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!

Advertisements

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