Sunday, February 27, 2011

Life and My Love 

Sitting in this window in the warm Himalayan sun...
Who knew reflection could be this much fun?
Ancient mountains surround my tiny window perch...
Quietly whispering that we've reached the end of our search.
Em left an hour ago to hike the ridge alone.
I love that beautiful girl down to the very bone.
My peanut butter pancake has started to warm my tummy...
But dehydration has found a way to make my mouth feel gummy.
As I think of the steps that we have left to climb...
The pain in my bum makes me lose track of time.
Will we linger in the mountains or will we rush home?
It seems to be the same question no matter where we roam.
The 70 year old Swiss group has given us insight...
Into the life we could live if we treat our bodies right.
It still blows my mind that I've made it here again...
As one life ends a new one is set to begin.
Married life humbles me from dusk to the dawn.
I want to savor every second because soon we will be gone.
Emily has been a gift since we first crossed paths...
From her ever giving heart to her passion for long baths.
She will be an amazing mother when God grants us that gift...
And her ability to speak her mind will help heal any rift.
I'm not sure what is next for us but I'm sure it will work out fine...
For no matter what I am hers and she's forever mine.
(Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal - March 2009)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Struggling for Clarity 

I wonder if I will ever find that thing they call inner peace.
I wonder if I'll buy a path or if I'll always lease.
Having time to think like this is an absolute luxury...
But no matter how many times I pick up a pen the truth I never see.
Why do we exist? What will happen when we die?
No one knows the answers but plenty know how to lie.
We cling to this rock as it flies quickly through space...
Taking ourselves so seriously as we drown in our life's pace.
Underneath it all there must be a lesson to learn...
But I'm not sure how we'll find it with distractions at every turn.
So what is one to do? Do we need these answers to live?
Should we dive into work, vice, or habit for the solace they can give?
Maybe the answer is to hold the questions with a soft accepting heart...
To listen through the chatter as our minds begin to dart.
(Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal - March 2009)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So much to tell, so little time... 

I had, and continue to have, big dreams about blogging till my fingers bleed here in India, but I haven't been able bend reality to meet my vision yet. Such is life. I just smiled and bluffed my way into the executive lounge here in Mumbai, and I am still baffled by the joy a good internet connection and cushioned seat can provide.

I will be boarding a Continental flight to the US in about 2 hours to begin a wild Christmas tour through North and Central America, and I'm hoping I'll get a chance to talk to many of you during my short stint in the US calling code. I land in Minneapolis on the 17th, fly to Sacramento on the 19th, drive to Ukiah on the 20th, drive back to Sac on the 22nd, fly to South Dakota on the 24th, drive to Minneapolis on the 25th, fly to Puerta Vallarta on the 26th, fly back to Minneapolis on January 2nd, and then head back to India. I'm going to need a vacaction from my vacation.

I am incredibly excited to see my lovely wife in Minneapolis is about 25 hours and I'll be doing my best to stay present in the madness of our three week sprint through our homelands. I hoping to post many more updates and stories in the coming months, so when you get bored at work, make sure to click over and check in...or just book a flight to Ahmedabad to hang out. The blogs below about meeting and proposing to Emily are some of my favorite and most personal stories, so I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed living them.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When the Spirit Moves You... 

I first realized I could see myself spending the rest of my life with Emily during our first weekend in Minneapolis and I actually started looking for rings that Fall, but it wasn't until the I got close to graduating that I seriously started planning my proposal strategy. It was pretty simple. All I needed to do was get a ring, ask her Father for permission, and then get down on a knee. As you can probably figure out from my last blog entry, my last couple weeks in LA were nuts, so I still hadn't done either of my "pre-proposal activities" by the time I moved to Minneapolis. I figured I still had time though, since we were planning to head to South Dakota on May 31st and I could ask Wayne (Emily's Dad) for her hand then.

What I didn't expect was how overwhelmingly tough it would be to follow this plan. On May 24th, Emily and I rented some kayak's and took off to kayak our way through the suburbs of Minneapolis. That entire week my head had been spinning and that morning was no different. I had spent 32 years looking for Emily, and now that I had found her I wanted her to know how badly I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her...but I didn't have the ring and I hadn't spoken with her Father. I had to follow the "rules" right?

As we paddled past wildlife and playing children my head was lost in the argument, "Nothing about us was conventional, so why was I trying to be conventional now? Just ask her! No! You need a ring! Says who?! Who are you trying to impress?"

Emily pulled me back to reality when she asked where I thought we should pull out of the river. We both agreed it would be better to stop early rather than follow our normal pattern of overdoing everything. The only problem was that we had no idea where we were. Our plan was to pull the kayaks on shore, find a road, call a cab, backtrack to Emily's car, and then come get the kayaks. As we unloaded our gear onto to dry land, we realized our plan might be a little tougher than we imagined. We were stuck behind some random industrial building in the middle of suburbia with no cell phone reception. How in the heck was a cab going to find us here?

This is where things get a little weird. As I dragged the kayaks towards the industrial parking lot, I saw a random taxi winding its way past rows of dumpsters right towards us. What was a taxi doing out here in the middle of our random industrial wasteland? As it turns out, another couple had left their car tucked away in this parking lot, and they took a cab back from the airport to pick it up. What are the odds that we would pull out of the river looking for a cab at the exact moment that a couple was getting dropped off to pick up the only car in the parking lot? Slim. Very slim.

Anyway, as Emily pulled away en route to get her car, I leaned back against the kayaks and continued pondering whether I should propose now or later. My gut was telling me to break the "rules", and my head was telling me to follow convention. I needed help, so I started dialing several of my successfully married friends for advice. It was Saturday afternoon, so they should be home right? Wrong. Six calls...six voicemails. Then it hit me...this was a decision I was supposed to make on my own.

When Emily pulled up in the parking lot my mind still wasn't made up, but I was feeling a little more fearless. The magic was in the air. Emily looked at me funny, "Are you OK?".

"Yeah, yeah, just hungry", I muttered.

After buying about $30 worth of mega-salad from Whole Foods we settled in for a feast on Emily's back deck. After the table was set and I walked out to join my future fiance for dinner, it struck me how utterly beautiful the night had become. The sun was sparkling through the wine glasses, the breeze was gliding through her hair...it was perfect. Was this the time? No, answered my mind. I was still stuck in convention.

As we began to enjoy our meal, the subject of MBA Enterprise Corps came up and we began discussing what our future could look like when and if I shipped out to work in Germany. Before we started, Emily asked if our conversation was just about Germany, or was it a bigger conversation about our future together? Was she reading my mind?

I told her how much she meant to me, and how committed I was to our future together. I wanted her to know how much she meant to me, but I was still letting the ring and the lack of her Father's formal permission keep me from asking the question that was dying to come out. As I finished pouring all this unexpected emotion into her lap, Emily looked up at me with a quizzical look on her face and said, "Thanks honey...that's sweet of you."

She wasn't getting it...wait a second, I wasn't even getting it. It was time. The time was now. It was time for my heart to take the wheel and for my mind to climb into the back seat. I got down on my knee, took her hand, looked into her beautiful eyes and asked her to be my wife.

She took her time with her response. :-)

My Dad says that for every second a woman thinks about it, that's an extra 20 years of happy marriage. If that's the case, we're set for 60 years!

As the tears and happiness washed over us, it hit me how perfect everything had worked out. I've spent way too much of my life trying to follow the "acceptable path", and I've finally found someone who inspires me to break the ridiculous rules that I've allowed to clutter my mind. I've spent way too much of my life following my head, and I've found someone who can teach me to listen to my heart.

Emily is everything I could have wished for and then some. She is someone I can see myself sitting on a porch with at 80 years old and still loving the conversation. She is someone I am proud to introduce as my wife, someone I will learn from forever, and someone I will be honored to raise children with. She inspires me to be a better leader, a better friend, a better citizen, a better man. I am stronger because of her, and I can't wait to share her with you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Finding "The One"... 

"Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward" - Soren Kierkegaard

Last July, if you would have told me I would be engaged and living in Minneapolis in a year, I probably would have involuntarily spit my drink out in your face. At the time I was busy working 60+ hour weeks for Deloitte Consulting and I had convinced myself that I needed to figure out how to quit screwing up relationships before I got into a new one. Then my friend Mary Shippy called.

Mary told me she was working with this amazing young woman that I had to meet. She claimed that she wasn't matchmaking, only that she thought Emily and I would love talking with each other. As luck would have it, Mary was coming out to visit me and a couple of her other Bay Area friends in a couple weeks, so she asked if Emily could come along. I was sharing a three bedroom college crash pad with my little sister and her two sorority sisters at the time, so I thought it would be a little strange to have two grown women sleeping in my keg-stained living room, but if Mary and Emily were up for it, I was up for it.

So...to skip ahead, Mary basically hand delivered my fiance to my living room. Nice. OK, back to the story. When Emily and I first met face to face I had my mind firmly made up that we were going to have a purely plutonic weekend. Emily was Mary's friend, I was bad in relationships, and my life was too complicated and packed with busywork to make time for anything but friendships. As the weekend progressed, this plan became more and more difficult to maintain. On our last full day together, the three of us were sitting back to back on the San Francisco coastline, and I felt Emily squeeze my hand. It sounds silly to write about it now, and we still can't agree who made the first "squeeze", but regardless, the impact was electric. All of a sudden the mental wall I had built around my heart started to crack.

However, like a good construction guy, I packed the crack with mortar and kept up my plutonic act. On Emily's last night in town she came into my room to say goodnight and everything in my body was screaming "kiss her!", but my mind was on lockdown. No. Not Mary's friend. Not now. Not until I have time. Not until I fix myself. I said goodnight, the weekend ended, and we went our separate ways.

Luckily for me, Emily was not deterred by my lack of initiative. A week or so later she texted, I called, and she asked, "So, are we going to see if there could be something powerful between us, or what?". Wow. You gotta love a woman who knows what she wants.

My response: "Absolutely not. I am the wrong guy for you...the wrong guy for anyone right now. You should run the other way as fast as you possibly can." What I didn't realize at this point was that the fastest way to get Emily to do something is to tell her she shouldn't do it.

Her response: "Huh, now that's a great strategy Sam. You plan on getting better at being in relationships by avoiding them all together? That sounds like a great way to stay lonely for the rest of your life."

Ouch. After lots more conversation, both light and heavy, we decided there was something worth fighting for in the spark we discovered on the beach that day. I wasn't really sure how I was going to pull off a relationship with a woman in Minneapolis, but as I hung up the phone I glanced down at my inbox and saw a message from my good friend Jared Antoni inviting me to his wedding reception in that very city in a couple weeks. Are you kidding me? A week earlier I would have trouble finding Minnesota, much less Minneapolis, on a map, and within seven days I have a new love interest and a reason to visit her in the middle of nowhere.

At this point I should probably step back and admit that I've spent most of my life moving up and down the west coast of the United States, so I'm heavily biased in favor of any state bordering salt water. This has caused plenty of drama with my South Dakota-raised, Minneapolis-loving fiance, but I think we'll be able to work through my coastal bias.

Anyway, Jared's wedding was a blast, and Emily and I quickly learned how rare and wonderful it is to spend time with someone who shares so many of your values. We both believe watching television is a waste of life, love to exercise our bodies, want to commit our lives to causes we believe in, value of our friends and families above almost all else, and can't get enough learning on any topic. Time flew when we were together or on the phone, and I felt, and continue feel, as though I learn and grow with every word we share.

After that first weekend we both knew we had something special. We weren't sure how in the hell we were going to pull off a long distance relationship between my MBA coursework and her consulting practice and Public Policy coursework, but for some reason we had faith that everything would fall into place exactly as it was supposed to. Over the next few months we found ways to meet up in the Grand Canyon, Mexico, South Bend, Nashville, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles and spoke on the phone every night. I never thought I could ever speak to ANYONE every night, but I found myself looking forward to our calls like they were my reward at the end of the day. Minutes and hours would fly by as our minds explored the fringes of any topic, from rebel attacks in Chad to the scientific proof of the validity of intuition.

It wasn't all philosophy and roses though. I went through a two month phase where I thought we couldn't make it, but Em pushed past my fears, followed her heart, and helped me discover that it is possible to be vulnerable and fearless...to love without running from rejection...to focus on what you want to create rather than what you're scared might happen. I still have much to learn in this area, but I never would have made it this far without Emily. Never.

As I neared graduation, turned down Deliotte's offer, and faced the uncertainty of my career search and the certainty of my student loans, Emily gave me the foundation of unconditional acceptance I needed to see through to the other end of the chaos. When the dust settled, I accepted an offer to join McKinsey & Company for the summer based on their stellar reputation, incredible projects, and their willingness to fly me to Minneapolis every weekend, regardless of the location of my client study.

The timing was incredibly compressed since I needed to complete my time with McKinsey before reporting for my volunteer assignment with the MBA Enterprise Corps on July 14th, so I basically took my last final on a Tuesday, Emily flew in on Wednesday, my family showed up on Thursday, I walked across the stage on Friday, moved in with Emily in Minneapolis on Saturday, flew to Nashville for McKinsey on Sunday and reported for work first thing Monday morning. Yeeeee haaaa!!!!

Life was good, and it was about to get better...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Building, Trekking, Sweating, & Reflecting in the Land of the Inca... 

Happy 2008 from Peru!

As you may already know, some friends and I managed to break away from the matrix long enough to spend part of December and January re-building an earthquake-torn town in Peru right before blowing out our quads on over 50 kilometers of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I didn’t get a chance to finish a complete blog this time, but the captions under each picture are pretty detailed, so click here or follow the link below to take a quick visual South American vacation with us. Make sure to click through the slide show version so you can understand what you’re looking at.

Some of the USC crew missed the trip due to injuries or the need to get a job (go figure), but the team that rolled out from San Diego, Denver, and New York exceeded all expectations. In order to give you a quick peek into some of the more unique experiences we enjoyed over the last 14 days, I’ve listed out some memories that should bring a smile or two while encouraging you to join us on the next adventure, wherever that may be. Some things I won’t soon forget include:

If you read this far, thank for sharing the ride with me. If not, I still love ya. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, I hope you’ve having a great year so far and I hope this message provided a couple pleasurable seconds of distraction.

Until next time…

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Safe in Israel... 

As anyone reading this blog already knows, things have hit the fan here in the Middle East. I have tons of moving, incredible stories I can't wait to tell you about the last two weeks in Israel, but before I get to all that, I wanted to make sure you know I'm still breathing. As ususal, conflict and war looks way worse on TV, but there is still plenty of fear in the air here. The rockets got a little too close for comfort a couple days ago, so Lara and I have moved to a city that hasn't been targeted by Hezbollah. I fly out on the morning of July 19th and Lara leaves late on the night of the 20th, so we'll both be completely out of harm's way soon. Thank you to everyone who's checked in and to those who kept us in your prayers. Please keep the positive energy flowing to this part of the world long after this conflict fades from the front page. On all sides the pain runs deep, the memories are long, and lack of understanding seems insurmountable at times. Wars have raged here for thousands of years, but we can never lose hope that there is a better way...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

One Year In One Entry... 

I heard once that "an unexamined life is not worth living." While at times it seems that I may "over-examine" my life, there is a part of me that wishes I would have kept downloading my thoughts over the last year. Regret is a choice, so I'm working not to choose that path today, but just know that I missed sharing my life with you over the last 365+ days. I am writing from a crowded internet cafe just outside the Old City in Jerusalem, Israel right now, but I don't want to start with the end of the story. Since writing about the importance of not letting your weekends run together (July 1, 2005), I've spent a year fighting the battle between living in the moment and working for a powerful future. Some highlights from my hummus-tainted memory include:

Mmmmm...my life in eleven bullets. If you're reading this, I hope you are having a wonderful day. I hope you can feel your heart pumping healthy blood through your veins. I hope you've found a way to say "I love you" to someone today. I hope you are finding ways to value and treasure this moment, since there's a good chance you won't live to see over 50 more summers in your lifetime. I hope you can see, and enjoy, the magic all around you.

Life is good...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Don't Let Your Weekends Run Together... 

Blogging is a whole different experience when you’re living in one place. When I was overseas and I went for three weeks without an update, I had to go back and explain how in the hell I ended up where I was at the time I was writing. I guess I could write about what I’ve been doing during the week, the weekends, etc., but for some reason that doesn’t interest me, so there’s probably a pretty good chance it won’t interest you.

About four years ago I plopped down on my flight from Phoenix to San Diego and found myself sitting next to an incredible guy named Derrick (I can’t really remember his name, but Derrick seems to fit). Derrick used to live in San Diego, worked internationally for Siemens, and had recently earned his MBA from the London School of Business. Derrick and I spoke about everything under the sun, but one piece of his advice stuck with me, “Don’t let your weekends run together”.

Can you remember you last ten weekends? Do they stand out as unique experiences in your mind? Peak experiences? Did you go out? Did you go to one of the four places you always go? Did you work? Did you do chores around the house? Can you differentiate one weekend from the one before it? Did you form unique memories or did you sleepwalk through your free time doing what was urgent rather than what is important? Do you know how many weekends you have left? If you're a man, the odds say you'll be dead by the time you're 74. Women, you have until 80. Take this number, subtract your current age, and multiply the result by 52. That's how many weekends you have left.

Derrick’s advice has floated back into my consciousness lately because I’ve noticed my days running together. My time at FMI definitely turns my crank, but it’s hard to remember what I did last Tuesday. Last Tuesday was the only July 5th, 2005 I am ever going to live, and nothing about that day stands out to me. The biggest problem I see with this blurred mental history is that it allows your life to accelerate. People wake up at 30, 40, 50, etc wondering, “Where did my life go?” because they haven’t focused on creating unique experiences. The past two years were packed with 30 years worth of unique experiences, but I don’t want to spend my whole life traveling. I want to find a way to create those mental anchors every day.

I read once that routine murders your creativity. I absolutely agree. So how do you mix up your routine? How do you make each day unique? Choose a different path during your runs? Drive a different way to work? Eat a new restaurant? Go to a place, a street, a house, that you’ve never been to before? Call someone you haven’t talked to in a year? Read a book you’ve never read? Take class in a topic you’re unfamiliar with? Try to meet someone new every day? Meditate or journal in a new place and at a new time each day? Find a way to scare yourself each day…to push yourself out of your comfort zone?

I could go on, but I’m not sure this stuff is even important to you. I think some people love routine. I love routine because its comfortable, but I see it as a life/creativity thief so I am battling it. A huge part of what I loved about traveling came from the unique thoughts inspired by the people I met and the places I saw, smelled, and felt. I have to find a way to keep those thoughts flowing…to pull myself out of the day to day…to find a way to remember and learn from the short amount of time I have left. If you have any good ideas, send them my way. I can use all the help I can get…

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Godfathers and Grand Canyon Sunrises... 

My experience at the Grand Canyon could not have been better. I arrived in time for the sunset and got up early enough to see the sunrise. Incredible. You know what’s funny? I felt like I was still on my trip around the world. Over half the people I met at the Canyon used English as their second language. Germans, Japanese, Dutch, Chinese, Mexican…you name it. I only met one American couple. It’s as though the whole world knows how amazing this place is, but we aren’t paying attention. Ok, ok, I’m starting to sound like a broken record now. My bad.

Welcoming the new day from the rim of one of the world’s wonders was a great way to start the morning, and when I saw the signs for the Arches National Park near Moab in Utah I couldn’t resist. My mountaineering buddy Nick Bokhoven and his fiancée Carla told me how amazing Arches was and they were right. My intended 30-minute drive-by turned into a three-hour gawk session when I caught a glimpse of some of Mother Nature’s artwork. Check out the Australia to Colorado slide show for some of my favorite shots.

My first week at FMI was a whirlwind, but I knew within the first five minutes that I was going to love it. The intelligence, the humility, the passion, the curiosity…all incredible. They assigned me books to read that I would have read for fun and each day felt like it was about two hours long. I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but I’m not complaining. There’s nothing wrong with a summer-long honeymoon.

Speaking of cool things about FMI, they even let me take my first Friday off. Sweet! I probably already told you this, but my 18-year-old sister Shaun told me that if I didn’t come home for her High School Graduation I might as well not come home at all, so missing my first Friday really wasn’t negotiable. Everything fell into place nicely since Shaun’s graduation happened to correspond with a wedding, a huge family reunion, and the annual Ukiah Father’s Day golf tournament.

Watching Shaun receive her hard-earned diploma and dancing for eight hours at the wedding were fabulous, but the unexpected gift of the weekend came from Joel Jensen, my brother from another Mother. Joel’s Mom Linda and my Mother were best friends when Joel and I were growing up, so we’ve stayed close since I can remember. I got a chance to hold Joel and Terri’s 5-1/2-month-old daughter Olivia for the first time last weekend and just before I left for the wedding Joel and Terri asked me to be Olivia’s Godfather. Wow…

I’ve never been very involved in organized religion, but I’ve always known that Godfathers and/or Godmothers agree to raise their Godchildren should anything happen to their parents. Joel and Terri would also like me to participate in a Olivia’s life a spiritual guide, which rocked my world. Even after studying spirituality for over four years, it continues to mystify me, but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Regardless of my inadequate qualifications, I am honored beyond measure to play this small role in Olivia’s life. She’s going to be an amazing woman. I can already feel it…

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