Sunday, September 30, 2012


I bought my first house in 1997 and my second in 1998. I owned that second house, the Log House, until November of last year and lived there until March 24th, 2012 when I left for the Appalachian Trail. For a few months I lived a transient life until June first when I loaded everything I owned into my Volkswagen, Alli's car, and her Dad's truck, and headed to North Carolina. Nine hours later we started moving my meager belongings into the first rental house of my life.

I live in awe of the gorgeous mountains all around me, thoroughly enjoy the cute little town where I work, and couldn't be happier living amongst a population with such a progressive worldview. And yet, it still feels a little weird to live in a house that I don't own. Don't hear me wrong, I love my house. It has plush carpet, a huge kitchen, wonderful room layouts, and so much more. Frankly, it's the nicest house (i.e. not needing work) I've ever lived in. It just feels weird to know someone else owns it.

For awhile, I had a hard time putting nails in walls for pictures, deciding the layout for furniture, even opening windows. That has changed as the months have gone by, and this place really feels like a home now. And I think that's how I've come to feel about this cute red house: it's a house owned by someone else but it is our home because of our presence in it.

My friends Grant and Mike would often lament with me the downsides of home ownership. And to their points, there is certainly a sense of freedom knowing that if something breaks... someone else has to fix it. Add to that, if we decide to move, there's no worry about selling the house. Both of those points make most of the negative feelings slip away.

All in all, I'm really happy where I'm at: renting.

Some facts about me and this new home.....
  • I now mow my own lawn for the first time in five or six years. I even own a lawn mower.
  • I found a Lay-Z-Boy at Goodwill in the exact same style to replace the beloved chair handed down to me from my Mom.
  • I have already built a large bookshelf and an entertainment center to grace my living room. I guess I can't help building stuff.
  • The only TV we get is PBS. I miss football.
  • I have a dishwasher. I know, right?!
  • I've already planted five trees and an Azalea on the property. I know it's not mine, but planting trees is in my blood.
  • Hanging over the bay window that opens up the front of the house is a six foot piece of rough finished Black Walnut that was from a kitchen my Dad made back in 1989.
  • I have a cool little workshop filled with a mix of my own and some of my Dad's tools.
  • The house has central air. That's a first for me.
  • My driveway holds two black VW's. Shocking, right?
  • The old lady that lived here before us left a new treadmill, washer and dryer, vacuum sweeper, and a microwave. Score.
  • The neighbors across the street and the neighbors to the left only show up once-a-month. Behind us is woods. So despite the fact that I live in a small housing development, this is actually the least amount of neighbors I've ever had.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I think it might be helpful to hold my tongue

Did you ever want to tell someone something.............. to set the record straight.............. just to save face.............. but you don't because you know it would stain other relationships around them?

In my experience it's best to shut your mouth and allow the backlash that may come mostly because that person has already said and done too much to ever lend credibility to anything they say anyway. And I've found that if there are people who question and seek the truth, they are true friends and will always come to you for that truth in the end. So what's the point, right?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I act like an a** sometimes, Part Three

Whether or not you feel like seeing into my mind and thoughts, at least read this part of this post series. 

I am here to apologize for coming off as an ass in all of my, "posting" diatribes. It was selfish of me to complain about anyone not posting or using blogs anymore. The world changes and the electronic part is possibly the quickest. I was and still am sad that something I loved so much faded as quickly as it did, but that gives me no right to lash out and ask everyone to join in my sadness. 

Over the last few years of blogging's downhill slide, I've had eight (that I can remember specifically) bloggers start posts with something along the lines of, "This post is for Sam." *Please see sub note.* While I love the intended expression behind them, that wasn't right of me to put out there the idea that you must cater to my needs. How selfish of me to demand so much of other people's energy just because they've chosen to do something else with their time than I have. How rude of me to be happy that someone came back to something they didn't care about anymore just for me. I'm sorry you felt the need to satisfy my whining and I'm sorry my words were harsh enough to prompt action on that road.  

I've said it before but it bears repeating... while I mentioned Facebook in almost all of my posts about missing bloggers, I don't hate it. In fact, I check Alli's page at least once a week. It's an awesome thing to see little tidbits of people's lives and pictures of their events and their short opinions of the goings-on around them. I still think it's a sad excuse for real friendships but it is a very real way to, "keep up" in an otherwise hectic world. I will probably never start one, but I'm certainly not against those that utilize this current form of cyber conversation. 

I think I'll end this here. I'm sorry if I've ever made you feel like you have to keep me updated here on blogger because I'm not where you otherwise hangout. That wasn't right of me to do. And so I apologize if that made me seem like an ass. Because........ well........ I act like an ass sometimes.

*(I don't mean you, Kimmy. Thank you so much for letting me vicariously walk the Street Fair through your pictures. That meant the world to me; really.)* 

I act like an a** sometimes, Part Two

If I was to be completely honest with myself and how I observe people taking, "Sam" I would have to split it into two categories. First the negative: annoying, selfish, loud, not as funny as he thinks he is, always takes it one step too far, uncool, sheltered, defensive, thin-skinned, shy, and maybe a bit naive. Now the positive: friendly, would do anything for anyone no matter how much it put him out, fun, loving, patient, sensitive, content, always willing to give the benefit of the doubt, and maybe more compassionate than he gives himself credit for. Whether any of those are accurate is again, all of my own impressions because that's all I have to go by. But the one thing no one ever called me before a few years ago when I started sticking up for myself, whether for good or for bad, was an ass.

One thing I'm proud of and shows through me no matter who you ask, is that I'm generally a nice guy. I think some of that comes from never saying someone else is entirely wrong and I'm entirely right. I'm not one who will ever declare that all Republican platforms are correct or all the Democrats either. I'm not one who thinks any one religion or denomination has all the answers. And I'm not one who says anyone's point of view is irrelevant. Do I not have any staunch opinions or viewpoints? Of course I do. I'm as stubborn as anyone else and my stance on those things I feel very strongly about will probably never sway. But you'll never hear me say I have it all figured out. That's arrogant and foolish. There's just no way any one person can have figured out all the right answers or heard all the sides to an argument, so who am I to say I can't still learn and evolve my worldview? And while some would say that's still me being a doormat, I instead call that being willing to accept and love.

So if that's really true of me, where does the name calling and general bad view of me come from? I think it started when I decided to join into debates and take sides and state my opinion. While I was and still am the guy who will never say I don't respect someone for believing what they believe, I think I started to be viewed as being too opinionated. I like to think I can debate with the best of them, and I tend to stick to question-asking to make people prove their point. And I guess that can be taken as being an ass. I used to be the guy who just let people say their peace but now I'm the guy who wants people to continue the conversation so as to expand their minds. Do I want people to see my point of view? Who doesn't? While my prodding of conversation does not mean I think your thoughts are wrong, doing that has done nothing but give me the title of being douchy.

Even as I type this, I can mentally see certain people rolling their eyes at me. I won't name them, but there are specific people I see out there doing it right now. I guess all I can say is that I'm flawed and that I'm sorry. You may have been someone I spoke ill of in the past or someone I hurt by doing something or saying something that you viewed as painful. If you choose not to call me out on it then it's only hurting yourself, but I'm still sorry for causing your angst and for leaving a bad taste in your mouth for me. One has to wonder why you're still bothering to read my drivel, but everyone has their own reasons for clicking on ELEVEN. 

And that's where I'll leave this part. I want to expand on the real reason these posts popped into my head and I think that will be best served in its own space.

I act like an a** sometimes, Part One

A few of you may be asking, "Sometimes?" I deserve that. While I know I can't please everyone all the time (or however that saying goes), I sure do seem to make people annoyed with me more often than I should. It's not that I intend to or anything, but there are times where I come off much harsher than I intended. I have to wonder if some of that comes from the fact that I'm generally good-natured and don't have a temper, which has the result of causing a complaint or strong opinion from me seem anger-filled or just plain mean. It would be easy to place all the blame on those people's interpretations or thin skin, but then that takes away any ownership on my part. And to be frank, at least some of this seems like a problem I should be working on, not them.

A few years ago there were quite a few people who told me I needed to be more free with my emotions. They said I was too neutral, too nice, too accepting. I can't count how many times I heard the phrase, Stand for something or you'll fall for anything during that time. I was labeled (to my face by some but behind my back by many more) as a pushover, a doormat, or worse. Again, to be frank, they were right. It was while in the belly of those years that I let my marriage slip through my hands, forgot who I was, and lost my edge. They were sad years. 

After Ell left me, I decided those years of darkness were over for me. I decided to start being true to myself and my desires, to be honest, and to be real. In that bold step, I also had to come to terms with the fact that my honest feelings weren't always going to be agreed with or accepted. After all, opinions are what they are or they wouldn't be opinions. That might mean a heated exchange, harsh words directed at me, or actual arguments. But for once, I had to face those to really be who I really was. 

To my surprise, instead of people liking me for finally being myself, I was challenged and disagreed with to the point of losing friends. The odd part to understand was that these honesty-of-life changes and firm opinions of mine were not earth shaking or drastic. There were no declarations of idol worship, warrants for my arrest, cocaine binges, or changes in my belief systems. I didn't start performing bad at my job, take up with the wrong crowd, become an alcoholic, or blow my money on fast cars and faster women. None of that. But taking one side over the other in a disagreement between friends caused me to be labeled an ass. Admitting I was becoming a beer snob caused me to be labeled an ass. Defending myself when I was being mistreated caused me to be labeled an ass. When Sam allowed his emotions to show, all of a sudden he was an ass. When Sam was proving a point, all of a sudden he was an ass. And here's the real fun one, when Sam was asked for his opinion and then gave it, all of a sudden he was an ass. 

Please, please, please hear me when I say this: none of the scenarios I just mentioned are merely my impressions or happened in my head. On the contrary, those are actual situations where in the end I heard the words, "Sam, you're an ass!" Let me revisit the first paragraph by saying this: there is no way for me to be completely impartial so there is no way for me to write about anything else but my impressions. And my impression was that --at least for some of the people in those situations-- they liked me better when I was the friendly wallflower who never ventured too far into a discussion as to make waves. Again, just my impression, but it happened way too often to not be at least a little part of the truth. 

The writing of this post has not gone the way I set out for it, so I'll make this a multi part posting event. At some point I want to expose a not-so-proud moment and apologize, but I think I have some more soapboxing to do and some soul bearing. I think this is going to be one of those sessions where I should probably be under the care of a professional whilst laying on a couch. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Today my Dad would have turned sixty one. I thought about posting my thoughts of the day, but something else has touched my heart and it is what I'd rather share.

Please read this.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Observations, Ninety Days New

(Alright, so I've lived here longer than ninety days, but I spent a couple weeks away from home so this is about the right timing.)

So, what do I think of Western North Carolina (WNC) after my first ninety days? Or maybe a better question would be, what have I learned about it that I didn't expect? Here's a list of observations as I see them...

  • There's three kinds of drivers and they are split almost evenly: 1) Those that use turn signals 2) Those that don't use turn signals 3) Those that flip their turn signals on as they are in the process of turning. It's annoying waiting for a car to drive past only to have them turn as you sit there, but it's even more annoying to see that turn signal light up as the person avoids eye contact. "What? I had it on. What?" That's nerve grating.
  • The main business around here is tourism. Really. My pretty little town is crazy busy with tourists every day of the week. But as seasons change, the tourists will soon be gone. I've been told that after the, "Leafers" leave in November that most of the towns and cities around here are empty. A bonus to that, supposedly the grocery stores lower their prices during the winter. Score.
  • Along the tourist lines, WNC is much more economically depressed than I was aware of. An eye-opening statistic: sixty five percent of the service industry (waiters & waitresses) have at least a Bachelor degree (and many, Masters.) There's just no work around here except to wait on the tourists. Alli finally got a job and starts next Monday, but as everyone else, it's lower pay than expected and not in the field of her degree. In this economy, we're not complaining.
  • This area has a matter-of-fact approach to eating healthy. Organic farming, farmer's markets, eating in season, and other like mindsets are not rare or something you need to search out as in Ohio. And if you believe in these kind of things you are not in the minority or looked at as a hippie or tree-hugger; in fact, not at least saying you care about such things puts you at odds with most. In keeping with this normality, organic produce is comparably priced which puts it in reach of everyone, not just the rich.
  • In Ohio you watch the weather systems as they come off and around the Great Lakes. In WNC, you watch the weather systems that come off the Atlantic.
  • The woods that cover the mountains are sporadically patrolled by men with guns.
  • You've never driven a curvy road until you climb up the face of a mountain. Hint: slow down.
  • Taxes are everywhere, but things like insurance and fees are remarkably cheaper.
  • You don't have to worry about deer running in front of your car. Bears, yes, but there just aren't a lot of deer around here. Coming from Ohio where deer are a part of everyones' lives in the autumn, this is a nice reprieve.
  • People are just plain nicer here.
I'm sure there's more, but those are the big ones. And in case some of those seemed negative, well, they are, but I'm still pretty durned happy. :)

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Brown Hair Effect

I know some of you have heard me talk about it before, but this morning has brought it anew to my mind and I wanted to write about it.

My first night in Black Mountain was two years ago this coming November. I was staying with some friends and their husky in a small one-bedroom apartment, and the night I got there, they were going out to a local brewery to hear a reggae band and celebrate a friend's birthday. When we got there they showed me around the bar/brewery for a few minutes and then got caught up in their friend's special night, leaving me to fend for myself. It gave me some time to take in my surroundings and contemplate where I was and a strange sensation that was overcoming me. It was that night that I saw for the first time, The Brown Hair Effect.

As I surveyed the people milling around the bar waiting for the band to start, and then as the band began playing those same people taking to the dance floor in a crowded kaleidoscope of sweat and hair and skin, I saw an open sense of being and togetherness that was so uniquely genuine. There were people of every color, clothes of every fashion, shoes of every origin (or not even there in some cases), and hair of every length, shape, style and yes, every color. But despite the sharp clashing of class and appearance, there was no judging. There was no sense or speech of, "I accept you even though you have dreads," or, "I accept you even though you're gay," or, "I accept you even though your clothes aren't new," and so many other things we all do in normal life. 

Acceptance is not a bad thing. On the contrary, accepting and acceptance of people different than ourselves --whether in looks or culture or religion or lifestyle or social class-- is actually a very loving thing to do and something we should all strive for. To drop some Jesus on you for a second, it's what He did and strives for all of us to do everyday. But at the same time, acceptance comes with a (usually unspoken) statement that whoever or whatever you are accepting is different than yourself. And in spite of that difference, you are willing to show love to them.   

What I would challenge and question though, a feeling I experienced that first night in Black Mountain, is why do we feel the need to show, "acceptance" if, "acceptance" also means, "I see you as different than myself."???

Brown hair is the most common hair color in the world. As such, when we see that hair color, most people are not inclined to say, "I accept you even though you have brown hair." It's so commonplace that it's not viewed as something to accept or not accept, rather, it's just something that is there and no other recognition needs to takes place. What if we were to live in that frame-of-mind in all things and with all people? What if we could live in a world where there was no need to see differences in people's clothes or hair or choice of mates or friends or cars or tax returns? What if those things didn't trigger something in us that they were different somehow causing in return a choice to accept or not accept them? What would a world like that look like? What if we could live inside The Brown Hair Effect?

Questions like those would cause an immediate response from my Dad if he were still alive. (He was always a good balance to my other-worldly questioning.) He would probably answer something like, differences help keep us alive, they show us how good or bad our own lives are, and in the spiritual realm, differences help us know how to pray for those around us. And if my Dad responded along those lines, I couldn't argue with him. But what I could argue, is that our entire lives do not need to be consumed looking for differences. We can choose to not even see dreads in someones hair, or their old car, or their choice of religion, or anything else. Those things can be there, but we don't have to live in the judgmental state that we are above their choices and as such are entitled to lord over them --even in our own minds-- a state-of-mind that states we are the ones who get to choose if they are acceptable to us or not.

Does a person with brown hair never make comment or discussion about their hair color? Of course they do. But when that happens they are inviting us into their existence and inviting us to make opinions. The same can be said for religion, sexual orientation, living situations, dietary differences, and so many other things in life. I may not agree with someones choices in those areas, but that shouldn't change the way I accept them as humans. If I wish to live the way I want to live then that entitles them to do the same without any, "acceptance" on my part. (As a side note, there are times when love calls for reprimand of behavior, but I greatly doubt very much of how we treat or view others on a daily basis fits into that category.)

Have I figured out how to live in such a way as to not see differences in others? No, sadly, I have not. But it is something I'm working on and I strive for it to be the way I see people. I've had many friends tell me, including one of the friends I stayed with that first visit to Black Mountain, that I am a judgmental person. There is no lie or misrepresentation in that statement. Frankly, I hate that about myself. I want to live in The Brown Hair Effect with everyone I come in contact with. I have no way of knowing someones background or where their lives are at in that moment, so how arrogant it is of me to say I have any right to accept them or not? That's just rude. That's just selfish. I want to be known as a loving human to all other humans in my life. That is my goal. That is my desire.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

I'm going back to the AT

The details are still in the works, but the first full week of October will find me back on the Appalachian Trail. I missed a few miles in Georgia, so I'm going back to hike them. After those are done, I might skip ahead to where I broke my foot and do some more miles in North Carolina. And to answer the most often and obvious question, my foot feels good. I haven't noticed any pain for at least a month and I have no doubts it will be fine.

I can't fully explain what's going through my brain as I plan this, but I am very excited about it. I plan to make this a redemption trip, and allow myself a little soul healing.

So who wants to go backpacking with me for a few days?

Monday, September 03, 2012

There's a story to be told

Within my brain is another book I need to write. It's not my next book, the one after that, or even the next ten. I don't know exactly when it will be written, because I don't know when I'll have enough information to make it complete. It's a complex story with many facets and layers and lifespans, but worse than all of those figurative speedbumps, is the fact that it is trapped inside my brain. Moving a story from brain to print is not easy at all.

I sat down to write this post with the idea I would share a few facts and snippets from the story, Just to get them down on paper. But I've changed my mind. Not sure why. I just did.

I think winter is going to find me writing a lot.