Tag Archives: non fiction

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.

 

 


(I’m not your) Stepping Stone

I mentioned in my last post, I recently got a satellite radio.  Let me tell you, this radio is my new favorite thing.

You see music has this way a triggering memories.  Although science tells us that smell is more closely linked with your memory due to its connection to the amygdala and hippocampus (Mercola, 2015).   Music has a similar ability. That is because “listening to music engages broad neural networks in the brain, including brain regions responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity” (Bergland, 2013). The connection between music and memories is even being studied in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia.   A good source for more information about this link between music, memory and the treatment of Alzheimer’s is the Music & Memory website: musicandmemory.org .

For me, one example about the link between smell, music and memory starts off with the smell of freshly baked bread on a fall day.   This smell brings up some really positive emotions for me.  However, part of that memory is associated with music. Specifically, these memories are associated with John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High album.   The interesting thing for me is that the music brings back more of those positive memories than the smell of fresh bread. So, I think the power of music wins out over smell in my world.

Anyways, this post revolves around that radio and music.  However, this post is about a music genre on the other side of the spectrum for John Denver.

Here is the scene:

It is a little after 9:00 pm and I am driving home.  I am traveling that same two lane highway through the rural countryside that I always travel. It was warm for a late February evening and there was fog rolling across the roads.  I had just left my second job and after a 14 hour day I was tired.

20 minutes into my travels, I finally decompressed enough to begin to notice the radio.  It is a little scary that you actually drive that far and be stuck in your head enough that you don’t recognize what music is playing in the car.  I wasn’t into the evening’s NPR selection and I resorted to my normal routine of flipping channels.  After a few minutes I landed on the Punk Rock channel called “Faction”.  I often listen to this station in the morning but had rarely listened at this time of day.  It turned out to be good timing because the station had Marky Ramone (drummer from the Ramones) sitting in as the DJ for a weekly show called Punk Rock Blitzkrieg.  Amazing!

I was digging the stream of new and older punk rock tunes that Marky was playing, but my favorite song of the night was the Sex Pistols doing a cover of the classic song “(I’m not your) Stepping Stone”.

“(I’m not your) Stepping Stone”, which was originally recorded in 1966 by Paul Revere and the Raiders, has quite the history over covers.  Several bands including The Monkees, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Minor Threat have all recorded their own versions of this song.

The Sex Pistols’ cover of “(I’m not your) Stepping Stone” is not the most melodious version of the song, but it is as good as any punk rock version.

YouTube has recording of the song with a still montage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXd8qnONDIk)

And here is a version from a 2016 a reunion show. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMpbEp71nC8).

The Sex Pistol’s version was released in 1979 on The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle album.  The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle album also included some other covers including: “Johnny B Goode” originally by Chuck Berry, “Substitute” by Pete Townsend (The Who), and “My Way” by Paul Anka, Claude François, Jacques Revaux.  (Frank Sinatra’s 1969 version of “My Way” is probably best known rendition of this song.)

An interesting side note is that The Sex Pistols also released a movie in 1979-1980 also called The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle.  The movie is a:

a stylized fictional account of the formation, rise and subsequent breakup of the band, from the point of view of their then-manager Malcolm McLaren. In the film, McLaren claims to create the Sex Pistols and manipulate them to the top of the music business, using them as puppets to both further his own agenda (in his own words: “Cash for chaos”), and to claim the financial rewards from the various record labels the band were signed to during their brief history – EMI, A&M, Virgin, and Warner Bros. Records. (Wikipedia, 2017, The_Great_Rock ‘N’ Roll_Swindle)

I remember watching this movie at my parent’s house when I was about 15 or so.  Not sure how I got my hands on a copy of this video because it sure wasn’t at the local video store.

In 2006 The Sex Pistols were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  However, they did not attend the ceremony.  Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) instead wrote this note and posted it on thefilthandthefury.co.uk,

Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. We’re not coming. We’re not your monkeys. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges but your still music industry people. We’re not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stream is a real Sex Pistol. (Quoted in Sprague, 2006)

Really, the point of this whole thing is nostalgia.  For some reason, the Sex Pistols and The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle bring up positive memories for me.  The Sex Pistols were probably one of the first bands that really got me into music and got me into researching the story behind the music.  The Sex Pistols were also one of those bands that helped me forge my own identity and made music relevant.  Kind of funny thinking about this in now.  A band that came from a completely different world than my suburban New England upbringing would have such an impact on my adolescents.   But they did and those were some good times indeed.

the_great_rock_n_roll_swindle

Works Cited:

Bergland, C. (2013). Why Do the Songs from Your Past Evoke Such Vivid Memories? Psychology Today. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/why-do-the-songs-your-past-evoke-such-vivid-memories.

Mercola. (2015). Why Smells Can Trigger Strong Memories. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/08/06/smells-trigger-memories.aspx

Sprague, D. (2006) “Sex Pistols Flip Off Hall of Fame”. Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://web.archive.org/web/20080217032318/http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/9385165/sex_pistols_flip_off_hall_of_fame

Wikipedia (2017) “The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Rock_%27n%27_Roll_Swindle

Wikipedia (2016). “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(I’m_Not_Your)_Steppin’_Stone

Wikipedia (2017). “Sex Pistols”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_Pistols


I Just Had A Birthday . . .

I just had a birthday and I realized that my life is a mess.

Well maybe that is a little harsh, but I did just turn 43. That in itself is a soul shaking event.  Most people talk about how turning 50 is a big deal, but how about 40?  Then it keeps going, 41, 42, and now 43.  I feel as lost and unfulfilled as I did 3 years ago.  Except now I am staring down that slippery slope of “it’s too late”. 

The bright side of this horrible revelation brought on by the aging process is that my professional life is good.   I have two jobs and I like them both.  I make enough money to not have to worry about food and can pay the utilities.  The people I work with are decent and sometimes even fun to be around.  It is that other part of life that is a struggle for me. That side of life that is supposed to bring you joy and happiness: the personal side.

My marriage has become stale laced with undercurrents of animosity. My social life has dried up and is almost non-existent.  Any hobbies of mine have all but disappeared.  My goal of being able to write and travel has faded into the background.  And I am 43.

Maybe it’s just a midlife crisis.

I remember when I had my quarter-life crisis.  That was an upheaval.  I quit drinking (been sober ever since), broke up with my girlfriend, and got a new job.  I moved into this little one bedroom apartment with my dog.  The rent was cheap and I still think I paid too much.  The walls were drafty, I fell through the bathroom floor, and my neighbor was a seriously strange character.  I had two spoons, two forks, two plates, two bowls, and two glasses.  I stopped by the grocery store on the way home most nights to pick up dinner and sat on the porch during the summer eating TV dinners and watching the world pass me by.  Ahh, the good old days!

I am not sure if this is what I want now.  But I have decided that I am not going to go quietly into the second half of my life.  I have declared that this year I am going to take back my life.  I am going to recreate my world.  I am going to reestablish my sense of self.  I am going to renew my life and find the joy and happiness that I have been missing.  Now I am sure I will run into road blocks and fits of depression, but I have set some goals and created a personal manifesto of change.

  • I will exercise and run more. (Today I ran 4.5 miles in 29 degree weather. It was a little cold and well worth it.)
  • I will join a running club. (Done! I ordered my shirt today.)
  • I will write more. (Started writing again last week and gave the blog a face lift.  I can’t believe it has been 4 years since I last wrote anything here.)
  • I will stay connect with friends. (I finally joined Facebook. Thinking this might help me keep in touch with those old friends.)
  • I will stand up for myself and take back my time. (This will probably be the hardest thing to do because it will cause conflict.  I don’t really like conflict.)

I know it sounds like I have just made a list of New Year’s Resolutions, and maybe I have. The challenge with these, and all resolutions, is sticking with them.  Every year the nightly news does several pieces on how all our resolutions fail and that we are really looking at change in the wrong way.  We should be making little changes that we can incorporate into our lives and not disrupt our patterns of behavior.  I get that.  But I want to go big.  I want to be the person who says, “The best decision of my life was to follow my dreams and everything else just fell into place.”  Now that would make for an epic 43rd year.

 

 

 

 


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

 

 


Bird Song

It is 5:30 in the morning and I am out with my dogs. It is a normal morning. Dark, not that cold, and quiet. Me and the two dogs meander up the hill to the road crossing. I was pleasantly caught up in my own internal rantings.

“Why do I always have to walk these dogs?”

“Why is it always dark when I come out here?”

“Its Saturday, why is it that I have to go to work again?”

“Why can’t I live a life that isn’t filled with with all this crap?”

As we reach the flats, before T in the road, there was a light breeze. This breeze was unseasonably warm. The air disrupted my thoughts and brought my attention back.

I noticed the sun breaking into the darkness. The dogs were diving into the smells on the side of the road that were left over from the animals that wandered the night. I heard a few small chirps from a unknown bird signalling the beginning of the morning chorus.

Then, just as quickly as my mind was drawn to the present, it retreat to the past.

I remembered sitting in the desert with a gun by my side, praying the patrols went alright, watching a similar sunrise, and wishing for the song of a unknown bird to break silence.

Single shrike in trees