Reflecting on 2018’s challenges

Now that we’re two days into 2019 and I’ve once again forgotten to buy new calendars before the year change, it seems like a good time to reflect on the challenges of 2018.

In the pre-spring of 2018, my basement flooded because my sump pump stopped working correctly. I managed to repair it temporarily and get the water out of my basement, but then had to throw out a lot of items that had been on the basement floor. Considering that I hadn’t needed those items in the almost seventh years I’d lived in the house, I obviously didn’t need them.

Then my kitchen drain wasn’t draining properly and my attempts to snake it failed to clear the clog. Called a plumber and they discovered that my line to the septic tank was partially broken, thus things weren’t draining properly. So my issues cost much more than a simple snaking, but avoided problems in the future. Plus I got my sump pump replaced with a smaller, safer unit.

After that came a challenge I’d known was coming, getting the transmission on my Toyota Matrix replaced. That cost more than expected, but with a new clutch and transmission now it should last a good many more years.

Just when I thought I might be in the clear, the water pressure in my house took a significant dive. It turned out that the line from my well to the house was leaking. So once again, plumbers dug up my yard and fixed the problem and once again I faced a large and unexpected plumbing bill. But the upside is that I have great water flow and pressure now and know that my well gets plenty of water.

I got a brief reprieve from challenges until late summer when wasps suddenly started appearing in large numbers in my bedroom. I discovered they’d bored right through the wall and into my closet. I then had to spray my closet with Raid and plug the hole with expanding foam.

During that traumatic escapade, the Raid damaged items in my closet and it was then filled with dead wasps I needed to clean out. So I had to clean out and reorganized my closet and that’s something I’ve needed to do since I moved in. While I didn’t enjoy that experience in the least, I do like having a tidier closet that’s easy to store things in.

So while I wish that the challenges of 2018 hadn’t been quite so financially expensive, I certainly learned a lot and was forced to make long overdue changes. Sometimes the universe gets tired of sending me subtle hints that I miss and has to send bigger slaps upside the head. This year, I’m keeping my eyes open for those subtle hints in the hopes of avoiding any bigger issues that arise.

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Making Peace with October

My father with our cat Sylvester

My father with our cat Sylvester

Today marks nine years since my father passed away. Sometimes it feels like more time than that and sometimes less time than that. Either way, any amount of time without my father has been difficult. However, as the years have passed, the actual day of his passing has lost some of the heavy weight it had upon my heart and I’ve learned to make peace with October.

Feeling sad without my father after his passing used to come around certain dates such as holidays, his birthday, family birthdays, and the day he walked on into the spirit world. It would also come at just random times when I’d be struck with a wave of sorrow that nearly knocked me off my feet. But time has lessened the pain and I’ve learned to enjoy holidays and birthdays again. While I miss him every single day and will always miss him, I also know that he doesn’t want me to dwell in pain and sadness. After all, when my father was alive he was very much into celebrating holidays, birthdays, and all special occasions with as much happiness as possible.

This year leading up to the anniversary of my father’s passing, I’ve been distracted by various things. I was working hard to save up for my recent trip to New England and the week before I left for that trip, I was battling wasps that had come through the wall of my closet. The wasps were an unexpected and unwanted adventure and the trip to New England was my little reward to myself for surviving that harrowing escapade. I think those distractions served me well, even though one was far less pleasant than the other. I had a strong feeling that I needed to go to New England this October because I hadn’t been out in October in many years, and I’m so glad I went! I know my dad was with me in spirit as always and sharing in my travels.

Today I spent the time just enjoying a lazy Sunday with my daughters. My mom stopped by briefly to drop off a new coat for my youngest daughter and we had a nice little visit chatting about various things. I’ve also been playing a bit of World of Warcraft with my oldest daughter, which is always fun and interesting. Then I did some beading of a new Halloween themed pin and had a nice talk with my youngest daughter about the tablet she uses for school and how it helps her with her homework.

This evening will be more along the lines of just spending time with my girls and being grateful for the blessings and happiness in my life. I know my father would want it that way and I know that he’s always with us in spirit. He watches over us, laughs with use, and most of all, loves us all.

Wingspans of Imagination

turkey vulture in the sky

Turkey vulture soaring on today’s walk.

Whenever I see turkey vultures soaring in the sky on my daily walks or when I’m out driving, they remind me of a time when I imagined them as dragons. That might sound odd, but hear me out. It was during a time of my life where I felt trapped in an unhappy situation and I just wanted out, but I didn’t know how to get out. I remember being in the car as a passenger and looking out the window to see turkey vultures soaring in the distance, their great wingspans impressive even so far away. They were soaring further out of view and as they did so, I was able to envision their shapes as not those of turkey vultures, but of dragons.

You see, I believe in magic and I’ve always believed in magic. And in that moment of rather deep despair, I really needed to believe that those turkey vultures were dragons because it meant that they were magic. In believing in magic, I find hope, strength, and power. Believing in magic helps me hold on to the idea that anything is possible if I just put my mind and spirit into it and send the right energy out into the world. Seeing those turkey vultures as dragons soaring out of sight helped me believe that I too would somehow soar out of my then unhappy situation and be free again.

Freeing myself of that unhappy situation didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. It took longer than I wanted it to, but it’s behind me now and I’m able to soar free in ways I couldn’t even fathom back then. The wingspans of imagination on those turkey vultures was much greater than their five to six foot physical wingspans. For me, the wingspan on those creatures extended beyond reality, as they transformed into dragons that helped carry me to new breadths of imagination, hope, and happiness.

Crisp Breezes and Hot Coffee

adirondack coffee mug lower quality

One of my favorite mugs for drinking coffee.

The weather has turned cool and crisp with the arrival of autumn. Well, at least right now it’s cool and crisp, I don’t really know about tomorrow because the weather has been all over the place lately. Autumn has arrived according to the calendar, but that doesn’t mean the temperatures are going to cooperate. Yesterday it was warm and humid and I was wearing shorts. Today started out the same temperature-wise but turned rainy and cool, with glimpses of sun here and there.

I’ve put warmer blankets on my bed and started using my humidifier instead of my fan at night when I sleep. I’ve also kicked those warm blankets off and torqued up the fan when it didn’t get as cool at night as I expected. I’d say this is typical autumn weather for where I live, but with climate change, I’m not sure “typical weather” is even a thing anymore. I just take it day by day and see what surprises await me.

When the air is actually cool and stays that way, I enjoy drinking coffee hot. In the summer or hotter weather, I drink it cold. The point is, I love my coffee. I like whole bean coffee that I grind myself, ground coffee from a can, and even instant coffee. I take my coffee, hot or cold, with flavored creamer of some kind. The flavor depends on my mood, the season, the cycle of the moon, and so on. There are certain flavors I avoid, but I like to experiment with new taste sensations occasionally. I always stir the creamer in with an iced tea spoon that I then leave in even while drinking my coffee. It’s a quirk of mine. πŸ˜‰

As I work from home, I usually drink my coffee at my desk, enjoying sips as I type away on my current transcription job. I tend to have more than one cup of coffee a day, but I am usually at my desk when drinking it. I drink it while I’m playing World of Warcraft or writing in my latest story, or as now, writing a new blog entry. I always have a cup of water alongside my mug of coffee to stay hydrated because coffee isn’t exactly a thirst quencher.

I heard something the other day about coffee that made me evaluate my perception of coffee. Someone said that people don’t like the taste of coffee, but they put up with it for the caffeine element. I thought about that and realized that no, that doesn’t apply to me. I do actually enjoy the taste of coffee. Would I drink it black? I have in the past and while a bit bitter, it wasn’t horrible. I don’t however, drown the main flavor of coffee with my creamers, I just sweeten it a bit.

As far as drinking it for the caffeine content goes, that’s somewhat true, but since I’ve been drinking coffee since I was 16 or so, it really doesn’t keep me alert like it used to. I have even been known to drink decaf coffee just because I wanted the taste of it without the caffeine. I love holding the mug of hot coffee in my hands, inhaling that familiar aroma, and then sipping at it. I like it hot, not tepid, but sometimes I make it a little too hot and can’t hold the mug without burning myself. Obviously even after so many years of making and drinking coffee, I still don’t know what I’m doing aside from just enjoying it.

Thinking deeper about my enjoyment of coffee, I believe one of the reasons I love coffee so much is because it reminds me of my father. I think the very first cup of coffee I ever had was from a pot he made and as I recall it was orange flavored. It was probably some specialty coffee ground from the store, but I remember that taste so vividly on my tongue. I remember it was during a family trip to a cottage in the Adirondack Mountains and I remember waking up to the smell of that orange flavored coffee brewing in the early light of morning. The air was cool and smelled like pine trees as it always does in the Adirondacks, and I recall that that hot cup of coffee helped warm me up on a chilly morning.

To this day, hot coffee warms me up on cool days and makes me smile as I think about my father and how far I’ve come from that first cup of coffee to the amazing life I live now. Wondrous that such a simple seeming thing as drinking coffee can hold so much meaning.

Another “Wild” Friday Night

<a href="https://i0.wp.com/www.clker.com/cliparts/g/6/7/Z/T/E/orange-dog-dancing-hi.png"><img src='https://i0.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.Β  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.

 

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. πŸ˜‰

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!