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!

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The Only Gift I Need

girls eating ice cream

My girls eating ice cream and showing their personalities.

Every year my daughters ask me what I want for Mother’s Day and every year I struggle to come up with something. Sometimes I’ll say maybe a new wind chime or a hanging plant for outside (which will subsequently perish because it was too hot or too cold or I forgot to water it or I over watered it). The reason I struggle with ideas is because I already have the only gift I need. That gift is my daughters and the blessing that I’m their mom.

I’ve said this many times, but I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I liked being a mom to my dolls, stuffed animals, and pets growing up and I thought being a mother to my own children would come naturally. Which it did. I’m still a mom to my three cats and one dog too, of course. Yes, I’ve had my share of challenges just like all moms, but I wouldn’t trade being a mom to my girls for anything in the world. My girls always have and always will come first in my life.

During the days I have my girls, I enjoy every moment with them. When I don’t have them because they’re with their father, I miss them immensely. I use my time without them to work on transcription and college assignments, so I can just focus on my girls when I have them again. I look forward to when I get to pick them up again, as I will be doing later this morning.

I’m sure all mothers think this, but my daughters are exceptional human beings. They’re both smart, clever, creative, and funny in their own way (as you can tell by the picture above) and I love watching them develop. It is bewildering to me that they’ll be turning 16 and 12 this summer as it seems like I gave birth to them just yesterday!

My oldest turning 16 sounds like such a monumental thing because she’ll be able to start driving and thus developing more independence. Fortunately for me, she’s not overly excited about driving (neither was I at her age), so I’m not too worried about that aspect quite yet. I’m daily amazed by what a mature and respectful young woman she is and how far removed she is from today’s “typical teenager.”

My youngest turning 12 and being on the cusp of being a teenager is also monumental. I’ve heard many people say, “Oh, wait until they’re teenagers.” But they don’t know my girls. My youngest is still the sweetest ray of sunshine, with a little clever wit and spiciness tossed in, and I don’t foresee any slamming doors or teenage tantrums. It’s actually impossible to slam bedroom doors in my house thanks to really thick, shag carpeting. 😉

I don’t consider myself an expert mom or a perfect mom, but I do the best I can. I love my girls and I make sure they know I love them. I spend time with them, I listen to them, and they always know that I support them and believe in them.

My advice for any mom would be to enjoy every single moment, even the tough ones. Because someday you’ll blink and your babies will be young adults and you’ll wonder where the time went and if you cherished it enough. I wonder this myself, but I know that I can’t reverse or stop time and that I just have to soak it all in and love my girls and the gift of motherhood with all my heart.

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!

October Already?!

October sky

Evening sky during our walk yesterday.

My oldest daughter went through the house last night flipping all the calendars to October because I hadn’t yet. I’m still trying to adjust to the fact that October is here already. September went by very fast and while it started out fall-like, there was a lot of summer heat in the middle and end of the month that made everything seasonally confusing. The poor trees that had started to change colors during the first bout of cool weather didn’t know what to do once summer heat returned. A lot of them just seemed to give up and start dropping leaves without much color change and I fear it won’t be a very colorful autumn this year. Nonetheless, leaves are still changing and falling and autumn is tied for spring with my favorite season.

As I wrote in last year’s blog post at the start of October, I’m finally able to welcome October again. Losing my father in October of 2009 made it difficult for me to truly embrace what had until that point been my favorite month and season. On the 21st of this month it will have been eight years since his passing and that doesn’t even seem possible to me. While I still miss him every single day and there will always be a void inside me without him here, I’ve healed enough to understand that his spirit wants me to be happy. I’m sure there will be the usual random bouts of crying and sadness throughout the month, but I know it won’t be as overwhelming as it’s been in the past. Life is about moving forward and not allowing yourself to be stuck in a moment that can’t be changed.

I don’t know what this October will bring, but I’m looking forward to it. I never really know what each day will bring. I have a plan for the day and most of the time it follows a predictable routine. But honestly, every single day is full of amazing new experiences and gifts and I make sure I take the time to notice them and feel grateful for them. I’m sure October will be full of new adventures and of course my favorite holiday of Halloween. Maybe I’ll make it to a Halloween party of some type this year, one never knows! Whatever comes this October and beyond, I know that I’ll get through it just like I always do, with strength, determination, optimism, and hope.

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!