And the Award Goes to ... 1

And the Award Goes to …

Calling all pets in Norfolk! The Norfolk Library is hosting a pet parade this Friday, June 11th at 6:30pm on the Village Green. 

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Yes, I made this poster using my favorite Norfolk animals. Obviously, I will not be a judge. How could I ever choose between my favorite furry friends in town? 

Although I wouldn’t say Abe R. Ham the pig is necessarily furry. More like tufty and dramatic, but I supposed that’s the prerogative of a pig!

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Abe R. Ham

Hammy, as he’s affectionately known, only cares about me when I give him apples and carrots. I’ve come to accept that we have this weird relationship – I give him snacks and he gives me 1.5 seconds attention. Then he’ll go rooting around the farmyard, honking and squealing as if the length of the grass and lack of crunchy leaves is somehow a personal attack on his pig-ness. Hammy would definitely win best actor in the Academy of Barnyard Dramatics.  

Now that I’ve awarded Hammy a prize, I can’t leave out the other animals. Well, except for that cat. I used a stock photo from Canva, the graphic design platform I use for all my social media work at the Library. 

I’m not anti-cat or anything. I simply couldn’t find any outdoor photos of my favorite Norfolk cats and I thought it was silly to include an indoor cat on a poster for an outdoor pet parade. This cat kinda sorta maybe looks like my buddy, Bracken, so that makes me think I can award the Canva Cat an Elmer Award for being Bracken’s stand-in. 

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Bracken

If you’ve never heard of the Elmer Awards, please click here to read about the storied history of the one and only award for Hollywood stand-ins that were given in the 1930s and 40s. 

Chloe, who may or may not be anti-cat depending on what her feline brother Dweezle is usually doing, is paws down Miss Norfolk Canine Beauty Queen. Her trendy silver color is all natural with her border collie merle coat and those blue and brown eyes can see right to your soul … or the hotdogs on your kitchen counter. Chloe is also known as quite a counter surfer in her household, so it’s a good thing she’s so stunning. 

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Dweezle

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Chloe

Next I’ll award Dodger the Sassy Britches award because even though he may have one of the sweetest faces in the history of Butterscotch Border Collies anywhere, there’s quite a bit of spice under all that fluff. Dodger, or His Royal Highness, as his other dog walker and I call him, doesn’t let a meal go by without insisting that he somehow contribute. And by “contribute” I mean that Dodger gets to sample some or all of it. 

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Dodger

Annie wins the All Around Perfect Dog award. But I’m still not convinced Annie is a real dog. I’ve told people I’ve met in the Barbour Woods while walking her that I think she’s a divine being come to Earth in a dog costume. Just to be clear – I don’t just blurt out this assertion. I usually say it after the person interacts with Annie for approximately 3 seconds and they realize they are in the presence of someone spectacular. The Barbour Woods person is then allowed to throw Annie’s ball, if they please, and I’m pretty sure Annie does this little maneuver to give the humans extra time to fawn over how truly delightful she is until she brings the ball back and it’s time to demonstrate again how perfect she is. 

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Annie

Since Annie is a hard act to follow, I’ll move on to Sheldon next since he’s a goat. And since he’s a goat (i.e., a Nigerian Pygmy goat), I’ll just go ahead and give him a GOAT award so he can be a Greatest Of All Time goat. It might be premature since he’s a young goat, but I think Sheldon has a lot of potential for goatiness — I mean, just look at his ears. 

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That leaves us with Fergus, who wins Everything Else. This award encompasses the bite-sized perfection that is Fergus — from his scruffy, adorable face, to his adventurous attitude, and every yip, snoozle, and pensive stare out the window in between.

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Fergus

And did I mention that Fergus has been known to fall asleep on human heads? The day this happened, I texted Heath and told him I would never be able to move again. That moment was one of the most joyful in my whole life. All because of little Fergus. 

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It’s truly a wonderful life where I get to love so many pets! And to think that on this Friday I get to love all the pets that come to the Library’s pet parade, too! Probably for the best they’re not allowing me to judge. Every pet would get a prize and I suspect the judging would take all night. 

If you live in the area, please feel free to join our pet parade. If you want to register your pet to participate, here’s the link: http://www.norfolklibrary.org/events/pet-parade-and-fridays-on-the-green-kick-off/

Otherwise just come and have some furry fun!

 

 

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A New Credit to My Name

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life:

  • Games Attendant, Hershey Park
  • Mortgage Loan Auditor, Harris Savings Bank
  • Tutor, Sylvan Learning Center
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of North Carolina
  • Graduate Teaching Fellow, University of North Carolina
  • Research Assistant, University of North Carolina School of Medicine
  • Consultant, University of North Carolina School of Medicine
  • Assistant Professor of Psychology, Benedictine University
  • Associate Professor of Psychology, Benedictine University
  • Pet & House Sitter, TrustedHouseSitters.com; MindMyHouse.com; HousesittersAmerica.com; HousesittersCanada.com
  • Café Worker, Station Place Cafe
  • Writer, Norfolk Now
  • Online Editor, Norfolk Now
  • Liaison, Norfolk Hub
  • Executive Assistant, Norfolk Library
  • Director of Community & Creativity, Norfolk Church of Christ Congregational (UCC)
  • Community Engagement Coordinator, Norfolk Library

And, my personal favorite:

  • Dog walker!

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Now, I have one more to add to the list:

  • Producer!

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This one I did not see coming. But, yes, I am now a credited producer on a COVID-19 vaccine video.A New Credit to My Name 15

This video is the result of a collaboration with Dr. Richard Kessin, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology, Emeritus, Columbia University. For a little over a year, I’ve been helping Rich set up his website. Rich has been writing science columns for local newspapers in his retirement, and he wanted a website where people could access all his writing. As Rich is an expert in disease and vaccines, he was my go-to person to ask all COVID-19 virus and vaccine-related questions. The idea for a public service video came up and we just went with it!

You can check out the video here.

As someone who is three days away from being fully vaccinated, I am so proud to be a part of this video. I’ll be honest – I was scared to get the vaccine. I had concerns that it was developed too quickly and that there would be unknown effects that would only be revealed with time. As Rich explained to me, the technology to create and administer the vaccine is something that’s been in the works for over a decade. It may seem quick to us, but to the scientists it hasn’t been that quick at all.

Another point Rich made that resonated with me is that my worries were all unknown hypotheticals. What if this and what if that. COVID-19 is a very real and present danger. The risks of this virus are known. Why would I jeopardize my health and the health of those I loved for something that’s imaginary?

When I thought about the vaccine in those terms, I pushed through my fear and got the shot. There are many people in my life I would do whatever it takes to protect them and keep them safe. And if that means taking on the fear of the unknown, then I realized I would do that for them. Because I love them. Because they matter to me.

I recently got into a discussion with someone about the vaccine. I explained that I would continue to practice social distancing and masking to help keep people safe. This person explained that throughout my life I’ve already passed on many germs, getting people sick, possibly even killing them. People I would never even know. My conversation with this person then got cut off, so I’ll never really know what I would have said in the moment as my response.

But as I replayed that conversation in my head, here’s what I would have liked to say: What makes you think I’m okay with any of that? I’m someone who prioritizes the values of service to others and compassion in my life. I’m a regular blood donor. My bone marrow is in the national registry. My husband knows that if something were to happen to me, he’s to donate my organs – and my organ donor status is indicated on my license, too. I’ve learned A LOT in this pandemic about what it means to be a good citizen and a good neighbor. If there are things I can do, like stay home when I’m sick, wear a mask to prevent spreading germs, wash my hands, get a vaccine, why wouldn’t I do those things to help other people stay healthy and safe?

Why does it have to be such a big deal for us to care about others? Is there anything we can possibly say that will convince people to care about others simply because it’s the right thing to do?

I don’t know. But, I’m going to keep trying. This video is just one more way I can be a part of something bigger than myself. When I heard an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci recently, he said those of us who got vaccinated are part of the solution. Those who haven’t are now part of the problem. His words resonated with me. I am thrilled and delighted to be a part of the COVID-19 solution. It’s one of the few things I can do these days that has a direct benefit on others.

If you haven’t already gotten vaccinated, I encourage you to consider your reasons why. Think about those reasons in the context of what we actually know and what are the imaginary what-ifs. Think about what you’re truly willing to do for those you love. Yes, it can be scary to face unknowns. That’s why we have professionals who devote their entire adult lives to becoming experts. So they can answer our questions for us and alleviate any of our concerns.

So if you have any questions, you can ask me and I’ll pass them right along to Richard Kessin. I maybe be a producer, but I’m no vaccine expert. Just a fan of them!

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Beary Good!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

I’m especially grateful to the mama bear of this baby bear!

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You can watch a short video of this baby bear snacking on clovers and dandelions here.

Thank you, mama bear, for choosing our yard! And special thanks for not being grumpy at me when I finally got out of my car and ran to the front door.

At least, I think she wasn’t grumpy at me. I don’t know as I never actually saw her! Talk about a suspenseful moment of my life. After watching the baby bear for several minutes – my stomach complaining loudly the entire time that I needed to get inside and start working on my dinner – I pulled in as close to the front door as possible, put Heath on videophone just in case, and then ran to the front door and unlocked it faster than a bear licking a pot of honey.

It’s funny to think that just a few years ago my “Norfolk Bear Story,” was that I’d never seen a bear in Norfolk. It felt like everyone else had some sort of bear story. Bears showing up in their yards. Bears splashing in their ponds. Bears crossing their paths in the woods. Bears going through their garbage.

I didn’t think I was EVER going to see a bear like that, and, in fact, the first time I did see a bear in the wild it was at the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming in the summer of 2018. The experience wasn’t as magical as I hoped, since we saw signs warning park guests that bears were out and about, and then park rangers stood on the side of the roads controlling the crowd of onlookers. It totally lacked the wonder and awe that I crave during those sorts of natural encounters.

But here we are in May 2021 and now my Norfolk Bear Story is, “I’VE SEEN SO MANY BEARS.”

Here’s a bear outside my bedroom window!

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Here’s a bear crossing in front of me while out for a walk!

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Here’s a bear looking at me as I snap their picture from the safety of my car!

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And, of course, the baby bear in the yard!

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When I first encountered the baby bear, I called Heath on video phone so he could see the baby bear, too. He really couldn’t see it from where I was in the car. So I took plenty of video and pictures to share with him later.

Heath, who has SO MANY MORE wildlife stories than I do thanks to his job at Great Mountain Forest, shared these photos with me a few days later.

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I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED IT!

I have since asked Heath TO STOP HAVING WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS WITHOUT ME!

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of bear encounters. I always feel like the luckiest person in the world when a bear graces me with their presence. It makes me wonder what else is waiting for me in my future? And it serves as a good reminder that just because something you want isn’t happening right now doesn’t mean it never will.

The best part? When it finally does happen, it may even be better than your wildest dreams!

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April (Snow) Showers

April in Norfolk, CT, is like experiencing all four seasons in one month. Twice I walked Annie without a coat and twice we’ve had snow showers (watch a short video of our most recent snow shower here).

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We’ve also experienced a hailstorm and for a few hours on a Wednesday afternoon we were under a tornado warning. Thankfully, the tornado never came. And all of these weather events are happening with pops of brilliant springtime colors around us.

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Although I weirdly miss winter already (I say weirdly because it clearly hasn’t gone yet) and the solitude that comes with a quiet snowfall, I’m also ready to fully embrace spring. I want continuous days of sunshine and warmer temperatures. I want the optimism of trees budding and flowers blooming to infuse my soul.

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As I wait for nature to fully catch up to my desires (our last snow shower was just this past Thursday), I continue to seek other ways to get my optimism fix. One easy way that I’m looking forward to tomorrow is donating blood at a local American Red Cross blood drive.

I’ve been donating blood for over twenty years, though not consistently. When I took Xyrem from 2008-2015, a medication prescribed for narcolepsy, one of the other unintended effects of the medicine caused me to lose so much weight I dropped below the 110 lbs. requirement to be an eligible blood donor. As the phlebotomist explained to me, I just didn’t have enough blood to give any away.

During those years, I missed donating. I have excellent veins and needles don’t bother me. I can’t think of any other volunteer activity that quite literally saves lives and requires so little effort on the part of the volunteer. You show up at the donation center, answer a bunch of questions, lie down on a table, feel a needle jab, squeeze a little ball to keep the blood flowing while you listen to some fun music, and then get up from the table to go sit at another table where you are offered all kinds of sweets and treats.

Talk about an easy way to be a hero.

In February, I reached a milestone with the American Red Cross – 24 whole blood donations for a total of 3 gallons!

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Being the minimalist that I am, I opted not to order a pin celebrating the achievement.  But I nevertheless feel a sense of pride, which when I think about it is kind of weird because all I’m doing is giving something away that I have more than enough to share.

So for any of you out there who are longing for brighter days (literally and/or figuratively), I encourage you to give blood if you’re eligible. Not everyone is, and if you’re one of those people, feel free to reach out to me and let me know. I will be happy to give blood at one of my future donations on your behalf.

If you’re in the Norfolk area, the American Red Cross will be at the Church of Christ (UCC), Congregational, 12 Village Green, from 1:00-6:00pm. If you’re not in the Norfolk area, check out the American Red Cross website for a blood donation drive near you.

For anyone who might be hesitant, I’m also happy to answer any questions about the process. I’ve donated twice during the pandemic and there are numerous safety protocols in place. I’m also happy to spiritually hold your hand during your donation time. You just have to let me know.

Happy Sunday everyone!

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Good Thing I'm Not a Hack! 33

Good Thing I’m Not a Hack!

Two weeks came and went, and I stayed true to my word not to write anything these last two weeks. Some days were harder than others to keep my commitment, especially when a new story idea popped into my head and I wanted to get cracking on the outline. Nevertheless, I stuck with my plan to give my writing creativity and imagination the break it needed.

I’m glad I did because I was reminded that I can, in fact, be considered an expert in matters of wellness, including work/life balance and stress management, when I re-read a roundup that I contributed to several weeks ago. Good Thing I'm Not a Hack! 34

Good Thing I'm Not a Hack! 35

Here was my answer:

Some healthy habits people can adopt to cope with stress during the pandemic are to keep a consistent schedule (the best you can) and schedule playtime. There are a lot of uncertainties during the pandemic, both in our local community and global one.

We keep waiting for “one more shoe to drop,” in what can feel like a never-ending string of negative events. There’s a feeling of helplessness that comes with these uncertainties, and the truth is the only aspect of the pandemic we can control is our response to it.

By keeping a consistent schedule, we are sending our brains a mental signal that we are still in control and this signal can reduce some of our feelings of stress and anxiety. The consistent schedule doesn’t have to be micromanaging your day down to the minute.

It can be as simple as getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, walking your dog in the woods every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 3pm, or sitting down for lunch every day and taking an actual break for 15-20 minutes.

These tiny rituals may not seem like much, but your brain is going to find them quite soothing. Also, because there is so much doom and gloom in our lives, it’s equally important to add planned playtime into your schedule.

Because of the pandemic, a lot of our go-to social activities are no longer available. Having planned playtime gives us something to look forward to, which boosts the amount of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, created in the brain.

So, you do not just get a dopamine boost from the playtime itself, but also the anticipation leading up to it.

Read all the answers in the expert panel here.

After reading my answer again several weeks after writing it, I felt reassured that I do take my own advice. I have no photographic evidence of me going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time, nor do I have evidence of sitting down and taking a few minutes for a lunch break, but I do of course have ample photographic evidence of walking a dog in the woods in the afternoon.

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What? Can’t find Annie in this photo? Here’s a video that may help.

I also have evidence of scheduled play time. It’s always a treat for me to spend time on the farm with my friend Katherine, Abe R. Ham the pig, and the goats. Zorro, who is getting older and suffering from arthritis didn’t come out to see me, but I got plenty of time with the little ones, Frankie and Sheldon.

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Frankie and Me

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Sheldon

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Abe R. Ham

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Zorro in his younger years

In looking at my calendar for the coming week, I realized I don’t have any scheduled play time lined up. Hmmm. The possibilities! Maybe I’ll hula hoop. Maybe I’ll watch the salamanders swim in the pond. Maybe I’ll color. Maybe I’ll sit and stare out the window watching all the cute woodland creatures snack on the birdseed I sprinkle outside in the morning since I can no longer keep a birdfeed up thanks to the bears currently out and about.

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Watch a video of this little squirrel here!

It’s fun thinking of all the possibilities. And if you have any suggestions, let me know!

P.S. – If you didn’t have time to watch the video …

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Spring Has Sprung!

Hello Spring! Now that we’re officially one full week into spring, I’m starting to see some signs of change throughout Norfolk.

First and foremost, bulbs are starting to bloom! Here’s the first little one I saw last Tuesday when I went to take Annie for a walk.

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Speaking of Annie, there is a direct, positive relationship between number of spring days elapsed and how muddy Annie gets on her walks. Here in Norfolk, spring is often referred to as mud season. These photos of Annie from our walk last week are perfect examples of why.

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I’m also feeling a sense of optimism and hope now that the days are longer and there’s more sunshine. I’m still grappling with the aftereffects of the time change, but it’s much easier to get out of bed in the morning when the sun is close to first light.

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Even with all my struggles as of late with narcolepsy, I’m delighted to report that I *finally* finished a writing project yesterday I started in November! I say *finally* because I thought I would have it finished by January. That thinking was ridiculously optimistic, considering my sleep challenges, and essentially working full-time again. Nevertheless, I am now the proud writer of the first draft of an adult fantasy novel. It’s for adults who miss the whimsical world of Harry Potter but want more romance and comedy in our fantasy stories.

I still can’t believe I wrote a manuscript that is over 96,000 words. I first started this manuscript back in July of 2016. Heath had given me a writing prompt of the word box. I then remembered one of my colleagues at Benedictine University telling me she thought there was a portal to another dimension in her apartment because her cat kept disappearing. I put those two ideas together and started writing. About 35,000 words and several weeks later, I stopped writing. I felt frustrated at how long the writing was taking, and I felt scared that I would never be able to finish a story of that nature because even at that time I knew it would be somewhere around 90,000-100,000 words.

So, I put the manuscript aside and started working on other projects. I have since written 8 books (!!!), the longest of which is 56,000 words (which, fyi, is a relatively low word count for adult books, but more on target for middle grade and young adult, which I was mostly writing). I guess that’s what I needed to do because I finally felt like I could re-commit to this project. Plus, Heath kept asking me to finish writing it because he loved the idea and some early pages I had shown him.

I re-started the project on November 1, 2020, with the kick off of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In NaNoWriMo, you’re considered a “winner” if you write 50,000 words in 30 days. I decided to start my story from scratch, but because I already knew these characters, and where the story was going, it was relatively easy for me to get those first 50,000 words. The only day I missed writing in November was the day Faith died.

After 30 days of writing sprints, my stamina petered out a bit. I made it a goal to write at least 100 words every day, just to keep momentum going. Even though 100 words a day isn’t a lot when you’re aiming for 90,000 words, it at least kept me moving forward. And, on most days, I ended up writing a lot more than 100.

Some days, I didn’t think I’d ever make it to the finish line. But on March 27, 2021, I typed the words The End and closed my computer.

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I did a victory dance around the living room, messaged Heath, and then life very quickly went back to okay, what do I do now?

At that point, it was close to bedtime so that’s what I did. For the next two weeks, I’m taking a break from writing. This blog post will be the last thing I write until April 11th. I’m kind of excited. I’ve never consciously chosen to take a break from writing like this, and I’m both terrified and relieved to give myself that kind of time.

Enjoy these early days of spring! And to those who celebrate – Have a happy Easter next week! See you in two weeks.

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View from the walkway outside the Norfolk Library

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And So It Begins … Again

Today marks my least favorite day of the year. For people with narcolepsy, daylight savings can wreak all kinds of havoc on our already precarious sleep-wake cycles. If my past is any indicator of my future, It will take me weeks to recover from this loss of one hour.

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Morning #1 of Daylight Savings 2021

In the meantime, I hold onto the small things in life that bring me joy. Here are two examples:

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First, meet Fergus! I had the delightful privilege of caring for this little fella for a few days recently. For such a small dog, he has taken up a big space in my heart.

Second, the artwork! The Norfolk Library is known for its rotating art shows. During the pandemic, the Library featured several shows from Norfolk Artists & Friends, a community of visual artists in Norfolk. When this piece was displayed in December/January, I told the artist, Hilary VanWright, how much I loved it — the colors, the message, the exuberance. When it came time to take the show down, Hilary gave the piece to me. Just like that! She didn’t have room for it and she knew how much I appreciated it. Every day I look at this art and I feel not only gratitude, but encouragement to keep going.

Since it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, here’s another small thing that has brought me joy lately:

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The president of the Norfolk Library Associates brought in shamrocks for us to give to patrons. I love coming into the kitchen every morning and seeing the bright pop of green and the lean of the flowers towards the sun.

That’s what I’ll be doing these next few weeks. As I try to work within my disabled sleep to get back on schedule, I will lean into the longer days of sunlight. I know I’ll make it through these next weeks no matter what. But it’s good to have a literal beacon of light guiding me forward.

Stay rested, my friends! And may the luck o’ the Irish be with you this week.

 

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Happiness Is …

Happiness is …

the many states of Annie’s ears!

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I know it’s not much, but time with Annie is always golden (haha!). I hope you all have an Annie (or equivalent) in your lives.

Put A Lot of Love in the World

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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May we all be lucky enough to know the kind of love that Annie has for the balls in her life.

Although I do agree with the critics that Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday, I am always an advocate for anything that adds more love to this world. Examples include my feelings for Heath, dogs, and polar bears, and, yes, that order is correct.

On Friday Heath and I celebrated five years of marriage. I know some people were quite skeptical about marrying someone after only three weeks of knowing each other, but not a day goes by that I don’t marvel about our love and how everything is working out.

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Our wedding day, Friday, February 12, 2016, at the courthouse in Nashville, TN.

To celebrate our anniversary, I asked one of my favorite Internet dogs, Casper, to film a Happy Anniversary video to Heath via Cameo. Heath is the one who first introduced me to Casper and his sister, Daisy, and their TeamCasp47 account is the only reason I have a TikTok account. They are the only account I follow, and I think it goes without saying that I am here for talking dogs being silly and mischievous.

You can watch our anniversary video here:

If you watched the video and didn’t understand the reference about the Elvis glasses, I asked if Casper could wear them in the video since the first words Heath ever said to me was to sing I’ll have a blue Christmas with you, but Casper wasn’t having it the day the video was filmed. Heath and I also like to indulge our sweet tooths with chipwiches from Dee’s One Smart Cookie in Glastonbury, and the day we got married we fell asleep watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in what was one of the best naps of both of our lives. It is also my dream that someday we are a family with six dogs!

Since I’ve mentioned both Heath and Dogs, it seems only fitting to also write something about polar bears and how much I love them. Well, I’m going to do one better and share with you an invitation to a program I’m giving in conjunction with our town’s annual winter festival, Winter WIN. This year the festival is virtual, and I offered to present Adventures with Polar Bears on behalf of the Norfolk Library.

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Here’s the description from the Library’s website:

Join us on Sunday, February 21, at 4:00 p.m., to find out what it’s like to live among polar bears, one of the world’s cutest, yet most dangerous animals.  In the fall of 2018, polar bear enthusiast Kelly Kandra Hughes spent seven weeks living at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, in Churchill, Manitoba, as a polar bear season volunteer.  Known as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is the destination for over a thousand polar bears every migration season. This presentation provides an overview of Kelly’s time in Churchill and the surprising truths she learned about eco-tourism and life in sub-arctic Canada. Please register here to be emailed the Zoom link.

Finally, since this whole post is about love I’m sharing with you an initiative I’m working on as the Director of Community & Creativity at the congregational church in Norfolk. This year for Lent, we are adding more love to the world by offering daily loving kindness meditation.

If you’re not familiar with loving kindness meditation, it’s when you think of a specific person (whom you may or may not know, and whom you may or may not like) and send positive thoughts and love their way. Every day during Lent and Holy Week, we created a guided meditation with a specific person in mind, for example, a friend you haven’t seen in while or someone who has hurt you in the past.

Here are the opening pages from the devotional:

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If you’d like to access the full daily devotional, you can do so here. It’s a large file because of all the photographs, so you’ll need to download it before you can view it. Feel free to share it with whoever you think may enjoy adding more love into the world over the next few weeks.

 

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Annie Is Winning ….

Winter is upon us! A blanket of snow has covered Norfolk for many weeks now, and we’re gearing up for a winter storm tomorrow which is predicting an additional 12-18 inches of snow.

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Being the winter lover that I am, I’m still getting out a few times a week to walk Dodger or Annie.

Both Dodger and Annie run with abandon through the woods, stopping to poke their noses in snow drifts, and ever so often chomping up a mouthful of snow when the mood strikes. One of the differences between them is Annie usually brings a ball on her walk while Dodger does not. I suspect it’s the retriever in her versus Dodger who just wants to show off his border collie agility skills.

Both dogs, in my humble opinion, are super-duper smart. Sometimes when I get lost in my imagination and debate who would be valedictorian in Kelly’s World of Dogs, it’s a tough choice. For example, look at how Dodger sits and stays in the car until I tell him to go:

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I know the picture isn’t that impressive, so you can watch the video of Dodger showing off his “stay” skills here.

But in one way Annie has outshone my other beloved canine buddies simply because of how she approaches her ball on our walks.

Annie has a bazillion balls to choose from when we start. Usually, there’s already a few out in the yard, and she’ll scoop one up and bring it to me. I throw it, she chases, and then we continue our walk until the process repeats itself.

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Sometimes, I’m not fun enough for Annie and her ball. When that happens, she’ll set her ball on the ground, push it beneath a log, under an upturned tree, off the creek bank, etc., and then work like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel trying to get it back.

You can watch Annie show off her digging skills here.

Most of the time, she’s successful. She’ll scoop up the ball again and be on her merry way.

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Every so often, though, the ball is lost. It gets taken upstream, it gets pushed into a deeper hole, or sometimes a mole absconds with it. The last one is pure speculation, but it’s the only reason I can come up with for why sometimes her ball vanishes.

I also think it’s hilarious to imagine that a gang of moles have an underground network of tunnels in the Barbour Woods waiting to steal Annie’s ball.

Nevertheless, Annie tries to get her ball back. But after a few minutes, she decides, no, that’s okay. I’ll continue on without it. And then she does! Tail wagging, happy smile, Annie takes off into the woods, leaving the lost ball behind. I don’t think she actually misses it for even one second.

Here’s the weirdest part about Annie and her ball – nine times out of ten, she’ll find another ball somewhere in the woods! We’ll be walking along, me marveling at the beauty of the Barbour Woods, Annie zooming down hills, over tree stumps, and tackling over-sized sticks, and before I know it, she returns to me with another ball in her mouth.

Is it the same ball as before? Nope! Does it matter to Annie? Not at all.

We continue our walk, she occasionally lets me throw the ball for her to chase, and eventually we return to where we started.

Annie and her ball are an excellent primer for learning how to let go: Leaving something behind can be so hard, yet Annie does it with aplomb. She never knows where that next ball is going to show up, yet she almost always finds it.

What are we unable to let go of?

What could be waiting for us up ahead when we do?

A life lesson for us all, I think.

Looks like Dodger is going to have to up his game!

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