new owner of a baby grand piano.

A month later and with some logistical maneuvering, I enlisted the help of seven strong friends (one of whom was experienced in moving pianos). On a cold and rainy fall afternoon, we managed to transport the piano on a big, hefty truck a few miles away to my home. It had a damaged leg that was repaired the next day, and after giving it a few weeks to settle into its new environment (and to finish out a hectic semester at university), it had its first official tuning by our neighborhood piano tuner this last week.

I have played it a lot ever since. It still needs some work, but at this point, it makes a big and full sound across the board. This piano is coming back to life. It will not be neglected again, certainly not by me.

I love this piano. I love it very much.

-Roqué

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