Walking

People in England walk way more than people in America walk.  Most of the people in my village “take walks” for no other reason but to walk.  And they don’t walk on sidewalks, cause there aren’t any, or on the roads even – they walk on public footpaths.  There are signs all over the place pointing out public footpaths, which wind their way across the country.  But we have been here over 18 months and I am still scared to try it.  

My American fear of walking on someone else’s land makes me nervous.  The footpath signs show you where the paths begin off the side of the road, but they’re not clearly marked once you’re on them.  There are also public bridleways, which are not just for pedestrians, but also cyclists and people on horseback.  They all wind across open fields, through back yards, across roads, and although there are signs at junctions, I am just never sure where, exactly, I’m supposed to walk.  So I stay on the road for fear of doing it wrong.

I’m determined to give it a try though.  There are over 140,000 miles of public footpaths and bridleways in England and Wales and we’re only here for so long!

I set out last week on a walk, hoping to get the nerve up to venture off the road and onto the path.  As a warm-up, I walked on the grass along the road to where the footpath signs mark the junction near my house, rather than on the pavement.  Walking on grass changes your speed.  It also changes your ability to pay attention to other things — you’ve gotta keep an eye on the ground or you might trip.  It slowed me down, but made me more aware.  I think maybe that’s the point of walking those footpaths — it is not to make sure you get x-number of miles in, but that you enjoy and pay attention to the miles you do walk.

When I got to the beginning of the footpath, though, I chickened out.  I looked along the edge of the field where the sign pointed and it just was not clear to me where I was supposed to go.  So I stayed on the road.  I walked, but I’m not getting the full English-walking-footpath experience that way.  I’m going to ask my neighbor to meet me a few times and show me “the way” I think, so I can get a few accompanied walks under my belt and get brave enough to try a solo.

While in Rome, they say, do as the Romans do.  And so, while in England, I shall walk.  Off the beaten track.  Because that’s how it’s done.  I just have to find someone to teach me how.

A Woman’s Work: Samantha

Samantha is my baby sister, but she’s not a baby anymore.  She is thirty, a new mom, and an entrepreneur, although she probably hates that term.  Sam was born when I was just shy of my 8th birthday, so I’ve always thought of her as little.  She’s not though, she’s a full-fledged grown up.  (She probably also hates that term!)  It’s really amazing from my perspective as the big sister to look at how she’s made these unexpected and really cool decisions about what she’s going to do and how she’s going to do it.  She just impresses me. 

She’s not necessarily doing something she expected to do, but she’s doing something she loves — which is way more important.

1) What is your job?

I am a new mom, and also one of the owners of a restaurant called Dillon’s Local in downtown Plymouth, MA.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, a career change, etc?

I double majored in history and political science at Umass Amherst — and I have the student loans to prove it — but after college I worked for years as a bartender and waitress.  I was employed at so many different places, and always thought I would eventually leave the service industry, but I was having fun and not ready to stop doing what I was doing and look for a 9-5 job.  I figured I would use my degree eventually, but the longer I worked in restaurants and the more I learned the intricacies of the business, the more I fell in love with it. I did not, however, love working for absentee owners or in huge restaurants with way too many employees. While working at a nearby bar & grille, I met my now-fiance, Colin.  Together we decided to try this whole restaurant thing for ourselves. For years we essentially ran bars and restaurants for other people…so we figured, why not do it our way?! 

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

In high school I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, then during and immediately after college I worked at low-paying or volunteer internships and I substitute taught for a while.  But I always had the bar industry as a fall back — it’s hard to walk away from leaving work with cash in hand and switch to waiting for a paycheck!  I worked at small bars, huge restaurants, dives, fine dining establishments, and everything in between. One year I worked at at least five different places. I was sick of bouncing around, and so was Colin. So we worked together and saved up all our money and took the risk!  We are now co-owners of our own place (along with our Head Chef), and we work for ourselves and do things the way we think they should be done.  But, just to complicate our venture, I found out I was pregnant about one month after we opened our restaurant.  Surprise!  Colin and I had to shift gears a bit — we went from opening a business and a follow-your-dreams mentality to working for something even more important: our son.

4) What do you love about your job?

I love everything about my job — both jobs!  I love being a mom, even though it’s still new to me. John Francis is only 7 months old so I am definitely still learning.  My outside job is the most rewarding one I could have ever imagined for myself.  I never thought I would be a business owner, but it suits me (and Colin) well.  I get to socialize and talk to my friends and strangers all day.  I get to run a restaurant with my partner how we think it should be run.  It’s nice not to have to follow someone else’s rules.  We get to be creative and we get to set the standards ourselves.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

I was broke for years after college! I’m still broke, but it’s for a good reason now. Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much. Bouncing from job to job was torturous. Working for someone else was never what I wanted. I do not like to be bossed around!  So now that I get to make the decisions, I am much happier.

6) Has becoming a parent changed your perspective on work?

Becoming a parent has changed my perspective on everything in life!  Gone are the days when I came first.  Now everything I do is for my little guy.  I’m still up all night, but it’s a much different scene.  I went from a pretty carefree existence to one that is way more worthwhile and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

I’m new to the whole mom thing, but so far I think the best advice I’ve received is to RELAX.  I’m going to mess stuff up in work and at home, and it’s going to be okay.  I’m still struggling to balance my schedule, so I’ll take any advice I can get on that!  I’m pretty much winging it…but so far it’s going pretty well!

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Sam is managing a crazy new life in a pretty chill way — in the course of a single year, she became a self-employed business owner AND a new mother.  But she is happy and content and confident and it’s so clear that she loves her life.  Even when things get stressful, she gets over any momentary freak-outs, straightens up, and moves on to make things work.  And you know things can get stressful when you’re running a business and taking care of an infant!  (In my highly unbiased opinion, though, John Francis is basically one of the sweetest and cutest babies ever to grace the face of the earth, so that has to make things easier!)

The thing that makes me happiest reading Sam’s words is this: “Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much.”  It is absolutely true that doing something you truly enjoy makes all the hardships worthwhile.  And I love seeing my sister so happy and so fulfilled. 

And you guys, Dillon’s Local is seriously awesome — right on the water in Plymouth, MA, it’s a cool, cozy, unpretentious place and the food and drinks are seriously AMAZING.  They’ve already won awards for best local bar and been featured in the Boston Globe and at the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival at Fenway Park in Boston.  So not only are Sam and Colin happy, they’re also killing it in a very competitive industry.  I’m so proud of them both.  If you’re ever in Plymouth, MA, you should totally go eat there.

Thank you Sam for taking the time in what I know is an insanely busy life to answer these questions!

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Do you know someone I should interview for “A Woman’s Work”? Shoot me an email at

jessica@littlenestingdoll.com and let me know.

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Love is Lunch

On Thursday mornings, I have a riding lesson that runs until about 11:30AM.  That day, there’s an amazing food truck making delicious Thai food on the base where Matt works.  But because of my lesson, I can’t get there early enough to order lunch for myself before the line gets so long, it’s dinner time before lunch is ready.  So Matt goes early, orders his food, and orders a meal for me to pick up on my way home from riding.  It’s just a little gesture, but every Thursday I’m grateful for a delicious, hot lunch after a few hours of hard work at the stable.

I read this blog post the other day about a book called Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by author Amy Rosenthal (who also wrote the viral NYT article You May Want to Marry my Husband, and who passed away last week from ovarian cancer).  I wouldn’t recommend reading the article without tissues nearby.

I haven’t read the book yet, but I plan to now.  This excerpt, though, stopped me in my tracks:

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Under “L”

LOVE – If you really love someone, you want to know what they ate for lunch or dinner without you. Hi, sweetie, how was your day, what did you have for lunch? Or if your mate was out of town on business: How was your trip, did the meeting go well, what did you do for dinner? Jason will stumble home in the wee hours from a bachelor party, and as he crawls into bed I’ll pry myself from sleep long enough to mumble, how was the party, how was the restaurant beforehand? The meal that has no bearing on the relationship appears to be breakfast. I can love you and not know that when you were in Cincinnati last Wednesday you had yogurt and a bagel.

****

When Matt and I first started dating and were living in California, he went home to Maryland for a few weeks over the summer.  We had literally only been together maybe a month.  We talked on the phone just about every day while he was gone.  Later, when I met his mom, Karen told me that she knew I was important because she heard Matt ask me on the phone what I’d had for lunch.  Who would even think to ask that of someone if they didn’t care about every little thing they did?  That was when she knew I was different than past girlfriends.  Less than a month after he got back from that Maryland trip, Matt proposed to me.  Right after we went out to lunch.

When you love someone, the little details matter to you.  Lunch matters to you.  On Thursdays, when Matt orders for me from the food truck, he doesn’t call me first to see what I want (I wouldn’t be able to answer anyway, because I’m sitting on the back of a horse).  He looks at the menu for the day and picks the thing he knows I’d pick.  He’s never gotten it wrong, not even once; I always check the menu when I pick up my food just to see. 

My riding instructor told me she thinks Matt is the perfect husband.  He’s not perfect! I insisted, laughing at the thought.  And he’s not.  But Lord knows I’m not the perfect wife (Matt just did a silent snort-laugh if he’s reading this).  And at least he knows what I want for lunch, so I think he is, in fact, perfect for me.

Things You Need To Know

Sometimes I see things on the internet and I think — man, everyone should read this/know this, so I might share it on Facebook or tweet it.  And like four people probably read it.

But then I thought it would be better to post a little compilation of links to things you definitely should know about every so often.  (And it helps me too, ’cause I won’t lose the links!)

Also, today is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday which is largely ignored by the English, celebrated minimally by the Irish, and a really big deal to the Americans (particularly those in Boston and New York, it seems).  Since I am an American from Boston in England of Irish descent (and traveling to Ireland next week), I am in a weird place for this holiday, but I do love it and feels like home, so I’m celebrating — Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Now, here’s the list of things that I think we should all know about this week.  Go, read, and be more knowledgeable!

This simple explanation of the female anatomy — some of which I honestly did not know, despite the fact that I have indeed been a female for almost 38 years.

How all 158 members of the Irish parliament feel about Beyonce.  Hysterical.

Really great skiing-with-kids advice from a mom of two in New England.

Very detailed and specific information on how to get involved in local politics (and RESIST!) from a dedicated group of former congressional staffers.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg works out with a personal trainer twice a week.  And she bench presses more than you do. (Fine, more than I do.  But I have a bad shoulder, so…)

The oxford comma is important, necessary, and apparently worth a bit of money. (See what I did there?)

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See something on the internets that I should include in this list of things people should know? Email it to me at jessica@littlenestingdoll.com

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