A Spring That Finally Sprung!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Marching Into March 

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

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

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

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

Time Flies with Big Brown Puppy Dog Eyes

Jazzmin being adored by Daisy

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

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

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

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

Beading and snuggles 

I received some wonderful holiday gifts this year in the form of nearly selling out my CorbinCreations1 Etsy store jewelry and receiving an order for several pairs of custom earrings. As my goal is to make my jewelry business successful, I’d  say I’m on the right track.

 
Every beader has their own unique setup and I’m no different. I can’t work hunched over a desk or table because it would kill my back so instead, my beading station is my couch. I have rolling storage cubbies nearby full of my supplies, a tray to hold odds and ends like scissors and thread, my coffee table as my work station and my beading “desk.” 

My beading desk is a flower encyclopedia with a ceramic beading tray held in place by a sticky bead mat. I used to use the sticky mat to hold my beads but it required frequent cleaning to keep it grippy. Now that it’s sandwiched between my bead dish and the book, my beads stay put and I have the perfect size work surface. 

A benefit and drawback of sitting on my couch to bead is that my cats and dog always want to snuggle with me. My two younger cats, Angel and Daisy, try to lay on my beading table because they want to be close to me. When I won’t let them do that, they lay on or next to my legs and feet. 

Sometimes my pup Jazzmin wants to snuggle too but she’s good about tucking herself between the back of the couch and my legs. My oldest cat Owl lays on the arms or back of the couch because she likes being near me but isn’t much of a snuggler.

As it’s now winter in Upstate NY, it’s nice having animals snuggling with me, keeping me company as I bead. I’m never cold when they’re snuggling with me and sometimes I’m even too warm. Nonetheless, having pets that love me and want to be near me as I bead is just as wonderful as continued success selling my beaded jewelry. Beading and snuggles make the chill and darkness of winter much easier to handle. 

A Different Path

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My pup Jazzmin laying by my tree

I set my Christmas tree up today and it came out lovely, which made me quite happy. I’ve had the little fake tree for at least a couple decades so putting it together, fanning out the branches and hanging the lights on it is something I can almost do in my sleep. I usually put the tree up before Thanksgiving but I just didn’t have time this year. The mere fact that I can put the tree up whenever I want, even before Thanksgiving, is an empowering reminder of a freedom I didn’t have when I was married to a man who didn’t “allow” any holiday decorating until after Thanksgiving.

Without going into the gory details, I chose to divorce my now ex husband several years ago. I hadn’t been happy in our marriage for years and when my father died in 2009, I realized life was too short to remain miserable. The main reason I waited to seek divorce was because I didn’t want to have less time with my daughters, but when my unhappiness began affecting them, I knew I couldn’t keep pretending that everything was okay.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mom. Even though my marriage to my daughters’ father ended, they were the best things to come out of it. My girls are my world, have been since they were born and I miss them when I don’t have them, but I’ve never regretted or had second thoughts about divorcing their father. We just weren’t a good fit and I couldn’t be myself married to him. Had I remained in that marriage I never would have discovered my own strength and everything else about me that makes me so unique. I also wouldn’t be as incredibly happy as I am today.

My divorce was finalized in the summer of 2011, over a year after I got a lawyer and started the process. My ex and I were married just a few days shy of 13 years. Moving out on my own for the first time in my life was both exciting and scary. Living in the same house with my now ex husband as we went through the divorce was a rough experience and when I got my own place, I finally felt like I could breathe again!

My ex and I split custody 50/50 and it took me at least six months to adjust to not having my girls all the time but eventually I remembered who I was when I wasn’t playing the mom role. I also remembered who I was before I started playing the role of dutiful wife. I didn’t have to worry about someone telling me what to do anymore or rearranging my stuff or making me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I was in charge of my life, my house and my actions and it felt amazing! It still feels amazing!

Although I’ve had a couple relationships since my divorce where we actually called each other boyfriend and girlfriend, they weren’t good fits. One was too soon after my divorce and one too late as I’ve now learned to love being on my own. I’ve also dealt with men whose less than honorable intentions gave me some trust issues. Regardless, I don’t expect to be single forever, but I haven’t found the right man for me yet and I have to do what’s right for me and my girls. You see, my ex husband and I took very different paths after the divorce.

My ex found someone new almost immediately after our divorce or perhaps before it was even finalized. In truth, I really don’t care. I thought perhaps he’d see what it was like being alone and even spend more time with the girls but getting a new girlfriend so swiftly who already had three kids of her own kept that from happening. He’s marrying that woman tomorrow (my girls are in the wedding but strangely, I was not invited ;)), doing the blended family thing and continuing the predictable path of his life. That works for him, but I have never been one to follow a predictable path. I forgot that when I was married, but I’ll never forget again.

Living as a single mom and woman, I’ve managed to buy my own house, car, furniture, etc. and I took the leap from working an unrewarding office job to working from home as a freelance writer three years ago. Now I’m trying to create a successful jewelry making business and it’s another scary and exciting step on this winding, curving, hilly path I navigate. On my own I’m free to take road trips to New England and find myself in all sorts of new places. I never would have known how brave I am had I stayed married.

Although there are times when I do get a bit lonely without the girls, I always have my pets to keep me company. I have my loyal dog Jazzmin as my sidekick and walking companion and as my ex doesn’t like dogs, I never would have had her if I’d stayed married. I also have three cats and that’s one over my ex’s “two cat limit.” His soon to be wife is allergic to cats and dogs so he never has to worry about pet hair in his home again. Me, I suck up an entire cat and dog’s worth of fur every time I vacuum and I don’t mind at all.

Another easy way for me to banish loneliness is to think about how unhappy I was in my marriage or any of my previous relationships. I would never go back to any of that just to keep from being alone and I’m quite happy on my own. I haven’t given up on finding the right match for me eventually and I’ll always believe in love, but my girls get my full attention when I have them and my winding, adventurous path gets my full attention when I don’t have my girls. Walking such a path alone is easier when I focus on the light and leave the shadows behind.

Making the Most of a Warm November Day

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A sunny, 70 degree day in November in Upstate NY must be appreciated for the wonder that it is so I spent yesterday appreciating the unseasonably warm autumn day in many ways. Considering that the forecast is calling for snow starting Sunday, I’m sure I’ll wish I could bottle yesterday and open it in the midst of winter cold.

My original plan for the morning was to mow some of my back yard after the girls got on their busses and the grass dried out a bit. To that end, I hooked my mower battery up to the charger and let it sit charging for a while as I tidied up the deck, put plants away, emptied water out of my deck storage totes and so on. For whatever reason, mower batteries don’t seem to last for more than a year so I just hook mine up to the charger before I mow, give it time and it usually starts. Well yesterday, it didn’t want to start.

Not one to waste the amazingly warm morning, I left the mower hooked to the charger and finished putting my deck and yard furniture away in my sheds. I then decided to string up the colored icicle lights on my front bushes since it’s never a fun job when my hands are frozen. My bushes still have leaves on them but that didn’t hamper my lighting efforts and now the lights are all set and ready to be turned on whenever I so desire. I’m not one to wait until after turkey day to decorate for Christmas so they’ll probably be on at night rather soon.

By the time I was done tidying up my outside areas, there wasn’t enough time left to mow before I had to pick up my youngest daughter from school. She had half days this week and I babysat her Wednesday and yesterday until her father could pick her up. I always love more time with my girls so it’s never a problem taking them. Although there wasn’t time to mow, there was time for a short walk with Jazzmin so she and I set out.

It was shortly before 11 a.m. when we headed out for our walk and it was so nice out that I was wearing shorts and a tank top! It’s a rare treat indeed for it to be warm enough for that in an Upstate NY November. Jazzmin loved the walk as usual and when we got back, I packaged up my latest order of earrings to ship to their new owner. I’m always happy when someone else loves my jewelry as much as I do! It inspires me and motivates me to create more lovelies, which is extremely helpful since I need to build up more inventory after a run of successful sales.

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After picking my youngest daughter up from school, we stopped at the post office to mail the earrings and then headed home to enjoy the afternoon. She spent quite a while swinging in the warm sunshine and was happy to be done with school for the week. It was lovely having her for some bonus Friday time. I finally managed to get the mower running and did the section of the back yard that was especially long but left the rest unmowed and covered with leaves.

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When Jaycie’s father picked her up, it was 3 p.m. and still just too nice to stay inside so I decided to take Jazzmin for a second, longer walk. We went up the big hill and relished in the sunshine and warmth. There were grasshoppers jumping across the road, crickets chirping in the fields, peeper frogs in the ponds and streams and I even saw a small yellow butterfly fluttering by.

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Once we got back home, I gave Jazzmin her post walk treat and headed out into my back yard in bare feet. I walked back to the small crop of milkweed plants growing by the southeast corner of my property and smiled at the abundance of white fluffy seeds bursting free of the plant pods.
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I grabbed a few handfuls of seeds that were trying to work free of the pods and sent them into the air to carry my wishes and gratitude through the breeze.
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If the calendar didn’t say November, I would’ve sworn yesterday was an early spring day and not a late autumn day. It certainly made me feel that November had given all the nice days it could and wanted to go out on a high note. I think it accomplished that perfectly.

Deflecting Deer Flies

Shoofly deer fly repellent

My weapon to deflect deer flies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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