I can adjust my sails

By the light of the moon – Malawi

I love Malawi during the day, but I also love the night. We are lucky to spend time during the day eating under in the shade, and at night it becomes a place to gather to talk about the experiences of the day.

We love visiting with local families around a campfire. I don’t always understand all that is being said, but I always enjoy the company.

We always experience the most beautiful sunsets.

Hidden in plain site

I have become more aware of how much I miss in the world and what goes on right in front of me. This photo was obviously taken by someone else, but when we were walking by, I do not remember seeing that baboon. It made me very aware of some of my blindspots.

As we drove into the park we noticed these 2 people fishing, one from the bank, one from the boat. We had also just seen a couple of crocs basking in the sun, just a few meters away. I know there are calculated risks in all walks of life, but I am not sure I could do this one. I am sure this is not a blindspot for them, but a risk they are willing to take.

Our guide made a sudden stop, and even pointing it out, it still took me a minute to actually see the snake. I am not comfortable with snakes, and could barely look at him long enough to capture this photo… I marvel at the beauty of this country and daydream about walking through this beautiful land, but with these hidden treasures, it will not be something I will likely ever consider.

Python who had just finished lunch

As we were getting ready to return to #MarulaLodgeZambia, again we made another stop. We parked very close to this incredible hunter. It took a minute for me to see him as well, in fact I really didn’t see him until the light was briefly put on him. The second shot shows you just how close we were.

For me, 2020 has become a year that has allowed time and space for introspection and awareness to some of the things I want to be better at…becoming more aware of my surroundings is one of those. I am always open for insight on ways to improve this behavior.

A journey of kindness

I don’t normally watch a lot of TV. I have always wanted to, but it is often difficult for me to “sit” through a show. Usually as soon as I sit down the “million other things I should be doing”, race through my head. Last week after working all day, I decided to renovate my home office. I had been setting tile for hours and was starting to drag in the quiet hours while my family was sleeping. I didn’t want to stop, but I was needing some inspiration. I generally love this “alone” time and will listen to books on audible, ponder, dream and refuel. One night, I decided to see if there was something on Netflix that I could listen/watch while tiling. (Setting tile is not my favorite thing, but the finished product always brings me joy). I came across “The Kindness Diaries.” The first episode had me hooked! I binge watched the 2 seasons over the next few days while I worked on my office after hours. I was exhausted, fatigued and inspired!

Leon Logothetis narrates his journey of finding kindness around the world. After completing the binge sessions I decided to order this book. It is filled with “28-1/2 adventures guaranteed to make you happier”. I will give it a try. I feel like I am already a “happy” person, but am alway striving to become better and do more.

Have you ever been guilty of “binge watching” and in the process found inspiration?

One of my favorite quotes from Leon during the series… “The world is filled with travelers. Some by force some by choice. For some of us this is a calling. At the heart of this brotherhood is the desire to connect, find community and a place to belong. And every single connection made makes the world a little better because as Mark Twain once put it, ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be aquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of ones lifetime’.”~Leon Logothetis, season 2

Mamma Mia, best dining in Malawi

My favorite restaurant to visit when I am in Lilongwe is Mamma Mia. I love walking in and immediately being greeted by some of the nicest people. I usually visit at least twice per week when staying in Lilongwe. When I find something I love it is difficult for me to try something else. Many of my friends love the pizza, but I can’t get past the Ravioli. I first visited in 2016, and have returned every visit since then. It is a favorite among mzungus, foreign travelers. It is fun to look up on the walls and see that the Clinton’s visited years ago. Maybe someday, I will have visited enough to get my photo added to the wall. The atmosphere is perfect to host my teams farewell dinner before heading to our homes around the world. The ambience is a perfect setting as we reminisce the incredible moments of our trip.

I love chatting with the owner who seems to be such a nice gentleman. He is originally from Italy and provides a great experience for his guests. After my last visit, I received a message from our Malawian driver who introduced me years ago to the restaurant. He said after our last visit, the owner stopped him and told him that because he brings so much business into the restaurant that he and his family are welcome to dine at the restaurant on the house. How cool is that?!?! I think that simple act of kindness is the icing on the cake…I will always dine at Mamma Mia every time I visit Lilongwe.

Lucky moved into his Malawi house – project completed

We did it! THANK YOU!!! I am so grateful for the help and support we received to build this family a home!  When I met this family I was so moved by their love and family unity.  They are always looking out for others who need help and make sacrifices to do what they can.  They reached out to me after they were given notice that the shanty they were living in was condemned and would be destroyed.

He worked mostly alone on the house while still trying to find ways to provide daily food for his family.  Living a hand to mouth lifestyle does not always allow a lot of time for projects.  There were a couple of weeks when he had worked so hard his body was not able to continue and he was forced to take a break.  Not once did he ever complain!  He just continued to tell me how blessed his family was and that God would see them through.  Such incredible faith! 

His hope was to have the house completed before their 5th child was born…and it was completed just in time. Thank you to everyone for helping this dream come true for them…and for me… I am so happy we were able to provide the funding that would enable this family to build themselves a home!  Aaron took them some plants to put in the flower beds they created and also some trees.  I have  included photos of some of the thank you notes from the family along the way.  This project would not have happened without your contributions – so a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed!  You had an incredible impact on their family!  Thank you for contributing!!

It’s not just what you learn but what you do with it

We had to say goodbye to my 9-1/2 year old Soulmate, Lilly

My life has been filled with a lot of change over the past couple of months. Some changes have been good and enjoyable, others have been gut wrenching and difficult. The only thing I can be certain of, is that more change is on the horizon.

I have learned a lot about change in this pandemic and being primarily at home. Some changes have been good, some have been hard. I have learned I can get so much more done working at home. I have also learned that turning work off at the end of the work day no longer happens. I understand what it means to be burned out. Productivity is up and so is the feeling of isolation and depression.

I have been frustrated that I can not travel to Malawi and other beautiful places right now. I have also discovered and rediscovered some really beautiful places right here in my home state. I have continued to work to stay connected to my team in Malawi, have learned new ways of getting work done without me being there, and have reconnected to some of my original roots here.

Through all of these changes it has been sometimes challenging to keep the momentum, to stay positive, even when the change has been positive.

I intentionally look back and make note of what I learned from them. I always hope that if I learn all I can about the change and the lessons from the experience, that maybe I won’t have to repeat it. It definitely helps with the changes that arise because of decisions that I make, but when it comes to changes out of my control, it provides at least the confidence that I can navigate difficult things.

The second action I take to improve experiences through change is to keep a daily gratitude journal. Even in trauma or loss, there are still blessings to cling to…sometimes those little things feel like all I have. This daily journal not only helps me navigate change, but also helps me be more empathetic as I support those around me going through change. This action keeps me from staying in a rut and feeling sorry for myself.

My third action item is that I don’t have to do it alone. I know that life can be difficult for most people, that reality isn’t always the social media version we allow everyone to see. Find someone to share your challenges with. I find it so helpful to just have a sounding board sometimes that will listen to me as I walk through my ideas and options. Talking through the trials helps me find ways to reconnect with my core purpose in life.

The fourth step for me is to keep moving. I increase the amount of physical activity when changes are prominent. This is usually the best way to sort through my thoughts. Training my brain to crave activity in change helps me keep moving physically through it, to find action items and take control of what I can. Sometimes I deep clean, or reinvent part of my landscaping and sometimes I replace all of the flooring in my home….whatever it takes to keep moving. This helps me foster an improvement mindset.

Throughout my lifetime, I have experienced extreme trauma, loss and change. I have experienced the good the bad and the ugly. Through each change I have found additional learnings that have helped me navigate the next one.

What do you do to help you navigate change?

Float and recharge

The COVID quarantine was really getting to me this week. We decided to take a break and float the river. Quality time with my kids was absolutely the best response and helped me refocus on the things in life that really matter. Grateful for the beautiful mountains that were a place to recharge and all the laughs.

Elephants eating from the deck

One of my favorite things about staying at Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia is having the elephants visit all day.

I love elephants! Even though we see them everywhere in the park, I can never see too many. I get very excited every time.

While staying at Mfuwe we had elephants with their babies eating the bushes under the deck of our room. I was sitting on the deck and watched them as they approached. They acted as if I was not even there. These beautiful elephants stayed close for nearly 20 minutes. I love elephants!

Homemade happiness

A group of women near my home made 200 dolls for my team to take to Malawi last year. These women put so much love into making these adorable little gifts. We would give them to the little girls we would meet in the villages. These little dolls were adorable and brought smiles to everyone who saw them. When we gave them to the little girls, they would immediately help each other place them in their wraps on their backs – to carry the doll like their moms carry babies. I know these little dolls don’t change their lives, but they certainly put smiles on their faces. I am hoping we can get donations like this again and share them with more little girls.