Working with My Hands

For the past several days I’ve been working on updating my Corbin Creations website and renaming my e-book series. I think I’ve finally changed the name of my series everywhere on Amazon and in the e-book but it’s possible that I missed something. The name of my e-book series has now officially been changed to New England Adventures with the first story focusing on my original trip to Boston, MA. I’ve taken several trips to New England since then and it’s now a matter of writing them out in my usual way of telling a story while imparting a bit of life-lesson wisdom.

I’m not quite done revamping my Corbin Creations website but it’s more streamlined and user-friendly than before. It’s an ongoing project as I figure out how to best utilize it to promote myself as a writer and share my love for New England. I know I’ll get it all sorted out eventually. I’d forgotten how much fun it is working on my website until I started this latest project. Rearranging certain details, incorporating photos and selecting a new layout are all fun ways of working with my hands; both physically on the keyboard and mentally by digging into the thought process. As a freelancer I’ve been to many websites that were awful to navigate and I’m trying to insure that mine doesn’t fall into that category.

I’m going to be offering my e-book “New England Adventures: Boston, MA” for free soon but you can check out the updated details now. Amazon Prime members can borrow it for free. If you read it, please review it! Good or bad, I welcome the feedback.

Remembering in Happiness

Four years ago today, my father passed away. He and I were very close. Father and daughter and great friends. The day he died was the worst day of my life and I experienced a level of pain and sorrow I hadn’t known existed. I don’t wish that kind of hurt upon anyone I care about.

The whole first year was rough, the second year only slightly easier, the third had its ups and downs but this fourth year has been decidedly different in a very positive way. His spirit is always close to me but this year it’s even closer as he supports and encourages me in the pursuit of my dreams. I grabbed onto my dreams with both hands this year and held tight to them as I work to achieve them.

I published my first e-book Massachusetts Adventures: Boston on Father’s Day in honor of my dad and while very few have read it, I’m still proud of myself and I know he’s proud too. I worked my adorable butt off freelance writing so I could quit my office job this past July and I’m making a successful go of it. I finally took my daughters and my mother on a vacation to New England this past August and showed my girls Boston as I promised. Since June, I’ve managed to head up to New England every other month, which has been my goal since my first visit there two years ago. Those are several very big dreams accomplished! They’re just small steps on the bigger journey though.

It’s been a long healing process after losing my father and I’ll never quite be whole without him, but I’m in a much better place now than ever before. I’m able to look back on my many years with him in happiness and the scars of his untimely passing are less painful and slowly disappearing in the light of positive experiences in my life.

To continue to honor his spirit this month and always, I’m going to be writing up my more recent adventures in New England and finally adding more books to my e-book series. I’m going to rename my e-book series from “Massachusetts Adventures” to “New England Adventures” as I continue to explore that amazingly beautiful area of the country. That’s going to require me redoing the cover of my first book but I’m sure I’m up to the task!

I have great expectations for the upcoming year and all the years beyond it. I know I will achieve my dreams and keep dreaming up even bigger ones to chase. I believe in myself and I know my own strength and I’m certain I can accomplish whatever I put my determined mind to! Thanks, Dad, you taught your girl well!

I’m pasting in the post I wrote up last year in honor of his memory. I was given an unexpected and wonderful gift last October. It was a huge step toward healing my heart and finally remembering in happiness all the greatness of my father.


my fathers grave

Casting Shadows – 10/22/2012

My father was a great man. He wasn’t perfect by any means but as I say, perfect is boring and quite honestly, unattainable.  What made my father great was his kind heart, caring nature, quirky sense of humor, passion for and knowledge of history, and most importantly, the love he had for his family. That love lives on even though he has departed this world and every day his spirit touches me in some way. I am a mere shadow of the person he was but I strive every day to attain such greatness.

I expected last week to be tough and it certainly had its low moments but they were countered by some amazingly unexpected high moments.  Life has tested me over the past couple months and given me challenges I managed to overcome even though I stumbled a bit. My faith in certain things left me but my hope for those same things remained. 

This past week I was shown that even though I lose faith and succumb to the darker side of shadows, faith never completely gives up on me. Hope is a very powerful force and it is intertwined with faith whether we realize it or not. There was one thing I could not give up on, despite saying I had and trying to convince myself I had. I can’t explain why I didn’t give up, why I couldn’t let go, aside from the fact that I just didn’t want to. There was perhaps a different reason, a deeper meaning behind my inability to release that last little bit of hope. Whatever the reason, a great gift was bestowed upon me last week and it proved to me that I have the most amazing best friend in the world! It also showed me that shadows are not something to be feared because they can not exist without light.

So while I expected my path last week to go one way, it went a completely new way and in a lovely upward direction. I still had sad moments where the tears from missing my father flowed freely, but amid those moments the love of my friends and family shined through, lifted me up and kept me strong.  I learned to smile again and I laughed without restraint and I sang loudly and off key in my car to songs that I hadn’t wanted to hear anymore until that moment.  

My oldest daughter noted that I was going around the house singing my snippets of show tunes again and when I asked if it bothered her she said “No!” For her to say that tells me that I was lower than I realized. The 10 year old girl who had always rolled her eyes and grumbled when her mother sang “I feel pretty” was now smiling at the sound of my voice and that was yet another blessed gift. I am one person but I am made better and held together by the spirits of my family and friends. I shall never take that for granted again and I will pay heed to my father’s voice in my head when he tells me “Be patient.” Slow down, breathe, relax, have faith, hold hope and continue on the path and the rewards will always be surprising.

Accidental Wandering in Amesbury

I live in Upstate New York but I’m in love with New England: Amesbury, Massachusetts especially. I learned of its existence through a friend. I come from a rather small town in New York. There’s one streetlight and the “downtown” consists of the school and a tiny shopping plaza whose main businesses are a CVS, Subway, grocery store and dollar store. Businesses don’t stay in business where I come from so I fell in love with Amesbury’s beautiful, historic downtown during my very first visit.

Seeing Amesbury’s downtown with so many shops in business is a lovely thing! I can feel the residents’ pride in their community and their dedication to helping it thrive. I’ve shopped in a couple of the stores and purchased items for my daughters because even though I’m not a resident, I feel a great desire to help support the area in any way I can.

Whenever I visit Amesbury, the people there are so exceptionally nice to me I’m taken by surprise. There isn’t that level of friendliness where I’m from and most people don’t even seem to know I exist. In Amesbury, people say hi to me, give me directions when I’m looking lost and encourage me to put my artwork up even though I’m not from the town.

Yesterday evening after I was all settled and unpacked in the hotel in Seabrook, NH, I was trying to think of what I could do. It was cloudy out but still relatively warm and not raining so I decided to head into Amesbury and visit Lake Gardner beach. I wanted to see what the colors were like there and they didn’t disappoint!

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The park was set to close 20 minutes after I arrived so after a bit of wandering around at Lake Gardner I drove into town and parked in the lot by Crave. It was just starting to get darker and walking around downtown with all the street lamps on was truly magical. I walked around by Powwow River Falls and tried to take pictures of things most people might not. I look at the world in my own unique way and I try to capture beauty that others overlook. I don’t know that I succeed but at least I try.

powwow falls

Looking down Powwow River Falls in Amesbury

ducks on waterfall

Mallard ducks hanging out on the falls

street lamp tree

Amesbury street lamp glowing among fall foliage

Eventually I wandered by Jon P. Mooers Artist Gallery and Studio on Main Street. I went inside during my June visit so I was just peaking in the windows at the displays. A woman walked out, greeted me pleasantly and suggested I go in because there were many lovely paintings inside. I couldn’t turn down such a suggestion so in I went. I’d only made it a few steps inside when Jon Mooers welcomed me and invited me to come into the back of the gallery because there was food and wine. I looked toward the back, saw a gathering of people, and thought that perhaps they were there to support the gallery. Unable to resist my curiosity and being rather hungry once I smelled food, I walked back. I saw Ed Justen from Workspace 36 once I got back there so it seemed safe to stay.

Inside the gallery

Inside the gallery

The lovely wine selection.

The lovely wine selection.

Plenty of appetizers!

Plenty of appetizers!

Jon Mooers serving chowder.

Jon Mooers serving chowder.

First two chowder selections

First two chowder selections

The 3rd chowder selection

The 3rd chowder selection

Jon was giving a speech about supporting local artwork instead of buying mass produced stuff from Wal-Mart and I found it quite interesting and on point. I don’t buy artwork, I paint it myself and my walls are overflowing with my creations. I truly understand the merit in buying local artwork and supporting local artists. There are tons of beautiful paintings in the gallery and I’m not sure my talent is anywhere near that level. If you live in Amesbury or are just passing through, I highly recommend you visit Jon’s gallery and take home one of the amazing creations hanging on the walls!

Once Jon was done speaking a well-dressed man in a suit started talking and I realized it was the current mayor of Amesbury, Mayor Thatcher Kezer. That’s when I realized that oops, I’d just inadvertently crashed a little pep rally for the current mayor. Rather than make a hasty exit, I remained where I was and listened to what Mayor Kezer had to say about Amesbury and the continuing efforts to revitalize downtown. I thought he made some very good points. I don’t involve myself with politics much but the fact that he was holding his rally at Jon’s gallery obviously showed his support of and belief in local businesses.

Once the speeches were finished, I chatted with Ed Justen a bit and then sampled the food and wine. There were three chowders to sample and I liked he one made by Jon Mooers the best. It had the best flavor and not too much spice. I’m not a food critic or taster; I just know what I like. There were many good appetizers there and I had one little glass of cold, sweet white wine, which is pretty much my favorite drink. I thought it was a shame that there weren’t more people there because it was a great spread and an awesome location for a gathering.

I didn’t get a chance to meet the Mayor (that probably would’ve been a bit awkward since I’m not a resident) but I did meet his wife and she was very friendly. She seemed a bit surprised when I told her I was from Upstate NY but I’m somewhat used to that reaction by now. That look of “You’re from NY? Why do you like Amesbury so much?” It’s a very understandable response. Perhaps my blog posts help explain my love for the area a bit.

As I left the gallery, Jon Mooers came out to thank me for coming and introduced himself. I gave him my first name and where I was from and he too seemed surprised. We chatted for a little bit and he told me about painting the mural across the street to cover up an ugly wall left exposed once an old wooden building was torn down. I complimented his work and we chatted a bit more before he had to go back inside and be a good host. Once outside I saw the sign I totally missed when I walked up. Apparently I’m good at seeing cosmic signs but not seeing tangible signs in big bold print…

I totally missed this sign outside the gallery. Oops!

I totally missed this sign outside the gallery. Oops!

I may not be from New England (yet) but I know what a good thing Amesbury has going and little old me will continue to do what I can to help out my favorite town.

Positive Omens and Praying Mantises

I’ve been busy getting ready for my New England trip the past two days. Yesterday I did a majority of my packing which was a good thing because last night I received several direct assignments that needed to be completed before I leave. I finished them all today in time to take Jazzmin on a short walk. It was supposed to be mostly sunny all day but that didn’t quite happen. Instead it was mostly cloudy with peaks of sun every couple of hours. Regardless, Jazz and I were happy to get out in the warm fall weather.

On almost all of my walks recently I kept seeing praying mantises that I was too late to save. I kept hoping really hard that I’d find a live one in the road that I could actually help across. They’re beautiful predators but they don’t move especially fast so they don’t stand a chance against cars. I imagine they’re drawn into the road by the crickets and grasshoppers I see jumping across and they don’t realize the danger they’re putting themselves in.

Today just as I turned onto a nearby road I saw something bright green toward the shoulder. I moved quickly toward it and was very pleased to find that it was a living, unharmed praying mantis. He wasn’t moving at all as I crouched down and extended my hand toward him. As soon as I did so, he climbed into my palm and held up his front leg as if pointing me in the direction he wanted to go. I was so happy to find a live praying mantis that I quickly carried him across the road as he continue to crawl slowly along my palm and onto my wrist. I set him down gently in the grass of the opposite shoulder and he moved on into the grass, quickly blending in.

I took finally finding a live praying mantis to save as a very positive omen about my upcoming trip! Jazz and I walked a bit further and into a recently mowed field. We walked to the top of the hill and looked out across the landscape as several small white and yellow butterflies fluttered around nearby. The foliage colors were mostly yellow but it was still a lovely sight to enjoy.

My phone camera couldn't capture the butterflies but they're there.

My phone camera couldn’t capture the butterflies but they’re there.

For perhaps the first time since I started driving to New England two years ago this November, I’m actually all prepared and ready to go the night before. Usually I get up extra early the day I leave to take care of last minute details but not this time. I’m going to pack the car tonight because there’s a chance of rain tomorrow morning and I don’t want everything getting wet. Once the girls are both off the school and Jazzmin is at the boarders, I’m New England bound once more and off on more unforgettable adventures!


Living the Moments

My girls playing hook the hula hoop on the tree.

My girls playing hook the hula hoop on the tree.

Could I cram more work into my days? Sure. The biggest reason I don’t is because I prefer to spend time with my girls. I work as much as I can when I don’t have them so I can be as present as possible when I do have them. During the weekdays that I have them I cram work in while they’re at school so I can be done when they get home. On days I don’t have them, I work all day long. That doesn’t mean I’m working every single moment though. I do like to stop and breathe now and then and take breaks to enjoy the nice weather outside. I don’t think this makes me a slacker in any way, it makes me someone who believes in living the moments.

I don’t want my girls looking back on their childhood and thinking “Mommy was always working.” I want them to have happy memories of the fun times we all had together. Fun times like baking together, going for walks, making Halloween costumes, painting artwork and so much more! I want to be a good role model for them. I want them to see that a woman living on her own is capable of anything she puts her mind to. I want them to see that there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big and that you don’t have to sacrifice time with your family to do the work that needs to be done.

I’m not someone who believes that the moments I miss out on now can be made up later. I don’t think that it’s okay to sacrifice time with my friends and family now for the “greater good” of the amazing later I’m trying to achieve. I’ve learned that I have to make it all work together somehow. I have to keep taking steps toward my future while living in the present because I don’t want to look back on the past with regret. It’s a tricky task living the moments of the present but when it’s all any of us really have, I find a way.

Jazzmin Afternoons

Jazzmin standing watch over me.

Jazzmin standing watch over me.

My favorite ways to enjoy autumn are by taking walks with Jazzmin to save caterpillars and by laying my old comforter out in the lawn to soak up the remaining fall scenery and warmth. The past two afternoons have been quite lovely here so Jazz and I have been relaxing in the yard watching the clouds roll by, listening to birds and watching butterflies. Jazzmin mostly listens for chipmunks and squirrels and sniffs the leaves but she will eventually lay with me on the blanket.

Watching and listening to the birds in the autumn is a learning experience. The goldfinches have lost all their bright, yellow and black feathers and are back to their dismal greenish-yellow color. They’re still adorable just not as vibrant. I hear them peeping all day long as they gather in little flocks to prepare for winter. Some of the finches go south and some stay in the area. I leave my bird feeders up year round to make sure they always have a place to find food.

Goldfinches gathered among the bare branches of a black walnut tree.

Goldfinches gathered among the bare branches of a black walnut tree.

Yesterday as I was laying on the blanket I watched two little finches land on the wire above my head. When they first landed they were about two feet apart. They were peeping and chirping at each other and eventually one moved closer to the other. They were soon sitting side by side and they snuck a quick little beak kiss that made me smile. It was almost as if they were saying “I’m looking forward to snuggling with you this winter.” I thought it was a rather sweet gesture.

A sweet pair of goldfinches on the wire.

A sweet pair of goldfinches on the wire.

Today the finches were still flying around in their little flocks but they weren’t my main focus. I spotted a cardinal hopping around in the lilac bush behind my girls’ swingset. He must have been a young male cardinal because it sounded as if he was still learning how to sing their usual “pretty pretty pretty” call. He kept starting it and testing it out but the notes were somewhat choppy and off pitch. I imagine he wants to get it just right before trying to court a lady cardinal. Good thing he has all winter to practice!

There was also a chickadee making quite a ruckus in the hedgerow. I walked over to investigate thinking my cat Owl was bothering him but she was nowhere to be seen. I watched the little chickadee chirp and fuss and hop among the branches and I eventually realized he was eating bugs off the leaves. He was extremely efficient at it and had a great work ethic and I was impressed. Chickadees are my favorite little birds and they’re always the first to find any new feeders I hang up. I hope someday to get one to eat out of my hand but it hasn’t happened yet.

I know how lucky I am that I can relax outside in the sunshine during my work breaks. I missed far too many falls being stuck inside and while I can’t get them back, I can make the most of my Jazzmin afternoons beneath the vast, blue sky.

New England Bound

The classic car show that was going on during my visit to Amesbury in June.

The classic car show that was going on during my visit to Amesbury in June.

Next Wednesday I’m off again to New England. Since June I’ve managed to make it back every other month and that’s a trend I’d like to keep going. For my June trip I stayed in the only hotel in Amesbury and while I loved the proximity to my favorite Massachusetts town, the rates were excessively high. As the hotel is the only game in town, they can charge whatever they want.

For my family trip in August we stayed up in Seabrook, New Hampshire at a much more affordable hotel. It’s a nice little place and every room has a fridge and microwave; features that my room at the hotel in Amesbury lacked unless I wanted to pay even more a night. I’d really love to stay in a little place with a kitchenette but I’ll make the most of the fridge and microwave in Seabrook.

I’d like to be able to go out for every meal and sample all the delicious food in North Shore Massachusetts and coastal New Hampshire but that’s a dream that requires a bigger budget. Not to mention I’d have to walk to each restaurant to effectively work all that food off! I do plan on visiting my favorite pizza place, Amesbury Flatbread Company at least once. I swear I can smell that place the moment I park my car in Amesbury and after I had their pizza once, I was hooked! I took my mom and the girls there during our August visit and the girls happily declared that it was the best pizza they’ve ever eaten. That’s a pretty big thing considering what little pizza monsters they are.

I’d like to visit Salem, MA this time around but that depends on the weather. If it’s raining on the day I’m planning on going then I won’t go. Walking around in the mud doesn’t exactly appeal as my first visit to Salem. Rain or shine I’ll be happy to be in MA and NH because I’m always happier in New England. I’ll be stopping in at Workspace 36 in Amesbury for another visit and I might even do some work there this time. Overall I plan on making this trip a sort of working vacation as I try to establish my freelance writing career out there where I know my future lies. Chasing my dreams means driving east and every journey is a new adventure!

Nature’s Artwork

I am imperfect. Everyone is. Yet every day I see commercials advertising beauty products and fitness programs to help men and women achieve perfection. Chasing dreams is one thing, striving for the impossible is ridiculous.

I have a great appreciation for nature. Nature is beautiful without even trying. The blazing sunrise, the changing leaves, the churning clouds, the glow of sunset. Beautiful without trying to be perfect. Nature just is what it is and if you don’t stop to see that, you’re missing out.

This past Monday morning started out beautiful with a pink cast to the clouds as the sun made its journey to rise over the hills. The sun shone ever so briefly before the dark clouds of the rapidly approaching cold front blocked it out. That contrast of darkness and light was stunning to behold. Nature wasn’t trying to impress me by puffing up its chest or slathering on makeup for a perfect complexion. Nature was just doing what it does.

I managed to take Jazzmin on a short walk as the front blew in and dropped the mild morning temperatures down 10 degrees. We walked into a field and to the top of the hill to get a better view of the dark clouds. I snapped a picture of Jazz with the turbulent sky as the backdrop and to my amazement, my camera phone captured the colors perfectly.

Jazzmin and the sky

Jazzmin and the sky

Later that evening after the rain had come and gone, I went out into the yard with my daughters to enjoy the last of the day. While we were outside I saw a monarch fly by and was surprised when he landed in one of my back pine trees. I’ve never seen a monarch do that before. He stayed on one branch for a long time and Jordan was nice enough to fetch my camera for me. I took several pictures of him and he stayed still until the very last one when I turned the flash on. He opened his wings just as the picture snapped and then flew higher into the tree and out of sight.

Monarch up in my pine tree

Monarch up in my pine tree

As I write this the sky is ablaze with orange, red, pink and blue. Another breathtaking autumn sunset in what has been a true season to treasure. There is just a sliver of the moon in the sky and brush strokes of clouds. Nothing compares to nature’s artwork and she always pulls it off effortlessly.

The Little Details

The sun was lacking again today so I’m hoping it decides to come out tomorrow. While it was gray almost all day the rain stopped by afternoon. I did a lot of freelance writing today and around 4:30 p.m. decided it was time to take Jazzmin for a walk.

As we walked I was scanning the road for woolly bear caterpillars but I didn’t see a single one. I suppose it was too cold and dreary for them to be out today. There were a variety of nuts squished into the road from car tires. Black walnuts, acorns and other nuts I don’t know were all mushed into pavement butter.

Amid all the nut guts and fallen leaves a familiar shape caught my eye. It was a red eft, the smallest one I’ve ever seen. He was blending in with the stained pavement and staying very still as he thought I was a predator. I wasn’t, but the car I could hear coming around the bend was, so I swiftly picked him up and enclosed him in my hand to carry him to safety. He must have liked the warmth of my hand because he was crawling around inside it until I placed him gently down in the grass.

A short distance down the road I saw another red eft of the same exact size. I was purposely looking for these little details now and I was pleased when I saw him. I carried him to safety as Jazzmin patiently tolerated her mama’s endless critter rescue efforts. I saved one more on the walk back home and it made the whole walk in the dreary weather totally worth it. I’d managed to get some good exercise and make a tiny difference in the world again.

Falling Too Fast

Autumn is my favorite season but it comes and goes far too fast! One day the leaves are all green, the next day they’re changing and the day after that they start falling. It’s pretty to watch the leaves fall but I do wish they could stick themselves back up on the branches rather than letting the tree go bare. I don’t like the stark, leafless trees of winter.

I’ve been trying to enjoy this season as much as possible. When I have my girls we play outside. Jaycie swings or plays her favorite new game that involves throwing our smaller hula hoop up into the tree. She’s only gotten it stuck once so far. Jordan and I spread out my big burgundy, white and green comforter and lay on it in the sun. I hook Jazz up to her lead by the tree and she sniffs around at the various squirrel trails. Jordan eventually wanders off in search of small sticks and leaves to make a mini-kite a mouse might use and I usually flip through Northshore Magazine and House Beautiful trying to spark writing ideas.

When I don’t have the girls I have to catch up on my freelance writing. The most time I spend outdoors is walking Jazz or mowing the lawn. Now and then I’ll take a break and walk around my yard but mostly I’m inside with the windows open wishing I had more time to be out in the fall air. I still get to enjoy the weather and seasons more than I ever did working an office job so it’s really not all bad.

Today wasn’t the nicest of fall days. It rained off and on and was mostly cloudy with tons of humidity. I managed to squeeze a walk in with Jazz this afternoon and we only got sprinkled on a little bit. Looking down the road I was amazed to see how much color there was and how many leaves had already fallen. I rather wish the season would slow down a bit because I’m not looking forward to winter and the onset of cabin fever. I only saw one woolly bear caterpillar but I happily saved him. He was a brave one and crawled along my hand before I set him gently in the grass on the other side of the road.

The days are growing shorter but thankfully the weather has been extremely nice lately. Not hot enough to need to run the air conditioning and not cold enough to need the furnace. I always appreciate lower utility bills! It’s a bit too cool to leave the windows open at night but the fresh air from the day lingers inside even after I close them. I’m going to take it all in for as long as I can because autumn, as always, is falling too fast.