Mowing to the Music

mowed lawn

My unique mowing patterns in the back yard. =)

It’s no secret that my yard isn’t the most perfect yard in the neighborhood, but I do the best I can on my own and with balancing everything else I have to do. Many of my neighbors mow every few days and more power to them if that’s what makes them happy. However, with my busy schedule and lack of enthusiasm for mowing, I usually only mow every two weeks. Interestingly enough, when I’m done mowing, my grass looks the same as my neighbors who mow more often than I do. Well, almost the same…

You see, every time I finish mowing my lawn, it looks a little different than the time before. I hadn’t mowed any yard until I bought my current house in the summer of 2011 and my first time mowing was a learning experience. I’ve gotten better at mowing over the years and it only takes me around an hour a half compared to the two plus hours it used to take me. I’m certainly not about having neat rows and the perfect looking lawn, I usually just want to get the work done and get on with more enjoyable or productive endeavors. Sometimes I miss spots and have to go back and I have trees to go around and sometimes I take turns too sharp and have to double back.

To make mowing go faster and have some degree of enjoyment, I always listen to music while I’m mowing. I put my earbuds in and then put my ear protection ear muffs on because I know earbuds are not sufficient for protecting my hearing from the loudness of the mower. I plug my earbuds into my phone and put on my latest “mowing mix” of up tempo dance type music and get to mowing.

My mind tends to wander while I’m mowing. Heck, my mind wanders pretty much all the time and always has. When I’m mowing I think about all sorts of things. I figure out story lines in my latest book, think about future blog posts, mentally go through my to do list, or dream up scenarios that will probably never come true. I pay enough attention to what I’m doing to dodge beneath low tree limbs and stop for crossing butterflies, but otherwise my mind is usually worlds away from my 1.4 acres of land in Upstate New York.

Well, this last time I mowed, my mind apparently wandered so far and I got so lost in the music, that I mowed on a peculiar automatic pilot. I thought I’d done my usual mowing job, but when I looked out into my back yard the next morning, I saw some rather odd patterns. I imagine I must’ve gone back over missed spots and around trees more carefully, but I think a lot of it was just because I was so uplifted by my music and my thoughts that I just went with the flow. The weather wasn’t too hot for the first time in many months and it was the Friday before I got my girls, so I had plenty to be happy about.

Whatever the reason for my peculiar and puzzling patterns, I still managed to get my lawn mowed and I don’t have to worry about it for another two weeks hopefully. While my lawn may not be perfect or up to the standards of some and it certainly doesn’t have straight lines, the point is that it’s my lawn and I can do whatever I want with it. It’s very empowering owning my own land and being able to do as I please on it without being told I’m doing it wrong or that it needs to meet certain standards. Sometimes it can be a bit challenging living in the middle of rural nowhere, but most of the time, it’s exactly what I need.

So I say, what the heck, mow to the music, dance along to the beats while riding your tractor. Sing along if you want to. Anything that can transform an unpleasant chore into a bit of fun and adventure is more than okay in my book. And if people think you’re crazy, well…welcome to the club. 😉

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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!

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.

The Best Part of My Day and My Life

My girls being their fun selves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Is An Apple Pie

heart apple pie

Love is an apple pie

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

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

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

A Highly Successful Vacation Redo!

My girls standing at Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!