"C'mon baby, let's go."
I hear myself and cringe. My foot presses the lock on the stroller and I double back toward my toddler, who lags about 20 feet behind me.
"What did you find?" I ask, watching as she sifts through layers of damp leaves. In the distance, the dog sprints from tree to tree, determined to cover more ground than we will.
Of course, the pace of life changes when you have a baby. But even a few months ago we would cover miles in this park, my daughter tied contently to my back and my legs carrying us through the thick woods.
Now things have changed. We're on toddler time. We've been walking for 20 minutes and have not even made it out of the parking lot.
"Buddy, bring me a stick," I say to the dog, accepting that he won't be tired out by our walk alone. As I toss it to him, I praise each leaf, rock and stick that my daughter picks up. We never make it out of the parking lot.
On the way home, I begin making a plan. We'll eat lunch, and then its naptime. Time to compress a day's work into two hours, if I'm lucky. I eat and pee before the baby falls asleep so that I don't need to waste any of that precious time. Forty minutes for an edit test for a new website. Another forty if I would like to write for them as well. I'm swift and focused, moving through each task with clipped precision. With seven minutes left on the timer, a cry breaks my focus. I quickly wrap up the test, submit it and walk to the nursery.
Being a mom - especially a working mom, and even more so one that works from home - is all about balancing. Sometimes that balance looks more like juggling. I'm learning that the key to keeping everyone happy is knowing when to speed through the to-do's, and when to just take it slow.
In the afternoon we go for another walk. We make it half a block before my daughter spots a sewer drain.
"Wow," she says.
I smile to myself, finding joy in her wonder. I sit down on the side of the road and find rocks for her to toss into the abyss. I don't know whether we are there for 20 minutes or 45. I just wait until the novelty has worn out, and that little voice says, "All done."
Way back in July, when I was pitched a story about the life of a real witch I was a little skeptical. Would it be all voodoo and strange sayings? At the same time, my interest was piqued.
Last week, in the lead-up to Halloween, I finally met Deborah D'Onofrio, the local witch who would be showing me the ropes. In addition to being a witch, Deborah is also a certified medium and a reiki healing master. I arrived at her (very normal looking house) to interview her, and after that the tables turned as she did a "session" with me, using her skills as a medium and a reiki healer.
I would say that I'm pretty open to believing in mediums and the like. I was excited for the session, and very curious about what would come out. I wasn't contacted by any family members what I was hoping to hear from (looking to you, Grandpa), but the knowledge that Deb had about me and other people in my life was erie. It had me thinking a lot about the energy that surrounds us.
As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the experience, but it was personal and I wasn't able to be very articulate about it. So, my personal experience didn't make it into the newspaper story. However, I did share lots of info about Deb and about witchcraft.
Here's an excerpt:
"The stigma surrounding her spirituality is one reason that D’Onofrio likes to speak out about being a witch and educate those who are interested in learning more. For D’Onofrio, who is a green witch, practicing her spirituality is all mostly a matter of being in touch with nature.
“It’s about being connected to the earth first and foremost,” she said. “I treat the world as a sacred place. It’s simple. No toads and dragons blood involved.”
Her main belief is clear and succinct: “There is power in all living things. The earth, elements and creatures all have magic. They are our allies.”
She also believes in a plethora of spirit guides and deities, and in the inherent power of thought.
D’Onofrio’s whole practice is built around these notions. Yoga and prayer appear in her practice regularly, as does meditation.
The less mainstream details of her practice may garner a few raised eyebrows: She uses candles, minerals, herbs and other natural items to add power to her intentions, or spells. She appeals to a variety of deities and is a trained medium and Reiki master.
Just like Christianity and other major religions, witchcraft can cover a wide array of belief systems. The individual-led practice that D’Onofrio follows is different from the well-known Wiccan religion.
“It’s like a tree,” she said. “The roots we all share. Yet, there are different branches at the top that break into tons of traditions.”"
You can read the rest of the story about Deborah here. I'd love to hear from you. Have you had any spooky experiences this Halloween? Do you believe in the witches?
Usually, I can tell when a story is going to be great - it has an appeal to me, and I can see that it will appeal to readers as well. Every so often, though, a story surprises me: a good story turns out to be a flop, or a bland story ends up being a lot of fun.
Last week, I was assigned to cover the re-starting of a clock in a renovated church steeple. I wasn't jumping at the story, especially when I learned that the clock would start at 7 a.m. However, the assignment ended up being one of the most unique I have covered, as I spent the morning climbing the steeple, winding a 100-year-old clock and helping to toil with the bell until it sounded just right.
Here's an except from the story I wrote about the steeple project:
On the morning that the bell was restarted, I scrambled up stories of rickety wooden ladders along with The Readings photography director Amy Sweeney. We reached the bell level and crawled through a hatch onto the open-air balcony, where the bell enjoys sweeping views of Reading.
“How high up are we?” I asked Levesque, the steeple construction guru. He replied that he doesn't keep track.
“If you go 20 feet you might as well go 120,” he said. “If you fall you're going to get hurt just the same.”
Levesque, along with his son and cousin, are clearly not afraid of heights. Part of the project included scrambling up the coppola to the highest point of the steeple to replace the weather vane at the very top, at least 150 feet above the town green.
Levesque is used to extreme working conditions and said that working on the Old South Church was a pleasure because of the people involved with the project.
“It helps to work with people that are enjoyable,” he said. “These guys were hands on and common sense prevailed.”
With a last-minute adjustment to the bell finished, we climb back into the hatch and down to the clock level. In the center of the small room levers in the clock's heart twirls and clicks. Long hands reach out to clock faces on four sides of the steeple.
“Want to wind it?” asks David Roberts. I take the long handle, and am surprised at how heavy the crank is to turn. After a few revolutions I hand the crank back to David, who completes the rest of the turns needed to keep the clock ticking each week.
Along with his brother James, David has been winding the clock at Old South Church since the 1970's. Every Friday afternoon, one of the brothers climbs up into the steeple and winds the clock 350 revolutions. As the clock is wound, weighted levers raise up through the steeple and drop as time passes during the week. The clock, which was built in 1912 is incredibly accurate, and it's intricacy is beautiful.
“It's a museum piece,” Weston said.
In the center of the steeple, levers turn, swinging a giant pendulum that reaches down to the floor of the level below. A zinc temperature compensating rod adjusts the length of the pendulum to make up for extreme temperatures in the uninsulated steeple. All of this happens without any electrical power.
“There's a lot of engineering in this thing,” Roberts said. “It's beautifully done.”
If anything can get in the way of the clock, it is nature. On stormy winter morning snow can build up on the north face, stopping the hands from turning. Occasionally, a fly or a lady bug will get caught in a gear and grin the whole clock to a halt, Roberts tells me as he pauses to catch his breath.
David and James Roberts tinker with the clock, and hands on all of the faces scramble into the correct position. The bell rings out, shaking the entire steeple, and the Old South Church's clock is back up and running.
“I'm very happy it's completed,” Weston said.
For Chloodian, who can hear the bell from her home and uses it to pace her day, the ringing has a deeper meaning. She is so passionate about the steeple project that when her grandparents died, she asked mourners to donate to the Reading Steeple and Bell Tower Fund in lieu of flowers.
“Now every time I hear it I think of them,” she said.
What about you? What hidden gems have you encountered lately?
Meanwhile, here's some of the other pieces I have been working on: During WWII, this father found a way to join his sons in the service, saying "If they've got my boys, they'll get me." On a much lighter note, this show at the North Shore Music Theatre was a great night out (and was my first theater review!). I got behind the screams at the biggest Haunted House in New England, and also took the photos that go with the story.
This morning, I came across this post from the blog Brittany, Herself. Brittany talks about how nothing good can happen unless we get over the fear of failure. It seems like a cliche, but take a minute to think about just how true this is. What can you accomplish without first being brave enough to try?
Something I liked about Brittany's post is that she acknowledges that not everything is going to work out. Failing is part of the process of success. It's something that I need to remind myself, since I definitely tend toward being a perfectionist. Last night, I was upset because a great opportunity that I thought would work out fell through. Part of it was my fault, but some of it was beyond my control. Even knowing that, I was busily analyzing what I could have done differently and better to make it work.
At one point I stopped myself. Just as I moved away from my negative thoughts, an email appeared in my inbox - an editor I work with asking if I was interested in a new gig. It was perfect timing. Missing out on a opportunity was hard, especially because I was partially to blame. Even though it is discouraging in the short term, I know I will learn from that mistake, and that will make me a stronger writer and business woman in the future. I want to make my business a success and I refuse to let fear of failure get in the way of that.
So many things in life require us to try, without worrying about failing. There is a reason that getting married is referred to as "taking the plunge." Whether it is committing to a new relationship, becoming a parent, or relocating for a job we are forced again and again to face our fear, and put ourselves out there to fail. And sometimes, we succeed.
What about you? What lessons have you had to learn the hard way? Which failures have taught you something in the long run? What are you trying now, unafraid?
As a writer, most of the time, it is great to have too much to write about. Unfortunately this week, there was too much bad news to cover. However, when I began writing a piece for Merrimack Valley Business Magazine this morning, I realized tons of feel-good material. Writing a profile on someone who has so many inspirational stories was a great way to spend a Saturday morning, after a long Friday of horrible news.
Giovanni Capato is the founder of Reach Fashion, and Reach Design Center, on Wingate Street, in Haverhill. I am a sucker for a good Haverhill story, especially since my dad used to have his office on Wingate Street, and my siblings and I spent many afternoons exploring the local shops that never seemed to survive long enough. After buying a birthday present at Reach Fashion, I knew I wanted to do a story on the store and its owner, but I had no idea just how captivated I would be by Giovanni.
Reach Fashion is much more than just a boutique, although you will certainly find cute clothes. Through the adjoining Reach Design Center, Giovanni invites anyone to become involved in the Fashion industry. He takes interns from Haverhill High, runs fashion camps for students, and will share his knowledge with anyone who is interested. Seeing someone with an impressive professional resume who has such a genuine interest in helping the community is inspiring and encouraging. Giovanni takes away the intimidation of what he admits can sometimes be a cruel industry, and makes fashion and creativity available to anyone who walks through his doors.
Giovanni's personal story is also amazing. He immigrated to the United States from Brazil over fifteen years ago, not speaking any English. Having been through the immigration process with my husband, I cannot imagine conquering that while trying to learn the language. I know how frustrating it can be to feel like your life is in the hands of the government, or to desperately need something many people take for granted. I look forward to the day Mark can become a citizen, something Giovanni understands. "Becoming a citizen opened doors," he told me.
Giovanni has two sons, who he and his husband adopted through the Massachusetts foster care system. After talking to me about his professional life, Giovanni was more than willing to tell me about his experiences with domestic adoption. "We found love. I see that if I can give a child an opportunity for a better life, that's my goal here."
Love, local business, and American pride - things we can all appreciate everyday, but especially this week. Thanks, Giovanni, for being so open with me, and for everything you are doing for Haverhill. Look for more from my interview with Giovanni in the summer edition of Merrimack Valley Business Magazine, and check out Reach Fashion!
One of my favorite views, taken on a gorgeous Boston day from the BU Bridge.
Like the rest of Boston, I am still reeling today from the attacks at the Boston Marathon yesterday. No matter whether you live in Boston currently, or have moved on to a new place, everyone who has been blessed enough to call Boston home knows the magic that is Marathon Monday. On Comm Ave, the trees are blossoming, and I assure you there is nothing more beautiful than Boston in the springtime. Families on April vacation are freed from the indoors to explore their city, and college students - who can practically taste summer - take to the street to celebrate life by punishing their livers. The first time that I watched the Boston Marathon in Kenmore Square, I was in awe that an event could be so life-affirming.
All tragedies are awful, but I learned yesterday that there is a unique and heart-wrenching ache when the bombs are placed on sidewalks your feet have touched, and the wounded are wheeled along a path you used to walk to quietly take in the spring.
Fortunately, the spirit of the marathon was reflected in the response. When we see pictures of people running toward the blast, and read stories of everyday Bostonians offering up their homes to visitors, we can see the good. Today, I visited a middle school, sitting in on a media class for a story I am writing. Class opened with a brief discussion of the bombings, and when the students were mostly silent, the teacher urged them to remember the words of Mr. Rodgers, and "look for the helpers." Look for the people who put themselves aside in the face of danger and tragedy to help others. In Boston yesterday, there were plenty of helpers.
Being a writer certainly affected my reactions after hearing the news. I hugged my husband, and told my family I loved them, but then I turned to my journal. A long time ago I wrote down a quote: I write to find out what I am thinking. When the unimaginable happens, putting pen to paper (and later, fingers to keys) is the best therapy.
As a journalist, I have to consider what is the proper way to cover such an event. I can't imagine the scramble to get the information out to millions of scared, confused, and angry people. National Public Radio continues to amaze me with their reporting skills. They resisted the urge to report the latest whispers, and stuck to the facts. Although they were not the first to report many aspects of the attack, they did not make the mistakes of reporting false information, like so many other outlets. I'd imagine it takes a strong team to be so patient, but as a consumer, it was incredibly valuable to know that I was only getting the facts.
In addition, the space NPR provided to callers to share their stories was a refreshing change from the awful video shown again and again on television. As horrible as some of them were, sharing experiences is no doubt a healing process. Whether it is tragedy, joy, fear, or pride, by sharing stories we connect with people we have never met, and may never see. That's the amazing power of words.
After last week's blog post, I have been thinking a lot about what role the blog should play on this website. As you can see, I've decided that it should have a bigger one. You can still learn all about me, view my projects, and see the different ways that a writer can help you, but now the home page will be the blog.
On a personal level, I am excited to have a blog that I will update regularly again, something I was surprised to learn I loved when I blogged at Boston to Brisbane. Professionally, I think that the blog will give me a chance to show potential clients my voice, in its own space, without the tone or style I may need to adopt when I write for other publications (not to say that I don't love writing for other outlets!)
Since I am establishing a career writing on any number of topics, I'll incorporate anything of interest here. I look forward to writing about the serious, the silly, and anything in between. As always, I'd love to hear from you - stories, comments, or anything else. Let the blogging begin!
It's amazing what a few warm days can do to motivation levels for a young professional. Yesterday the sun was shining, and I wanted to conquer everything - get out with the dog, pitch great stories to The Eagle Tribune, and apply to every writing gig I could get my hands on. I was a woman inspired!
Of course, there aren't enough hours in the day, and by the time I had sent emails and got the green light on a pitch, it was time for me to attend an event.
When I sat down today and tried to rekindle the fire that was burning yesterday afternoon, I realized that there were a few things that needed work before I could jump head first into The Next Great Thing. My resume definitely needed attention. As wonderful as I am, I finally accepted that there is no reason for someone only a few years out of college to have a resume that's more than a page long. I chopped and burned, and now have a clean and concise resume.
Updating the resume led to updating my LinkedIn Profile, which was feeling sorely neglected. I must admit I'm a little hesitant on LinkedIn, but when I logged in recently and saw that an editor at a newspaper I had applied to had viewed my profile, I realized that it really is a resource. I certainly don't want any professional opportunities passing me by. I spruced up the profile, and even found a picture that somehow managed to be both professional and presentable.
All of my work today and yesterday has led to a lot of thinking on my part. I know what I want - to freelance from home, and be able to support myself, and tell the great stories that are everywhere. I have had a little trouble blending my want to express myself, with my desire to have a professional website. I realized that I miss having my travel blog. In Australia, everything was new and interesting, but here, does anyone really care what a 24-year-old wife trying to get the adult life going has to say?
At its base, a blog is a way to get your voice heard, and the voice of Burch Creative isn't just the voice of a professional, but also the voice of someone trying new things, and figuring out how to achieve her goals. I really believe that my personal decision to step outside of the status quo and pursue self-employment from the start says a lot about the qualities that define me professionally - drive, responsibility, and just a little bit of risk.
So, from now on, I won't struggle to keep Kelly out of Burch Creative, because Kelly is Burch Creative. This space will continue to update you on the projects I am working on, but will also include general updates on how things are going. What worked, what didn't, and what I might try next.
And, of course, feedback from the older and wise and the fellow starters-out is always appreciated!
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