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??

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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.