Marching Into March 

Yesterday was the first day of March and it started off overcast but pleasantly mild. Hoping to avoid the predicted rain showers, I took Jazzmin on the short hilly walk right after breakfast. Although the clouds were thick, it was warm enough to walk without a coat and it didn’t start sprinkling until we were almost home. On our walk we were treated to the sight and sounds of a large group of turkeys in a field. I always enjoy seeing the males all puffed up as they try to attract the females.

Once back home and freshly showered, I expected to hunker down inside for the rest of the day and work while it rained outside. Mother Nature had other plans though as the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. Not one to waste such beautiful weather in the midst of winter, I took Jazz for a second walk, much to her delight! 

I spent a bit more time outside taking care of other important tasks because I knew the forecast was calling for a drastic drop in temperature the next day. Sure enough, this morning dawned with temperatures in the teens even though it had been 50s with I went to bed the night before. Such extreme temperature changes ushered in by ridiculously high winds seem unfortunately normal these days.

It was too cold to walk Jazzmin even once today and I ventured outside as little as possible but I know the weather will rebound eventually. March is a temperamental month as if it knows that everyone is eager for spring and it wants to hang onto winter a bit longer. Regardless, the world around me is starting to reawaken as spring nears and I’ll take it one day at a time while looking forward to warmth and new beginnings. 

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Time Flies with Big Brown Puppy Dog Eyes

Jazzmin being adored by Daisy

Five years ago today I adopted my beloved pup Jazzmin aka Jazz/Jazzerboo/Puppers/Goofball etc., etc. I can’t imagine my life without her following me around and watching me with her big brown puppy dog eyes.
We’ve learned a lot from each other over the years. I’ve taught her how to play fetch and she’s taught me the importance of walking every day, weather permitting. We learned the right way to walk together and although it’ll always be a work in progress, we’ve come a long way. 

When I adopted Jazzmin from the shelter, she was untested with cats and I had two cats at the time, my senior cat Aviendha and my former feral cat Owl. Fortunately, with some patience, refereeing and the unavoidable affection of loving Owl, Jazzmin learned to live happily with cats. 

Avi has since passed and Jazzmin has learned to love our two newer cats Angel and Daisy. During the winter, all three of them are quite often snuggling on the couch with me as Owl sits closeby. Their furry, sleeping bodies help keep my body warm and their unconditional love warms my heart.

Jazzmin’s sweet nature helped my daughters get over their fear of dogs and see just how great pups can be. Jordan will walk her sometimes and Jaycie wants to become a dog trainer some day and own multiple dogs. Amazing what the love of a yellow mutt can do! 
As I write this, Jazzmin is rolling around on her back on the floor like the adorable goofball she is. I gave her a special treat to mark her five year adoptiversary and she was happy to snarf it. Five years with her and her big brown puppy dog eyes have flown by!  I don’t know if she even still remembers living in the shelter or who owned her before she became a stray, but I do know that she seems very happy now and that I’m very happy to have her as my loyal companion and walking buddy. 

Deflecting Deer Flies

Shoofly deer fly repellent

My weapon to deflect deer flies!

I’ve lived in this region of Upstate NY since 2002, but I’d never encountered a deer fly until the summer of 2012, the second summer in my home. I think it has to do with the fact that my house sits across the road from a stream-filled ravine in front and has a large, hay field behind it. The combination of wet from the stream and abundance of deer and critters behind me creates the perfect environment for deer flies.

If you don’t know what deer flies are then I’m quite jealous! They’re flies about the size of a house fly and they love to swarm around in hot weather, landing and biting on whatever living creature comes along. When they first appear, they’re abundant in my driveway, especially the end by the road, but they also buzz and bite in my back yard when I take Jazzmin out. Getting the mail required constant swatting to keep the buggers at bay and walking Jazz becomes so unpleasant, it’s not always the summer heat that keeps us inside.

I’ve searched online in the past for suggestions to keep deer flies from landing and biting, but I discovered that the usual bug repellents don’t work well. I read up about these double stick strips you can put on a hat or something. The strips attract the deer flies and the buggers then become stuck and can’t escape to bite you. The idea of walking around with dead and dying deer flies on a strip on my person didn’t appeal though so I continued to search for other suggestions.

Thankfully, I finally found something that works! When the deer flies starting being a nuisance in the late spring this year, I did my usual online search for help and this time, something different came up. One of the top results in my Google search for “deer fly repellent” was something called Shoofly Deerfly Repellent. As it had deer fly right in the name, it sounded promising! I clicked on the link and found myself on the website for Blackberry Creek Soaps out of Wisconsin. The page talked about the Shoo Fly All Natural Deer Fly Repellent Soap and the Shoo Fly All Natural Deer Fly Repellent Spray and what they were effective against. There were also several positive reviews by happy customers (I still need to write my own) so I decided to get the soap and the spray and give them a try.

It took a while for the products to arrive, but once they did, I eagerly tried them out. I used the spray first because it seemed easier for me to apply. It has a very strong smell that took me a while to get used to, but as it’s all natural, I was okay with that. I sprayed my arms, collarbone and back of neck, got Jazz all ready and we headed out on our walk.

To my utter amazement, the deer flies still circled us but they didn’t land and bite! They did eventually get at my ears, but ever since then I put a little spray on my fingers and rub it on my ears and forehead and that keeps them from biting there. The deer flies circled above me and occasionally landed in my hair (I imagine wearing some sort of hair clip sprayed with the stuff would prevent that) but they didn’t bite me. I was thrilled! Not only did it keep the deer flies away, it also kept black flies and mosquitoes away! I’d finally found something capable of deflecting deer flies and protecting my skin from their nasty bites! Me wearing the spray keeps them from descending down to Jazz’s level so she’s free of bites too even though I don’t put any spray on her.

I tried using the soap bar too, but found it harder to use and not as effective. That’s probably operator error and not the product’s fault. Considering my personal success using the product, I would recommend it to anyone dealing with biting insects. I love that it’s all natural and I’ve grown to like the smell. I don’t feel bad about leaving it on my skin and by the following day, the scent has faded anyway. I recommend spraying arms and other areas flies might land with the spray and then rubbing it around with your hands to make sure you’re thoroughly covered because opportunistic biting flies will find any opening to get you. I’m very happy to finally have some protection against them and now the only thing that keeps Jazz and I from walking are hot temperatures, just as it should be in summer.

“Beauty Tips” from a Semi-girly Tomboy – Hair, Nails, Vitamins, Exercise & Diet

Curls and Star Wars shirt by JulieAnn Corbin

Curled hair and a Star Wars shirt because I’m awesome like that 😉

As a continuation of my previous post, here’s what I do to care for my hair and nails long with the Vitamins I take daily and what I do to eat healthy. This is all what I’ve found works for me and everyone is unique so always do what is best for you.  I do actually use every product I mention and the ones I provide links to in this post are ones I want to help promote because they’re sold by Native American owned and operated businesses. The only “compensation” I receive by linking to them is the hope that others purchase and enjoy these great products.

Hair care

I’ve been growing my hair out for a few years and it’s now down to the middle of my back. This is the longest it’s been while still being natural, i.e. no hair color or perm. To help my hair grow and remain healthy, I take 10000 mcg of Biotin every morning along with my other vitamins (which I’ll cover later). For deep conditioning, a couple times a week I apply coconut oil to the lower half of my hair, put it in a low bun and wrap saran wrap around the bun, letting it sit like that for a few hours before washing it thoroughly. I’ve tried other mixtures of egg yolk and honey and such to help nourish my hair, but they’re rather messy and I’ve found coconut oil works fine for me.

Although I did try the no shampoo route a few years ago, I discovered it just didn’t work for my hair and so I went back to washing my hair every other day. My favorite shampoo is Sister Sky’s Sweetgrass and Yucca Root Shampoo because it’s free of Parabens, Sulfates and Phthalates. I follow with their Sweetgrass and Horsetail Herb Conditioner through the bottom half of my hair. I find that the shampoo and conditioner makes my hair very happy and create wonderful smell that lingers.

After I rinse my hair, I then wrap it in a 100% cotton t-shirt that says “Mom” on it in big, pink sparkly letters. A plain 100% cotton t-shirt would work fine too, I just grabbed that one to add a little “mom glam” to my routine. I wrap my hair in a cotton t-shirt instead of a towel because I read that it’s better for my hair than scrubbing a terry cloth towel through it. I’ve found that my hair is much happier when I use the shirt.

When I take my hair down out of the shirt, I then comb it out with a large tooth comb and if it’s warm weather, let it air dry. I have to blow dry it in the winter to avoid getting a chill, but in the nicer weather, I air dry as much as possible to avoid heat damage. Most days during the summer I wear it in a braid or a bun but sometimes when it’s cooler out, I curl it with my Automatic Hair Curler, making sure a apply a heat protective spray to my hair first.

Nails

I have never received a professional manicure or pedicure in my life because I can’t justify spending money on such things, but I imagine they’re nice things for those who like them. I have very healthy nails, always have, and they grow quite fast. I tend to keep my nails rather short and trim them with nail clippers because they interfere with my typing, beading, housework and yardwork otherwise. If I do grow them long, I like to use one of the colorful nail polishes made by Native War Paints.

Vitamins

Every day I take a certain set of vitamins as I’ve found them beneficial in supporting my health and immune system. I take a daily women’s formula multivitamin, the 10,000 mcg of Biotin I mentioned earlier, 1000 mg of Vitamin C and 400 IU of D3. I believe the Vitamin C helped me avoid any cold or flu this past winter and the D3 helped stave off the winter blues that used to plague me. I’ve also been using a tablespoon of local honey in my morning cup of tea (one bag of Celestial Seasoning’s Morning Thunder and one bag of Bengal Spice) and I haven’t had an issue with allergies in over two years. If you struggle with allergies, I strongly suggest adding local honey to your daily diet as a natural alternative to allergy medications. It took about a year for the full effects in my case, but it was well worth it! Plus, I rather love honey so it was easy to do.

Exercise and Diet

To stay fit, I walk my dog Jazzmin whenever I can and lift weights. I curl 20-pound weights to work my biceps, use 12-pound weights for tricep extensions and 5-8 pound weights to work my shoulders. As an additional aerobic workout, I practice pow-wow dancing or do a Zumba routine. I know that to increase my weight loss I need to exercise more frequently and eat less but that doesn’t always happen.

Having a healthy body is also about what you put in it and while I don’t eat a perfectly healthy diet, I do make an effort. During the week I have a smoothie for breakfast and it consists of a Greek Yogurt, apple slices, carrots, kale, blueberries, strawberries, raw bee pollen, raw chia seeds, turmeric, light vanilla Silk soy milk and vanilla protein powder. This smoothie usually lasts me until lunch. If I’m home for lunch, I make a salad or wrap with chicken and cheese and drink a shake made of soymilk, chocolate protein powder, 3-4 ice cubes, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. For an afternoon snack, I’ll either have 6-7 Triscuits with cheese or toast half a whole-wheat pita pocket and dip it in hummus. Dinner changes daily but I try to stay healthy. Desserts and going out to eat are usually my downfall.

So there you have it! A glimpse into the “beauty routines” of a semi-girly tomboy. Thank you for visiting my blog and feel free to ask questions or add comments. =)

Step 1 of Trying on Bathing Suits

woman in bathing suit

When I sent my beloved female friend Bec the above picture of me trying on the two-piece bathing suit I ultimately bought, I told her that the process had been less painful than I expected. Her response was to tell me that was because I had followed Step 1. I asked what Step 1 was and she replied that it was be attractive. As I consider attractiveness much more than just physical appearance, I believe that she was quite right.

I wasn’t excited about trying on bathing suits this morning but as I hadn’t bought a new one in at least 10 years and the one I did have didn’t fit me well (it was a mismatch that I found at a great sale price) I figured it was overdue. I grabbed several bathing suits, both one piece and separates and took them all into the dressing room with me trying to prepare for how I’d look in them. I quickly discovered that almost every top piece or one-piece suit I’d chosen was too small while every bottom separate fit perfectly. I should’ve chosen more wisely as my top half is a bit curvier than my bottom, but I didn’t and so I was left with several bathing suits that didn’t fit.

Fortunately, when I tried on the two pieces in the photo, I immediately loved how I looked in the mirror. The top is comfortable and colorful and the bottom combines the look of shorts and a skirt in a feminine and flattering way that does wonders for my legs. I know I won’t feel any hesitation going to the pool or beach with my girls this summer when I’m wearing that suit and I know that that’s extremely important for my daughters to see.

I do genuinely love myself as a person but it’s an ongoing struggle to love my body because I know my healthy weight is at least 20 pounds lighter than my current weight. I could say that I’m still trying to lose the “baby weight” from having my last daughter, but Jaycie is turning 10 this year and it’s certainly not her fault that I can’t be consistent with my weight loss progress.

I admit that I’m a stress eater and as my days involve balancing being a single mother, solo homeowner, freelance writer, jewelry designer, creator and marketer, I tend to get a bit overwhelmed. I’d much rather work out my stress by learning how to swordfight, hip-hop dance, kick butt with martial arts or all of the above but there isn’t any nearby access to such things and so I turn to food. Walking Jazzmin helps but with the heat and excessive amount of biting deer flies the past few weeks, those walks haven’t happened as often as they should.

Back to Step 1 of trying on bathing suits. I do not mean to sound conceited when I say this, but I consider myself an amazing woman. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be where I am now, making it on my own with continued determination and strength, I’d have probably said you were crazy. Nevertheless, I am where I am and that all makes me and anyone else like me attractive. Confidence is attractive, being a good person is attractive, being the best mother I can be is attractive, believing in myself is attractive, honesty is attractive, a selfless spirit is attractive, the love of helping others is attractive, being a good friend is attractive, the love and ownership of shelter animals is attractive and while I know I’m not perfect, I do the best I can every single day and go to sleep knowing that I gave it my all.

So I share this picture of me in a bathing suit with my fuzzy, braided hair and non-hard body physique in the hopes that other women will see that we are all beautiful. I will expand on Bec’s Step 1 of “be attractive” by saying that you must also love yourself. We are all deserving of love and that love is the one we must give ourselves every single day.

Skies of flies

Why in the skies
Are there so many deer flies?
Swarming about and biting
Turning strolls into bug fighting.
Swirling about the head
Making walks a thing of dread.
Buzzing, nipping, landing
Trying to be the last one standing.
They ensure that no walk is fun
And wow do they make us run!

Caterpillars, butterflies and frogs

dog gazing across pond

Every morning I wake up with a general plan for what I’m going to accomplish that day and as my life is pretty predictable, things usually go as planned. Yesterday however, that was not the case as my life took a rather unexpected plot twist late morning that had me scrambling to rewrite the next chapter in my life. I’m a resilient, durable, determined and strong woman though and I always land on my feet somehow. I know that even with this new curvy hill in the path of my life, I’ll get my stride back and be just fine eventually.

After several hours of rewriting the outline for the next chapter of my life, I was feeling a bit mentally fried and decided it was time to walk Jazzmin. The temperature had warmed up to a more spring-like 55 degrees finally and my pup and I were quite ready to get out in the sunshine and fresh air. I walked Jazz up the farmer’s access road and into the open farmer’s fields beyond. That is my favorite place to restore inner balance and regain serenity. It’s a different world at the end of that access road as Jazz and I visit a land full of unending skies, clear ponds, rolling hills, sky-reaching trees and a chorus of bird songs.

Jazz loves to put her nose to the grassy ground where deer, turkey, squirrels, birds, raccoons and who knows what else has walked, so I call those walks with her “sniff walks.” When we’re walking the paved roads around my house, I keep us moving and don’t make many stops but “sniff walks” are different as it’s just us in the fields and I’m in no rush to go anywhere.

We walked up to the small pond among the fields and as we walked around its perimeter, I could hear the frogs who had been sunning themselves suddenly jump into the pond. They move so quickly, I rarely see them, but hearing them still makes me smile. I had no idea then that frogs would take on a new meaning by the end of the day.

Jazz and I spent at least a half hour in the fields exploring and enjoying the sights and smells and then it was time to head back home and resume my work.

A few hours later, I was feeling frazzled again and I knew it was time to take my solo walk of the day. The temperature was up to 60 by then so I changed from capris into shorts, got Jazz happily settled in her crate and headed out. With my newly downloaded music pumping into my ears, body and spirit through my earbuds, I set out on what I call the “big hill” walk that’s three miles long and contains the biggest hill near me.

Shortly after heading up the road I live on, I saw my first wooly bear caterpillar of the season moving quickly to cross the road. He was halfway through the oncoming lane but I knew a car could come up at any moment and end his journey so I carefully scooped him up in my hand and carried him safely into the shoulder. I set him down and he crawled quickly into the grass. Immensely pleased that I had finally seen one of my favorite kinds of caterpillars and managed to help it, I was smiling wide as I continued my walk.

I conquered the big hill with my usual determination and with a bit of upbeat tempo motivation from my music and walked 1.5 miles out before turning around toward home. I’m not out to set any time records when I walk but I do move along and my leg muscles were quite warm and already becoming sore from the previous walk with Jazz. I kept my stride though and was rewarded with another welcome, spring sight when I was halfway home.

I caught the sight of motion in the shoulder up ahead and when I focused on it, I saw that it was little white cabbage butterfly. I love butterflies and they have held special meaning for me since my father passed away so I was ecstatic to see the little white butterfly flitting around the dandelions growing in the shoulder. I stopped walking and just watched him fly along the shoulder and down the road until he was out of sight. The rest of the walk home I was so happy, I felt like I was the one who had wings.

I actually wanted to write this blog post last night but I was a bit too mentally and physically exhausted. That fatigue made it tempting to sleep in longer this morning but the sun was already up and shining at 7 a.m. so I did what I didn’t really want to do and got up, dressed, made my morning tea and started writing.

I can’t remember the last time I started my day writing a personal blog post. Usually I get up and take care of everyone else’s needs, whether it be my girls or my work, but today I chose a different path and decided to blog before doing anything else. Kind of like those frogs around the pond on my walk with Jazz, I took the leap into different water and created ripples that are already changing my life in a positive way.