A few of my favorite things – 2013 in review

Thanks to all who have been following my blog, commenting on it and actually enjoying it.  I really appreciate your comments.  I mean I really, really do.  I have enjoyed and have been inspired my many of your posts as well.  Thanks again to all who have stopped by and even nominated me for special awards. In honor of the end of an old year and the beginning of a new year I am going to highlight the past year with some of my favorite, favorite photos from 2013.

I left Venezuela in December of 2012 and from Venezuela went and visited my children in Washington State, from Washington, I took a train with my youngest daughter and her son to Chicago and then went on to New York.  After a few weeks in New York I traveled down to DC and on to North Carolina for a week.  After North Carolina I went back to DC and began an 8 month Nepali language course.  During the course I had several old friends visit me in DC.  Some friends were from the military and some were from high school.  I took trips to New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Richmond, VA.  I went to wine tastings and food festivals.  Finally I passed my Nepali test and WOW.. ended up in Kathmandu, Nepal.  Those are the nuts and bolts.

What happened emotionally for me was some beautiful births from family and long-time friends.  My sister got married and the wedding was such a touching and emotional event for me. I can’t adequately describe to you now nor to my sister at the time at how proud of her I was and glad I was to be her sister. I had emotional break downs with my older sister who got me to laughing and re-thinking my state. Man I love that girl.  I was able to meet up with family and friends I haven’t seen for so long and it was like time had never passed.  There was a completely unexpected death of a very amazing young friend that shook me to the core.  I’m still dealing with some of the emotions that came from that. I was able to find a very old and dear friend that meant so much to me for so long and from that I had to come to terms with some truths about life and love.  Letting go and reconnecting, meeting new friends and re-affirming long time friendships. I have spent a lot of time this year coming to terms with who I am and what I’m willing to accept and realizing that there are some serious changes in me that need to take place. There was awe, joy and great satisfaction at people, places and things and personal accomplishments.  There was shock, horror and extreme emotional despair at people, places and things and a new-found understanding of life in general. I put up way too many photos here but there were tons more that could have been used.  No photo can clearly express how I am feeling at this moment of remembering all of these things and right now there are no more words to say.

To all, have a prosperous and happy (focus on happy) New Year. Stay safe.

I hope you enjoy.

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.  ~Edward de Bono

Have a safe and happy new year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,100 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Attractions in 2013

These are the posts that got the most views in 2013. You can see all of the year’s most-viewed posts in your Site Stats.

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2013. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

Click here to see the complete report.

Memories are all we ever really have…

This is a difficult thing to write out.  I lost a good friend this weekend.  Part of me doesn’t want to talk about it but part of me needs to.  I don’t know if it is something I have to do to help me come to terms with such a loss or if it is because I want to share with everyone I know what they will not really hear about from the news… from others who did not know her.  Her name was Anne.. we were friends and co-workers.

I know that I wasn’t her BEST friend.  However, Anne had a way of making everyone feel that they were.  She had a way of giving everyone the type of attention that just made them feel very special.  She had an infectious smile and a wicked sense of humor.  We had spoken less than a week ago and she was telling me she was enjoying her time but looking forward to coming back to the states and preparing for her next posting.  Everyone I know was looking forward to her coming back and just looking forward to watching her advance through her career.

She was an amazing young lady who had so much ahead of her.  Barely 2 years older than my oldest daughter yet with so much poise, grace, humor, humbleness and intelligence.  She was a beautiful person who was loved and respected by everyone.  She was half my age and yet I looked up to her and wished I could be so eloquent, so kind and so beautiful inside and out.   I had been asked to write a review of her for a position she was applying for and I never once had to pause and think of something to say that might fit into a category that would make her “qualify” for anything.  She qualified for everything on her own merit.  She was honest, hard-working and most of all caring.

I spent almost 2 years working with her in Venezuela.  When it came time for all of us to start looking for our next postings, true to her nature she applied for and received an outstanding position that really suited her personality as well as her ability.  She would be working in a public affairs office in a country desperately in need of a person (of people) like her.  She chose this position because it carried with it the opportunity to do something she loved and felt was worthwhile.  She really did believe that she could change the world.

Anne was with a group of people who were presenting books to a school in a little town in Afghanistan.  These books were written by American authors but translated into the local language to help present a different picture of the world for these young kids.  They were gifts to children that really don’t have much else.. especially in the way of education.  Anne believed in this work and was very excited about this opportunity.

Sadly, she and other members of the military and civilian community were killed and others were injured.  You can watch the news or read the papers to get all the sick details.. I don’t have the stomach for it right now.  They were allegedly not the intended targets.. just some people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In my opinion, there is really never a right place for the hate that was demonstrated that day.  I don’t understand the type of people who commit these atrocities.. the sickness.. the hatred.. I don’t understand the rationality… largely because there is none.

I do understand that this was the job she chose.. and she chose it with serious consideration. The newspapers wrote amazing things about her.. everyone has spoken of her sacrifice and how she died making a difference.  They wrote of how she chose this job only with the motive of making a difference.. which she was doing…so many amazing photos and memories and kind words everywhere about her.  These words and things right now are no consolation to me. I know in time they will be.. but…

…right now I’m devastated .. sadly I have to get up in the morning and continue on.  I’d like to take a week to mourn.. but even a week would not bring her back.  It’s beyond anger that I feel. I know that there is always room for hate and anger.. and that is what those people want.. I don’t want to give it to them.. I won’t give it to them.

I want to think of Anne only as how I remember her.. spontaneous, strong and kind.  I want to try to only think of the good things about her and the fun times we had..and to remember she did die making a difference… even though at this time that makes no difference to those of us left behind….

Life is precious.. and memories are all we ever really have .. keep the good ones.  Thanks for listening.

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How to Get Lucky

Loved this article enough to reblog it.. It was written so much better than I could have hoped to express it… Luck takes practice, chances and a lot of hard work… I highly recommend everyone go out and get lucky at least once a month.. Getting “lucky” in life becomes second nature once you make it a habit..good luck with your endeavor…

Everywhere Once

On good days I accept it as a compliment; a sincere expression of admiration. Other times, though, it’s hard not to take the meaning literally.

“You’re so lucky.”

Lucky. The word hangs in the air like an accusation.

In many ways we are lucky. We’re lucky to have been born to middle class families in the richest country on earth. We’re lucky to have been raised by loving parents; to have received a good education; to have our health and all of our faculties. I’m immensely grateful, every day, for my good fortune.

In short, we’re lucky in the same way that millions of other middle class residents of developed countries are lucky. Everything else took effort, determination, sacrifice and, perhaps most importantly, a strong belief that we are the masters of our fate.

Which brings me to the other thing I hear when someone says “You’re so lucky:” capitulation…

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Sandy- My ducks are in a Row – Finally

I’m not going to premise this topic with too many details, but a slight history is the only way you might understand what I am about to say.  Let’s just say I’ve had a multitude of careers in my life.  (legal field, teaching, carpentry, plumbing, meat department, flag-waving, flower sales, vacuum cleaner sales, police work, life-student, ponderer, cheer-leader, volunteer…and I am positive there are a few things I have missed and yes, I realize not all of these are legitimate occupations).  As you might recall from my past post Freakn Thru, even I am not sure how I ended up in most of these jobs.   Now I am in a different job which is VERY different..

Going back in time…..(imagine dreamy music followed by a dizzying blend of backwards movement)

My last boss, for some unknown reason, gave everyone in the office a duck for every holiday.  So everyone pretty much had every holiday duck imaginable.  I really had only been under this boss’s supervision long enough to collect about 3 seasons of ducks.

Well, two weeks ago I noticed a strange phenomena on my desk…Notice there are 4 ducks not 3.

I didn’t give it much thought.  I mean who would.  Especially due to the turned reindeer duck.. hmmm.. interesting.

About a week ago, I noticed a change.  There was a slight increase in the number of ducks.  I asked around and no one could really explain to me what was happening.

Suddenly I remembered an incident from about a year ago when there had apparently been a duck-napping.  The alarm had been sounded, people were up in arms, angry notes were passed back and forth requesting the release of the napped ducks.  One eventually turned up with a missing head but for the most part they were never recovered.  Could there be a connection? Refer to duck-napping story..

The Universe

Police Beat 11/28/11: Ducknapping


Nov. 20: A female reported seeing two individuals feeding ducks while standing very close to the water. One approached and grabbed a duck while the other recorded the event on his cell phone. They put the duck in a bag and ran to an older model pickup truck and drove west down 800 North.

Then a few days ago..

What the freak is going on?  I have no answers at this point… Which is not that uncommon in my life… then it hit me..

Back to the present.. (dreamy music again — only — fade forward)

I sat there pondering the multitude of jobs I have had in the past and it dawned on me, there was one job in particular that I will never forget and that is largely due to my life mentor (Yes Sandy that would be you) who was always prepared to give me sage advice, a little chastisement and occasionally a long, sad eye-roll followed by the statement, “Sam, you really need to get your ducks in a row!”

It all came together this morning when I entered the office and saw this..

Is it possible?  Could it be?  Can I make that phone call I’ve been waiting forever to make and say those words I’ve been waiting to say, “Sandy – My ducks are in a row – Finally!!!

Thank you Sandy –

Pope Sandy Duck

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Casting Shadows

Shadows on the wall, are they real?

“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.”

― E.M. ForsterA Room with a View

During my two days on the couch re-couping from who knows what, I had ample opportunity to peruse the blogosphere and came upon some really great stories, pictures, advice and new ideas from so many great places.

Shadows at play

Shadows kicking it around

One great idea from a great blog came from RUTH E HENDRICKS PHOTOGRAPHY who posted a photo of grandmother and granddaughter in shadow.  I find shadows intriguing.  I know there is a simple explanation:

shadows3rd person singular present, plural of shad·ow

A dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface.
Envelop in shadow; cast a shadow over.

Inanimate Shadows

It is true that shadows appear when any form of light approaches from any direction.  They are created or cast to the ground from people or solid objects.  They can be simple or complex depending on the type of light and object that they are representing.  Shadows play an important role in how we see the world. They give depth and breadth to the objects in our life as well as to our lives generally speaking.  They contribute to life and realism, tension in movies are developed by shadows.    Realistic and distorted perceptions of the world are realized through shadows.

Tree shadows

Shadows are more complex then we give them credit for, you will know that if you have ever taught a lesson on Shadows in your life, tried to make a dog bark or an eagle fly through hand-shadows.  Shadows are fascinating.  People in general are fascinated by shadows and most people have their own interpretation or definition of what a shadow is and what they might imply.

Shadow words

The bottom line is in my opinion, everyone and everything casts a shadow.  There are very few moments when you will not cast a shadow. I believe it is important to spend time thinking about the life that you are living and what kind of shadow you are casting.

Shadows in cellars

Our shadow is with us wherever we go.  They don’t affect us as much as they affect others, we don’t even know the half of who is being affected by them most of the time.

What kind of shadow are you casting?

Now in all honesty, I am not a religious person by any means.  I have my beliefs and my beliefs include the idea that we leave a footprint, a shadow of our presence wherever we go and whatever we do.  For that reason I really love the following story and what it implies.  Enjoy.

The Shadows We Cast

J. R. Miller

“For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” Romans 14:7

Every one of us casts a shadow. There hangs about us, a sort of a strange, indefinable something, which we call personal influence—that has its effect on every other life on which it falls. It goes with us wherever we go. It is not something we can have when we want to have it, and then lay aside when we will, as we lay aside a garment. It is something that always pours out from our lives, as light from a lamp, as heat from flame, as perfume from a flower.

The ministry of personal influence is something very wonderful. Without being conscious of it, we are always impressing others by this strange power that exudes from us. Others watch us—and their thinking and actions are modified by our influence. Many a life has been started on a career of beauty and blessing—by the influence of a noble act. The disciples saw their Master praying, and were so impressed by His earnestness or by the radiance they saw on His face as He communed with His Father, that when He joined them again—they asked Him to teach them how to pray. Every sincere person is continually impressed by the glimpses he has of loveliness, of holiness, or of nobleness in others. One kind deed often inspires others to act in a kinder way.

Here is a story from a newspaper which illustrates this. A little newsboy entered a subway train, and dropping into a seat was soon asleep. At the next stop two young ladies came in and took seats opposite to him. The child’s feet were bare, his clothes were ragged, and his face was pinched and drawn, showing marks of hunger and suffering. The young ladies noticed him, and seeing that his cheek rested against the hard window-sill, one of them arose and quietly raising his head, slipped her folded scarf under it for a pillow.

The kind act was observed, and now mark its influence. An old gentleman in the next seat, without a word, held out a quarter to the young lady, nodding toward the boy. After a moment’s hesitation she took it, and as she did so, another man handed her a dime, a woman across the aisle held out some pennies and almost before the young woman realized what she was doing, she was taking a collection, everyone in the car passing her something for the poor boy. Thus from the young woman’s one gentle little act—there had gone out a wave of influence touching the hearts of almost forty people, and leading each of them to do something.

Common life is full of just such illustrations of the influence of kind deeds. Every godly life leaves a twofold ministry in this world: that of the things it does directly to bless others; and that of the silent influence it exerts, through which others are made better, or inspired to do like good things.

Influence is something, too, which even death does not end. When earthly life closes, a godly man’s work ceases. He is missed in the places where his familiar presence has brought blessings. No more are his words heard by those who have many times been cheered or comforted by them. No more do his benefactions find their way to homes of need where so often they have brought relief. No more does his loving friendship minister strength or hope or courage to hearts that have learned to love him. The death of a godly man in the midst of his usefulness, cuts off a blessed ministry of helpfulness in the circle in which he has lived. But his influence continues!

The influence which our dead have over us—is frequently very great. We think we have lost them—when we see their faces no more, nor hear their voices, nor receive the accustomed kindness at their hands. But in many cases, there is no doubt that what our loved ones do for us after they are gone—is quite as important as what they could have done for us had they stayed with us. The memory of beautiful lives is a blessing, softened and made more rich and impressive, by the sorrow which their departure caused. The influence of such sacred memories is in a certain sense, more tender than that of life itself. Death transfigures our loved one, as it were, sweeping away thefaults and blemishes of the mortal life—and leaving us an abiding vision in which all that was beautiful and pureand gentle and true in him, remains to us.

We often lose friends in the competitions and strife of earthly life, whom we would have kept forever had death taken them away in the earlier days, when love was strong. Often is it true, “He lives to us—who dies; but he is lost—who lives.” Thus even death does not quench the influence of a godly life. It continues to bless others—long after the life has passed from earth.

Therefore, we need to guard our influence with most conscientious care. It is a crime to carry contagion to men’s homes. It is a worse crime to send out a printed page bearing words infected with the virus of moral death. The men who prepare and publish the vile literature which today goes everywhere polluting and defiling innocent lives, will have a dreadful account to render when they stand at God’s bar to meet their influence. If we would make our lives worthy of God and a blessing to the world—we must see to it that nothing we do shall influence others to do evil in the slightest degree.

In the early days of American art, there went from the States to London, a young artist of genius and of a pure heart. He was poor—but had an inspiration for a holy life, as well as fine painting. Among his pictures was one that in itself was pure, but that by a sensuous mind might possibly be interpreted in an evil way. A lover of art saw this picture and purchased it. But when it was gone the young artist began to think of its possible damaging influence, and his conscience troubled him. He went to the buyer and said: “I have come to buy back my picture.” The purchaser could not understand him. “Didn’t I pay you enough for it? Do you want more money?” he asked. “I am poor,” replied the artist, “but my art is my life. Its mission must be holy. The influence of that picture may possibly be harmful. I cannot be happy with it before the eyes of the world. It must be withdrawn.”

We should keep watch over our words and deeds—not only in their intent and purpose—but also in their possible influence over others. There may be liberties which in us lead to no danger—but which to others with a less stable character, and less helpful environment, would be full of peril. It is part of our duty to think of these weaker onesand of the influence of our example upon them. We may not do anything in our spiritual strength and liberty, which might possibly harm others. We must be willing to sacrifice our liberty—if by its exercise, we endanger another’s soul. This is the teaching of Paul in the words: “It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble” (Romans 14:21). “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (1 Cor. 8:13).

How can we make sure, that our influence shall be only a blessing? There is no way—but by making our lives pure and holy. Just in the measure that we are filled with the Spirit of God, and have the love of Christ in us—shall our influence be holy and a blessing to the world. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” Ephesians 5:15-16