Everyday Adventures in this Extraordinary Life

Snapshot 1 (5-31-2013 6-18 AM)

I often joke with my best friend that I could write a book about my life and sell it as fiction because no one would believe it all happened to one person. I haven’t climbed to the top of Mount Everest or formulated the cure for the common cold, I’ve just lived my life and done my best to roll with what comes. I think we all have an amazing and unique story to tell when we escape the mundane of daily existence and see life for what it really is: an endless adventure!

My beloved English teacher and friend, Derek Hulse told me when I was 16 that I should write my autobiography. I found the idea silly because I was only 16 and felt I hadn’t experienced anything that justified an autobiography. Apparently he saw great things in my past and future that were worthy of being told and I’ve been telling them for the past few years in my blogs. I am certain that numerous people live far more interesting lives than I do and I don’t profess to be an incredibly amazing, crocodile-wrestling, swashbuckling woman of the world. I’m just a girl who wakes up every day grateful for another dawn.

I never know what my day is going to bring. Even the smallest tasks turn into large undertakings sometimes. My quest to find a more fuel efficient-and yet still standard transmission-car involves renting an automatic car for the weekend when the first auto deal falls apart. I set out to dig up thistles and the handle on my garden spade snaps like a twig. I go to mow my lawn and the neighbors chicken decide to hold a parade through my lilac bushes. A weekend trip to Boston leads to a whole new direction and purpose in my life that continues to motivate me onward. These are the adventures I’ve lived and continue to live.

So I created a photo montage set to music and uploaded my video to Vimeo for your viewing pleasure…or to at least take up three minutes of your day. You can watch it by clicking on the photo above or the link at the end of this entry. In it I’ve featured several photos from my blogs and others I’ve taken just to document the mind-boggling little mishaps that occur in my life. Stars include my darling daughters, adorable dog, samples of my baking, creatures from the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, my mower, the Massachusetts locations of Boston, Newburyport and Amesbury, some of my artwork and everything in between. I believe it tells an interesting story about the everyday adventures in this extraordinary life that belongs to a simple woman just making her way in the world.

Everyday Adventures in this Extraordinary Life

The Valor of Violas

I am an inept gardener. Or to put it in nicer terms, a “hopeful” gardener. I am always hopeful that my gardening efforts go better than the year before. The first time I tried growing flowers in pots I forgot to water the flowers to the point where they looked like they’d been set on fire. Last year I attempted a flower garden from seeds and even dug up a nice little plot next to my deck walkway. The seeds grew and I lovingly planted them…only to have the oddest selection of weeds materialize where I expected daisies and sunflowers.

This year I’m trying growing flowers in pots again. I started with already grown violas (and their larger variety called pansies), snapdragons, flowering ground cover and a couple of kinds of daisies. Thus far the violas are showing themselves to be the strongest of the bunch! They’re such valiant little things and they always perk back up when I water them after forgetting for a day or two. It’s lovely that those happy looking flowers continue to smile up at me even when my “garden amnesia” strikes.

My snapdragons and daisies are still hanging in there but the ground cover got a bit too fried in the full sun that the other flowers like. There’s currently a rather excessive heat wave where I live and while I’m wilting in the temperatures, the violas are loving every minute of it. This year’s gardening efforts have taught me two important lessons. One lesson being that from now on, I’m planting only violas. The second lesson is that I’m not hot-weather-resistant enough to display the same valor as violas.

Visible Lyrics

Have you ever listened to a song and thought “Wow! These lyrics paint a really cool story!” No? Well I have and do often.  I then eagerly look up the music video for the song but very rarely does it meet my expectations. Not surprising really. I’m the only one who sees what goes on in my imagination while I listen to the song. The video producer isn’t psychically connected to me and has no idea what I feel would be the perfect visual representation of the song.

I have contented myself dreaming up my own videos for songs I like through most of my life. Until now. I made a promise to myself and my father’s spirit that I would dedicate the month of May to my writing and his memory. It might not seem like making a video does either of those things, but trust me, my father gets it.

The song I chose is one I’ve been thinking about making a video for through the better part of a year. The moment I heard it I began visualizing a comedy of errors, filled with clumsiness, a story I live quite often. I’ve bounced ideas off my daughters and they’ve helped me see different ways of showing what we feel the song should be about.

I’m almost certain that this particular song has meanings less innocent than what I’ve been visualizing. But that’s okay. Just because a song was written with a particular intention in mind doesn’t mean it’s restricted to that. Music is meant to entertain and enlighten and we’re all allowed to interpret it with our own perceptions. I think that’s one of the many reasons I’ve been blessed with this crazy imagination of mine. It’s yet another way I can “show off” my storytelling abilities.

I hope to finish up the video tonight and prescreen it with a few close friends before making it public. I don’t honestly know how it will be received, or if anyone will even take the time to watch it. I do know that it’s been a time-consuming but fun learning experience creating it and it’s given me a new outlet for my endless imagination.

Bees and Bends in the Road

I had the windows of my car partially down as I drove to my mother’s house for dinner on Memorial Day. It was a beautiful day with a slight breeze and I was going along at 55 mph minding my business when “ping!” I heard a bug hit my side mirror. It then bounced into my car and landed on my right bicep. I brushed the bug quickly off without even thinking, for fear it might be something that would sting me. As I thought about being stung I realized I should probably figure out where the flicked bug had landed. The last thing I needed was the thing flying up in my face startling me so badly I swerved off the road.

For the sake of safety, I found a wide shoulder to pull over onto and turned off my car. When no traffic was coming down the road, I opened my door and stepped outside to then lean over into my car and thoroughly examine the driver’s seat. No bug. I looked under the driver’s seat. No bug. I looked in the back seats and again no bug. I finally went around to the other side of the car and opened the front passenger side door. I looked on the floor mat first and sure enough, there was the bug! It was a rather small bee and while it was stunned, it was still very much alive. I found an old receipt and carefully scooped the bewildered buzzing bee to place him on the grass by the shoulder.

That crisis averted, I waited for traffic to pass so I could get back in my car. The next truck coming up the road happened to be my ex-husband taking our daughters to his family’s picnic. As I was reasonably certain he wouldn’t run me over, I quickly got back into my car and waved out the window as they drove by. There were no cars behind his truck so I pulled back onto the road and continued on my way to my mother’s house.

As I drove along the whole incident reminded me of the days when I used to ride motorcycles. Hitting bugs on a motorcycle was unavoidable and they’d get up sleeves and down collars periodically. I’d then be riding around wondering what the heck was in my jacket, if it was still alive and when it would sting me if so. Definitely a unique experience!

I started out as a passenger on my ex-husband’s motorcycle and eventually felt the desire to be the one holding the handlebars. My ex started teaching me on an old Honda TL that didn’t go much over 10 mph and on that bike I learned how to roll the gas and ease off the clutch to keep from stalling. My ex eventually bought me a Suzuki DR 250 and I got a decent amount of road riding experience on that glorified hairdryer of a bike. I upgraded to a DR650 because I liked the seating position and partially knobby tires of the dual purpose bikes.

I wanted my motorcycle license but I was still rather nervous on the road, especially around sweeping turns, bends in the road, sharp corners or when starting from a stop going up a hill. Wanting to do things right, I took the motorcycle safety course which included 5 hours of classroom lessons and 10 hours of hands-on training riding motorcycles. The instructors were impressed with my abilities on the Honda Nighthawks the class provided. As the bikes had obviously already been dropped more than once I wasn’t as fearful of dropping them as I was my own shiny new bike. I passed the class with flying colors and will forever be proud that on my written evaluation the instructors said I “smoked the turn” coming out of the figure 8.

Unfortunately, even with my motorcycle license I didn’t get much riding in after that. I had my daughters to take care of and I couldn’t go riding without a babysitter. Once in a blue moon my ex and I would get a ride in but as the jaunts became less frequent, I felt less confident in my abilities. I dropped my bike a couple times just trying to slow to park it and I lost a large amount of belief in myself.

I let my ex buy me out of that DR 650 in the divorce and he’s since sold it, but I still miss riding now and then. It would take me quite a bit of time to build up my confidence again. Even if I had a bike I wouldn’t want to go riding alone. I’m not sure when I’ll again feel like I earned that “Class DM” on my driver’s license but I’m hopeful it will happen someday. Whomever helps me with that will have to be the most patient person in the world because I can get a smidge flustered when I know I can do something but I can’t do it as well as I used to. All in due time I suppose.

There are times when I’m driving my car, going around a tight bend or curvy section and  I think how much fun it would be on a motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle on the open road creates a distinct thrill and sense of freedom far removed from the confines of a car. There are also inherent risks on a bike because car drivers rarely look for motorcycles. All intelligent bike riders know to look out for themselves and never quite trust that other drivers see them.

There is a camaraderie among motorcycle riders; they wave or nod as they pass each other on the road and they huddle under bridges when it’s raining, no matter what type of bike they’re on. They’re also all familiar with the hazards of bugs and the gasp of panic when the thing that just pinged off their helmet starts buzzing audibly from their jacket. It’s all part of the bends in the road as we throttle along the road of destiny and it’s best to enjoy the ride.

Butterfly Sightings

While mowing my lawn yesterday I saw several butterflies, all different sizes and colors. There were tiny ones that looked like mini-monarchs and larger ones like the Yellow Swallowtail.  I had to bring my mower to a complete stop more than once to keep from running over the lovely little creatures. They didn’t seem the least bit disturbed by the roar of the engine or the grass spitting out the shoot.

One of the small butterflies in the grass

One of the small butterflies in the grass

Butterflies are more than just beautiful insects to me, they’re a symbol of renewal and hope. The summer after my father’s passing there was a bumper crop of Monarch butterflies. Every time I saw a Monarch I felt like it was my father watching over me. There were a couple that lingered into the cooler weather and one even climbed onto my hand when I found it huddled clutching to the grass unable to fly in the strong, cold wind.

The Monarch that climbed onto my hand

The Monarch that climbed onto my hand

Seeing butterflies as symbols can be somewhat traumatic though when I’m driving in my car and they fly in front of me. I can’t really swerve for butterflies safely. Last spring there was a huge migration of small brown and orange butterflies called Red Admirals. I was driving home from work one day and the air was filled with them. I couldn’t swerve to avoid them all and there were already several that had been hit and were blowing across the road and I started crying as I drove. They were just out flying, trying to find a mate and they were dying in large numbers. That was not a good afternoon for me.

I emailed one of my close friends about how awful that drive home was and he understood because he knew all about my love for butterflies and what they mean to me. That summer he took me to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory in South Deerfield, Massachusetts and it was an amazing experience! Being surrounded by so many different butterflies that were in no danger of being struck by cars or other moving objects was very healing for me.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, South Deerfield, MA

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, South Deerfield, MA

That experience was also a little bittersweet. I looked at all the butterflies around and I was trying to take pictures with my outdated Droid phone and I knew I wasn’t capturing their beauty. I knew my father would’ve been able to capture the wonder of it all on film and I began to keenly miss him. I am embarrassed to say that I sat on a bench and started crying. I had sunglasses on but apparently they don’t hide tears as well as I thought. My friend came over and comforted me as best he could and then an employee came over to ask what was wrong. She was carrying a large lizard and suggested that I pet him, so I did. The lizard then jumped down from her arms rather gracelessly and that made me laugh. I am not meant to be sad for long, my father doesn’t want that for me.

The lizard that leaped

The lizard that leaped

As my friend and I sat on that bench a brown and white butterfly landed on first his head for several minutes and then briefly landed on my hand as I held my phone. That was the only butterfly to land on me that day but it was enough. It was reassurance to me from my father and the powers that be that I was okay and that I was on the right path in my life.

Butterfly that landed on us

Butterfly that landed on us

I highly recommend a visit to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory. It’s very educational for children and enjoyable for adults as well. There’s more to see than butterflies and you always have to be on the lookout for the button quail that dart about. Spend an hour there and escape the hectic pace of life to find a bit of peace among silently fluttering wings.

Several butterflies flying over the warmth of heat lamps

Several butterflies flying over the warmth of heat lamps

Tree frog showing me his best side

Tree frog showing me his best side

Glasswing Butterfly - one of my favorites!

Glasswing Butterfly – one of my favorites!

Should you ever see me walking along or mowing and I suddenly stop to look over at something, you can bet I’ve spotted a butterfly. I’m taking a moment to admire and appreciate the beautiful flying artwork created by the amazing imagination of Mother Nature.

Seeking the Extraordinary

Sara – “Maybe it’s like what you said. We should both just go our separate ways and then we’ll do just fine.”

Hitch – “What if fine isn’t good enough? What if I want extraordinary?”

Sara – “No such thing.”

I needed something to inspire my blog this morning. I was watching the end of the movie “Hitch” starring Will Smith and those lines were exactly the inspiration boost I needed. I say often that life isn’t like a romantic comedy or a fairy tale. Things don’t wrap up all neatly in the end with romantic lines and gestures that make girls go “awwww!” In real life there can be many of those “awwww!” moments but they’re not the end of the story, they’re just part of it.

The word “fine” is used far too often to describe how someone is feeling. I think when most women are asked by their mate how they are and they respond “fine” they mean anything but. Fine is the short answer, a pathetic attempt to sum up emotions ranging anywhere from anger to sadness and everything in between. When a woman says “I’m fine” what she usually wants is for the partner in her life to delve a little deeper and see through that excuse for a word.

When I’m talking to my best friend and we both says we’re “fine” we know we’re lying to each other. Even if we’re only communicating via text. Women, especially close friends, are intuitive and can read each other. Plus most of us know “fine” is a mask. Chances are that if a man says he’s “fine” he really means that he’s just fine and life is going swimmingly. Even if a man isn’t fine, he might not admit it for fear of showing weakness and all that. I’m not a man so I don’t know how the male mind works. I’m also not a relationship expert or a psychologist so everything I’m saying is just from observations I’ve made in my life.

Fine is how I would describe my life right now but extraordinary is how I want it to be. I know how lucky I am to have a loving family, two beautiful daughters, great friends, a lovable dog, my own home and car…and so on. That doesn’t mean I’m content with “fine.” I don’t feel that I’m being greedy by wanting more. I think working toward more is what makes life worthwhile.

You see, I am extraordinarily in love. “Ah ha!” you say. “I knew it!” Only it’s not what you think. I am in love…with a place, a state in fact. Its name is Massachusetts. I imagine people reading this and who follow me on social media wonder about my obsession with a state I wasn’t born in. Perhaps I seem like an interloper because I’m from Upstate New York. Personally I think it speaks to the amazing opportunities and beauty of Massachusetts that it can capture the heart of someone after just one visit. I’ve been to Massachusetts four times now and every visit has been different. All of my visits have been unique adventures and created unforgettable memories. So do not dismiss me and my love so quickly.

Home really is wherever you make it and you should seek to make it and your whole life extraordinary. Never settle for less than you deserve but don’t be discontent with what you have. It’s about finding balance without falling into a rut. Not an easy thing, trust me. I’ve tripped into many ruts and holes that I’ve had to climb out of. But I do always climb out, brush the dirt off my knees and am “fine.” I then square my shoulders and remember that fine isn’t good enough and that I want extraordinary!

The Best Laid Plans…

I was supposed to be spending this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, in Amesbury, Massachusetts. I’d made the plans months ago and was eager for my return visit to the North Shore area. Alas, those plans fell through when my reasons for going slipped away. I’d been looking forward to returning to that beautiful area of Massachusetts all through the cold and miserable winter. The idea of the visit was all that made life in the bitter cold bearable some days. Life has shown me again and again that the best laid plans…should be crumpled up and tossed on the fire.

The Chain Bridge, Newburyport, MA

The Chain Bridge, Newburyport, MA

Last time I visited Amesbury, Newburyport and other North Shore towns was August of 2012. That was an unplanned visit, quite the adventure and something much bigger than can be told here. It only lasted 24 hours and I spent the night sleeping with Jazz in my car parked at Amesbury Park. I am grateful I wasn’t towed! While I was quite disheveled during my visit, I truly fell in love with the area and the people I encountered were very friendly and welcoming. I hope to return at the end of June now but I might have to change my reasons for going to make that a reality.

The bees at Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury, MA

The bees at Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury, MA

I would’ve been in Amesbury by around 4pm today but instead I was home napping. I would’ve been enjoying dinner at one of the local restaurants but instead I was home eating a pot pie and drinking a Sam Adams. I would’ve loved to walk the boardwalk at Newburyport this evening but instead I was washing dishes at my sink watching the bird couples come to eat, the males feeding the females with adorable affection. The weather in North Shore this weekend is supposed to be cool and rainy and sometimes I wonder if my mood affects the climate. A silly notion.

Jazzmin at Tendercrop Farm, Newbury, MA

Jazzmin at Tendercrop Farm, Newbury, MA

So I’m spending the holiday weekend home with Jazzmin. It will be business as usual with yard work, chores, writing and maybe some new paintings thrown in. I’ve learned to make the most of the curveballs life continually throws at me. The other choice is wallowing in misery and self-pity and I’m just not that kind of girl. I have this life I’ve built on my own and I have a lot to be proud of and grateful for. The best laid plans are the predictable ones I know will happen, like walks with Jazzmin and playing with my girls. Anything beyond that becomes a spontaneous adventure and is what makes this journey called life endlessly interesting.

Morning sun over the Merrimack River, Newburyport, MA

Morning sun over the Merrimack River, Newburyport, MA