Valleywood – Inspirations Big and Small


Top: The SHAPE Diva Dash was a great event. My fellow participants were a fun, energetic group of women who made it a day worth remembering. Middle left: Rory Waldinger shows me how to throw a mean punch during kickboxing class. Middle right: I thought last year’s zombie obstacle course would be my last, but think again. Bottom: My second year swimming the Brickman Triathlon with team cyclist, Sandra Lheron and runner, Mary Honan.

Happy New Year! Soon, we’ll all be cheering the start of another year. I will be, too, even though my personal new year has already come and gone. It arrives every September, when I celebrate the kids’ return to school, take a deep breath and get ready to jump back onto the hamster wheel.

I love the days and weeks after the end of the kids’ summer vacation because I have time to assess everything I’m doing. The process usually begins with a household purge, followed by hours of deleting old email and texts. Only then is my head clear enough to tackle the big stuff. This year, my focus was on the future of “Valleywood.”

Movies are still being shot locally, and celebrities are often nearby, but the initial surge of excitement that overtook us when the film industry first came to Massachusetts has waned. Like people in Los Angeles and New York, we’ve become accustomed to Hollywood types spending time in our backyards. When Valleywooders didn’t flock to the old Lowe’s building off Route 97 in Haverhill to check out Denzel Washington, who was there recently shooting “The Equalizer,” it was evidence to me that we may have reached a comfortable plateau with the concept of celebrity. So, in a recent sit-down with Merrimack Valley Magazine’s head honchos, I asked, “Where should I go with ‘Valleywood’?”

I still enjoy writing the column — and any day that I have the chance to meet or talk to a celebrity is a good day in my book — but a change, New Year-style, is in order. mvm’s editors and I decided that I would continue to share my passion for the film industry with readers, but would include other conversation-worthy tidbits in my columns.

For example, my most recent obsession: kickboxing with instructor Rory Waldinger at North Andover’s Cervizzis Martial Arts. I decided to try the class when a friend mentioned it while we were on the sidelines at the soccer field. I jumped at the chance to break the monotony of my usual routine and try something new, and with every punch I feel completely empowered (and slightly bad for my imaginary opponent, because I am pretty sure I am kicking his ass).

Inspiration, big or small, can be found anywhere, as long as you’re open to it. Do you recall last year, when I participated in that crazy zombie run at Amesbury Sports Park (July/August 2012 issue)? This year, I was invited to join a large group of women in a similar event called the SHAPE Diva Dash.

My initial reaction was “been there, done that,” but after realizing that friends and neighbors were all rallying to challenge themselves, have a good time and do something different, I thought, “Hell, yeah, I’m in.” I was one of 45 women, dressed in neon green and black fringe shorts, loading into a 1980s “funky fresh bus.” We traveled more than an hour to run through obstacles, enjoy a day without husbands or kids, and revel in being women. Then, just two weeks later, I found myself part of a relay team for the 2013 Brickman Triathlon to support Habitat for Humanity.

These are the kind of things I love to talk about. So, join me for adventures like these and developments in the local film industry in the soon-to-be renamed “Valleywood” column, coming in January 2014.


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