The Forward Path

The Forward Path - 28 August 2012

It’s been about eight months now since I’ve posted an update on The Forward Path.  The goal I set in January was to do one every month.  And that tells you everything you need to know about me and New Year’s resolutions.

So, where do things stand, one year and one month after starting my writing career?

Well, I am now back at work on the Hercules revisited novel. I posted one brief chunk of my rough draft under the name Let the Adventure Begin!, and then abruptly took a four-month hiatus from working on the book over the summer.   Our schedules since May just haven’t allowed me the time to continue writing for the blog and work on the book.   But I’ve resumed work on it now that school’s back in session (more on that in a bit).  You may remember I set a goal to have a rough draft done by the end of this year, and that’s still my goal, so it’s time to get cracking on that.  Should I be worried that my track record with goals is no better than my track record with New Year’s resolutions?

The blog remains the overwhelming focus of my writing output.  This is as it should be, because remember, the purpose of the blog is to force me to get used to the feeling of writing publicly, and to create some accountability in the sense of continuing to produce new writing, and writing to somewhat of a schedule (even if it is completely of my own making).  Plus, I am starting to see patterns in what I choose to write about that have me thinking that eventually some of the posts could be combined into a themed collection of essays.  In short, the blog is an absolute key to my development as a writer, and I love doing it.

Statistically, as of August 28th, 2012, thunderstrokes has seen 13,283 pageviews since it began in July of 2011.   Thanks to everyone, my great friend Rick and my sister Kari especially, but including any and all lurkers, who have taken time to read my writing.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: as someone who has been plagued by self-doubt about his abilities for most of his life, I can’t tell you how important, and how gratifying it is, to know that you’re out there, and that roughly 1,000 times a month, somebody is clicking on a page of thunderstrokes (and hopefully reading a little of it). 

The blog hasn’t generated much extra attention over the last eight months.  I confess, I’ve been so consumed with just writing and producing new content (it feels so good to say that) that I haven’t been very active in seeking out opportunities for publishing my work in other places.  There’s been nothing published in the Arizona Republic, for instance, since my last update.  I did, however, get the privilege of seeing myself quoted in that newspaper a few months ago by the wonderful, steadfast columnist Laurie Roberts, who pulled a line from my Operation Dekookification post and ran it as part of her column on the same topic (Dekookification – or getting rid of the crackpot contingent in the Arizona legislature – was her idea, and it was her call to action that inspired me to write a response). 

Another highlight was the interview I did with DorinaGroves, a woman who gave up just about everything that wouldn’t fit in an old camper, sold her coffee shop across from the Deer Valley airport, and took off across the country to spread the message:  “If you have a pulse, you have a purpose.”  She’s an amazing woman, and I am still receiving updates from time to time.   You can follow her continuing journey on Facebook.

I also had my first guest post during this time.  Kent Yoder is a friend who has prostate cancer, and he has taken to writing about his life during this unimaginable trial of body, mind, and spirit.  His gift is to make the unimaginable imaginable, and I was so humbled and inspired by his words that I asked if I could repost some of them.  You can follow his continuing adventure here. 

I had something interesting happen to one of my posts.  I wrote a flight-of-fancy dialogue after seeing the blockbuster movie of the summer, The Avengers.  Now, I don’t know if was the quality of the writing or just the fact that the title had the words The Avengers in it, but that post took off like nothing I’ve done before or since. As of this writing, it has garnered some 1,200 pageviews, which is about three times more than any other post I’ve written.  For some reason, people in India really seem to like it, as they alone are responsible for about a third of that total.  Just shows you never know what’s going to click with whom. 

Because of the blog, I ended up going to Phoenix ComicCon this year for the first time, ostensibly to meet Jeremy Bulloch, the man who played Boba Fett in the Star Wars films, and hand out copies of my poem, The Ballad of Boba Fett, to anyone dressed in Mandalorian armor.  He posed for pictures with me and my daughter Jessica, and signed a copy of the poem, which I then managed to lose before we even made it back to the car.

With regard to the blog, I am contemplating a change of focus.  I think I have proven adept at writing a certain kind of post, one that deals interestingly and even humorously at times with a topic, and tends to run anywhere from four to eight pages in length.  My ‘manic missives,’ as I have taken to calling them, have become so representative of my writing style that I am considered renaming the blog “The Missive Silo.”  Post-cold-war readers might not get that one.

At any rate, I’m toying with the idea of switching focus and forcing myself to write shorter, more streamlined posts, perhaps even imposing a time limit to make sure I don’t get carried away.  In theory, I would give myself, say, three hours to write a post.  That’s three hours to figure out what I want to say about a topic, and then write it.  Wherever I am after three hours is what would go on the blog, pretty much as is.  It would undoubtedly impact the polished nature of my writing (seeing that I currently devote, on average, 8-10 hours per post), but it might teach me some valuable tools for writing under a time constraint, in addition to forcing me to focus more narrowly on one idea, instead of pursuing every butterfly I see floating in my mind.  Or to use another internal metaphor, it might serve as the necessary Immodium to my writing runs.  I haven’t quite decided to do this yet, but I think it probably will be worth a try, so tbf’s might notice a change in the coming months.  Theoretically, it should allow me to post more often, and also allow me more time to move forward with other writing projects.   Whether I am capable of focusing so narrowly, and the impact on the quality of what I’m writing are what concern me most about the idea.

All these thoughts about reorganizing the blog have been instigated by the fact that for the first time since I started writing last summer, I will now have time every day of the week to write.  Tbf’s know that writing time has been a severe constraint on my productivity since the beginning, even though I’m not employed.  But last week, Maria started preschool, 9-12 three days a week, and seems to enjoy it; and my mom, God bless her, has offered to once again watch Maria most Thursdays.  This, when added to the existing four-to-six/seven a.m. shift I have been following since last June, should give me about five to six hours a day for writing.  I’m very excited about this opportunity, although it means restructuring a host of mundane tasks, such as cleaning and laundry and exercise.  I don’t know how it’s all going to work, but then I don’t need to know how, do I?

And that brings me to a point I meant to mention earlier.  In looking back over my writing for the last seven months, I can see now that there is much in what I have written which is really a part of The Forward Path; they just haven’t been labeled as such.  Posts such as Aiming with AccuracyFloating LessonsJump, and Mystic Monologue really are as much about where I am on my journey, both as a writer and a person, than their respective topics.  I’m just finding ways of incorporating my experience into what I write, I think, instead of writing about it separately.  Not that I’m trying to cop-out for blatantly breaking my New Year’s resolution or anything…

Also, in reviewing my earlier posts to The Forward Path, I realized that I had been placing a lot of emphasis on numbers, things like how many people are coming to the blog, how many pageviews, how many members do I have, etc.  My attitude in this regard has shifted somewhat.  I’m far less concerned now about how many people are reading because 1)  I love what the blog is, and what I’m doing with it, 2) I honestly feel it is filling its purpose better than anything else I could be doing at the moment, and 3)  I feel like perhaps it’s meant to be part of a larger set of possibilities, and that having a smaller audience now might turn out to be a bigger blessing later. 

Sometimes, I think I could just be content writing the blog.  I love being able to pick up on whatever’s happening in the moment and just run with it (hold the Immodium).  Sometimes I feel like it might be enough if I could just find a way to continue doing that forever.  But, something inside keeps telling me this is just the beginning, and that the joy I experience in writing the blog is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are possibilities within possibilities calling me on, and even though I can’t see or know them all now, they seem to be whispering reassurances that I’m still on the path, and still moving forward…

The Forward Path - 2011 Wrap-up

I've not done a very good job of keeping this section of the blog current.  It is my goal to update the Forward Path at least monthly, so consider that one of my New Year's resolutions.  

I'm just going to briefly summarize the accomplishments of 2011 in a basic, nuts-and-bolts fashion.   This is more for record-keeping purposes than to serve as an entertaining read, so be warned.  

The main accomplishment for my writing this year is the creation of the blog itself.  thunderstrokes came into being halfway through the year, at the beginning of July. Over the last six months of the year, I published 68 entries on the blog.  I have been surprised both by the quantity, as well as the quality of the things I've posted.  I tend not to write short posts, as any TBF will attest, and I must have exceeded 100,000 words in those 68 posts.  The Uncle Day Weekend series of 8 posts contained more than 23,000 words in total.  Where all those words came from, I have no idea.  Not that word count in itself means anything, it's just been a surprising part of this experience so far.  By the end of 2011, I had accumulated about 4,200 page views, which is noted not because it's good or bad, but primarily to serve as a baseline to measure future growth.   

Because of the blog, I've been in contact with several people whose work I admire in 2011:  first among them is Jon Talton, the former Republic columnist, now in Seattle, and MV Moorhead, a former New Times film columnist.  Already in early 2012, I've made contact with another writer whose work I respect immensely, a man who goes by the name Kid, and writes a blog called Kidinthefrontrow. 

The blog also directly led to my first successes in having my writing appear in print in 2011, in this case through the good graces of the Arizona Republic's West Valley Editor, Ms. Dokes.  She liked some of my blog posts enough to run them as guest columns.  There were three that appeared this way: the Glendale Beet Sugar post, Glendale High School's centennial celebration, and the Veteran's Day Parade.  The Veteran's Day Parade article was picked up by  the Phoenix edition, and the Arizona Republic proper published a brief tribute I wrote in honor of 9/11 and the Flight 93 memorial.  Interestingly, the Veteran's Day article generated more buzz than anything I've done so far.  It was referred to in a complimentary way in the VA's local newsletter (as I found out from a sister who works there).  The incoming chair for the parade foundation and former county attorney, Rick Romley, and his wife asked for permission to use the article to help attract sponsors and for fundraising purposes (permission granted).  Boy, it just goes to show that you never know what is going to lead to what, so just write the best you can about whatever interests you most, and get it out there!
Looking forward, my goals for 2012 are to continue writing stuff for the blog that makes me happy, continue to connect and build relationships with other writers, grow the number and variety of  publishing contacts and sources, and bring in more readers.

Also, I have begun writing my first novel, a modern version of Hercules and the Twelve Labors.  Don't be surprised if I drop little chunks of it out on the blog so people can get a sense for what I'm doing with it.  I'm not sure whether, or how much, it may affect my blog productivity.  A lot of that will probably depend on whether we can afford to have Maria in preschool, and if, when, and to what extent I'll need to return to a paying job.  Regardless, I am resolved to complete the first book by the end of this year. 

So, it's been an amazing 20111, and has all the makings of an even more amazing year ahead.  I hope you'll stay with me to find out just where this all is going.  The suspense is killing me!  

The Forward Path - 28 January 2012

Every great journey begins with a trip
– me

The Forward Path - 28 January 2012

If you’ve been following my jaunt down the Forward Path, you probably already know that a year ago I was teaching high school English.  What I haven’t said much about, however, is the trip that triggered my decision to give up teaching. 

For several months leading up to the holidays last year, I had been in a very dark place within myself, and I was visibly taking on enough water that Elizabeth knew something had to be done.  So, as a Christmas gift, she sent me to CarlsbadNew Mexico, for three days prior to the beginning of the spring semester.  

You may think that an odd choice for a Christmas gift from someone who claims to love another person, but it turned out to be the perfect thing to do.  It was ostensibly a trip to visit Carlsbad Caverns, but we both knew its true purpose: a soul-searching mission, a solitary retreat.  She hooked me up with a place to stay, some awesome music to listen to on the way, reservations for a tour of the caverns, and cleared her schedule so that she could take care of the girls while I was gone.

You may be wondering how much soul-searching can be accomplished in three days.  It may not seem like much, or at least not nearly enough, but I had several things working in my favor.  First, being freed by Elizabeth of all responsibility to everyone except myself allowed me to turn my focus inward in a way, and to a degree, that is quite impossible in the daily life of a parent.  And some things, little things like figuring out who you really are meant to be and what the implications of that are on your current life require a certain investment of quality time for analysis and reflection.  Also, because opportunities like this don’t come along very often, I think it is the parent’s instinct to make the most of them when they do.  Another thing I had going for me was the fact that I had to drive ten hours just to get from Phoenix to Carlsbad.  That guaranteed I would have a huge chunk of time to spend with nothing but my thoughts.  Escape, in the form of going to the movies, let’s say, or hanging out with a friend, was virtually impossible.  Thirdly, the nature of time itself is flexible, or at least our perception of it can be, and it is amazing how long a day can seem when it is spent outside the routine of day-to-day life.  I’m sure each of us has noticed how completely different a day can feel once you’ve broken out of the regimented, detail-deluged, schedulized kind of living we do in order to meet our normal obligations and expectations.  Free, spacious, almost endless.  Especially when you get completely out of the place where you live, and put yourself into a totally different context, the way traveling does.  And lastly, and probably most importantly, I think I was ready.  Ready to ask the difficult questions, and ready to hear the answers, whatever they may be.

So the trip began with a long drive, which is a hell of a good way to begin a trip.  Including pit stops and a very late lunch in El Paso, I drove for almost twelve hours through southern Arizona, western New Mexico, the spur of Texas, and back into New Mexico again.  This one day of driving gave me more uninterrupted time to think than I’ve had in the last ten years.  I was able to start the difficult work of figuring out where I was, and how I got there, and think about what’s wrong with where I am, and what needs to change.  I thought a lot about all of those things on the way to Carlsbad, without reaching any definite conclusions.  By the time I pulled into the motel that evening, I was, as Bob Seger would say, “strung out from the road.” 

The next day, I had to be at Carlsbad Caverns pretty early for my reservation.  I also wanted to see if they had any last minute cancellations on any of their highly exclusive ‘dark’ tours.  An undisguised attempt at distraction?  Undoubtedly.  At any rate, they didn’t, which was as it should be.  I spent the morning underground, seeing metaphors in the calcified stalactites and stalagmites, and the dark, mysterious wonderland hidden deep underground.  I ate lunch in the café 750 feet below the earth, which used to be much more elaborate, but, because of the irreversible damage that installing a fully operational restaurant in a living cave caused, was now wisely limited to cold sandwiches and salads.  That afternoon, I hiked out of the caverns through the natural entrance, instead of the elevator I had taken down.  On the way out, I spent more time comparing the curious, twisted facts of my life, seemingly formed from similar stone, and with the same apparent sense of permanence, as the curious, twisted rock formations that surrounded me. 

Or, see yourself...
Those of you who have read the post I wrote about the Mumford and Sons’ song “The Cave” can possibly imagine the chills with which I would be struck upon learning the title of that song for the first time a few months later. 

But even as I reached the surface, I still hadn’t resolved anything.  Lots of questions, but not a single answer.  And now time was becoming a factor, because all I had left was the afternoon and evening, and then the long drive back home tomorrow.  Instead of returning to my room, I stopped at a trail within the vast empty desert of the park, and hiked a small hill.  There were a couple of concrete slabs with covered benches at the top, and not a soul in sight, with the possible exception of my own.  I didn’t sit at a bench; it seemed too contrived, too artificial for some reason.  I instead picked a seat-sized, mostly flat rock that was part of a small precipice that overlooked the sloping, sleeping hills to the east.  I sat there quietly, and listened to the wind in my ears, and felt the mid-afternoon sun on my head and back, which was just warm enough to keep the chill carried by the January air from settling.  In amongst the brown, dormant grass, the dark rocks, and the spindly, gray-green bushes, I meditated on the one question I had been afraid to think too much about. 

I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy as a teacher, as I had been as a letter carrier, and a banker, and every other job I’d ever had.  Teaching was supposed to be different.  I deliberately and purposely chose to go into teaching because I wanted to do good things.  I wanted to fight the good fight.  I wanted to help others.  I enjoyed the kids I was working with; I respected them immensely as individuals, and there were many, many for whom I had developed tremendous affection and more than a little admiration.  I believed that what I was doing was making some sort of a positive difference.  Because of that I worked hard, very hard, at the job, far harder than any job I had ever undertaken.  And even though I was still screwing up on a daily basis, sometimes severely, I could tell that I was getting better at this thing called teaching; real, actual teaching.  Having been at it for three years by then, I knew there was still an overwhelming amount to learn about becoming highly-skilled in the profession; but I was gaining confidence that I was, in fact, capable of eventually mastering enough of the principles to meet my own definition of success.  And yet I was becoming still more miserable, not less.  Of course there were things that I did not like about teaching.    Grading essays, for instance: public enemy number 1.  I never did quite figure out how to grade essays quickly and effectively, and it drove me bonkers.  There were other things.  But none of them were the real problem.  The real problem was that, despite my best intentions, somehow my heart wasn’t in it. 

That was the thing I had to face, the thing I didn’t want to admit.  I didn’t even know how it could be true, considering everything I felt and knew about the importance of what I was doing.  I had always assumed that teaching was going to turn out to be my calling, and yet, here I was, hating to do the very thing I thought I was supposed to be doing.  “What gives???!!” I wanted to shout at the blank hills, at nature, at God.

But there it was: a hard, stone-faced fact, as cold to me as the loneliest rock in the deepest crevice of a lost cave.  My heart just wasn’t in it.  Just like with those other jobs.  The best of intentions just wasn’t enough.  Then a soul-rattling idea raised its ghostly chains in my mind.  Maybe the real reason my heart wasn’t in it was because I was just too afraid to put my heart into anything, even the very thing that I believed should have been my life’s work.  Maybe that had been the problem all along, with all the jobs I’ve had and hated.  That was a scary and ominous thought.  If it were fundamentally true, it implied not only that I would not find happiness as a teacher, but that I would never be happy doing anything because I would always be holding back the very thing that made happiness possible. 

Accusing myself of cowardice is one of my favorite pastimes, but even I had never quite unlocked the door to that particular possibility before.  But that’s why I was here, wasn’t it?  To ask these questions in a place where I could scream if I had to without disturbing anyone else.  Was I afraid to put my heart into things?  Instead of returning the question back to its dark, locked closet, which was my first instinct, I brought it out into the open fullness of my mind and examined it.  I began probing and testing it, hoping to ascertain the exact quality of its truth.  Gold or fool’s gold?  Or some alloy containing some of each?  The truth, even when it hurts, is gold, because the truth is necessary for knowing.  And knowing is necessary to changing.  Was I afraid to put my heart into things?  It was time to know, because something had to change.  I dug into my past, looking for patterns, for evidence and examples that would either prove or disprove the implicit accusation.  Staring at the stark, sweeping hills seemed to help me focus. 

The conclusion I reached about myself that day wasn’t simple, and it wasn’t easy.  Yes, I decided, I was afraid to put my heart into things.  Did it stop me?  Sometimes, but not always.  As I worked through the complexities implied in that answer, I had a moment where the pattern seemed to resolve itself, and I saw it in a way that hadn’t occurred to me before.  Maybe the real problem was that I had been afraid to do the things I knew I loved, instead of trying to love the things I did.  It was like one of those math problems you stare at for the longest time in frustration, and then the answer comes suddenly, and when it comes, it’s so utterly clear, and painfully obvious.   

Maybe putting your heart into something isn’t a choice.  Maybe it happens only as a natural result of doing something you love.  And maybe you could have everybody’s consensus of the best job in the world and be miserable, because you don’t love doing it.  If all that’s true, then my real problem stems from choosing to do things I don’t love, not choosing things I love but am afraid to invest my love in. 

When I applied that bit of mathematical calculation to my current situation, it meant I couldn’t go back to teaching, because I didn’t love it.  Plain and simple.  Regardless of the good I was doing, or thought I might be capable of doing someday, I didn’t love it, and I knew enough to know I never would love it.  Teaching is too difficult a job, too all-consuming, to do well and not lose yourself, if you don’t love it.  I came to Carlsbad not knowing how long I could hang in there as a teacher.  What Carlsbad gave me was the understanding that I didn’t have to try indefinitely.  When I left Carlsbad, I knew that I could at least do my job, give it everything I had left to give, finish out the year, and then walk away. 

I left the hill with only that one solid resolution:  I was done trying to do the things I thought I was supposed to do.  If I was going to make another mistake, at least the next one would be made doing something I loved.  But what?  That question remained uncertain.  As I traveled home, I spent a lot of time going over the things I loved when I was a kid:  animals, dinosaurs, rocks and plants and planets, researching things.  My mind has a very scientific bent; it dwells compulsively on describing, classifying, organizing, making connections.  I thought seriously about the job options for someone with such a mind.  I always wanted to work in a zoo, and design habitats that would strike the perfect balance between the needs of the animals and the purposes of a zoo.  I thought about what it would take to go back to school and earn a degree in paleontology or geology or astronomy.  I thought about investigating research assistant positions, and where such a job might lead. 

I thought through all these possibilities, and tested them for resonance against my heart and soul.  Yet, somewhere in the boiling convection of my mind, trying to stay submerged, and in complete contrast to everything else, a quaking, quivering question would bubble tentatively through my thoughts.  And what about writing? 

The Forward Path - 11 September 2011

Just a notation here to let readers know that an extremely brief commentary I wrote about the Flight 93 Memorial was published by the Arizona Republic today.  It appears in the Letters to the Editor under the title "A ray of sunshine in the dark."   It can be seen online here.

It is noteworthy primarily because it marks the second time anything I've written has been published in print, and the first time something I've written appears in the full circulation of the newspaper.    

Have a great day, and a reflective 9/11.

The Forward Path - 24 August 2011

Where things stand

Well, the blog is almost two months old, which means my life as a writer is almost two months old.  Everything I’ve written in that time has been strictly for the blog, as I’ve been focused on developing and maintaining a fairly regular posting schedule.  Some of the advice I’ve read about blogging (and I’ve been reading a lot) insists that you should post on a daily basis. The fact that I don’t doesn’t bother me too much, because my posts tend to be lengthy, and I put everything I’ve got into everything I write.  In effect, I’m placing my bets on quality over quantity, which, it turns out, is the other experts’ advice on blogging.  What I’ve discovered about blogging advice is that experts often have conflicting or even contradictory perspectives, and so, for the tenderfoot who’s just arrived on the frontier, it’s mostly a matter of choosing which experts you listen to.  It also tells me that there is more than one path to success, so it’s probably not smart to spend too much time worrying about it.

Anyway, since the entirety of my writing world at the moment is my blog, and therefore represents my forward path, I thought it might be a good time to step back and kind of review where things stand.

When I started thunderstrokes, I didn’t anticipate making it the sole focus of my writing efforts.  I have highly detailed plans for stories and novels, as well as solid but somewhat less-defined plans for various things such as children’s books, travel books, inspirational books, and so on.  But with only about two or sometimes three hours each morning to write, and with each substantial blog post requiring somewhere between 6-8 hours to draft and polish to the point where it’s publishable, it’s easy to see exactly where that time is going.   On occasion, I can work in some writing time while Maria naps, but usually those two hours or so are taken up with research, reading, taking care of household business, or repairing the damage caused from that little Tasmanian devil spinning through the house all morning.  Once her nap is over, it’s a long haul through the afternoon and evening, picking up Jessica, homework, getting dinner started, etc.  Meanwhile, Maria’s racing around with a fully charged battery, and mine has dropped to 25% by about 6 o’clock.  She doesn’t wind down until about 9 p.m., but I’ve spent the last three hours roving through the house like a character from Dawn of the Dead.  By the time she’s gone to bed, there’s not enough electrical impulses left in my brain to power a potato clock.  Writing is out of the question.  The biggest limitation on my output right now is simply the time I have to spend on writing.  

Outside of writing time, finding and enlarging the blog’s audience is the biggest challenge I presently face.  I feel like I’m producing (all modesty aside for one word) superior (okay, now back to modesty mode) work, and the funny thing is, after two months, the world isn’t beating a path to my door.  In fact, as far as I can tell, the path to my door can barely be found at all.  When I google the blog by its name, it shows up eighth (what do you know? I think it’s actually moved up a bit since I last checked), even though it is the only one with the actual word “thunderstrokes” in its web address.  Hits 1-7 all pertain to sites describing an item used in a video game series called Diablo.  One of those sites defines a thunderstroke as a “unique Matriarchal Javelin from Diablo II.” That’s so funny, because that’s exactly how I’ve been describing my blog to people when they ask what it’s about. No wonder people aren’t finding me.

But if someone doesn’t know the blog’s name, how do they find it?  If you google “Kevin Thorson blog” I actually show up second now (that’s new!), thanks to my LinkedIn account. Anyone who goes to my LinkedIn profile can click from there to my blog.  The first direct link to the blog is 17th, and shows up as “thunderstrokes: Haiku #1.” Oddly, “Haiku #1” isn’t even in the top five most popular posts on the blog.  If instead you just put in “Kevin Thorson,” the first reference to me, if you don’t count the link that Google still shows to my non-existent teaching profile at Glendale High School, is the last hit on page 7 (70th overall), which is my Blogger profile.  Turns out there’s some marriage therapist with my name in Tucson hogging all my hits.  Google, your mysterious and fabulously convoluted ways both fascinate and repel me.   

These are the sorts of thoughts that bloggers have, and the kinds of things they talk about with other bloggers.  They are consumed by numbers, and by terms like “impressions,” “click-through rates,” and “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization).   I find myself being consumed by numbers, and that sucks, because math is one of the few things I don’t want to write about.  But if you’re trying to build an audience, numbers are your most reliable indicator of success, and it’s not difficult to start getting a little obsessive about it.  Just last week, thunderstrokes crossed the 1,000th pageview milestone.  It was just like that scene in the social network where they’re all waiting for their one millionth member to join, ready to pop the corks and smash a few glass walls in celebration, except I was alone in my skivvies, eating Pringles, and clicking the “refresh” button like an old lady at a slot machine.  Flush with excitement, I remember calling Elizabeth at work to tell her the exact moment that thunderstrokes hit 1,000 pageviews.  I had to leave a message.  Apparently, Ms. Baconpants felt it was more important to continue earning the money we are both living on, rather than to clear her schedule and breathlessly wait for my announcement. 

It all comes down to numbers.  Well, despite any possible embarrassment, I will share a few numbers now. Since starting the blog, I have had a grand total of 1,207 pageviews.  A pageview is the basic unit of measurement for a blog, and occurs whenever a person requests a distinct page from the blog’s host server.  For example, every time someone enters, and the home page of the blog appears, that counts as a pageview.  If that same person then goes on to click on, let’s say, the Noman’s Land Archive page within the blog, that counts as another pageview. Basically, each time a person visits the blog or clicks to a page within the blog, it counts as a separate pageview.  Most people will generate multiple pageviews on any given visit, so the total pageview number will always be higher than the total number of visitors.  With that bit of ‘Blogging 101’ out of the way, those 1,207 pageviews have occurred over a period of 54 days.  That equals an average of 22 pageviews per day, which reasonably represents anywhere from 6 - 13 people.  Thus, the need to expand my audience becomes obvious. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the readers I have.  One thing I’ve noticed is that the volume of pageviews has been fairly consistent day over day, which tells me I’m probably doing a pretty good job of keeping the readers I get.  This is a really good time to pause and acknowledge everybody who has taken time to read thunderstrokes.  I can’t thank you enough for coming to the blog, and for sticking with it so far.  Even at 10 readers per day, that’s still an infinity higher than what I had two months ago.  I also can’t express enough gratitude for the great comments and feedback you’ve supplied.  They help remind me that I’m on the right track, so keep ‘em coming.  Finally, thanks for following me down this road, whichever road this is. I promise to continue giving you a seat up front with me for the rest of the ride, wherever it is that we’re going. It’s nice to have a little company.  Before I forget, let me give a special shout out to the four souls brave enough to call themselves followers of thunderstrokes.  I appreciate, with an affection so extreme it is only rivaled by my love of Elizabeth’s chicken tacos, your willingness to attach yourself to my site.  I promise not to sell your personal information to anyone ever, or in any way abuse the rights and privileges I have obtained as the recipient of your membership, unless I can make unbelievable bank for it. Kudos to the following avatars and/or actual people:  Deann, Carol, klove45, and my brother Kyle’s family.  For some reason, Google likes it when people join websites.  You are probably the ones responsible for me moving up to eighth – hold the phone!!!  I just checked again, and we’re number 5, as of 5:54 a.m. on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011.  We’re top 5, people!   This is cause for celebration! Where are my Pringles?  Anyway, as I was saying, you are probably the ones responsible for thunderstrokes moving up to fifth, just after D2 Diablo 2 Guide - Diablo 2 Thunderstroke - Matriarchal Javelin.(See, I wasn’t kidding about that.)  Your reward is in heaven, children (that way I’m off the hook). 

Alright, back to business.  In order for this blog to fulfill its ultimate purpose, I need more readers.  And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling some pressure to succeed quickly, seeing as how I single-handedly dropped our household income by 40% with this move.  I have to remind myself constantly that my blog hasn’t even existed for two whole months yet, and that the internet’s been around for, well, a little while longer than that, and has proven to be somewhat popular.  I’m trying to be patient, and just focus on producing quality content (more advice from the experts).  But I feel confident that I’m writing good stuff, and I want people to read me now!  Google’s reply to this is, “Yeah, bub, you and 300 million other people. Here, take this mathematically incomprehensible algorithm and have a seat.  We’ll call you when it’s your turn.”  So, the challenge is:  when everyone out there is fighting for attention, how do you rise up out of the pack?  Back to the experts, who recommend, first and foremost, writing great stuff (Done. Whoops, modesty mode faltering! Danger! Danger! I mean, which I am hopefully capable of possibly achieving in only my finest moments of caffeine-induced inspiration. Whew! That was close!).  The next thing they recommend is to find other blogs like yours, and get involved with those blogs by posting and responding to comments on them and even writing guest posts for them. 

This advice, which is supported by a degree of unanimity unprecedented amongst all the blogging advice I’ve encountered, introduces two simultaneous challenges for me.  One, we’ve already reviewed my schedule. If I’m going to write for someone else, who’s going to write for me?  Two, I don’t even know what the hell kind of blog I have.  When I originally conceived it, I didn’t have a particular focus in mind, which I also discovered goes against the better judgment of many experts.  For instance, according to the experts, I probably should have chosen to focus strictly on my love of reptiles, or maybe on my savvy coupon shopping skills, or possibly seek to create a new niche by focusing on using coupons to get reptiles, or possibly shopping with coupon-savvy reptiles.  But I didn’t.  As I saw and still see it, the primary purpose of my blog is to serve as my writing portfolio, one that hopefully demonstrates my skills and my range to prospective employers.  Its secondary purpose is to document for me and my posterity exactly what happens when one man suddenly sets out to become a writer for no better reason than that’s what he was supposed to have been doing all along.  The blog format just seemed to naturally lend itself to these twin purposes.  And, as perfectly befitting someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing, I’ve chosen topics to write about not based on fitting into a particular subject or niche, but on what would produce the best piece of writing possible.  Consequently, the blog itself is all over the place in terms of content.  I sat down yesterday and actually tried to categorize thunderstrokes.  The best description I came up with was “a serious and humorous blog about writing, parenting and relationships, and movies, which includes some poetry, inspirational themes and personal development, and probably several other things by the time you read this.”  If you happen to have seen a bushel of blogs like that lying around, please let me know.  I’d like to get in the basket.

So, my two biggest concerns at present are writing time and readers.  Readers and writing time.  Hey, that’s kind of cool! I sound like a writer, don’t I?   Not insurmountable problems, by any stretch, but challenges which will require some creative thinking and problem solving, to be sure.  Well, I never fooled myself into thinking that taking the forward path would be easy, just necessary.  Anyway, that’s where things stand today.  It’s funny, I feel like a field reporter in my own life.  “That’s all for now, Bill; back to you.  This is Kevin Thorson, reporting from somewhere . . .” 

The Forward Path - 13 August 2011

Doubt – Round 1

God have mercy on the man/Who doubts what he's sure of. 
- Bruce Springsteen

The last few days have been a wild ride.  A week ago, I experienced my first success as a writer when I had a guest column published in the Republic.  It was a big moment for me personally, a sign of validation that I was on the right track, and capable of producing work that could interest others, outside of those who love me and take an interest in what I’m doing for personal reasons.  And yet, less than a week later, I find myself spontaneously beset by a host of worries that I’ve not experienced before.  Can I keep up my pace of writing? Can I maintain the quality?  I feel the pressure on myself to post more frequently, to do more with them, to only post the most profound thoughts and ideas.  Suddenly, nothing seems good enough.  I find myself floundering, flailing, on the ungrippable edge of drowning in a storm swell of doubt.  Everything about me is called into question, no matter how ridiculous.  After writing a few serious posts, I am filled with fear that I won’t be able to find my casually comic style again.  Topics that I thought were juicy and rife with possibility seem desiccated and hollow, merely the husks of ideas.  I doubt the very existence of my talents.  Within the span of a single day, I go from motivated and energized to deflated and frightened.  Where is this coming from? But it’s too late for that question; and it’s too late to stop the freight train moving through me.  I wonder what would happen if I were a professional columnist and couldn’t meet the demands of the job.  What if I cracked under the pressure?  What if I only had those few good things in me?  What if I just ran out of things to say?  I feel the long fingers of doubt reaching deep into my mind, altering my brain chemistry.  I begin to believe that I’m not up to the challenge.  I can feel those slippery, steely fingers recalibrating my brainwaves to “self-destruction,” and my focus turning to a long list of shortcomings.  Too lazy.  Too willing to let go of things.  Not clever enough.  Not funny enough.  Not serious enough.  Not brave enough.  Not willing to let go of things enough.  Too small, too slow, too dense.  Don’t know how to hit.  Don’t know how to defend myself.   Don’t know how to fight.  What started as a trickle becomes a torrent; everything tumbles out, and soon I am buried under an avalanche of my own imperfections.  By the time the night comes, it has progressed, like the venom from a snake bite, until I doubt my decision to pursue writing at all.  I question whether I really even am a writer, whether that is truly an essential part of me.  I feel the dreadful icy clutch of having made a horrific mistake.  Hadn’t I already answered these questions?  How can I doubt myself now, when things felt so right, when I was so certain of what I was doing just a day or two before?  To feel those old, familiar doubts come flooding back with such force and ferocity completely reduces me to a whimpering state of paralysis.  Ask me my name, and I would doubt my reply.  Why do I have to keep fighting the same battle over and over?

I knew that I was tired.  Getting up early to write pretty much every morning, and putting in long days taking care of the girls, and trying to find my way forward is exhausting.  But I also know that it’s more than just being tired.  I decide to not get up the next morning, hoping it is the right decision, and won’t add substantially to my fear of shying away from the challenge.  I bounce back a little bit the next day, and although I don’t write anything, I think a lot about what had happened Wednesday, and try to make what sense I can out of it.  I’m not sure I understand the dynamics fully, but I feel like I can connect a few of the dots.   

I’ve never been the kind of person to let go of things, to give up control.  I think that’s one big reason why I never could quite take the plunge into a career as a writer, because I could never find a measured, safely calculable way to do it.  Well, I’ve had a bit of a spiritual re-awakening this year, brought about primarily by mounting years of frustration (see “The Forward Path - Accepting the Challenge” for more on that), and my experience as a teacher over the last school year, both entwined with the discovery of a church whose approach and message accelerated the renewal of my soul.  I’m not about to get preachy here, but the fact is, I was in desperate need of a new direction, and the church we started attending, whether by fate or chance, spoke exactly to where I was, and then showed me a new path forward.  But in order to begin moving, I had to be willing to let go.  For me, that meant I had to finally acknowledge that the choices I’ve made have not led me to happiness in my working life.  We’ve all heard Einstein’s famous definition of insanity:  When you try something and it doesn’t work, but you continue to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results.  It’s amazing, isn’t it, how you can know something intellectually, but not apply it in reality?  I guess, according to Einstein, I was insane.  I had to finally admit that I’m not capable of controlling my way through my own life, and I had to trust that there was a better way, without knowing what exactly what it was.  So, in choosing to leave teaching behind and to pursue a career as a writer, I was consciously, deliberately, and with complete awareness, choosing to let go.  By not plotting my retreat, or planning out the details of my next three moves in advance, I was intentionally doing something different.  Call it the George Costanza approach to success:  If what you’re doing is wrong; then, obviously, doing the opposite would have to be right.  Maybe it was an act of desperation, and maybe it would turn out to be foolhardy and stupid, but at least it would open up a new perspective, and change what had proven to be a failing modus operandi. 

So, what does this have to do with what happened on Wednesday?  Everything, it turns out.  Doubt is often an irrational force, one that feasts on fear, explaining why it has played a dominant role in my life.  By choosing to let go, I had unfastened myself from my fixed position in the sky, and started to fall free.  The big problem with that is that you can’t control your fall, and you have no idea what’s going to happen next.  Of course I knew that going in; I had known that all along, thus my eternal reluctance.  It strikes directly at the heart of my deepest fears: being out of control, and risking a fall. So, since I’ve spent 99% of my life avoiding these two things, how could I really be surprised when doubt jumps up and attempts to disembowel me before I either hit the ground, or learn my wings?  What I’m doing terrifies me.  I really don’t know where I’m going, or where this all is going to lead,  and it’s not just me who’s affected:  the people I love more than myself are with me too.  Risks are a young person’s sport; if something terrible happens to you, it only affects you.  Unfortunately, I was far too much the coward to have done this earlier in my life; and now of course, the stakes are much higher.  The only reason I can bear to do it all is because the me I would be if I didn’t do it is worse than the worst possible outcome of this experiment. 

Upon reflection, what should be surprising is that I’ve gotten this far (two months now) before having an attack like this.  In itself, that means something.  Working through to the source of my doubts, instead of denying them, or caving to them, has staunched their flow, at least for now.  The victory in this initial skirmish goes to me.  Doubt is an extremely powerful force in my life, and so I have no illusions that this is over.  Yet it feels like our positions (doubt and mine) have shifted slightly relative to each other, and I have taken back the higher ground on the forward path.  It’s up to me not to lose it. 

The Forward Path - 7 August 2011

Accepting the Challenge

When you feel the noose is getting too tight,  stop pulling on the rope. 
– me

This is the first of a trilogy of posts that traces the sequence of events that brought me to the forward path.  Six years ago, I was about as far away from it as anyone can be.  By that I mean not moving at all; I was completely stopped, cemented in place.  You might think that going backwards would be worse than not going anywhere; but going backwards at least involves movement, and of course sometimes it’s necessary to go back in order to go forward.  I think being stationary is worse, because there is no movement at all, and what follows is slow suffocation.  When all is said and done, stationary is what the guy hanging at the end of the rope is. 

I had been working as a letter carrier for some years, at least four or five, and had been content during that time to live a very low-demand, low-reward working life.  After the failure of my comic strip, and before that my career in banking, I sought to tuck myself away in a  quiet little corner, where expectations could easily be met, and all work-related responsibility ended at the timeclock.  Being a mailman was ideally suited to these two towering career goals.  I wasn’t happy, that was true; the job was way too easy, and left my mind far too disengaged for far too many hours every day.  I tried to fill the emptiness in my head with music, and sports-talk radio.  When that lost its ability to charm, I began listening to The Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” on my MP3 player, and devoured series after series voraciously, able at least to feed some of my intellectual curiosity, and therefore relieve a good deal of mental fidgeting.  Away from work, I began following the advice of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said that “you should give the best part of your day to writing.” I started getting up very early, often at 4:00 a.m., so I could write for a few hours before heading in to work.  It felt good to write; I felt energized by it.  But I wasn’t doing anything with what I wrote, except for allowing Elizabeth and a few trusted friends to read the occasional essay.  My productive life had flatlined.  I was in a surreal, semi-anaesthetized state, content but miserable at heart. 
It was Pat Tillman’s death in 2004 that shook me loose from lotus land and caused me to begin questioning myself.  Pat Tillman was a football player whose personality fascinated me, and whose football career I had followed closely, first collegiately at Arizona State University, and then professionally with the Arizona Cardinals.  I struggled profoundly with the need to understand his life and resolve it with the manner of his death (he was killed by friendly fire while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan).  I eventually wrote an essay detailing my prolonged efforts to make sense of it all.  However, in writing the essay, I was forced to recognize a terrible and inescapable fact about myself, a fact which surfaced from the stark contrast between his life and mine.  As I saw it, Pat had possessed a driving passion for challenges and an insatiable desire to test himself in many different ways throughout his life.  The only thing I had passionately committed myself to was avoiding exactly those same things.  The pattern of my past choices, once I looked at it in those terms, was crystal clear and pathetically undeniable.  I had been guilty of taking the easy road.  I had chosen to avoid making tough choices and opted instead for comfortable ones.  I had turned away from challenges whenever I could see them coming.  I had avoided confrontation out of fear.  I was guilty of all these things, and had never been forced to call myself on it.  The example of Pat’s life somehow broke through this previously impenetrable, invisible barrier.  It was a difficult fact to have to face.  I looked into the future, twenty or thirty years, and imagined the kind of life, the kind of person I would be if I remained a mailman, and I couldn’t stand what I saw.  I was suddenly stricken with fear that I would have to face God at some point, and explain exactly how I wasted the talent and the gifts He had given me.  It caused a visceral reaction; it made me feel like throwing up. 

In retrospect, this would have been a golden opportunity to take the forward path, and pursue the writing career I knew I always truly wanted.  But I suppose I wasn’t ready for that yet.  Besides, there was this little nagging voice that had existed in my mind for years.  It spoke quietly, but persistently enough that I could disregard it without much effort, but never dismiss it entirely.  It said that I should try teaching.  In many ways, it was an absurd thought.  I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, and I could list any number of reasons why, many of them very ugly to me.  And yet, the thought stubbornly refused to leave.  With others, when the conversation would turn to future plans, I would often play it off by joking that “if all else failed, teaching was my career of last resort.” That allowed me to acknowledge the possibility while simultaneously shoving it back into an indefinite future.  But no matter how many good reasons I could imagine why teaching would be a huge mistake, I could never quite remove that irritating sliver in my mind.  

The aftermath of Pat Tillman’s death managed to transform the way I looked at the idea of teaching.  Instead of regarding it only at arm’s length, I began examining it closely, with more curiosity than fear.  The more time I spent with the possibility of it, the more I started to believe that teaching was a way out, a way to begin facing my fears, and a very worthy arena in which to challenge myself.  I came to believe that it might just be my calling.   

Suddenly, instead of seeing hundreds of reasons why I shouldn’t teach, I began only to see reasons why I should.  For one thing, I had always been agonizingly shy, and had always dreaded, with pathological intensity, being the center of attention.  I knew that teaching would require me to make a drastic, and necessary, personality adjustment.  I knew from my experiences as a student that the teacher who isn’t the center of attention in the classroom is roadkill. 

Another challenge would be the students themselves.  As a mailman, I was used to interacting with all kinds of people in the community, although on a very cursory level.  However, as the years went on, and the circle of my life grew smaller and smaller, small enough that I was beginning to feel it closing around my neck, I noticed that I was becoming more nervous and suspicious around kids, especially teenagers.  If there were more than one or two standing around, I would avoid them, and would typically try my best to ignore them, regardless of the nature of their questions or comments.  I would become apprehensive as the end of the school-day approached, a feeling which increased exponentially with my proximity to a school.  I gave thanks for the blast-furnace heat of the June, July, and August, because it kept them indoors over summer break.  I developed an irrational mindset that every teenager was looking for a confrontation.  These feelings bothered me greatly, because I didn’t like what they suggested about me.  If nothing else, teaching would resolve this, either by dispelling my accumulating fears as false, or by substantiating them at least with empirical evidence. 

Lastly, I would have to confront my reluctance to be in charge of anything important.  When I worked in banking, I once had to let someone go, not because she did anything wrong, but simply because cuts were being made.  I instantly lost my taste for management, and had assiduously avoided being put in that position ever since.  Taking charge of the development of the most important skills people need to function successfully in this society – language skills – for 150 (or more) students at a time would definitely present a challenge to my fear of responsibility. 

There were also motivations to challenge myself that went beyond exorcising some personal demons.  I knew I wanted to do something more “important” than delivering endless slips of paper in a continuous loop of futility, as I saw it.  Some latent part of me yearned to make a difference.  I wanted to help, I wanted to do something positive, I wanted to serve others.  However, thanks to what I learned from Pat, I could no longer place any value on merely wanting to do these things.  To me, wanting to make a difference was now lower than nothing.  It was less than worthless, and it was an insult to those who were actually engaged in doing that difficult work. I found myself cornered.  To redeem myself with myself, I had to take action.

So, by means of self-inflicted shame, I finally found the courage and resolve to try something that absolutely terrified me.  In 2006, I enrolled in an online master’s program at Grand Canyon University, signing up for a degree in secondary education.  I would graduate in December of 2007, and begin teaching with the new year.  I had taken the first uncertain step away from the rock I had been hiding under for so long. And without really understanding it at the time, by accepting the challenge I had begun seeking the forward path.       

6 August 2011 - Career Update!  

The news came this morning, as I was outside mowing the lawn.  My mom saw it first, called the house and told Elizabeth, who delivered the news to me:  it’s official.  I am now a published writer somewhere other than on my own blog!

It turns out the Arizona Republic West Valley editor took an interest in my post about the Glendale Beet Sugar factory being recommissioned as a specialty vodka plant for the Scottsdale company Forward Brands LLC.  The story appeared today as a guest column in the West Valley’s local sections (PeoriaGlendale, Surprise, etc.), and appears on  Check out the paper’s version of the story; it’s interesting to see what was dropped from the original post.  Of course, the blog version is funnier, but hey, that’s life in the big city. 

My thanks to West Valley Opinions Editor Jennifer Dokes.  What must seem like an extremely modest achievement to the rest of the world is a big step forward to me as a writer.

Now, if only Huffington Post would come through on my Nazi post . . .

Anyway, just wanted to share this success and place it in the Forward Path record.  Now I’m off to do what I’m sure all big time writers do on Saturday mornings – finish mowing the lawn.

The Forward Path – 3 August 2011

There is only one path – the forward path.  Everything else just takes you in a big loop.

What dreams may come . . .

I’ve noticed a strange internal phenomenon going on with me that I want to document (and no, before you go away, this has nothing to do with my digestive tract).  It’s been happening for several months now, about four, which is too long to consider an aberration.  Since the mission of “The Forward Path” is to present this odd journey I’m on in its entirety with full faith and disclosure, I feel obligated to mention it.   

I don’t usually dream while sleeping, or at least I don’t remember dreaming.  It’s been true for my entire adult life.   On average, maybe once a week to once every two or three weeks, I’ll recall a dream from the night before.  In fact, it’s always been a kind of running gag between Elizabeth and me, because she could always relate these bizarre, crazy dreams on a routine basis, but when the inevitable question came to me, all I could offer is a shrug of the shoulders and a “I don’t think I had any.”  Not that I really minded going dreamless; I kind of appreciated the pure blackness of sleep, and at least I wasn’t being hounded by nightmares, like I was when I was a kid. 

For whatever reason, since I made the decision to leave teaching and pursue a career as a writer, I’ve been having dreams coming out the wazoo.  Almost every morning I have woken up with a soup-kitchen line of strange images, surrealistic sequences of disconnected events, and fragmented dream-realm interactions.   This has caught me entirely by surprise, and I’m not sure I can explain it, but there’s a very clear and definite difference.  It’s as though the pattern has reversed itself completely; now I may go one night in seven or fourteen and not remember dreaming during the night. 

But it’s not like the dreams are connected in any way to what I’m writing, or even thinking about writing.  They’re certainly not providing me with story ideas or poetic images, so it’s not like they’re serving a practical purpose.  They don’t appear to be serving any purpose at all; but I must say, after a few months, I don’t mind having them around.  It’s like being on a long airline flight when you’ve forgotten to bring something to do:  you can stare blankly at the seat in front of you the whole way, or you can watch the inanity of the inflight entertainment and try to enjoy what you can. 

There are probably some people out there who would attempt to clarify this confusion by explaining that I’ve been repressing my creative side up to this point, and that by deciding to embrace this change in my life, I have somehow unblocked some crucial psychic connection to my inner dreamer, or some crap like that.  And who knows, maybe they’d be on to something.  But let me reiterate; these are not helpful, guiding dreams.  They are more like a troop of monkeys on a sugar rush turned loose at the control panel of my subconscious brain. 

I’m only mentioning it here and now because it coincided so precisely with the decision to finally take the forward path that it would be difficult to pretend it was purely coincidental.  Fortunately, my task here is not to figure out what it all means.  The only job I have is to accurately document what’s happening; I am content to let the armchair therapists and sanity hearing experts sort out the rest.

Everything about beginning this adventure has been surprising, and this little twist is no exception.  It was the very first change I noticed, because it occurred prior to actually completing the school year and rounding out my responsibilities as a teacher.  In retrospect, it might turn out to be the first sign that I am truly on the forward path.  In a way, that would make my dreams the Munchkins to my Dorothy, which would explain the recurring preponderance of colorful little people in my dreams, and why so frequently I am wearing a blue gingham dress, holding a picnic basket, and singing Toto songs. . .

The Forward Path – 2 August 2011

One of the claims I have made about the “thunderstrokes” blog is that it is meant to serve as the place where I chronicle my adventure into writing.  Well, it’s been a month now since starting the blog and I’ve done a lot of writing, but not much chronicling.  There are a few reasons, I believe, why I think I’ve been slow to start journaling about the journey itself.

·         As a teacher, I’m used to having summers off, and so what I’m doing right now doesn’t feel very different yet.  We’re still coasting along on the money left over from the end of the school year, the girls are home with me, and my days are largely filled with the everyday tasks of running the household and preventing my daughters from driving me, and each other, insane.  That will all change within the next few weeks, of course, as the challenges of a dwindling bank account and a new schedule take effect.
·         Starting the blog and writing for it have proven to be so much fun, I haven’t focused very well on the purpose I gave myself before I started.  I wanted this to be a place of deep introspection, a place to document my fears, doubts, and struggles as I finally climb into the ring, and wrestle the angel (beast?) I have been avoiding all my life (apologies for the mixed metaphors).  Those things still exist (oh yes they do!), and I’m sure that at some point I’ll be in over my head with them, but this first month has been an unexpected blast and a joy.  To me, the last month has been like opening a bottle of champagne that I’ve been shaking for 33 years and finally popped the cork:  it’s been all fizz and foam, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
·         Lastly, not much has happened to write about.  I thought I would struggle with getting up at 4 a.m. to guarantee a few precious hours of pure writing time each day, but I haven’t.  I thought I would struggle with finding small windows of writing time (or the will to even try), once the daily maelstrom is unleashed, but I haven’t.  I thought I would struggle to find topics to blog about, or figure out what I wanted to say, but right this very moment, I have a list of ten posts I want to write sticking to the side of my desk, and those are only the immediate ideas; I have a backlog of others that I have no idea when I’ll get to work on. Simply put, this adventure has not begun the way I anticipated, and let’s face it, me writing about how easily things are going right now in the writing department doesn’t make for the most interesting reading. 

So, these are the primary reasons for not journaling the reflective, self-analytical side of this adventure.  But, I do know the forward path is not going to be all sunshine and Skittles either.  Challenges will come, I can already feel them coming, so the only thing I can say at this point is that I will present things honestly as they happen.  It could get pretty ugly, so if you’re a big fan of car accidents, train wrecks, nuclear meltdowns, tsunamis and the like, stay tuned, I may be able to provide you soon with boundless entertainment.  Of course, I’ve been wrong before too.