Building a Foundation

Near Mt Leconte Lodge GSMNP

Building a foundation is tedious, exacting work that will only be seen indirectly. The quality of the structure sitting on the foundation will directly reflect the quality of the foundation. When I looked up the steps to build a foundation, I knew at once I was not the person a body would want on this part of project planning for a structure one would want to stand the test of time. The necessary skill sets to lay out the foundation, calculate the exacting measurements needed to make everything align and fit just right, along with knowledge of the geology of the area where the building is to be set is a specialized skill set. If the foundation is not perfect, it will affect the stability and longevity of the building that is set on it. You definitely do not want a person who cannot draw a straight line with a ruler and has depth perception issues on this job.

We are currently laying the foundation for The Original Neanderthal. I am finding it to be challenging. The longevity of this venture will rest upon what we are doing to lay this foundation. It is not like a building, in that it has some fluidity in its conception. Our foundation will set when we are comfortable with how we define what we are doing. Our vision is limited by our uncertainty. These are uncertain times. Over the last few months, I have been getting a feel for where I want to go with this. I know that I do not like everything our culture is experimenting with. The loss of values and the shutting up of dissenting voices bothers me greatly. We did not become what we are today by doing what we are doing today.

The foundation that our nation’s founders set for us is solid and I believe it will stand the test of time. Out on my hiking adventures, I have come across many foundations left behind after the buildings that stood upon them were consumed by the elements or destroyed by design. Just because we have a solid foundation does not mean we are guaranteed to withstand environmental upheavals or outright destruction of what is in favor of what some think will be better. My husband’s parents lived in a house built in the late 1800’s. Sometime in the last 20 years, it slipped off it’s foundation and became uninhabitable. In that analogy, I see our nation slipping off its foundations. What can we do to shore it up, to prevent it from becoming uninhabitable?

I believe that the core of this nation and its people are decent, hard working, freedom loving, independent thinking, creative, folks who have been living their lives, doing the best they can to uphold the American ideal. Somehow when we weren’t paying attention something happened and now everything we thought we were upholding is in danger of slipping off its foundation. Folks, its not gone yet…somehow we have got to figure out how to hang on and change the direction we are headed. That ingenuity and independent creativity is what we are famous for. Let’s put it to work.

Be Legendary

Boulevard Trail GSMNP

In the days of the ice ages, when Neanderthal roamed Eurasia, survival depended on extraordinary effort. When survival is at stake, extraordinary effort is not so extraordinary, it is just what one does to survive.

Imagine for just a moment what it was like to gather with a few small groups of hunters trying to secure meat and furs for the families depending on those things for survival. Coordinating the group hunt, determining each individuals role prior to tracking and engaging the prey, then setting out with spears in hand to secure the immediate needs of those depending on you for their next meal. Knowing as you set out after that Woolly Mammoth, or Woolly Rhinoceros that it was them or you, one of you was not going to survive the encounter. And if you failed, it was not only you but those depending on you who would suffer.

Evidence from excavations shows many Neanderthal fossils with traumatic injuries. The individual healed up and then suffered injuries again. There is evidence of broken and healed bones, evidence of trauma from the repetitive motion of throwing a projectile weapon, and evidence of medicinal and trauma care that is being uncovered and examined and written about in scientific journals.

To live under such extreme and harsh conditions made one go to great lengths to survive. To thrive, one had to Be Legendary.

When determining logos and slogans to pair with our little guy, we seek to touch a nerve. To be original when the world wants conformity, to Live Free when the world wants to lock you down and tell you what you can and cannot do, and to Be Legendary when the world would prefer you to be mundane and mediocre. Go along to get along, hey, and someday we will all go back to normal.

It is a challenge to seek excellence when no one really wants to celebrate achievement. To be legendary it is not necessary to be famous. It is merely a call to be something extraordinary. To reach deep within and challenge oneself to go beyond mere expectations and give above and beyond. Be Legendary in your community. Be that person with that little something extra that causes others to stop and take notice. Be a positive force in this oh so negative world. Be a maker, a doer of good deeds, a challenger of the status quo. Be courageous and defy the narrative that promises safety while delivering destruction. Be the person you were created to be! Be Legendary!

The Unexpected

Pretty Hollow Trail GSMNP

As I stood for this photo op I had no idea my hike was about to go off in a direction I really did not want go in. The day had started out magnificently. The weather was fine, the trail though steep towards the top, was totally manageable. I had had a few indications that perhaps not all was right in my little world, but, like most of us I ignored the warning signs and pushed through my reservations. I had come to this place with a plan. I was going to see it through.

I stood there among the beautiful wildflowers, 6 miles into the backcountry, on top of the world. I felt that smug sense of defiant accomplishment one gets right before the bottom drops out.

It was just about to get real. My expectations were meeting with reality and they were about to fold in the face of the unexpected. My world tipped sideways and it was on. My trip back down the mountain was one of the worst hiking experiences I have endured.

When we think we have figured it out and we have mastered it. We have a plan and we know just exactly how it is all going to play out. We understand where we are and can see where we are headed. When we get to this point, we are almost always assured of meeting with the unexpected.

Life is fluid and all plans are subject to its vagaries. Uncertainty plagues our steps whether we acknowledge it or not. We are not in control. We are along for the ride. We point ourselves in a direction, we study on things and make our plans. We gather our resources and we step out on the Highway and the fun begins. Within all our expectations hides the Unexpected. It is always there just waiting for us to happen upon it. Sometimes, we may have a clue it is there and get a feel for it’s shape, size and manner. Other times, it’s just there at the worst possible moment, taking the worst possible shape and all we can do then is dive on in and try to navigate our way through.

The key to survival is adaptability. The questions I am faced with everyday start with; just how adaptable are you when things do not go your way? Are you willing to change your approach? Can you seize upon the Unexpected and make it work for you? Can you integrate new ideas into your project? Can you accept that what you started out to do may not be what you end up doing? Can you own change? Can you loosen your hold on your goal enough to let it flex?

The difference between success and failure is determined by the answers to these questions. Come along with me and let’s see what those answers look like!

Work

Work is defined as an activity involving mental or physical effort to achieve a purpose or result. To work, or to toil or to labor is to engage in an activity with purpose. I have worked since my teens. I can remember looking for my first job full of excitement, it was a part of the right of passage to adulthood and a precursor to adult responsibilities. I can remember going to my first job as a cashier in a local food market. I bet most of you can remember that first job too, some more fondly than others.

Nothing in our society or culture can be maintained without work. Every task involves mental or physical effort in order to achieve any results at all. There is no progress, there is no way to better oneself without effort. There is no magic government program that transcends what we were born to do. We were born to work.

The Neanderthals worked to survive. They had no choice. If they put forth no effort, there was no food, there was no clothing or shelter, there was no help for the wounded or sick. If they made no effort then starvation, privation and disease would be their end. I imagine they had very little leisure time and vacations at the beach were not a thing.

Our society has, during my lifetime, rewarded work with leisure time. Family vacations to distant places are rewards for the time, effort and energy we put into our jobs, whatever those jobs are. The money we make for our effort, we use for the necessities of life in our society. We make house payments, we pay light bills, and buy groceries instead of using our time and effort to build those houses, securing our shelter and growing or hunting our food. The necessities of life haven’t changed over the history of our planet. We have just changed the way we obtain them. But in each and every iteration of society, work has been involved.

Sometime in the last few decades, leisure has increased in importance to us. We are by and far one of the wealthiest countries on the planet and we have more opportunity to spend our time on our own pursuits once we have secured our food, clothes and shelter than many others. Work has become a four letter word. Today, there is a labor shortage. Not because there are not enough people, but because not enough people want to work at the jobs available.

I was raised with a work ethic, I was taught that hard work is intrinsically virtuous and worthy. I was taught that laziness was not acceptable and that if there was a job to do, I was not above doing it. Somehow that ideal has been lost to many and in the losing of it a pillar of our culture and society is crumbling. Without work nothing can be maintained or accomplished. Without some form of personal commitment to work, a person cannot rise above their circumstances and better themselves. The idea that someone will come and lift you up is a nice fairy tale with little substance.

As we celebrate this Labor Day Weekend, it would behoove us to remember why we work and how important work is to us as a people. We thrive when we have purpose. We are better people when we apply ourselves. When we consistently exert mental and physical effort we are wiser, healthier people.

A Path Through the Woods

Appalachian Trail

All journeys start somewhere. And there are many analogies to life in the things we do on a daily basis. When starting out on a hike, I am usually pumped. I can’t wait to get to the trailhead, I can’t wait to step out of the Jeep and begin.

At the beginning of everything there is anticipation. Sometimes, we already have an idea of what to expect, but within our expectations are many opportunities to be surprised, to be delighted and to discover something unexpected. I know I am in for a physical challenge when I start out on a hike. For those who have never been on a hike, there is a difference between a hike and a walk in the woods or along the Greenbelt’s developed trailway. On a hike the terrain promises to be a bit challenging to very rugged, and all necessities have to be transported upon one’s back. On a short hike, a small day pack with snacks and supplies and some emergency provisions is called for. On a longer hike or a backpacking adventure one may even need shelter and camping gear to prepare meals along with food and water. Walk for a while with 20 to 40 extra pounds on your back. Climb a mountain with said extra weight and the experience becomes more visceral.

It seems inevitable too, that somewhere past the beginning and a long way from the goal I hit a place where I struggle. That little voice inside my head starts yapping…”You work 12 hour shifts, why couldn’t you just rest today? Why are you out here in the woods climbing a mountain? What are you doing here?” Sometimes, it is a terrific struggle to get past the little part of me that doesn’t want to be where we are.

I am afraid business in August has been a bit like that point in my hikes. We have begun. We have a lot going on, the goal is so far out of sight, all we have is an image of it we created. Our expectations are high and we have ridden them this far. We have invested a lot of time, money and energy into what we are doing. And it has been a very slow month. That little voice has started yapping and sounds so familiar…”You work 12 hour shifts, what do you think you are doing? Why are you investing all this time, energy and money into this? What are you doing here?”

Our society has softened us up. We are so used to instant gratification. Anything involving long term planning and dedication and sheer stubborn will power that refuses to quit is almost painful. Our expectations meet reality and wham! Down we go for the count.

Like that trail in the woods, once you get so far along, it is just as easy to keep going as to turn around. If I turn around the distance may be less but I know from experience that the sense of accomplishment and joy at reaching the goal will far outweigh any benefit from quitting early.

This is not only about a good idea becoming a great thing, it is about navigating the ups and downs. Appalachian Trail through hikers have an idiom, pointless ups and downs, to describe stretches of trail where the terrain and the trail goes up and down with elevation gains and descents testing the will and the knees of earnest hikers.

I have a feeling this business venture is going to be like this. With surges and pauses along the way testing the will and determination of a couple of earnest businesswomen. There will be good days when confidence is high and the energy is good and there will be times like the last couple of weeks, when the energy is a bit off and confidence lags. The key is to keep going. If the goal is to make The Original Neanderthal LLC a success, we can’t quit just when the terrain becomes a bit more challenging.

Giving Back

Some decisions in life prove to be life altering, such was my decision to start studying Martial Arts. I had always had an interest, but had never tried any until a 6 week women’s self defense class was offered where I was employed at the time. I took it and figured I had learned just enough to get myself into some serious trouble should I ever need to defend myself. I looked around and the closest karate school to my home was on Main Street in Rogersville, Tn. Kelly’s Heroes. I went down, signed up and changed my life.

I had no idea at the time where this side journey would take me, but it grabbed me and challenged me and gave me the leverage I needed to end an abusive relationship. With my feet solidly under me, I threw myself into my study and competed all over the south and northeast. I made great friends, I won grand championship trophies and was eventually nominated for and accepted into the Isshinryu Hall of Fame. Life changing.

This past weekend The Original Neanderthal was privileged to be able to give back to the school that has given us so much. We sponsored two exceptional karate-ka as they competed in Kelly’s Heroes annual karate tournament. Giving back to our community is important to Savanna and I and giving back through this school more so. Congratulations to Abby and Sawyer for a great showing in the tournament.

Life changing. Starting a business is the same. Win or lose, find your niche or go broke, life will not be the same going forward as it was before stepping out, embracing the challenge, and stepping into the unknown future. Nothing is guaranteed. Like stepping into the ring and discovering that your opponent is not standing across from you like everyone thinks, your opponent is inside your skin.

Who are you and what are you made of? What can you do to overcome the obstacles placed between you and your goal? How bad do you want to succeed? How much blood, sweat and tears are you willing to put into it, because nothing worthwhile in this world is freely given. How many times are you willing to get up when you’ve been knocked down? How many times are you willing to step in and try again when your last efforts were a total disaster? My husband says that some people just know how to win, I think those people are people who just refuse to accept failure.

Success with the Original Neanderthal is our goal. And we will not lose sight of the things that make up success. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is how one defines success. To me, being able to have a business that is profitable, that will allow us a platform to encourage people; to give back to the community and support the people who have supported us will define our success.

For some reason our society seems to glorify selfishness and many folks seem obsessed with themselves. That is such a small picture of the world, it is depressing. Step out look around, reach out and touch a life, it is amazing what that will do. Life changing. Think about it.

Waiting for the Dawn

One of my most memorable and epic adventures was a midsummer’s hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and an overnight, Full Moon lit, hike back up out of the Canyon. We caught a bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead before daylight. With a small group of likeminded souls we headed down the trail towards Ooh Ahh point to watch the sun rise. When it peeked over the horizon, highlighting the distant cliffs, time suspended, catching and holding me in that moment.

The rays of the sun, the mixture of shadow with light, the hints of color in a landscape so foreign to me mesmerized me. The desert cliffs of the Grand Canyon are a far cry from the temperate rain forest I call home. The alien landscape caught my imagination and transported me outside my time and place in the world as I understood it, and opened up vistas in my mind that beckoned me towards the unknown.

I am, admittedly, a late bloomer to this whole travel thing; but I am hooked. There are places to go and things to see. Every year since that memorable trip, I make plans for a new adventure and off we go. Well, I did, until the 4 horsemen rode out and Plague broke free of the formation and wreaked havoc with our lives.

I had to cancel my plans to camp out on a subtropical island when the world shut down. It has been starts and stops since then and who knows what to do? Who knows what’s going to happen as we stagger along here.

How many of us are in a holding pattern, just waiting? We are waiting to see what this pandemic is going to do to us. We are waiting to see if the economy has enough life left in it to survive the hits it is taking from all sides. We are waiting to see if and when our lives can go back to some semblance of normalcy even as the media incessantly bombards us with tales of impending doom.

It is dark. It has been dark for a while now. We have had glimpses of light. We have heard whispers of promise, but the dawn seems to be holding out on us. And so we wait.

Take heart! The sun will rise. The rays of light will break the horizon and erase the shadows revealing the truths that have been hidden. The landscape will be revealed and the path forward will be navigable once again. It is for us to turn our backs on the darkness and move towards the coming dawn. Each of us, as individuals must choose, darkness or light? Hope or despair?

TheOriginalNeanderthal.com

Standing in the Rain

Sometimes what Sustains us isn’t convenient

We are spoiled by the conveniences in our lives. When we want food we go to the grocery store. We get sick, we go to the doctor’s office. We have gyms to work out in to stay in shape. For the most part, the majority of us do not go through day to day life worrying about our chances of survival. Inconvenience is the greatest thorn in our side.

We pull into the grocery store lot and someone else slips into the parking slot we were eyeing. We go to the fast food joint and have to stand in line. We call or text and someone doesn’t answer us right away. The list of minor annoyances generated by small inconveniences could go on and on.

One summer it seemed like everyday I had off and wanted to go on a hike, it would rain. It rained and rained. Days that I worked, the sun shone and the weather was great. Finally, I decided, along with 2 of my friends, to just go, rain or shine, and we did a few hikes in the rain. I discovered it wasn’t so bad. The trail is a living thing and every facet of it has something to offer. The rains nourished the flora and the world was lush and verdant with growth. The rain kept us from overheating on the summer days we ventured out. Here in the south heat and humidity together can zap one’s energy quickly. There is always something positive in every situation if you care to look for it. Our hikes were new experiences and we met other hikers who gave us great advice on how to dress to work with the elements not against them. If you are going to be out in the rain, you are going to get wet.

Sometimes, what sustains us isn’t always convenient. It is too easy to acquire a sense of entitlement, to believe that because you are you, you deserve things to always go your way. This is a fallacy that nature and circumstances will correct given time. Perhaps, it is not good for us in general that life is so easy for us. Hardship hones us, sharpens our wits and forces us beyond our comfort zone. It challenges us to find within us what it will take to overcome. When a person had never experienced real hardship, when it arrives there is a decision to be made.

The ease of everyday life hasn’t prepared us for some of the harsh realities of our trip on this planet. The easy thing to do is give up, complain and slip into victimhood. It is so easy and so predominant that victimhood is a status some actually seek. There is no sustenance in victimhood, there is no growth. There is a temporary wellspring of compassion that fades without leaving anything nourishing in its wake.

The more difficult thing to do is meet the challenge head on. When we step up into the unknown we will discover what it has to offer. There will be discomfort, even pain but we can bear so much more than we think we can. There will be dark days and fear and frustration, but there will also be moments of discovery, moments of victory, moments that redefine who we are and what we are capable of.

I do not know where we are heading these days. Uncharted territory looms unfavorably ahead. There is a lot of information vying for our attention and much of it is contradictory. Who to believe? What path forward do we choose. Do we let someone else make that choice or do we take personal responsibility for ourselves and set out.

We are made of sterner stuff than the media would have us believe. We will survive and when we come out the other side we will know who we are and what we are capable of. It’s not about convenience anymore; it is about sustenance.

This little business venture is about proclaiming to the world that it is good to choose the path less traveled. We are individuals, original, alive and capable.

Check us out at TheOriginalNeanderthal.com. See you there!

Around the Next Bend

Boulevard Trail GSMNP

On any hiking adventure the trail twists and turns its way up the Mountain. What awaits around the next bend is a mystery until the distance is covered and the turn is made. Sometimes, it is just more of the same. Other times…ah yes…other times a panoramic vista opens up and the world stretches away into eternity. In that moment all things seem possible.

The journey we are on with The Original Neanderthal has been an adventure so far. I have learned quite a bit. I have discovered strengths and highlighted a few areas in need of improvement. Our survival for the next few years will depend on forces within our influence but outside our control.

I imagine our namesakes faced this daily. Survival for the Neanderthals depended on their ability to adapt to whatever the world threw at them. They were faced with very basic challenges, as basic as food, clothes and shelter. Questions concerning survival arose with each effort made to secure it. How did the hunt go? Was it successful, was there meat? Did everyone who ventured out return? Was everyone OK? Evidence indicates that most Neanderthals suffered traumatic injuries. How did the gathering go? Were the plants they depended on producing this season? How easy was it to preserve their food? How long would it last before they had to gear up and go out again?

Sometimes, as I roll these questions around my head, I realize how blessed I am to live in a comfortable house. I drive to the supermarket and fill my buggy with food. I have plenty to eat. I have leisure time to spend as I wish. I have social interactions that don’t involve staving off starvation or the cold of a winter that will not end in my lifetime.

The survival of The Original Neanderthal will play out over time. What awaits us around the next bend is exciting to anticipate as we close the distance and make the turn. We are going live with our retail site now. A lot of work has gone into preparing it. Family and friends have been critical to getting us this far. Rounding this bend I see the world stretching away into eternity. Right now, at this moment, all things are possible. Help us make it so!

Visit our retail site Theoriginalneanderthal.com. All photos used for this blog and for the retail site are originals taken on adventures around the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and other great Public lands. Leave us a comment at our email, Theoriginalneanderthal@gmail.com. We are looking forward to what lies ahead.

Changes

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

There is a sense of timelessness when standing looking out over the Mountains rolling away into the distance. They seem like they go on forever. It is with a deep sense of awe I contemplate the scene before me every time the Vista opens up or I come to an overlook on one of my many hikes. I feel the tug on my roots and the Mountain air smells and tastes like home. It is hard to imagine the mountains being subject to the same forces that dictate our daily lives. They seem so large, so permanent, so solid and yet a study of their history details many changes.

From Paleo Indians to the Cherokee, indigenous peoples tended to live more in harmony with the natural world. Co-existing with nature, living on the fruits of the land, hunting, trading and practicing early agriculture, groups would build villages near streams and rivers where the fertile land provided. They roamed the mountains and valleys and left their mark on the land. Early settlers were more inclined to cultivate the land in larger swathes and they cut the trees to build houses and fences and changed the landscape with their activities. Thriving communities grew in the foothills and in the hollers. Remnants of these communities can be seen in the buildings preserved by the National Park.

There was money to be made in the mountains. The loggers came and the giant old trees fell to the saw. Great logging camps sprang up all around the Smokies. My own grandfather worked on a logging crew. The terrain changed. When people began to realize what was being lost to the advance of civilization, efforts were made to preserve the land. The Great Smokey Mountains is the most biodiverse park in the National Park system, according to articles on the NPS webpage. The number and variety of plants, animals, fungi and other organisms is extraordinary. With the effort to protect this environment the formation of the National Park changed this land once again.

My grandfather went from logging to working for the CCC to build the trail system that I enjoy today. When that ended, he went to work on Douglas Dam and settled in Jefferson County. Change…it marks us and defines us from generation to generation. If you consider where you are now and where you have been you can see how change has brought you here.

The Neanderthal were victims of change. Their species evolved to survive in a certain climate and when it changed the effects were devastating. Change can affect each of us the same way. If we fail to adapt to change it can indeed be devastating. Looking back over my life, some changes were sought after and the effects expected. Other changes came unexpectedly and turned my world upside down. When this happened I had to decide to pick myself back up and make the best of what I had left.

Starting a business is a big change for me. I have never done anything like this and it is intimidating even as it challenges me to bring my best efforts to bear. I look forward to the changes it will bring as it grows and thrives. None of us have ultimate control over our lives, there are too many variables that affect us, too many interlocking pieces upon which we have little or no control. Each person we interact with, each task we do, every place we go, they all affect us and none are static. It is my desire that those who interact with me leave me with something positive to show.