An anniversary of sorts

Amesbury mural by Jon P. Mooers

Amesbury mural by Jon P. Mooers

This coming Wednesday, June 25th, I’m heading to New England for one of my monthly/bi-monthly visits/adventures. I’m celebrating an anniversary of sorts because around this same week last year was the first time I made an official and well-planned trip to Amesbury, Massachusetts. I visited during Amesbury Days last year and this year’s visit is timed perfectly with that same event!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I started visiting the area that I immediately fell in love with during my first official trip to North Shore. After that first trip, I wanted to visit as often as possible and quitting my office job to do freelance writing full-time gave me the ability to do just that!

I’ve visited the area through all seasons now. Walking the sandy beaches in summer was invigorating, seeing the  autumn colors around Lake Gardner was breathtaking and I even found the area beautiful and welcoming when it was buried in three feet of snow. I caught a glimpse of spring’s beginnings during my April visit and by the time the girls and I visited for Memorial Day, the splendor of spring was in full bloom! I don’t live there (yet) but I know New England’s charm remains through all types of weather.

 

Plum Island beach

Plum Island Beach, MA

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The deep snow in Amesbury, MA after a February 2014 storm

The deep snow in Amesbury, MA after a February 2014 storm

Spring flower boxes in downtown Amesbury, MA

Spring flower boxes in downtown Amesbury, MA

Girls playing on the beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation

Girls playing on the beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, MA

My plans for my upcoming trip are flexible as always and I tend to go wherever the fancy strikes me. There’s the 16th Annual Amesbury Chamber of Commerce Block Party on Thursday, 6/26/14 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. that I’ll definitely be attending and a variety of other happenings around town I might investigate. I also think I’ll venture into Boston this trip since I haven’t been into the city solo since November of 2011. That first trip to Boston inspired me to write and publish my first e-book New England Adventures: Boston, MA and was the beginning of what has become an amazing and ongoing chapter in my life. I can only imagine what another solo journey will bring!

The conviluted walking route I took during my first visit to Boston

The convoluted walking route I took during my first visit to Boston, MA

I’m planning another visit in July and then August brings a huge first: the first time I’ve had the girls for a whole week of vacation since the divorce. I’m indescribably excited about spending that much time together! We’ve rented a cottage on Plum Island that comes complete with bikes and kayaks and we can even bring Jazz! The drive there is going to be unforgettable I’m certain as I fit an entire circus in my little Matrix but I know we’ll all have fun!

Before the fun for my upcoming trip can begin though I have to finish my freelance work so off I go! Is it Wednesday yet??

Fetching Lobsters

Throw it already, Mama!

Throw it already, Mama!

This past summer I tried on more than one occasion to teach Jazzmin the game of fetch. My attempts were unsuccessful because while she’d run after the ball when I threw it, she wouldn’t necessarily fetch the ball in her mouth or bring it back. She enjoyed the run part but bringing the ball back didn’t happen.

With the frigid temperatures and knee-deep snow outside we’re all getting a bit of cabin fever and Jazzmin is no exception. I do walk her when the temperature gets about 20 degrees and I don’t have the girls but the weather hasn’t been walk-friendly in a while.

To use up Jazz’s energy, we play indoor games of tug, run around the table and chase the red bug (laser pointer). Today we added a new game thanks to me finding a bag from Just Dogs Newburyport while I was tidying. Inside the bag was a toy I’d forgotten I bought for Jazz, a tuggy lobster made of sturdy red rope. The moment I took the lobster out of the bag, Jazz was fascinated by its dangling legs and her tail started wagging eagerly. I tossed the toy at her and she began gnawing at it as she held it between her paws.

Jazz sinking her teeth into some lobster fun.

Jazz sinking her teeth into some lobster fun.

Jazz kept coming over to me with the lobster in her mouth wanting a game of tug but I decided to mix things up a bit. I made her drop the lobster and then I tossed it down the hall. She eagerly ran after it and to my surprise, brought it back to me. She still wanted to play tug and I used that eagerness to create a game of lobster fetch.

Within a few tosses of the lobster, she’d happily bring it back to me wanting more. Jazz still needs a command to drop it but the key part is that she brings it back! I say “fetch!” when I throw it and I think the lightbulb finally lit up in her head that helped her realize what playing fetch means.

She's rather fond of lobster tail

She’s rather fond of lobster tail

I don’t do things the ordinary way so I don’t know why I expected my dog to be any different. Jazz may never be fond of fetching bouncing, round tennis balls but she’s becoming a pro at fetching lobsters!

An Impromptu New England Adventure…

One of my New England adventures was unplanned, unwise and had unexpected results. I learned a lot on that trip and it led me on a journey I didn’t know I was strong enough to take.

***

Chain Bridge Amesbury MA

New England Adventures: Whirlwind Tour of North Shore, MA 

Chapter One – Storms and Rainbows

There were tornado warnings in Amesbury, Massachusetts on the Friday evening I decided to drive up there for the first time. It had been nasty weather all day where I lived too but for reasons that defy explanation, I started packing my bags for an impromptu road trip. It was a crazy thing to do but it was within my means to do it and I was determined to go.

Jazzmin was very excited to see mama stuffing things in a bag because she somehow knew she was coming too. I packed way more clothes than I’d need, which is how I always prepare for a trip. I then started packing Jazz’s stuff by folding up her crate, grabbing her favorite blankie, dog food, bowls and toys.

It was raining out and a thunderstorm was rumbling by but the sun was trying to peak out. I went outside to unlock my car and told myself that if I saw a rainbow that was my sign that I was meant to go. Sure enough, I turned back toward the house and there was a rainbow stretching all the way across the horizon. That’s all I needed, I was definitely going now!

During one of my many trips out to the car with stuff, Jazz snuck out the door and it’s not unusual for her to go running off once she’s free of the house. This time though she stuck right with me and was quite eager to get in the car and go.

Once everything was hastily thrown in the car in a vague semblance of order, I loaded Jazz in the shotgun position and she happily sat on the sheet covering the seat, with her nose pressed to the air vent. As it was pouring, I couldn’t have the windows open so into the vent she sniffed and occasionally sneezed from the AC. There’s nothing quite like sneezed back dog breath circulating through the car to make for an aromatic road trip.

It was around 7:30pm on that fateful Friday night when I pulled out of my driveway and turned right. I had visited Massachusetts twice before and I knew the way almost by heart now. Reaching the end of my road, I checked my cell phone again to see if reception had returned (the storm had made it evaporate) and sure enough I had my usual three out of five bars.

I sat there in my car for a few moments and thought about what I was about to do. A more logical person would have turned around, but logic and I don’t usually get along. I pushed the clutch in on my Explorer, shifted into first, lifted my foot off the brake and accelerated taking another right. Jazz wobbled a bit in her seat around the turn but quickly regained her balance and was soon smearing dog muzzle snot all over the windows trying to see out.

As I drove north toward the thruway it was still pouring and sunny at the same time. When I looked to my east I saw a fresh rainbow stretching all the way across the sky and I smiled. My father was telling me to go, I was sure of it! I grabbed my ticket from the thruway attendant and he asked “Did you see the rainbow?”

“Of course! It’s beautiful!” I said before pulling away smiling with excitement and elation. I had embarked on one of the craziest adventures of my life and I was so proud of myself!

Rainbow stretching across the thruway

Rainbow stretching across the thruway

Once on the thruway heading east, I nearly giggled at how bright the rainbow was. The ends of the rainbow seemed to be touching the road in front of me and driving through the archway was leading me right toward Massachusetts. If I was reading the spiritual signs wrong I certainly didn’t care and neither did Jazz. She trusted her mama to the ends of the earth and somewhere in her lovely doggy mind she remembered our last road trip. Long road trips with mama meant sharing fast food and Jazz’s main thought at that point was probably “nuggets and fries!”

Positive Omens and Praying Mantises

I’ve been busy getting ready for my New England trip the past two days. Yesterday I did a majority of my packing which was a good thing because last night I received several direct assignments that needed to be completed before I leave. I finished them all today in time to take Jazzmin on a short walk. It was supposed to be mostly sunny all day but that didn’t quite happen. Instead it was mostly cloudy with peaks of sun every couple of hours. Regardless, Jazz and I were happy to get out in the warm fall weather.

On almost all of my walks recently I kept seeing praying mantises that I was too late to save. I kept hoping really hard that I’d find a live one in the road that I could actually help across. They’re beautiful predators but they don’t move especially fast so they don’t stand a chance against cars. I imagine they’re drawn into the road by the crickets and grasshoppers I see jumping across and they don’t realize the danger they’re putting themselves in.

Today just as I turned onto a nearby road I saw something bright green toward the shoulder. I moved quickly toward it and was very pleased to find that it was a living, unharmed praying mantis. He wasn’t moving at all as I crouched down and extended my hand toward him. As soon as I did so, he climbed into my palm and held up his front leg as if pointing me in the direction he wanted to go. I was so happy to find a live praying mantis that I quickly carried him across the road as he continue to crawl slowly along my palm and onto my wrist. I set him down gently in the grass of the opposite shoulder and he moved on into the grass, quickly blending in.

I took finally finding a live praying mantis to save as a very positive omen about my upcoming trip! Jazz and I walked a bit further and into a recently mowed field. We walked to the top of the hill and looked out across the landscape as several small white and yellow butterflies fluttered around nearby. The foliage colors were mostly yellow but it was still a lovely sight to enjoy.

My phone camera couldn't capture the butterflies but they're there.

My phone camera couldn’t capture the butterflies but they’re there.

For perhaps the first time since I started driving to New England two years ago this November, I’m actually all prepared and ready to go the night before. Usually I get up extra early the day I leave to take care of last minute details but not this time. I’m going to pack the car tonight because there’s a chance of rain tomorrow morning and I don’t want everything getting wet. Once the girls are both off the school and Jazzmin is at the boarders, I’m New England bound once more and off on more unforgettable adventures!

 

Endless Dreams

This morning I was browsing houses for sale in North Shore Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Jordan had just finished her breakfast so she came over and looked at some of the photos. She expressed great interest in the pictures I had up on my screen.

There was a lot to like in the houses I was looking at. They all had lovely floor plans and nice lots and were far newer than my current house. I told Jordan that I look at houses for sale to inspire me to keep working hard at my writing. I told her the only way I could afford to own a house out there is by selling a book (or six) for substantial money.

Jordan’s response was that several people seemed to like my “Unbroken Flames” book and I said that yes, they did. Alas, I’m still so busy writing freelance for income that I can’t write for pleasure. It’s a frustrating conundrum. I’m sure I’ll figure out a win/win solution eventually.

Jordan asked what was involved with my job as a freelance writer and I told her it’s like writing several short research papers every day. My mind is so stimulated by the time I go to bed that I have endless and detailed dreams every night. I can doze off for 20 minutes and have five different dreams. So while I do sleep through the night, it’s not the kind of sleep that leaves me feeling rested.

At the end of the day I lose my ability to spell easy words correctly or even talk in forward sentences. I was reading football stats yesterday afternoon and I read “tackled” as “tickled.” Now wouldn’t that be a totally different game! Amusing yes, but a bit exasperating. Mental exhaustion with a purpose I suppose.

While I sleep I have endless dreams. While I’m awake they transform into endless daydreams that motivate me to keep plugging away with my writing work. If achieving dreams was easy then everyone would have done it by now. I have faith that someday after a full day of rewarding writing I’ll have the pleasure of taking a stroll on a Massachusetts beach to watch the sunset and be soothed by the sounds of the crashing waves.

Finding the Future Potential – Part 1

Worth a try...

Worth a try…

In the spring of 2012 I had this bold, crazy idea to try to sell my writing services without any middle-man. I’d been working for content mills and freelance sites for a couple of years and I had become quite familiar with adapting my “flowery” creative writing talents to fit a variety of topics. As I’ll be living in North Shore Massachusetts someday in the not-too-distant future, I sent letters via USPS to realtors in that area offering my anonymous writing skills. It seemed logical to form a client base where I would be living someday. I explained to the realty offices that I was available to write blog posts and/or property descriptions and attached a sample of my work. I never heard anything back.

I imagine the realty offices I wrote to wondered why a woman from Upstate New York felt she was qualified to write about Massachusetts property listings. At that time I had yet to visit Amesbury and the surrounding towns and I’m sure my sample piece demonstrated that. There’s also the distinct possibility that the letter I sent them went directly into the recycle bin without ever being read. It was a bold, crazy move for me and even though it fell flat, I’m still proud of myself for trying.

I’ve been looking at homes in Amesbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, Newbury, Haverhill and numerous other places in that area for well over a year. The real estate market up there is apparently booming because the listings I like are rarely on the market for long. In light of that, I’ve concluded that the homes basically sell themselves. Even if realtors post vague listing details, dimly lit photos and descriptions splattered with typos or presented all in caps, the homes sell. Why on earth would they ever consider hiring a freelance writer to describe a home or blog about the area when buyers can look at photos and do online research themselves? I believe someday I’ll give them a reason.

Following is a picture of a sun room in a property for sale in Salisbury, MA. I’m not giving the address because I’m sure it will sell just fine on its own and I have no affiliation with the listing realtor.

Sun room view 1

Sun room view 1

As an experienced home purchaser, I’ve learned to see beyond the current state of a home and find the future potential. It’s a beautiful space with lots of natural light, but just by looking at these pictures, I see room for improvement.  I like the warm yellow color of the room, the Cathedral ceilings and the multiple windows with sweeping views of the property. There’ room for improvement and a few changes would reveal its future potential.

For one, the room feels very crowded. The couch seems too big and sticks out into the room too far. The matching lamps, end tables and centrally located coffee table would create nice symmetry if not for the brown chair tucked up on the right. That chair doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the room. Then there’s the window treatments, or lack thereof. The basic vertical blinds let the light in when open and provide privacy and shade when closed, but they don’t add any style to the room.  I browsed through some pictures on Houzz.com and these are options I think would suit the room nicely.

I like the idea of curtain rods that run the length of the room. Separate rods would make the space appear broken up, disjointed and ruin the airy feel. The floor length curtains make the rooms feel taller and the wood floors nicely amplify the sunlight streaming in. Mixing solid color panels with patterned panels is a great way to bring in texture and depth without being overwhelming or distracting from the natural beauty of the windows. The size and placement of the furnishings fit these rooms perfectly as they keep with a unifying color theme.

Here’s another window treatment and room layout that I think would work well.

The sheer navy roller blinds are stunning even when only drawn halfway down. They provide shade and privacy when needed but don’t completely block the view. The furnishings coordinate with a blue and white theme and receive a bold, rich accent from the dark wood finish on the tables and chair frames. The natural wood floor ties in perfectly to the bright, coastal mood of the space with a color mimicking beach sand visible out the windows.

As the sun room in the property for sale looks out onto green grass and trees, pulling those colors inside through window coverings and furnishing choices is an ideal way to coordinate the design. Hard flooring, whether wood, tile or laminate, would work better in this room than the current wall to wall carpeting. A light-colored hard flooring would brighten the space and give the option of bringing in an area rug. The furnishings need to be sized to the room better so the space doesn’t feel so heavy with furniture. There’s ample future potential in this sun room and I’m certain its new owner will redesign it to suit their personal tastes.

This post is called “Part 1” for a reason. There’s a second picture of the sun room I want to discuss improving but it would make this post far longer than its already excessive length. As if it’s not obvious from this post, I love looking at homes and writing about interior design. I’m not actually a realtor or an interior designer but I’ve played both those roles extensively through my writing. I’m always learning something new and utilizing that knowledge in my work. Part of finding my future potential is evolving into a better version of the unique creature known as JulieAnn.

My crazy dream/goal

View of the blue moon on 8/20/13 from Rye, NH

View of the blue moon on 8/20/13 from Rye, NH

I spend most of my days writing articles I can never take credit for but I find fulfillment in it. It’s helping me pursue my own dreams instead of working for someone else who may or may not even have a dream worth pursuing. Obviously I’m not doing this kind of writing for fame and fortune since no one knows it’s me and I only get paid pennies a word. It’s part of a bigger picture, a long-term goal, an achievement of a dream that started almost two years ago during my first visit to Massachusetts.

My crazy dream/goal is to live in Massachusetts for five days a week every other week. This sort of schedule wouldn’t interfere with the custody arrangements I have for my girls and it would grant me an escape into the state I love a couple of times a month. Now that I’ve stayed just over the border in New Hampshire, I would be okay living there but I would always be “border jumping” a few minutes south into Massachusetts.

The loftiest realization of this dream would be somehow having enough money to afford a house in the North Shore area. Having looked into the prices of homes in that area, that would require me coming into substantial funds, ie becoming a best-selling author. That is also a dream of mine, so that lofty success isn’t out of the question, but at my core I am a simple woman with simple needs. All I require is a bed to sleep in, a bathroom, a kitchen to cook, bake and endlessly experiment in, and room for Jazzmin and her crate and I will be content. I’ve looked into apartments in the area but they too are far outside my means. So for now I’ll continue to book a cheap hotel room every couple of months and drive out.

This might sound like a peculiar dream for a girl who was born and raised in Upstate New York. Why am I not content where I am? I am to an extent. My girls are here and they fulfill me in ways nothing else ever can but as I’ve said on numerous occasions, I don’t fit in here. Following my divorce, I’ve felt even more like the off-colored sheep that doesn’t belong with the rest of the flock. When I go to Massachusetts, none of my past follows me because all anyone sees is the present me, the optimistic me, the me who gets happily lost wherever she goes and can’t navigate traffic circles or roundabouts worth a darn.

When I achieve my MA dream (that’s right I said WHEN) I will continue to pursue the rest of my dreams just as I do now. I have accomplished so much already, more than I ever imagined I could. I continually prove to myself that making any dream come true is within my means as long as I am persistent and forever stubbornly determined…in my usual adorably clumsy way.

Reconnecting and Revisiting

I haven’t created a new painting in quite some time. I’ve been busy juggling so many things at once that I haven’t had time to express that part of my artistic side. I had a little free time yesterday evening so I decided I’d finally get my paints out, reconnect with my creativity and give it a go. I’ve been wanting to paint pictures based on the photos I took of Amesbury and Newburyport during my recent visit in June so that’s exactly what I did.

I pulled up some of the photos I took around town in Amesbury and settled on one of the fountain outside the Amesbury Library. I took it on a rather dreary, drizzling morning but it’s lovely even in that light. I decided to interpret it as a tree because painting realistic things isn’t my strong point. I took the basic shape and style of it and “branched out” as it were. I then decided it needed some different colors so I tied in the colors from the beautiful hydrangea blooms I saw walking around Amesbury.

Amesbury Library fountain

Amesbury Library fountain

Lovely hydrangeas in Amesbury

Lovely hydrangeas in Amesbury

I’m biased of course, but I rather like it. I wanted it to be more vibrant but it turned out rather muted. I can always try again. I’ve never actually done the same type of painting so perhaps it’s time.

Flowing Inspiration - created 8/11/13

Flowing Inspiration – created 8/11/13

I’m going to try to do some more paintings based on my photos from Amesbury and Newburyport because I’ll be visiting there with my daughters and mother during our upcoming trip that starts this Saturday. I enjoyed my stay at the Fairfield Inn in Amesbury but they’re out of my budget for this trip so I’m taking everyone up into New Hampshire to stay. The hotel is just a short way over the border and we’ll be traveling down into Boston one of the days. I’m eager to show my family everything I’ve seen in Boston and we’re all going on our first whale watch! We’re also going to the aquarium because I promised my girls two things. Jordan wanted to see the aquarium and Jaycie wanted to go on a boat. Check and check!

After our Boston visit, the rest of our time will be spent exploring the New Hampshire area near the hotel and of course, Amesbury and Newburyport. I’m glad I’ve been to those two neighboring towns enough to know my way around now. I’m eager to see everywhere I’ve been through my daughters’ eyes and get their impressions on things. What they love might be totally different from what I love. We’re going to venture down to Plum Island beach to play in the sand and waves and travel wherever else our fancy takes us. It will be a grand adventure and only my second non-solo road trip to Massachusetts and points beyond. I can’t wait!

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

Looking Up in Amesbury, Massachusetts

An Amesbury sparrow watching me

An Amesbury sparrow watching me

I can get lost anywhere, I practically guarantee it. Sometimes it’s on purpose but mostly it’s unintentional. I don’t always have a set destination in mind either and in that case it’s more like wandering aimlessly than being lost.

During my explorations of Amesbury, Massachusetts I became lost on more than one occasion. Anyone who lives there will probably think that’s ridiculous because it doesn’t seem like a very big town. But to me when a place is brand new, it’s infinitely large because I haven’t explored its borders yet. As far as I know it begins where I take my first step and ends when I find my way back to the beginning of the journey. Though in truth, it never really ends. There’s always something new for me to see.

I have a lot to say about my visit to Amesbury and Newburyport but for now I want to focus on one of my first observations as I wandered around. As I turned the corner up one street, something red and high up caught my eye. I have a tendency to look up and in directions most people miss in daily travels. The red object was a little birdhouse placed outside an upper level window. I found this quite cute and intriguing.

The little red birdhouse

The little red birdhouse

When my focus returned to the rest of what was along that sidewalk, I realized I was being serenaded by a chorus of bird songs. That’s when I saw an entire row of birdhouses up over the top of the business door and windows. This made me smile because most business owners adamantly discourage birds from nesting over their doorways. This mini neighborhood of adorable, white birdhouses of various sizes was bustling with sparrows as they chattered about the day’s gossip, or whatever it is birds talk about.

Greenery Designs, 8 Market Square, Amesbury, MA

Birdhouses above Greenery Designs, 8 Market Square, Amesbury, MA

I paused to take a few pictures of a particularly photogenic sparrow who was all puffed up from the rain that continued to drizzle down that morning. He watched me as I watched him and he chirped curiously a few times before flying to a different perch. I do love bird watching and being able to do so right in the middle of town brightened my morning to such an extent that I forgot how cloudy it was for a while.

Sparrow showing me his best side

Sparrow showing me his best side

What I’d seen above that one building inspired me to keep looking up in Amesbury and I soon made a new discovery. Perched atop a couple of the more prominent buildings were large owl decoys. I wondered how many residents even know the owls are there. They stood silently guarding, deterring pigeons and other nuisance birds from landing atop the stolid stone accents of the building roofs. The owls seemed to be doing a good job too because I never saw a pigeon even think of challenging them.

The 1st owl sentry

The 1st owl sentry

The 2nd owl sentry

The 2nd owl sentry

Local Amesbury residents reading this will undoubtedly recognize the buildings in my photos and I wonder if before now they knew the owls were there. Perhaps they did, maybe there was even a whole article about it in the local newspaper. In which case  they’ll simply shake their heads at the silly observations of the out-of-town girl meandering their streets. Or maybe, just maybe, reading this will encourage them to look up now and then and truly take in their beautiful surroundings as I did. Up, down and roundabout, Amesbury made an unforgettable impression on me and this tale is just the beginning!

Massachusetts Musings

I’m still reeling a bit from my adventures of the past four days. I have a lot to say but am too exhausted to find the proper words right now. Eventually everything going on in my mind will coalesce into some great stories but for now I’m still sorting through it all.

I arrived at the Fairfield Inn in Amesbury, Massachusetts at around 4:30 on Thursday, June 27th, 2013 and what happened after that is a blur of bewildering experiences! I took almost 300 pictures to help me remember it all. I’m sure I looked like a tourist walking around with my little Canon camera taking photos of this, that and the other thing. I’m so much more than a tourist though. I’m a writer. Everywhere I looked I saw a new story. The pictures I took will eventually help me tell as many of those stories as I can.

I have a lot to say about my explorations of Amesbury, Newboryport, Salisbury, Plum Island and other surrounding areas. I have a highly active imagination but even I couldn’t imagine what happened during those last days of June. I will be writing about my visit to Workspace 36 and why I think it’s a great idea and a cool place to get work done in Amesbury. I’ll share how lost I became in such a fascinating town and the discoveries I made. I’ll admit how much more motivated I am to truly make a life for myself in Massachusetts. Well, I suppose I just did that but I’ll explain why eventually!

Today marks a return to my life in Upstate New York but now that I’ve been reminded of what I’m truly capable of, you can bet that I’m done settling! Time to chase my dreams and leap over the pitfalls that have tripped me up far too many times in past. It’s like I’ve said before and it’s a no-brainer: hard work is just that, hard. Enjoying the rewards of all that hard work…well, that’s the easy part!

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.

Seeking the Extraordinary

Sara – “Maybe it’s like what you said. We should both just go our separate ways and then we’ll do just fine.”

Hitch – “What if fine isn’t good enough? What if I want extraordinary?”

Sara – “No such thing.”

I needed something to inspire my blog this morning. I was watching the end of the movie “Hitch” starring Will Smith and those lines were exactly the inspiration boost I needed. I say often that life isn’t like a romantic comedy or a fairy tale. Things don’t wrap up all neatly in the end with romantic lines and gestures that make girls go “awwww!” In real life there can be many of those “awwww!” moments but they’re not the end of the story, they’re just part of it.

The word “fine” is used far too often to describe how someone is feeling. I think when most women are asked by their mate how they are and they respond “fine” they mean anything but. Fine is the short answer, a pathetic attempt to sum up emotions ranging anywhere from anger to sadness and everything in between. When a woman says “I’m fine” what she usually wants is for the partner in her life to delve a little deeper and see through that excuse for a word.

When I’m talking to my best friend and we both says we’re “fine” we know we’re lying to each other. Even if we’re only communicating via text. Women, especially close friends, are intuitive and can read each other. Plus most of us know “fine” is a mask. Chances are that if a man says he’s “fine” he really means that he’s just fine and life is going swimmingly. Even if a man isn’t fine, he might not admit it for fear of showing weakness and all that. I’m not a man so I don’t know how the male mind works. I’m also not a relationship expert or a psychologist so everything I’m saying is just from observations I’ve made in my life.

Fine is how I would describe my life right now but extraordinary is how I want it to be. I know how lucky I am to have a loving family, two beautiful daughters, great friends, a lovable dog, my own home and car…and so on. That doesn’t mean I’m content with “fine.” I don’t feel that I’m being greedy by wanting more. I think working toward more is what makes life worthwhile.

You see, I am extraordinarily in love. “Ah ha!” you say. “I knew it!” Only it’s not what you think. I am in love…with a place, a state in fact. Its name is Massachusetts. I imagine people reading this and who follow me on social media wonder about my obsession with a state I wasn’t born in. Perhaps I seem like an interloper because I’m from Upstate New York. Personally I think it speaks to the amazing opportunities and beauty of Massachusetts that it can capture the heart of someone after just one visit. I’ve been to Massachusetts four times now and every visit has been different. All of my visits have been unique adventures and created unforgettable memories. So do not dismiss me and my love so quickly.

Home really is wherever you make it and you should seek to make it and your whole life extraordinary. Never settle for less than you deserve but don’t be discontent with what you have. It’s about finding balance without falling into a rut. Not an easy thing, trust me. I’ve tripped into many ruts and holes that I’ve had to climb out of. But I do always climb out, brush the dirt off my knees and am “fine.” I then square my shoulders and remember that fine isn’t good enough and that I want extraordinary!

The Best Laid Plans…

I was supposed to be spending this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, in Amesbury, Massachusetts. I’d made the plans months ago and was eager for my return visit to the North Shore area. Alas, those plans fell through when my reasons for going slipped away. I’d been looking forward to returning to that beautiful area of Massachusetts all through the cold and miserable winter. The idea of the visit was all that made life in the bitter cold bearable some days. Life has shown me again and again that the best laid plans…should be crumpled up and tossed on the fire.

The Chain Bridge, Newburyport, MA

The Chain Bridge, Newburyport, MA

Last time I visited Amesbury, Newburyport and other North Shore towns was August of 2012. That was an unplanned visit, quite the adventure and something much bigger than can be told here. It only lasted 24 hours and I spent the night sleeping with Jazz in my car parked at Amesbury Park. I am grateful I wasn’t towed! While I was quite disheveled during my visit, I truly fell in love with the area and the people I encountered were very friendly and welcoming. I hope to return at the end of June now but I might have to change my reasons for going to make that a reality.

The bees at Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury, MA

The bees at Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury, MA

I would’ve been in Amesbury by around 4pm today but instead I was home napping. I would’ve been enjoying dinner at one of the local restaurants but instead I was home eating a pot pie and drinking a Sam Adams. I would’ve loved to walk the boardwalk at Newburyport this evening but instead I was washing dishes at my sink watching the bird couples come to eat, the males feeding the females with adorable affection. The weather in North Shore this weekend is supposed to be cool and rainy and sometimes I wonder if my mood affects the climate. A silly notion.

Jazzmin at Tendercrop Farm, Newbury, MA

Jazzmin at Tendercrop Farm, Newbury, MA

So I’m spending the holiday weekend home with Jazzmin. It will be business as usual with yard work, chores, writing and maybe some new paintings thrown in. I’ve learned to make the most of the curveballs life continually throws at me. The other choice is wallowing in misery and self-pity and I’m just not that kind of girl. I have this life I’ve built on my own and I have a lot to be proud of and grateful for. The best laid plans are the predictable ones I know will happen, like walks with Jazzmin and playing with my girls. Anything beyond that becomes a spontaneous adventure and is what makes this journey called life endlessly interesting.

Morning sun over the Merrimack River, Newburyport, MA

Morning sun over the Merrimack River, Newburyport, MA