Birthday Gifts To Myself

calendar page Lidancie Arts

Today’s the day!

Today I turn 41 years old, but honestly, I’ve already felt 41 for a while. This year I was fortunate enough to have my girls the weekend before my birthday and I’ve been essentially celebrating my birthday all weekend long. On Saturday, my mother treated my girls and I to birthday lunch at Olive Garden (one of my favorite restaurants) and then we spent the rest of the day just relaxing at my mom’s house in the lovely weather. As a continued celebration of my birthday yesterday, I took my girls to see the new Star Wars movie, Solo, and treated us all to overpriced movie theater snacks. We all enjoyed the movie and then went to ice cream afterwards.

I’m quite sure I’ve never celebrated my birthday over more than one day, so I’ve been enjoying this unusual treat this year. For me, the best gifts are spending time with my girls and family, having good friends, and being able to do what makes me happy. If I need material items, I can just buy them for myself, so wrapped gifts aren’t really necessary anymore. Thus far, 41 is off to a really good start!

As I continue to celebrate my birthday today on the actual day I was born, I decided to give myself a very important gift. This year’s birthday gift to myself is that I will spend the entire day while the girls are at school writing. Writing future blog posts, writing in my Warcraft fan fiction, writing outlines for future stories, whatever I want!

When I was a teenager, I promised myself I’d be a published author by the time I was 30 years old. That deadline came and went without realizing that goal, but I haven’t given up on that dream. I do have one self-published Kindle book, but it’s non-fiction and while I think it’s a good story, my heart is really in fantasy fiction writing. I love that anything is possible when magic is involved and that type of freedom helps my writing go wherever it wants to take me. My muse is very much alive these days, but I have trouble making the time to let her out. Hence, today’s birthday gift of writing!

I think like any writer, I doubt my own abilities to tell something new and different in my own interesting style. However, as I’ve read in many inspirational writing quotes, although something might have been told many times before, it hasn’t been told by ME and with my voice. Therefore, I feel like I still have much to offer this world as an author. At my core, despite the many paying jobs I’ve had and have in my life, I am and have always been a writer. The universe gave me this crazy imagination for a reason and today I’m going to channel it into my keyboard and onto pages and pages of new adventures!

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October Already?!

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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.

New month, new possibilities

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It’s hard to believe it’s August already! It seems like it was just 4th of July when I was out mowing my lawn back before lack of rain fried the grass. July was certainly a busy, productive month and I have a feeling August will be similar.

I got an early start to this first day of August when Jazzmin came into my room at 4 a.m. I’ve been a light sleeper since I had babies and as Jazz usually sleeps in the girls room, it was unusual for her to be in mine. I heard her footsteps into my room and her wagging tail whacking my hamper and was then fully awake. I figured she had to go outside and I was right.

When I took Jazzmin out in the pre-dawn darkness, the air was thick with fog and the grass and dirt were damp beneath my feet. I’m not certain if it rained again or if it was just the excessive humidity but the wetness felt wonderful on my bare feet. Along with the moisture in the air, I also felt a change in the air. It wasn’t weather-related, it was just a feeling I had. A feeling that August is going to be full of positive changes and new opportunities.

I went back to bed after taking Jazzmin out and she settled on the floor between the girls’ beds like she usually does. When I woke again a few hours later that feeling of positive impending changes and opportunities remained.

The girls and I had to do some running around today and while doing so, I saw four hawks, a great blue heron and my first monarch butterfly of the year. All very positive signs! I believe that the universe was reaffirming the feelings from the morning darkness with Jazzmin and I’m curious to see what new adventures August brings.

The Power to Write the Words

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Just as I said I was going to in my last blog post, I sat down at my desk this past Sunday and started writing in my fantasy novel “Unbroken Flames.” During the past few years, whenever I’d sit down to write, I’d feel all nervous and restless, as I doubted my own abilities as a writer. I didn’t know if I still had “it” anymore and when I’d start writing, I couldn’t remember what tense I usually wrote in or what my writing “style” even was.

Fortunately, that nervousness didn’t exist this past Sunday and for the first time in many years, I was able to put on music and just start typing out whatever was in my brain. The ability to listen to music and write was something I’d lost and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was because I can’t concentrate on my work writing if I listen to music. Writing for pleasure is different though and I was finally able to let the music help inspire me and move my fingers across the keys.

I only wrote a few pages but those few pages were the start of something important and they represent a shift in my life. I’ve finally managed to close the doors on certain chapters of my life and restore my eternal hope for the future. Those feelings flowed into the main character of “Unbroken Flames” as I realized that she needed to transform just as I have these past few years.

I may not be able to rewrite what’s happened in my life, but I can rewrite what’s going to happen in hers and perhaps as I write the future I want for her, it will create the future I seek as well. That may sound absurd, but I know better than to underestimate the power of the written word…

Walking Alone

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I’m good at being alone. I didn’t used to be, but I am now. Do I think that’s a bad thing? No, not really. Did I used to think it was a bad thing? Oh yes, of course. However, life has taught me how important it is to be good on my own rather than thinking I’m somehow incomplete because I’m single. I have been an independent woman for several years now and I’ve become quite good at taking care of myself and others and I’m proud of that, but I do not believe that humans are meant to be solitary creatures forever.

It’s important to understand that I’m not always alone. I have my daughters for half the week and my adoring animals at home always. Although I may be physically alone at times when I’m away from home, I am never truly alone as my ancestors and the universe are always with me, watching me, guiding me.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time I started taking walks alone. I had been walking Jazzmin twice a day and that’s great exercise for both of us, but I really needed some “me” time. I love Jazz and she’s a great pup, but she’ll always be on the lookout for squirrels, birds, other dogs, cats, bugs, leaves and anything else that can easily distract her and because of that, I’m always on my toes when I walk her and not entirely relaxed. With the weather turning nicer and the days growing longer, I concluded that it was possible to take Jazz on a nice, long walk and then take myself on a nice, long walk alone and then we would both feel happily fulfilled.

Therefore, on the most recent warm, spring day we had a couple weeks ago, I walked Jazzmin in the late morning and that made her day. Once I finished my work that evening, I then placed Jazz in her crate with her peanut butter filled Kong and radio playing and set out on my own. I don’t listen to music when I’m walking Jazz because I have to listen for critters, but on my own I happily put in my earbuds and let the beat of the music set my pace.

There was a steady breeze that day (as there always seems to be lately) but the sun was shining and it was warm enough for me to wear shorts. As I tend to burn easily, I’d slathered on a fresh coat of SPF protection to prevent the lobster look. My hair was up in a ponytail and it bounced from side to side as I found my stride and took on the walk up the big hill.

me and my shadow

Just me and my shadow

As I walked, I breathed in the fresh, spring air and kept my gaze ever upward at the beautiful sky. Even though I had my earbuds in, I could still hear the familiar songs of birds and I watched them as they happily flew about in their spring mating rituals. While I walked the road alone, I felt my father and ancestors with me, walking with me, lifting my spirit. Shortly after summoning such thoughts to my mind, two hawks emerged from the trees ahead of me and began circling slowly in the sky, rising gracefully toward the clouds. A reminder from the universe that I’m never truly alone and that when I release my stubborn independence long enough to ask for help, I will receive it.

By the end of my four-mile walk, I was both tired and exhilarated as I wore a huge smile and felt as if my entire body was glowing. I’d used those four miles alone to sort through all kinds of thoughts and feelings and re-familiarize myself with how amazing I am, how amazing we all are. I’m not afraid to walk alone and I never will be, but I imagine eventually I’ll want company of the male persuasion that can keep up with all aspects of me and not just the walking pace I set. The thing about that to remember though is that although someone else may walk with you on your path, the journey is yours alone to take.

The clarity of low visibility

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Low visibility looking down the big hill

The very wintry weather lately has made it difficult to walk Jazzmin but with all the roads plowed today, I decided it was time to set boots and booties to snowy road and take a walk. Once my girls had been picked up, I changed into my walking clothes, got Jazz sweatered, backpacked and bootied up and headed out.

It was lightly snowing as we walked carefully down the driveway to avoid slipping on the ice below the most recent dusting of snow. Once safely on the salted and slightly snowy road, we easily found our pace and the fresh, chilly winter air felt wonderful to breathe in. By the time we reached the end of my road, the light snow had turned into big, heavy flakes and shortly after turning left onto the next road, the snow changed again to a mix of fluffy flakes and tiny snowballs.

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Light snow shortly after we turned onto the second road

I wasn’t sure how long of a walk we were going to take, but I enjoyed the tranquility of the snow and crispness of the air so much, we kept going right up the big hill. The snow got progressively heavier as we walked and the visibility became quite low, but as I was walking, I didn’t mind at all. It would’ve been a different story if I was driving, but when I’m walking I can see exactly where I’m going and don’t have to worry about my car tires slipping or sliding. My boots and Jazz’s booties had no problem keeping traction as the road and our bodies became coated with snow.

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A very snowy Jazzmin

When there weren’t any cars driving by, it was very calming listening to the falling snow. The air was still and the limited visibility from the heavy snowfall helped bring clarity to my mind, heart and spirit. Walking always helps recharge me and quiet my hectic mind as the fresh air fills my lungs and the exercise works my muscles. By the time we reached the top of the big hill my thighs were mostly frozen, my hair was coated with snow, my glasses were wet and foggy and Jazz wasn’t exactly thrilled to be covered in snow, but I was still smiling and she was still trotting along.

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Jazz trotting along

I’ve said this before but it still holds true, taking a walk when you’re down, confused, anxious or worried can do amazing things! It does amazing things when you’re feeling up too, but when your mood really needs a boost, get off your butt and walk! I know I’m glad I did and it helped remind me how resilient, strong, determined and amazing I am. With my pup beside me and a path before me, there’s nothing I can’t handle!

Unconditional Love Wrapped in Yellow Fur

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Four year ago today I adopted my pup Jazzmin from Happy Tails Animal Shelter in Canandaigua, New York. I’d wanted to get a dog since my divorce in the summer of 2011, but I hadn’t found one that looked like the right fit yet. I grew up with family dogs and loved them, but had been unable to have one during my marriage because my ex didn’t like dogs. He wasn’t overly fond of cats either, but he put up with them because I wanted them. The freedom to get whatever animals I want and love them without concern for allergies or lack of a partner’s fondness is one of the many reasons I enjoy being single.

Jazzmin and I were a perfect fit right from the start and a friend has called her the canine version of me. She’s full of energy, optimistic and has the most adorable brown eyes. Just like me 😉 She goes a little heavy on the 80’s black eyeliner look, but it works on her and adds a deeper patheticness to her puppy dog eyes.

I was trying to keep Jazz's ears warm. She was not impressed...

I was trying to keep Jazz’s ears warm. She was not impressed…

Jazz and I have had our ups and downs as we’ve figured each other out. I didn’t really know the proper way to walk a dog, ie they walk next to you or behind and not in front, but I learned and taught her. Nowadays she stays by my side with only occasional reminders, as long as a squirrel doesn’t run across the road or we encounter another dog. She’s like me in the social aspect, she likes other dogs but gets overexcited and isn’t sure how to act. Whereas I tend to become shy in similar encounters with humans, she gets exuberant. We may never have the “social with our own kind” thing figured out, but she LOVES people of all kinds and is a favorite visitor at the boarders when I go on my road trips.

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

When I adopted Jazzmin, they guessed that she was around two years old, which makes her around six now and she shows no signs of slowing down. She still walks the road like it’s going to disappear if she doesn’t keep moving and she’s my almost constant shadow when we’re inside. Most days I almost trip over her when I turn around and while I appreciate the loyalty, I don’t need help being clumsy.

I’ve managed to teach Jazz a few things over the years. I taught her how to play fetch indoors. We try it outdoors but she loses all focus and just runs in a circle like a lunatic. I’ve taught her to wait patiently for food and treats and can almost balance a biscuit on her nose before she gobbles it. I’ve advanced the traditional “shake” into a “high five” where she raises the paw a bit higher and while I can’t get her to speak on command, she will howl-talk at me sometimes when she’s impatient. My 9-year-old black cat Owl and I taught Jazzmin that cats are pretty cool and while she may never really “love” the younger cats (neither will Owl), she definitely loves Owl.

Jazzmin and Owl snuggling with me today

Jazzmin and Owl snuggling with me

Jazzmin has taught me some things over the years too. She’s taught me that no matter what I do, I’m always worthy of love and that the best snuggles on the couch usually involve a big pile of yellow fur that twitches and snores. Jazz has taught me a new level of patience as I’ve worked to improve her leash skills over the years. I’ve become more aware of my surroundings too as I try to spot squirrels and other distractions on walks before she does.

Jazzmin and the sky

In honor of today’s adoptiversary, I gave Jazz a nice big beef bone and she’s been working at it with occasional water breaks for almost two hours. She’s very determined when it comes to getting every last ounce of marrow out of a bone or chewing on a new toy until the squeakie is suitably dead. There’s a lot to love about Jazzmin. Her porcupine quill-scarred nose, perky ears (her right is always slightly higher than her left) white chest, buns of steel as my vet calls them and upright tail that’s wagging almost all the time all make her uniquely adorable to me.

She's rather fond of lobster tail

She’s rather fond of lobster tail

I can’t imagine my life without Jazz and she’d best live forever! I know I’ll own dogs for the rest of my life and every last one will be a rescue like her because every dog deserves a loving home. If you’re ever looking for a new companion, I urge you to go to your local shelter or contact one of the many pet rescue organizations to find the perfect compliment to your life. I see so many dogs and cats I wish I could adopt, but I don’t have the room or the money to create my own “circus.” Maybe someday, but not now. For now I’ll just love the animals I have and do my best to provide them with a very happy home. =)

The kittens snuggled up against Jazzmin.

The kittens snuggled up against Jazzmin.