Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Sunday, July 27, 2014
CINCINNATI, OH —Up until last week, it had been only once in my nearly-forty years that I thought the world had completely changed after someone's death. That was in 2009, and the world still feels different, somehow not-quite-right after that loss. Last Tuesday, Grandma Maggie died. She was ninety years old, and although dying at ninety isn't a tragedy, it's still a loss. The world feels simply altered after her passing.
|Sharing "four puffs" with Grandma Maggie|
Margaret Sexton grew up during the Depression, the fourth of five children. In fact, as I discovered only after her death, she was actually one of six children; an older brother died a toddler. Grandma Maggie's father was a machinist, and, like most men during that time, fond of an occasional drink. One night, collected from a bar by the cops, he was taken into police custody and beaten to death. A generous account of his murder was that it was something of an accident, brutality gone too far. No one ever made much mention of it, and Grandma Maggie only talked about it once or twice in all the years I knew her. Her mother, for her part, raised five children on her own during both the Depression and the Great Flood of 1937. It was the Great Flood that would result in Grandma Maggie meeting the man she'd marry. She and Grandpa George eloped, and then off he went to war.
Years on, after Grandpa George had returned from fighting in the Philippines, they began building a business of their own. It was a small business, and they staked everything they owned on its success. At first, it wasn't working out, and so they did precisely what you're not supposed to do when you have three kids, a mortgage, and just $200 in the bank: they said, "To hell with it," and took themselves on vacation with the last of their savings. When they returned, somehow, the business took off.
At this point, and over the years, they grew a little bit wealthy. There were trips to Russia, Greece, and a short time living in an apartment in Paris. Grandma Maggie became a docent at the Cincinnati Art Musem. Grandpa George smoked cigars and bought fresh fish.
If this had been where her story, their story, had ended, it would have been interesting enough for those who knew them. But then grandchildren came into their lives, and that's where Grandma Maggie's unforgettable impact was made on me. What follows is the eulogy I wrote for her funeral, which unfortunately was unable to be read at the service. (I suspect Grandma Maggie had a hand in preventing me from reading the following about her!)
|"Oh, poppycock!" with my brother Tim.|
|As always, celebrating.|
"LIVE from Mongolia" is the true story of one woman's journey to pursue her passion. The book has been a bestseller on Amazon. Author Patricia Sexton left behind a Wall Street career to anchor the Mongolian news. She now features dream-followers on her blog and previously on the TV show, WE Talk. (Published by Beaufort Books, Oct. 2013)
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
|Jack Kennedy (center) with Martin Short and Jason Alexander|
"LIVE from Mongolia" is the true story of what happened when one woman followed her wildest dream out of a corporate career and into the news anchor chair in Mongolia. The book is available on Amazon (hardcover and Kindle), Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores. Published October, 2013 by Beaufort Books in New York.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
|Change-a-Life Nigeria for #BringBackOurGirls|
"What do you want?"
"Bring back our girls!"
"When do you want it?"
"Real men don't buy girls!"
I found it awfully difficult in these circumstances, amongst so many people so passionately banded together, the New Zealanders, the foreigners, the Nigerians, the politicians, the diplomats, and the handful of kids in strollers, to chant. Every time I raised my voice, it cracked. Eventually, I thought of anything but those 276 abducted schoolgirls, just so I could join in the shouting.
|"276 Stolen Dreams"|
And it is with this in mind that I contemplate, once again, the nature of following dreams. For some of us, me included, following a dream was a decadence, a choice. I walked out of one terrific job to pursue a path to something more terrific. Alas, it was freedom that allowed me to do so, and education that provided the building blocks. So what of these children, of these girls? What of their hopes and dreams, their simple right to make choices?
|276 schoolgirls arrive from Wellington Girls' College|
And what can the world do? What actual action can we take? Nobody seems to want American military involvement. That much was clear from what was said by one of the politicians, and how the crowd reacted in agreement.
Off in the distance, shattering the solemn silence, 276 schoolgirls from Wellington Girls' College arrived. They wrapped around Parliament, jubilantly chanting, "Bring back our girls! Bring back our sisters!" They stomped their feet, and rallied a hopeful cry that brought tears to everyone's eyes.
"LIVE from Mongolia" is the true story of one woman's journey to pursue her passion, at all costs. It's a #1 bestseller on Amazon. Available in hardcover, Kindle, and on Barnes & Noble. Happy dreaming…to those of us who can. (Published by Beaufort Books, 2013)
Thursday, May 08, 2014
Click below to see Slomo himself in action, and to hear what he thinks about IRAs, assholes, and the spirituality he found in skating.
"Everybody thought I was crazy, because I was too happy." -Slomo
(Thanks to reader Nathan Horne for sharing this incredible story!)
"LIVE from Mongolia" is the true story of one woman's journey to pursue her passion. The book is at #1 on Amazon's charts in the Mongolia category, and Top 10 in two other categories. Author Patricia Sexton left a Wall Street career to anchor the Mongolian news. She now features dream-followers on her blog and previously on the TV show, WE Talk. "LIVE from Mongolia" is on sale on Amazon for just $2 for the next 2 days, until May 11th. Happy reading, and happy dreaming! (Published by Beaufort Books, Oct. 2013)
Monday, April 28, 2014
|Found on the back of a checkbook?!|
And yet, as summer approaches in America, I find myself growing more and more wistful for my home, for summer as I know it. Those muggy nights. Catching fireflies at dusk (or, as we called them in Cincinnati, "lightning bugs"). Eating cherry-flavored popsicles. Knowing each and every day that it'll be hot, real hot. Looking forward to the 4th of July, that holiday when you put to bed your uncertainty about the direction of the country, and raise a glass of cold beer in one hand and a grilled hot dog in the other, and toast the nature of pursuit and determination that isn't endemic to America, but is nonetheless deeply personal to most everyone who has known America as home.
|Hot cross buns really do exist!|
So, American Summer, I'm coming home to see you. I'm coming home to eat my dad's burned hamburgers, and my mom's Cool Whip strawberry shortcake. I'm coming for "lightning bugs," for that summery damp smell of air-conditioning, and for days so hot that nights stay that way. And, of course, I'm coming home with my book, to talk about what can happen when you follow a dream. And perhaps this time I'll talk about what it's like to follow someone else's dream, too.
Amazon has chosen "LIVE from Mongolia" as part of its Big Deal. For the next two weeks, the book costs $2. LIVE from Mongolia is one woman's true story of what happened when she quit her Wall Street job to pursue her dream into the news anchor chair in Mongolia. It's available on Amazon Kindle, in hardcopy, on Barnes and Noble, and in bookstores. It's currently #1 in the category of Mongolia, #3 in Journalism & Nonfiction, and #3 in Specialty Travel. Enjoy! And write me if you too have pursued your wildest dream; I'd love to hear from you!
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Now, as many of you know, I have a thing for Genghis Khan. For me, his story of achieving a 'dream' (although I doubt he'd have put it that way) is one of the most fascinating and unlikely in all of history. Genghis Khan grew up in poverty so desperate that he made meals of rodents, and ultimately killed a half-brother during a dispute over lunch. From that backdrop, he would rule no less than a third of the world. He'd conquer more land and in less time than the Romans. His empire would expand from Korea in the east to Russia in the north, the Middle East in the south, and Europe in the west. He was one of the most successful world leaders, ever.
But we don't know where Genghis Khan was buried.
Albert Yu-Min Lin means to change all that. He's an explorer, an adventurer, and an archaeologist searching for the tomb of Genghis Khan. He isn't the first one to have tried, and he still may yet fail. But this is his dream, said best in his own words:
"Three years ago while sleeping on a friend's couch I had a dream that took complete hold of me. I set out to find a legendary tomb in a forbidden place. And yet, what I was looking for may have been in plain sight all along. It's been said that if you're searching for Genghis Khan, just look into the eyes of any nomad and you'll find him there." -from The Missing Tomb of Genghis Khan
Click below to watch a clip of Dr Albert Yu-Min Lin's incredible adventure...
LIVE from MONGOLIA is the true story of what happened when one woman followed her wildest dream out of a corporate career and into the news anchor chair in Mongolia. The book is available on Amazon (hardcover and Kindle), Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores. Published October, 2013 by Beaufort Books, NYC.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Turns out, as I found out last night, "Palestrina" is Giovannia Pierlugi da Palestrina, a composer, one of the most famous composers of sacred music. Still, though, I'm not exactly sure why my Dad is so taken with his music. It's just a little bit…funereal.
Anyway, in my excitement at having discovered, after all these decades, a little bit about Palestrina, I emailed my Dad. Now, a word about my Dad and email: he does not use it. He calls email "Gmail" because that's the platform he uses, and he virtually never responds. So, it was with some surprise that I received a response from him just a few hours after I'd mailed. Which said:
But what really struck me, and why I'm writing at all about this on a blog series about people who follow their wildest dreams, is that my Dad and his dreams never cease to impress me. In the early 1970s, he left everything behind (including Christmas dinner; he left on Christmas day!) to head to Central America. There, he built houses and hitchhiked. He only came back because he'd fallen in love before he'd actually left, and so he took a teaching job to support the family he and my Mom would create.
Back in Ohio, he taught. He taught at a school that would end up doing him very wrong (there's considerably more detail in the book). And so when he was fired, it seemed like his dreams were finished. And for a little while, they were. But, he and my Mom had four kids to take care of and they had to get on with life. Dad became a house painter, and spent a lot of time listening to, we both know where I'm headed, Palestrina.
So, here's to a man I spend everyday looking up to. To an adventurer who took risks. To a teacher who demanded the best of his students. To a painter who prides himself on precision. To a father who taught four little kids, held hostage by the whimpering tones of Palestrina, that dreams are possible, even if they don't always go your way right away.
"LIVE from Mongolia" is the true story of what happened when one woman followed her wildest dream out of a corporate job and into the news anchor chair in Mongolia. The book is available on Amazon (hardcover and Kindle), on Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores. Published October, 2013 by Beaufort Books, NYC.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
This is the true story of a group of young boys in Thailand who dreamed of, quite simply, playing soccer. Trouble is, they come from a floating village. The floating village doesn't have any land. Not a single square inch of it. So, what did they do to achieve their dream? And…what happened when they did? (Click below to watch.)
And here's what they had to say about overcoming obstacles in pursuit of a goal, and (spoiler alert) becoming regional soccer champs for many years in a row:
"Whatever challenges you face in life, if you think you can make a difference, we say you can."
"LIVE from Mongolia" is the true story of what happened when one woman followed her wildest dream out of a corporate career and into the news anchor chair in Mongolia. The book is available on Amazon (hardcopy, Kindle), on Barnes & Noble, and in some int'l bookstores. Published October 2013 by Beaufort Books, NYC.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
I don't know about you, but I think there's something pretty special about Stephen Colbert's story of how he got to where he is.
|Stephen Colbert as a kid (Imgarcade)|
Colbert is a small-town kid from a big Irish Catholic family who experienced tragedy at a young age when his Dad and two of his brothers were killed in a plane crash. He was a mediocre student who barely considered college. He'd dreamed of being, of all things when you consider who he is now, a marine biologist, but couldn't due to damage to his ear drums. To make ends meet when he didn't have any money, he sold souvenirs.
I'd love to personally ask Colbert what urged him to carry on, how he managed to continue to believe in himself when nothing seemed to be going his way. I'd love to know who said to him, "You can do it." If any of you readers happen to know Colbert, and if he isn't too busy doing what he said he'd be doing to prepare to take over from Letterman, I'd sure like to talk to him. I have a few questions about dream-following to ask...
"I'm thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth," said Colbert in CBS's full press release.
'LIVE from Mongolia' is the true story of what can happen when you pursue a lifelong dream. It's been the Mongolia bestseller on Amazon (available in hardcopy and on Kindle), and it's available on Barnes & Noble, and in some int'l bookstores. Published by Beaufort Books in 2013.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Nathan Hoturoa Gray is a 39-year-old adventure journalist. He's a half-Maori, half-English New
|Nathan Gray (Courtesy: Nathan Gray)|
"You do it with the power of your thumb!" Nathan says about hitchhiking, or about his ability to achieve unusual feats of adventure, or maybe both.
It was a 1993 trip to South Africa that would change his life.
In 1993, when Nathan was eighteen, he was chosen to study abroad in South Africa. His selection for the exchange program was significant. Ever since the 1981 Springbok rugby tour, one of the most contentious events in New Zealand history, New Zealand exchange students had not been permitted to study in South Africa. Nathan would be the first Kiwi to study in the country since 1981, and the first Maori—ever. At the time, South Africa was in tumult. Three years prior, Nelson Mandela had been freed. There were riots, demonstrations, and racism. For a "fresh-faced and naive Kiwi," as Nathan described himself, it would have been a tremendous risk, especially for someone of color, as Nathan is.
"I experienced living history and learned self-reliance," he said about his year there. Enrolled in a staunch Afrikaans school, he made sure to learn the language. And then he did something unusual: he taught his classmates the Maori haka dance, which would be a turning point for him, and for them. While it helped his classmates overcome prejudices, it helped Nathan overcome his own shame.
"I'd been ashamed of my Maori side," he admitted candidly, noting that although he is half-Maori, his physical appearance is more English. "My time in South Africa helped me to appreciate that side [of my heritage]. I experienced cultural awareness, and I was able to truly see the country for the first time."
After he completed his year there, Nathan went on to study in America. He got a law degree, and took a couple of internships in Alaska and Saipan, in the Western Pacific. His internships, one for local government and one as a summer clerk at a law firm, were supposed to help his budding law career. Instead, they drew one conclusion for him:
"I didn't want to get stuck in an office. I was twenty-four, and I knew that quite clearly."
|Nathan on the Great Wall trek (Courtesy: Nathan Gray)|
"For me, the next five years was all about seeing as many sunrises and sunsets as possible," Nathan said.
Nathan started in America, driving through thirty-six states, flew to Europe, and ultimately ended up in Egypt. And it was in Egypt, at the pyramids, that he encountered another profound moment, one which would spark his curiosity for the ancient. At Cheops, also known as the Great Pyramid of Giza and one of the oldest and largest pyramids, Nathan found himself completely alone. It was dark, the other tourists were gone, and he began to experience an "out-of-this-world intensity" that had an important impact on him. As it turns out, Cheops is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and this was not lost on Nathan. He left inspired, and more curious than ever.
All the while, Nathan was writing. It was the late 1990s, email had just become mainstream, and Nathan had begun to discover an audience.
"One thing led to another," Nathan explained. Did it ever.
|Nathan trekking in winter (Courtesy: Nathan Gray)|
Nathan Hoturoa Gray never did end up a lawyer, and he hasn't spent a day in an office that didn't excite him. (Often, his office is on the road; he's covered stories from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the 2009 cyclone in the Philippines and many more—he's even reported on the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa by examining race relations in the country.)
After Nathan received the invitation from the Argentinean photojournalist, he packed his bags for China. Over the next two years, he walked and he wrote.
|Nathan's book, "First Pass Under Heaven"|
"Being first out of the womb, I am generally considered to be the elder," Nathan writes in the opening chapter of his book First Pass Under Heaven, which tells the tale of this incredible journey from the Gobi to the Bohai Sea. "Not so, it seems, from the perspective of the Maori. They believe the second is the elder because the latter twin 'kicked' the first from the womb. Life began with an eviction. I suppose it does with us all."
In his book, Nathan faces barely imaginable obstacles in his pursuit of his dream to walk the Great Wall. It's no secret that he makes it; the secret is in how he makes it. "I made a promise to myself," Nathan tells me. "And that was getting to the end of the wall."
To read about Nathan's incredible journey walking the Great Wall of China, you can buy "First Pass Under Heaven" (Penguin, 2006) on Amazon. Nathan has also recently published "The Age of Fire", an adventure travel book looking at where the human species is heading in the next fifty years. Buy it here. Nathan has clerked for the Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court/Waitangi Tribunal and worked in Communications for the CEO of the Ministry of Maori Development. He served five years on the Maori Board of Creative New Zealand as well as two years on the Board of the New Zealand Film Archive.
Friday, March 28, 2014
|Sea Shepherd Bob Barker (Photo: Aaron Carlino)|
They are also brave.
This week I sat down with the captain and crew of the Sea Shepherd Bob Barker, which has just returned from ninety-five days at sea to dock in Wellington, New Zealand. I wanted to understand what it is about them, and what it is about whales, that make these people so doggedly passionate—so doggedly passionate that they are actually willing to die for their dream.
|Baby harp seal (Courtesy: Sea Shepherd)|
Ultimately, her boyfriend Sam left his job too, and joined the campaign.
The ship's bosun is a man named Phil Peterson. He's fifty-six years old, divorced, the father of two adult children. Phil has a weathered, permanent tan and tucks his long hair beneath a ball cap; he looks like a man who's spent a lot of time near the sea. And he has, passing some of that time whale-watching, as is customary in his hometown back in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
|Talking with Phil Peterson (Photo: Aaron Carlino)|
|Captain Peter Hammarstedt (Photo: Aaron Carlino)|
Peter Hammarstedt captains the ship. He's young, twenty-nine, Swedish, and slight of build. Peter appears very calm, and doesn't necessarily look like someone with the muscle to tackle opponents who loathe him, shout at him, and, occasionally, wish he were dead. And those opponents are many: governments who make seemingly empty promises to protect the whales in a sanctuary, whaling ships that have come for the kill, and unusually angry people all over the world who decry the Sea Shepherd's tactics as terrorism.
"I was fourteen years old," Peter said. "I saw a picture of a whale being pulled up the slipway of the Nisshin Maru, the Japanese whaling ship, in the Antarctic. The picture shocked me. I was under the impression that whaling was something of the past. To know that it was still going on...I decided that I wanted to do something about it."
|Dead Minke whales on Nisshin Maru (Courtesy: Sea Shepherd)|
For Peter Hammarstedt, and he said so himself, "Passivity is the same as complacency."
When Peter was seventeen, he joined Greenpeace. When he was eighteen, Iceland resumed whaling. Iceland had been absent from the whaling industry for more than a decade, but they were back. Peter was angry about that, and by this point, he'd also grown disillusioned with Greenpeace, whose efforts he felt were focused more on publicity than on action.
Peter had heard about the Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation organization. The organization was smaller than Greenpeace, but they had a reputation for taking action. "I wanted to physically get between the harpoons and the whales," Peter said. The Sea Shepherd was advertising a campaign to travel to Iceland. Peter applied, and was accepted. He was still just eighteen.
Some years later, Peter Hammarstedt was put in charge. And not just of the boat as captain; he was put in charge of physically blocking the whaling vessels from refueling. During last year's Operation Zero Tolerance campaign into the Southern Ocean, Peter commanded a small boat, which aimed to put an early end to the whalers' hunting season by cutting off their fuel supply. It was dangerous work, and he was rammed several times in rough seas by much bigger vessels.
"Nisshin Maru," Peter cried out by walkie-talkie from his 800-ton boat to the captain and crew of the 8000-ton Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru, "I will not move! I will not move! You'll have to sink me…I am not going to move for you!"(Watch the dramatic video of this confrontation here.)
In fact, this particular mission was so dangerous that he spoke to his crew of thirty-four prior to embarking on it. He offered them a chance to jump ship, as it were, to bow out of the campaign before it got underway. Not one of the crew members took him up on it. It was Peter's most triumphant moment of his now decade-long career, knowing his crew was as dedicated as he was. And it was his most defining moment, he added, to learn that he and his crew had saved nearly nine hundred whales. Unable to refuel, the whaling ships were forced to cut their hunting season short, and they went home with just 10% of their original quota to kill more than a thousand whales.
But for Peter, every single whale death has a memorable impact. In 2008, he watched as a female whale was harpooned twice, then shot seven times by rifle. "It took twenty-two minutes and forty-four seconds for her to die," Peter said, looking away. "The risks I take pale in comparison to what these whales risk if we do not intervene. My biggest fear is not doing enough."
I asked Peter if he cried as he watched that whale die. It took him a long time to answer. "No," he said. "I don't cry during the campaigns. I cry after."
Peter has just completed his ninth consecutive campaign since 2002. He tells me that, over the years, he and his crews have saved nearly six thousand whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. He is proud of this fact, and it flickers across his face in a rare show of emotion. But, he and the other crew members admit, there are sacrifices. Peter, for one, has missed ten years of holidays with his family. Bosun Phil Peterson misses his children back home in America. And some of the other crew members simply miss being on land.
|Humpback (Courtesy: Sea Shepherd)|
"We take a lot of risks," Manager Andrea Gordon says. "We know what we're doing is a matter of life or death for the whales. It means taking a stand to save this species from extinction." I asked her how she squares risking her life for a cause that will never be able to verbally thank her.
"Tails splashing is thank you enough," Andrea said.
For Phil Peterson, his dream began with taking action. "It takes one individual to start a movement," he said. Now, his dream is to see governments stick by their commitments. "If you're gonna designate an area to be a sanctuary, enforce it," he said. "You make a commitment; you stand by that commitment."
"LIVE from Mongolia" is the true story of what can happen when you pursue a lifelong dream. Published in October by Beaufort Books, it's available on Amazon (hardcopy and Kindle), Barnes & Noble, and in int'l bookstores. Join us here for this weekly series that tells the stories of people all around the world who are following unusual dreams.