A New and Overdue Adventure!

View of boats in the Merrimack River from the Newburyport boardwalk

View of boats on the Merrimack River from the Newburyport boardwalk

I shared my bed with someone last night. There’s nothing scandalous about that because the someone was my 6-year-old daughter, Jaycie. She tried sleeping in my bed Sunday night but wouldn’t settle and eventually returned to her own bed. Last night though, she was all about being with her mommy. My daughters are going back with their father this afternoon and I won’t see them again for several days so I would have been more than happy to have both of them in my bed. My 10-year-old daughter, Jordan is too old for such things though. So I was content with Jaycie snoring beside me and only occasionally kicking or kneeing me in her sleep.

Tomorrow morning I’m setting out on yet another road trip to Massachusetts. This one marks my return to the North Shore area and will include visits to Amesbury and Newburyport. This is the trip that fell through for Memorial Day. No falling through this time. Reservations have been made, my suitcase is partially packed and boarding for Jazzmin is all set. Jazz of course knows something is up and has been stuck to me like a shadow that I keep tripping over. I will miss her immensely but last time I took her to North Shore, things didn’t go so well. Not her fault really. I’ll take her again when we function better as a pack.

I am extremely excited about my upcoming trip! I plan on taking tons of pictures and jotting down as many details as I can in notebooks and in my laptop. I know it will be a new and unforgettable story! I don’t know how much time I’ll have for blogging or keeping up with social media because I’ll be busy living in the moment, but I’ll update when I can as I take in all the sights.

There’s a chance of thunderstorms pretty much every day for the rest of eternity but I’m not going to let a little rain dampen my spirits. I’ll just have to cram more spare clothing into my suitcase should I get wet. I’m awful at packing light but I have learned that packing the kitchen sink is unnecessary when there’s a sink in the hotel.

Living in the Moment

My daughters enjoying reading

My daughters enjoying reading

Quite often I’m too busy living life to find the time to write about what’s happening in my life. I’m enjoying living in the moment and taking it all in. It isn’t that I don’t want to share by writing about it, it’s that my written voice falters sometimes. If I could write my thoughts as they happen, I’d have countless epic novels written about motherhood, divorce, dog walking, writing, reading, painting, birds, relationships and so on. But that sort of technology doesn’t exist yet, which is probably just as well.

Last Wednesday was my daughters’ last day of school for the summer. They were excited of course and I was happy to see them happy. It was bittersweet though because the end of school means the end of them needing to ride the bus from my house Thursday and Friday morning. Custody with my ex is exactly 50/50 and he has them the last half of the week. For convenience’s sake, he drops them off at my house for the bus on two of his days. That works wonderfully for me because that means I get to see them every weekday morning. That ends in the summer and going more days without seeing them than I’m used to, is an adjustment for me.

Thursday and Friday went by far too slowly and I wasn’t as productive as I should have been…on anything. Saturday morning when I picked them up from my ex’s, it was as though the sun finally came back out! Life felt whole and right again and I spent the entire weekend playing with them, doing crafts with them and just being with them in any way I could.

Jordan has recently started making keychains with plastic craft lace so I bought her an entire package of it for summer crafts. I asked her to make me a keychain out of my favorite color of blue and she had it done in no time at all!  I know how to knit, crochet and cross stitch but I had no experience with this new type of craft. I decided I was up for a challenge this weekend and pulled out the instructions that came with the lace. It took me a few tries, but I eventually learned how to do what’s called the “cobra stitch” and I created something that could be a really small bracelet or a key chain. Jordan knows a different type of braid with the lace and it’s one I can’t wrap my head around. She quickly picked up the braid I learned and I’m sure she and I will soon have it mastered together.

The bracelet/keychain I made

The bracelet/keychain I made

While I didn’t write about my weekend adventures as they happened, I loved living them. Time with my girls is not something I will cut back on for the sake of writing. Eating, sleeping, mowing…yes, I’ll cut back on doing those but my girls have always and will always come first!

Truth in Advertising

In the back seat of my Matrix on the way to Boston in November, 2012

In the back seat of my Matrix on the way to Boston in November, 2012

I am not a natural redhead. This is made evident by my dark brown eyebrows and dark roots that grow in every 2-3 weeks. Most of the time I’m more like a calico cat, with my hair a mixture of the last several colors I’ve dyed it. Some colors grab better than others and some fade so there’s always a unique mixture of red, brown and currently, burgundy dancing through my tresses. I color my hair myself because my indecisiveness would be a rather expensive salon habit.

I don’t like to go along with the crowd, never have. My family moved from the country into a rather large suburban school district when I was 13. It was a huge adjustment for a shy, semi-reclusive girl like myself. One of my first days in school a gaggle of popular girls bounced over to where I was sitting in the cafeteria and asked me if I liked New Kids on the Block. I said no and their perfect little noses wrinkled in disdain while their doe-eyes widened in surprise. From that day on I was an outsider.

In high school I was called a witch because I liked reading fantasy novels and wearing dragon-themed jewelry now and then. I was never impressed by boys teasing me or rough housing near me in an attempt to flirt with and impress me. That’s how I earned the “rhymes with witch” moniker. I was happy when high school ended and I saw almost none of those people ever again.

I’m genuine, the real deal, a no-nonsense chick who says what’s on her mind. Quite often my bluntness and sarcasm catch people off guard. I am also a nice girl who was raised with manners and has never forgotten them. When I say please and thank you, I mean it.

I shall reiterate what I said in Writing Every Word. When I post something, whether it’s a Tweet, Facebook status or DM, I’ve taken the time to write it out. I don’t auto-follow or auto-unfollow, I take the time to click on the appropriate buttons. My standard “Thanks for the follow! I followed back :)” is always typed out in that moment and I try to hashtag something relevant to the new follower.

Now that I have a published e-book on Nook and Kindle, I’ve entered the fun world of marketing my story. I read tweets all day long of other authors advertising their books and my goal is to stand out from the crowd. I’m sure that’s every author’s goal. I will schedule tweets but they won’t be the same thing over and over. I won’t be paying anyone to help me advertise because no matter how much they promise to speak in my personal voice, they can’t. There’s only one me. I’m a paid ghost writer as a side job, I’m not about to pay someone else to ghost write for me.

A book teaser I'm working on

A book teaser I’m working on

One more thing: my tweets and posts will never be only about my book or my blog. Last night’s tweets were mostly about the Boston Bruins playing in The Stanley Cup Finals. I’m a human, not a robot and I don’t exist solely to promote my work. I exist to interact, be social and discuss all sorts of topics, not just writing. Perhaps this goes against tons of marketing “rules” but rules and I don’t get along sometimes. The occasional fiery redness of my hair might come from a bottle, but the fire and feistiness within me is 100% natural!

Fulfilling a Promise for Father’s Day

I realize not everyone has a good relationship with their father. I know how lucky I am that my father and I were so close. My father wasn’t perfect, no one is perfect. We’re all human and we’re flawed but our imperfections are what make us beautiful.

My father almost always greeted me with the words “Hi, beautiful!” and that is something I will forever keenly miss. I never doubted that he meant those words, they were never a ploy to win my affection, they were how he saw me. Me seeing myself as that beautiful is a work in progress.

My father gave me a priceless and timeless gift. He showed me what unconditional love from a man feels like. He accepted me as I was, no changes necessary, and he loved every bit of me, even the parts that get me lost and in trouble. A very wise woman told me that it speaks to my strength that I want to feel that kind of love again. That I’m still open to the possibility of it. It’s a scary concept though.

Being open to that kind of love is terrifying because the last time I had it, it left me. I know my father’s spirit is always with me and he will always love me that much but it’s different not having his physical presence anymore. I have great hope that someday I will be strong enough to take that leap of faith and trust that another man who I love can love me as unconditionally as my father did, but in a romantic sense. I’m standing at the edge now looking into uncertain depths and I imagine I’ll be fidgeting and biting my lip in worry for a while.

As promised, my e-book has launched today. It’s a promise I made to myself in honor and memory of my father. It’s a promise I made to my closest friends and they’ve helped me keep it with encouragement and input. It’s a promise I made to the new friends I’ve found through social media who are themselves talented writers, artists and musicians. Most of all it’s a promise to my father that I never said to him while he lived. I never said to him “I promise I’ll be published someday, Dad.” I wasn’t sure I could keep that promise. He knew I could though.

My e-book is about my self-guided and often lost tour through Boston, Massachusetts during my first visit. It was originally posted as a blog and was well-received. Somehow turning it into an e-book made it more personal for me and that much harder to share. What can a simple girl like myself say about Boston that hasn’t already been said? I am just one small voice among many, why do my words matter? My answer to that is that there is only one me on this whole world. How I feel about Boston is unique to me but will hopefully give even lifelong Boston residents a new perspective of their beautiful city.

I’ve pasted in the synopsis below and the links to my book for sale on Nook and Kindle are at the end. Even if you don’t buy my book, thank you for reading my words!

Massachusetts Adventures: Boston 

What happens when you take a girl from the country, known for getting lost in her own kitchen, and set her free on a first-time tour of Boston? A true Massachusetts adventure!

Intrigued by a new discovery on the internet, JulieAnn takes an inaugural, out-of-state, solo road trip to the breathtaking city of Boston, Massachusetts. The early November drive stirs a sense of freedom within her that she’s never felt and opens her eyes to endless possibilities. JulieAnn’s travels introduce her to new friends, evoke memories of her beloved father and lift and awaken her spirit in unimaginable ways. An afternoon spent in the City of Boston helps her understand true inner strength and feeds her endless curiosity.

Explore the City of Boston with JulieAnn in this autobiographical story of her adventures in Beantown. View photos of numerous historical Boston buildings and landmarks as seen through the eyes of this first-time visitor. Get swept up in the beauty of the city as JulieAnn wanders happily lost among cobblestone streets and skyscrapers on a journey of self-discovery. Massachusetts Adventures: Boston is the first story in an upcoming and ongoing series detailing JulieAnn’s continued visits to Massachusetts.

Sometimes being lost is the only way you can truly find yourself.

Massachusetts Adventures: Boston on Kindle 

Massachusetts Adventures: Boston on Nook

My Boston Story E-book Launches Tomorrow!

View of Boston skyline from Long Wharf. I used this photo as part of my cover.

View of Boston skyline from Long Wharf. I used this photo as part of my cover.

I’ve been working late hours at my computer all week getting my Boston story formatted for Nook and Kindle. It’s been a fun process but more time-consuming than I expected. The only way to learn is by doing though so I’m glad I’m finally doing!

It’s quite lovely that both Nook and Kindle allow fast and easy changes to a story once it’s been uploaded. I’ve re-uploaded and modified my Nook version more times than I can count because every time I preview it I see some little thing that could be improved. I don’t promise that my Boston story e-book will be the greatest work of literary non-fiction ever written or that the visual appeal of it will knock your socks off, but I do promise that it will be 100% me.

This story is the first in an ongoing series detailing my adventures in the beautiful state of Massachusetts. I visit there at least twice a year and will be increasing those visits until I finally at long last live there. Every time I drive into that New England state I feel like I’m coming home again and I can almost hear it saying “Oh boy, here’s that crazy New Yorker again! Wonder where she’ll get lost this time!”

Two of the hardest parts of the whole e-book were writing my author biography and the synopsis of the story. Once they were complete I ran them by my best girlfriends and they said the biography described me perfectly. They should know since they’ve been my friends through thick and thin. I still think the synopsis is a bit wordy so I might be editing that more before I’m completely satisfied.

My e-book officially launches tomorrow on Father’s Day and I know that no matter what happens, my father’s spirit is very proud of me. Sharing this story is both frightening and exciting to me because it is my own personal experience, but it’s definitely at tale that must be told!

Here’s my author biography, enjoy!

Born with a boisterous and adventurous spirit, JulieAnn didn’t fully explore her potential until she set out on her first solo road trip to Boston in November of 2011. Her life was forever changed by that first Massachusetts adventure and her eyes were opened to a fresh future of possibilities.

When she’s not busy being a single mother, homeowner, writer, painter, pack leader-in-training, hopeful gardener and baker extraordinaire, JulieAnn enjoys sleeping–because balancing all that is exhausting! Fantasy manuscripts, scribbled in cursive pencil upon the pages of college-ruled spiral notebooks were JulieAnn’s first venture into the world of writing. In recent years she’s found her own personal voice and shares her daily adventures with others via her blogs, one of which she transformed into her first e-book.

For fun, JulieAnn enjoys playing with her daughters, walking her pup Jazzmin’s paws off, grilling with excessively high flames, singing odd bits of random show tunes and getting lost driving around the Northeast United States. You’ll often find her where you least expect, doing something so uniquely quirky you’ll roll your eyes.

A Shattered Evening

I HAD to mow my lawn yesterday afternoon. The grass was up to Jazzmin’s belly, almost long enough to make tiny, adorable bales and I had several varieties of mushrooms popping up all over the place from the wet weather. Yesterday it finally stopped raining and it was supposed to be sunny for the entire day. The way this spring has been going, that’s not a window of opportunity I could afford to miss. As it turned out, I had some fortunate and unfortunate luck with windows yesterday.

I checked the gas tank in my mower and saw that I had enough to do the back yard. I decided I’d get started and then go into town for more gas when I finished that largest section of the lawn. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon so I sprayed on my sunblock, popped in my ear buds, donned my big, clunky, noise-dampening ear muffs and cranked my mower up to set to work.

My lawn looked less like the field finally!

My lawn looked less like the field finally!

I put Jazz out on her lead by the swing set so she could get fresh air and be in the shade safely away from where I was mowing. She of course chose to lay in the full sun and ignore the shade. I glanced over toward where Jazz was every time I went by that way and she was either laying down in the sun or sniffing around. I was about halfway done with the back yard when I looked over at her and saw her sniffing around in the driveway. That confused me because her lead doesn’t reach that far. Then it clicked. She’d gotten off the lead! I stopped the mower as calmly as possible, turned off the blades and turned it around toward the shed and called Jazzmin cheerfully over. She followed me to the shed and I grabbed her collar before she realized she wasn’t on any sort of leash.

I decided it was the ideal time to drive into town for more gas. With Jazz in one hand and the gas tank in the other, I walked to the car, happy to be off the mower for a while. Jazz hopped into the front seat and I loaded the empty tank in the back and off we went on the five-minute drive into town. It was 75 out so I had the AC cranked and Jazzmin took great pleasure sniffing and snotting up the air vents. She loves riding in the car and looked around at the passing scenery.

Jazzmin ready to go!

Jazzmin ready to go!

I filled up the mower gas can and my own car at the cheapest station in town (which had a line out to the road) and made the quick drive back home. I put Jazzmin in the house so she could stay cool and out of trouble and then resumed mowing. It took me another hour and a half to finish mowing and I was extremely happy and relieved when I was done! No more tall grass, no more mushrooms, no more caring that it was going to rain for the next several days.

The local farmer was baling the large field behind my house and I took a few pictures while mowing and afterward. As I set my lawn furniture back in the grass and out of the driveway, I considered relaxing in a chair for a bit to watch the farming demonstration.

The farmer windrowing the hay

The farmer windrowing the hay

The baling machine at work

The baling machine at work

Gathering up the large bales

Gathering up the large bales

I saw something odd out of the corner of my eye and turned toward my car in confusion. Something wasn’t quite right about the passenger side window. I took a step closer and my mouth dropped open. There was a large hole in the window and the remaining safety glass was shattered in place. I groaned at my own stupidity. I’d mowed with the shoot toward my car and a stone had flown up and hit the window. I know better! I emitted a long slow swear word and sighed heavily. The damage was done and getting angry about it wasn’t going to change anything.

Large hole in my window and remnants of glass

Large hole in my window and remnants of glass

Shaking my head, I grabbed my leather gloves from the shed and started picking the glass out of the window and front passenger seat. There were tiny pieces of broken safety glass everywhere and the remains of the window collapsed the moment I touched it, sending several pieces of glass into my boots. Deciding it was as good as it was going to get for a while, I went inside and showered. Before full dark I ventured out with a clear garbage bag and duct tape and created a makeshift window to keep the bugs and forecasted rain out.

Thankfully I have full glass coverage on my auto insurance so I called in the claim and scheduled the window replacement for the following day. That drama dealt with, I turned on the Stanley Cup Playoffs hockey game to root for the Boston Bruins against the Chicago Blackhawks. With the game on in the background, I set to work redesigning my Boston story ebook cover and tried my best to leave the shattered evening behind me.

Creative Explorations

I’ve dabbled in many things trying to figure out what I want to be “when I grow up.” My father crafted amazing projects out of wood such as rocking animals (lions, giraffes and horses) and puzzles but my attempts to craft from wood in middle school shop class failed miserably. Not to mention that it’s not exactly safe for me to be around sharp, spinning things like saws.

I always loved art class in school but my work was overshadowed by artists far better than myself. Other students could draw realistic people and scenes while I did better with abstract and impressionistic pieces. My teachers seemed to have a higher appreciation for recognizable things than what I’d come up with so my work rarely made it into school art shows and displays.

In high school I took a computer programming class and discovered to my surprise that I was actually quite good at it! While my friends and fellow students kept getting stuck, I’d plow right through the steps and my program would run perfectly after I cleaned out a few bugs. I’d then help my friends with their code and I was impressed that my mind could work like that. I probably should have explored that area more because it had the potential to lead to a productive career but I didn’t.

I took a couple of computer art classes in school too. They didn’t call it graphic design but that’s what it was. Graphics on computers were pretty rudimentary back then but I was able to create things that impressed my teacher so much she wanted to use them on the school website. That never actually happened because I got sidetracked by trying to pass the classes I wasn’t very good at so I could graduate.

My father had a talent with a camera. Just about every photograph he took turned out perfect. People hired him to photograph work and social club events. He used his old Olympus SLR camera to take all the pictures and every shot was interesting. While I love taking photos and often snap several in a day, I don’t consider myself a photographer. I’m just someone who likes to take pictures. Being a photographer takes an eye and a skill I just don’t naturally possess.

When I was a stay-at-home mother I decided to expand my knowledge of graphic design, photography and photo editing by taking some online classes. It was fascinating learning about proper photo composition and where the eye is naturally drawn to. I went out and took several rolls of pictures with my father’s old Olympus camera but very few of them turned out well. I really enjoyed learning how to edit photos with Photoshop and bringing out details that were there in the scene but hadn’t been captured on film. Exploring graphic design with Illustrator was fun for me and while I created projects I liked, they just weren’t up to professional graphic design standards.

Graphic I made in the online Illustrator class

Graphic I made in the online Illustrator class

I’ve had to brush up on those Photoshop and graphic design skills recently as I work on the cover for my Boston story e-book. I dug out those three-ring binders and reread the lessons until it dusted off the correct memory files in my brain. Once I remember what I was doing, I had a lot of fun working on my cover…at first. The longer I work on it though, the less I like it. I imagine that happens to everyone after a while. I don’t know that I’ll ever be satisfied with the cover but I will eventually have to stop reworking it so I can publish my story. I’ll do my best and hope that people don’t glance at it, cringe and then keep browsing titles.

Potential cover in progress

Potential cover in progress

All of my creative explorations have taught me one thing: I am a writer. I can dabble in whatever I want to and I continue to paint, take photos and play with graphic design but my strongest ability is writing. I don’t profess to be a perfect writer and I never took any college courses in it so my grammar isn’t up to snuff but as every writer knows, writers write! I will always write, even if it’s about the most mundane-seeming things in the world. I am a storyteller and if I don’t get the words out of me, my entire creative essence suffers.