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

A Favorite Poem

Below is poem I wrote years ago that is still one of my favorite pieces. I’ve posted it on my old blog and on my Helium.com page in the past. I was thinking this morning that it might need a more recent revamp. While it still holds true, there is so much more to being “That Woman” in the life I have now.

“That Woman”

I wonder what it is like to be “that woman.”
The woman who walks in the room
and demands everyone’s attention.
The woman with the dark eyes,
full of mystery and magic
that draw in both men and women,
and makes them yearn to know the secrets hidden within.
The woman with the cascading raven hair
that evokes ballads from minstrels and sonnets from poets.
The woman who leaves a nearly physical spirit behind
with anyone who has ever been fortunate enough to touch her.
The woman whose vision lingers in dreams
and whose voice echoes softly amidst whispers.
The woman with fingers tender enough
to caress the most delicate of mists
and nails hard enough to pierce the harshest of stones.
The woman whose influence is remembered
when her existence has long faded.
The woman men rally to defend
though she possesses her own strength for battle.
The woman who runs drenched amidst a thunderstorm
to challenge the lightning with her fists.
The woman whose passion is not seen with eyes
but perceived by souls.
The woman whose laughter can illuminate the darkest of days
if only in a memory.
The woman who can carry the heaviest and saddest of hearts upon her shoulders
without a single faltering step.
The woman who lingers on the edge of darkness
while clinging to the shadows of moonlight.
The woman who cherishes the girl of her past
while knowing that she is intertwined with the goddess of her future.
That woman within and without me.

A Writer’s Limitations

For the past few days I’ve felt compelled to read a section in one of my fantasy books. Usually when I feel such compulsion, there are higher powers at work and a very good reason behind it. I’ve been putting off reading that section until today. I’ve learned it’s unwise to fight the spirits that guide me for too long because they find clever ways to pester me.

I can’t speak for all fantasy writers, but speaking for myself, I write fantasy to escape reality. I can write whatever I want and create magical worlds and characters. My characters do whatever I bid until they’ve developed into beings that control their own story. Such a thing might sound ludicrous to a non-writer but the writer types will relate…I hope.

Every writer, even a fantasy writer, has limitations. I can write amazing things about fictional worlds but I can’t rewrite my own story. I can’t write my father back to life. I can’t write a different beginning and ending to my marriage. I can’t write my friends out of bad situations. I can’t write what I want people to say. Life doesn’t follow a script. I can create characters based on how I wish things were, but I can’t change reality. I can only escape it through a flourish of words.

I don’t like killing off characters in my books. I understand that most writers probably feel it necessary but I have difficulty with it because of the grief I’ve experienced. There finally came a point when I was “brave” enough to kill a character in my fantasy series and it wasn’t easy for me. I wrote it several years before my father even had his first of many strokes that eventually led to his passing. I didn’t know what the pain of losing a parent felt like when I wrote that section of the book.

I sat down and began reading the section the powers that be were willing me to. I have an interesting gift. If I haven’t read something I wrote in a couple months, sometimes only weeks, I completely forget having written it. It’s all new to me and quite often I’m impressed with myself. So reading this section was both familiar and new. I was doing okay until I got to the part where the female character, Cliso, said something that was nearly verbatim of my thoughts in the first months after my father’s passing. “I want him not to be dead…” The moment I read that, I burst into tears and had to step away from my desk to go fix myself some dinner, walk Jazz, calm down and compose what I wanted to say here.

When I came back and finished reading the scene I liked it as a whole. The character that died in the book, his name was Emmon, was not Cliso’s father, but it was a man she deeply loved. The scene is between Cliso and Jiles, Emmon’s son. Cliso and Jiles had each other for comfort.  They felt genuine love for each other. I did not have that when my father died. I had the love of my mother, brothers and daughters, but the romantic love wasn’t there. I am a bit jealous of Cliso for having such a man to comfort her but I understand my writer’s limitations and know I can’t write that into reality for myself. If it’s meant to be, it will come.

I have posted the excerpt of the book, it’s entitled Facets of the Kingdom. I’ve been compelled to share it but it’s entirely up to you if you read it.

Facets of the Kingdom – Novel Excerpt

Facets of the Kingdom – Novel excerpt

In the northeast corner of the Lesar home, in a small but comfortable room, a young woman suffered. She showed no physical wounds, but she whimpered in pain and huddled in the farthest corner of the room refusing to let the sunlight touch her. She was thin and trembling, barely a shadow of what she had been weeks before, but she did not notice. Cliso Garnen was lost in her own sorrow and guilt.

The people had stopped entering her room trying to talk to her. They just left her trays of food which she never touched and sighed at the waste of it all. Such a pretty creature, so lost to the world. What a shame. Cliso knew the one person she missed the most would never walk through that door and she had long ago forgotten her promise to that man.

This day was to be different than the rest though. It was nearing the time when they brought her a midday meal, but the door did not gently open. Instead, it was thrown open so hard it slammed into the wall behind it making Cliso start in her huddled corner. Someone walked into the dimness with heavy and angry steps and slammed the door behind them so hard pictures fell of the walls.

“Where are you, you pitiful creature?” a rough male voice demanded. “Can’t see a damn thing in this cave!” he growled stomping to the windows and nearly ripping the curtains off their rods as he pulled them open and pushed the hinged windows open. As the sunlight hit him, Cliso recognized him. Jiles Foldar, the son of the man she had cursed.

Jiles peered around the room with his intent hazel eyes and he finally saw her curled into a ball in the corner of the room next to the clothes dresser. “What is this about, Cliso Garnen? What do you hope to prove?”

Cliso said nothing. She covered her face with her hands and drew her knees closer to her face hoping to disappear. She could feel his anger as a physical force and it burned her more than any flame ever could.

“You’re not keeping your promise, girl,” Jiles snapped moving to stand a few strides from her. “You promised to take care of me and yet you have prepared no meals, washed no clothes, nor satisfied my needs as a man.”

The Cliso who cared would have been infuriated by Jiles words and the snide tone he said them in. But this wasted Cliso did not care that he saw her as property. She would be dead soon and no one could claim her then.

“Damn all, get out of there and talk to me!” Jiles demanded reaching for the girl and managing to grab hold of her arms and yank her to her feet. She cried out in pain as her legs cramped up from this sudden movement when she had been huddled for so long. Jiles threw her onto the soft bed and scowled at her as she whimpered and cried. “If you want to die, I can find you a dagger and you can end it all now. Is that what you want?”

Cliso again did not answer. She clutched at the bedding as her legs spasmed and her whole body trembled. The sunlight burned at her and she closed her eyes against it.

“He was my father, Cliso! You have no right to mourn for him more than I do! He gave his life so we could live and this is how you repay him?” Jiles leaned over her on the bed and grabbed her shoulders shaking her less than gently.

“I cursed him when he met me!” Cliso screamed batting feebly at Jiles who finally stopped shaking her.

“Ah, so you can speak.” Jiles released her and let her drop back to the bed. “He was trying to protect you from the fate he saw before you. He had no way of knowing he would be the man to die in your future. Who is to say that was even meant to be? The magic of foresight is less than clear and ambiguous more than that. Maybe I loved you first and he defied your fate by saving me.”

“You never loved me, Jiles Foldar. Your lies won’t change things!” Cliso cried clenching her hands around the soft spread. “He was the kindest man I ever met and I killed him.”

“Oh, you did?” Jiles asked as Cliso rolled over onto her back and glared at him through half sunken green eyes. “So it was you who struck him with that magic and you just made it look like it was one of Isadora’s demons? In that case, you do deserve to die and at my hands no less.”

“Then kill me, there is nothing more to live for,” Cliso sighed closing her eyes as if preparing herself for the thrust of his dagger.

Jiles laughed and Cliso’s eyes flew open in shock. “Nothing more to live for? Do you no longer care about your friends, your family? What about your best friend, Ahni? She loved Emmon too in her own way. Will you make her mourn for my father and you? What about her babies who adore you? How will she explain to them that you no longer loved them enough to live? What would that do to those children?”

“If they were older they’d understand,” she insisted.

“They would? I find that hard to believe.” Jiles scoffed “Emmon was my father, the man who raised me from a helpless babe to a somewhat respectable man and though I would sell my soul to have him back with me, I know that can’t be and I know my death will not change that. He saved our lives, Cliso Garnen! You owe him your life! You die and his ghost will plague you for eternity. Is that what you want?” Jiles took hold of her arms and forced her to sit up and look at him.

“I want him not to be dead!” she screamed her voice filled with unfathomable anguish. “He did nothing but good for this world and he was taken from it! Where is the justice in that? How can the Goddesses be so cruel?”

Jiles shook his head as tears formed in his own eyes. “Was it cruel to give him a full life? To let him know true love at least once in his life? To raise a child of his own blood? To train men to be honorable? Would you take all that from him if by doing so he could live longer?”

Cliso lowered her head and a tremor ran through her whole body. “I’ll never touch him again, Jiles. I’ll never hear his laugh. He’ll never defend me against you again,” her voice trembled almost as much as her hands and she clutched them together tightly. “How can I accept that?”

Jiles lowered himself to his knees so that he could see her eyes even with her head down. He took her shaking hands in his own and waited until she looked at him to speak. “Well, I’ve been told I’m not unpleasant to touch, I can guffaw just as loud as my father ever could. And that last part? You won’t need anyone to defend you against me, Cliso Garnen. Never again.”

“Are you leaving this world?” Cliso asked in disbelief refusing to be cheered by his words.

Jiles sighed and shook his head. “Worse. I’m admitting my love to a woman, the weakest thing for any man to do. But hey, Keth did it and I do so hate it when he beats me to things.”

“Keth told Ahni he loves her? And meant it?” Cliso said in awe with wide green eyes that were showing the merest spark of her usual fire.

Jiles rolled his eyes. “That’s what I said, isn’t it? Did you miss the whole first part of that? I said I love you, Cliso Garnen.”

“No, you didn’t,” Cliso amended. “You said you were admitting your love to a woman. You could have been about to tell me that you still loved Ahni and that you were determined to wrench her from Keth’s grasp. That would certainly make more sense.”

“Why would you need my father to defend you? Damn all, Cliso, you can defend yourself!” Jiles huffed rising to his feet and trying to break from her. She held fast to his hands and stood up managing her first smile in weeks. Jiles scowled at her.

“I’m allowed to tease,” she insisted waving a finger in his face.

“Are you?” Jiles asked raising an eyebrow. “Perhaps we should establish some rules here.”

“Fine. Rule one, shut up.” Cliso ended any protests by reaching up and covering his lips with her own and she was rewarded by his strongly passionate response. Her stomach growled but she ignored it. She had a yearning and urge for renewal within her stronger than any mundane hunger pains and she meant to satisfy it.

The Lore of Thunderstorms

I enjoy thunderstorms. I’m not exactly thrilled when they knock out my power, but I enjoy watching them roll in across the sky. I was afraid of thunderstorms when I was a child. My parents would comfort me during them by saying the thunder and lightning were spirits bowling up in the clouds. That seemed reasonable to me and it made listening to storms more fun as I waited for the sounds of strikes and gutter balls.  Nowadays I like to imagine my father bowling up among the clouds and the loudest booms resemble the jaw-dropping force of his strikes. I tell my daughters the bowling analogy and Jordan has a way of adding on to that by talking about the rain being the leaking water bottles of the athletes. I prefer that idea over the rain being their sweat…

I am fascinated by the sight of lightning flashing among dark clouds in the distance. Watching the visible line of hard rain approach has mesmerized me to the point of forgetting I need to go inside before I become drenched. I have even washed my hair in an overflowing downspout. It wasn’t as alluring as those shampoo commercials but it was very refreshing!

I have been told that I am less than sane to go running out into the openness of my back yard to watch a thunderstorm approach. But there is something so empowering and energizing about the force of wind and billowing darkness of the clouds. Feeling the earth tremble beneath my bare feet as thunder rolls is a vivid reminder of the unbridled strength of Mother Nature.

Being awakened from a peaceful slumber by the loud booming of thunderstorms makes my heart race but I’m not afraid of it any longer. I open my curtains to watch the lightning flash or remain laying in bed as the light strobes through the fabric and illuminates my room. Mother Nature is unpredictable and uncontrollable and she and I don’t always see eye to eye. But I will give her credit where credit is due and continue to appreciate the humbling strength and beauty of thunderstorms.

thunderstorm1

Adventures in Motherhood

When I first started seriously working on becoming the pack leader to my dog Jazzmin, I had a mantra I’d say in my mind to build my confidence. It started like this: “I am my father’s daughter, I am the single mother of two girls…” and beyond that it would get a little fuzzy because those are the two things that bring me the most feelings of strength. I have inherited much of my father’s spirit and it helps me through some tough times. I love being a mother and it’s what makes me feel the most complete in this unpredictable life.

I quit my job as a legal secretary a couple weeks before Jordan was born and I didn’t return to work until Jaycie was 3 1/2 because I needed the income to help me get out on my own. Those eight years home with my girls were some of the best times of my life. I’m good at raising babies and I’m happy I have two daughters.  I used to think I’d have more children but I am now content with just my girls because I know how truly blessed I am.

The hardest part of getting divorced for me was knowing I wouldn’t have my girls all the time anymore. They are a huge part of my life and being with them brings me fulfillment. After two years of the 50/50 custody schedule I’ve learned to be okay on my own and to rediscover my personal identity beyond being a mother. But I will always be a mother first.

When I have my daughters, I go to sleep to the sound of them snoring and when I wake up I peek in on them to find them sprawled out on their beds happily sleeping away. The house is far too quiet without them which is one of the reasons I adopted Jazzmin. I adore listening to them play with My Little Ponies and other toys together. They create such interesting little dramas and I know how great it is that 10 year old Jordan is still willing to play with 6 year old Jaycie. Jordan helps me make cookies and Jaycie helps eat them. Yes, my days with them are certainly full and rewarding.

My daughters are always teaching me new things about life and opening my eyes to different perspectives. This past Sunday evening I took them for a walk on the access road I’d been walking with Jazzmin. I left Jazzmin home so I could focus on being with my daughters without being distracted by her trying to chase squirrels and the like. Jordan enjoyed the walk but Jaycie was nervous that a tractor was going to come down the road. The only thing we saw on the road were some robins and a couple bunnies but Jaycie was never quite at ease.

My girls walking the path.

My girls walking the path.

A bunny pretending to be a statue.

A bunny pretending to be a statue.

Walking with my daughters reminded me that while I am at home and find peace among the quiet of nature, they’re not at that stage in their lives yet. I completely understand. I remember being dragged out on walks or to historic places like Washington D.C. and Gettysburg, PA as a child and being utterly bored and miserable. Were I to go to those places now I’m sure I’d find it all very fascinating and I’d no doubt wander off into the less-explored places. The girls wanted to be home playing on their swing set or with their toys, they weren’t exactly excited to be walking on a secluded farmer’s road with their bird-loving mother.

I am someone who is used to the wide open spaces of the country but who longs for more civilization like what I experienced during my visits to areas in and around Boston, Massachusetts. I’m taking my daughters to Boston this summer and while they’re excited about the trip, I know they’ll view the city in a different way than I do. While I’ll be fascinated with the history, they’ll want to ride boats and explore the aquarium. I’d be content lingering at Long Wharf for hours gazing out at the ocean, but the girls will want to find somewhere more interesting to play like Christopher Columbus Park. I look forward to seeing Boston through their eyes, making countless new memories and taking more pictures than I’ll know what to do with. It will be another chapter in the adventures of motherhood and one none of us will ever forget.

Me at Long Wharf, Boston. November, 2012

Me at Long Wharf, Boston. November, 2012

Morning Walks

Right before my 5am alarm went off this morning, I was dreaming that I was walking on the beach. The sky was overcast but the water was warm and I was in it up to my knees. The feel of the churning waves rolling over my skin was divine and I could smell the salty air. I love the ocean and walking on the beach is something that brings me peace and contentment. It’s also something I don’t get to do enough but I’m working on fixing that. When I live closer to the ocean I will walk in the shallow waves as often as I can, morning, noon and night if possible. I’ll revel in the feel of the wet sand squishing beneath my toes and underfoot and collect whatever shells wash upon shore. That dream this morning is something I am determined to make a reality.

Sunrise at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 2009

Sunrise at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 2009

 

The lovely rolling waves in the morning.

The lovely rolling waves in the morning.

 

A seagull all tucked up on the beach

A seagull all tucked up on the beach.

Right now my reality is living in the country though so I’m making the best of that. Sunday morning Jazzmin and I headed out to the farmer’s access road for our walk. There was a light breeze but it was already becoming humid. As we neared the gate across the road, I heard church bells in the distance which must have been announcing the start of service. It was lovely how that sound carried across the hills and valleys of where I live and I felt at peace.

The morning view out over the fields.

The morning view across the field.

I’d been smart enough to wear my hiking boots this time and I’d placed the Dr. Scholl’s active series insoles inside them. Those insoles really do work by the way and I recommend them to anyone suffering from shin splints, foot pain or back aches during or after their walk. The walk down that road was uneventful with only the red-winged blackbirds and some chickadees serenading us. As we neared the end of the straight part of the road I saw a squirrel perched atop a large boulder. Jazz didn’t see it and it quickly ran away but she smelled it as soon as we reached that boulder and had to investigate.

Large boulder minus squirrel.

Large boulder minus squirrel.

 

Jazz looking across the boulder.

Jazz looking across the boulder.

 

Jazz searching for the squirrel

Jazz searching for the squirrel.

I stood on the part of the road that opens out onto four different fields and took several pictures of the wash out and brush clearing. For some reason that section reminded me of a desolate post-war wasteland despite the un-endings songs of the birds and the butterflies flying by.

Washed out earth.

Washed out earth.

 

Cleared out brush and trees.

Cleared out brush and trees.

I took a panoramic video of the area as Jazz sniffed around and then I decided to head back. Barely five minutes after we started walking back, the church bells sounded again marking the end of service.

Morning view of the hills and valleys.

Morning view of the hills and valleys.

 

Some lovely purple flowers I saw on the way back.

Some lovely purple flowers I saw on the way back.

I felt very calm and at ease as we walked back toward home. Starting my day like that out among nature and the songs of birds brought me serenity. That access road isn’t a true nature trail or even that secluded, but to me it felt like I was in another world. Perhaps it’s just my overactive imagination that causes that or maybe it’s my learned ability to appreciate all the nuances of life. Whatever the reason, I look forward to further morning walks in the country and anticipate deeper contentment when I stroll among the ocean waves.

Enjoying the Journey

When I set out on my walk last night with Jazzmin down that access road I’d never traveled before, I didn’t know where it led. But I went anyway. I don’t know if that’s brave or stupid or both, but it’s part of what makes me the person I am. I don’t shy away from the unknown anymore, I explore it until it’s known and understood by me. Life is full of endless journeys and even when you think you know the destination, you really don’t.

During the return walk on the farmer’s access road, I opened my eyes to more of what was around me. I discovered a plethora of mayapples blooming beneath the numerous trees and I saw several flowering bushes that were unfamiliar to me.

A single may apple blossom

A single may apple blossom

The whole hill was covered with blooming may apples!

The whole hill was covered with blooming may apples!

Most of these bushes had white flowers but this one had pink flowers.

Most of these bushes had white flowers but this one had pink flowers.

There are several areas along the road where the view through the trees is breathtaking in its expanse. As I crested the hill once more and walked down it toward home I could just make out my house in the distance. It helped put things in perspective as to where exactly I was.

My house is that yellow speck in the distance.

My house is that yellow speck in the distance.

My yellow house and my white Matrix.

My yellow house and my white Matrix.

It was an amazingly nice night and quite peaceful since no one was mowing their lawns or weed whacking or leaf blowing. The birds were happily flying among the trees and I was relaxed because I knew we wouldn’t encounter any dogs on this road. Jazzmin enjoyed sniffing all the new scents and there were tons of deer track imprints in dry dirt that had recently been mud.

Jazzmin taking in all the new scents.

Jazzmin taking in all the new scents.

The walk helped reinforce to me that it’s like that saying, life is more about the journey than the destination. I do have a destination in mind for my life, in many respects I know exactly what I want. I have however learned that what I want has a way of transforming into something unexpected. I’m working hard toward achieving my goals and dreams but I know better than to focus solely on the destination without taking in every step of the journey. I am hopeful that I have many new and interesting journeys ahead and I am confident that no matter the destination, I will never take one moment of this life for granted.

amazing view

The view through an opening in the trees.

Branching Out

I bought a plum tree today. This is a rather big thing for me because I’ve never bought any kind of tree before, let alone a fruit tree. I probably should have started with something easier like a hardy pine tree but as my yard is already full of pine trees, that seemed silly. I wanted a pear tree but the store didn’t have any. I could have bought an apple or cherry tree but those seemed too ordinary to me. Then I saw the plum trees and they looked so sturdy and friendly that I just had to have one.

The plum tree I chose was about a foot taller than me and I wasn’t sure it would fit in my car but I figured I’d make it work somehow. So I folded down all the seats on the passenger side, laid down a blanket and carefully angled the tree down and into my Toyota Matrix. To my delight, the tree just fit! On the drive home my tree and I became a bit snuggly a couple times around curves but otherwise it stayed put and behaved.

The plum tree just fit!

The plum tree just fit!

Sitting in the front seat looking back

Sitting in the front seat looking back

The plum tree cozy in the passenger seat

The plum tree cozy in the passenger seat

I haven’t decided where I’m going to plant my plum tree yet. I thought about putting it in the front yard but then everyone and their brother driving by would have the pleasure of watching me struggle to dig a hole deep enough for it. I think the back yard is a better choice where only my neighbors can look out their windows and point and laugh. Digging the hole is going to be an interesting challenge since my ground can be rather hard. I’ve tried standing on the shovel before to make it go in further and it barely sinks an inch. I might be a little thing but my stubborn determination is gigantic so I’ll get that puppy planted one way or another!

When I got home I placed the plum tree in the back yard just to see how it would look and I rather like it back there. It’s final place hasn’t been decided yet because I’m going to do an experiment with my new bluebird feeder, but that’s a story for another day…

The plum tree in my back yard

The plum tree in my back yard

After dinner I decided to take Jazzmin on another walk to test the Dr. Scholl’s Active Series insoles I bought to put in my new Asics GEL-Kayano sneakers. I’ve been wearing Skechers Shapeups for the past three years and I’m so used to their rounded bottoms that flat bottom sneakers feel awkward to me. To test the insoles, I thought Jazz and I would take the short, hilly walk but as we came to the first sharp curve, my eyes were drawn to the path the local farmer uses to access the fields behind my house. There’s a gate up but no posted sign. I’ve been wanting to take Jazz hiking somewhere and this seemed like a perfect place to start! I steered Jazz off the road and onto the path that’s been well-traveled by trucks and tractors.

Looking up the access road

Looking up the access road

Jazzmin was quite excited by this change of course and had to work a bit harder to walk over the rockier terrain of the access road. My sneakers were not the proper footwear for this venture but having my hiking boots on would have meant I’d planned ahead. I rarely plan ahead, too many things fall apart when I do that. The view up the path was a beautiful canopy of green trees and underbrush and the only sounds to be heard were the songs of birds. We walked to the top of the hill and down the other side where the road opened up to so much open space and woods that I felt miniscule. Gazing out across the endless rolling green and expansive blue sky reminded me how small I really am on this big world.

The view where the road turned

The view where the road turned

Looking toward the continuing road

Looking toward the continuing road

Heavy rains washed out a section of the road

Heavy rains washed out a section of the road

We started to walk back and I realized we were being serenaded by a rather familiar bird song. I stopped and peered into the tree above us and saw the bright yellow plumage of a male goldfinch. He was perched there all by himself, no sign of a mate but he was happily singing away. I’d been smart enough to bring my camera in Jazzmin’s backpack this time (a smidge of planning ahead there) so I quickly got it out and zoomed in on the branches as much as I could. I snapped a couple photos as the goldfinch sang and then he promptly flew away.

The goldfinch way up in the tree

The goldfinch way up in the tree

A moment before he flew away.

A moment before he flew away.

I took the time to look around me more on the walk back and I discovered I’d overlooked a lot of interesting and beautiful things. I’ll speak more of that journey tomorrow. For today I am content that I branched out by buying a tree and exploring a new path. Every day really is an adventure, you just have to see its potential!