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Musing: A Job, A House, A Dog, and the Internet
It’s Sunday morning, about an hour before dawn, as I write this. The odor of wet dog wafts through my study. It’s pouring down rain and 34º, a challenge for the morning canine turn-out.
The short story I prepared for this week’s Monday Musing—a tale of a true-to-life wildlife encounter from earlier this week—sits on my computer, ready for posting.
But it’s not going to happen. At least not this week. Instead, I’m going to tell you about 2006 and how four unconnected events—a job, a house, a dog, and the internet—came together to change my life.
I blame this post on Writer Unboxed.
Writer Unboxed celebrated their 17th anniversary this weekend and posted a history of how they started their website way back in 2006, the same year Twitter was founded and Facebook opened its doors to the public.
After giving a brief history and thanking people who’ve supported them, they ended by asking their readers what they were doing in 2006.
The question jolted me because I realized it was a momentous year, though I had no idea at the time where it would lead. I hit the peak of my finance career. Moved from the city to the mountains. Lost one of my heart dogs. And made a big step toward becoming a published author.
With journal and pencil in hand on a rainy Sunday morning, I pondered that year and its ramifications. After writing several pages, though, I realized you might find this interesting.
So pardon me while I share these thoughts with you. The story of my battle with a wild beast can wait a week. And, yes, that would be a teaser to encourage you to subscribe to the Monday Musings.
In 2006, I landed a new role as the Chief Financial Officer of a massive division of a Fortune 500 company. It was, undoubtedly, the best position I ever held.
But it also required considerable sacrifices. Each Sunday evening or Monday morning, I trudged to the airport, not to return home until the end of the week. I spent more nights in hotel rooms than my house.
If this were a Hallmark movie, I would have been miserable and changed my life right then. The truth, though, is I enjoyed the work. I liked the company, the people, and the job. The work we did was important and positively impacted people’s lives.
And it’s not like I wasn’t accustomed to extensive travel or the challenges of the business world. My early career was in furniture and textile manufacturing, industries dwindling here in the U.S. and being moved to international locations requiring travel. My leap from manufacturing into the service industry in the rapid growth 1990s provided tons of experience, but we were hammered with the impact of September 11, 2001. A stint with a global company sent me around the world—several times—but ended when they relocated to Dubai.
Yet, I landed on my feet again with this opportunity. Travel seemed a trivial sacrifice.
Years earlier, we had bought a small cabin in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, as a weekend retreat, but our primary home remained in Charlotte. The new role, though, meant I was rarely in Charlotte.
Because we weekended in Maggie Valley, I could go numerous weeks at a time without setting foot in the Charlotte house. I simply drove to and from the airport to Maggie.
In 2006, we sold the Charlotte house and consolidated our living in Maggie Valley. I started and ended each week at the Knoxville airport, roughly an hour from the house via Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River gorge. One early morning, I saw a coyote loping along that lonely stretch of highway, an experience which became basis for the opening of my second novel, Jaxon with an X.
My very first Siberian Husky was a feisty girl named Nikita. Since 1993, she had hiked with us all over the mountains and went with us on vacations. She was in the capable hands of my Ever Patient Partner in Life while I traveled during the week, but was my faithful companion when I was home.
And in 2006, she died. I had had several dogs before her, but she was special. I was heartbroken. Cried. Grieved.
And I created a website.
Other than some stories I published in school journals, most of the stories I’d written in hotel rooms and on airplanes were for me alone. I still have boxes filled with my earliest writings, including an absolutely awful first novel written in high school. I really should burn that thing.
Some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I discovered Usenet. For the younger among us, Usenet worked like Discord—places on the internet where people who shared a common interest could exchange messages. I posted short little snippets of funny things that happened to me.
Then I stumbled upon Sibernet-L, a listserv dedicated to Siberian Huskies. Listservs allowed people to post, but then those postings were emailed to subscribers. Sort of an ancient Medium or Substack. I found kindred spirits there and regularly told tales about the dogs, including the great Nikita.
As Nikita weakened in 2006, I made a decision. I had heard about blogging and decided to jump onboard. Instead of using a service, though, I taught myself HTML and created my very first website—dedicated to Nikita—by coding every line. Not content to see it just on my computer, I secured my first domain, wallbright.com (a play on EPPIL’s and my last names and now just points to my main website). The website was there for the world to see.
To my surprise, people visited. People I didn’t know. They commented on my stories.
Excited about the response and grieving for Nikita, I posted more stories about her, but fiddling with HTML for every story was painful.
Then and Now
If you had asked me at the beginning of 2006 what I thought I would be doing in 2023, my 59th year on this earth, I’m not sure what I would have answered. Four separate trails—a job, a house, a dog, and the internet—developed in that eventful year, but I didn’t realize then that they would merge into the life I have today.
In 2006, I was at the pinnacle of my finance career, but when you are at the top, the only way to go is down. It would take until the end of 2013 for me to walk away from that life, but I had already begun to dream of my next chapter.
I had moved out of the city life and into my beloved mountains. My weekends were filled with hikes and getting to know the people who call this place home. I dug into the history and listened to the tales. My notebooks of stories grew.
I had lost a great dog, one who left such a big hole in my heart that we adopted two dogs—Kiska and Kodiak—to fill the void. They joined Natasha and Rusty to expand our canine family to four. Qannik would come aboard in 2007 and Cheoah in 2008 to take us to the insanity of six.
And I had begun telling the stories of our canine-crazy, mountain-loving family on my website. I mixed in my love for photography and my passion for these mountains. I never expected more than a few people to visit, but thousands began to follow the tales.
It would take another 13 years before my first novel, The Lottery, became a reality, but the seeds were sown in 2006 through those four separate events.
I can tell you my plans. To keep writing and publishing. To tinker with my cameras and capture the beauty I see in this world. To continue reading and learning.
And, most importantly, to cherish the family time I’m so blessed to have today. After the countless planes and hotels I’ve experienced, the simple pleasure of a meal in the kitchen, a walk with the dogs, or a quiet evening at home is paradise.
But as I found from reflecting on 2006, plans do not always work as we expect. I can’t truly tell you where my path today will lead.
And that’s the magical part of life.
Enjoy the Story? Try a Novel
If you enjoyed today’s musing, please consider reading one of my novels. Each standalone book tells the story of big lives in a small town, ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges.
On The Website This Week
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And, somehow, I’m okay with that.
I’m currently reading Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World (Amazon Affiliate Link). If you recall some of the other books I’ve mentioned in the last few weeks, you’ll notice I am focusing my reading on intentionality. As part of striving to embrace the important, I’m learning to let go of things that aren’t.
So this week, I didn’t finish a novel worth sharing or stumble across a vocabulary word I thought would entertain you. And I didn’t stress about it.
So, yeah, nothing to share on the website this week.
P.S. – Don’t forget, though, that this is the last week to express your opinion about the best Valentine’s Day gift in this month’s survey. I will summarize the results for you in early February.
Gratuitous Dog Photo: Nikita and Her Protégé
As mentioned in today’s Musing, Miss Nikita was my first Siberian Husky, the one who forever infected me with a love for this breed. She was aloof, independent, and opinionated, so imagine our surprise when, at the age of 10, she took a liking to puppy Natasha. For three years, she nurtured and trained Natasha, leaving her well-prepared to reign with an iron paw over The Thundering Herd for a decade as Queen Natasha the Evil.
In this 2004 photo, the two of them sit at the front door of our Charlotte house staring at fresh snow and planning their misadventures for the day.
Until Next Monday
May you explore the winding paths that life offers and find happiness.
See you next Monday.
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