2016: A year of change and adjustment for things to come…

2016 will definitely be a year to remember. Aside from the election of a new president (remember, God tests us…), this is the first full year that I have shared together with my wife since we were married in 2014 in Shenzhen, China.

I relocated to San Diego, California to escape the harsh winters of the northeast. I think I also brought some of the coldest (it recently registered 35 degrees F) and rainy weather the area has seen for quite some time! I found myself wondering: What happened to Global Warming?

Those cold nights and that rainy weather make up just a small portion of the climatic change for this New York City fellow. I like the fact that mosquitoes are virtually nonexistent. The air is relatively dry which is great for my asthma. It really can be Sunny Southern California!

The cost of living is a little lower. I can’t say enough good things about the quality of the foods. One minute I have a fetish for Fuji apples, the next, I’ve got a taste for sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. Oranges are everywhere. I have developed quite a cross-cultural palate and my wife has become quite versatile in accommodating it. Why drink bottled orange juice when you can have fresh squeezed everyday?

This first thing she purchased when she disembarked from the plane from China was a rice cooker. I had been “conditioned” in college during economics courses to think of rice as an inferior food and for a long while, leaned toward pasta dishes. Today, you will find me debating whether to use long grain Basmati rice for a particular dish or medium grain “sushi” or Japanese-type rice. It’s all good as long as I can mix it with some sweet potatoes! I recently learned how to scramble an egg with turkey sausages in the rice cooker. The egg was extra fluffy. I have regained the 20 odd pounds I lost during depression. My wife’s goal is to make me fat. I don’t think it is possible but I do enjoy eating again.

On a more serious note, I learned the importance of the people that God has placed in my life, throughout my life. At this point in time, I have outlived both of my parents. My body is still relatively strong. My mind, which was damaged by my stroke in 2009, continues to heal itself. Alhamdulillah!

My Mother died when I was 7 years old. Fortunately, God provided me which many surrogate mothers, from my Cub Scout Pack 198 Den Mother, Mrs. Brice to “Mrs. Mac.” I remember my best friend’s mother cleaning the wax from my ears with a bobby pin. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, but no one will ever know the love I felt this woman over this gesture. Alhamdulillah! I have learned to love all mothers. It is written that, “Heaven lies at the feet of mothers.” This I truly believe.

I have helped produce three healthy, college educated children who check up on me regularly, “Hey, Pop! Just checkin’ in to see how you are doing…” When I was experiencing extreme depression, after my stroke and was considering the intrinsic value of my life. It was thoughts of them that restored my will to live. Alhamdulillah!

I have made and lost a fortune, and seek to make another, InshAllah (God willing)! When I had wealth I shared it and tried to make sure everyone around me benefited. I gave a party for my 50th birthday. One hundred and thirty people showed up representing all aspects of my life. Family members, friends, business associates, Kendo brothers and old college classmates attended. I saw my “history” in front of me, from the infant who started life on Cumberland Street in Brooklyn, from Wall Street to Westchester County, New York. From Brooklyn Technical High School to Cornell University to Columbia University Graduate School of Business. But I really wasn’t that happy… Allah-u-Alim (God knows…)

Today, I am grateful for everything that I have experienced. I am even grateful for  social media such as Facebook! It allows to keep to contact with family, friends and colleagues throughout the world, literally, from New York to Florida, from Georgia to San Francisco to Seattle, Washington to Hawaii. From Jakarta, Indonesia to Algeciras, Spain to Morocco, to Margarite, Venezuela from Tokyo, Osaka and Kochi, Japan, to Shenzhen, Huizhou, Guilin, Guanxi and Yangshuo China, my family gets larger and the Earth gets smaller… I can attest to the notion that, the World is Truly a Beautiful Place!

God really is our Nurturer and Sustainer! He is Most Forgiving. All He requires is Remembrance of Him.

My Lord, please help me to avoid that which is wrong, evil, immoral and dishonest
And keep me on the straight path.
My Lord, please help me to achieve my dreams and aspirations
And keep me on the straight path.
My Lord, please help me to stay in thy favor
And keep me on the straight path.

And Lord, please watch over me, my family and friends in the coming year.
Please give us all wisdom, better health, greater prosperity and peace of mind.
Amin!

Nasi Goreng

A little more than a year ago, I was in Jakarta, Indonesia for a brief vacation.  I came across a dish that I used to make in Brooklyn for my brother and my niece when we were all quite young. Me being the oldest of the group, I considered myself a bit industrious in the kitchen. My trip to Jakarta triggered the memory of a meal I had long since forgotten.

We didn’t have much food in those days and there were times that I would have to watch the two of them. I would have to make do with whatever was leftover in the refrigerator.  I did not know that what I was making at the time was a variation of an Indonesian dish or for that matter a variation of something that could be picked up at your local Chinese restaurant. I am of the opinion that this dish is quite popular throughout parts of Asia and maybe even South America.

I would take some leftover rice, chopped onions, two eggs, some green peas or peas and carrots and fry it all in a little butter. I would also take a couple of pieces of leftover chicken, slice and dice it up and add that to the mixture. This turned into a meal “fit for both pauper and prince”.

Recently, I concocted a “modified” version of my “nasi goreng”(fried rice). I went to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant, greeted the owner, “Gong Hai Fa Cai” (Happy New Year!). (I like to “show a little love” to those who make my food…) I ordered a simple shrimp fried rice dish for takeout. When I got home, I scrambled two eggs, added some green peas and a generous serving of hot sauce to spice it up. A friend had brought me some frozen dumplings from Trader Joe’s that I wanted to try. I nuked those and added them as a side dish. Voila! A meal fit for a king!

I tell you this story because I truly realize that there is more that we have in common than that which should keep us apart. We all eat variations of the same foods! There is a passage in the Quran,  “We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.” (49:13) I believe that.

We all know the difference between good and evil. Embrace what is good and condemn that which is evil. Try to be less selfish and more selfless. Exercise compassion in your personal lives. These things mean more to me, as I get older. We grow physically closer to each other with advances in transportation and communication. Strive to know your neighbor. He is closer to you than you imagine.  And remember, diversity is our strength!