No Mow May! 1

No Mow May!

May is almost over! I’m bummed because I’m participating* in No Mow May and I’ve enjoyed not mowing the lawn this month.

If you’ve never heard of No Mow May, feel free to read this article I wrote for Norfolk Now about it. The gist is that not mowing your lawn provides spring pollinators abundant sources for food and habitat. It’s one of the easiest conservation actions a person with a yard can take!

Not only has it been awesome not having to mow the lawn, I love how wild and free the yard looks.

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It makes me want to run barefoot through the wildflowers and dandelions. Of course I won’t because TICKS and SNAKES. But still. There is beauty here that I’m happy to appreciate from the gravel driveway.

Also something to appreciate from the gravel driveway — this little snake who was sunning themself when I came home the other day.

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I have come a long way to be able to coexist with snakes. They’ll never be my favorite animal, and I certainly didn’t want to disturb this little one. I fully recognize that I am about 100 times the size of them, and I feel confident this snake is scared of me. At the same time, I also didn’t fancy stepping over them.

Because what if I do and the snake springs forward to wrap around my exposed ankle?

You never know!

Thankfully, all I had to do was take some baby steps and they slithered away under the porch.

I will try not to think of them working themselves into the basement! Laugh, if you will, but it has happened more than once at this house.

On a more positive note, in some cultures seeing a snake is a sign of good luck. Let’s see what good fortune is going to come my way….

 

* With the approval of the homeowners! If you are a housesitter like I am, please do NOT do No Mow May without the homeowners’ approval.

Help! I’ve Been Lassoed.

There’s a new man in my life and his name is Ted Lasso.

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I’m pretty sure Heath approves because he’s the one who introduced us.

I had heard of Ted Lasso before. Headlines, especially during awards seasons, gave me some indication he might be worth getting to know. But I have enough going in my life, thank you very much.

Then on Monday, May 2, Heath put on Episode 1, Season 1 for me. He left for Planet Fitness. By the time he returned, I was done with episode 3. By Friday we were on Episode 7, Season 2.  That’s approximately 500 minutes of television watching in four days. I say approximately because episodes are between 29 and 45 minutes.

Did I know at the start of last week I would be losing over 8 hours to Ted Lasso in 4 days?

No, I did not.

Do I regret what happened?

No.

But, also yes.

I’ll start with no.

This show is outstanding storytelling. From the first episode, a viewer understands the stakes – underdog coach set up for failure. Because Ted Lasso is so dang lovable, you can’t help but root for him.

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He’s also surrounded by a cast of characters that you either love or love to hate! They’re hilarious, infuriating, pathetic, and diabolical. Yet, they’re also complete characters with their own back stories that fully integrate into the world of Ted Lasso in compelling and nuanced ways.

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After we finish season 2 and I have no choice but to wait for season 3, I want to go back and watch some of the first episodes with a writer’s eye and mind to see if I can pinpoint the who/what/when/where/how/why this show hooks viewers from the get go and wins awards. In 2021, Ted Lasso was nominated for 20 Emmys and won 7.

Here’s the problem though: 8 hours of television over 4 days is too much for me. I am a person who values rest. I like long stretches of time where I simply exist, looking out a window or lounging on a couch with only my thoughts for company. I enjoy reading books and journaling. I have writing that needs revision and unpacking that needs to be done now that I’m back at my regular housesitting house.

None of that happened last week. By Saturday, I felt so off and unfocused that I had no choice but to stop everything and go back to bed for a few hours in the afternoon to simply rest. I should know better by now.

Hats off to you, Ted Lasso. You managed to crack my carefully cultivated sense of mindfulness and well-being. It’s always a good day when I realize I’m not quite there yet.

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P.S. – Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

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An Unexpected Gift 11

An Unexpected Gift

Several weeks ago I received an invitation to a child’s birthday party. When I first received the invitation, I wasn’t sure I was going to attend because I suspected I would be the only one wearing a mask. The party would be indoors and crowded.
Even though I am vaccinated and boosted, I am still cautious about covid. Omicron may be predominantly mild in those vaccinated and boosted; however, of the people I know who have tested positive, quite a few speak of the fatigue they felt for weeks afterwards.
I know what it’s like to feel fatigued for weeks (years, actually) thanks to narcolepsy. The medicine I’m currently taking is kinda/sorta working, so I don’t want to chance a step backwards with covid.
As the party day approached, I decided to go and wear a mask. Case counts had been declining and I knew it would mean a lot to the birthday kid for me to attend. But now I had another concern — what to get the birthday kid as a present.
I much prefer giving experiences than things. So when I saw the Hartford Symphony had Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert on their schedule for April 23 & 24, I knew this would be my gift. Not only does the birthday kid love Harry Potter (like I do!), but they also play violin.
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The plan was to pick up birthday kid at 11:00am for a 1:00pm show. I thought that would give us enough time to stop and get lunch somewhere and drive the 55 minutes to Hartford.
Around 10am, anxiety reared its ugly head. I had never been to the Bushnell Performing Arts Center. Of everything in this world that can give me anxiety, parking in unknown places is very high on the list. Especially the idea of running late and having to find a parking spot. Living in the Chicago suburbs for 8 years and driving downtown for shows will do that to you. I checked my map app and sure enough, traffic already increased the drive time by 10 minutes.
My brain whirred with mental math — if it now takes 65 minutes to drive there and we stop and eat for half an hour that only gives us 25 minutes to find a parking spot and arrive in time for the show.
ONLY 25 MINUTES FOR AN ANXIOUS PARKER IS NOT ENOUGH TIME.
I’m now texting the parent that traffic is increasing drive time. I’m going to leave now. I get in the car and go!
Except as I turn off my street onto the next crossroad, I imagine traffic getting even worse. What if traffic is so bad we don’t have time to stop for lunch?
I turn around and drive back to the apartment to get snacks.  I text the parent so birthday kid brings snacks for herself  just in case! 
 
I have now lost all the extra time I had by leaving a little bit early. I also still have to get gas.
When birthday kid and I are finally on the road, the drive time is now back to the original 55 minutes and I’m feeling much calmer because I know we have snacks.
We arrive at the Bushnell a little after noon. All my parking anxiety is quickly assuaged because the free lot that I knew about from the Hartford Symphony website is diagonal from the venue and it’s not even a third of the way full. It’s quite literally an anxious parker’s dream come true.
I’m further thrilled to learn there’s a small café inside the Bushnell. I order birthday kid the sandwich they want and I forgo the café options for my snacks because I know I’ll enjoy it more than the lunch offerings. We sit outside and people watch as all manner of Harry Potter fans stream into the area. Some are wearing wizard’s robes. All four Hogwarts houses are represented.
Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been years since I’ve done anything like this outing. I thought I would enjoy the movie and delight in the novelty of hearing the orchestra play. Both of those did, in fact, happen!
But what I enjoyed the most, the thing that ignited my soul from pandemic darkness where I hadn’t even realized just how dark it was in there because I’ve adapted to it after these two long years, was the shared experience of laughter, cheers, boos, and tears.
Over one thousand people sat in the theater with us. All wore masks. But that didn’t prevent us from cheering at Harry’s triumphs, laughing at Ron’s infatuation with the Beaubaxtons students, or gasping at the return of Voldemort.
The tears for me came when Alan Rickman’s name scrolled across the screen during the closing credits. Other people around me also expressed grief at the loss of such an iconic actor.
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I had no idea I was missing this kind of shared experienced until I was in the thick of it. It makes me wonder what else the pandemic has taken from me that I don’t even realize.
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A Much Needed Walk in the Rain

Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before — I attended the Connecticut Cactus and Succulent Society Annual Show and Sale. It’s the society’s 37th year of running the show/sale — who knew?

Apparently many, many people. When my friend and I made plans to attend, we decided leaving at 8:55am would give us plenty of time to get Bristol before the doors opened at 10:00am. The Society promised a free plant to the first 50 families each day and we felt confident we would be one of the first in line.

We arrived shortly after 10am to a parking lot jam-packed with cars. A line of people spilled out the doors of the Bristol Senior Center. People exited the doors with plants already in their hands or clustered in a box.

Turns out we had NO IDEA what we were getting into. I expected maybe 10 people would be there and maybe a few tables with plants.

WRONG.

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Wall-to-wall plants and so many people that I ended up trapped in a corner at one point and couldn’t get out for over three minutes. Thank goodness almost everyone was wearing a mask! I haven’t been in a crowd like that since before the pandemic. Add that to my high levels of introversion and I was ready to go 1.5 hours later.

Thankfully, I had Annie waiting for me when I got back to Norfolk since I’m taking care of her for the week. We played multiple rounds of fetch.

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Taken from earlier in the week; yesterday was too soggy to take a photo.

I learned the secret to fetch with Annie is to always have 2 or more balls ready to throw. I also learned that when Annie gets tired of running, she trots towards the woods with her ball and buries it in the leaves only to dig it up and bury again.

After about two hours of playing (and resting), I left Annie home while I went to the Norfolk Library to attend a Celebration of Ukrainian Song and Dance. It was again a large crowd and the dance company had 14 dancers total. All the dances were lively with clapping, stomping, twirling, and jumping.

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I enjoyed myself; however, by the end of the hour I again felt all my energy had drained. Thank goodness (also again) that I had Annie waiting for me at home. The rain had finally stopped and we headed out for a walk.

The Barbour Woods served as the perfect antidote to the crowds, noise, and overwhelm from earlier in the day. I didn’t even mind when a gentle rain fell from the sky. On the contrary, I lifted my head to the tree tops and let the drops splash my face. I felt refreshed and renewed.

When the rain stopped a few minutes later I whispered, “Come back.”

The rain didn’t come back, but Annie and I kept walking. Quietness surrounded me, except for the sloshing of my boots through the mud and leaves. With every step I took, I became more at ease until finally a sense of peace and joy had replaced the overwhelm from earlier.

Being with Annie in the woods was exactly what I needed it to be.

If you remember from earlier this year, I had a walk with Annie on a very cold winter’s day that I pronounced “the most invigorating thing I’ve done this year.” I was going to use that walk as benchmark for all other notable events this year. That walk still remains my most invigorating moment, followed by the walks I took in the aftermath of the ice storm. This walk also makes the list for the way it rejuvenated my spirit after such a draining day.

Thank goodness for walks. And woods. And dogs.

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Annie wouldn’t cooperate for a photo on our rejuvenating walk.

 

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Farm Fun and Writing!

I recently found myself in the company of my friend, two goats, and a pig.

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It’s a good place to be because I enjoy my friend’s company, Frankie and Sheldon are hilarious and adorable, and Abe R. Ham adds a certain level of drama to every situation.

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I don’t know if all pigs are dramatic or just Hammy. Regardless, he been an excellent muse as I put the finishing touches on another middle grade manuscript that I will soon be querying. Yes, it involves a pig but that’s all I’m going to say about the story.

This manuscript makes ten total (not counting picture books), or over half a million words written in my quest to be a traditionally published author. I remember when I was a child with a notebook in my bedroom and I couldn’t get past the title and the name of the main character. How do writers do this? I wondered.

As I was writing the preceding paragraph, I couldn’t remember if it was nine or ten books that I’ve written and I had to make a list to count. So now I’m laughing because look at how far I’ve come!

Me!

Kelly!

I have written ten whole books in the last six years. For the record, only four of these manuscripts are high enough quality at the moment that I could actually send them out to agents to consider.

But, still. I had a dream to be a writer and here I am six years later and that’s exactly what I’m doing. When I decided I wanted to be a writer I had ZERO books. Now I have TEN. It really is something to wake up one day and realize that you are smack dab in the middle of your dream.

I have no intention of stopping. I write because I love it! I love creating new worlds in which anything is possible. Talking dogs — yes! Dramatic pigs — of course! Magic? You bet. Happily ever after? All. Day. Long.

Now I just wait for luck and circumstance to be in my favor. In the meantime, I keep writing.

I also keep getting out there and living life to the best of my ability. Yes, I’m looking at both of you, pandemic and narcolepsy.

Because how can you look at this photogenic pig and not think he doesn’t have a story to tell?

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My Least Favorite Day of the Year

Could we please stop with daylight savings time?  Forcing me into unnecessary sleep disruptions seems cruel. I have enough sleep struggles at the moment.

I am no longer cautiously optimistic my sleep medicine is working. I know it is. I’m finally getting into deep sleep. But it’s coming at a high price in terms of other effects.

Because the medicine is a central nervous system depressant it can cause breathing issues. Not only do I now snore, but the snoring is LOUD; I have both earwitness testimony from Heath and my newly downloaded SnoreLab app. The app literally calls my snoring “epic.” I sound like an angry swarm of bees attacking an equally angry dragon.

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There have even been a few times when I stopped breathing. The medicine I take has been shown to trigger sleep apnea, so now I have a sleep study scheduled in mid-May to see how dangerous a problem I have.

I’m also back to waking up drenched in sweat every night. I had a brief reprieve when I made the switch from Xywav (the newer formula of the medicine) to Xyrem (the older formula). I had to switch because the Xywav includes an artificial sweetener as an added ingredient and I was having all kinds of GI issues as a result. I then had a few wonderful nights of absolutely no sweat. It felt glorious to wake up warm and dry! Now I wake up feeling cold, clammy, and uncomfortable. Sometimes I even have to change my shirt in the middle of the night when I take my second dose because I’m soaked with sweat.

These effects are not what I signed up for to treat narcolepsy. All I want is a good night’s sleep. And then we had to throw out a perfectly good hour this morning. I was a shaky, anxious mess this morning.

Here’s what’s keeping me going:

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Thank goodness for this little guy. I’ve had the privilege of taking care of Fergus since Tuesday. We sit on the couch together for hours. He watches out the window; I read a book. He chases his ball and I laugh. These moments are pure joy. How lucky I am to be with Fergus. He reminds me that there are still good things in life. I know because he’s one of them.

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So is Heath. He’s been super supportive. He knows the snoring and the challenges with taking Xyrem aren’t my fault. Still. I love Heath more than any other person in this world. I hate that my quest for good sleep is negatively affecting his.

Thankfully, Heath has travel plans taking him to Illinois in about a week and a half. He’ll be gone over a month. Even though I’ll miss him terribly, there’s relief in knowing that I won’t be affecting his sleep.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to continue taking this medicine. I feel terror and relief at the thought. There has got to be a better way. I just wish I knew what it was.

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A New Achievement

In October 2021, the Norfolk Land Trust put out a call to local photographers asking them to contribute to a January and February 2022 exhibit of their trails. Now, I am not a photographer; however, I do take a lot of photos.

A lot of my photos are of Annie in the Barbour Woods, which happens to be a Norfolk Land Trust Trail. Sometimes, I even take photos of the Barbour Woods without Annie in them. She’s very fast and quite curious so she’ll zoom ahead to get in some good sniffs or bury her ball to dig it up.

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Meanwhile, I walk to catch up with her and marvel at the natural splendor around me.

The most marvelous of those places (in my opinion) is the Swamp Trail. During the spring and fall, vernal pools pop up and the beauty of the trail takes on a fantastical quality. I have probably taken close to 1000 photos of the Swamp Trail in the last 2-3 years. One of them was bound to be good.

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So I offered my photo for the exhibit.

Imagine my delight when my photo sold for $75.00!

To know that someone saw my photo and saw value in it is validating in surprising ways. I love those woods and I love being there with Annie. And I just happened to be lucky enough to be there at the right time with my smartphone to capture the way the light danced between the trees and water. I remember that day and how I felt awe and wonder at the way the woods looked. The moment felt like magic; like a wonderful gift that Annie, the woods, and I will share forever.

I took that photo and somebody saw something in it enough to pay $75.00. Yeah, that feels good.

Here’s the best part: I know the person who bought the photo. Norfolk has an abundance of good people, and this person and their spouse are two of them. I consider both my friends.

When my friend handed me an envelope today with the check, I shook my head. I wanted them to have the photo just because. My gift to them because when we eventually move, I will miss them dearly and I will miss their in-person friendship. It makes me so happy to know that photo has a home with them.

That feeling is worth way more than $75.00!

I also contributed a photo of Annie and Dodger running on the Carriage Trail.

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Because of course I did. Raise your hand if you’re not surprised.

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A Different Kind of Tired

I have re-discovered a new form of exhaustion! The good news is that this re-discovery means I’m sleeping well enough to notice. The bad news is that, well, I’m exhausted. I’m calling it bone-weary tired because it’s not just mental. This tiredness has seeped into my infrastructure. It comes with the territory of being a housesitter.

After fifteen consecutive months in the same housesit (phooey to you, covid), the owners finally made it home from being abroad. Fifteen months is a long time to housesit, and the effort and diligence of packing up, moving out, and making sure the house was ready to welcome their family home took several days of nonstop work. Up early. Late to bed. Oh, and also work at the library in the meantime.

Did I mention the ice storm? Yes, because there was also an ice storm that hit Norfolk on Friday, February 4. The storm itself was nothing special. Except a few tree limbs hung so low in the driveway that for three days, I couldn’t drive it.

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Packing your car is not easy when you have to walk approximately an eighth of a mile one way on solid ice. Nevertheless, I did it. It helped to have the best form of motivation — mother nature in all her icy glory!

In the days following the ice storm, Norfolk turned into a sparkling ice palace thanks to the thick coating of ice everywhere and the brilliant blue skies and sunshine. I’ve never been so happy being so exhausted.

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As I walked up and down the driveway over and over, I marveled at the wonder around me.

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I also had my buddy Fergus as a companion, but I’m not sure he appreciated the splendor as much as I did. He likes to run, sniff, and be as cute as possible.

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So even though I’m bone-weary tired, I got to spend a lot of time outside enjoying myself. I also chuckled to myself more than once to be careful what you wish for. As you may recall, in my last blog post I was craving functional fitness. I certainly got it this past week, and then some.

I’m also keeping track this year of invigorating experiences since I had one early on. The standings so far:

Most Invigorating: My walk with Annie dog in the woods on January 11

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Runner Up: Packing up my car after an ice storm, February 5-6.

Starting on Thursday, I have five days of vacation. They cannot get here soon enough. My bones and brain need it. And the best part — I’ll be with my buddy Fergus the entire time.

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Life Is Good

I can always tell when my sleep is better — the number of simple joys I experience throughout my day increase exponentially.

Lately, I’ve been delighted by:

all the animal tracks in the snow;

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the way the snow accents the wreath I made;

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the light streaming through the trees in the Barbour Woods;

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shoveling snow;

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Okay, I know this one is a little weird. But lately my body and mind have been craving functional forms of fitness and shoveling snow will give me that fix every single time.

I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying walking Annie through the snow-covered woods for the same reason. It’s such a great, blood-pumping, muscle-engaging workout to walk through the ankle-deep snow.

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And last, but not least, these mashed potatoes:

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I made a low fodmap vegetable stock recipe the other day. You throw a bunch of vegetables like leeks, the green parts of scallions, carrots, parsnips, parsley, and potatoes in a big pot with water and let it simmer for an hour. Then the recipe says to strain the liquid and discard the vegetables. Heath questioned the part about discarding the vegetables. I told him, “that’s what the recipe says.”

Yet, when the time came to actually discard them I looked at the wonderfully soft potatoes and thought, surely I should mash these instead of throw them out. Which is exactly what I did. And, oh, my, potatoes! They are the most delicious mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten, a sentiment also shared by Heath.

So that’s where I am these days. My sleep is improved enough that I find mashed potatoes marvelous. Life is good.

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A New Challenge in 2022!

This winter has been nothing short of wonky for Norfolk. December ended with warmer temperatures than usual, a lot of rain, and barely a dusting of snow. January also started off the same way. The second week of January changed everything – a few inches of snow and some chilly temperatures!

Just how chilly? On Tuesday, January 11th the temperature was -8°F with the wind chill. That day also happened to be one of my scheduled walks with Annie. I asked Annie’s mom how long she thought Annie could be out in the cold. Annie’s mom said she was more worried about me.

Pish posh! I replied (though not quite in those words). I believe that because my formative years were spent on an ice-skating rink, my blood carries a small percentage of ice in it.

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I was not at all worried about myself being in the chilly temperatures, especially when I wear the proper attire.

In the case of Tuesday’s temperatures, appropriate wear meant hat, gator, gloves, hand warmers, fleece-lined pants, LL Bean socks, Xero winter boots, and my Columbia Omni Heat coat that is filthy dirty but I remain steadfastly committed to because I only paid 75 cents for it while volunteering in Churchill, Manitoba.

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Annie and I set off with determination to complete our full loop of the Swamp Trail in the Barbour Woods. With blue skies that stretched for miles and a glorious sun for company, I felt confident we could do it.

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And I was right!

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By the end of our walk, my brain was awash in all the feel-good neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. When I returned Annie home, I reported that our walk was “the most invigorating thing I’ve done all year.”

Since the year was only 11 days old, I’m not sure I impressed anyone.

But I did come up with the idea that this walk with Annie will be the benchmark for my experiences in 2022. Anything notable that happens, I will compare it to how I felt on that cold winter’s day with Annie in the woods. By the end of 2022, I’ll have a list of my best moments.

Anyone want to guess how many will involve dogs?