It’s….. Snowing??!

Let’s be clear about one thing, we’re not in Texas anymore.  What’s a telltale sign you ask?  Maybe the fact that it snowed…………….in November?

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I mean don’t get me wrong, I knew we were in for quite the climate change when we moved… but snow… in NOVEMBER?!  (And not late November mind you, but the beginning of the month… and apparently, last year it snowed in OCTOBER!)  I guess that’s not too unusual for some places, right?  But considering the fact that all you Texas folks were still rockin the t-shirts, it did kinda make me miss the place we call home.

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Mattie seems to be adjusting quite nicely, doesn’t she?
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To be fair, it was really pretty!

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There’s something about the first snow that gets everyone all jazzed and excited!  Unlike Texas, here in Spokane, life goes on when it snows.  School happens, work happens, life.goes.on. Walking through campus last Tuesday, you could hear the chorus of “Let it Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” playing on full blast.  People were quite chipper!

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Here’s the thing though – apparently the snow last for months… like… sometimes into April…  I mean — snow’s cool and all, but for four or five months straight?  Might be a little much…

But when the going gets tough, and the roads are still slick, I’ll just remember the smiling face of this sweet little snow bunny… who is happy as heck to be here.

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(Do take notice of the 17 layers of clothing she has on… ha… with those skinny bones, she may not make it through December…)
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So… if you’re thinking about visiting us and want to stay warm, I guess we’ll see you in June.  But for those of you who feel fierce enough to face Jack Frost himself, bring it on… but be prepared… cuz I think he has a lot more up sleeve.🙂

Finding Inspiration

As I sit here in my old, grandpa-like rocking chair on a dreary Spokane, Saturday afternoon, the thought of inspiration crosses my mind.

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I must admit, internally, I’ve probably covered the whole spectrum in the last year and half – ups and downs, highs and lows, encouraged and discouraged, engaged and withdrawn, content and dissatisfied, blah blah blah.  To some, this may seem like a mild (or serious) case of psychosis (haha) – but for me, I’ve grown rather used to being aware of conflicting realities, often vacillating between thoughts and  feelings, past and future, opportunities and limitations, dreams and reality, possibilities and practicalities, and so on…

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Hi- welcome to my brain… I mean– my heart?. Ugh, I don’t know… – let’s just stick with calling it my internal world. haha.🙂

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To be fair, it hasn’t by any means been a horrible chapter of life, just a transitional one… which has definitely contributed to my internal melting pot.

Random side tangent here – It’s interesting to me how, for some people, they often become so externally active that they fail to pay any attention to their internal world (I think a lot of people do it on purpose… a form of denial through over activity perhaps?)… like – the external noise becomes so deafening that they hardly hear, much less recognize, the quiet whisper of their internal world…

I would propose that its because they either A- don’t know how to process what’s going on within, or B- just flat out don’t want to. (I’ve definitely been both of those). To me, this is often the reason people remain stuck in a world they don’t want to live in… because they’re too busy to actually stop and engage what’s within them….  Just a thought….

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Anywho – thankfully, I’ve found enough space to engage what’s within, especially in the last year or so,.  That said, the thought of inspiration is one that has recently been popping up… enough so that it warrants some attention.

I think in recent years (and for various reasons), I’ve grown a little out of touch with what inspires me, but as I’ve slowly but surely been putting the pieces back together, I’ve been asking myself those questions… The ones that lead to that sense of internal reconnection. Questions like – What do I value?  What moves me? What compels me? What challenges me?  What causes me to dream unreasonably and live wholeheartedly?  (Feel free to ask yourself the same question).

As I think about these questions, a few things come to mind…

One thing I think about is a good story.  I’m inspired by stories.  I’m inspired by real stories of real people… who experienced real things… defied real odds… overcame real challenges and made a real difference.

What else?

I’m inspired by people who make the most of what they’re given… and who live in a way that benefit others.  I’m inspired by creative expression… by those who ever so thoughtfully “paint their picture” and “write their story.”

I’m inspired by eloquence – people who can eloquently articulate their words and say exactly what they mean in such a way that it resonates and connects — I really appreciate that. Maybe that’s why I’m a sucker for good quotes!

Aaaand…

I’m inspired by change.  Positive change, lasting change, scenery change, personal change – there’s something about change that’s inspiring to me.

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So knowing these things, I’m prompted to ask – is inspiration something that we find?  Or does it find us? (or is it both?… Or perhaps – sometimes one, sometimes the other?)  Is inspiration acquired by conquest or is it experienced by patiently waiting, seeing, feeling and listening?

I looked up the word inspire and it means : to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create, : to cause (something) to happen or be created, : to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion), to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration, to spur on. (Thanks Webster).

So could it be true that inspiration is both an idea and an experience? Something we find… and something that finds us?  An external catalyst that connects with the innermost parts of who we are?  I mean, it’s called in-spiration for a reason, right?? Because there’s something within that has to be engaged in order to be, to feel, to live in-spired.

That said, my question remains, what inspires you?  What inspires you to live? To breathe? To move?  To sing?  To soar?

Maybe you know… maybe you don’t, but whatever the case, I encourage you – pay attention to the things that inspire you… even if they’re small– doesn’t matter the size, it just matters if it’s meaningful and significant to you.

Pay attention to the things that move you to the edge of your seat… that captivate your insides and awaken your senses.  Pay attention to the things that entice you, engage you, alert you, inspire you.

I know I’m going to…

And as we find those things, may our hearts connect to them in a meaningful and significant way… in such a way that the lights shine brighter, and the world becomes all the more beautiful.

Inspiration – find it. engage it. embrace it. appreciate it… then live it… love it… give it…

And as you find your fire, may you become someone who ignites the flame that’s within others.

What Makes It Worth It?

In light of my current (perhaps, overly) reflective state , I’ve been milling over the question: “What Makes Something Worth It?”…

Worth what?… and what is “IT”?  you ask?  Good question… Worth doing, worth trying, worth experiencing, worth going for… What makes it “worth it”?  Where is the value?  In what you accomplished?  Or the fact that you tried it?… I think the answer to that question is relative to  your circumstance or situation of course… also, It could be pertaining to the past, the present and the future… But thinking about the things you’ve experienced, that you’ve given a lot for, or that you’ve risked, what made it worth it?…

This may not be a common question to most, but for me, it’s really had my attention as I seek continued resolution for where I’ve been, and continued clarity for where I’m going.  It’s amazing how, for me anyways, as I get resolve for where I’ve been, it helps the future become all the more clear.  That said, I have these frequent conversations with myself trying to make sense of life; the past, the present and the future.  Sometimes I do end up kinda spinning my wheels, but sometimes, I really get to some exciting and liberating places.

Let me be clear in saying that I’m not advocating living life through a rear-view mirror, but at the same time, it doesn’t hurt to let those experiences provide insight to who you are and where you’re going.  Sure– you can’t undo the past, but you can definitely learn from it.  For some, the practice of reflection isn’t necessarily top of their list, but for me, especially in this phase of my life, I’ve found some of the insights I’ve gained and connections I’ve made to be very meaningful as I’ve taken time to “make sense” of where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through…  It’d be fair to say that it’s probably something I’ve needed.

In some ways, these thoughts probably reveal my internal conflict between past and future, what was and what could have been, what is, and what should have been.  I consider myself a person who does and will continue to “ask life questions”…  and although some of my questions remain without answers, as the saying goes, it never hurts to ask, right?

That said, in poetic form, welcome to my self talk / recent internal conversation with myself over the last week or two… (And YES, I do talk to myself… as do most of you, whether you’re aware of it or not! haha… For me, It is an ongoing conversation… Ha– So if you ever feel like joining in, just ask– I’m sure I can find room for you somewhere… ;)…)

Anyhow, I’ll call these musings: What Makes It Worth It?.  And feel free to insert your own “it”…

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What Makes It Worth It?

What makes it worth it?
Is it the journey? Or the destination?
The end result?  Or your dedication?

That you swung or that you missed it?
That you got knocked down or that you persisted?

What makes it worth it?
What you learned? Or where you landed?
What you found?  Or what you abandoned?

What you gained? Or what you lost?
The great reward?  Or what it cost?

Is it the process or the product?  The struggle or the story?
The fight or the finish?  The battle or the glory?

That you tried? Or that you made it?
That you won the game? Or that you played it?

So think about your “it”… was it worth it or was it not?
Was the price you had to pay, equal to what you got?

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Worth it or not, what’s done is done…
And your brand new day has only begun..

See it, love it, embrace it, live it,
Learn from it, grow from it, change from it, give it…

A chance to make you who you want to be…
A chance to unlock you and set your heart free…

The beauty of life is that it gives you second chances
And if you learn from where you’ve been, you’ll make great advances

From the lows of valley, to the highs of the mountain top,
Embrace what’s before you, keep going, and don’t you stop.

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…I rest my case…

To the Best Big Sis A Guy Could Ask For…

Today is officially THE Esther Oppong’s 27th birthday.🙂.  Since we’re only 11 months apart, we’ve actually (kinda) been the same age since September 4th… but now she’s leaving her “26” behind, and entering the world of 27 year-old’s…

Her birthday also concludes the run of sibling birthday’s this year.  Lydia turned 21 in September, and Joe 18… (not to mention Mattie and I having our birthday’s last month too!).  September and October are good months, don’t you think?!

Anywho– I could go on and on about what my siblings mean to me, but I just wanted to take a second and give a shout out to my big sis. (Lydia and Joe, I love you both, but just wanting to show Lateeka some love!)

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You know those people that you think about and can honestly say, “my life is legitimately better because of _________”, … Yea– Esther is definitely one of those people for me.

I think back to some of our childhood memories… From sharing a room on Bellaire… to living across the hall in LD, we’ve had quite the journey.  Ups and downs, laughter and tears, and all those damn homecoming games.  Haha!

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Being first generation here in the US, Esther definitely played a significant role in all of our development.  She’s the first born… so basically, was the kid my parents ‘learned’ on.  My parents grew up in African culture, then ended up raising kids in American culture… talk about an adjustment.

That said, in a lot of senses, she paved the way for us kids to succeed… and although she definitely took some “first born lumps” along the way, she’s undoubtedly turned out to be an all around gem.

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Esther, thanks for sacrificing everything you did for us.  Thanks for being unselfish, caring and giving of yourself for our sake… for my sake, for Lydia’s and for Joe’s.  I can honestly say none of us would be where we are if it wasn’t for you – and I don’t say that lightly.  I am, and will forever be eternally grateful.

You’re a remarkably talented, caring, and beautiful individual… And I truly believe that the best is yet to come. Press on this year, with courage and passion.  There will be new life in unexpected places and hidden treasures in the small things… so embrace it.🙂 It’s going to be a wonderful year.

Words don’t come close to expressing what your life has meant to mine… but one thing I do know is this– you are, and will forever be, one of my hero’s.  I love you dearly and hope that 27 is exceedingly more than anything that you could ask, think or imagine.

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Life Here Lately… (part 2)

We seem to have settled in to our norm here lately.  School, work… work, school… then more of the same.  I’ve gotta admit, I’m not as young as I once was. (Ha.)  I mean– 26 has been pretty good to me… but I’m pretty dang tired when I get home!  It’s not so much that my job is incredibly demanding, because it really isn’t… but it’s probably more so the fact that I spend the entire day in conversations, or meetings, or with people in and out of my office… That and doing a million things on the “micro level”… basically, checklists, tasks list, scheduling, emails (SO MANY EMAILS!)… you know– all the detail work that requires a fine tooth comb.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing — but it just makes me tired! haha.

I’ll be the first to say, I’ve never been the most “micro/detail” oriented person… (That’s one of the many reason it’s nice to have Mattie around).  That kind of work has to be done, but to be honest, it doesn’t exactly FILL me with energy.  As far as work goes, I get more energized by strategic thinking, great conversations that lead to understanding or self discovery, feeling deeply invested in someone or something and playing a role in the developing and creating process (pretty good list right? What energizes YOU?)  Granted, I do get to do some of that… but not exactly all day.  Oh well — that’s just the nature of work right?  Gotta take the good and the bad… cuz it’s not going to be 100% enjoyable all the time… Overall though, I’m still having a good time.

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What else has been going on lately?  OH! I’m playing on a co-ed, intramural football team with some people from school / work.  This, once again, further reinforces the fact that I’m not as young as I once was (sad, I know). I was reflecting the other day and it’s been FIVE LONG YEARS since I played organized football…. feels like FOREVER!

Used to, I was able to just get up, go out there and play… without fear of muscle pulls, sore limbs or an aching back– alas my friends, that is no longer the case! Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t completely fallen off the wagon… but I do get up rather gingerly the morning after a measly flag football game… (whaaat?!).  Oh to be young and immortal again… haha.

Our team is 1-1 thus far… As I mentioned, It’s a coed team so we have like 6 or 7 guys and like 4 girls.  It’s been fun for the most part, (besides the fact that we got destroyed our first game)… It keeps me active and is a nice addition to my regular workout routine.  As much as it pains me to say this, my performance thus far has been sub-par… Like– I’ve been below average at best.. (I know… sad right?) but hopefully I’ll get my… stuff… together and my body will hold up so I can relive my childhood dreams?… (or something grandpa-y like that. :)…)

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What else?… Last week, we had a couple new friends, Kristin and Josh, over to our place.  Kristin is a wonderful young lady who participates in our sophomore leadership program, ELI.  We kinda hit it off during the GU Pilgrimage and have grown to be pretty good pals ever since.  Last week, she and her boyfriend, Josh, came over to our cozy little apartment for dinner and some pumpkin carving.  It was a good time!!  Definitely nice to have people in our home again… I will say though, it made me miss the greatness that was our 422 Oak Street abode… That place was just a little gem, wasn’t it?  (Besides the A/C that blew with hurricane like force… geez, how loud was that thing?!)  But I will say, Mattie’s done a lot to make sure our apartment is cozy and homey, so that has definitely helped.

You know, I really love having people in our home, sharing a delicious meal, and enjoying good conversation.  Last Sunday night was all of the above so it definitely made me happy!  I kinda grew up that way — over the years, our home played host to numerous people… every Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s quite the shin dig with church people and college students landing at our pad for the holidays… Good times! Not to mention the many random guests that would stay for weeks (sometimes months) at the all inclusive Oppong Inn & Suite haha. Hmm.. childhood mems.

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In my final piece of important news, I’m pleased to announce that I’m finally GU official… I.e.– our pictures are finally on the school website (haha).

Can I be honest about something?  I can be especially picky about pictures.  Mattie tried to tell me that I’m ‘like a girl’ when it comes to pictures… (First of all, what does that even mean?!) My response to that was– “why can’t boys be picky about pictures too?  It’s not like girls are the only ones who want to look nice!” (AM I RIGHT or am i right?!)

That said, the only reason I’m attaching a link here is because I actually pleased with the way the photo turned out (hahaha).  I mean come on– this is a serious moment in a young mans life– the picture of you on the school website?!  What if it’s a total dud… and that’s how you’re represented to the public who may not ever get to meet you!… then people will think you’re totally laaaame!  Ok– it’s not that serious… but I’m just saying, I like how things turned out.

Feel free to take a gander… and as you do, may your heart be filled with all of your greatest memories of me and my awesome-ness… or something fantastic like that.😉 Later folks!

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Just wanted to give a shout out to the lovely, Madeline Oppong.  Not only is she dominating Esthetician school right now, but also, as of Friday, she got hired at the nicest hotel in town (The Davenport) and will be working in their Spa.

I’m sure it’ll be a fun and interesting place to work, but more importantly, will also provide her with relevant experience in a related field… (Not to mention a little extra dough for us to “roll in”… ha– if only…)

Anyway– I’m happy for the gal and super proud of her too.  And heck, she seems to be happy too which definitely makes everything better, right?  A wise man once said, “Happy Wife, Happy Life”… and to that point, I will not for a moment argue.

Love you Mattie-O– I’m excited about what’s ahead for you and am equally thankful to be sharing this adventure with you.

My ‘First Class’ Experience

As most of you know, I’m currently pursuing my Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership.  Last weekend marked my third class and first, on campus, class experience.  I’ve mostly enjoyed the content thus far, as it has opened me up to different theories, perspectives and really helped me make sense of life through a different lens.  The courses thus far have also provided me with valuable new lenses through which I can view leadership…and this ‘learning experience’ was very much the same.

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The class I took was called, “Leadership and Imagination”.  It was a three day, on campus residency/intensive.  People came from all over the nation (New Jersey, South Carolina, West Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona to name a few states represented) to participate.  Everyone’s experience was quite varied as well– from businesspeople, to clergy, to schoolteachers, to the self employed, to people in the medical field and people working for big corporations like Boeing and Microsoft.  Needless to say, this made for interesting reflection and discussion within the group, especially in light of the content.

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The whole “premise” of the course was the idea of “Seeing, and Seeing Again”.  Basically, not getting so set in the way you’ve seen things before, but taking the time to ‘see it again’ in such a way that it opens up new dimensions of whatever you’re observing– be it leadership, people, organizations, preferences, beliefs, etc.; basically, not getting stale in our perspectives, but taking the time revisit things and “see them again” with the hope of something new emerging from that reflection.

Although simple, this concept was a refreshing one because, for me anyways, it put value on revisiting and reframing events, experiences, and perspectives– taking things you’ve already seen or been through before , and looking at them again through a different lens… which, in my opinion, is a very valuable practice.  Obviously I’m not inferring that life should be lived through a rear view mirror, as that typically isn’t great for anyone… but maybe more so with a telescope, magnifying glass and the occasional rear view mirror– maybe? I digress

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The class was broken down into five different sections– Leadership and Art, Leadership and History, Leadership and Drama, Leadership and Film and finally, Leadership and Architecture.  Each class presented a different context through with to view leadership, and provided some valuable insights, experiences and conversations.

As I reflect on my experience, here are a few of my takeaways:

This Leadership and History class was probably one of the most interesting to me.  The professor was an old soul, full of wisdom.  He talked in a low, quiet, and especially calming voice.  (His voice actually kinda reminded me a little bit of Liam Neeson). He carried the type of presence that just makes you feel safe, secure and like everything was going to be ok.  He brought with him a wealth of insight from years of experience and also created a very sincere and comfortable atmosphere.

One topic he covered was the idea of “False Self vs. True Self”… Basically exploring the idea of who you have become as it compares to who you really are or who you were designed to be.  We discussed the question, “What causes us to be our “False self” instead of our “true self”… and are we self-aware enough to differentiate between the two?  Elementary perhaps, but thought provoking none the less.

We also discussed a “space in time” my professor described as, “The Cloud of Unknowing”.  He articulated that the “Cloud of Unknowing” is essentially “the time between the times… In other words, it’s that space in time between what you know and what you want to know, between where you are and where you’re going, between the certain and the uncertain, between the now and the not yet.

This metaphor, rich in imagery, gave me plenty to think about… especially considering the events of my life over the last year and half.  As I thought about it, I concluded that this “space in time” identified as the “Cloud of Unknowing” is a rather uncomfortable place, but does create opportunities for personal transcendence and lasting transformation– IF, and only if we allow it to…

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The Leadership and Film class also provided some great content to chew on.  We watched a film called “God on Trial“.  This controversial film was set in a concentration camp during Nazi Germany.  The story line centered around the question that I presume many Jews were asking at that time, “If we’re ‘God’s chosen people, then why in God’s name is this happening to us?” Due to the injustice of their experiences, the prisoners (as portrayed in the movie) decided to put “God on Trial” for breaking his covenant with the Jewish people.

This film focused on concepts like free will vs. free choice, faith vs. Science… and the sometimes irreconcilable question, “If God is really good, then why do bad things happen in the world?”

I mean– from the Jews perspective, think about considering yourself as “God’s Chosen People”, then facing some of the greatest acts of oppression in human history?… Geez.  Talk about difficult.

Anyways– due to the films provocative nature, many in the class were quite stirred and emotional… which in turn created a rather emotionally charged discussion.  It was interesting to navigate through some of these controversial topics, especially with a group from all different walks of life, who all carried their own perspective of what God is really like.  A conversation of that nature probably wouldn’t have happened so openly and freely in (what I knew of) the Bible Belt, so I found myself extremely interested and engaged!  Great topics and great conversation– I loved it! haha.

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Another activity we did (in Leadership and Architecture) that I especially liked used a Technique called the Johari Window… This activity focused on who we think we are vs. how we’re perceived and experienced by others.  We were given a list of… oh… maybe 25-30 adjectives and then had to pick the top 5 we felt best represented and described us.  We next had to give the same adjective sheet to to 3 other people in the class and have them fill it out about us.  Once completed, we were then to compare the adjectives they thought described us vs. the ones we thought described ourselves.  It was interesting to see which ones matched up and which ones didn’t.  Out of the five I chose about myself, four of them were chosen by the people I gave them to… Four out of five isn’t bad!… Especially when we’d only known each other for 2 days!   It was cool to see that the way I think about myself is the same way that I present, especially to people that I’d just met.🙂 I’d be interested to do this activity with family or friends I’ve known for a long time… In fact, maybe I will! haha.🙂

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A few other activities included a blind contour drawing, playing with clay, reading Shakespeare and an impromptu “photo shoot”… haha.  Fun times!  For the record, I must say that I was terribly terrible (haha) at the Art projects we did… The blind contour, the forming an animal out of clay with your eyes closed and the drawing of a man upside (that we weren’t allowed to trace mind you) were not exactly up my alley.  hahaha… Although I am at times a closet perfectionist, I found a way to enjoy the class and not take my artistic ability (or lack thereof) too seriously.

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ANYWAYS– all in all it was a great weekend filled with valuable experiences and meaningful takeaways– definitely a ‘First Class’ experience.  I must say, I’ve never really been the biggest fan of school as I’ve known it, but I am extremely thankful to be in an environment that values conversations that facilitate learning and initiate personal discovery.  Would I consider myself the greatest “student”, eh, probably not… but I am proud to consider myself a “life long learner”… yea– that sounds about right.

Until next time– live, love and learn– preferably something new– I mean.. only if you’re into that sort of thing.😉 haha. Later folks!