Sometimes What You Want Most…

jaycie gift2

Jaycie opening one of her birthday gifts

Sometimes what you want most turns out to be something you didn’t even know existed. This was the case for my daughter Jaycie yesterday during her birthday party at my house. She’d been saying for over a month that what she really wanted for her birthday was the Twilight Sparkle pony from the latest My Little Pony incarnation. She has that particular pony at my mother’s house but not mine. I went on my favorite shopping site of Amazon and ordered a little two-pony set with Twilight Sparkle and Princess Cadence.

While shopping on Amazon I found some MLP items I’d never heard of before. They’re called Equestria Girls and they’re apparently the next installment of the My Little Pony story. They looked adorable and like something Jaycie would love so I grabbed a couple. I figured if she didn’t like them, her sister Jordan would.

I picked Jaycie and Jordan up from their father’s house yesterday afternoon and Jaycie showed me her birthday loot. She wasn’t overly thrilled about any of it though because she hadn’t received Twilight Sparkle. It was hard for me to contain my excitement because I knew that the exact thing she wanted was waiting for her at my house! She said “I hope I get my favorite gifts at Mommy’s house.” She was so sure she just wouldn’t be happy unless she got that pony.

Jaycie with the pony-filled castle in the background

Jaycie with the pony-filled castle in the background

I took the girls to my house and made them a snack while we waited for my mother and older brother to arrive. Once they did, I asked Jaycie when she wanted to open her presents and she of course said “Right now!” My mom brought over the gifts from her and my brother and Jaycie ripped through those pretty quick. She seemed to like them all but alas, no pony. I then brought out my gifts. The first was a MLP lunch box and the next was an Equestria Girl version of Apple Jack. Jaycie opened it, seemed puzzled by it and wasn’t overly excited about it. The third gift was Twilight Sparkle and Cadence but there wasn’t the enthusiasm I was expecting. The last gift was Rainbow Dash as an Equestria Girl and I could see that Jaycie was trying to take it all in.

Jordan and I started helping Jaycie get the toys out of their boxes and even out of the boxes, she didn’t seem excited about any of them. Jordan however was extremely eager to play with the Equestria Girls. I put Apple Jack’s cowboy hat on her head and showed it to Jaycie and she just sort of looked at it. Then I said that I was going to play with Apple Jack and Jaycie suddenly had a huge interest in her! Within the next half hour, Jaycie was enthusiastically playing with both Equestria Girls and the Twilight Sparkle set. When Jordan asked if she could play with one of the girls Jaycie wasn’t exactly thrilled to share. By the end of the night, Jaycie took the Equestria Girls to bed and left everything else in the living room, including the much desired Twilight Sparkle.

My girls playing with birthday toys

My girls playing with birthday toys

While all of that involves toys and might not seem very deep and meaningful, it showed me something. Jaycie thought she knew exactly what she wanted, what she would love the most, and yet discovered that she loved something else even more, something she hadn’t even known about. That says to me that life is full of pleasant surprises if you’re just open to them. Sometimes you’re so focused on one thing that you can’t see the other amazing possibilities until they bop you on the nose. When you expand your vision and let go of your narrow focus, you’re better able to enjoy everything going on around you so you don’t miss ANY of the good stuff!

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An Unexpected Gift

Jaycie with some school artwork

Jaycie with some school artwork

Today is my youngest daughter’s 7th birthday. I can still remember when Jaycie was 7 seconds old and now she’s 7 years old! Doesn’t seem possible! She kicked and hiccupped all through labor which the nurses found amusing and fascinating. I was not quite as amused. I expected to have another little Jordan when she was born but when they placed her on my stomach I was surprised. She looked nothing like Jordan! In fact, she didn’t look like anyone else in the family. She was her own unique little being, she’s Jaycie.

I remember they placed newborn Jaycie in those lovely plastic bassinet things so they could measure her, swaddle her, etc. I glanced over at the bassinet and it looked like she was trying to climb out. That might sound crazy but it was obvious to me from day one that she was a little fighter.

As Jaycie grew out of her newborn looks and into her rounded baby years, she became even more adorable. She still doesn’t resemble anyone else in the family but I’m fine with that because it suits her personality. She appeared to be rather strong at a young age because at 8 months I could hold onto her hands and she’d stand up on my thighs. I was so sure she was going to walk before her sister! That wasn’t the case.

Jaycie never crawled. Instead, she scooted around on her bottom using her legs to propel her along. I didn’t think much of this until she didn’t pick up and attempt to walk at the appropriate time. She would walk if someone held her hand but the moment they let go, she’d plop to her bottom. I bought a special sling to put her in so I could help support her while she walked and she could strengthen her muscles. I think that helped but by 2 years old she still wasn’t walking on her own. Then suddenly at 2 years 2 weeks old she just stood up and started walking back and forth! I was so grateful and ecstatic! It was as though she was just waiting until she got every aspect figured out before finally walking. I thought everything was great and she’d then catch up to other kids her age.

While it was an amazing gift to have Jaycie finally walking, her coordination, balance and confidence weren’t improving. We finally took her to some specialists and they said she had “developmental delays.” She started receiving physical, speech and occupational therapy shortly thereafter and went to a special nursery school that helped her immensely! She’s always been quite tall for her age and I still believe that’s a big reason why she’s delayed, her muscles can’t keep up with her growing bones.

Long, tall Jaycie reading up on My Little Pony

Long, tall Jaycie reading up on My Little Pony

Jaycie still receives all three therapies in our local school and I’m grateful the school offers all those services. The problem is that she doesn’t fall into any of the state’s handful of designated categories for children with special needs so she might stop receiving services. I hate having any sort of label on my children, I imagine every parent does. We have to keep taking her to specialists and meeting twice a year with teachers to work on her therapy and school curriculum plan. I know they’re all trying to help her but it becomes infuriating to me when they try to categorize her as something she’s not. There is only one label that fits my youngest daughter and that is Jaycie.

Jaycie carrying her favorite lawn chair

Jaycie carrying her favorite lawn chair

One of the many reasons I’m happy to no longer work at an office job is because I can now focus more attention on helping Jaycie. As Jordan has tended to feel left out because of the extra attention Jaycie has always received, I’m going to include her too. We’re all going to start doing exercises and projects that help develop Jaycie’s strength, speech and fine motor skills. I have to keep it all very fun and interesting because Jaycie is ever so tired of all the therapies she receives at school. She’s learned that saying she’s tired can get her out of activities. This mama isn’t going to accept that!

Someday she'll zoom past Jordan

Someday she’ll zoom past Jordan

My beloved Jaycie will never be “normal” because she doesn’t come from normal stock, she comes from extraordinary stock! Normal is boring and predictable and no female in my family line has ever been that! She is the little fighter who tried to climb out of her bassinet at only a few moments old, she just needs to be reminded of that. No matter what, Jaycie will forever be the unexpected gift that I was blessed to receive on July 28th, 2006.

A New, Exciting, Scary and Amazing Chapter

No, this isn’t a new chapter excerpt in one of my books. It’s a new chapter in my life. A chapter that took a majority of the guts I have to embark on. Last Monday I gave my two-week notice at the office job so this week will be my last week there. The job I have lined up to replace it is doing something that I love and that fulfills me: being a mother and a writer.

My years as a stay-at-home mother were the happiest of my life and I know how lucky I was to be able to spend so much time with my daughters as they grew. Thing is, they’re still growing and I’ve missed so much of their lives while working outside the home. After my divorce, I had even less time with them and that was heart-wrenching for me.

My oldest is going into middle school next year which doesn’t seem possible to me! I can still remember the doctor placing her on my chest moments after she was born like it was yesterday! I don’t want to blink and have another 10 years pass without me remembering where they went.

When I have my girls, my main focus will be on being a mother. When I don’t have my girls, I’ll be busy writing my fingers off. This is an exciting and scary endeavor I’m setting out on and it breaks rules I thought I had to live by.

This isn’t my first leap into the unknown but it is the first I’ve taken with nothing but my faith in my own strength to back me up. I believe in myself as a mother and a writer, even when my confidence in other aspects of me waver. Hopefully while I’m focusing on the things I’m best at, that energy will bring other positive changes into my life.

I am so optimistic about the future, even with all the new challenges that await me on this unexplored path. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I’d continued to do what people expected me to, if I walked the same trail countless people have walked before me. I forge my own path with a blend of stubborn determination, strength and fiery feistiness!

Courtesy Goes Both Ways

Graphic by Jordan

Graphic by Jordan

First off, I must give co-credit for this blog idea to my awesome girlfriend Rebecca. I was texting her last week, complaining about how customers expect us to be courteous to them while they’re busy growling at us and blaming us for things we have no control over. Such are the joys of working in the customer service industry. I told Bec that I thought everyone should work in customer service for a week to see how it is on the other side. She replied that a year of retail and year in food service should do the trick. I’m paraphrasing a bit.

I’ve worked in customer service since I was 16 years old. My first job was in a clothing store, then there was the pretzel making place, then the bookstore and then my first job as a secretary. Working those jobs and dealing with some customers that were less than nice taught me the value of courtesy. I was always kind, patient and smiling even when dealing with irate customers and very few of them appreciated my efforts. That doesn’t mean I stopped being courteous. I will always believe that when you put positive energy out there, it returns tenfold.

I do understand the frustration of being a customer with problems but as I’ve been on the other end of the line most of my life, I don’t take it out on the customer service representative. When I shop in stores I always put back any clothing I take and do my best to refold anything I’ve looked at, though I admit I’m awful at folding. I always say please and thank you to waiters, waitresses and food service cashiers and quite often leave a bigger tip than is “necessary.” While I have of course encountered many nice and appreciative customers in my line of work, I know that for the most part, being in customer service is a pretty thankless job.

I do hear the complaint that “There’s no such thing as good customer service anymore!” and I beg to differ. Sure there are people who hate being in customer service and express that in their attitude when dealing with customers and I agree that such behavior is inappropriate. But quite often I’ve picked up the phone in my usual pleasant manner only to have the person on the other end speak to me rudely, sometimes even swearing, as they blame me for personally targeting them and making their lives miserable. I work for a company, I don’t make the rules, I just follow them so being hostile and mean to me is unneccessary and uncalled for.

If you’ve never had the “pleasure” of working in customer service then I envy you. What I do wish people would remember is that we’re all human beings and we’re all worthy of courtesy. Courtesy goes both ways and if the other person doesn’t always reciprocate, then you need to be the better spirit, allow them their choice and focus your positive energy on people who can appreciate it.

The Importance of Dreams

Dreams serve a purpose, both the ones we have while sleeping and the ones we pursue while awake. The dreams I have at night have given me great story ideas, signs about my life, messages from my dad and cleared out the chaos within my mind when it starts to overflow. I am always eager to sleep and discover what new adventures await me within the darkness behind my eyelids.

The dreams we pursue while awake can sometimes come from something we experienced in a sleeping dream.  A glimpse of a great future we never imagined before. Or the dreams we pursue can come from a wish we’ve had for our entire life, a goal we want to achieve. A desire to prove ourselves.

Regardless of where they come from, it’s vital that we have dreams and that we continue to chase them even if no one believes in them except us. There’s no expiration date on our dreams. We’re never too old to have dreams. We’ve never reached a point in our lives where we’re “done” and there’s nothing worth striving for anymore. As long as there is breath within us, there are dreams we can realize, if only we keep trying!

I am a big believer in dreams. They’ve taught me a lot about myself and the amazing feats I’m capable of. The possibilities are endless when I let go of the idea that I’m restricted to a certain path in my life. Pursuing my dreams takes me down roads I never knew existed and tests my determination and fortitude.  The easy route might seem like the safest route but is it really safe to merely exist when I could be thriving?

We are all mortal beings with a limited time on this earth and we owe it to ourselves to fill that time as fully as possible. Chase your dreams, own them, be proud of them and know that the harder they are to achieve, the greater the reward when you achieve them. Achieve them, pat yourself on the back and then pursue a new dream.

Pacific Rim – Review

I’ve never written a movie review before and I don’t profess to be a movie critic of any sort. I’m just a girl who loves watching movies when she has the time.

I hadn’t seen a movie since Iron Man 3 so I figured it was time I go see something. I was in the mood for an action flick and I’d seen a couple of commercials for Pacific Rim so I thought I’d give it a shot. Wow am I glad I did! I had no clue what to expect and that hasn’t happened in a long time for me. Usually when I go to a movie it’s something I’ve been eagerly anticipating like The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and the upcoming The Wolverine. All I knew about Pacific Rim was that the previews piqued my curiosity.

I would describe Pacific Rim as Robotech vs. alien Godzilla with some Independence Day thrown in. It really didn’t make me think of Transformers at all because those are depicted as living beings whereas the Jaeger machines were made and operated by humans. It also had the Robotech-ish feel because those cartoons always seemed to have deep plots and interwoven story lines. I wasn’t really expecting much plot in Pacific Rim so I was pleasantly surprised. I thought they did a good job of giving the main characters solid back stories and making them likable.  My hats off to the writers of Pacific Rim because it can’t be an easy thing adding depth to a movie that involves huge robots battling constantly evolving dinosaur-like creatures on steroids.

I really enjoyed the stories and interaction of the two main characters, Raleigh and Mako. Being partnered with someone in a Jaeger means that your minds are joined together, the movie calls it a mental bridge. The two pilots are in each other’s heads so there can’t be any secrets between them. That would certainly bring an end to the question “what are you thinking?” in a relationship! Most Jaeger pilots are related, either siblings or parent and child. Raleigh and Mako are just a guy and girl who are “bridge compatible” because of how their minds work. Mako thinks Raleigh is brash and careless, Raleigh thinks Mako is inexperienced and overly cautious. Amazingly enough, those two seemingly opposite personalities combine to create one extremely kick-butt Jaeger called Gypsy Danger.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie was when a fellow Jaeger pilot insulted Mako’s honor and Raleigh asked that he apologize. There was no apology and a physical fight ensued between the two men. Raleigh is a good man, he’s not just some brainless brute who goes around looking for a fight. Seeing him fight to defend Mako’s honor (when she probably could have done it herself) gave me giddy girlish warm fuzzies. I suppose not all women want a man to stick up for them like that but I admit I’d be touched if a man fought for me like Raleigh fought for Mako. It wasn’t the fact that it was a physical fight that I really liked (though it was nice seeing Raleigh kick butt) it was the fact that it was so obvious Raleigh would do anything for Mako, as she would do for him. The word “love” is never used in the movie and there’s no kissing of any kind but there was definitely some romance there. Or maybe it’s just the hopeless romantic in me seeing what I wanted to.

I didn’t recognize any of the actors in Pacific Rim except Ron Perlman, though he doesn’t have a very big part. I’m fine not knowing the actors because for me that makes them more believable as the characters. I think the entire cast worked well together and I bet they had fun making the movie. There were a few hokey parts to the movie and I think that was their way of poking a bit of fun at the whole genre. The fight scenes were just so over the top that they had to break it up with some humor and levity. It wasn’t all dark, brooding and hopeless feeling. I really got behind the Jaeger program and how hard they were fighting to save a world that thought they were obsolete. There were several points during the movie when I got very anxious and nervous because I really didn’t know which side would win! Never know what kind of twists movie makers throw in to be different from the crowd.

After watching the movie my mind was on overload as I tried to process everything I’d just seen. I felt a bit like I’d lived in the movie and to me that’s the best kind of movie. Pacific Rim took me to somewhere new with an amazing story, great action and believable characters. I will definitely be buying it on DVD when it comes out so I can watch it several more times and catch everything I missed the first run through.

Workspace 36 in Amesbury, Massachusetts

While I did not have any specific route planned for my wanderings through lovely Amesbury, Massachusetts,  I did have one place in particular I really wanted to visit. It’s called Workspace 36 and it’s a coworking space. I learned about it through following Amesbury resident Ed Justen on Twitter. When I become intrigued by a location, I like to find accounts on Twitter and Facebook of people and businesses for that location. I did it first with Boston and then expanded out from there to include Amesbury and Newburyport. Say what you will about social media but for me it really helps me learn about an area and what makes it tick.

Ed Justen is the founder of Workspace 36 and I admit I become quite happy when I’m listed in his Amesbury Online paper.li for whatever interesting tidbits I might have tweeted about that day. I’ve been following Workspace 36 as it develops and I found the idea quite intriguing. Amid my meandering on the morning of Friday, June 28th, 2013 I just knew I had to find Workspace 36 and investigate.

I looked up the address on my phone because I’d forgotten to write it down in true forgetful Julie fashion. I knew it was on Main Street and it took me a while to realize that I’d already walked up and down Main Street more than once. I finally stopped across the street from the building with the number 36 on it and peered at it curiously. I didn’t see any signs that said Workspace 36 from that distance so I walked across the street and poked around out front. Still no sign. The website clearly said it was on the 2nd floor of the building so I bravely stepped up to the door with signs for businesses inside.

Once inside I found signs for Workspace 36 and exhaled in relief. Glancing up the stairway, I proceeded to ascend. I soon came upon a door through the glass of which I saw another sign saying Workspace 36, pointing the way. I pulled open the door and as soon as I did I heard a male voice say “Hey, I know you!” This surprised me so I looked to my right down the hall and could see through all the glass windows in the hall that there was a man sitting at a desk further down. Smiling, I walked down the hallway and was greeted by Ed Justen himself. He stood up and shook my hand and asked my name (totally understandable because my Twitter name is @sriset1 and not exactly easy to pronounce) and we recognized each other from Twitter. Ed was the first person I’ve met who I’d known only through Twitter and for me it was quite cool to be recognized solely from social media. It made a simple country girl like me feel a smidge like a celebrity.

Ed Justen at his desk

Ed Justen at his desk

I talked to Ed for a bit and found him very friendly and welcoming. The perfect kind of personality to have for a space designed to encourage collaboration among people. He explained to me that the signs for the outside of the building hadn’t arrived yet but would be there soon. Though I’m not from the area (yet) he didn’t make me feel like an interloper or a tourist and I greatly appreciated that! He even invited me to sit down and work at a desk and if I’d had more time, I certainly would have! Ed also said he’d like to hang some of my paintings up in the space and I do wish I’d brought some. Next trip! He gave me a tour and I will admit that I’m jealous of the people that get to work there. Erica Holthausen, a Workspace 36 coworker, was there sitting at one of the tables and I thought she was very nice!

main entrance

I love this little round desk by the main entrance

Everything about the space is set up perfectly for working: from the excessively comfortable-looking couches that I’d probably accidentally doze off in if I sat down (just a me thing, says nothing about anyone else’s reaction) to the neat desks to the larger meeting tables, flat screen TV and tons of big, bright windows. They even have a media production studio with a green screen which was quite fascinating to me.

green room

The media production studio

I asked Ed if I could take some pictures and he said sure, so I did. Everyone working in there was very friendly and didn’t seem bothered by some girl they’d never seen before taking photos and looking around all wide-eyed. I can honestly say that Workspace 36 looks like a great place to be productive, share ideas and interact with other professionals.

powwow room1

Flat screen television in the Powow Room

Comfortable couch in the Powow Room

Comfortable couch in the Powow Room

For me personally Workspace 36 would be a perfect place to go work on my freelance ghost writing. Being a ghost writer is pretty solitary work and when I’m working it’s usually just me at my desk with Jazzmin sitting beside me looking at me like “Walk? Is it time to walk? Why are you sitting there when you could be walking me??” I love my dog and I walk her at least once a day, but she truly seems to want to be walked 24/7 and that just isn’t possible with my schedule. Having her puppy dog eyes boring into the side of my head can become somewhat distracting.

Comfortable couch in the Boom-Boom Room

Comfortable couch in the Boom-Boom Room

Another view of the Boom-Boom Room

Another view of the Boom-Boom Room

Being able to go to Workspace 36 and not be a solitary recluse all the time while writing would be welcome indeed! I do enjoy human interaction (no offense to Jazzmin) and I imagine it would inspire me to embark on all sorts of new projects. Maybe my plethora of peculiar skills and talents would even be useful to someone else coworking there. I hope someday in the not too distant future I have the opportunity to find out!

Some Workspace 36 coworkers being productive!

Some Workspace 36 coworkers being productive!

To anyone who lives in and around Amesbury, I encourage you to investigate Workspace 36. Tour the space, pull up a seat and get creative in a whole new way. Even if you have a home office, spending time in this coworking space will give you an entirely different perspective and undoubtedly help you approach tasks from a unique new angle.

Ed Justen and I at Workspace 36. Photo courtesy of Ed Justen

Ed Justen and I at Workspace 36. Photo courtesy of Ed Justen