Turning Over Familiar Leaves

Canandaigua Lake, September 1 2018

Winds whipping the leaves of a tree on the shores of Canandaigua Lake, New York

As I imagine most parents know, summer break from school tends to create some notable schedule changes. I am fortunate that I work from home as a transcriber for Rev.com because I get to spend time with my girls when they’re home. I do however still have to work and it can be challenging finding a balance between family and work during the summer when they’re home all day. Even so, I love my girls and I do my best to work just enough without having them think that all I do is work. Not easy, but I try.

Nonetheless, summer break doesn’t last forever. I’ve enjoyed every extra moment I’ve had with my girls, but school starts up for them again this coming Tuesday and it will then be back to the usual school year routine. I do my transcribing work while they’re at school Monday and Tuesday and then focus on them when they get home. For the remaining days of the week they go to their father’s house and I focus fully on transcription and college work. While I always miss my girls when I don’t have them, I know that my days without them serve and important purpose.

Along with school starting soon, my favorite season of autumn will also be starting soon. We’ve already had a couple of days of pre-fall weather here in Upstate New York and I enjoyed the cooler temperatures and ability to turn the air conditioning off and leave the windows open. Summer weather has currently returned to my area, but I know fall will settle in eventually and I look forward to it with enthusiasm.

As the familiar predictable school schedule returns and the leaves begin to turn, it’s time for me to turn over some familiar leaves. By this I mean it’s time for me to get back into blogging more regularly. With all the things I have going on in my life, writing tends to get lost in the chaos and I can’t continue to let that happen. Writing is a big part of who I am and most of the writing I’ve done over the summer has been for college courses.

College writing is very important of course and it’s earned me some wonderful grades, but I know that writing for pleasure is also essential for my creativity. My creativity is what gives me the ability to take subjects I struggle with (or even dislike) and mesh them with subjects I’m passionate about to write some pretty astounding papers. I say astounding because I am usually astounded with what I come up with.

Fortunately, I’ve already got a jump-start on flexing my writing for pleasure muscles thanks to being given the opportunity to play World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, when it was in beta testing. I’ve never played a beta version of World of Warcraft before so I was very excited to receive such an immersive first look at a game world that I already love. Playing Battle for Azeroth Bet was an amazing experience for me and I loved having even a small impact in the final release of the game that was released on August 13th of this year.

What does World of Warcraft have to do with my writing? you ask. Well, playing in that new world with its beautiful settings and interesting new story lines inspired me to start writing about new characters in my Warcraft based books. I base my characters off the “toons” I play in the game because to me, they all already have unique personalities and stories to tell. That comes from being a writer perhaps.

I’ve already written several chapters in what will eventually be a complete book that follows a handful of rather diverse characters as they journey through Azeroth. I don’t really know what will happen with the book or what can happen with the book, but that’s not going to stop me from writing. It took me so many years to get my muse back after my father died that I’m not about to let her slip away again!

A New Appreciation for Frank Lloyd Wright

 

Frank Lloyd Wright

Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyd Wright

For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking online courses from Southern New Hampshire University to get a degree in Communications. I’ve been going for many years and I’ve been through various ups and downs, but I’ve managed to maintain my A average. Well, this last term that ended last week had me worried that I might actually fail a course. The course was a fine arts course called Modernism and the first week’s assignments had me very confused and I was struggling with the ideas of modernism and art history. I received low grades the first week and I was disheartened.

I shared my struggles with my close circle of friends and they all insisted that I’d pass just fine and probably with flying colors. I appreciated the support, but I didn’t entirely believe them. As is true often in my life though, I was underestimating myself and sure enough, the class soon clicked for me and I took my grade from a C to an A. I was soon receiving perfect grades every week and I was impressed by how my brain was actually learning new things.

What made me the most happy was working on my final project. We had to do a Modernism exhibition and I chose to focus on Frank Lloyd Wright because I’d always loved his architecture. I found so much interesting information on him that I could’ve written a book, but I limited my exhibition to just under 20 slides. I’m so proud of my accomplishment in the course and of my work on the project that I’m now sharing it with you (with SNHU’s permission of course). I hope you enjoy it!

Frank Lloyd Wright

 

One Pow-Wow, Two Seasons

pow-wow dancers

Saturday morning of the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow I woke early (as I always do, even on vacation), enjoyed the hotel breakfast, and worked on a beading project I’d brought with me. I never go on a road trip without some beading supplies, as I know I’ll always have some time to work on new creations. It was already humid when I got up and I knew the day was predicted to be just as hot as Friday had been during setup.

Once fed, washed, and dressed, I headed to the Marshfield Fairgrounds to help out at with the final setup of the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow. I arrived a few hours before the gates opened and helped the board members and volunteers that were already there finish setting up the MCNAA booth. The booth usually has three tables, one covered with free, helpful information about various Native American topics and the other two holding MCNAA merchandise such as shirts, patches, and bags. One of the board members was nice enough to say I could set up a little spot on the tables to sell my beaded jewelry and I’ll go into that more in a future blog post about my first experience as a pow-wow vendor.

I set my bag with some beading stuff by one of the chairs in the MCNAA booth and I enjoyed the shade of the canopy as the day quickly warmed up. There was a breeze, but it was still quite hot by the time the event started. In previous years, I have gone out and danced in the heat and the sun, but on that Saturday of the pow-wow I chose to remain in the shade of the booth to assist other MCNAA volunteers with answering questions, selling merchandise, and helping out however I could.

While the heat was too much for me to dance in, there were many dancers that went out into the Circle and danced. I have the utmost respect for them and don’t know how they do it sometimes. I was sweating just sitting in the shade, so I can only imagine how hot it was dancing in the sun in full regalia. (All images courtesy of MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow Page)

Despite the heat, I enjoyed my time volunteering at the MCNAA pow-wow on Saturday and made sure I stayed hydrated. When I wasn’t busy helping people who came up to the booth, I would work on my beading project and also on mending my fringed shawl that I accidentally ripped at a pow-wow the previous year. Overall, I felt it was a wonderful day for the pow-wow and that MCNAA received some nice donations, sold several shirts, and some patches.

We had a special meal that evening to celebrate Harry the Hawk’s birthday and it was nice sitting down with dancers, volunteers, and vendors to discuss various things.

pow-wow meal

The weather prediction for Sunday called for much cooler temperatures with a chance of rain and that prediction arrived quite accurately. While Saturday felt like late summer, the weather Sunday felt like early spring with temperatures in the 50’s, overcast skies, and a cool breeze. I welcomed the change wholeheartedly as it meant I’d be able to dance in the Circle that day without worrying about getting sunburned or becoming overheated.

As the morning was quite chilly and there were fewer attendees expected due to the weather, the grounds were quite deserted when I arrived in the morning. I sat in my car while myself and the other volunteers waited for people to arrive. I busied myself putting the finishing touches on the jewelry display I’d updated for that day (again details will follow later).

Eventually I ventured out of my car to see where I could help MCNAA that day. I asked one of the board members if I could set the booth up and she said yes and that was the first time I’ve set up the entire booth mostly by myself. I was thrilled to do it! I love volunteering because I feel needed, useful, and helpful. Being able to set up the whole booth by putting on the tablecloths, setting out the information, and setting out the merchandise made me feel like I served an important purpose. I may not have set everything out perfectly, but I did my best and was proud of what I accomplished.

MCNAA booth

On Saturday, I was too hot to wear my shawl, but on Sunday it was so much cooler that I kept my lighter shawl around my shoulders and used my heavier shawl as a blanket on my legs. I was happy with the cooler weather though and eager to get out and dance when the drums started. There were far fewer people in attendance that day and not many dancers, but that didn’t keep me out of the Circle. My two favorite dancers, Harry the Hawk and Lee Braveheart were out there dancing and I joined them whenever possible. They were happy to see me in the Circle and their smiles and encouragement always lift my spirit, and my feet!

I danced almost every inter-tribal song that day and found the weather pleasantly cool. I did realize that I was very much out of pow-wow dancing shape and vowed to work on that before the next pow-wow. When I wasn’t dancing, I was at the MCNAA booth helping where I could. Despite the low attendance, I felt it was still a good day and I was invigorated by the dancing.

sneak up dance pow-wow

Sneak up dance featuring my favorite dancers, Harry the Hawk and Lee Braveheart.

The pow-wow wrapped up early when it started to rain and the cooler temperatures made it much less exhausting during take down of the pow-wow. Everything that we had put up Friday had to come down and usually the taking down goes faster than the putting up. It was still a small but determined crew of volunteers doing the work, myself included, and we got things down relatively quickly. I said my good-byes to Harry and Lee and promised them I’d try to make it to the September pow-wow at Plug Pond in Haverhill, MA.

When everything was down and the MCNAA crew was ready to head out, I said goodbye to everyone and enjoyed the hugs and well-wishes. As I drove back to my hotel for the night, I was beaming with joy and my spirit was soaring from the pow-wow atmosphere. For me, nothing compares to volunteering for the MCNAA and being able to dance in the Circle. It is a much needed reminder that I matter in this world and that we can all make a difference, if we’re just willing to make the effort.

Setting Up the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

Pow-wow grounds before people start arriving.

When I first started attending the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) pow-wows, I had no idea what went on behind the scenes. I just knew that I enjoyed every aspect of being at the pow-wow including being among the people, watching the dancing, listening to the music, sampling the food, and strolling through the vendor booths. I would just go, set up my chair somewhere near the circle, and watch.

Not long after I started attending MCNAA’s pow-wows, I felt compelled to do more. I’d made and brought some baked goods to share with the MCNAA volunteers and dancers, but I hadn’t fully stepped into what would become a very fulfilling volunteer role for me. I was actually reluctant to offer too much help at first because I thought they might wonder why I was being so helpful. An odd thing to think now that I know how much help MCNAA needs and appreciates, but it’s kind of how my mind works.

As the years passed, I went from making baked goods, to helping with a few setup things on the weekend of the pow-wow, to going to the grounds on Friday morning to help set up the area for the pow-wow and then volunteering in the booth during the pow-wow weekend. The main reason I went out to Massachusetts during Memorial Day weekend this year and the past couple years was to help MCNAA as much as possible with the Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow. I always find it to be a very rewarding experience and as anyone who knows me understands, I love being useful!

To help with setup this year, I headed down to Marshfield, MA from Seabrook, NH in the morning. I knew from previous years that there would be a lot of traffic due to the holiday weekend, especially the further south I went because people were heading down to Cape Cod. As I had nothing pressing holding me in Seabrook, I headed down earlier than necessary to the Marshfield Fairgrounds where the pow-wow was taking place. Even with the slowdowns of traffic I encountered around Boston and as I neared the Cape Cod access, I arrived at the grounds an hour earlier than I was expected to be there.

It was a beautiful, breezy day on that Friday, but quickly becoming rather hot and humid. I’d thoroughly sprayed myself with sunblock to avoid getting burned and was stocked up on water and Gatorade to stay hydrated during the day’s work. I parked my car in the shade at the fairgrounds and finished eating the breakfast sandwich I’d grabbed from Dunkin’ Donuts in Seabrook. The Marshfield Fairgrounds have permanent outbuildings setup for food during the Marshfield Fair and a few larger buildings around, one with a nice little pond and waterfall out front. There’s ample parking at the grounds and the restrooms are quite large and always clean.

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

Grounds before the circle and canopies are set up.

Although I was there earlier than expected, I was not the first to arrive, as one of the board members who lived nearby was already there. I chatted with him and one of the vendors who always arrives early until the rest of the MCNAA board members arrived with the Uhaul full of pow-wow necessities. In hindsight, I wished I’d gone to help load the Uhaul because I obviously had time and it’s usually only a few people loading it up, most of them MCNAA board members. Perhaps next year I’ll think of that sooner.

This year on the grounds a mother fox had decided to have her babies under one of the outbuildings and there were signs up telling people to keep out. I saw the mother fox once during my time there, but never saw the babies. I love foxes and considered them a good omen and sign of good luck, so I knew it was going to be a great weekend.

fox sign

Setting up for an MCNAA pow-wow requires setting up the canopy the drum groups play under, putting up the dance Circle, assembling the canopies for the MCNAA booth, and making sure the vendors know where to set up when they arrive. Vendors arrive all throughout the day to set up and there’s a master map showing their spots, although many of them have the same spots every year and know where to go.

One of the biggest things to set up is the drum canopy because it’s so long and tall, but myself, a board member, and another volunteer got it set up in record time this year. Although I’ve been helping with setup for a couple of years, I was called a “newbie” a few times this year, which actually made me feel good because this newbie learns her way around pretty fast!

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

A small but mighty crew of volunteers and board members.

Once the drum canopy was set up, I helped with the dance Circle. There’s always a discussion about how large the Circle should be and it usually goes from too small to too big or vice versa before it’s just right. I just help by carrying stakes or rope because I’m not that great at pounding the wood stakes into the ground. By the time I was done helping with that, the other volunteers and board members already had the MCNAA canopies set up and the folding tables out and in the usual pile until they were needed the next day. I paused to eat some of the lunch wrap I’d bought at the store that morning and drink some Gatorade before looking to see where I was needed next.

I then spent some time trying to help set up the canopy that goes at the main gate to the pow-wow, but we didn’t have much luck because the canopy was on its last legs. After that, I hung around with the board members as more vendors came and we chatted about various things. It was quite hot by that time and I spent some time in the air-conditioned Uhaul enjoying the cool air and shade. Although I was hot, tired, and sweaty, I was happy because I was being useful.

Volunteering my time to help the MCNAA always makes me feel so fulfilled, wanted, and needed. It’s always a rather small crew setting up the pow-wows, despite various requests for volunteers before the events. I come all the way from the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York to help them out for their pow-wows and it’s always well worth the trip. I truly wish more people would come to volunteer with set up and/or during the pow-wows, but I don’t know what the magic spell is to make that happen.

I know that people are busy with this, that, and the other thing, but I also sometimes think that everyone just expects “someone else” to do what needs to be done. I think this because I used to be one of those people. But now that I volunteer regularly for the MCNAA pow-wows and whatever else I can help with, I know that I’ll never think that way again. There is always a need for help and if a shy, semi-introverted girl like myself can put myself out there into unfamiliar territory, so can anyone else. I promise it’s a truly rewarding experience that renews the spirit, energizes the soul, and warms the heart.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the MCNAA (no matter where you live), visit this Volunteer Opportunities page on the MCNAA website. The MCNAA needs grant writers, office volunteers, volunteers for special events, volunteers to serve on the MCNAA fundraising committee, and volunteers to serve on the pow-wow committee. Native and non-Native are welcome to help!

Birthday Gifts To Myself

calendar page Lidancie Arts

Today’s the day!

Today I turn 41 years old, but honestly, I’ve already felt 41 for a while. This year I was fortunate enough to have my girls the weekend before my birthday and I’ve been essentially celebrating my birthday all weekend long. On Saturday, my mother treated my girls and I to birthday lunch at Olive Garden (one of my favorite restaurants) and then we spent the rest of the day just relaxing at my mom’s house in the lovely weather. As a continued celebration of my birthday yesterday, I took my girls to see the new Star Wars movie, Solo, and treated us all to overpriced movie theater snacks. We all enjoyed the movie and then went to ice cream afterwards.

I’m quite sure I’ve never celebrated my birthday over more than one day, so I’ve been enjoying this unusual treat this year. For me, the best gifts are spending time with my girls and family, having good friends, and being able to do what makes me happy. If I need material items, I can just buy them for myself, so wrapped gifts aren’t really necessary anymore. Thus far, 41 is off to a really good start!

As I continue to celebrate my birthday today on the actual day I was born, I decided to give myself a very important gift. This year’s birthday gift to myself is that I will spend the entire day while the girls are at school writing. Writing future blog posts, writing in my Warcraft fan fiction, writing outlines for future stories, whatever I want!

When I was a teenager, I promised myself I’d be a published author by the time I was 30 years old. That deadline came and went without realizing that goal, but I haven’t given up on that dream. I do have one self-published Kindle book, but it’s non-fiction and while I think it’s a good story, my heart is really in fantasy fiction writing. I love that anything is possible when magic is involved and that type of freedom helps my writing go wherever it wants to take me. My muse is very much alive these days, but I have trouble making the time to let her out. Hence, today’s birthday gift of writing!

I think like any writer, I doubt my own abilities to tell something new and different in my own interesting style. However, as I’ve read in many inspirational writing quotes, although something might have been told many times before, it hasn’t been told by ME and with my voice. Therefore, I feel like I still have much to offer this world as an author. At my core, despite the many paying jobs I’ve had and have in my life, I am and have always been a writer. The universe gave me this crazy imagination for a reason and today I’m going to channel it into my keyboard and onto pages and pages of new adventures!

The Trip That Almost Didn’t Happen

massachusetts-welcome-sign

One of the welcome signs for Massachusetts.

Every May for the past few years, I’ve headed out to Massachusetts on Memorial Day weekend so I can volunteer at and attend the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow at the Marshfield Fairgrounds in Marshfield, MA. I love helping out and dancing at the pow-wows and I arrive in New England a few days before the pow-wow to embark on other adventures, such as spending a day in Boston or heading to the beach to enjoy the sights, sounds, and scent of the ocean.

However, with the various problems I’ve had these past few months such as major plumbing repairs and needing a new transmission and clutch in my Matrix, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make my annual Memorial Day trip. Thankfully, through something almost akin to divine intervention, I am actually able to make the trip. Today is finally the day I head out to New England where so many people, places, and events happen that lift my spirit and I’m so excited!

My last road trip to Massachusetts was last August with my girls and we’ll be doing our annual summer vacation out there again this August, but my solo trips are always a different adventure than family trips. These solo trips have been one of the many things that have helped me better understand who I am as I expand my horizons and bravely adventure alone. My first ever trip out to Massachusetts and into Boston in November of 2011 was one of my most memorable experiences and was the start of my New England adventures.

The weather for my trip as predicted now is supposed to be beautiful. There’s a chance of rain on the weekend during the pow-wow, but I’ve danced in the rain before and I can certainly do so again. If you’re in the area of Marshfield, MA, I urge you to come to the pow-wow because it’s always an amazing, educational, and memorable experience. It got a semi introvert like me out dancing in front of people, so it’s obviously capable of great things! You can find information about the pow-wow on the MCNAA website or the MCNAA Facebook event page. If you have the time, we can always use more volunteers too!

As I head out to New England this morning, I’ll probably pinch myself at least once to make sure I’m not dreaming. Even though I’ve made so many of these road trips they’ve become almost second nature, they will never become old to me. Every trip out brings new and unexpected adventures and I revel in every moment of it! After the past few months, I feel like I definitely need and deserve a bit of fun and I’m certain I’ll have much more than a bit!

A Day That Snuck Up

My father and I in the Adirondack Mountains. My favorite picture of us.

With the prolonged winter weather, plumbing issues, and car trouble I’ve experienced this year, I’ve often lost track of days as I work through it all. The late arrival of spring has me thinking it’s still April some days and therefore I was surprised to realize that one day in particular snuck up on me unawares: today, my father’s birthday.

As my mother said incredulously yesterday, my father would’ve turned 77 this year. That’s mind boggling to me because in my mind, my parents don’t really age. My father left this world when he was 68. His health had deteriorated in the last years of his life. But fortunately with the passage of time, I usually remember him as the healthy, fit man he was in his 50s. That really is a blessing and something I’m certain makes his spirit happy.

In past years I’ve felt sorrow in the days leading up to his birthday and on his birthday, but not this year. Admittedly, I’ve been stressed about getting my car’s transmission fixed, dealing with yard work, and so on, but even without those things, I don’t think I would’ve felt sad.

I miss my father every single day and I wish he was still here to help me with so many things, but overall I feel like I’m in a good place in my life. I’m content and happy and don’t feel as lost as I used to. I believe I owe that in large part to everything I inherited from my father. He taught me to always see the bright side of life, to look at things from different angles, and to appreciate all the blessings I have.

Life isn’t always easy, but it’s always a gift. So while I no longer have my father here to give gifts to on his birthday, he continues to give me the greatest gifts of love, strength, faith, gratitude, acceptance, and determination.

A Spring That Finally Sprung!

bumblebee on daffodil lidancie arts

A local bumblebee enjoying my daffodils.

I was going to write this blog post last week when the weather warmed up, but then they predicted snow over the weekend, so I decided to wait. The snow did indeed fall this past Sunday morning, proving that the unusually wintry weather of April wasn’t done yet. Fortunately, the next day was warm and sunny, which ended April on a good note. These past couple days marking the start of May have felt more like summer than spring, but after the seemingly never-ending winter, I’m okay with that!

april snow

Snow on 4/29/18. Ugh!

I was doing pretty well through this winter, especially when February was surprisingly warm and it seemed like spring was coming early. Then March arrived and dumped several feet of snow on us here in the Finger Lakes of New York. While April didn’t dump as much snow, it still snowed and was colder than it should’ve been and it seemed like spring would never truly arrive. March and April, the months when spring is supposed to have arrived, were my hardest winter months yet and I got more down than I have in many years. So when I say that I welcome the heat, the humidity, and even the bugs, I’m not kidding. I’ll take bugs over snow any day.

cats in window

Angel and Daisy loving the open window.

When the warmth and rebirth of spring finally arrive, it starts to feel once again like anything is possible. No longer trapped inside by the weather, I’ve been enjoying longer walks with Jazzmin on our country roads. The local birds have been feasting on my feeders and I love hearing their songs and watching them from my desk chair as I work. I especially appreciate the longer hours of daylight as I have more time when I finish work to get outside and breathe the spring air and feel warm instead of freezing. With nice weather brings the need for yard work (which I hate) but I know it’s all part of the warmer months and I take it in stride. I’d rather mow my lawn than snow blow my driveway!

The summer temperatures of late are set to give way to more spring like weather the next few days with predicted rain and possible thunderstorms. Rain may put a damper on things, but I don’t have to shovel rain, so it can fall as it likes. The long, extended winter has increased my appreciation for the wonders and beauty of spring and shown me once again that I can endure tough times. I plan to revel in every warm moment of spring and summer and slowly erase the uncomfortable memories of a cold and snowy winter.

The Best Part of My Day and My Life

My girls being their fun selves.

The best part of my day and my life is any time I get to spend with my daughters. I have my girls every Monday and Tuesday, part of Wednesday and every other weekend and I enjoy every moment I have with them. We are a triumphant trio and we always have fun together. We make each other laugh, we create unique memories, we share inside jokes, and so much more.

I always look forward to the time I have with my girls and I make sure I have all or most of my work and college assignments done before I get them. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I get them up and off to school, do my transcription work, finish by the time I pick them up at 2 p.m. and then just focus on enjoying the rest of the day with them. Although I’ve gotten better at being alone without them, I never look forward to my time without them.

Tuesdays are always our leftover or hodge podge dinner night where we all eat leftovers or I make them each their favorite food. This past Tuesday, I made Jaycie and cheese and Jordan polish sausage and red beans and rice. I was planning on having turkey leftovers for dinner so that was just a matter of heating things up when their food was done. Even though I was almost a short order cook working in the kitchen to make three different meals, I was ridiculously happy doing so. Jordan would periodically come into the kitchen and we’d talk about our days while Jaycie was in the living room playing with her favorite Voltron toy.

There was just something so magical about making that food in the kitchen Tuesday night. I was working within the glow of the holiday lights decorating my kitchen, the room was warm as I had the stovetop burners going, and it was already growing dark outside. I felt so content and happy and at peace knowing that my most important and best role in this world is being a mom to my two girls.

A few months ago, Jordan started playing World of Warcraft, an online game I’ve been playing since 2008. She grew up watching me play it and she was so happy when I finally said she could play. Now don’t get me wrong, my girls and I aren’t lumps that sit around playing games all the time. We always go for walks and spend time outside when the weather is nice, but with winter settling in, we all need things inside to keep us occupied.

Plus, in many ways playing Warcraft together is bringing my oldest daughter and I closer. That may sound odd since we play in two different rooms, but when she’s playing one of her characters and I’m able to help her or she’s able to help me, that strengthens our bond. Having the enjoyment of that game in common and appreciating how it helps us escape the stresses of daily life helps us stay close and increases my daughter’s trust in me. She knows that she can ask me for help in real life just as much as she can ask for help in the game and that I’ll always be there for her and support her.

When we were playing the game this past Tuesday night, we both had toons doing the same quest and I would periodically yell down the hall from the living room to her bedroom and ask what stage she was at. My home isn’t very big at under 1,000 square feet, so I wasn’t shouting very loud to be heard and it was just another fun aspect of our relationship. I could have typed my questions in the game, but the verbal communication felt more personal somehow.

What was Jaycie doing while Jordan and I were playing Warcraft, you ask? She was sitting on the couch next to my desk playing with Voltron and watching funny cat videos that I’d periodically turn to watch with her. Do I think Jaycie feels left out because she doesn’t play the game? Nope. She has no interest in playing Warcraft and she’s quite content usually to play with her toys in her own little world. Plus, Jordan and I only play for about an hour before bedtime, so we all spend most of the evening together doing various things.

The hardest part of my life is when I go from such a high of togetherness, love, and contentment like what I felt on Tuesday night and every other moment with my girls, to being alone with just my pets when I don’t have the girls. I can get pretty down sometimes when I don’t have my girls, even when I keep myself occupied with work, college, beading, and Warcraft. Nothing else in this world compares to the joy I feel spending time with my girls and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a mom and it has always been and will always be my most fulfilling and important role in life.

Love Is An Apple Pie

heart apple pie

Love is an apple pie

Today marks eight years since the day my father passed away. As my father was a great cook and baker, I felt that an ideal way to honor his spirit this year was to bake an apple pie. I don’t actually remember my father baking many apple pies, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t. That just means that my memory is getting foggy in my “old age.”

What makes this pie lovingly special is that I made it with apples that my daughters picked just for me. My favorite pie apples are Gala apples because they’re so sweet and juicy. The girls went apple picking with their father last weekend and picked several apples that they thought were Gala. My youngest also picked some smaller “mystery” apples and I used all eight apples of various sizes in the pie. I have a favorite peeler I use when making pie and I’ve gotten quite good and fast at peeling. Once I peeled all the apples, I cut them  into thin, small pieces to ensure that they cooked through completely and were nice and soft. I use the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe for apple pie with a few changes to make it my own.

The house smelled wonderful yesterday while the pie was baking, but as usual a bit of the pie juices leaked out and dripped onto the bottom of my oven. That didn’t smell so good, but it seems to be part of the process when I make pies so I’m used to it. I used a bit of the extra pie crust to make a heart on the top of the pie because everything I cook or bake is always made with love. To make sure the pie was “safe” for human consumption, I tried a piece last night and found it quite yummy. The apples in it were a bit more tart than I usually use so perhaps they aren’t Gala after all, but as they were picked by my daughters and used in a pie to honor my father, they are the best apples in the world!

A Highly Successful Vacation Redo!

My girls standing at Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA

I can honestly say that this most recent vacation with my girls was the best one we’ve had so far. We crammed a lot into it while still finding time to relax and best of all, we had fun! Having spent last year’s vacation in hospitals, Jaycie was eager to do things on this vacation and every day she enthusiastically asked, “What are we doing tomorrow?” She wanted every day filled with something and for a girl who admits that she’s lazy and is proud of that fact, it was an amazing thing to experience!

While the drive out was filled with the usual traffic on 495 the last hour or so, we all had a good time. The girls watched movies on my laptop and I listened to my music up front. We stopped plenty of times for leg stretches and snacks and I didn’t worry about being stuck in traffic because we were in no rush.

We arrived at the Best Western Merrimack Valley in Haverhill, MA a little after 5 p.m. and I was immediately impressed by the cleanliness of the facility and the friendliness of the staff. Our room was on the third floor and I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had our own private balcony with a sliding glass door leading out to it. Being on the top floor, the room had high, upward slanting ceilings and was very spacious. We had two queen beds and they were very comfortable with clean bedding. The room felt very homey and welcoming and I knew we’d be happy there.

Shortly after unpacking the car, the girls and I headed down the road to the 99 Restaurant. We don’t have 99’s where we live in New York, so it’s a treat going to one in New England. Although the restaurant was a little busy for a Wednesday night, we had a great waitress and got our food relatively quickly. The food was delicious and the girls devoured their food, while I took half of mine back to the hotel to eat later. It was a great first evening on our vacation.

The next morning, we headed into Newburyport for the Newburyport Whale Watch. This was what Jaycie had been most excited about and her excitement continued for the entire cruise. She loves boats and being out on the ocean and she was smiling, animated, and happy the entire time. We saw a large pod of dolphins, a sunfish called a mola mola, a couple minke whales, and a humpback whale. At one point, Jaycie was walking back and forth through the lower level of the boat checking one side and the other for whales as the narrator of the tour suggested. She’s spent most of the summer relaxing on the couch or outside swinging so watching her be so animated was almost like seeing a different child. Jordan enjoyed herself too, but was a bit more reserved in a typical 15-year-old fashion. She’d go up on the upper levels of the boat or sit inside reading the book she brought along.

We ate lunch on the boat and weren’t quite ready for dinner yet so we headed into Amesbury, MA to Friendly’s for some ice cream. Ice cream after several hours in the sun on a boat was just what we needed and we decided to just have dinner back at the hotel after picking up some groceries.

On Friday, we headed into Salem, MA because the girls had never been there. I’ve visited twice before, once in October and once in the summer, so I knew my way around pretty well. We walked the streets a bit and I took the girls to the Salem Witch Memorial and around the graveyard a little. We then ate lunch in Red’s Sandwich Shop, which was delicious! Jordan and I brought over half of our lunches with us and they were worth carrying around Salem for a bit before we returned to the car. We visited the Peabody Essex Museum just for the gift shop and to enjoy the air conditioning and then decided it was time to head back to the hotel. We ended up back at the hotel most evenings by 5 p.m. and that was fine with all of us because we were tired.

Saturday, we headed into Boston via the Oak Grove T Station and we got in shortly before lunch. Comic Con Boston was going on so we headed toward the Convention Center just to people watch. On the way there we stopped at South Station for lunch in the food court area because we could all get what we wanted and it was nice and air conditioned! We eventually reached where Comic Con was happening and sat down outside to watch people coming and going. It was fun seeing all the people dressed in costumes and trying to guess what some of them were. Jaycie didn’t quite understand why Jordan and I were so excited seeing people in costumes, but she was a trooper and made the walk for us.

After that we headed back to South Station and then took the necessary subway lines back to where we’d parked the car at Oak Grove. It was a good day to be in Boston because there had been some clouds and a nice breeze, but we were all hot and tired nonetheless. I showered once we got back to the hotel to wash the T humidity off of me and we just relaxed for the evening again.

I’d determined Sunday would be our day of not doing anything and that’s indeed what it turned out to be. We hung out at the hotel for most of the day then drove to a nearby town in New Hampshire to get Popeye’s and Long John Silver’s for dinner. We don’t have either of those chains near us so again, it was a treat for us. I got my beloved hush puppies from Long John’s while the girls got chicken and biscuits and we all ate happily back at the hotel.

Monday, we headed up to Portsmouth, NH for a bit and then drove the short ways up to Nubble Lighthouse in Maine. There’s not enough parking at the lighthouse for the endless stream of cars coming in so we ended up parking at the ice cream place up the road and walking down to the lighthouse area for a bit. We then walked back up the hill and enjoyed ridiculous large “kiddie” size ice cream dishes as a reward for our exercise.

The highlight of Tuesday was heading to Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire in the afternoon. The girls had a ball walking and splashing in the waves and as they both said that was their favorite part of the trip, we’ll be spending more time at the beach next summer. Actually, when I asked Jaycie what her favorite part of the day was at the end of the day she’d always say getting whatever toy I happened to buy her. When I asked Jordan what her favorite part was, she’d say not being in a hospital. So having both girls agree that the beach was the best part was quite impressive.

Although the hotel was nice, clean, conveniently located, and had a lovely indoor pool that Jaycie enjoyed, we all three agreed that next year we’re going to rent a cottage on Plum Island, MA again. It’s just nice staying in a home where I can make dinner and we can just hang out and enjoy our surroundings. I’m going to try and reserve the cottage I stayed in our first week long vacation in New England because it was on Plum Island sound and I loved watching the various birds fly overhead every morning and see the tide come in and out from the sound. As I have a whole year to save up for next summer’s trip, I know I won’t have to type my fingers off the last couple months before the trip and I won’t feel quite so pressured. Next summer sounds like a long way away considering this summer isn’t over yet, but I know it will be here sooner than we expect!

Revving It Up!

blue keyboard

This past spring one of my closest friends sent me a link to an article sharing various work from home opportunities involving transcribing. One of the company’s listed was Rev. As I’ve been typing fast ever since I took keyboarding class in middle school, transcribing seemed like an interesting new avenue to explore. A highly appealing part of Rev was that they pay every Monday and for a self-employed person, that was music to my ears!

I’ve been a full-time freelance content writer since I quit my secretarial job in July 0f 2013 and while I’ve loved being able to work from home and have more time with my girls, being self-employed has its challenges. I’ve enjoyed success on several content marketplace sites but quite often I’d find myself “chasing the money” as I hoped a client would accept my work or waited for someone to buy my articles listed for sale. Reading that Rev paid for all accepted work and paid weekly was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I went through the online application process for Rev, which involved an online grammar test followed by a test with a sample transcription file. Although I’ve been a writer for almost 30 years and am currently majoring in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University, I was still ridiculously nervous taking the grammar test. I was afraid all the rules I’ve learned over the years would fly out of my brain. Fortunately, I did fine with the grammar test and then it was on to the transcription test.

When I started the test, I was immediately impressed with the user-friendly transcription editor Rev has created. There are numerous options that make transcribing files easier and they have an online style guide that helps transcribers understand the correct formatting for Rev. I don’t remember how long it took me to do that test transcription job but I remember my hands shaking as I did it because I really wanted to pass and see what Rev was all about.

Much to my delight, Rev accepted my application and I promptly started taking a few transcription jobs during the week. I was still mostly working as a freelance content writer and was also doing all my usual jobs of being a mom, homeowner, and college student. In hindsight, I should’ve started typing more frequently for Rev much earlier because the more I transcribe, the better I become and the more money I can earn.

A few months ago, I threw myself into Rev as my full-time job because I had fallen in love with the work. I’ve transcribed so many different types of audio files and learned a lot in the process. The jobs are brief glimpses into other areas of the world and industries I previously knew nothing about. Quite often I end my day feeling like I’ve had some really interesting conversations with people until I remember that I’m just the unseen transcriber listening in. Even so, it’s helped me feel like I’m more part of the world, which is a great thing for me since I work from home and live in a rather rural area.

I started as a Rookie as all newbies to Rev do and quickly moved up to the next level of Revver and in early June, had transcribed enough minutes to become their highest level of Revver+. The amount of jobs available daily is astounding and even on light job days, I always manage to find something I can do. I’m happy to report that I’ve received the highest grade of five on almost every job I’ve submitted (one 4.5 out of 5 in 30 graded jobs isn’t bad in my opinion!) and I often get five-star reviews from customers. I do my best on every job, submit every job on time and love that they provide feedback and review opportunities.

As a writer, I view these transcription jobs as little stories that people are telling. That may sound odd when referring to conference calls, video interviews, focus group meetings, and so on, but to me they’re all people with a story to tell and information to share. My experience as a writer of fiction and nonfiction helps me format the jobs in a way that makes sense even during times when the speaker might not pause for breath through a long discussion. My job is to help them make their information shareable and searchable and I do my best to always submit quality work.

An interesting thing I’ve discovered while working for Rev is that I’m good at understanding certain accents. I credit that ability to my love of watching TV shows and movies with various accents throughout my life. While I might struggle a bit at the beginning of a job with an accent, as I continue to listen and type, it starts making sense and I barely notice the accent anymore. By the time I’m done typing the job and do my final listen through, I can usually fill in any parts I marked as inaudible during the first lesson. Learning how people speak in other areas of the world and understanding the context of the conversation helps everything make sense during the final listen through.

I can proudly say that my upcoming family vacation with my girls has been made possible in large part by my job as a Rev transcriber. I’ve been working diligently since late June to save up for this trip and I’m so proud of myself. On days that I have my girls I’ve been doing two to three jobs and on days I don’t have them I do three to five and have been working from sunrise to sunset. I feel so accomplished at the end of the day and I really love being paid reliably every Monday from Rev.

Another great part of Rev is that they keep improving their transcription editor to make it more versatile and user-friendly for Revvers. I love the ability to create my own shortcuts for commonly used words because that improves my speed and prevents my fingers tripping over words and slowing me down. I have my own transcription language now thanks to Rev and I find myself wishing their editor worked in everything I typed so I could get my messages across faster.

Rev really is an innovative and intuitive company that listens to their transcribers and their customers and I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to work for them. Working for them has greatly improved the life of this self-employed mom and self-sufficient woman and I’m sure numerous Revvers feel as I do. So keep up the good work Rev as I hope to be Revving it up for years to come!

Swing Set Loving Sweetie!

swing set

Jaycie on the swing set at my house.

My youngest daughter Jaycie turns 11 today! Her favorite part about birthdays? The presents, of course! My favorite part about her birthday is that it marks the day when she came hiccupping and kicking out into the world and showed everyone her truly unique spirit. I can’t imagine my life without her and her older sister and I know I am so very blessed to have my girls!

I’m picking Jaycie and her sister up later this morning and will have them both for half of the day before they go back to their father to celebrate with that side of the family. Jaycie wanted a Scooby-Doo theme for her decorations so I was up early this morning hanging decorations and streamers to celebrate her special day. I’m sure she’ll like them, but I know all she’ll really be thinking about today is opening presents!

Jaycie’s favorite past time for a majority of her life has been swinging on a swing set. I still remember the first time she figured out how to do it by herself and it seems like she hasn’t stopped swinging since! She’s had physical and mental developmental delays her entire life and while that means she’s not like other “normal” kids her age, she’s never let it bother her. In fact, very little seems to bother Jaycie except maybe when her older sister tries to intentionally bug her.

Jaycie getting tickled by her older sister.

When Jaycie is outside swinging, she is the happiest kid in the world! She grins the entire time and periodically pauses to talk to our outside cat Owl or just chat about little made up adventures in her mind. She can literally spend an hour swinging and that just amazes me. She doesn’t get bored, she doesn’t get tired, and most times when she comes inside it’s because it got too hot out or she’s hungry. I think she finds great freedom in swinging because it’s an activity that involves motion but that isn’t slowed down by her lack of physical strength.

As with every birthday my girls have, I can’t believe how much they’ve grown! I can’t believe Jaycie is 11 and going into sixth grade to start middle school this fall. As she’s already taller than me (I’m 5’5”) I imagine she’ll fit right in with the other middle school kids and no longer be one of the tallest kids in the hallway. Although it feels a bit odd to me that my youngest daughter is taller than me, I’m constantly encouraging her to stand up straight and love her height. There’s so much to see in the world and she’s lucky that she can see it from such a high vantage point!

Turning “Old” Years Old

Senior Picture, 1995.

Me now in 2017. Not too bad for being “old.” 😉

This Sunday, June 4th, I’ll turn 40 years old. According to my 14-year-old daughter, I won’t be considered “old” until I’m 40. So I guess I’ll be enjoying my last couple of days of being “young.” I’m not upset with her for considering 40 old and I imagine I thought the same thing when I was her age. I think when I was her age the idea of turning 40 was beyond my comprehension, but now that’s it’s almost upon me, I’m not the least bit concerned about it.

When I was younger and I thought about turning 40, I expected that I’d have some big bash with all my friends and family. I will be going to lunch with my daughters and mother on my birthday but as my friends all live in different states, I won’t be seeing them. There won’t be a big 40th birthday party for me and I’m okay with that. I know how blessed I am to have my wonderful family and great friends. I’ll save the big bash for my 50th I guess. 😉

If you’d asked me in my teens where I thought I’d be at 40, I would have said happily married with children. Well the happily married didn’t work out, but I do have two amazing daughters that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I probably also would have said that I’d be a published fantasy author by now and that hasn’t happened either. Mind you, I haven’t exactly been trying to get anything published for the last couple of decades so the fault is my own. I also haven’t written much of my own work in the last decade despite my continuing desire to do so. Perhaps I’ll spend some time writing today to dust off that area of my brain before I become too “old” for such creative endeavors.

Honestly, age is just a number to me and I’ve felt that way for many years. I still have the same spark and energy that I had when I was a teenager, even if my body doesn’t always agree. I was a positive person in my teens, but I think I’m an even more positive person now because I’ve gone through so many life challenges and come out stronger. I know who I am and what I want far better than I did in my teens, 20’s and early 30’s and I’m sure my 40’s will bring me even greater self-awareness.

To all those young women (and men) out there who fear getting “old” and “aging” I want to say that fear will only hold you back. Embrace every day for the gift that it is and relish all the amazing moments in your life. Don’t waste time wishing to be older or younger, just love who you are and what makes you different, unique, and a force to be reckoned with.

Shyness and Marketing Don’t Mix

Lidancie Arts

Shameless self-promotion 😉

When making a living as a freelance writer and jewelry business owner, one can’t be shy. It’s up to me to market myself across social networks. As someone who tends to be shy, that’s not always an easy thing. Regardless, writing content and creating jewelry and then hoping that people will stumble across it and buy it, wasn’t working.

Overcoming the fear of being a pest

The hardest part about marketing myself online is convincing myself that I’m not being a pest. I’ve read countless articles about how to do online marketing and I’ve even taken a marketing class from SNHU, but the idea of shoving my posts in the faces of my followers every few hours on a daily basis makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t want to come off as an annoying salesperson and irritate my followers to the point where they stop following me. However, an important way to show a larger online audience my writing and jewelry is to promote it continually on social media. Although I was afraid I’d lose followers, I’ve actually gained quite a few new followers on Twitter since I started my online marketing efforts. I have also sold several articles posted on Constant Content. I find this motivating, surprising, and reassuring. Another vital way of growing my audience is by creating interesting and engaging blog posts. To that end, I will be posting here far more often.

Brand consistency

One of the many things I’ve learned from reading about online marketing is the importance of brand consistency. I admit that I didn’t really have that until recently. I had an Etsy shop that kept changing names, a blog that was called “Rambling Julie”, a Facebook page that changed names as often as the Etsy shop and a pseudonym that had nothing to do with any of those things. To solve that whole messy situation, I knew I had to come up with a name I could use for my writing, jewelry, and social media platforms. That’s why I came up with Lidancie Arts. For more information on the origin of that name, you can read “A Much Needed Name Change.”

To keep that consistent flow going, I’ve changed the name of this blog from “Rambling Julie” aka “JulieAnn’s Voice” to Lidancie Arts. I was even clever enough to redirect traffic from my old WordPress blog to this site. I think I’m getting better at this marketing stuff…

Using bitly and Hootsuite

I’ve done some casual online marketing of my writing and jewelry in the past, but it was infrequent and ineffective. A few weeks ago, I decided it was past time I change that and fully engage in marketing myself online. To that end, I created bitly links to all of my jewelry listings and my writer profile. I then started using Hootsuite to write and schedule posts throughout the day that includes those bitly links. I use Hootsuite’s bulk message uploader, which requires using Excel to set up a spreadsheet of posts and then upload that file to Hootsuite. I could write the posts in Hootsuite if I wanted to, but I’ve found the Excel spreadsheet approach easier.

Writing every post

I start every day by opening Excel and modifying the previous day’s spreadsheet for a new day of posts. I re-use some posts and tweak a few things here and there, or I write entirely new posts. My point is that I write every single post that appears on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. I’m not paying anyone else to do it because that’s just not who I am. Even if I could pay some marketing firm to handle my social media marketing, I wouldn’t do it. I am the creator of my writing and my jewelry and I know my work better than anyone else does. I feel it’s only right that I take personal responsibility for marketing my own creations.

What exactly I’m “selling”

If you follow me on any of my social media channels, you probably know by now that I’m a freelance writer and jewelry designer/creator. I feel I should elaborate on both of those elements because tweets and status updates can only convey so much.

Freelance Writer

As a freelance writer, I’m currently working primarily for a site called Constant Content. This is an online content marketplace selling articles on a variety of topics. I write about interior design, landscaping, fitness, real estate, and much more. I write and post several new articles weekly and you can find them listed toward the bottom of my author profile. When I promote my freelance writing across social media, the bitly link at the end of the post leads to my Constant Content author profile, Lidancie Arts. I felt I should tell you that so you know exactly what you’re clicking on. I’m personally wary of clicking on unknown links so I understand if you are as well.

Buy Articles at Constant-ContentOriginal Articles. Constant-Content.

Jewelry Designer/Creator

I have been designing and creating handmade beaded jewelry for several years. I started my Etsy shop shortly after I began stringing beads together to make dangle earrings. My Etsy shop has undergone a few name changes but it’s now and will forever be LidancieArts, as it’s a team effort by my two daughters and myself. I hope to eventually include clay creations by my oldest daughter. She’s the “Dan” in Lidancie.

As the “Li” in Lidancie Arts, I am a self-taught jewelry maker. I learned everything I know from books, websites, YouTube videos, and experimentation. I make dangle earrings, post earrings, pendants, necklaces, and brooches.

I discovered my Native American ancestry a few years’ ago and have been exploring the raised beadwork of my Onondaga heritage ever since. There are countless Native American beaders that I admire and who grew up learning beadwork from their family members and they inspire me to continue exploring the craft.

I carefully bead all of my jewelry and they’re all my own original designs. I recently started using the two-needle beading technique and it has reinforced the quality of my beadwork. There have been times when I’ve had to take my completed creations apart and I can assure you that they’re very well made! Taking them apart is no easy feat, which speaks to my dedication to creating quality pieces.

Any link in my social media posts regarding my jewelry leads directly to the shop or the item/section advertised. Most social media outlets also show a picture of the item in question so you know exactly what you’re clicking on. I am always happy and willing to create custom pieces featuring desired designs, bead colors, gems, etc.

Why I do what I do

The fact is, to succeed as a freelance writer and jewelry designer/creator, I have to sell my creations. I’m a single mother, these two jobs are my primary sources of income, and so I must market myself. I quit my job as a secretary/receptionist in July of 2013 and I quickly discovered just how much work it is being self-employed. I’ve had high and low moments and sometimes it feels like a constant struggle, but it’s all worth it because I did it to have more time with my two daughters. Working from home means I can run down to school if they need something (I only live three minutes away) and that I don’t have to find babysitters for them during their school breaks. I get them on the bus every morning and pick them up from school when it’s my days to have them during the week. Children grow up far too fast and I cherish every moment I have with my daughters. Doing what I do has strengthened my relationship with my girls and made me a stronger person.

If this strong, independent woman has to shout from the hilltops on social media every day to make her dreams come true, then that’s exactly what she’ll do!