Tag Archives: essay

Sounded like a good idea at the time

Sounded like a good idea, until it wasn’t.

This statement could describe my life.  I actually do a lot of things that seem like a good idea, until I realize that maybe it wasn’t the best decision.  I especially feel that way when I think about my writing goals and the theme for my blog.

When I first started blogging, back in 2011, it was in support of my dog toy business (Another idea that has come and gone).  I knew that a social media presence would help my business sales, so I started a dog blog.  I developed a posting calendar and joined some blog hops.  After about a year or so, traffic on my blog was decent and then the retail sales started to come in.  Great news, right?  Well maybe, but I still had two other jobs.  Once the dog toy sales started increasing, the time I needed to put in to keep up with the orders outweighed my interest in making dog toys.  After a couple months of way to much work and very little profit, I closed that that venture.

I didn’t want to give up on writing as a hobby, so I tried my hand at another blog.  This one was going to document my outdoor and fitness adventures.  Writing posts for that blog became a little bothersome and mechanical. I just couldn’t get my mind into it. I could only write so many posts about running in the dark or trail running with my dog.  I closed this blog quickly.  Sounded like a good idea at the time.

Then I had another blog idea that was linked to a resale business.  For this one I had a great idea to tell a little story about every item that I was trying to sell as a way to create a buzz about the stuff and increase sales.  Again, I thought this was a good idea, until it wasn’t.  After some initial sales, I lost interest and decided to close that venture.  Sometimes even the most interesting trinket doesn’t scream out a good story.

Now I wonder if you, the reader, are noticing a theme with my projects.  Maybe you are noticing that I give up on things.  Well that might be true.  I, however, might want to say my flighty-ness is possibly a result of adult ADHD.  Or maybe it is that I don’t spend enough time planning out these adventures.  Either way, I think my sporadic blogging is more an example of my varied interests and my continued desire in becoming a good writer.  Even if I am struggling to find a path.

Reflecting on this behavior makes me think about Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of the 10,000 hour rule to success.  In Gladwell’s book Outliers he talks about how successful people have this common trait of completing 10,000 hours of practice in order to become experts in their field.  Gladwell explains how the Beatles played as a house band for 8 hours a day in Hamburg, Germany before they were famous. This experience enabled the band to play together for long periods of time and forged them into a cohesive musical group.  Beatles biographer Philip Norman says of this time:

They were no good onstage when they went there and they were very good when they came back. . . . They learned not only stamina.  They had to learn an enormous amount of numbers—cover versions of everything you can think of, not just rock and roll, a bit of jazz too.  They weren’t disciplined onstage at all before that.  But when they came back they sounded like no one else.  It was the making of them. (Quoted in Gladwell p. 50).

Gladwell also talks about how Bill Gates had some exceptional opportunities as he was growing up that enabled him to get close to 10,000 hours practice with computer programming before he even got to college.

Gates started to learn about computer programming when he was in 7th grade, and from that time forward he spent most of his free time in a computer lab.  Gates, like the Beatles, also had some exceptional breaks during these early years that helped him hone his skills.  For example, a local computer company with ties to his school allowed Gates his friends to check code for them on the weekend in exchange for free computer time.  Later on in Gates’ high school career an organization called Information Sciences Inc. allowed Gates and his friends to work on a piece of software in exchange for more computer time. (Gladwell, p. 52).  All these opportunities added up to more than 10,000 hours of focused computer programming practice, which enabled Gates to become a programming expert by the time he reached Harvard.

So what does this have to do with my misadventures in blogging?  I think it highlights my challenge with focus and how it isn’t helping my blogging and/or writing goals.  In reading about what makes a successful blog, most advice articles would suggest that you have a theme, any sort of theme.  Blogs can be lifestyle blogs, fitness blogs, and specialty blogs, just about anything with some sort of binding theme.  Unfortunately, my scattered mind doesn’t lend itself to this type of process.  I do like to say that my diverse interests make me well rounded in other parts of my life.  I can fix a leaking pipe in my house, I can cook a three course vegan meal, I can write a grant to fund special projects at work.  But, unfortunately, I can’t focus my blog.  That is, unless, my blog can focuses on indecision.  I bet I have close to 10,000 hours devoted to that!

Hey, maybe I am on to something.  A blog about indecision!  That sounds like a good idea . .

cartoondecision

References:

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers. New York. Back Bay Books.

 

 


Eyes in the Dark

eyeshine from flong.com

eyeshine from flong.com

It’s cold, dark, and quiet. I can hear the gravel crunching under my boots with every step.  I glance upwards to see the silhouettes of bare tree branches in the night sky.  It’s early still and I am out before most people wake up.  Stirred by bit of insomnia and a quest for solitude, Ava and I begin our 2 mile morning walk. 

Soon my walk becomes darker as the road bends and trees shift from mixed hardwoods to a collection of softwood trees.  The Fir and Spruce trees, with their branches filled with needles, diminish the amount of moonlight that reaches my path.  The increased darkness becomes paired with a gentle cold breeze that sends a chill through me. As I continue up the road, passing the old logging path on the right and then the entrance to the hunting camp on the left, an uncomfortable feeling sweeps over me.  The darkness and the cold has transformed my peaceful morning stroll into an eerie hike into the unknown.

The woods thin out on my left and my eyes are drawn toward to the clearing.  At first I don’t see anything, but then my light catches the reflection of a pair of squinty eyes out in the darkness.  The eyes seem to stand about six feet tall.  They are steady, persistent, and look back at me.  My mind races to identify the owner of the eyes.  Maybe it’s a cat . . . no  a raccoon . . .  a deer . . .  a bear . . .   a werewolf . . .  a monster . . .  a hatchet wielding maniac.

eyeshine-from-askville-amazon-com.jpg

“Ok, slow down and breath”, I say to myself, “these horror movie marathons you are watching are not helping right now”. 

 

I soon recognize that I have engaged in a staring contest with the eyes in the darkness. We are locked in battle to see who moves first.  Ava, who has become bored with this part of the road, finally tugs on the end of her leash. I lose my balance, stumble, and look away from the eyes.  When I regained my footing and look back into the woods, the eyes are gone.  Our encounter is over.

Coming to terms with the fact that the eyes had slipped back into the woods, Ava and I continued on towards the end of the road.  As we walked, I contemplate the idea that even in the darkness of the early morning on a deserted road you are rarely ever completely alone in nature.

 

 


Salamanders

The weather was different that morning.  It was warmer and just the start of the fall season.  It was early morning and I was comfortable walking the dogs with just an old sweatshirt to keep the occasional cool breeze off my skin.  It was dark, very little moonlight and a patchy cloud covered sky.  You often really can’t tell cloud cover at night, but you know when it is thick because things seem darker than normal and the LED lights on the headlamp seem to struggle to light the ground.  But that morning, the light moved more freely and it reflected off the moisture of the rocks in the road. 

I have traveled this road many times before, over a thousand times perhaps.   That morning things were moving along as normal until my light glistened off a dark object near the edge of the road. 

 I approached the object slowly, mainly concerned that it might be something that I didn’t want the dogs to eat.  As I got closer, my eyes focused in on the object.  It was slightly rounded and presented the classic crescent shape of a resting salamander.  Yet it was larger than most salamanders I have seen, and much larger than the Red Efts I see on many spring mornings. I quickly realized that I was looking at a medium size Spotted Salamander. 

A Spotter Salamander photo borrowed from Maine Audobon

A Spotter Salamander photo borrowed from Maine Audobon

A Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) can grow up to nine inches long, but this was seemed closer to six inches long.  Its bluish black body had several yellow spots irregularly spaced on its back which provided great contrast in the reflection of my headlamp.  The Spotted Salamander is the largest of Vermont’s salamanders and spends most of its time living underground in mole holes or mouse tunnels.  This was truly quite a treat to see this creature in the wild.   The Spotted Salamander is an elusive animal and I have spent several early spring evenings searching for migrating salamanders in the wetland and woods around my house with no success.  Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived as I began to suspect this Salamander was dead.

I kneeled down on the side of the road.  The Spotted Salamander became circled in a beam of light from my headlamp.  I slowly reached down and touched him.  He was cold, moist, and made no attempt to move.  I picked him up and he showed the distinct indications that it had been run over by a car. I held him for a moment before I moved him off to the side of the road.  I placed the Salamander in the tall grass on the side of the road as I felt like this was the best way to show respect to this beautiful and mysterious creature.   I took a moment to let the mixed emotions of this event pass over me before I got up and continued on my walk a little more aware of the fragility of life.

Picture of a Spotted Salamander borrowed from www.wildlife.state.nh.us

Picture of a Spotted Salamander borrowed from http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us

Red Eft picture borrowed from National Geographic

Red Eft picture borrowed from National Geographic

 


1985 and today

On Monday afternoon I was driving north on I-89.  I was heading back toward Stowe from a meeting in the southern part of the State.  It was a clear day, probably about 70 degrees, and the start of  fall foliage season.  My cruise control was set at 68 mph and my radio was tuned to the independent radio station.  They were playing a song from the 1980s.  It was that title track from the movie The Breakfast Club, Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me).  As the song played and I could almost see Judd Nelson strutting off over the football field behind the school after getting the prom queen’s earring, thrusting his arm into the air in a hormone filled victory.  Classic.

As the song began to fade out and the DJ came back on the radio, the monotony of the road and the weather report began to take its effect.  My mind drifted back to 1985 as the radio slipped into 10 minutes of commercials. 

I was probably about 12 when I first saw the Breakfast Club.  At that time I really connected with the movie.   My teenage angst was emerging and their story was my story.  The characters were so real and the actor’s lived as I could only imagine.  As I grew older, my angst increased and my anger grew.  When I was 16 or 17 I had my first Saturday detention, but it was nothing like theirs.  There was no smoking pot in the library and I never did get to kiss the prom queen.  But at that time I was still alive with emotion, optimism, and self-righteousness.  

Twenty years later, here I am driving 68 mph in my economical Honda, cruise control set to keep the speed down.  No more detentions or speeding tickets for that matter.   As the more daring and reckless drivers passed me by, I wondered where did my angst go?  What happened to that edge of anger that surged through me as a young adult?  When did I slip into the world of the professional human services worker wearing the khakis and button down shirt every day?  

In the 1980s I felt alive; in 2013 I am searching for what it means to be human. When I was 16 it was so simple and the world was new and exciting.  Now that I am pushing 40, I question the meaning behind everything and strive to find the simplicity that will bring life back into the

 And sometimes, as I am filling out paperwork at my desk, looking at budgets and running numbers for grant reports, I sigh as I realize the passion has slipped from my life.

breakfast-club