Family and Fireflies

Last night my girls and I were hanging out on my king size bed like we always do at bedtime when it’s my nights with them. My oldest daughter was laying on the bed reading a book and my youngest daughter was looking out my eastern facing window and talking to the cats that were sitting in the open window.

In her looking outside, my youngest saw a firefly and happily announced the sighting. My oldest and I immediately went to the window to join her and watched intently for the glowing butt flash of the fireflies. We watched for a bit and didn’t see anything but then finally we saw a flash and then another flash.

Curious, my oldest then looked out my southern facing window and announced there were several fireflies in the back yard. I went over to look and saw some fireflies but they were in the field behind the house. She insisted that they’d been closer to the house before I started looking and that I’d scared them away.

As my daughters and I sat staring out the open window on the cool but humid night watching fireflies, I appreciated what a precious moment it was. Far too soon my oldest will be leaving for college and nights like last night will be down a member.

We only have about a month and a half left of the three of us being together and then our lives will change forever. My oldest will be off on her next adventure and my youngest and I will have to adjust to life with just the two of us.

But if I’ve learned anything about life, it’s that it’s always changing and that we need to cherish the moments we have and never take anything for granted. Last night with my family and the fireflies is a night I will remember and think fondly of forever and I look forward to whatever future such nights we have.

The Blessing of Time

Time is a blessing. Every day we have on this earth is a blessing. It might not always seem that way during tough times, but sometimes with a new perspective, those tough times weren’t so bad. Right now, life feels good because as I write this, I’m sitting on my deck swing in the beautiful early spring sunshine listening to the birds chirping in the trees. One bird is even watching me from the tree branches.

Ever since my father died, I’ve known that time with family and friends should never be taken for granted. For people who suddenly find themselves thrust into situations where they’re spending more time with their family and/or loved ones than they ever expected, being grateful for such time can be a challenge. But for me, it’s been a wonderful gift.

You see, with my oldest daughter is graduating high school this year, I was feeling like time was moving far too quickly. I’m not ready for her to go off to college and leave the nest, I’ll probably never be ready. My daughters and I are very close and we’re similar in many ways. My oldest daughter is who I chat with about common interests, who plays Warcraft with me, who reads my stories, who gets me as so few people do. Contemplating not seeing her half the week like I do now makes me sad and uncertain.

But then the world abruptly changed, and my daughters’ school closed for a month and I suddenly found that I had a lot more time with my girls than I’d expected. I was thrilled! No more missing time with my girls as they did band, sports, or other afterschool activities. Now suddenly it was like summer break early except that they had homework they needed to do every day.

My youngest daughter getting help with homework from her kitty, Owl.

While many parents might be unprepared and not as excited as I am to have more time with their children, I hope eventually they see what a blessing it can be. Yes, it’s hard to balance working from home with taking care of kids, but I’ve been doing it for almost seven years, and I can assure you it’s possible. Not necessarily easy, but possible. Sometimes the dishes don’t get washed for days, I only vacuum once a week, and the house is always in a state of chaos but trying to achieve “perfection” while balancing so much seems like a waste of time to me.

I don’t know what the future holds, and I do worry about my finances now that my online transcription work has slowed down considerably, but I’m still so very happy to have more time with my girls. Children grow up so fast and we can’t slow down time no matter how we try, but we can at least savor the moments we have and try to remember that the things we took for granted yesterday can become the things we yearn for today.

Avoiding the Frenzy

Now that my state has issued a stay put order effective tonight, I knew the big grocery stores like Walmart and Wegmans would be even crazier than before. So I made the decision to shop at my local grocery store Friday instead and alter the usual Saturday routine I have with my girls.

Before this current situation all started, on my weekends with my daughters I’d pick them up from their dad’s at 9am and we’d go to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, get groceries at Walmart, and then head to my mom’s to do laundry and visit. Having no desire to subject myself or my girls to empty shelves and crowds of people who may or may not be behaving like decent human beings, I shopped local in my town ahead of time.

Knowing also that local restaurants are no longer allowing inside dining and wanting to avoid a line at Dunkin Donuts, I ordered ahead on their app and just ran in and grabbed my order without a wait. I’d seen online that they didn’t appear to have their usual containers of chocolate milk available so I picked a couple bottles up Friday and brought them with me Saturday morning for my girls. My daughters were fine eating in my car and I was happy to at least provide their usual Saturday morning breakfast even if I couldn’t provide a complete sense of normalcy.

The only grocery store I went into Saturday morning was a store called Tops because I’d forgotten a package of instant potatoes to go with the rotisserie chicken I’d purchased Friday for dinner Saturday. I left my girls in the car to enjoy their breakfast and ran in alone so I could quickly grab what I needed.

Tops was busier than usual and their were bare shelves and such but people were behaving themselves and I was able to find what I wanted. I still hope eventually stores will have toilet paper in stock again but I’m okay for another week or so.

Having acquired what I needed while completely avoiding going near Walmart or Wegmans, I was content and pleased. Perhaps Walmart wouldn’t have been horrible but I didn’t need to subject myself or my girls to it if it was. I don’t usually shop at Wegmans anyway because I don’t feel they’re as affordable as they once were so I wasn’t even tempted to go there. Plus it feels good to support my local grocery store in these times.

With our errands done, I headed to my mom’s house to continue the usual routine. I go very few places on a weekly basis and they’re all essential so the stay put order won’t alter my life noticeably and hopefully won’t get stricter. As long as I can get my girls for my half of the week, visit my mom every weekend like I’ve been doing for years, and get groceries, I’ll be okay.

My continued hope is that my friends and family stay safe and healthy, this all doesn’t last too terribly long, and that people remember to be kind and patient with one another. We can all get through this and come out wiser and more appreciative of the little things that don’t seem so little anymore.

The Sun Still Shines

blue sky

With the state of the world today, it seemed like a good time to start writing in this blog again. There seems to be so much, fear, chaos, anxiety, and panic that I can only hope my optimistic words will help somehow.

I live in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York and yesterday I received the news that my girls’ school is going to close for a month. While this has been happening across the country due to COVID-19, there haven’t been any cases of it reported in this county yet. I can understand the school districts wanting to take precautions to protect everyone, but it’s just so hard to fathom that something like this is happening in my lifetime.

Having seen the chaos and pandemonium at grocery stores due to fears about the virus and self-quarantine, I headed to Walmart before the sun was even up yesterday morning because I just needed basic groceries. I was most worried that I wouldn’t be able to get milk for the week but when I checked their grocery app it was still in stock so I was hopeful.

Although I was anxious to get my milk and other essentials for the week, I still took the time to stop by Canandaigua Lake and take some pictures. I think it’s vital that in these “dark” feeling times we still remember and see the beauty that remains all around us and that the light still shines strong. The only eerie part about my visit to the lake was the abundance of seagulls circling overhead but that’s really not unusual for them and perhaps they sensed something amiss about the humans around them.

When I shop early on Saturday mornings, there are usually very few people in the store and as a well-practiced introvert, I’m okay with that.

But yesterday morning there were more people than usual and indeed, the toilet paper, tissue, and paper towel aisles were completely empty. Fortunately, I bought a package last week that will last me and my girls a couple of weeks. Hopefully, by the time we run out, people will have regained their sanity.

I was able to get my gallon of milk and the other essentials I needed for what I thought would be a relatively normal school week. There were odd things missing from shelves such as frozen pizza, pasta, dish detergent, and macaroni and cheese. But when I went to the vitamin aisle, the only vitamin that seemed depleted was vitamin C. Also the bread aisle was nearly as empty as the toilet paper aisle.

While I did my shopping, there were employees dashing around fulfilling grocery pickup orders and people filling their carts. There was a sense of nervousness and uncertainty in the air and I tried my best not to let it infect me. To perk myself up a bit, I bought a colorful spring-themed bedspread and some flowery bell-bottom pants that are far too young for me. But in these trying times, a girl does what she must to lift her spirits.

When I finished shopping, I headed to my mother’s house for the usual Saturday visit which involves doing laundry and watching The Good Witch or something else we can find streaming. I usually play World of Warcraft too and my mom and I have interesting conversations.

Neither of us is panicked about COVID-19, we’re just being smart and taking precautions. My mother is in her 70s and has underlying health conditions so she’s at a higher risk but I pray to all the powers that be every day that she stays healthy and that this all blows over eventually and life can return to normal.

As far as the whole social distancing thing goes, as an introvert, I’ve been doing that for years without an issue. I work from home already so I’m fine with having my girls home from school. I do worry that more people working online might mean less work for me, but time will tell how that plays out. I’m hoping the work from home surge will actually benefit Rev.com and their online transcribers like myself.

I’ve been spending time by myself for many years because on days I don’t have my daughters, it’s just me and my four cats and one dog. I tried being more of a social butterfly in the past but it really wasn’t for me. The only social events I seem to thrive at are the pow-wows hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) and I’m hopeful those will resume and continue when it’s safe.

One of the most important things I do for my mental and physical health is to take the time to stop and appreciate the world around me. I go for walks, I sit outside on my deck, or I even just watch the birds out my window. Today the sun is shining and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. The world hasn’t stopped spinning, the sun still shines, and I have a lot to be grateful for.

I don’t know what the next few weeks and months will hold, but I remain optimistic and hopeful and always try to find the upside of any situation. Just last week I was grumbling about the time change and how the early school mornings were dark again. Well now there is no physical school for a month and we can all sleep in until it’s light.

By the time school resumes-and it will resume, I have faith in that-the mornings will be light again, it will be spring, and life will begin its annual blooming. I don’t know about you, but I plan on enjoying every moment and focusing more on the light than on the dark.

Something Must Be Better Than Nothing

A view from our afternoon walk on 5/8/19

I feel somewhat guilty that I’ve let writing in this blog fall by the wayside so I’m going to start posting again. They probably won’t be lengthy posts like before, perhaps just some pictures and some inspiring words.

I do still write quite often, just not here. Life has gotten rather busy as my daughters grow up and I continue to work as a transcriptionist to pay the bills.

But with the handy dandy WordPress app I should be able to post a little something a few times a week. After all, something must be better than nothing. 😉

Another “Wild” Friday Night

<a href="https://i1.wp.com/www.clker.com/cliparts/g/6/7/Z/T/E/orange-dog-dancing-hi.png"><img src='https://i1.wp.com/www.clker.com/cliparts/g/6/7/Z/T/E/orange-dog-dancing-hi.png' alt='Orange Dog Dancing clip art'/></a>

Dancing dog. Image courtesy of clker.com

I set a work goal for myself this week that was higher than I’d set in a while because I knew I needed to start pushing myself to my full potential again.  As probably anyone who works from home and sets their own hours knows, it can be tricky sticking to a quota of work and a schedule. But when I really apply myself, I get everything done that I need to. There were a couple of days this week that were a bit challenging, but I persevered and accomplished my goal by quitting time Friday evening.

Working from home has certainly had its share of ups and downs, but it’s definitely in an upswing now and I’ve been happier working from home than I ever was working in an outside office. There’s incredible flexibility in working from home, but also a lot more unpredictability in terms of work flow and pay. I imagine it’s not for everyone, but it works for me and I love transcribing for Rev.com on a daily basis.

With my goal accomplished for the week, I felt it was time to celebrate with my usual “wild” Friday night of beading, writing, and playing World of Warcraft. I’ve never really been a social butterfly or had very many friends because I value quality over quantity. So truly wild Friday nights partying with friends out somewhere has only happened due to bachelorette parties or birthday parties. Now that all of the people I consider close friends live in other states, going out on the town really isn’t even possible. Not that I really think I’d be up for it anyway.

I’m a homebody, I think I always have been. And well, now that I’ve owned my own home and been living in it as a single woman for seven years now, my body loves my home even more. When it’s just me on a Friday night (which it almost always is because it’s not a night I usually have my girls) I prefer to do what makes me happy and truly revel in that happiness and freedom. I still remember what it was like during relationships where I felt trapped and controlled, where someone was telling me what to do and how to do it. Those feelings of being trapped, unhappy, and in emotional pain are something I will never forget. Nonetheless, I won’t let my past control me or ruin my current happiness and so I just keep moving forward.

One of the things I do when I’m really happy, exuberant, and in a very up mood celebrating my accomplishments and freedom, is dance along to upbeat music. I might dance in my chair at my desk while I’m writing or playing World of Warcraft, or I might just jump right up and dance in my living room. My three cats might give me strange looks for a moment, but they’re used to their “crazy” mommy and so they go back about their business. My pup Jazzmin though is another story.

I taught Jazzmin the “trick” of dancing with me when I’m dancing around and she’s always good for a couple spins on the dance floor. I just say, “Want to dance?” and she wags her tail and offers her paw. I then take both of her front paws in my hands, lift her up onto just her hind feet, and we do a little jive around the dance floor, otherwise known as the kitchen or living room. She’s always really happy to be dancing with her mama and I give her a treat afterwards. She’ll then return to whatever she was doing and I can go back to being happy, weird, dancing me.

My favorite place to find my kind of music nowadays is a place called EpidemicSound.com. According to their website, they provide: “Unlimited music for your YouTube channel. Monetise with no risk of copyright strikes.” I pay a monthly subscription fee to listen to and download as many tracks as I want and their selection of original music is amazing! I’ve yet to use any of their music for a YouTube video, but I hope to eventually. In the meantime, I’ve been downloading songs into playlists of new music on a biweekly or monthly basis, depending on when I feel the need for fresh tracks.

Last night I checked their “Latest Tracks” tab and the very first song I clicked on boosted my already happy mood through the roof. It was a song called “We Should Start Right Now” by Loving Caliber featuring Emmi and it had the exact beat, tempo, lyrics, musicality, you name it that I love in a song. Plus, once I’d listened to it a few times, I found the lyrics very inspirational. Here’s a sample:

“Every change has a reason
Baby, let it come to you.
Every soul, every season,
Lives outside a status quo.

If you start believing
We’re meant to be
Expanding our abilities.
If the passion’s gone
We are doing it wrong.

Baby, you and I
Baby, you and I
Should start living now.”

I lost track of how many times I listened to that song because it just lifted me up so much higher than I already was. I had my house windows open and I was blasting it through my computer speakers for all the neighbors to hear. I wanted to shout to everyone I knew that life is too short to waste being unhappy. That we all need to start living now and not keep waiting for things to get better tomorrow. I’ve learned the hard way that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and that regret is a horrible thing to live with.

Never give up on your dreams, never resign yourself to a situation you’re miserable in just because you’re trying to keep everyone else happy. I lived like that for many years and I forgot who I really was and it’s taken me years to find who I am again. Embrace your light, your power, and your strength. Seize today and every today given to you and pursue your dreams, even if only in small steps. Small steps are better than no steps and well, dance steps are even better.

 

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!

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 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!

The Great New England Vacation Redo!

Humpback whale tail. Image by Newburyport Whale Watch

Humpback whale tail. Image by Newburyport Whale Watch

Every summer I take my girls on vacation to New England. This year marks our fifth year of this annual tradition. Although we’ve visited the areas of eastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire many times, there’s always something new to see and we always have interesting adventures.

Unfortunately, last year’s “adventures” were a bit more than I bargained for as Jaycie had a bout of appendicitis that had her spending almost the entire New England vacation in the hospital. She received the best care in the two hospitals she stayed in and she doesn’t remember much of the ordeal thankfully, but her older sister and I still remember. Jaycie had her appendix removed last fall and has been healthy and happy ever since, much to my relief and delight. She’s feeling perfectly fine this year as we prepare for our trip and we’re all looking forward to making new memories. 

There’s one particular memory I wish to erase from last year.  During the ultrasound in the hospital that was very painful and uncomfortable for Jaycie, she told the nurse that we were going on a whale watch later in the week. The nurse and I both knew that wasn’t going to happen and that moment broke a little crack in my heart because she wouldn’t be able to do the thing she so wanted to do. None of us really got to do what we’d wanted or planned and it was difficult for us, but I know that all that really matters is that Jaycie was properly cared for and eventually recovered.

To help undo the unpleasantness of last year’s trip, one of the first things we’re doing is going on the Newburyport Whale Watch. Jaycie loves boats so she’ll be happy even if we don’t see any whales. Being out on that boat will replace a bad memory with a good one and I’m sure everything that happens on vacation will continue to erase last year’s memories.

We’re staying in an area of Massachusetts I’ve never stayed in before but it’s close to a T station and a short drive to the coastal areas I’m familiar with. Although we were in Boston last year while Jaycie was in Boston Children’s Hospital, our visit there obviously wasn’t the fun time we’d hoped for. So our return to Boston this year will be infinitely better. We’ll make it into Salem, MA this time and wherever else we feel like venturing. 

It means so much to me as a mother to spend a full week with my daughters and I know this year’s trip will be another amazing vacation for the triumphant trio!