Posted in adventure, Blogging, escape, fun, Goals, Life, living, Musings, travel

Day 2- Gloucester and Rockport

Since I can’t seem to get my body back on “normal” (West Coast) time, I figure I might as well go ahead and tell you all about day 2 of my trip. Day 2 wound up being my favorite day, and I learned some important things about myself as a traveler- namely, that I am happiest without an itinerary, and much, much happier in more idyllic settings, with far fewer people.

The day started off super slow- we were both so tired from the debacle in Salem the day and night before that we were not in a big hurry to get anywhere. To be honest with you, I actually felt hungover. I had been so tired the night before, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, and then I woke up way earlier than I wanted to, so I wasn’t very rested. I felt achy and dehydrated, and just generally shitty, but…when you are on a short vacation in a new place, you find it within yourself to soldier on. Which I am so glad I did!

Anyway, after an incredibly unappetizing hotel buffet breakfast, we hopped in the trusty charger and headed…north? North-east? Anyway, we headed out of Peabody and away from the more populated areas. The thing about these little towns off the freeway is that they are literally right off the freeway. The parking lot of our hotel exited onto the actual freeway. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. They also have stop lights on the freeway and places to make U-turns. Crazy. But we made it on safely and before you know it, you are in the middle of massive beauty. The bright red and orange trees, and water, just everywhere. I still don’t know which were lakes, rivers, or inlets, but I guess it doesn’t matter…all I really know is, for me, water is the key. I love being near large bodies of water. I just feel better.

Just off the highway, we stopped for the first time at a big old candy store in the middle of nothing. Nichols candy house has been in business for 86 years, according to the sign. They make all their candy on site, and the ladies running the counter looked like they might have been there when the store opened. Seriously, they were adorable, in a no-nonsense, getting shit done kinda way. I didn’t buy anything there, which is my one regret of the whole trip. Alicia did, and I was lucky that she shared with me, because they know what they are doing. My advice to you? If you find yourself there, buy the truffles!

This was the view from right outside the Nichols Candy House

Anyway, after that, we programmed directions to a lighthouse into GPS. This was one of many times that Siri failed us on this trip. We asked for a particular lighthouse, she steered us to the middle of a neighborhood in Gloucester and told us we were there. After that, she stopped speaking to us. I’m assuming she was embarrassed. So, here we are, lost, trying to figure out why the ocean was so far away from a lighthouse, and we turned a corner to find…oh my God, the most beautiful graveyard in the world. It was called Oak Park Cemetery, and I demanded to be allowed to wander through it. I could tell Alicia was hesitant (she’s got weird Catholic guilt) but I was going, no matter what. I am so glad I did. The wind was super chilly, but the sky was bright blue, and the trees looked like they were bursting into flames, and the cemetery…so peaceful, and so insanely full of history. The headstones back east are incredible. I wish I had taken more pictures, up close, so that I could look into the symbolism. But at that moment, I was just so happy to be there, experiencing REAL fall weather, ambling quietly through this beautiful place, surrounded by graves that were hundreds of years old. It was one of many perfect moments I had that day.

Oak Park Cemetery

After a while out in the cold, the warm car was a welcoming place. We got back on the road, missed another turn, and wound up in downtown Gloucester (pronounced “Glah-stah” by the locals 🙂 ). Sometimes those wrong turns are fortuitous. We easily found parking (yay!) and walked up the hill to a little coffee shop to get a warm drink and figure out what next. The place was called Drift Coffee, had a wonderful view of the water, and, much to Alicia’s delight, a full bar! I had a fancy latte, she had a glass of pinot noir, and we figured out our next move. I have to tell you, I had my next perfect moment sitting at that little coffee bar, staring at the street below and the harbor across the way. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, and so quiet…I was in heaven. THIS was the trip I had imagined, and I couldn’t have been happier to be where I was.

Drift Coffee

We wandered the down the cobbled street a bit, did some shopping and sightseeing, then headed down to the harbor to see the lost fisherman memorial. We saw our first drawbridge thingy- that’s what they’re called, right? Anyway, it was delightful. And I picked up some shells and sea glass to take home. After a while longer in the icy wind that was no longer quite as bracing and more like torture, we headed over, on the recommendation of one of the friendly shop owners, to Rockport.

The Fisherman’s Memorial

Rockport, if you can believe it, was even more idyllic and quintessential New England, (or what I imagined New England to be like, anyway) than Gloucester had been. We parked near a little white church with a tall steeple, and braced ourselves for the now freeeeezing wind rolling in off the ocean. Holy smokes! It was so cold. The first thing I did was find a store that sold beanies, and happily threw down 20 bucks for a super warm cap. Once my ears had recovered some feeling, we walked around a little bit, and decided to check out the little harbor. It was incredible. I know I keep saying this, but the sky there is just SO blue. Coming from the coast myself, there were so many similarities, but differences as well. The ocean smells saltier and brinier there, somehow. The scenery was just breathtaking.

Rockport

By this time, we were starving to death, so we found a little place called the Blue Lobster Grille, and grabbed a table. I had hot apple cider- it’s a whole different thing over there than any I’ve had here- and a giant plate of mussels, followed by seafood pasta that I could barely put a dent in. So, with full bellies and to-go bags, we raced to the car, waved goodbye to Rockport, and headed back to our room to get rested for our final day in Boston.

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Posted in adventure, escape, fun, Goals, Holidays, Learning, Life, People, travel

Salem (My Trip, Part 1)

salem
Not my photo. I was not in the sky on this trip.

I’ve been home less than 24 hours, and I’m not (very) ashamed to tell you that I am still wearing the clothes I flew home in. In my defense, I wore stretch pants and a t-shirt, so they are kinda like pajamas anyway, PLUS…oh dear lord, I was so tired when I got home that I felt kind of drunk. We got up at 3 in the morning, which would be 12 midnight here, so that we could catch our flight on time, so the long and short of it is…I am all kinds of screwed up right now. It’s barely 4 a.m. and I’ve already been up for an hour. I have no experience with jet lag or time zone weirdness, but I’m learning fast. I got home yesterday, handed out gifts, hugged my children, ate some food, and passed out. I meant to shower and change, but I slipped into a coma instead, and that was that.

I’m going to break this down into three posts, since each segment was such a totally different experience, and I thought I’d start at day one- Friday- which was my first little taste of Salem. Little did I know it would be the most sane part of my visit to that particular town. Anyway, we flew into Logan, grabbed our rental car- I was expecting a Jetta, but apparently, a Charger is about the same thing (NOT), and either way, that’s what we got. My dear friend Alicia volunteered to drive, thank God, and we headed out of Boston to Peabody (pronounced Pee-biddy, apparently) where our lodgings were. After dumping our stuff, we hightailed it toward Salem, in search of food. Along our route into town, we saw a place called Kings, advertising the best roast beef sandwiches AND lobster (lobstah) rolls- two things I wanted to check off my list. Let Me Tell You Something!! That lobstah roll was good, no doubt, but the roast beef sandwiches on the east coast?! Holy smokes! I will be dreaming about that super thin, super rare, tender, delicious beef for years to come. Oh man. SO good! You know that feeling of disappointment when you realize you are going to be too full to finish your dinner? That happened. But the super friendly guys running the place wrapped it up for me, and I was able to have a little midnight snack later. It was still delicious the next day.

Best roast beef EVER!

Oh, that’s another thing I don’t want to forget to mention- the people we met, and I mean almost without exception, were the friendliest, chattiest, funniest, warmest people I’ve ever run into. I was in seventh heaven, as my chatty game is on point. I felt like I’d found my people. Anyway, onto Salem…

I do not know this man, but proof that people are extra friendly!

So, on Friday night, we made it into downtown Salem just in time for the end of the night market- I think this is a thing they do only in October. There were booths selling all sorts of Halloween or dark-themed items, and we wandered around, noting stores we wanted to return to the following day. We didn’t stay too long- it was already past nine and we wanted to be well rested for the next day, so we were in and out, after some oohing and ahhing over the amazing architecture and cobbled streets.

First evening in Salem

Saturday morning, we decided to Uber into Salem since we were worried about parking. The plan was to get there, Uber back in the afternoon, and then head back over in the evening for a ghost/history tour. What ended up happening, however, is that we decided to stay, from like 11 in the morning until around 10 at night.

Everyone said it was busy in Salem in October. I am not pretending like we were not forewarned. But “busy” isn’t exactly the right word for what we experienced. “Pandemonium” would be better, or “utter fucking chaos” even. It was intense. We couldn’t get into the restaurant we wanted to eat at, we couldn’t find a place to go to the bathroom, we couldn’t get into any of the stores we wanted to shop at. I mean, we could have done all of these things, but only if we wanted to wait in line for at least 30 minutes for each thing. I am not even remotely exaggerating. Even the stores had bouncers outside, letting in small amounts of people at a time. It was crazy.

A small taste of the insanity

Even so, we did have a good time. We had lunch at the Howling Wolf Taqueria, and I tried deep fried avocado for the first time. I promise you, it will not be the last. The service was great, and the atmosphere was happy and fun. We got to see the graveyard where the “hanging judge” John Hathorne is buried, and the graveyards back east are not to be missed.  I tried real hot apple cider and cider donuts, I drooled over the houses and the history and the greenery away from the crowds, and a few times, I managed to lose myself in the merriment of it all.

One saving grace of the day was the Peabody Essex Museum. Not only did it have the most amazing Maritime exhibit I have ever seen- and the east coast has an awe-inspiring maritime history,  let me be clear about that! But-and this is important-for the price of admission, you can come in and out all day, using their clean and uncrowded bathroom as many times as you please. I loved that place.

Stuff from the Peabody Essex Museum

Alas, the museum closed at 5, leaving us to wander the streets like pitiful, tired zombies until our pre-paid ghost tour at 8. So we wandered over to the Salem Commons, and I am so glad we did. We found a tree to park ourselves under and sat and watched the carnival on the periphery, and closer, families playing, and the big trees bursting with fall color. That was a happy moment. We wandered the side streets a little more, taking pictures of houses, and then made our way back into the fray, being swept along by the crowd, which showed no sign of thinning anytime soon. I saw the Bewitched statue, and managed to elbow my way into a store and buy hoodies for my kids. And finally, FINALLY, it was time for our tour. At this point, I had already clocked about double my normal amount of steps on my Fitbit, and I was tired enough to cry, but…

The walking tour was MAGICAL. Seriously, if they offer a walking tour in a town you are visiting, you should take it. You learn so much. Every time I have ever taken one, I’ve been so happy I did. This one was extra cool, though. I wish I could remember the name of the one we did- there are many to choose from in Salem- and I will definitely be doing some research to find out, as I want to give a good review on trip advisor or something. Anyway, our tour guide was a young woman and practicing witch, and she led us through town, telling us all about the history and the legends of Salem. Even as tired as I was, I could have kept going for twice as long just to hear more.

In the end, we made it back to the hotel in one piece, exhausted and definitely overwhelmed by our October Salem experience. I would definitely go back, no question about it. But not in October. No freaking way. That being said…I’m still, oddly, very happy that I had that experience. It was wonderful. I bet it would be even more wonderful in, say, June. Ha-ha!

To see all the pictures from my trip, follow or visit me on Instagram at : https://instagram.com/courtneyloreanneduncan

Posted in aging, Blogging, fun, funny, Life, Musings, People, random, women

I’m not 43, but my body is.

 

back pain

I don’t know if anyone ever really feels their age- I have this idea that all of us probably feel mentally younger than however old we are. Unless, of course, the person reading this is, say, 20. When I was 20 I thought I was sooo mature. (I wasn’t, but you couldn’t tell me that because I knew everything- including how it must feel to be mature, apparently). Anyway, my body just keeps on getting older, but sometimes it seems like my brain is getting less and less sure of things with the passage of time. Things I thought I knew for sure when I was younger, I question thoroughly now. Maybe this is a sign of maturity, now that I think about it- reexamining your beliefs and all that.

But, I mean…I spent like an hour howling with laughter over fart prank videos with my daughter the other day. If that gives you any idea at all about how mature I am. Also, on Friday (my daughters 21st birthday) we had a spontaneous dance party where I may have attempted to twerk. “Attempted” being the most important word in that sentence. I still can’t figure out how to do it!  I really don’t know why I need to, anyway, but it would be so satisfying if I just could, even once.

I’m getting off track here, though. The whole purpose of this post is to illustrate to you that my body is aging at a much faster rate than my mind is. Since I have been in my 40’s, I have had more back pain- for NO freaking reason- than I could even catalog for you. Like, just sleeping makes my back hurt. When I sit in one position for too long without moving, when I do try to move, that hurts. Recently, I stretched and tweaked my neck. For the next week, changing lanes while I was driving became a terrifying challenge, as I couldn’t really look behind me.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty confident it was me lifting an unexpectedly heavy cooler full of ice and sodas for my boss on Friday that did it. Or maybe it was the attempted twerking. But I did something bad to my lower back on Friday. Normally, it’s the right lower side that hurts. This time it’s the left, but the right also hurts a little bit. I was kneeling on the floor Saturday morning, cleaning out the linen closet, and when it was time to stand up…I almost couldn’t do it. I literally panicked for a second, like, holy shit, is this really happening? With much groaning and wincing, as my lithe and limber young daughter stood over me, rolling her eyes and calling me dramatic, I was finally able to rise. This has happened, un-witnessed, several other times since then.

It happened this morning because I tried to get out of bed.

I mean, this is just embarrassing. Aging is bullshit. Am I going to have to actually avoid doing certain things because it might hurt?! I refuse. I’m going to lift weights or something, do yoga, whatever- anything I can do to preserve my body so that I can still change my own giant water jugs.

As soon as I can figure out how to get out of this damned chair.

Posted in fun, funny, humor, Life, Musings, People, women

The Hormone Weasels Have Come to Roost.

pms

I don’t have much to offer beyond that title, there…just a brief note to let you all know that, much like every other month of my life, my body has been taken over by high levels of the unfriendly variety of hormones. I should probably know more about what they are, but to be honest, women’s bodies are incredibly complicated and difficult-even for women- and even though I’ve read all about all of the particulars of what we grossly call the “menstrual cycle” (admit it, that is such a gross word), I can’t retain that kind of information. It just flows in one ear and out the other. Pun intended.

Anyway, generally I know what is coming down the pike for me because I wake up just really unusually angry. Even if I don’t know that I am angry, maybe Camryn can’t find her shoes in the morning, or maybe the dog looks at me wrong, and all of the sudden I am just furious. Stupid little things really set me off. That’s my first clue. After that, well…for instance, my boss said something jokingly to me at work today, something I would normally have laughed at. Today, I seriously considered quitting my job. I literally stopped, dead still, and thought “I’m walking out.” That was my second clue. Later on, I started crying over a loving family scene while watching a rerun of 90210- the WORST show ever in the history of ever (I don’t know why I’m watching it , it makes no sense at all) and I was about to breakdown because Brenda and her family shared a hug. Or maybe it was David Silver and his grandparents. Either way, give me a break. Finally, I was just sitting here, minding my own business, when out of the blue I became very, very upset by how fat and ugly I felt.

I’m pretty sure I’m no fatter or uglier than I was this morning, but it’s this awful feeling…unless you have ovaries, I just don’t know how to describe this sudden gloom of body dysphoria that descends from nowhere. But it’s a SURE indicator of trouble on the hormonal horizon.

I’m going to go take a bath, wash my hideous face, and hide my bloated body beneath a sea of bubbles and essential oils, taking solace in the fact that this will all be over soon. Of course, what comes next is no picnic either, but…this is not the blog to speak of such things.

Have a lovely night. I’m going to rustle up a salty chocolate snack of some sort before submersion.

Posted in Blogging, fun, humor, Life, Musings, People, random

Work (yuck).

work

I had a funny thought yesterday- I was thinking, as I often have, about how bizarre it is that people spend most of their waking hours away from their families, working at jobs where they are basically forced to conform to weird rules (did anyone ever really die because someone was one minute late to work? No? Then WHY is it such a horrible big deal?) and bite their tongues when their “superior” acts like an asshat- I’m lucky that I happen to adore my boss, but I have had plenty of jobs where I was forced to nearly swallow my tongue in order to keep from losing my ever loving shit. Anyway, no matter how you crack it, I think our entire society is set up wrong, but… that being said, my dreams of travelling the country like a vagabond, with not a care in the world, well…basically ALL of my daydreams involve me not having to work. While also being independently wealthy. Which is why, of course, they are just daydreams. Yes, people wander off and live their dreams all the freaking time- of course they do! But they still have to plan, and save, and figure stuff out. And they also have to live with the repercussions, such as possibly having no health insurance, running out of resources, or realizing that they are really, really bad at being stuck in a small RV with a fourth grader. I mean, I’m sure at least a couple of people have come to this realization a few months too late to take it back.

My point is, unless we hit the powerball or invent something amazing or are born into big money, and maybe even then, work is part of life. Where in the world did I get the idea that I shouldn’t have to work? I don’t know. I am guessing it grew from the depths of my lazy nature, and morphed into some kind of belief that I was being screwed by “the system”. My brain is tricky like that.  It was just funny, because in all of the years I have bitched, internally (and sometimes externally, too) about how unfair/weird/terrible/cruel it is that I am “forced” to work, it never occurred to me until yesterday that perhaps my thinking was flawed.

Sure, I could be doing something different- something I love more, something that feeds my spirit. I have choices. But I have it pretty good, honestly. I love the people I work with, and the hospital I work for, and four days a week I can actually sit right here, in my pajamas, and work from the comfort of my own home. If I wanted to change all of that, I totally could- but that would also be work. I’d need to go to school (which I still will probably do) and give up time with my daughter, and jump through a whole lot of different hoops to get somewhere new. No one is forcing me to stay here, and no one can force me to change. So to complain, when the choice is really mine, is just plain silly. Part of life is work. There will always be a job to do.

Yet another lesson I am learning a little late in the game. Yet more evidence that my thought process can be very skewed, indeed. Sigh. What in the world am I going to do with myself?

Posted in Blogging, fun, funny, housekeeping, Life, Musings, random, Uncategorized

The Weed Eater

weed eater
Literally the one I have! I love it so much!

I know, I know- what a weird blog title. But YOU GUYS! I have to share with you the most fun thing I did this weekend, and guess what?! It was totally weed-eating my yard. I have never been one to find much joy at all in manual labor, lazy thing that I am, and I tend to shy away from any sort of powered-tool type thing, due to my inherent clumsiness and fear of losing fingers (seriously, I almost stabbed myself in the chest yesterday while cutting an apple- I know that doesn’t even sound possible, but trust me on this one.), BUT…

I have this massive yard. Great for my dog, awesome in theory- everyone wants a big yard, right? Yet taking care of said yard is a whole different matter. When I moved in, over three years ago, my landlady had covered the entire thing with nice, new wood chips. The thing about wood chips, though, is that they suck. The hurt to walk on in bare feet, they don’t look that great, and they basically rendered the yard useless. Also, they stuck to my dog and were constantly being dragged into the house. The upside of it was that the yard didn’t need me to do anything to it, it required zero care, aside from picking up the poop.

Fast forward about a year, after plenty of rain, and…the weeds started popping through. We had a seriously rainy year, and the weeds just took over. When they were green and flowery, they were so pretty, and the yard looked lush and beautiful. Then they all died, and the yard looked terrible and trashy, and it is soooo big. My front yard is massive, too, and though most of it is cement, the weeds popped up in every crack and every planter, and I just lost control of the whole mess.

I hired someone to deal with the front, and last year I enlisted the help of friends to get the back under control, but this year…this year I got smart. A few months ago, I went to Home Depot, all by myself, and I bought a weed eater. It sat in the box for another month, and finally, yesterday, I was brave enough to take it for a spin.

Oh. My. God.

I have never had more fun doing a chore in my life.  I was the butcher of weeds, the annihilator of unwanted plant life, the destroyer of dandelions. I was also the destroyer of my brand new Badminton net (oops!) which really sucks, and slowed me down quite a bit when the string wrapped around the spinny-thing on my weed eater, but nothing was going to stop me…except the fact that I really needed a longer extension cord, but I am definitely going to be purchasing one ASAP.

Oh, and it was also a really good workout, judging by how sore my arms are today! I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I finally called it quits for the evening and wandered back into the house, picking fox tails out of my tennis shoes, and sneezing away all of the dust in my nose.

I’ve honestly never felt more grown up in my life. I can’t wait to do it again!

Posted in adventure, aging, Dreams, fun, Goals, Life, Musings, People

It’s Time

live

In my head, there is an alternate reality, an entire life that contains all (most) of the same people that my actual life holds, with some pointed differences. In the life unfolding in my head, we do a lot more travelling. We do things that I am afraid of ( i.e., pretend to hate) such as camping- I can see myself and my daughter smiling around a campfire, looking up at the stars. In this alternate life, there are other differences, too. We are much better at togetherness, and I don’t mean laying in bed together while one of us watches season two of The Office (me), and the other one watches other people play video games on their tablet (her). I mean actual togetherness, laughing and eating waffle cones full of fresh churned ice cream at some food festival in Maine kind of togetherness.

In my imagined life, I am more organized, I am not such a freaking hoarder, the rooms in my home are neat and sensible, and I have tracked down the source of the moldy smell in the big bathroom and eradicated it. We get homework done without crying (that could be either of us on a bad day) and Cam reads to me without stubbornly insisting that she doesn’t know how, even though we both know she can read just fine when SHE feels like it. Or better yet, instead of pretending like she hates Harry Potter, she begs me to keep reading. In my other life, I always have extra blankets, nice ones, clean and folded neatly, in the linen closet. And I have a linen closet.

There is nothing wrong with the life I already have- as a matter of fact, it’s pretty great. But could it use some fine tuning? Um, yes. For the first time in memory, however, I already have all the main ingredients needed to make the leap from the actual-life-I-am-living to the-life-in-my-head. All I need to do is figure out the right measurements. Reduce the generous helping of pure laziness to maybe a pinch or two, and double the amount of effort and elbow grease. Buy some garbage bags, make a few trips to Goodwill to drop off the 17 pairs of “goal jeans” that, let’s be honest, if they ever do fit again, they aren’t even going to be in style anymore. I have an entire drawer filled with shirts that I dig through every day, and refuse to wear any of them. Why? What am I keeping them for, then?

For some reason, a truly clean house- like, every nook and cranny clean- plays a central role in my fantasy life. I have no idea what that has to do with food festivals in Maine or camping, but I guess it would make packing easier. It would definitely make coming home from a trip away more pleasant. In true ADHD fashion, though, cleaning properly is never a straightforward event for me. It involves a lot of half finished projects that stall out when I get distracted by something else that needs to be done, over and over, until I drop from exhaustion, leaving the house looking ten times worse than it did when I started. This is not an exaggeration, this has actually happened to me before.

But here is the thing- I KNOW there is a way to make this other life happen. I KNOW it. I can feel it in my bones, that I can have the life I want. I just need to keep taking steps towards it, every day, no matter what. There have been plenty of times when I got off work and wanted to veg on the couch and binge watch whatever thing I am currently into, but instead chose to push myself a little harder to get a few more things done…and it felt great! I need to choose to do that more often, instead of occasionally. It’s amazing, the amount of energy I find myself to have, compared to what I think I do.

My 20’s and 30’s were a blur…most of it, I wasted on self loathing and addiction, and the times when I actually had my act together, I was desperately trying to catch up, or to keep my family from going under. But there was always the sense that I had ample time to figure it out. I am 43 now, and although that is not old, there is definitely a feeling of “It’s time”. Time to pull it all the way together, or as much as I can. Time to take all of the trips and clean all of the closets, and generally figure shit out. Before my knees start protesting, and my back starts being really difficult, and my hormones jump ship, or whatever hormones do when they get old.

There is absolutely nothing standing in my way for once, except for me. And I refuse to be the reason my life falters anymore. I’ve done that for as long as I can remember, and it has never served me, not once. So I am going to challenge myself to try harder, dig deeper, and really start living the juiciest, most exciting, most awesome life ever. In a super clean house, naturally. Now excuse me, I need to go order some camping gear.