3 days – 3 years


As you begin to realize that every different type of music, everybody’s individual music, has its own rhythm, life, language and heritage, you realize how life changes, and you learn how to be more open and adaptive to what is around us.

-Yo-Yo Ma

I am 3 days from the end of my 3 year tour in Lagos, Nigeria.  It has been as amazing as I have expected it to be and as good as any other place I have had the pleasure of living and working.  The people are magic and the country is unfound gold.  Yes, there were ups and downs.. good people with bad….like every where.  Unlike everywhere, there were electrical outages, random housing alarms, floods, bacterial and parasitical infections, needing to leave 10 hours ahead of a flight to ensure you get to the airport in time to fly out, and of course chaotic traffic issues.

However, if you open your eyes, heart and mind to what is around you, you can find the smiles and the warmth that exist beyond the frustration, image or object that is directly in front of you.  When you can do that, you will find that as different as everything is around you, at the core of it all, it is still very much the same of who and what you are.. just people in a random part of the world trying to make a living and a life.   You will find that you have become a part of a life that at times had seemed incomprehensible and that life has now become a part of you.

When I arrived in Nigeria, I was considered a tough manager who was too hard on the people I was managing.  My expectations were too high and I did not cut anyone any slack.  A year into my position, I held an awards dinner for my staff because not only did they meet my bar but they surpassed my expectations for achieving a cohesive and high-functioning team.  Before I could even present my award to my team, they stopped me and actually gave me a speech at how much I positively affected their lives and their work.  The team lead started out by saying, “My oga (big boss), when you arrived it was like a hurricane…” another team member shouted out, “MORE LIKE A TSUNAMI!!!” This brought chuckles but also earned me the affectionate nickname “Tsunami Sam”

On Friday they gave me a shirt and told me that on Monday, my very last day of work here, we would all wear this shirt.  I am proud of my team and proud of myself for breaking down walls, changing hearts (mine as well).. and leaving Nigeria on a super positive note.  I will miss Nigeria with a passion.  I basically say this at the end of every tour.. and I basically mean what I say.  Nigeria I will miss you!!

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One of the girls even drew a pencil sketch of me.. amazing…

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I will end with some photos of my last few walks.  I will miss … not miss … some of the hazards of walking on the sidewalks.. not really sidewalks of Lagos.  I hope you have enjoyed my visions of Nigeria as much as I have enjoyed sharing some of my experiences here.

And off I go!!

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.   – Steven Wright

I don’t know what my path is yet. I’m just walking on it.   – Olivia Newton-John

As much as it changes..


So it stays the same….

Today’s Daily Prompt was “Everything Changes” intermixed with transformation. It was a perfect theme for me this week.  It couldn’t have been more appropriate.  The past few months have been outrageously busy trying to learn a language, fit in friends and family, a few travels intermixed in it all.  Quite the “Wild” ride which happens to coincide with Ailsa’s theme of the week.  The biggest surprise of all to me is that I’ve actually been mostly keeping up with it.  Tiredly keeping up.. but still keeping up.

The entire month of May was booked.  Friends coming in from all over the place to check out DC while I have been here.  This month has taken me to Washington State for a wedding, Philadelphia and New York will be happening over the next few weeks then in September I will be testing out of language and heading off to Nepal for work.  From there who knows what will happen or where I will go.

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Sometimes I feel that this aspect of my life will NEVER change.  Sometimes this makes me very happy and sometimes it just makes me a little tired.

This past weekend I was able to get 2 days free to fly from DC to Washington State to attend my sister’s wedding, visit with my kids, grandkids and other family members.  Sadly no friend visits happened.  However, what can you do in 4 lowly days?  Trying to fit everything in within a very limited time-frame is a constant in my life. Moving from job to job or country to country requires fitting it all in when where ever you go.  I wonder if I am purposely choosing this or if this lifestyle is simply a part of my subconscious desire to stay unconnected and will I ever allow myself..allow this current fact to change?  Right now I don’t think so.  So for now I like it and for now it stays the same.

So to my wedding trip to Washington.  This visit was long in coming. My daughter’s did not know I would be there because I had told them I could not get ANY time off. Which is typically the case during training so not much of a stretch. However, I did in fact get 2 days off after begging the circumstances.  I was able to keep the secret (mostly) and surprise them (completely) which might have been my favorite part of the trip.  It was a terribly hard secret to keep because they kept on expressing how sad they were that I could not come.  This “not being there” has also been a bit of a constant in my life.  I’m looking forward to a time in the future when the separations will be shorter in duration and possibly no separations at all.

I am not sure about this but I think I am right.  I know that regarding my own life I am right.  Every family has a history and because the family bond is so different from any other relationship you will ever have, the emotions you experience when you reconnect and once again gather your family around you oftentimes equates to reliving and re-enacting some of the strongest emotions ever.  These emotions might be good, bad or extremely ugly.  Sometimes no matter how much changes.. and EVERYTHING changes.. sometimes it really just stays the same.  No matter how much time passes I feel that every time I am with my family I revert back to my childhood and those tumultuous and strong emotions replay themselves.  Not always with the same person but they are always in the background.  Always the same.  We each seem to take on our childhood roles like a comfortable cloak.  OK.. maybe this is one of the things I should try to change.. at least partly change.

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This isn’t always a bad thing and more often than not it isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it really is and I feel that it will be something that will always remain the same.  No matter how often I try to change that.. it seems to magically stay the same.

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Patricia, Veronica, Samantha

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Veronica, Patricia, Dad, Sam

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Veronica, Sam

There were other reasons this trip was very important to me.  I hadn’t seen my half-brother or sister in several years and though I wasn’t sure they were coming they did in fact show up.  I was pretty excited about this because I live and work so far away I do not often find the time to meet up with all of them.

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Vinnie (half-sis) Veronica, Hap – (half-bro), Sam

One of my favorite aunt’s also showed up with her husband and my older sister flew in from Ohio. I wish that more could have come to my sister’s wedding, but sometimes you have to take what you can get right?

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Veronica, Linda (aunt) Bruce (uncle)

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Distance is a huge constant in my life.  It is one of the things that for me has really changed.  When I was young we had huge family gatherings at least once a year and usually more often than that.  I miss them and wish we all lived closer or at least had the financial means to travel throughout the year and visit each other more often.

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Mike, Barry, Sam, Patricia (always Pati to us) Veronica (always Roni) and Cheri

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Roni, Sami and the cousins

Ironically, the one person I wanted to re-connect with, the main event per se… I could not even get close to and I mean that on so many levels.  People change as they grow and sometimes change causes riffs and separations.  I accept these consequences of change and embrace most of them even when these changes sometimes bring sadness and confusion.  Being comfortable is nice but sometimes “nice” is not always a good thing.  This to me is a pretty wild thing. I mean, how can you be so close to someone and yet so far away at the same time?

So as some things change other things will stay the same. As transformation occurs other things will change and still more things will stay the same.  Despite all the changes and despite all of the things that have remained the same the event was stellar. Though I didn’t get to see her or talk one on one, the following pictures catch the elusive sister P- and the beautiful wedding.  At least in photo and in writing about it I feel that I have found a way to spend a little special one-on-one time with her. For me enjoying family time will never change… no matter how I accomplish it. Furthermore, I have faith that sometime in the future.. as it has in the past.. a change is gonna come..

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the event.

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“Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we’re related for better or for worse…and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”
― Rick RiordanThe Sea of Monsters

AND that my friend.. will NEVER change..

31-days-of-randomness-personal-inspiration-30/31 – My Hands


In continuation of my 31 days of randomness  – Day 30 & 31 – Do what you can..with your own 2 hands.

I AM actually combining day 30 and 31 because I’ll be going deep for the next 3 days and I am in fact a day behind.  When I say deep I mean vacationing.. I was going to leave it a mystery but decided that might not be a good idea.

My hands in the world

My inspiration today and actually for most of my life has been to understand what I can do and do it.  As a child I used to worry about everything.  I was hyper-tense at 13 to the point my parents took me to a doctor and had me evaluated.  The evaluation produced no conclusive results about my health and I stayed in this super agitated stated until about my mid-20s when it dawned on me that I tended to put 100% of everything I was into every situation presented.

Over the years I have found inspiration in understanding that there is only so much one can do.  I often seek words and music that reinforce that concept.  The following are some of my favorites.  Some are recently found and others I have been listening to and reading for quite some time.  I hope you enjoy.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Theodore Roosevelt

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” ― John Wesley

Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself. Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can.  – Gary Comer, founder of Land’s End

Nothing would be done at all if a man waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.  -Cardinal Newman

This all started from a random site I found called thenester.com.  Apparently there is a group of people who have committed to posting a topical theme a day for 31 days.  31 Dayers 2012.  In 30 days I have re-posted only 800 of the over 1200 bloggers who have participated in this 31 day commitment.  It would be worth a click to go check out the ones I have missed.  I hope you have enjoyed my posts.. and in fairness I’m really glad these 31 days are over.  It was a fun challenge but wow.. 31 (or 30) days on one topic was a super challenge.

Teachable Moment – Reversal


If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.  ~Mary Engelbreit

For those of you who have quiet moments, what do you think about?  When you have had the absolutely worst day, week or life you could ever imagine what do you focus on?  Where you are?  How you got there?  Where you wish you were?  How bad your life is?  How or when will things change for the better?  How many mistakes you made and how impossible it will be to get out of whatever it is you got yourself into?

It’s so easy to get into a situation and only focus on the bad or about the worst that might come and then to also couple those thoughts with all of your self-doubt and self-perceived weaknesses and how life is never going to change.  It’s called a rut and sometimes the only way to get out of it is to change your location/position or shift the way you are thinking or as I like to call it reversal of thought.

I remember a time long ago when I was struggling with something.  I don’t even remember now what it was. I just remember being distraught.  I was in great emotional distress and  pain.  My oldest daughter was very young and I had what I remember to be the weight of the world on my shoulders.  One night I called up my older sister and was explaining in details the dramas and traumas of my life.  I now know in retrospect that it could not have been that bad because the only thing now I remember about the conversation is that it had been going on for over an hour and then in the end it went something like this:

Me:  It’s terrible.  I just don’t know what to do.  Every night after I put Miranda down to sleep I start a very, very hot bath, I get into the tub and in less than a few minutes I am crying.

Sister:  That is terrible.  Do you know what I think you should do? Stop taking hot baths.

I know that some might think this a very unsupportive remark, cruel even but the truth is I started laughing.  It was exactly the remark I needed to really start thinking about my situation in a different light and it helped me realize that maybe my problem wasn’t that big.  That’s where my personal reversal of thinking started for that particular situation.

Different situation.  It was brought to my attention by my younger sister that I was, let’s say, living several levels below the poverty line.  I really didn’t realize it at the time until one day I get a call from said sister asking me tons of questions like, “How can you possibly be living how you are living with so little?” Well, I never thought much about it at the time as I chose not to think of myself as living in poverty. I chose other words to describe myself like: “minimalist” “gone green””less is more”. Get it, reversal.

One last example about me.  After 20 years of minimalism I land a job that .. .. .. paid. This job required me to move to my current location (Venezuela – if you haven’t read any of my last posts or saw my countdown timer on my main page.. I can update you later).  I was super excited and started buying all of the things that I didn’t realize people with more means than I already had .. a vacuum cleaner, a blender, professional work clothes, dishes.. etc.  All of these new belongings were placed in a container and shipped to Venezuela.  Well, 4 months after arriving in Venezuela (remember I’m only here 2 years) the day arrived and I was giddy with excitement.  I thought to myself, “This will be like Christmas.  I spent so much money.”  I get home to receive my container and this is what awaits me.

My worldly goods

Apparently, and no one knows how it happened, everything I owned had been sitting under sea water for about 3.5 months.  Everything was pretty much destroyed.  Obviously I was a bit upset, but not as much as one would imagine, but still upset.  So I call my dad and the conversation goes something like this:

Me:  Yeah dad, it’s terrible.  EVERYTHING I owned was in that container and it was all destroyed.

Dad: Well, why did you spend so much money to get all that stuff?

Me:  Because I didn’t have ANYTHING dad.

Dad:  Well, you don’t have anything now either do ya?

I know that some might think this a very unsupportive remark, cruel even but the truth is I started laughing.  (Are you seeing a pattern?  I have a very demented sense of humor).

When I taught English in Korea one of my favorite assignments was about how changing the way you say something or think of something could change everything.  I called it “The reversal” I used this video in my class and sometimes go back to it to remind myself how easy it can be to simply reverse your way of thinking to re-motivate yourself and change your own life and possibly the lives of others.  Enjoy