Friday, July 30, 2010

Weeks 7 and 8 of Unemployment: Overdrive

I know you probably laugh when I say how busy I feel these days. Busy enough that I can't even blog about being unemployed! I have no kids, no job ... what the heck do I do all day??? But, I am busy, terribly busy. There are things cooking and I'm not ready to fully disclose what I've been up to yet.

In the meantime, here are some other updates.
  • Another one of my magazine articles made it online! This one is about adventure racers and one particular race in NH. It was so fun to write and I am actually going to volunteer at the race in August! I am happy these assignments keep coming my way because I really enjoy them. Next up: Bollywood dance class (which I've actually been taking for more than a month now).
  • I am indeed a poor speller because I officially failed the spelling portion of that editing test I took 2 weeks ago. It's okay, it wasn't meant to be. But I do wonder if they ever heard of spell check. Who is going to edit something without using spell check or a dictionary? I think I'll stick to writing ... that way the editors can fix my apparent spelling issue.
  • Training, training, training. J is training for a triathlon that will take place next weekend. He started talking about it a few months ago and this time, it actually stuck. He is actually training and I am his support staff/trainer. Except, he still hasn't stepped foot in a pool. He believes he actually doesn't need to because he "was a great swimmer in high school." That was 20 years ago buddy. Anyways, we went last night to the public pool to swim and it was closed because someone pooped in it. Awesome. Doing a triathlon is on my bucket list, but I KNOW I can't swim even one length of the pool. I plan to take adult swimming lessons at some point, so maybe someday I will feel more confident about doing a triathlon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Visit #4

For the third summer in a row, QuickQuestion, Yankee, Bones and Curly Locks made a vacation out of visiting us in New Hampshire. And we all survived for the third year in a row. Adults, kids and cat included.

We jam-packed the weekend with fun and new things around the state! And because I know you want to know, I will give you the rundown. Warning. Lots of pictures ahead.

Thursday: Canobie Lake Park from 11-9:30
It is a really fun amusement park. But I think I realized that I am no longer 10. Spinning and fast rides=spinning head and stomach. We all went on the log flume and I successfully kept myself pretty dry until we got off the ride and I was walking across the bridge, where apparently you go to get soaked. I actually started running to get by it when I realized the tsunami was coming, but got trampled by other people running and lost my sunglass lens in the process. Awesome. Regardless, the kids had ear-to-ear smiles all day and that's all that matters. And, they had a special Michael Jackson impersonator show at the park. It was very entertaining and only makes us wish that we would have seen him for real!
Friday: Hampton Beach and Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse
I was planning to join them at the beach (J had to work), but I had a conflict come up (more on that in another post). Hampton Beach is a repeat for them, but these kids LOVE being in the water. Later that evening, we ate at a hibachi grill. Those are so much fun! Bones was the only one to catch the zucchini in his mouth when the server flipped it to each of us. He does need all the food he can get!

catching a zucchini

Bones getting a belated birthday cake (he turned 8!)
Saturday: Franconia State Park and J's Movie in the Park
The hike was the thing that Bones was looking forward to the most about the weekend. You just have no idea how much this pleases J and I. We asked Bones why he liked hiking so much and he said he loves seeing wildlife and water. We will turn him into a thru-hiker someday! That night, J had to work, showing his second "movie in the park." This time, it was Where the Wild Thing Are. J struggled with the weather forecast because at one point it said 100% chance of thunderstorms, the next, it said 0%. Anyways, he took his chance and it worked out perfectly. Over 100 people were there! And I think Bones and Curly Locks thought it was pretty cool to just be outside at night and have the movie playing. As for QuickQuestion, she was too busy smacking the mosquitoes away to watch the movie. Yankee was keeping track of Curly Locks, who was bouncing around as usual. J was working, so he didn't watch the movie either. But I did. And I thought it was quite sad. My eyes were leaking from time to time during it. I think I am just emotional lately, so don't take my word for it.
Sunday: Private Boat Ride on Squam Lake
So something random happened last week. My magazine editor called me and asked if I could cover a last-minute story. She was supposed to go on a complementary boat tour on Sunday, but had a conflict come up. Could I go on this awesome personalized boat tour, take some people and get paid to write about it? Um, yes! Bones and Curly Locks had never been on a boat, so it was extra special. I thought the ride was so enjoyable and different, since the last time I was on Squam, we were in kayaks. Plus, our tour guide knew so much about the lake and its history, which made me fall even more in love with that pristine place. We even saw some eagles!!!

Anyways, all in all, it was a good weekend. My sister and I realized how entirely different we are. We talk on the phone at least twice a week and are very close friends, but boy did we stray in opposite directions from the womb. QuickQuestion, if you are reading, we still haven't taken out our garbage! And we saved some foil to reuse! And the lights are all off! Thank goodness we are family and love unconditionally.

And by the way everyone, I've been religiously taking my birth control.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Merrimack Part II

We didn't stay inside on Sunday either, despite the continued heatwave. We returned to the Merrimack River, even though we read a recent article that said it is considered polluted, but still better than it was 30 years ago. We see people swimming in the river all the time, so we figured if they could survive, our kayaks would.

Anyways, we kayaked the 6.4-mile section of the Merrimack from Franklin to Boscawen, just north of the section we kayaked last week. Someone had recommended it saying if we wanted to experiment a little with rapids, this would be the section to do it.

There was definitely some Class I-II excitement in at least 5 sections. In fact, the first 3.5 miles were so fast-moving that we hardly had to paddle and could just float when we weren't in the rapids. Then there were sections that were so shallow that we got stuck and had to get out and walk our boats!!

I let J take the lead when it came to the rapids and rocks. He has definitely had more whitewater experience than I have had. Last time I tried to whitewater kayak, it didn't really end well. I nearly lost the rented kayak and I did lose a shoe. Anyways, we enjoyed the day out on the river. I have to give myself some props. Not only did I navigate the rocks and rapids pretty well, but I did it in a 17-foot boat! My normal boat is only 13 feet. We have this yellow 17-footer that we inherited/bought and we are getting ready to sell it (no need for 3 kayaks!), so we figured we'd take it for one more ride. It has all the bells and whistles, like a rudder that helps you steer. It's nice, but I do love my boat more.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hot Hot Hot, Free Free Free

They say when it's hot out, you really should stay inside and stay cool. Avoid exercise. But, we have a very long winter here in NH. So staying inside during the summer is just not a possibility.

On Saturday, J & I biked the city streets into downtown Concord for Market Days. The 3-day event closes Main Street and has a bunch of vendors selling and giving things away. It's a very cool (not temperature-wise) event. Setting up for Market Days was my volunteer gig on Thursday, actually. We walked around, watched the fire department beat the police department in dodge ball and of course we won something. The prize tally is not done yet, but so far, I won a 4-week subscription to The Concord Monitor! We read the newspaper online all the time, but it will be a treat to have it in hand.That evening, we went to Red Arrow Diner (rated top 10 in the US!) and to see a Fisher Cats (minor league) baseball game with our friends in NH (we actually have friends now). J and Second Nature (he was a thru-hiker in 1998) are both rec directors and I swear his wife is my long-lost soul sister! Anyways, J worked his magic and got us sweet seats behind home plate and VIP parking. Don't ask. He is just amazing when it comes to scoring deals. The Fisher Cats lost, but I can't say I was paying much attention to the game anyways! And, there was a sweet fireworks show after the game, so that was a bonus!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Trail Magic

When J & I finally thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (the AT), you all will get an education. There's all sort of acronyms and jargon that goes with the AT. And you want to keep up with the blog, you're just going to have to become familiar with it all (that's an order!).

One of the common terms is trail magic. When you are a long-distance hiker, trail magic is pretty much an oasis in the desert, if you will. Imagine this, you are hiking along, carrying what you need to survive for several days—sleeping bag/tent, clothes, FOOD, WATER. Then you run into say a cold soda, some fresh strawberries, just about anything that is available for taking. And it's not just food. It could be an offer to take a shower. A place to stay. A fresh pair of socks. The list goes on as to what trail magic can be.

There are all sorts of people along the trail that offer the "magic." Trail angels, if you will. Some live near the trail and just drop off the magic anonymously. Some plan to meet up with hikers. Some mail it (many hikers stop at the post office to pick up supplies).

Yesterday, we got to give out some trail magic! It is something we've always wanted to do and although the closest AT crossing is not far from our house, it's not 100% convenient. But, I follow a LOT of thru-hiking blogs (hey, it's research!) and I've been following this couple, Ridley & Panther (their trail names), from their planning stages. They are from Florida/Texas and I have gotten to know Ridley (the female) pretty well through our blogs/e-mail. They started hiking the AT in Georgia in March and have just about 380 miles left! WooHoo!!!

Yesterday, we planned to meet them in Franconia Notch State Park where the AT crosses and it actually worked out (often it's hard to plan a meeting because of non-existent connectivity in the mountains and unknown hiker time). We brought lots of cold drinks and snacks (the trail magic!), then drove to Woodstock for lunch, ice cream and a resupply (sometimes just a ride into town is trail magic enough—you don't really want to have to do any more walking then you have to). They had 2 other thru-hikers (SnackAttack & Merf) with them and we were happy because the more the merrier (Ridley & Panther are in the middle). Plus, I fired at them a myriad of questions of course! The best preparation for the trail is to talk to people who have hiked it!
After seeing them off, J & I hit the bike path in the park. We always come up here to hike or paddle, but we figured we'd try the hilly 20-mile trail this time (we only did about half). Of course it rained while we were riding. We have gotten a total of maybe 1 inch of rain this whole summer and it just so happens to rain every time we plan an outside activity! It was still pretty awesome!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Week 6 of Unemployment: Volunteering and Testing

I got up at 6am this morning. I never even got up that early when I was working! It was all for the sake of volunteering. And for once, I was NOT volunteering for one of J's events. I've spread my wings beyond, but I still am his number one sidekick when he needs me of course.

Also, I took a copyediting/proofreading test for a freelancing gig (referred to me by Shadow!!! Networking is awesome!). I think I failed. The first sign it wasn't going to go well was when a black cat crossed my path on my morning run.

I took the test Wednesday afternoon at the library. It was proctored and I couldn't use any sources other than my common knowledge. I felt really confident with the editing and the writing parts, but it might have been an epic fail on the spelling portion. I won't get the final verdict until next week.

I am typically a good speller. I would even venture to say it is one of my greatest talents. I have a lot of practice since J is constantly asking me how to spell things. I sometimes mumble it or spell really fast just to get his panties ruffled. He gets all confused. It's so fun.

Anyways, the spelling portion of the test listed about 20 words and you had to decide if they were spelled correctly or incorrectly. Cake, I thought. Who needs spellcheck? But then I started perusing the list. They were all the words where you question which vowel to use. Basically my nemeses. Separate. Existent (I think I got that wrong). Adherence. Accommodate (I thought for sure there was only one "m" and got that wrong).

Overall, I am a horrible test taker. I think I got a 900 on my SATs. My nerves get to me and I second guess myself. Tests are one of the main reasons I will never go back to school. (Speaking of tests, I have 2 friends taking the Bar exam at the end of the month. Good luck guys! Hopefully you are better test takers than I am!)

So I kind of doubt this company will hire me. Who wants to hire an editor who can't spell???

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Discovering the Merrimack River

NH is a state of lakes and rivers, that's for sure. It's one of the main reasons we bought kayaks when we first moved here. But, we don't get out nearly enough. Sad to say, but this week was the first time all summer we've taken the kayaks out!

The Merrimack River flows 60+ miles through our state and right by where we live. We have seen it all these years and always wanted to paddle portions of it. But for some reason, we felt a little intimidated by it. There are sections that change from flatwater to Class III rapids and we just didn't want to be stupid about it. This weekend, we finally explored a wonderful 10-mile section. The Merrimack River Watershed Council has volunteers who lead free guided trips and we took advantage of it.The trip was supposed to be an overnighter. But, we bailed at last minute because the weather predicted thunderstorms all night long. And since we were only a few miles from home, it just didn't make sense to camp out. Instead, we just turned it into a day trip.We started in the pouring rain and cooler temps (it finally dropped to the 70s here, albeit for one day). About an hour into the paddle, it dried out and the sun even came out. The weather people were entirely wrong (big surprise). There were never any thunderstorms. However, I will say I'm glad we didn't end up camping out. Because as we were packing our kayaks with bilge pumps and extra paddles, the people next to us (not in the Merrimack guided group) were packing their flotation devices with fireworks, extra beer and an inflatable beer pong table. And no PFDs (life vests) of course! These are the people you hear about on the news ... Our day on the Merrimack was really great. It was actually refreshing to paddle in the rain after so many dry days and hot temps! We will be back on the Merrimack soon. There are still several miles to explore ...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week 5 of Unemployment: Interviewing

This week I was on a little bit of a roller coaster. It could have to do with the fact that it is 90 hundred thousand degrees here with 400% humidity and we don't have AC, so I am feeling quite lethargic. In any case, one minute I was feeling productive, the next useless, then pumped. So you see. Roller coaster. And not the fun kind that you ride at amusement parks.

But I did have an interview this week. Now before you get all excited and give me a virtual high five, I will ruin it for you and say it didn't work out.

I responded to a craigslist ad for a contract writer for a start-up newspaper here in NH. While craigslist can be iffy, I knew it was a legit gig because the newspaper had a website. We set up the interview via e-mail. I went in to the whole thing with an open mind and started to get excited about the possibility of newspaper reporting again (last time I called myself a newspaper reporter was in college). However, when I showed up to the address Wednesday, it was someone's house in a seedy neighborhood in Manchester. I quickly texted J the address and person's name just in case I got chopped up in a million pieces.

The interview took place (other people showed up and I felt safe, BTW) and they offered me the job. I didn't accept it. The pay was, um, not enough. I understand it being a start-up and I'm not really complaining because this is the standard and I sort of knew that (writers make jack), but I couldn't justify accepting a job that would take 10+ hours out of my week and barely cover my gas for the weekly editorial meetings I had to attend. I really am trying to build a freelance base that can get me off unemployment or that will be there when unemployment runs out and that means being a little choosy. While I am a little desperate, I'm just not that desperate (yet).

Overall, it was a good experience. I haven't interviewed in such a long time so I definitely need practice. Hopefully there are more where that came from!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

We are landlords

So hell kinda froze over guys and gals. Remember that house in Danville we own? The one we've been paying a mortgage, homeowners insurance and utilities on for the past 3 years? It's official. We have a renter in it. He's been living there for almost a month and so far so good.I didn't want to mention it earlier because I didn't want to jinx it. In fact, I didn't change my underwear at all when we were talking to the potential renter until he moved in so to guarantee not jinxing it. I just changed my underwear today. As for J, he doesn't wear underwear so he just kept his fingers and toes crossed.

I can't tell you how close we've been to getting renters in there for at least the last year and a half. It was just like Groundhog Day, the movie. It was just like Groundhog Day, the movie. Oh, did I say that already? We stopped getting our hopes up high with prospects because the same thing happened every time. I'll give you a hint. They decided not to rent our place.

But the stars must have been aligned because this one worked out. It was a guy already living in the Danville area. He seemed interested and set up the appointment with our property manager way back in May. When I followed up with him, he said he liked it. This was the first clue that this was going to be a different situation. He didn't say, "I like it, but it's in the ghetto" (all potential renters get that warning in advance, yet they are still surprised when they see the neighborhood in person). He didn't say, "I like it, but it's way too big" (again, all potential renters get that warning). He simply said he liked it.

He even went on to say that although he couldn't move in for awhile, he sort of wanted to enter an informal agreement that we'd hold the place. I was like sure buddy, we'll informally hold it. Not like the phone is ringing off the hook with people wanting to sign a lease.

But then—yes, there is a but then—the universe started playing tricks on us. A previously scheduled couple went and looked at it THE VERY NEXT DAY and called me IMMEDIATELY to say they want it and want to move in 10 days ago and can we send a one-year lease because they are ready to sign. I might have spewed my iced tea a little during that phone call. I obviously had to tell the couple, um, we have someone else in line before you. In what world are there real, viable people, beside crack addicts, lined up at our front door? Only one day in three years in our world, apparently.

After a LOT of hemming and hawing (mind you this was all going on when we were road tripping to NJ for the Hindu wedding and had a million things planned and no computer access), we went with potential renter #2. Both potential tenants were awesome from what we knew and seemed like a good fit. It was purely a business decision, with a little of the sympathy card played. Renter #2 was pregnant and was willing to move in 10 days ago. You see what I mean?

But then—yes, there is ANOTHER but then—renter #2 backed out as we scrambled to get him the lease as quickly as possible. Apparently he didn't like the neighborhood. Hi, did I not tell you to go back there day and night and make sure it was suitable for you??? You guys, I know I jest and it's a little ghetto, but it's not THAT ghetto. I used to live next to a meth lab and prostitution ring in Phoenix, so the empty houses and occasional crack addicts walking down our street DO NOT frighten me.

Luckily—and this is where the stars re-aligned again—renter #1 was still interested. It ended up he moved in earlier than he originally expected too. So it was only after a stress sandwich, with a side of disappointment and relief, that it all worked out.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Last year for J's big 4th of July event, it rained. This year, it was 90 hundred thousand degrees. No happy medium Mother Nature?

But still, we survived. And it was a big success!

We had a root beer chugging contest:And a pie-eating contest:And a kiddie parade (which is my responsibility in the morning as volunteer of the year):And much, much more. Including ice cream. Oh wait, it melted all away. Maybe next year.

We also had those classified house guests I mentioned, all while the madness of J's event was going on. The short story on their visit is that he is a former professor of mine. I learned a lot from this guy in the classroom and my team ended up getting an A on our senior seminar project, which was extremely difficult. Also, this guy is a good person to have on your side, trust me. Anyways, he is going around the country with his wife making a documentary. I—with J's permission of course—opened our home to them for their travels. And they thought J's event would be a good addition to their documentary (note to self: never invite people at a time when you are running ragged ... and it's 90 hundred thousand degrees). Did I mention it's 90 hundred thousand degrees? I feel like I'm in Danville or Phoenix, for that matter. Geez oh man. Stay tuned for Week 5 of Unemployment, if I don't melt.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Week 4 of Unemployment: Profiling

I had another unemployment workshop to attend on Wednesday. This time there were 25 of us. Great. The numbers are increasing. But this was a special workshop. It was for the people identified as "likely to be unemployed for an extended period of time." Thanks. Just kick me while I am down! And frankly, I would have thought any unemployed person is difficult to employ these days.

But I'm plugging along. Back in the day, I used to teach a class about job searching (to inmates and low-income/homeless folks ... who were in many cases truly unemployable). I told the "students" that looking for a job was a full-time job in itself. I would have to agree with myself. It can be more time consuming than actually having a job.

I search for jobs a little each day. There are plenty of places to look for jobs. The problem is, the jobs are not there. The other extremely helpful part has been networking. I think I have pretty much contacted every single person I've ever known. And this all WITHOUT the help of Facebook, although I do love LinkedIn.

When not job searching, I am staying remarkably busy for someone with no real job. For example, on Tuesdays, I've been going to a scrapbooking group at Scrappin Soul Sisters in Concord.

I also clean a lot. I am slowly becoming the valedictorian of homemakers. Okay, not really. But, we have more visitors coming this weekend and so you can't really let the house go and avoid doing laundry. BTW, these people are not really coming to visit us. I haven't decided whether or not I will blog about their stay, but basically they are here in NH and we are just "hosting" them.

Lastly, I am still volunteer of the year for J's recreation duties. He has a GINORMOUS event for Independence Day Sunday, so I have been his shadow. We will begin setting up tomorrow and will not stop moving until sundown on Saturday. Sunday will be a blur. Then the cleanup begins. It's a good thing I'm unemployed, yo.