Friday, July 29, 2011

Newburyport, MA

Tell me if you would like to live here or not: You're in a small town next to a big city, you're surrounded by the mountains and sit right on the coast, your weather is warm and sunny year round, you have culture, sidewalks, bike lanes and farmer's markets. Tourists can whale watch, shop and dine out on fresh seafood. Your history dates back to the formation of the country.

Just call me urban planner extraordinaire.

I have never been to this imaginary hotspot, but we came close this week when we visited Newyburyport, MA. What a nice place!

Just 35-miles north of Boston, Dominic and I decided to rent a car and drive up to this costal village together. Although I needed to visit Newburyport for work, Dominic could come along and study while I made my site visit and then we knew we would be perfectly positioned to enjoy a weekend get-a-way for our two year anniversary. We stayed in a studio apartment at the Market Street Inn:

It sure was fun to be on the water in a charming New England town. From coffee shops like Seattle, to a prayerful labyrinth walk, it had the makings of an ideal vacation location. Too bad we were there to write papers, deliver meetings and launch campaigns. This would definitely be a fun place to return.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Would You Do?

I was standing in line at Family Dollar today when three kids came running in the door heaving deep sighs of relief from the heat. The frigid store stands directly in front of the bus stop so while Mom waited outside the kids were free to cool off near the cash registers.

The youngest boy - not quite two I'd say - made a bee line for the toys while his sisters hung around the checkout counter where the candy was displayed. I hadn't been waiting two minutes before the girls had each taken, opened and started munching on a package of candy.

They didn't have money with them and it didn't matter anyway because they did not pay. When Mom propped open the door hollered at them to get back outside all three left and stood outside in front of the door.

The bus hadn't come and the line hadn't moved (normally I would be annoyed at this wait), so I watched the girls through the glass doors. There are security cameras everywhere in Family Dollar, so would something happen?

The older - maybe six or seven years old - was picking candy out of the container and chewing away not even a foot outside of the front door. The younger - I'd say 4 or 5 - embarrassingly hid her contraband in her pocket and eyed her sister's behavior while turning her back to her mother.

I finally got to the counter and cautiously asked Louis my cashier if he had seen. "Yea," he said. "But they're outside so there's nothing I can do."

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ergonomics Please

I don't mind working from my corner of our living room. The 'office' is fairly organized and I have a window view of all the street happenings down below. Our apartment is quiet and I have complete control of the thermostat so there's really not much to complain about.

Unfortunately, I have aged. My back has been screaming at me for some time to stop sitting on one of our hand-me-down wooden kitchen chairs and invest in something that would make the long hours at the computer more pleasant.

I'm no occupational therapist, but I convinced myself for quite a while that I didn't need an appropriate chair because sitting uncomfortably would provide an impetus to get up and move more often. Without the water cooler or conference room meetings, I needed all the excuses I could find to get up throughout the day.

I decided to shop around after getting a flyer on desk ergonomics at a health fair recently. Look at this happy, productive employee. I should look for a chair like hers:

Instead. I purchased this contraption on Amazon:

I won't bore you with the benefits of kneeling chairs. I know they're great. I just am not so sure they're great for me.

First of all, I built the chair when it arrived Thursday night. It's adjustable and as is evidenced by the photograph above, (office clutter aside) I wanted to sit tall at the desk. Perhaps a little too tall. I was so high I had to find a box and a photo album to put my laptop on. Then came the issue of the keyboard. My wrists are supported, but I have to hold my arms up to type while the mouse is a foot below on the desk. My shins are sore, my knees are blue, and I have serious doubts about the sustainability of this set up.

The pro: I stood more - a lot more. Since my computer was so high I could basically stand and work just as comfortably as sitting. Great.

The con: The pain relocated. Upper back to lower legs. I'm not sure which is worse, but I'm beginning to think I'll head back to the kitchen chair.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Hit the Road

Dominic and I have not traveled extensively together, but we’re starting to rack up the out-of-town experiences under our belt.

To celebrate America’s birthday this weekend we took the Bolt Bus up to Boston. We have dear friends Kyle and Sara who recently moved to Beantown and they were amazing hosts.

We tend to think we know what it takes to show guests a good time. Dominic and I strike a nice balance between planning and itinerary drafting (Sarah) and low key relaxing (Dominic). What we haven’t quite figured out yet is how to balance our two travel preferences when we are guests ourselves.

Sara and Kyle went out of the way to make us feel welcome. From pre-purchasing unlimited subway passes to researching a list of popular tourist activities prior to our arrival, we were well cared for. Sara loves to cook – much to our benefit, and Kyle doesn’t mind being a tourist in his own town, so we were set.

If given a day in a new place, my top choice would be to set out walking and not stop until I collapse. I want to see it all, I want to do it all, and I have little regard for the human necessities such as eating and drinking. I’m not big into expensive tourist sights, but I do want to see what I can and I certainly want to be outside.

On the other hand, Dominic would be perfectly content to sit inside a dark café or bar and read a new book all day long. You could put him anywhere and he would be happy. He likes to grab a drink and chat, he definitely prefers to eat at regular intervals.

If left to our own devices, we would probably have to travel separately. Thank goodness for hospitable friends. We can walk the Freedom trail and relax over a drink in the city. We can play board games at home one night and take the subway to the Boston Pops dress rehearsal another. It was a perfect weekend with fun-loving friends.

Boston has been a nice example of how easy it is to balance our separate vacation preferences when we are with dear friends. Lesson learned - always travel in clans.