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!

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Clever, Crafty, and Creative Wonder!

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Jordan painting wooden centers for my earrings.

My oldest daughter turns 15 today. Just typing that out I’m in disbelief! It seems like I just gave birth to her moments ago, but obviously that’s not the case. She’s been a blessing since the day she was born and she continues to develop into an amazing young woman.

Along with my brown hair and eyes, Jordan has inherited by artistic nature. Although in her, it’s magnified far more than the talents I possess. She’s a great painter, drawer, writer, sculptor, and musician and she’s far smarter than I was at her age, or even than I am now. She’s always on the highest honor roll in school and she uses her clever and intelligent mind in constantly evolving ways.

She loves to paint in both small and large forms and her freehand abilities with a brush astound me. She’s painted a map of her fantasy world on her bedroom walls and she’s paint quotes from favorite movies and shows that further express what makes her tick. I’ve been asking her for over a year to draw or paint some centers for my earrings and over the last couple months she’s painted several wooden centers that I’m looking forward to beading around. Her steady hand and uniquely creative mind helps her design and implement artistry that is both intricate and fun.

Jordan has also inherited my sarcasm, wit, curiosity, and sense of humor. Although really, I can’t take full credit for that that because she has her own personality and individuality. I’m happy to say that Jordan and I get along very well, which isn’t always the case with parents and children with similar personalities. I’m also very happy that she’s not like “typical” teenage girls in that she’s not interested in any of the high school drama, has no interest in boys (unlike me at her age), and is more intent on enjoying her life than getting caught up in teenage stuff. She’s mature beyond her years and I count myself extremely lucky that she’s my daughter.

Jordan makes me laugh, she makes me think, and she makes me proud to call her my daughter. She’s a wonderful older sister to Jaycie and both encourages her and keeps her on her toes. Being Jordan’s mother inspires me to be the best version of myself because that’s what she does every single day. I love my clever, crafty, and creative wonder!

Turning “Old” Years Old

Senior Picture, 1995.

Me now in 2017. Not too bad for being “old.” 😉

This Sunday, June 4th, I’ll turn 40 years old. According to my 14-year-old daughter, I won’t be considered “old” until I’m 40. So I guess I’ll be enjoying my last couple of days of being “young.” I’m not upset with her for considering 40 old and I imagine I thought the same thing when I was her age. I think when I was her age the idea of turning 40 was beyond my comprehension, but now that’s it’s almost upon me, I’m not the least bit concerned about it.

When I was younger and I thought about turning 40, I expected that I’d have some big bash with all my friends and family. I will be going to lunch with my daughters and mother on my birthday but as my friends all live in different states, I won’t be seeing them. There won’t be a big 40th birthday party for me and I’m okay with that. I know how blessed I am to have my wonderful family and great friends. I’ll save the big bash for my 50th I guess. 😉

If you’d asked me in my teens where I thought I’d be at 40, I would have said happily married with children. Well the happily married didn’t work out, but I do have two amazing daughters that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I probably also would have said that I’d be a published fantasy author by now and that hasn’t happened either. Mind you, I haven’t exactly been trying to get anything published for the last couple of decades so the fault is my own. I also haven’t written much of my own work in the last decade despite my continuing desire to do so. Perhaps I’ll spend some time writing today to dust off that area of my brain before I become too “old” for such creative endeavors.

Honestly, age is just a number to me and I’ve felt that way for many years. I still have the same spark and energy that I had when I was a teenager, even if my body doesn’t always agree. I was a positive person in my teens, but I think I’m an even more positive person now because I’ve gone through so many life challenges and come out stronger. I know who I am and what I want far better than I did in my teens, 20’s and early 30’s and I’m sure my 40’s will bring me even greater self-awareness.

To all those young women (and men) out there who fear getting “old” and “aging” I want to say that fear will only hold you back. Embrace every day for the gift that it is and relish all the amazing moments in your life. Don’t waste time wishing to be older or younger, just love who you are and what makes you different, unique, and a force to be reckoned with.

Love is a Year-Round Thing

 

red crystal heart

Although I’ve had my issues getting a handle on romantic love, I do have a great grasp of non-romantic love. The love I feel for my daughters, my family, my friends, nature, the world and the universe is as strong as ever. While marketing companies want people to believe that love is stronger and/or more important on certain dates, love is a year-round, lifetime thing.

When I was in romantic relationships, I always made the extra effort to make sure my partner knew how much I cared about them. Alas, such effort was rarely returned in kind. Regardless, if I am ever in a romantic relationship again I will continue to give better than I get because that’s how I am. Even without being in a romantic relationship, that’s how I am. I’m kind, caring and loving because it feels good and right to be so. I don’t do it for attention or rewards; I do it because it’s me.

Every year I’m amused when I see men and women crowding grocery stores at the last minute trying to find that perfect February 14th gift for their sweetheart. They snatch up chocolates, stuffed animals and flowers because Hallmark says they should and that if they don’t, they’re somehow failing in their relationship.

I realize there are men and women that fully expect certain gifts every year around this time and I used to be one of them many moons ago. Nowadays I’ve realized that if someone truly loves me then they show it year-round in how they treat me. A smile, a nice word, a text or email that shows they’re thinking about me are all things that indicate caring, at least in my book. I’ve learned to recognize the more subtle signs of caring and I think that’s an important thing in a world where holidays are sometimes taken way over the top.

So today, while many couples go out or stay in for romantic dinners, shower each other with gifts and indulge in other such things, I’m going to spend the day working on a gift for a dear friend, beading, writing and then enjoying time with my girls when they get home from school. The sun is shining and it’s supposed to get warm enough to melt some of the current snow so I have a lot to be grateful for and a lot to love.

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.

Sweet company

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Tonight’s band concert for the middle school and high school was the last holiday concert of many over the past few weeks. It was a great concert to end the season with and I thoroughly enjoyed the music…and the unexpected company.

As it isn’t my night with the girls, I went to the concert solo and expected to be sitting alone through the entire thing. Happily, I was wrong. I had just sat down and was arranging my camera and phone on my lap when I felt a familiar sweet presence. I looked up to find my youngest daughter Jaycie grinning at me in her bunny earmuffs. I thought she had just come to say hi, but it turned out that she wanted to sit with me for the entire concert. To say I was happy is an understatement!

Jaycie settled beside me and I encouraged her to remove her earmuffs and jacket before she melted in the hot auditorium. The concert began shortly after and we both watched and listened with great interest. During one of the band changes, Jaycie looked over at me smiling and said “I love you, Mommy!” and gave me a sweet little kiss on the cheek. That certainly made my night! 🙂

Jaycie is a very sweet soul and I’m so grateful she kept me company tonight. It made the concert truly magical and warmed this mama’s heart.

Winter wonderland

snow covered road

The view on our walk this morning.

 

Thanks to one of those peculiar weather systems that’s spinning the wrong direction and moving east to west, it’s been snowing all day where I live. In New England, this precipitation was freezing rain and rain but when it moved west to where I live, it transitioned to snow and cold. It isn’t a blizzard or anything near the amount of snow dumped on Buffalo recently, but it’s the most snow we’ve had yet. As it’s still the holiday season, I don’t mind the snow and I’m enjoying the sight of it gently falling as it creates a winter wonderland.

kitten snowball

Daisy playing with the little snowball I brought inside. Jazz ate is shortly after this.

birdwatching kittens

The kittens were exhausted from birdwatching.

A little snow and cold wasn’t going to keep me from my vow to walk Jazzmin every day so we headed out this morning when there were only a few inches on the ground. Jazzmin is always happy to walk but she’d be happier if it wouldn’t snow on her head. Even with the cold and the snow pelting my face as we walked, I was happy because I know how lucky I am. I have a strong dislike for driving in snow and thanks to working at home, I don’t have to worry about driving into an office every day, no matter the weather. I’d much rather be out walking Jazzmin as I’m bundled up to my eyeballs than working for someone else helping them achieve their dreams. Nowadays, I get to chase and achieve my own dreams.

dog pawprints

Our footprints in the snow.

Despite a few unexpected interruptions, I was able to finish my work for the day before dinnertime. One of those unexpected interruptions was actually a welcome one as they cancelled afterschool activities and I had to pick Jordan up from school. She usually rides the late bus with her sister to their father’s house on Wednesday afternoon, but the canceled activities meant she needed somewhere to go. That’s yet another reason I feel blessed to be able to work from home, I’m there for my girls when they need me. Living only three minutes from the school comes in handy on days like today and thankfully, the roads weren’t too bad. Jordan and I enjoyed a quiet afternoon together before her father picked her up and I resumed my tasks for the day.

lights on the walkway

Glow of my walkway lights in the snow.

I’ve already had to shovel five inches of snow off my deck and I’m sure I’ll have to do tomorrow since it’s still coming down, but I’ll manage like I always do. I know that the cold is only temporary and that even when I don’t have my girls, I have my felines and my pup to keep me warm and remind me that I’m loved.

kittens and dog

Snuggling on the couch tonight.