A Decade in Saint John: A Month-Long Celebration

A decade ago this October, I packed up a truck-load of all my worldly possessions and drove into Saint John as this city’s newest resident.  I was moving to the Port City to take my first real, grown-up job as a Cytotechnologist at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Driving into town for the first time, I missed the exit I was supposed to take and ended up driving over the Harbour Bridge.  Classic rookie mistake.  It did, however, give me a chance to see a bit of my new home town.  I remember thinking as I passed through, what is this place?  With the audacity to have its own Hollywood sign and a major highway straight through its centre?

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I think I loved it, right then and there.

It makes sense that I would love it here, really.  Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, I’ve seen so many communities struggle just to stay alive, in much the same way that Saint John has struggled.  Just as people like to root for the underdog, I like to root for the undervalued and unappreciated places in the Maritimes.

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When I first took the job in Saint John, people tried to tell me not to move.  It seemed that Saint John inspired a rather apathetic response in Maritimers, at best.  Why are you moving there? was a common question I received as I prepared to move my entire life there.  That is, except for a couple I met at the restaurant where I worked, who lived in Saint John. They boasted about the beauty of their city and its friendly people.  After chatting with them for a few minutes, I decided that there was hope for my new city, after all.  As it turns out, they were right.

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I haven’t regretted a moment that I’ve spent here.

In many ways, I feel as though I’ve found myself here.  I met the love of my life here and we married three years ago.  We bought a home, set up a busy, satisfying life here.  I have a rewarding career and enough hobbies to keep me busy 24 hours a day.  In the past couple of years I’ve unexpectedly discovered a new purpose: to use my passion and love for the region to spread the word about all the inspiring people and remarkable things that are happening here. Because this place deserves to be seen as more than the Armpit of the Maritimes.  It deserves to be a destination in its own right.

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If you saw the recent CBC documentary about Saint John, City on Fire, then you’ll understand that it’s an exciting time to live in Saint John.  There is a momentum building in the city, and it makes you want to get involved.  To be a part of the movement.  To prove that a community can take control of its own destiny, and decide for themselves who they’re going to be.  We don’t (and shouldn’t) have to wait for government to bail us out.  We can build a better community, all by ourselves, for ourselves.

To celebrate 10 years in the Port City, I’ll be bringing you posts of all my favourite places in the area, all month long.  Those most visited, and those I couldn’t live without.

So, after a decade in Saint John, the only real question left to answer is this: Can I offically call myself a Saint Johner now?

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There’s Nothing New Under the Sun (Except Absolutely Everything)

Earlier today I posted this photo and caption on Instagram:

It got me thinking about this concept.  If there really is nothing new under the sun and we’re all destined to repeat the same tedious and mind-numbing cycles over and over again, why do we even bother?

Why do we get up in the morning?  Why even step outside the door?

Why do we bother to travel and explore the world, if it’s all been seen before?

And that got me thinking about that Barenaked Ladies song, “It’s All Been Done”.  Here it is, because I know you’re all singing it in your heads now:

I understand it can be frustrating, when you’re trying to be original and create something truly unique, only to find that it’s been done already.  So, what’s a gal to do?

I say, do it anyway.

Whatever it is, it hasn’t been done by you.  That story hasn’t been told by you.  And so really, it hasn’t been told at all.

This is not permission to plagiarize someone else’s work, please do not misunderstand me.  But we have to give ourselves permission to be creative, even in this exceedingly ‘it’s all been done’ time we live in.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a great book about living a creative life, called Big Magic.  In it, she discusses the difference between originality and authenticity.  She says, “These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity.  Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.  Just say what you want to say, then, and say it will all your heart.  Share whatever you are driven to share.  If it’s authentic enough, believe me – it will feel original“.  Smart lady.

The same concept applies when exploring the world.  If it’s the first time you’ve been somewhere, explore it like you’re the first to set foot there.  Because, to you, it is the first time and it feels the same anyway.  I can tell you that the sense of wonder I feel when I hike a new forest path or visit a new-to-me place is not in the least diminished by the knowledge that thousands of people have been there before me.

So, let’s take the sage advice of the folks at The North Face and Never Stop Exploring.  

never stop exploring

Because yes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Except absolutely everything.

 

 

Winter Project

Winter is the perfect time to take on a little home decorating project.  It gives you something to do while your waiting for the evening light and warm temperatures to return.

This January I decided to take on redecorating a small bedroom in our home.  A room desperately in need of a fresh coat of paint and a new purpose.  The task?  Turning this drab, unused space into a cozy reading oasis.

Seriously in need of help

The idea took shape when I spotted this amazing print from Sweet Sycamore in a Canadian Living magazine.  The idea grew from there.

You can’t not sing the song

A great shade of paint (Antiqued Aqua, Benjamin Moore), a comfy chair, some lighting and a few bookcases later and I love my new room!  It’s a great place to hang out and chill, with plenty of storage for future book purchases.

A cozy corner

 

Lots of space for books

 

Now I have somewhere to display my cloth bound books and tea set!

I’m still searching for the perfect curtains (aren’t they so hard to find?) and I may add a few details over time but overall I’m very happy with how it turned out.  It was a great use of my indoor winter time and now I have a space that is much more useful for me.
A special feature of the room that my husband insisted on are hammock hooks.  You know, in case chairs just aren’t your thing.  I was resistant at first but it was a huge hit at our annual Stoutfest party last weekend and I must admit it’s pretty comfy (don’t tell my husband!).  Also, it’s easy to take down so it doesn’t have to dominate the room all the time.

I’m trying to pretend I don’t like it.

Have you taken on any indoor winter projects to get you through the coldest months?

I’d love to hear about them!

A Tale of Two Winters: A Photo Comparison

I don’t know about y’all, but looking at the bare grass on my front lawn and thinking about what it looked like this time last year is sort of freaking me out.  Because this week we’ve had a couple days where we broke records for February daytime high temperatures and last year at this time it felt like we were in some sort of frozen, never-ending hell of snowmageddon.  I guess it just goes to show you how very different winter in the Maritimes can be from year to year.

As un-Canadian as it may be to say this, winter is not my favourite season (shocking, I know).  I find the short days and the long hours of darkness challenging.  Always having to wear snow boots and tracking snow and ice through the house (and then stepping in puddles of cold water in your sock feet, ahh!).  Shuffling like an old lady across the parking lot so you don’t fall and break a hip (don’t laugh, it happened to people last year!). I try to make the most of it and I do enjoy an afternoon’s snowshoe or a morning of skiing, but for me, winter gets old pretty fast.

This winter, we’ve gotten off pretty lucky so far, at least here in the Saint John area. Mother Nature makes no promises however, and we could get slammed everyday from now until April (and maybe even after that).  In fact, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. For now, I’ll take more of what we’ve been getting.  Thanks, El Nino!

I put together a few comparison shots, so that we can all take a little stroll down memory lane of the winter-from-hell and thank our lucky stars that it’s 2016 and not 2015.

Top: February 21, 2015 Bottom: February 2, 2016

 

Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

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Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

Top: February 7, 2015 Bottom: February 4, 2016

 

Left: February 28, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

Good luck out there, Winter Warriors!

How do you survive the winter months?

 

Share Your Maritime Love!

Today marks my one year blogiversary.  It’s been one year since I started writing regularly at Maritime Love.  It’s been a wonderful year full of self discovery and creative expression.  Thank you to everyone who has visited maritimelove.com and read, shared and liked my posts.  It’s so amazing when people reach out to tell me they enjoy the site. I really appreciate your support!  This has been a labour of love, in an effort to give back in some small way, to a place that has given me so much.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my stories here over the past year and I will continue to post about my adventures around the Maritimes in the future.  But this year I want to focus on connecting with people in the region and learning what it is they love about the Maritimes.  So, I’m launching the Share Your Maritime Love Project, where I’m inviting you to share what you love about this place and why.

More specifically, I’d like to know:

  1. Do you live in the Maritimes? If so, where do you call home?
  2. What do you love most about life in the Maritimes?
  3. What do you find most challenging about living/doing business here?
  4. What is your favourite place(s) in the Maritimes?  Why?
  5. What do you think we can do to build a better Maritimes?

I would like to feature someone new on the website each week.  It could be a born-and-bred Maritimer, a new resident, someone who has left the region or a visitor.  I want to hear from all of you!

By doing this, I aim to learn more about the Maritimes and the people who live/have lived here and I hope to gain insight into what we can do to improve life for Maritimers.

If you are interested in being featured on Maritime Love, please comment on this post or reach me through social media (links on sidebar) and I will be in contact with you. Please share this post with anyone you think might be interested.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

And don’t forget to use the hashtag: #ShareYourMaritimeLove

My ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Story: A Do-Over

I have a confession to make: Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the year.  I like it better than Christmas Day.  To me, the true magic of the season lies in the anticipation and lead up to the big day rather than the big day itself.  I love the peaceful stillness that fills the house after everyone has gone to bed on Christmas Eve.  But there’s also an undercurrent of excitement, a quiet hum of anticipation for the coming morning.  It’s unlike any other night of the year.  And in my house growing up, my mother would often cook our turkey on Christmas Eve, so that when you went to bed, the house smelled oh, so wonderful.  To this day, the smell of a cooked turkey brings back memories of sleepless nights impatiently waiting to see what Santa brought for me.

When I was a kid, in that little two room schoolhouse I told you about, we had Christmas concerts, just like any other school.  One year I got this crazy idea to memorize the entire ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem and recite it at the school Christmas concert.  I don’t know what possessed my little 8 year old self to tackle such a challenge, but tackle it I did.  I spent weeks learning the poem, going over and over it in my mind.  The idea was to recite the poem for a couple younger school kids, as if I was telling them the story by the fireplace.  My teacher would prompt me if I forgot my line.

When the day of the concert came, I was a nervous wreck.  My stomach was in knots as the time ticked closer to my performance.  When my big moment arrived, I froze.  I couldn’t do it.  I had a major case of stage fright.  My teacher and the crowd tried to cajole me into performing, but I was having none of it.  No way, no how.  I was not going on that stage.

My parents were none too pleased with me and I was disappointed in myself.  I think I realized that my rather tenuous short-term memory was not going to survive all those faces staring expectantly at me.  But I also regretted not at least attempting it, which goes to show the old adage is true: you only regret the things you didn’t do in life.

We don’t often get do-overs in this life, so I’m going to take mine now.  So here I am, reciting (from memory) the now infamous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, for my 8 year old self.  Better late than never!

I wish you all joy and happiness in the coming week!  Merry Christmas!

 

Making Sense of Insensible Acts

I think we’re all still reeling from the horrific events that took place in Paris last night.  I know that I am.  Images and sounds that we can’t get out of our heads.  Innocent people enjoying their Friday evening, only to discover the worst of humanity.

Much like the stages of grief, I believe there is a natural process that we go through as we watch traumatic events like this unfold (which are becoming far too frequent):

 1.  The first stage is disbelief – what did that last tweet just say?  Bombings in the heart of Paris?  This can’t possibly be true!  We scour the internet for any morsel of information that we can glean, in an attempt to disprove our worst fears.

2.  When it’s been confirmed that this is indeed happening, there is an immediate coming together in solidarity.  Social media feeds were filled with messages of love and support for the people of Paris, even as events were still unfolding.  And with our advanced level of connectivity, we are easily able to follow events in real time, which is both a blessing a curse.  It provides us with the most up-to-the-minute information but can also lead to a lot of misinformation and increased anxiety on the part of people who can’t seem to disconnect themselves from the story.

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The World lights up for Paris

3.  We get really angry – there are a lot of emotions involved in seeing your fellow world citizens being gunned down in public and fleeing for their lives.  The most intense of these can be anger.  And that anger wants to be directed somewhere, which leads into the next stage…

4.  We look for someone to blame – this is completely natural.  In order to make sense of something that really makes no sense at all, we need to find someone or something to blame.  Somewhere to place our anger and disgust, our sorrow and grief.  The problem is when we start to place blame where it doesn’t belong.  When we condemn a group of people based on the acts of a very few.  Don’t get me wrong, the people who commit these acts are heinous people and worthy of appropriate punishment but let us place the blame where it properly belongs.  We don’t want to look back on this time in history and feel shame at how we conducted ourselves.  Let’s be on the right side of this history that’s unfolding.

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This was trending the morning after the attacks

5.  We get depressed and feel the world is going to crap – this also is natural.  Some very bad things are indeed happening in the world, and not just in Paris.  It can be overwhelming when we try to take it all in.  But we must resist the urge to give up on the world.  We must look for those helpers that Mister Rogers told us to look for, because in them, we will find our salvation.  When you realize how many more people were willing to open their doors to strangers, rush headlong into danger and work around the clock to assist the injured than the few who perpetrated this evil, you realize that darkness can never win.  Because evil is desperately outnumbered.  And this is how we must fight terrorism, with undying light and hope.  And what better place to lead the charge than the City of Light?

look for the helpers