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Taking the Time to Remember

Posted on March 5, 2014

Someone once told me that the older you get the faster time goes by. Every passing year seems to make this statement truer than ever. We often try to figure out how long ago something occurred and realizing that it was longer ago than we thought, we say, “Wow! Time flies, huh?”

The speed of time can often make us feel that our lives are out of our own control. Life doesn’t seem to slow down long enough to let us exert intention and control over how we spend our time. This makes the future come so quick that we don’t formulate a plan in time to handle it. It also makes the past seem so distant that we fail to reflect upon what has happened to us. Both planning and reflecting require intentional effort.

My own lack of reflection upon life has been troubling me lately. One of my New Year’s resolutions for the past few years has been to keep a more consistent journal. While trying to figure out why making this a regular practice has been so difficult, I’ve been reaching a realization. I’m a big fan of social media and the ways that it brings us together but one of its downsides is the way that we begin to process life through primarily through the lens of what might be interesting to others. We are more likely to spend time crafting our experiences into tweets and status updates than we are into sitting down long enough to truly capture the experiences of our lives in words meant only for our own learning and review.

Writing For a Journal or a Blog?

Reexamining how I process my experiences and memories has updated my approach. Every time something occurs to me that I want to write about, I’m capturing the idea in an app on my phone called OmniFocus. I then ask myself three questions. First, is this writing primarily for my own memory or to share with others? This will determine which list I put the idea into. It has also been helpful to capture at least a few sentences on what my thoughts are on the matter and why I want to write about it. This keeps me from staring at the topic later on and wondering why I wanted to write about it.

Is This Worth Editing and Sharing?

The second question I ask is for the writing topics that are for my own memory. After writing in my journal about it would this experience make sense to edit into a blog post that I could share with others? This allows me to first focus on capturing the experience in a more complete way that is meant only for my journal. Then I can reprocess and write it out for others if it seems applicable. Too many of experiences have only been captured for a blog.

When and Where am I Going to Write?

The third question is when am I going to write about the items on my list? I’ve found that it helps me to focus if I schedule separate times for writing in my journal and updating my blog. This helps me to mentally prepare myself so that when the time comes I don’t sit there trying to figure out what to write about. Like everything else important, taking the time to keep a journal or update a blog simply needs to be scheduled into my day for me to get it done. I’ve long hoped for good habits to make their way into my regular practice but it is only since I began scheduling them ahead of time that they’ve made inroads into my attention.

I tend to get the most writing done if I plan to do so at a coffee shop with a limited amount of time. I’m writing this at the Republic of Pie in North Hollywood over some of the best coffee in the San Fernando Valley. I only have another 15 minutes so I’m focused on finishing this post. If I give myself a 4 hour block, however, I will tend to tinker around with my blog design and try to figure what I should write about for too long.

I’m learning through this evolving approach to be more intentional about what I’m going to write about so that when the time comes I’m ready to make the most of it. This journey is not primarily about writing but about taking the time to remember and learn from life’s experiences. How do you keep yourself focused on writing for a journal, blog or both? What is your process? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

A Bizarre New Year’s Tradition: A Lasting Memory

Posted on February 12, 2014

A few years ago my family came up with a bizarre idea for a New Years tradition. Each year one of us chooses a subject, we all build it out of Popsicle sticks and then burn it to the ground at midnight. The first few years we built the Eiffel Tower, a hot air balloon and a Trojan horse large enough for a child to sit on its back.

This year it was my turn to decide what we would build so I chose an old ship modeled after the Santa Maria. At first I worried that it would be too complicated but I shouldn’t have doubted my family’s creative talent.

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With my wife leading the charge we started to build the ship at around 10 AM on New Year’s Eve. Using nothing but Popsicle sticks, hot glue guns and the occasional cutter to shape some of the sticks, we spent all the way up to midnight finishing our ship.

At one point somebody questioned the value of spending the whole day on one` project. One of my brothers responded by saying, “The point of this project is to make memories. We won’t look back someday and say remember when we played board games on New Years but we will talk about the ship we built out of Popsicle sticks for years to come.”

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Sometimes we forget to use creativity when crafting ways to spend time together. My brother’s comment was a great reminder to make the most of our times together by creating unforgettable memories.

After spending over 12 hours creating the ship it was hard to want to let it burn. The ship turned out better than we could have imagined and it was almost too nice to destroy. A tradition is a tradition, however, so we lit it up with a blaze of glory to celebrate the arrival of 2014.

When I posted a picture of the fire to Instagram later, a friend made an insightful comment. “…everything we create or acquire doesn’t last but experiences, memories and the friendships we make along the way last forever.” This brought it all together for me. We don’t need a ship made of popsicle sticks sitting somewhere and collecting dust. What we do need is to keep spending intentional time together and making memories that will help to deepen our bonds.

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Live Like We’re Leaving

Posted on January 28, 2014

Back in the mid-90s, there was a band called East to West that sang a song that said, “I want to live like I’m leaving.” The idea in these lyrics has never left me. How different would our lives be if we lived as though we were leaving? Although the song referenced leaving this life for eternity, I have been thinking about living like I’m leaving the places that I take for granted now.

The reality is that we are leaving. We’re leaving jobs, cities, friends, family and eventually this life. Wherever we are in our lives, it is only a matter of time before we will leave. We often act as though we have all the time in the world to enjoy places, try new adventures and express our love for the people in our lives. Living like we’re leaving means making the most of the time that we have wherever we are at in life.

Over my last few weeks in San Diego I tried to live like I was about to leave. One night I drove out of the way to eat some of San Diego’s best tacos at Tacos El Gordo. There were tacos available much closer to home but I was leaving soon and wanted to make the most of my chances to enjoy the places I had come to love. I took every opportunity that I could to drink a pour over at the Coffee & Tea Collective. Taking pictures of places that had become ordinary, I wished to remember the beauty in the parts of San Diego that comprised my life there.

More important than visiting special places, living like we’re leaving means spending time with the people in our lives and letting them know how much we appreciate them. I went out to dinner with the guys that I’ve met with weekly for most of the past six years. I had coffee with one of the pastors of our church, reflecting on the work we had done together there. On my last night in San Diego, I enjoyed a reunion with my old community group, the same people who connected me to the majority of the relationships that I treasured in San Diego.

…living like we’re leaving means spending time with the people in our lives and letting them know how much we appreciate them.

It took deliberate intent to find people and spend time with them but I enjoyed reconnecting so much that it made me wonder why I don’t do so more consistently. A few months ago a friend and mentor who has impacted my life more deeply than I will ever be able to comprehend, passed away. I knew that his health was declining. It was on my mind that I should check in on him. Then he was gone.

Life is short. A birthday at the end of last year reminded me that I’m not getting any younger. I need to learn how to live like I’m leaving, even when I have no plans to move. Let’s not put off the experiences that we think we will have time for later. Most importantly, let’s cherish the people that we love while we have the time to do so. I want to live like I’m leaving.

A New Online Shop For Our Water Project in Kenya

Posted on December 20, 2013

During our last trip to Kenya at the end of 2012, we set out to find products in Nairobi’s markets that would interest people back home. Most of the souvenirs that you find would be interesting primarily to tourists who’ve visited the region. Our hope was to find products that people would buy because they wanted them, rather than just because they wanted to help our cause.

With the help of some local advice and Rebekah’s excellent taste, we found tea, bracelets, handmade bags and fabric to make additional products. We nearly sold out of everything at our first event, the Flood Church Christmas Shoppe in 2012. This year a friend traveled back to Kenya and brought us two boxes of goods.

Our products received another great response at this year’s Christmas Collective. We made sure to have more than we needed this year so that we could post the rest of our products online. Today we are excited to launch our new Yadumu Project Online Shop. 100% of the profits from our products will go toward the water project in Rakwaro, Kenya. We also have a new donate page so if you want to contribute but aren’t interested in purchasing any products, you can donate here.

Our products are a combination of items that we found in Kenya and collaborations with businesses that we admire like A Well Traveled Brand, Fait la Force, Leaf & Kettle and Coffee & Tea Collective. We hope you find something that you love. Thank you for supporting our efforts to bring clean water to Rakwaro!

Visit Our Online Shop

The Christmas Collective 2013

Posted on December 6, 2013

We are grateful to be participating in the the Christmas Collective this Sunday, December 8th, at the Convention Center in downtown San Diego. This event put on by Flood Church combines a Christmas concert with a marketplace for people to buy gifts that make an impact around the world. Each of the vendors represent causes, sharing their work and selling products to support their efforts.

Our current cause at the Yadumu Project is a water project for the community of Rakwaro in Western Kenya. 100% of our profits are going directly toward drilling a well in an area that has long needed access to clean water. We are aiming to raise money for the first phase of this project, drilling and installing a water pump, by receiving donations and selling Kenyan-themed products.

Last year we returned from Kenya with tea, bracelets and handmade bags. The demand at the Christmas Collective was greater than our supply so thanks to the help of a friend traveling to Kenya, we are bringing more products this year. We’ve also worked with partners to provide additional premium products. Rebekah from A Well Traveled Brand used fabrics she selected in Kenya to create beautiful bags and crayon rollers for children. She has also worked with Haitian Creations to create a leather luggage tag that reminds us to “Travel Well”.

Marcus Nafziger designed and built rustic wooden coasters that he gave us as a gift. We liked them so much that we asked him to make more for the Christmas Collective. Coffee and Tea Collective, one of San Diego’s finest roasters, graciously agreed to roast and package premium Kenyan coffee for us to purchase and resell. We are also working with a local purveyor of tea to source loose-leaf Kenyan tea to sell in addition to the tea we brought back from Kenya.

This year’s Christmas Collective should be the largest yet and we are prepared with our best product lineup to date. We believe that this will allow us to take a significant step toward raising the $15k needed to bring clean water to Rakwaro. If you are anywhere near San Diego on December 8th, make sure you check out the Christmas Collective. We look forward to seeing you there!

Handmade bags from Kenya that we will be selling at the Christmas Collective.

Handmade bags from Kenya that we will be selling at the Christmas Collective.

Moving Away

Posted on November 18, 2013

How does a person leave the closest place to paradise that they’ve ever experienced? This is the question I have been pondering. One of my most useful discoveries has been that if you want to find a great place to live, listen to how the people who live there talk about it. There’s a reason why people love to live in certain areas of the country. Sure, there are contented people everywhere who appreciate their community because it is home. When an area gains a widespread reputation as an exceptional place to live, it is the acclaim of the locals, not their contentment, that spreads the word.

I heard about how wonderful San Diego was long before I had traveled west of Colorado. In the Summer of 2004, I packed up my red Toyota Celica convertible and told my sister, who I brought along for the journey, that I was looking for a place out west near the mountains and the ocean. I had grown restless in Minneapolis and realized that there was no reason for me to limit my possibilities to the midwest.

I had already decided I liked San Diego before I arrived but when I spent my first Sunday afternoon in Balboa Park I was convinced. We were only in town for a day when I said to Rebekah, “If there was a good seminary here, this is where I would want to live.” After returning from my journey through the West I discovered that not only was there a seminary in San Diego, but it was a part of the same seminary I was considering in Minneapolis. The only downside to that consideration was that I didn’t want to spend four more years up north. I had found my destination and it was San Diego.

I have lived in America’s Finest City for more than seven years now, long enough to understand well how it earned its nickname. Although I’ve loved living here, I’ve always known that San Diego would not be my permanent home. Like so many other transplants, I figured that some necessity or opportunity would eventually peel me away.

When I reconnected with Bethany in Los Angeles, the beautiful woman I had met seven years before in Minneapolis, I began to fall in love. She moved away a few months later and I kept hoping that she would make her way back to California. Once I graduated I decided to pursue a relationship with her, even if it meant moving back to Minnesota. Thankfully she returned to Los Angeles and less than a year later moved to San Diego so that we could finally live in the same proximity.

Our time together in San Diego worked out as I had hoped when we got married this summer. We stumbled upon an opportunity to sub-lease a beautiful home in San Diego’s South Park neighborhood for the first few months after our wedding. I knew that it was the perfect time for us to consider a move to LA. Before we signed a one year lease and began to establish our roots here as a couple, we needed to explore the possibility of spending our next season in the place where Bethany could once again do the work that she loves in television and film production.

We began looking for an opportunity to transfer within my company back in September. Over the past few weeks we’ve finally secured the job, and found a place to live in the North Hollywood area. It is close to work and even more importantly, within a mile of our two favorite coffee shops in Los Angeles. Saying goodbye to San Diego is hard but I believe that the risk we are taking by stepping away from what we know to give Bethany a chance to do the work she feels called to, will pay off.

Discoveries

Posted on October 21, 2013

It has been nine long months since I last posted to my blog. Pondering this duration, I’m not sure if I should be more embarrassed by my own consistency or excited about how life has progressed. The gestation and birth of so much love in my life over the past nine months has been almost too beautiful to describe.

My last post was on January 22nd, right around the time I was building the photo book that I would present to the love of my life while asking her to marry me. This creative project consumed my attention because I wanted the proposal to speak love as a lasting memory to the most creative person I’d ever met. Scheduling challenges with family and work forced our wedding into the last week of June and it took every bit of effort that we had available to make a beautiful wedding happen with so little time. After traveling to Santorini and Rhodes for a lovely honeymoon, we settled into a home in San Diego’s South Park neighborhood.

Since our return in early July I’ve struggled to resume blogging. While considering why it has been hard to begin writing again as well as why I tend to start and stop with blogging, I’ve made a few discoveries. I’ll share them here in case you can relate to them in your own creative efforts and also for my own processing.

First Discovery

Blogging vs. Keeping a Journal

My first discovery is that I tend to mistake writing for a blog with keeping a journal. When I first started a blog I hoped that it would motivate me to keep a better record of my life since I would be sharing it with others. The problem with this approach is that our lives require too much editing to make a blog interesting. This means that I fail to document my own story because I am waiting until I have time to carefully process, write and edit it for the blog. A journal needs to be a place where memories are captured quickly and where the focus is on remembrance rather than presentation.

One of the ways that this affects my blogging is that I hesitate to post about recent events if I haven’t documented something significant in the past. It would throw off the chronology of my like journal-like blog. With few exceptions like my closest family and friends, I don’t think the rest of you care how much of my story is missing in the blog. When I look for a good to blog to follow I am more interested in thematic development than an exact chronological sequence.

Second Discovery

Blogging as Performance Rather Than Conversation

My second discovery has been that I blog too much as a performance rather than a conversation. I used to spend months pouring over WordPress themes looking for the perfect presentation. The time spent beautifying my blog would have been better invested in actually writing. Once I do write, I hesitate until I have the time to put significant work into each post. If we’re going to write, of course we should put our best effort into it but my problem is holding back until I believe I have the optimal content to share. It is more important to keep a conversation going with those who read your blog, keeping both the reader and writer engaged with your content.

Third Discovery

Capturing Ideas & Inspiration

My third discovery is that I don’t carefully capture the inspiration and ideas that will inform my next posts. Most of life’s most interesting discoveries come when you expect them least. They are thoughts and ideas that occur to you in moments when you don’t have the time to stop everything and write them down. I’m starting to keep a list in OmniFocus of headlines for blog post ideas that I discover. What’s even better is when I take a moment to grab a pencil and write down a few thoughts connected to the idea for a post in my Field Notes memo book.

With my ideas captured I’m much more likely to spend the time scheduled for writing, actually writing rather than trying to come up with an idea to write about. As a result of these discoveries, I’m going to keep a more consistent journal but not on this blog, I’m going to focus less on my blogging performance and more on staying in conversation with those of you who take the time to read it, and I’m going to keep a running list of blog posts ideas. I’m back to blogging once again and I look forward to reconnecting with you!

A Life Changing Question [Water Project Part 1]

Posted on January 22, 2013

It was a simple enough question. Under ordinary circumstances this interaction between strangers might have produced a simple “no” and a polite but brief discussion.

These were not ordinary circumstances. I had arrived in Kenya only a few days earlier as part of a team attempting to do documentary work on good causes in East Africa. Learning that the World Social Forum was taking place in Nairobi, I stayed behind to network while most of my team went on to Uganda. With my camera draped over my shoulder, I wandered around the stadium looking for interesting people and causes to engage. This is when I received a life changing question.

“Excuse me, are you a journalist?” a man asked. “No” I answered. “I do some documentary work with photography and video but I am not a journalist.” Undaunted, he asked “Can I tell you about a project I am working on for my hometown village?” It is not uncommon to be approached by strangers in East Africa with requests for help. This question intrigued me, however, so I stopped to listen to the man’s story.
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Henry explained to me how his village in Western Kenya had needed water for many years yet lacked the resources to build a well. Moved by the situation he described I agreed to call him before my return trip from Uganda when I would be passing through the area.

Two weeks later we stepped off the bus in the middle of the night in a small town called Awasi. Ben, my traveling companion, asked “how well do we know these people again?” “I’ve only met them once I answered” suddenly realizing the risks in this scenario. Henry showed up a few minutes later with several companions and we hiked into the darkness while trying to keep our footing through rain drenched fields.

I woke up the next morning in a place that felt about as remote as I ever experienced. We spent the next two days interviewing locals, learning about their stories and sharing life through meals and conversation. Making it a special point not to promise anything, I told Henry that all that I could promise is that I would endeavor to tell their story.

Long after returning home I could not forget the people and the stories I had encountered in Rakwaro. A lack of access to clean water was costing the community their health and in too many cases their lives.

Three years later I returned to Kenya with a plan to help Rakwaro get water. I had contacted a number of charitable organizations that work on water projects and received the same answer from all but one. They all had their own sources for figuring out where to build their wells and were not open to suggestions, even when I offered to raise the funds. One organization agreed to help so I worked with Henry to get them all the information they needed from Rakwaro during my trip. Then I quit hearing from them, learning months later that they had found their drilling partners in Kenya to be unreliable. This experience made two things clear, finding reliable help in Kenya can be difficult and I wasn’t going to be able to rely on help from non-profit organizations.

A few years later I decided to try another approach. Contacting Moses, one of my Kenyan friends from Nairobi, I asked him if he would help me coordinate the project. Moses is from a village near Lake Victoria and passes by Rakwaro periodically. Having an interest in rural development himself, Moses agreed and within weeks we had a geological survey and several quotes from Kenyan drilling companies.

The next challenge became how to choose a drilling company that we could truly rely on to get the job done. During the summer of last year I attended a workshop that helped refine my approach to the water project. The concept of ending poverty by developing people motivated me to seek for ways to help Rakwaro that empower its people to pursue their own development in the future.

I received a call last summer asking me if I could capture an orphanage in Sudan with photography and video. This afforded a perfect opportunity to get back to East Africa and to revisit Kenya at the end of the trip to setup the water project. Much to my surprise, my sister decided to join me for the Kenya part of the trip. At the point where we will resume this story, Rebekah and I will have arrived in Nairobi after 13 hours in a bus from Kampala.

1000 Cups Coffee House

Posted on December 28, 2012

There are a few moments in life where you make profound discoveries that change your life forever. Although long in the making, these defining moments are what we remember when looking back. One of moments occurred to me six years ago at the 1000 Cups Coffee House in Kampala, Uganda. This discovery for me was not of deep spiritual importance but it did help to refine what became one of my most enduring interests, enjoying a good cup of coffee.
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Attracted by a flyer offering a coffee safari, I figured that a place that could introduce you to the coffee process probably makes some pretty good coffee. My boda boda driver (motorcycle taxi) struggled to find the place from my vague description. Stepping through the door I liked the place instantly. It looked like what an artisan coffee shop in Africa should look like, complete with a rustic wooden setting and well arranged sacks of fresh roasted coffee beans.

I had to go to the place where much of the world’s finest coffee is grown to discover how good coffee should taste.

I ordered fresh brewed Rwandan coffee and watched as the barista ground the coffee to prepare it. Deciding to try the coffee first without milk and sugar, I took a sip and that was the moment of discovery. I had read an article before this stating that coffee was supposed to be sweet and not bitter. I found it hard to believe because all of the coffee I had tried was bitter and needed a little help to make it more drinkable. This cup of Rwandan coffee tasted and cleaner than I had every sipped. I had to go to the place where much of the world’s finest coffee is grown to discover how good coffee should taste.

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Every time I am in Kampala I take groups of people back to 1000 Cups. It was a great pleasure to take my sister, also an avid coffee lover, to this special place on our most recent trip. Having arrived the day before, there was no better way to introduce her to the delights of East African coffee. I enjoyed a Ugandan Arabica while she sipped a robusta. We chatted about our hopes for the trip and where we found ourselves in life. 1000 Cups Coffee House was a delightful place to start our adventure together in East Africa.

Traveling With My Sister

Posted on December 20, 2012

One of the great joys of my life has been sharing my love of travel with my younger sister, Rebekah. Our shared adventures include a three week road trip through the American West visiting 13 states and 7 national parks. We once drove from Ohio to Homer, Alaska, spending a spontaneous summer together in the Last Frontier. We’ve traveled along Lake Superior’s scenic North Shore and camped at Southern California’s San Onofre State Beach. We learned to surf together in the Pacific Ocean and kayaked for the first time during one of our journeys to Colorado.

Rebekah and I on safari at Kenya's Maassai Mara.

Rebekah and I on safari at Kenya’s Maassai Mara.


When I told her that I was heading back to East Africa she decided that she wanted to join me this time. I welcomed the idea of taking our initial trip together overseas, especially since this was our first chance to travel since she has given birth to two beautiful little boys.

During the most difficult parts of our journey I reflected often on how amazing it was to have a sister along who was so perfect for such a trip.

Rebekah found a way to make it happen so two weeks into the trip I took a taxi to the airport in Uganda to pick her up. I could hardly believe how blessed I was to have another chance to travel with my sister. She walked through the airport and into the Ugandan evening looking more adventurous than ever.

Over the next few weeks we spent countless hours on buses, walked for miles through mud and rain, often went without showers, ate unfamiliar foods and all the while pushed ourselves to connect with people and to accomplish our goals for the trip. Amidst the challenges Rebekah never complained. During the most difficult parts of our journey I reflected often on how amazing it was to have a sister along who was so perfect for such a trip.

Rebekah with Valerie, one of the little girls from the village of Rakwaro in Western Kenya

Rebekah with Valerie, one of the little girls from the village of Rakwaro in Western Kenya


Children gravitated to the loving way that she reached out to them. She brought gifts to give to people everywhere we went. One little boy hardly put down the toy car she gave him for the next several days. Her knowledge of agricultural best practices fascinated the people of the village. She resonated with the needs we encountered, contributing her unique input on how we might make a positive impact. Without her creative tastes and input, much of the progress we made would have been impossible.

Together we appreciated some of the world’s finest coffee originating from East Africa. Our safari into the Maassai Mara filled us both with wonder and made it into her top three travel experiences, she said. For a well traveled woman this is no small feat. I am so proud of Rebekah and grateful for the traveling companion that she has been both while traversing the US and now East Africa.

Rebekah and I on one of our many crowded bus trips.

Rebekah and I on one of our many crowded bus trips.


To learn more about our project in East Africa, go to YadumuProject.org

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