The best flowers…

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Today's bouquet of violas

The best flowers are those that pop up in unexpected places. Like the tulips that popped up last spring when I didn’t even know there were bulbs there. This year’s surprise flowers were the little purple violas that bloomed in one of my planters from last year.

I’ve discovered that violas and their larger counterparts known as pansies, are the best flowers for me because despite their seemingly delicate appearance, they’re actually quite resilient. I’d like to think that I’m a lot like them, but I don’t think anyone who knows me would call me a “delicate flower.” 😉 Resilient yes, delicate not so much.

Seeing those violas pop up this spring convinced me that I needed to plant more this year and that’s exactly what I did. The new violas are thriving in their pots and despite an animal digging a few out, they’re still quite lovely. What I find even more pleasing are the violas thriving outside the pots.

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Some of the violas that planted themselves in my yard.

Apparently some of the seeds from last year’s violas planted themselves in my yard by the bird oasis and now they’re popping up all around it! I pick them before I mow and I’m always surprised when more show up. I picked myself quite a little bouquet today and I’m going to try replanting the few with roots in the planters with the other violas.

Violas are such happy looking flowers. They always look like they’re smiling at me and that makes them some of the best and most beautiful flowers to me.

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The power to keep going

looking down farmers road

My day started at 5:45 a.m. as it usually does with my Pandora alarm playing whatever random song it came up with. These days, Pandora is far less random than it used to be and it tends to play one of the same five songs every morning, but it accomplishes the task of waking me up anyway.

Now that it’s spring, the birds usually start chirping at around 4:30 a.m. and it’s actually getting light by the time my alarm goes off, so eventually I’ll probably start climbing out of bed sooner. I hate wasting the nice weather days because they’re far less numerous than the miserable, cold winter days and I’m more of a morning person than a night owl so come summer, I’m often up long before the sun!

Once I got both girls up, fed and off to school, I ate my own breakfast and then settled at my desk to work. By lunchtime, I’d accomplished enough to make me feel like I deserved a break in the fresh air so after eating, I took Jazzmin on a walk up the farmer’s access road. He has an iron swing gate across it to keep unwanted vehicles out, but he knows me and I’ve seen him on his tractors along the road many times and he’s smiled and waved so he doesn’t seem to mind Jazz and I walking it.

The farmer keeps that access road mowed and maintained for his tractors and trucks and I was happy to discover today that it had dried out after the recent rain. Jazzmin loves that road because it’s full of deer, squirrels, chipmunks, birds and things that rustle in the brush that we never see. I love that road because it’s safe from cars (even when the farmer’s on it he doesn’t drive very fast) and I don’t have to worry about encountering other people’s less than well-behaved dogs on leash or (worse) off.

There still aren’t any leaves on the trees so the sun was quite warm without shade, but I’d dressed appropriately in walking shorts and a tank top so I was quite comfortable. The fields at the end of that access road appear to stretch forever and the views are breathtaking. I always feel like I’m in another world out there when really it’s not that far from my house.

Jazzmin and I explored the fields a bit and enjoyed the feeling of peacefulness among the blue sky, puffy clouds, and surrounding hills. The only sounds were birds, bugs, the wind and our footsteps and it’s where I go when I need to center myself and restore my spirit. When the weather warms up more, the fields will be full of dragonflies, monarchs and other butterflies and I’m looking forward to watching them.

pond in field

The small pond in one of the farmer’s fields

After our walk, I decided it was past time I tackle the yard work. I live on 1.4 acres and that might sound large or small depending on your perspective, but for a single, 5’5” chick, it’s a substantial amount of work keeping it up. By now I know what order to tackle projects in so I don’t get too tired to finish so I started by trimming the bushes in front of the house. I had them hacked down considerably last year, but I call them “demon” bushes because they grow really tall, really fast and they live to scratch me.

Once I’d accomplished that task with my scissor style clippers, I wondered if I had the power to keep going. I briefly considered calling it a day, but instead grabbed my wheelbarrow and started going around the yard picking up the seemingly endless assortment of fallen branches from my numerous trees. I don’t know how some of the trees are still standing with all the branches they lose every year! I filled the wheelbarrow four times with branches (I’ve learned from experience that overfilling it to make fewer trips doesn’t work because I leave a trail of branches I have to go back and clean up) and dumped them all in my burn pit in the back yard. The pile isn’t overly huge now, but it will be substantial by mid-summer when I decide to light it.

With all the sticks removed from the yard, I again considered stopping for the day and continuing another day but again I found the power to keep going. I then cut several grape vines out of my hedgerow trees in an attempt to stop their invasion. Grape vines give off a distinctive smell when they’re hacked and pulled and there are some types of wine that I can’t stand because they taste too “viney” to me. Maybe other people who have fought with vines know what I’m talking about or maybe I’m just nuts…

I couldn’t get all the vines down out of the trees because they were wrapped so tightly around them, but I certainly tried my hardest! Nothing like yard work to make me feel like I’m too light at 150 pounds! I think I could’ve hung from those vines for days without them ever giving way.

Exhausted from that task, I figured I’d gotten that far and definitely had the power to keep going so I decided it was time to plunk down on the mower and tackle the unruly grass. It’s still rather early in the season so the grass is really long in spots and still half dormant in others, but I knew if I waited too long, it would grow too tall and bog down the mower. Getting to my mower involved taking my large deck swing out of the shed, but I’ll save that tale for another day.

I’d hooked my mower up to the charger at the start of my yard work just in case the battery had gone dead (as if it seems to do every year). While it took some cranking to get the engine to turn fire up, eventually it did and I was able to run the mower without the charger for the rest of the afternoon.

Mowing my lawn took the usual 2.5 hours and went relatively smoothly, but it’s still a long process and my lawn hasn’t been rolled in years so it’s a bit bumpy. I was so very proud of myself when I was all done though! Just like I always am!

View of my mowed front yard from the road.

View of my mowed front yard from the road.

mowed back yard

View of half of my back yard from my deck.

Everything I accomplished today reminded me (for the zillionth time) that I’m stronger than I think and that I always have the power to keep going if I just believe in myself enough and refuse to quit. It’s up to me to be my own cheerleader so I can get things done on my own just like I have since I moved out of my ex’s house in April of 2011. I’m quite capable of handling my house solo and I will continue to do so with stubbornness, tenacity, and a splash of sass.

Blessings on Bird Wings – Part 2

Rainbow shining down on my bird oasis.

Rainbow shining down on my bird oasis.

It’s been several days since I created my wild bird oasis and it’s received ample daily winged traffic! I’ve seen all my usual feathered friends and some new attendees including a rose-breasted grosbeak and a few varieties of sparrows. The only birds causing trouble are the grackles but they’ve learned to fly off when I come outside or knock on my kitchen window. My issue with the grackles is that they scare all the other birds away and eat like flying pigs. I’m quite sure they can find food elsewhere so I shoo them.

Transforming my humble backyard bird feeder spot to a wild bird oasis wasn’t overly strenuous but it did involve properly assembling the bird bath fountain I bought. The original look of my bird feeder and bird bath is quite plain when compared to now. I’d left a dead sunflower out there because the birds used it as a perch but with the addition of some fence and new feeders, I knew they’d have plenty of spots to perch.

Single feeder, leaking birdbath and box for new bath

Single feeder, leaking birdbath and box for new bath

I was so proud of myself when I got it all together, plugged it in and the water started flowing through it just as pictured! Finding a mostly level spot was a challenge but when I set it up with the basin leaning into the rigid bird feeder hook, it was level enough to prevent water from flowing out.

Yay! The water is flowing!

Yay! The water is flowing!

While I was working on installing all the new parts of the oasis, a chickadee kept flying by rather impatiently wondering where the feeder had gone. I finally set the feeder up a ways off on a short hook and he then went happily over there to eat.

Small barn feeder in the background, set there temporarily for the chickadee

Small barn feeder in the background, set there temporarily for the chickadee

The complete bird oasis puts the original setup to shame but I’m not quite done yet. I plan on putting down mulch and containers of flowers within the fence so it’s a lovely mini garden as well as bird oasis. I didn’t get the plants yet because they wouldn’t fit in the cart with the bird bath but I’ll be adding them soon!

Oasis all set up

Oasis all set up

I couldn't resist this barrel bird house. No one is using it yet though.

I couldn’t resist this barrel bird house. No one is using it yet though.

I briefly entertained the idea of putting in butterfly attracting flowers but upon realizing the butterflies would become bird food, I nixed that idea. Some genius ideas aren’t really that bright…

Rendering Dreams into Reality

A partially rendered city from one of my fantasy books.

A partially rendered city from one of my fantasy books.

I’ve been writing fantasy stories since the age of 12. I started after reading A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony. I found the idea of creating anything I wanted through my words extremely appealing! It was also a great escape from the trials and tribulations of my tween and teen years.

My beloved English teacher, Derek Hulse, read some of my fantasy work and one of the big things he told me I needed to work on was my scene descriptions. What I saw so vividly in my mind wasn’t coming across in my words and while that was disheartening to me, I knew I could improve! Derek always believed in me and with his help, I developed into a far better writer.

Through the years of writing about my fantasy world of Aindar, I created over 10 books that spanned multiple generations of my favorite characters. As the time passed and I tried to recall certain events and scenes from the past, my memory faltered and describing areas in a way accurate to times gone by became a challenge. I drew places out in sketchbooks such as houses, castles and outdoor scenes but I’m not a good enough artist to quickly, easily and realistically flesh out those scenes with pencil and paper. That’s when I decided to investigate 3D rendering programs.

This was back in the days of Windows 95, long before I had children. I came across a highly recommended program called Punch! Home Design and I bought it. It came with a thick book of instructions and helpful tips and for the first few weeks of using the program, that handbook was my best friend. Eventually I began figuring things out on my own and everything from then on has been self-taught through trial and error.

harn midshire deya layout

The floorplan for a room in one of my fantasy castles

harn sitting rm1

A 3D view of one of the chambers of that castle room. I created the wall torches by modifying one of the program’s wall sconces.

I’ve continued to upgrade the program through the years and it’s still a very solid and easy to use 3D rendering program for my needs. When my Dell laptop was thoroughly killed by a random virus two years ago, I stopped creating houses. I kept meaning to install the program on my new Toshiba laptop but kept being sidetracked by life, the universe and everything.

Earlier this month I finally put the program on my laptop and then upgraded to the newest version. It’s lovely how quickly my Toshiba renders the 3D images! On my old laptop, it took forever and it sounded like the poor thing was going to expire. I’ve been refreshing my memory on the ins and outs of the program as I work on a sample room for my New England dream house.

A start to the living room of my New England dream home.

A start to the living room of my New England dream home.

One of my favorite parts is tweaking the size, shape, color and material of the furnishings in the room. I’ve created several original 3D objects from scratch for castle scenes in my fantasy books. I’m a bit rusty in that area but I’m sure it will come back to me as I work more with it. Nothing compares to having the ability to walk right through the room I’m writing about in order to get all the details just right. Overall, I’m having a fun time rendering things I see in my dream and imagination into the reality of a 3D computer model.

An outdoor scene I created for a fantasy story.

An outdoor scene I created for a fantasy story.

A Shattered Evening

I HAD to mow my lawn yesterday afternoon. The grass was up to Jazzmin’s belly, almost long enough to make tiny, adorable bales and I had several varieties of mushrooms popping up all over the place from the wet weather. Yesterday it finally stopped raining and it was supposed to be sunny for the entire day. The way this spring has been going, that’s not a window of opportunity I could afford to miss. As it turned out, I had some fortunate and unfortunate luck with windows yesterday.

I checked the gas tank in my mower and saw that I had enough to do the back yard. I decided I’d get started and then go into town for more gas when I finished that largest section of the lawn. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon so I sprayed on my sunblock, popped in my ear buds, donned my big, clunky, noise-dampening ear muffs and cranked my mower up to set to work.

My lawn looked less like the field finally!

My lawn looked less like the field finally!

I put Jazz out on her lead by the swing set so she could get fresh air and be in the shade safely away from where I was mowing. She of course chose to lay in the full sun and ignore the shade. I glanced over toward where Jazz was every time I went by that way and she was either laying down in the sun or sniffing around. I was about halfway done with the back yard when I looked over at her and saw her sniffing around in the driveway. That confused me because her lead doesn’t reach that far. Then it clicked. She’d gotten off the lead! I stopped the mower as calmly as possible, turned off the blades and turned it around toward the shed and called Jazzmin cheerfully over. She followed me to the shed and I grabbed her collar before she realized she wasn’t on any sort of leash.

I decided it was the ideal time to drive into town for more gas. With Jazz in one hand and the gas tank in the other, I walked to the car, happy to be off the mower for a while. Jazz hopped into the front seat and I loaded the empty tank in the back and off we went on the five-minute drive into town. It was 75 out so I had the AC cranked and Jazzmin took great pleasure sniffing and snotting up the air vents. She loves riding in the car and looked around at the passing scenery.

Jazzmin ready to go!

Jazzmin ready to go!

I filled up the mower gas can and my own car at the cheapest station in town (which had a line out to the road) and made the quick drive back home. I put Jazzmin in the house so she could stay cool and out of trouble and then resumed mowing. It took me another hour and a half to finish mowing and I was extremely happy and relieved when I was done! No more tall grass, no more mushrooms, no more caring that it was going to rain for the next several days.

The local farmer was baling the large field behind my house and I took a few pictures while mowing and afterward. As I set my lawn furniture back in the grass and out of the driveway, I considered relaxing in a chair for a bit to watch the farming demonstration.

The farmer windrowing the hay

The farmer windrowing the hay

The baling machine at work

The baling machine at work

Gathering up the large bales

Gathering up the large bales

I saw something odd out of the corner of my eye and turned toward my car in confusion. Something wasn’t quite right about the passenger side window. I took a step closer and my mouth dropped open. There was a large hole in the window and the remaining safety glass was shattered in place. I groaned at my own stupidity. I’d mowed with the shoot toward my car and a stone had flown up and hit the window. I know better! I emitted a long slow swear word and sighed heavily. The damage was done and getting angry about it wasn’t going to change anything.

Large hole in my window and remnants of glass

Large hole in my window and remnants of glass

Shaking my head, I grabbed my leather gloves from the shed and started picking the glass out of the window and front passenger seat. There were tiny pieces of broken safety glass everywhere and the remains of the window collapsed the moment I touched it, sending several pieces of glass into my boots. Deciding it was as good as it was going to get for a while, I went inside and showered. Before full dark I ventured out with a clear garbage bag and duct tape and created a makeshift window to keep the bugs and forecasted rain out.

Thankfully I have full glass coverage on my auto insurance so I called in the claim and scheduled the window replacement for the following day. That drama dealt with, I turned on the Stanley Cup Playoffs hockey game to root for the Boston Bruins against the Chicago Blackhawks. With the game on in the background, I set to work redesigning my Boston story ebook cover and tried my best to leave the shattered evening behind me.

Everyday Adventures in this Extraordinary Life

Snapshot 1 (5-31-2013 6-18 AM)

I often joke with my best friend that I could write a book about my life and sell it as fiction because no one would believe it all happened to one person. I haven’t climbed to the top of Mount Everest or formulated the cure for the common cold, I’ve just lived my life and done my best to roll with what comes. I think we all have an amazing and unique story to tell when we escape the mundane of daily existence and see life for what it really is: an endless adventure!

My beloved English teacher and friend, Derek Hulse told me when I was 16 that I should write my autobiography. I found the idea silly because I was only 16 and felt I hadn’t experienced anything that justified an autobiography. Apparently he saw great things in my past and future that were worthy of being told and I’ve been telling them for the past few years in my blogs. I am certain that numerous people live far more interesting lives than I do and I don’t profess to be an incredibly amazing, crocodile-wrestling, swashbuckling woman of the world. I’m just a girl who wakes up every day grateful for another dawn.

I never know what my day is going to bring. Even the smallest tasks turn into large undertakings sometimes. My quest to find a more fuel efficient-and yet still standard transmission-car involves renting an automatic car for the weekend when the first auto deal falls apart. I set out to dig up thistles and the handle on my garden spade snaps like a twig. I go to mow my lawn and the neighbors chicken decide to hold a parade through my lilac bushes. A weekend trip to Boston leads to a whole new direction and purpose in my life that continues to motivate me onward. These are the adventures I’ve lived and continue to live.

So I created a photo montage set to music and uploaded my video to Vimeo for your viewing pleasure…or to at least take up three minutes of your day. You can watch it by clicking on the photo above or the link at the end of this entry. In it I’ve featured several photos from my blogs and others I’ve taken just to document the mind-boggling little mishaps that occur in my life. Stars include my darling daughters, adorable dog, samples of my baking, creatures from the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, my mower, the Massachusetts locations of Boston, Newburyport and Amesbury, some of my artwork and everything in between. I believe it tells an interesting story about the everyday adventures in this extraordinary life that belongs to a simple woman just making her way in the world.

Everyday Adventures in this Extraordinary Life

The Valor of Violas

I am an inept gardener. Or to put it in nicer terms, a “hopeful” gardener. I am always hopeful that my gardening efforts go better than the year before. The first time I tried growing flowers in pots I forgot to water the flowers to the point where they looked like they’d been set on fire. Last year I attempted a flower garden from seeds and even dug up a nice little plot next to my deck walkway. The seeds grew and I lovingly planted them…only to have the oddest selection of weeds materialize where I expected daisies and sunflowers.

This year I’m trying growing flowers in pots again. I started with already grown violas (and their larger variety called pansies), snapdragons, flowering ground cover and a couple of kinds of daisies. Thus far the violas are showing themselves to be the strongest of the bunch! They’re such valiant little things and they always perk back up when I water them after forgetting for a day or two. It’s lovely that those happy looking flowers continue to smile up at me even when my “garden amnesia” strikes.

My snapdragons and daisies are still hanging in there but the ground cover got a bit too fried in the full sun that the other flowers like. There’s currently a rather excessive heat wave where I live and while I’m wilting in the temperatures, the violas are loving every minute of it. This year’s gardening efforts have taught me two important lessons. One lesson being that from now on, I’m planting only violas. The second lesson is that I’m not hot-weather-resistant enough to display the same valor as violas.