Observations from a full-time stay-at-home Dad, part-time adventure seeker, and recent transplant to Down East Maine.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weird Winter

Last year, at this time, we had over 3 feet of snow on the ground with more on the way. It was crazy. It was record-setting. And, it was a huge pain in the ass. For everyone. Many folks around here lost power for days, multiple times during the season. In short, it was a nightmare of a winter.

This winter has been the polar opposite. So far, we've had a total of two storms, each dropping 6 inches of snow or less. And temps have been warm enough to melt it all within a week, or two. Today it's 43 degrees outside and tomorrow it's going to get close to 60 with rain. So, any remaining snow will be just a memory by Groundhog Day.

Now, for most people that would be a blessing. And I guess I can't really blame them. Especially after last year. But I was really looking forward to snowhoeing and cross country skiing this season. Not being able to run has really limited my outdoor work-out options and I was hoping to base most of my winter training around those two activities.

Oh well, at least I can still hike. And mountain bike. In January. I suppose when mother nature decides to skip winter and go right into spring, it's best just to smile, make the most of it, and be thankful your lights still work.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Young And The Coreless

So, after six weeks of going to the gym here in Ellsworth, I have my workout routine pretty much dialed in. I drop the kids off at school around 7:45am, hit the pool by 8:00, swim for 30 minutes, then head to the elliptical machine for another 30 minutes of "pretend" running (or 30 minutes of cycling if it's a spin day), followed by 10 minutes of rowing, and 20 minutes on the stair climber. 

In total 90 minutes of exercise a day. Which, along with better nutrition (portion control and better snacking mostly), has helped me lose about 10 pounds. And, has made me feel pretty good about myself and my fitness. That is, until yesterday. That's when, after getting out of the pool (as usual) and heading over to the fitness room (as usual), my peppy spin class instructor implored me to "Try out his core class, dude". 

I reluctantly agreed, then proceeded to replace my standard 30 minutes of elliptical with 30 minutes of pretty much flopping around on the floor like a fish. He had us do 4 rotations of burpees, jack-knifes, front planks, side planks & leg kicks. I tried, and failed, at doing anything whatsoever that resembled the above mentioned torture tests. The rest of my mostly younger classmates executed them flawlessly and without a great deal of effort. I, on the other hand, looked like I was being electrocuted. Slowly.

Needless to say, I have a lot of work to do on my s0-called abs. Who may, or may not, ever speak to me again.

Self-Portrait With Abs

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Postcard From Maine

Kind of a lot going on today and not much time to write anything worthwhile. So, instead, I will leave you with this cool postcard I found..


Today marks my 50th day here in Ellsworth, and from what I've seen so far, I certainly can't argue with it's sentiment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Deco Detailing

A curious thing about Ellsworth Maine is the proliferation of the Art Deco style throughout it's downtown business district. Not a style you would normally expect to find in a seacoast town, in Downeast Maine. But, nevertheless, there it is. On federal buildings, on cinemas, on banks and even on barber shops. 

I suppose one plausible explanation for it's pervasiveness is that most of downtown Ellsworth burned to the ground during The Great Fire of 1933. So, when it came time to rebuild, the popular style of the era just happened to be Art Deco. And viola', a Deco Town is born!

Anyway, whatever the reason, it's kind of cool to see some good examples of a fun and interesting design style that's long overdue for a comeback.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Read Write & Blue

Since I'm not running (and barely working) I've had a lot more time lately to focus on my writing - both in this blog and on My Book.

One of the things that I've done to facilitate that is to join a writing group. Three in fact! I suppose, what Downeast Maine lacks in wintertime events it more than makes up for in writing groups. There are no less than three such groups (that I know of) which meet weekly within a 1/2 hour drive from my house.

The first group I met with was at the Ellsworth Library. They get together on Thursday evenings. They typically begin each meeting with a "writing prompt", which is designed to get the creative juices flowing. Then each member can choose to read a selection of their work for the others to critique.

The second group I attended was at the Blue Hill Library.
They meet on Thursday mornings. Writers from this group submit their stories a few days in advance of the meeting and the members provide written reviews of each, which are then discussed at the meeting itself.

The final group I visited was at the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor. They connect every Saturday morning in one of the most amazing little library's I've ever seen. If you're in the area (and like architecture, woodwork, cool spaces and interesting detailing) I highly recommend it.

Each of these three groups offered something different and I'll probably continue going to all of them, as my schedule allows. It's been a great boost to my writing, and has helped me meet a bunch of new (and like-minded) friends.

Jesup Memorial Library - Bar Harbor, Maine

Monday, January 25, 2016

Turning The Page

This past weekend I drove back down to Nashua, NH to attend (and help administrate) my running clubs Annual Awards Dinner. And, I have to admit, it was a very bittersweet trip for me.

I was extremely happy to see many of my friends again and enjoy a fun meal together. And, I love being able to give out awards and say nice things about some truly phenomenal people. But, in the back of my mind, I knew that this dinner would be the end of my duties with the club. And, that when the evening was over, I'd be leaving town again with no real plans to return.

I've been the Competition Coordinator for the Gate City Striders for 12 seasons and it's been a wonderfully rewarding experience. We've accomplished a lot in that time frame and I feel blessed to have been a small part of it. I've shared my feelings about the club, and what it's done for the community, many times. Most notably Here, Here and Here.

I will dearly miss being an active member of GCS, but I know that I’m leaving the club in the very capable hands of an awesome group of highly motivated individuals who will no doubt take us to the next level. But, still, it's hard to walk away from something I loved so much. And people who made my life worth living.

So, as I got in my car and headed north once more, I couldn't help but feel like I was closing a chapter, of sorts. What will the next chapter bring? Who knows. But, if it's anything like the last, I will be a very lucky man indeed!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Getting To The Point

Despite being just 220 miles (as the crow flies) from Kittery (western most point) to Lubec (eastern most point) the shoreline of Maine is over 3,400 miles in length. Believe it or not, that's longer than California's shoreline!

So, needless to say, weaving in and out of the water like a sailor who's had a few to many, Maine coast has countless coves, harbors, narrows, bays, points, and peninsulas to explore.

Last week I paid Hancock Point a visit, and it did not disappoint.

Hancock was settled in 1766 and was named for John Hancock. Yes, THAT John Hancock! It had two power water sites on the Kilkenny and Egypt streams to run the equipment at the various mills around town including a gristmill, shingle mill and lath mill. However, most of it's inhabitants were seafaring men who worked on fishing vessels out along the Grand Banks.

During WWII, two German Spies actually landed a submarine in at Hancock Point and traveled to New York City, where they were eventually caught.

I didn't see any u-boats on my trip, but I did see some beautiful scenery, a few amazing looking houses, and a great place to swim. Hopefully I'll get to come back again when the weather (and the water) get a little warmer.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Fun Daddy

One of the great things about being a stay-at-home Dad is all the extra time I get to spend with the kids. They step off the bus at 2:50pm most days (and 1:50pm on Fridays) so that's 3 to 4 bonus hours every day to do something with them. 

Sometimes these things we do are play oriented: Lego building, craft making, game playing, or exploring the shoreline. Other times these things we do are more chore oriented: Grocery shopping, errand running, house cleaning, or working on homework.

Either way, I try to make whatever we do fun and enjoyable. Sometimes it's not always possible. Especially the homework part. But, I do my best and I think they appreciate that. At least I hope they do. Or will, Someday.

Anyway, I feel very fortunate to have this time to spend with them every day. I know, from first hand experience, that kids grow up all to quickly. And, before you realize it, they're leaving home and living in California. Which is very far.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Job Hunting

I went to my first job interview in 23 years, last week. 

Well, to be honest, it was less job interview and more job discussion, really. I met with a local Architect at his office downtown and we talked about life here in Ellsworth, what the economy is like, what's going on for construction, and where the best opportunities might be for me to find part-time employment. 

This was good for me on many levels.

Firstly, in preparing for it, I had to exhume and update my professional resume. Some dust on that puppy, for sure. Secondly, I needed to cull through 23 years of project images and put together a brief slide show of my "greatest hits" - both in design and construction. And finally, I was forced to "break the ice" on my long-dormant interviewing skills.

None of those three things ended up being necessary for this particular discussion, but it was good to get them out of the way. You know, for next time. When it counts.

Anyway, at the very least, I made a new friend in Ellsworth. Someone who has given me some good leads and is an excellent point of contact for future work. Also, I may end up working with him (pro bono) on a non-profit project he's got going on nearby. An opportunity to prove myself, meet some local folks, and keep my head in the game. All of which are worthwhile.  

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Kitchen Window

This is currently the view out of my kitchen window...


... not too shabby.

(Lame, I know. I'll write more tomorrow. I promise.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spin Cycle

Since I'm not currently running (or working for that matter) I have been spending a lot more time at the gym than I ever have before.

For me, a typical gym day at the Ellsworth YMCA consists of an equal portion of elliptical, rowing/climbing, and swimming. Three times a week I substitute spinning (bike) for the swimming. And let me tell you, that class sure does make me earn it! 

It's your stereotypical spin class: 1 high energy male instructor, 12 housewife/second shift nurses, and me. Toiling away at the back of the class trying to keep up without falling down. By the end, my lungs are aching, my heart is racing and the sweat is just pouring off me. In fact, when I stagger out of that stuffy classroom, I'm so wet that it's like I've just stepped out of the pool. Meanwhile, the ladies in the class are chatting away, hardly breathing, barely glistening and annoying the crap out of me!

It's amazing how unfit I've become since I stopped running. And how quickly it all happened. One month I'm running a 50k in the woods and the next I'm being dropped from an estrogen fueled peloton. Oh well, at least when I do finally keel over from a heart attack, I'll have plenty of skilled healthcare workers nearby to revive me!

Don't mind the sweat, ladies.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Getting Involved

One of the things Johanne and I have decided to do, in order to get to know our community a little better while having a little fun in the process, is to sign the kids up for after-school activities.

Ethan's activity of choice was (no surprise if you've been following along) Taekwondo. Actually, that's not true. His real first choice was floor hockey, but they don't have that here in Ellsworth. So, Taekwondo it is! Classes take place every Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 4:00 at the Ellsworth ATA. And, he absolutely LOVES it! He's focused and disciplined. Attentive and patient. In other words, all the things he isn't at home!

Emily chose dance for her activity. Her favorite style of dance is Hip-Hop. But, like Ethan, her choices here were limited. So, she's taking a class which is a combination of Ballet, Jazz and Tap. With a concentration on Ballet - her admitted "least favorite" dance style.
Classes take place every Friday evening at 4:00 at the Libitzki School of Dance. She's enjoying it so far, despite the ballet. She's mature enough to understand the situation and is making the absolute most of it!

Down the road, we have Emily signed up for Art Camp at the Museum of Art in Bangor. And, were looking into some sort of lego/building opportunity for Ethan. They have both shown some talent (and more than a passing interest) in these activities. And, we want to do as much as we can to encourage them. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Impromptu Carriage Ride

This week, after the rainstorm had washed away all the snow and before the nor'easter dumped 6 more inches upon us, I decided to make the most of my opportunity and take a quick trip down to Acadia to mountain bike on some of the Carriage Roads there.

57 miles of Carriage Roads (and 17 stone bridges) in Acadia were built by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., between 1913 and 1940 - for hikers, bikers, horseback riders and horse drawn carriages. They have been painstaking laid out to follow the natural contours of the landscape, rather than disturb it, and are carefully maintained to a near pristine condition. Traveling on them by foot, bike, or horse is like taking a step back into a quieter and more genteel time & place. They are truly a delight!

This was my second time riding the Carriage Roads. The first came in August when Johanne and I made the trip for her initial job interviews. I started early in the morning and biked for four and a half hours from Bar Harbor to Northeast Harbor (and back) and barely saw a soul, let alone a car. This time was no different... except for the 50 degree drop in temperature!

I suspect, now that winter finally seems to be taking hold, that this will be my last bike ride in Acadia until April, or May. But, with the way things have been going so far, who knows. I maybe out there again in March. In shorts!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ghost Town

The house that we’re currently living in here in Ellsworth is part of a development called Tinker Farm Estates. Or, as it’s not-so-affectionately referred to in town as “The Condos”.

Development of the neighborhood began 8 years ago on a 28-acre piece of land one mile south of the center of town. The property was formerly known as Tinker Hill Farm and stretches from Route 230 (Bayside Road) all the way down to the Union River with more than 2700 feet of frontage on the river itself. A dozen units were built in 2007, and 78 more were planned, but the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008 and the developer went bankrupt. Leaving nothing but the 12 units (only half of which are occupied), a few piles of rotted lumber, and two dozen light posts strewn about an otherwise vacant field.

It’s rather eerie, and more than a little depressing, walking around and seeing this neighborhood that never was. Future service connections (water, power, etc) sit like tombstones in the tall grass. Marking the place where houses should have been. Gravel roads slowly being reclaimed by the meadow. With bushes growing up where kids should have been riding their big-wheels. And, lonely light posts standing quietly in the pasture. Hoping someday to shed light on a couple taking an evening stroll down a sidewalk.

What makes the neighborhood even creepier is that on a small rise, near the western edge of the property, there is an actual graveyard. The Old Tinker Farm Cemetery where, presumably, Old Farm-uh Tinker and the Missus are buried.  I haven’t actually poked around up there. Kinda gives me the willies thinking about it.

Of course, on the other hand, it is rather fitting to think that our little “ghost town” on the hill comes with its own celestial caretakers!