Return of the Muse

Me in the Boston Public Garden 6/27/14. See that glint in my eye? That's my muse ;)

Me in the Boston Public Garden 6/27/14. See that glint in my eye? That’s my muse 😉

Yes, the blog title is an homage to Star Wars: Return of the Jedi because I love the original Star Wars movies. More important than that though is that my writing muse has returned!!! She’s been MIA and AWOL for quite some time now. She’s been lost in the Land of Shadowed Sorrows, navigated the Seas of Shattered Dreams, fought amid the Wars of Unrequited Love and vanquished the Demons of Heartbroken Hopes. She survived all that and has come out stronger and more determined than ever!

I was still able to write freelance in her absence because I can write that stuff in my sleep by now. Freelance does use my creative writing skills, my cleverness and my imagination but it barely touches the surface of my Creator-given talent and passion. That talent and passion inspired me to start writing fantasy novels at 12 and continue writing them into my 20’s until I had completed 10 manuscripts based in the same world of Aindar.

I still wrote off and on into my 30’s but with nowhere near the proficiency and desire I’d possessed in my younger days. A marriage that ended in divorce, several bad experiences with men and an overall distaste with the ridiculous lack of good men left my heart bitter, jaded and mistrustful. I don’t really blame my muse for leaving amid that. How could she possibly hope to inspire me to continue to write about romance between kick-butt women heroes and the good men that fought beside them and for them when the last good man I knew was my father? She left me to fight through her own trenches while I battled my own demons and now we’re ready to work together again.

Maybe it’s my most recent trip to New England or my most recent bad experience involving a man or just the phase of the moon, but something finally snapped inside me. I’m a beautiful, kick-butt hero chick, I love myself, I’m blessed with two amazing daughters, I have a great life and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the dishonest, manipulative, controlling and overall “evil” men of this world determine my feelings about all of them.

My father was a good man with an amazingly loving heart and he loved me unconditionally. I deserve a man I love and who loves me back and who treats me like he did. Even though I haven’t found that man in real life, I can write about him in my books…along with the less than stellar males I’ve dealt with. You know what they say, never anger a writer or you’ll end up in their next novel *wink.*

So my fantasy writing voice has returned and I’m going to use it to speak out for all the powerful, strong, beautiful women like me who deserve only the best and should never settle for “he might do” because they’re lonely. Look out world, JulieAnn’s muse has returned and she’s kicking rear, taking names and writing them down!

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An anniversary of sorts

Amesbury mural by Jon P. Mooers

Amesbury mural by Jon P. Mooers

This coming Wednesday, June 25th, I’m heading to New England for one of my monthly/bi-monthly visits/adventures. I’m celebrating an anniversary of sorts because around this same week last year was the first time I made an official and well-planned trip to Amesbury, Massachusetts. I visited during Amesbury Days last year and this year’s visit is timed perfectly with that same event!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I started visiting the area that I immediately fell in love with during my first official trip to North Shore. After that first trip, I wanted to visit as often as possible and quitting my office job to do freelance writing full-time gave me the ability to do just that!

I’ve visited the area through all seasons now. Walking the sandy beaches in summer was invigorating, seeing the  autumn colors around Lake Gardner was breathtaking and I even found the area beautiful and welcoming when it was buried in three feet of snow. I caught a glimpse of spring’s beginnings during my April visit and by the time the girls and I visited for Memorial Day, the splendor of spring was in full bloom! I don’t live there (yet) but I know New England’s charm remains through all types of weather.

 

Plum Island beach

Plum Island Beach, MA

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The deep snow in Amesbury, MA after a February 2014 storm

The deep snow in Amesbury, MA after a February 2014 storm

Spring flower boxes in downtown Amesbury, MA

Spring flower boxes in downtown Amesbury, MA

Girls playing on the beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation

Girls playing on the beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, MA

My plans for my upcoming trip are flexible as always and I tend to go wherever the fancy strikes me. There’s the 16th Annual Amesbury Chamber of Commerce Block Party on Thursday, 6/26/14 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. that I’ll definitely be attending and a variety of other happenings around town I might investigate. I also think I’ll venture into Boston this trip since I haven’t been into the city solo since November of 2011. That first trip to Boston inspired me to write and publish my first e-book New England Adventures: Boston, MA and was the beginning of what has become an amazing and ongoing chapter in my life. I can only imagine what another solo journey will bring!

The conviluted walking route I took during my first visit to Boston

The convoluted walking route I took during my first visit to Boston, MA

I’m planning another visit in July and then August brings a huge first: the first time I’ve had the girls for a whole week of vacation since the divorce. I’m indescribably excited about spending that much time together! We’ve rented a cottage on Plum Island that comes complete with bikes and kayaks and we can even bring Jazz! The drive there is going to be unforgettable I’m certain as I fit an entire circus in my little Matrix but I know we’ll all have fun!

Before the fun for my upcoming trip can begin though I have to finish my freelance work so off I go! Is it Wednesday yet??

When you know the song…

One of my bluebirds on their favorite pine tree perch.

One of my bluebirds on their favorite pine tree perch.

Growing up, I remembering marveling at how much my dad knew about life, the universe and everything. I couldn’t comprehend how he held all that knowledge in his head. While I don’t know the same information he did, I have my own library of knowledge in my head and it’s constantly expanding.

One of the mental encyclopedias I’m most fond and proud of is the one containing my ability to recognize a bird by the sound of their song. As long as I’ve seen the bird before and either heard it singing or listened to its song online, I can usually recognize it when I’m outside. When I know the song, I know the bird and it’s a musical reminder that I’m never alone.

Some days when I walk Jazzmin I hear a variety of songs, while other days I hear only a couple. Last week I took her on a short walk and the only song I heard was from the Eastern Bluebirds. I walked down a total of three roads and on each of them was a pair of bluebirds singing to each other. I hadn’t realized how many bluebirds were around where I lived until I knew their song so well from hearing it coming from the ones in my own yard. I like their song, it sounds  very calm and cheerful to me.

Another favorite bird song of mine is the one sung by the Eastern Towhee. I rarely see these birds but I hear them on almost every walk. Their song is unmistakable and resembles a melodic “drink your tea!” that’s warbly and sweet. I enjoy the songs of the cardinals too and find them as pretty as the birds themselves.

While I appreciate all of my feathered family and friends, some of their songs aren’t exactly what I want to hear at 5 a.m. Like this morning when the House Wren and Great Crested Flycatcher were both tittering away in the pine tree by my bedroom window. I’ve learned to sleep through the robins at 4 a.m. and grown accustomed to the cardinals too but other songs jolt me awake. Perhaps the birds have caught on to this and send different singers near my window to help me “rise and shine.”

Happy Humming Wings

flying hummer1

One of my best hummingbird pictures so far.

I’m always ecstatic the first time I see a ruby throated hummingbird zip by me in the spring. If the adorable little turbo wing flappers believe it’s warm enough to return north, then surely spring has arrived!

I hung the hummingbird feeder in my bird oasis, filled it with store-bought nectar and would periodically see the adorable quicksilver flyers stop by for a drink. I eventually decided that one feeder just wasn’t enough and hung two in the bird oasis. When I hung the second one with perches, I attracted a Baltimore oriole much to my surprise!

A Baltimore oriole drinking from my hummingbird feeder

A Baltimore oriole drinking from my hummingbird feeder

As I don’t spend my days at the kitchen window, I then decided to hang a couple hummingbird feeders on the frame of my deck swing. The swing sits right outside the window beside my desk and the idea of seeing the adorable flying darlings that close was exciting for me. I also started making my own nectar with two cups of water and 1/4 cup sugar that I heated up in the microwave until the sugar dissolved. Within a few hours of hanging the feeders on the swing, I had a hummingbird drinking from them!

Wanting to see the happy hummers better, I bought a new feeder that’s flying saucer shaped because then I can see better without the nectar tank blocking my view. The hummingbirds weren’t sure of it at first but now they love it!

hummer flying2

 

hummer flying1

 

flying hummer4

flying hummer3

I have two hummingbirds that I know of. One is brave enough to sit on the perches and drink but doesn’t visit often and the other visits every 5-10 minutes but has yet to rest on a perch. I have the window by my desk open and both little guys (I know they’re males because of their ruby throats) make little squeaking noises so I know when they’ve arrived. The one that never lands has grown so accustomed to my presence that he even comes to drink when I’m standing out on my deck or sitting in the swing. He’s not real sure of me so he’ll drink, fly up to look at me and back again until he’s temporarily satisfied and flies off.

flying hummer5

flying hummer2

I refresh the nectar every couple of days and try to do it early enough in the morning to beat his arrival. I didn’t quite make it this morning and he came looking for the feeder just as I was filling it inside. He flew around where it had been hanging, obviously very confused and then flew off. I quickly went out and hung the freshly filled feeder and within a few minutes he was back and happily drinking.

It’s impossible not to smile when I see a hummingbird. No matter what kind of day I’ve been having, the moment I see and hear the little buzzing birds, I smile so wide it probably lights up the room. I even smile when I see them sitting on the wires in front of my house as one is right this very minute…oops! The other one just came and a chase ensued. Well I’m sure they’ll sort it out and come to eat and be the happy little hummers that brighten my days!

 

Just a day

One of my favorite pics of my dad and I

One of my favorite pics of my dad and I

I don’t speak for anyone else who has lost their father, I’m only sharing how I feel. Father’s Day is hard for me. My dad died in October of 2009 and I miss him every day. He and I were about as close as a father and daughter could be and he loved and accepted me unconditionally. His passing left a hole in my heart so big I’m surprised I can’t hear the wind howling through it sometimes.

Seeing all the commercials and advertisements for Father’s Day hasn’t made things any easier and I’ll be relieved when they’re done. When my father was alive, I happily celebrated him with gifts and cards and he appreciated whatever he received, even if it was just a hug. But now Father’s Day is just a day I do my best to get through by remembering my father fondly without shedding too many tears.

I encourage everyone who still has their father to cherish every moment with him, hug him tighter and tell him you love him as often as possible. Never take anyone you love for granted because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, all we can be sure of is today.

Visiting my father's marker, 10/21/2012

Visiting my father’s marker, 10/21/2012

Feathered and furry, friends and family

swallow sunset

I imagine that compared to most people, my life seems pretty boring. It’s Friday night and I imagine most people have fun plans to go out with their friends while I’m sitting home writing up a blog before I get back to beading. I say “I imagine” because I don’t really know. What I do know is that I like my life and am pretty darn happy on a daily basis. Do I have my down days? Sure, everyone does but I always find the light eventually and remind myself how blessed I am.

I live in the country hills of Upstate NY. When I look west from my deck I have a lovely view across the valley and surrounding hills. I spend my days writing freelance blog posts for a variety of companies while being kept company by animals. I don’t just mean my dog Jazzmin and two cats Avi and Owl. I mean the birds, bunnies, woodchucks and deer that live around me. When I don’t have my girls, I talk to either myself or the animals. I don’t say a lot out loud really but I’m constantly thinking.

The feathered and furry creatures I watch on my property and near my house on a daily basis are the friends and family I see the most. As I sit at my desk I watch the male and female bluebirds make the rounds around my house going from front wire to side wire, to tree tops and back again getting worms and bugs for their newly hatched babies.

Male bluebird on my pear tree

Male bluebird on my pear tree

Male bluebird on the wire

Male bluebird on the wire

The tree swallows are swooping through the air all day long catching bugs for their babies and sometimes when one of them and the male bluebird sit upon the same wire, a brief and nasty bird fight ensues.

Tree swallow on the wire

Tree swallow on the wire

Swallow on the left, bluebird on the right. Shortly before the ruckus

Swallow on the left, bluebird on the right. Shortly before the ruckus

I hung two hummingbird feeders on the swing outside the window closest to my desk and the adorable swift-winged birds visit several times a day. Even when I’m typing away I hear their approach, their wings buzzing in a sound like an oversize bumblebee. I then stop my work and turn to watch one of them as he sips.

I have at least two ruby-throated hummingbirds and while they never drink at the same time, they visited today at the same time. One waited on the wire while the other drank.

One hummingbird on my swing frame, the other waiting on the wire

One hummingbird on my swing frame, the other waiting on the wire

I think they’re both males because they sometimes take off in furious flights, their long beaks reminiscent of swords and their face-offs reminding me of the beginning of fencing matches. One or both of them is even brave enough to visit the feeder when I’m standing out on the deck. I never knew they made little squeaking chirping noises until I was able to be this close to them. They truly are amazing creatures!

Hummingbird perched on my feeder

Hummingbird perched on my feeder

Hummingbird drinking

Hummingbird drinking

Hummingbird flying

Hummingbird flying

Hummingbird on the wire

Hummingbird on the wire

In the evening, I often see a bunny or two hopping around the yard. Yesterday a baby bunny hopped out from behind my shed and did some awkward hops before bravely venturing out further into the grass.

Resident bunny

Resident bunny

Another resident bunny

Another resident bunny

Babies are being born and hatching all around my property and I can hear the baby bluebirds chirping in the birdhouse at the back of my property all the way from my kitchen window. After dinner tonight I watched a mother robin and her baby hop around my back yard, the baby chirping as it followed its mother around and eagerly accepting the worms she yanked out of the ground for him.

Mama robin and her fledgling

Mama robin and her fledgling

This afternoon on my way into town, I saw two small brown animals playing around the yellow line in the road in front of me. As I drove closer, I realized they were baby woodchucks/groundhogs. There was no one else on the road so I stopped my car, put on my flashers and got out to shoo the little rascals out of the road. They didn’t move quickly but they did eventually get over into the grassy shoulder. When I tried to shoo them further into the tall grass, one of them actually ventured closer to me and I said to him “I’m not your mama, baby. Go find your mama.” I do wonder where their mother was…

The baby woodchuck/groundhog that came toward me

The baby woodchuck/groundhog that came toward me

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I have so much interaction with the animals around me. Far too many humans have lost touch with nature and forgotten the fact that we’re all connected. I never forget our connection, I feel it every day and do my best to reflect the positive energy I receive from my feathered and furry friends and family. Beautiful things happen every day when you slow down, take a breath and open your eyes, ears, mind, heart and spirit.

Drinking mud

I think the color of the vintage Tupperware cup enhances the whole mud look

I think the color of the vintage Tupperware cup enhances the whole mud look

Okay, I don’t really drink mud but I have started drinking healthy smoothies and once they’re all mixed up they kind of resemble mud. That’s exactly how I expect a mix of kale, spinach, soy milk, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon and chocolate protein powder to look. Admittedly, the chocolate protein powder gives it that brown shade but everything else in it gives it the muddy consistency. I like the chocolate powder stuff so I live with the brown and overall it tastes pretty good once you get past the green flecks of ground up kale and spinach.

In my freelance writing, I often research health topics and have read about the benefits of smoothies and kale. I haven’t gone all “kale crazy” though, I only drink that smoothie concoction for breakfast and do my best to eat healthy the rest of the day. I see all sorts of posts from super healthy, hard body chicks raving about their smoothies and salads and posting pictures. Yay for them and their healthy lifestyle but if all I lived on were smoothies and salad, it might get ugly. I love my chocolate and my meat and yes, even an evil carb here and there! As I’ve said before, I don’t want to be a hard body, I want to be a curvaceous healthy chick.

My recent shift back into healthier eating is due in part to my new tattoo. I love my new tattoo and think it’s amazingly sexy so I’d like my body to help enhance that look. My arms have always been one of my least favorite parts and my new ink makes me rededicated to improving them. Plus I figured eating healthier will help it heal faster and so far it seems to be working. Once my ink is all done molting and such I’ll write a post about adjusting to it.

Along with drinking a smoothie for breakfast, I’ve also started drinking Dr. Oz’s grapefruit and apple cider vinegar drink before every meal. It’s part of his “Swimsuit Slimdown Plan” and the recipe for it is 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar added to 1 cup of grapefruit juice. The plan also suggests eating a salad of dandelion greens which isn’t for me because I basically do that every time I weedwhack and it’s nasty! I’ve read various comments from people about the drink, many of whom say it’s “refreshing”  “a nice citrus treat” and “makes them want to eat better.” For me, it tastes disgusting and burns all the way down but I’m growing accustomed to it and it burns less each time I drink it. I don’t see how drinking vinegar is ever going to taste “refreshing” but to each their own.

I’ve only been doing the smoothie and grapefruit drink thing for a few days now but my body has adjusted and the smoothie is enough to fill me up until lunch. I don’t know if the grapefruit concoction is doing anything aside filling me with tons of Vitamin C and vinegar but I’ll keep it up for curiosity’s sake. For exercise I’ve been doing push ups, bicep and tricep curls, crunches and walking Jazzmin. I was going to go back to doing DVD workouts but haven’t found that motivation yet among the heat and humidity. Hopefully soon!