Another Whirlwind Tour of New England

 

Massachusetts hills by JulieAnn Corbin

Tomorrow morning I head to New England once again and I’m so looking forward to it! Last time I visited was at the end of March/beginning of April and I had the misfortune of driving through an unexpected snowstorm on the way home. As it’s now May and very summer-like, I do hope that won’t be happening again!

As usual, I’ll be cramming a lot into my visits and it’s all of my own choice. My days in Upstate New York are relatively predictable, but I don’t consider that a bad thing as I’m quite happy and never bored. However, driving out to southern New Hampshire/northern Massachusetts offers me new, interesting adventures not possible where I live. I’ll be spending a day in Boston, hopefully visiting Newburyport and Amesbury, helping set up for the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow in Marshfield, MA and attending the event on Saturday. I love visiting with my friends from the MCNAA, helping out however I can and dancing in the circle. I’m sure I’ll have a wonderful time!

One thing that surprises most people about my road trips is that I actually enjoy the drive out. The drive home always feels a bit longer, but on the drive out, I love watching the scenery change as I move east across New York State and enter the tall hills/mountains of western Massachusetts. I always know I’m getting closer to MA when the hills grow taller and the road becomes more winding. There are some who don’t do well in thruway/interstate traffic, but I’ve become accustomed to it and I set my cruise at a safe, reasonable speed.

So tomorrow morning after my girls get on the bus and head to school and I’ve dropped Jazzmin at the doggy hotel, I’ll be stopping at Dunkin Donuts to grab my usual large coffee and breakfast sandwich before hitting the thruway east. Look out, New England, here comes another whirlwind tour by yours truly! 😉

 

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The BEST big brother

brother and sister by JulieAnn Corbin

Riding on Tim’s shoulders during a family trip to Florida I believe

My oldest brother Tim turned 45 this past Saturday. When I wrote his age on my calendar, I wrote it as “45?” and that made my 13-year-old daughter ask me why I did that. I told her that it was because I couldn’t believe he was turning 45 because he can’t possibly be that “old.” That also means I’m turning 39 this June and that just doesn’t seem possible! I know how old I am, but I also know that age is just a number and that sometimes I still feel 16, which would make Tim 22 and that computes in my brain just fine.

The six-year age difference between Tim and I meant weren’t as close as sibling closer in age growing up, but as we both got older, we grew closer. Even so, despite a few rough spots that all siblings go through, he was always a great older brother who looked out for his little sister. He still does that in fact.

tim looking out for me by JulieAnn Corbin

Tim looking out for me when I was little little

He’s the one who taught me how to dribble a basketball without looking at the ball and as he’s six feet tall, he could reach high up things for me when I asked for help. Nowadays, he comes over to my house sometimes when I need help with a project I just can’t manage on my own and I greatly appreciate his assistance!

My brother Tim is a great storyteller and has a sarcastic wit and he always manages to keep people amused. A few months ago, he had a stroke and it was a scary and familiar experience as my family and had endured my father’s multiple strokes in the past. Fortunately, Tim’s stroke wasn’t as severe as any of my father’s and he’s much younger than my father was so he recovered pretty quickly, but the stroke still changed Tim’s personality a bit. He has a bit less patience than he used to but it’s a small price to pay for still having him with us in this world. When the stroke first happened, the idea of losing my big brother was terrifying and devastating and I begged all the higher powers I could think of to help him recover and remain with us. I am so grateful he pulled through and is now on medication to help manage the extremely high blood pressure that nearly cost him his life.

Tim is a pretty easygoing person and he rolls with life as it flows along. I know that he always has my back and will always look out for his little sister, no matter how “old” we both get. I’m lucky to have him as my big brother, he’s a great uncle to my daughters and I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world.

my brother, daughters and me by JulieAnn Corbin

Me, Tim and my daughters, May 2014

Invisigirl and the Yard Stick of Tallness!

I feel as small as this lizard in big box stores sometimes.

I feel as small as this lizard in big box stores sometimes.

I’m a single mother and I own my own home, which means that aside from advice, tips and suggestions from friends and the internet, it’s up to me to maintain and fix my house. Homes don’t come with an owner’s manual and my father never sat me down and taught me this stuff so there’s been a lot of learning on the job for me since I bought my own home in August of 2011.

One thing I realized pretty quick is that I have a superpower when I walk into big box home improvement stores: I become invisible. When I used to go to stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s with my now ex-husband, we’d immediately receive attention as the customer service employees asked the man with me if he needed any help. I suppose even then I was invisible, but I didn’t realize it. Now that I’m single, I’m usually ignored for a good portion of my time in home improvement stores. Eventually someone asks me if I need help but by then I’ve usually found what I needed because I’ve learned not to expect someone to be there to answer questions.

I gave myself the name Invisigirl because there have been many times in my life when I’ve seemed so invisible in the midst of other people that I’ve almost had entire trays of food dropped on me while walking through a restaurant because the server didn’t see me. Admittedly, I’m not overly tall, but I don’t think 5′ 5″ is too short to see either. My height is however, too short to reach certain items and I often have to improvise to reach what I want.

Such was the case in Home Depot this past Wednesday when I was in need of the sanding pads for the random orbit sander I already had in my cart. There was an entire wall of sanding pads and the packages contained from 5-20 pads. As I’d never used a sander before and was going to use it to sand my deck prior to priming, I had no idea how many I’d need so I didn’t want to get a huge package. Unfortunately, Home Depot’s clever marketing layout involves placing the packages with 5 pads on the highest rack where I couldn’t reach them even on my tiptoes.

After a few minutes of struggling to reach the top packages or knock one down with another package I was holding, I decided I was going to buy the package of 5 even if I discovered later I’d needed the easier to reach 20 disc package. I’m stubborn and determined and I refuse to let a store bully me into buying the bigger, more expensive package just because I can’t reach the size I need. Yes, I could have asked for help, but as there were two clerks standing nearby chatting and neither of them had offered to help, I was dead set on getting the sanding discs without help.

To that end, I walked around the center island of table saws, drills and other power tools and across the aisle to where the levels and yard sticks were hanging up. I grabbed a metal yard stick, strode back across the aisle, reached the yard stick up and easily moved the sanding disc package forward and off its hanger. I did that for both grit sizes I needed and then set the yard stick down on the shelf just in case any other short girls or guys needed the magical yard stick of tallness to reach that top row.

Quite satisfied with my problem solving skills, I then headed to the deck stain aisle in search of an oil-based stain for my deck that was desperately in need of some TLC. Stains and paints took up an entire aisle and trying to figure out if any of them were oil-based proved frustrating, especially since no one walking by asked if I needed help. Deciding I’d get my stain somewhere where I wasn’t Invisigirl, I went to the checkout, paid for my items and left Home Depot.

I stopped at Sherwin Williams on the way home and as they’re a smaller store that specializes in paint and stain, I was helped as soon as I walked in the door. The friendly clerk showed me where the oil-based, semi-transparent deck stains were, helped me pick a color that closely matched the current color of my deck and then went in the back to mix it up. There are times when I don’t mind being Invisigirl, but getting what I needed to repair my deck, wasn’t one of those times.

I left the store with a gallon of stain to get me started and the reassurances that I’m not actually invisible. I knew I was set to start the deck project the next day, but that’s an adventure I’ll leave for another time…

Celebrating Strong Spirits

dad and girls august 2006

(Featured image: My father holding newborn Jaycie with 4 year old Jordan on his legs)

Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 75 years old. The last birthday we celebrated with him on this earth was his 68th because he walked on in October of 2009. He was more than my father; he was my best friend, confidant, supporter and a man who showed me how I deserve to be treated and cared for by a man. I’ve yet to meet his equal and I probably never will. I was blessed to have him for as long as I did and I’ll always be “Daddy’s little girl” no matter what age I am.

Special occasions like today are always hard without my dad and his birthday marks the first of many special events during the spring and summer. Every summer birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Memorial Day feel a bit emptier without him. I miss his hugs, his laughter, his smiles and his voice giving me sage wisdom and advice that I still hear in my head to this day. I feel him in the sunshine, the glow of the moon and the scent of spring flowers. I see him on the wings and in the watchful eyes of hawks as they fill my world. I’ve inherited a lot from him, including his strength and determination and I know his spirit is with me every single day.

My father’s spirit sticks around with more than just me, he’s with everyone he loves. He had a special connection with my youngest daughter, Jaycie. After my father’s strokes, he had physical limitations and his mind wasn’t ever quite the same. Jaycie has had mental and physical developmental delays all of her life, but she’s finally catching up! There always seemed to be a sense of camaraderie between my dad and Jaycie, as if they both understood what it was like to face challenges and rise above them. For a while after my father walked on, Jaycie would occasionally say that she saw him or that she knew what he was doing in heaven. She may not see him anymore (or not tell us if she does) but I know he sticks close to her and the amazing light that she is.

dad and jaycie reading by JulieAnn Corbin

My father and Jaycie reading.

Jaycie is participating in the Special Olympics today and it’s her first time doing so. I’m sure she’ll have fun, do well and that it will be a great experience for her. I think it’s a perfect way to celebrate both her and my father’s eternally strong spirits. I went to the send off for the Special Olympians at the school this morning and Jaycie marched out all by herself looking like a movie star with her sunglasses on. I wished her luck and gave her a kiss and she was all smiles!

Jaycie marching in the send off for the Special Olympians this morning

Jaycie marching in the send off for the Special Olympians this morning

 

jaycie sign

The sign teachers and fellow students made to encourage Jaycie.

My father’s spirit will watch over Jaycie today, urge her on and beam with pride, of that I’m certain. He used to volunteer for a horseback riding program for children with Cerebral Palsy and whenever I would go with him to help, I could see how much joy it brought him so I’m sure Jaycie doing the Special Olympics today is a birthday gift he greatly appreciates. Although he can’t physically be here to help Jaycie shine, I know that today, his spirit shines even brighter as he watches over all of his greatest gifts: his family.

Wrong forecast, right day

spring dawn by JulieAnn Corbin

For the past few weeks if the forecast calls for overcast skies and/or rain, it’s pretty certain it will be overcast and/or rain. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for such conditions, it’s pretty certain they’ll arrive. Yesterday the forecast said fog in the morning then clearing and becoming mostly sunny. Well, it was certainly foggy in the morning but it never really cleared and I can count the times I saw the sun through the clouds on one hand. On top of that, the predicted high was 55 and it only got up to 46. I was rather bummed because I really wanted to see the sun after days of cloudiness and rain.

I didn’t have much hope for seeing the sun today as when I checked the forecast last night it was predicting rain and clouds all day long. However, when I woke up this morning, the sky appeared brighter than usual and lo and behold, when I looked out the window, I could see the sun! I was so happy I almost did a little dance! I managed to control myself though and went about the usual morning duties of waking the girls, making their breakfasts, packing their lunches and seeing them safely on the bus to school. You can bet I was smiling the whole time though!

plum tree in country by JulieAnn Corbin

Plum tree, my back yard and the farmer’s field beyond.

After I did a couple freelance blog posts, the clouds had returned but the forecast had changed from all day rain to chance of scattered thunderstorms. I considered that a vast improvement! As it wasn’t raining yet when I finished my work, I decided to tackle cleaning up and arranging my backyard bird oasis. I started the bird oasis two springs ago and every year it’s in the same spot, but always a little different. I put a little fence up around my bird feeder poles and I set planters of flowers around them with a fountain/bird bath in there somewhere.

After mowing the grass that had grown a foot tall around the formerly fenced border of the bird oasis, I then arranged the area, put the little fence pieces back in the ground and filled the fountain/bird bath. Unfortunately, when I turned the fountain on, it didn’t work so I’ll need to buy a new pump to get it running again. Not a big issue and the fountain can serve as a water holder for now. True to form, I hung my bird feeders, crouched down to fix a few things and then stood up whacking my head on the bottom of one of the feeders. I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do that at least once and it’s usually more than once…

backyard bird oasis by JulieAnn Corbin

Needs a few more flowers and feeders but otherwise good!

I usually move all of my bird feeders off the deck and into the backyard bird oasis, but I’ve grown so fond of watching the birds out my desk window that I’ll be leaving some on my deck this year. That means I have to get a few more for the oasis, but there are two hanging back there now and the finches have already found them and started feasting.

Once the bird oasis was arranged, I had some lunch and then took Jazz for our daily walk. The sun popped out a few times as we walked, which helped warm the day up further. After the walk I eagerly spread the comforter out on my deck swing, grabbed my beading supplies and settled out on the swing to focus on beading up flower earrings. I hooked Jazzmin up to the lead I attached to the deck and as it’s long enough for her to sit in the grass next to the driveway, she happily stayed there watching for squirrels.

Beading on that swing with the birds eating at the nearby feeders and Jazz on squirrel patrol nearby is one of my new favorite past times and I beaded away blissfully for a couple hours until I realized it was past dinner time. I wasn’t especially hungry yet, but I figured Jazz was so I brought her inside and got her dinner before assembling my own. Once I was done eating, I was back out on the swing, refusing to waste a single moment of warmth and periodic sunshine after being trapped inside for so many days lately.

beaded flowers by JulieAnn Corbin

My beaded flowers and new bead mail. Tons of happiness!

Eventually the sky turned rather dark, the temperature dropped and it started to sprinkle as a little rain cloud passed over so I decided it was time to call it a day and head inside the house. I took my beads inside and then went back out to fold up the comforter to bring inside and I realized that my cheeks were sore because I’d been smiling so much while I was beading. My mind, body and spirit had really needed the warmer temperatures, sunshine and fresh air that I got a huge dose of today and although the forecast had been wrong, the day had gone very right!