How to Celebrate Memorial Day in 2020? Wear a Mask

Poppies in a field -- How to Celebrate Memorial Day

Photo by Laurentiu Iordache on Unsplash

There’s been a lot of talk in our country as of late about personal freedom. This conversation is especially relevant as tomorrow marks the 152nd Memorial Day celebration in the United States. So I have a recommendation for how to celebrate memorial day 2020 given our current situation — Wear a mask!

Memorial Day began as a way to honor the 620,000 soldiers killed during the Civil War. When the United States entered World War I, Memorial Day expanded to include those killed in all wars. It was officially recognized as a national holiday in 1971, while the United States fought during the Vietnam War.

To the men, women, and animals who have died serving the United States– thank you. The freedom I enjoy every day comes from your sacrifices.

Since I will never serve in the military, I will never know this level of sacrifice. That does not mean I will not protect my country to the best of my ability.

It is for this reason, that I continue to wear a mask as the death toll from COVID-19 approaches the 100,000 mark.

It’s such a simple thing to do. At no time wearing a mask do I feel like my personal liberties or freedom are being impinged upon. On the contrary, I think about the people I am protecting and how their lives can remain free from the burden, suffering, and even death from a preventable disease.

It is not much, but it is something  I can do. And I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve in this way.

I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to offer my life for this country. But ask me to wear a mask to protect it?

Yeah, I can do that.

Wearing a mask even sounds kind of trivial when I think about the sacrifices of our soldiers. These women and men who put their lives on the line for me and for my freedom and all I’m being asked to do is strap some material across my face when I go out in public?

Of course I can do that!

So when we discuss how to honor those who died and how to celebrate memorial day 2020, sign me up for wearing a mask.

I’ll gladly wear a mask for the people I love. I’ll wear a mask for my friends and neighbors. I’ll wear a mask for the people living in nursing homes. I’ll wear a mask for our healthcare workers. And I’ll wear a mask to protect those veterans who survived war. Because they deserve the very best I can offer.

A good friend of mine shared with me this YouTube video her son created for the #NewYorkTough Wear A Mask PSA Contest. It makes my point far more beautifully than I ever could. You can watch the video here.

A man wears a face mask that reads "For Maria" - How to Celebrate Memorial Day

Image from Mike Schneberg #NewYorkTough PSA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3UURdY6FQY

Here are two of the people I wear a mask for:

An older woman gets licked by a border collie while her friend laughs - Honoring Those Who Served

This is Cecily. She’s Dodger’s mom. Obviously, I love her on that fact alone. But Cecily is a hilarious, witty, talented, kind, and generous woman who has opened her heart and home to Heath and me when we needed a place to stay.

Of course, I will wear a mask to keep Cecily safe. It’s the least I can do!

This is Barbara.

A senior citizen poses with a bouquet of flowers - How to Celebrate Memorial Day

Barbara and I met during my first month in Norfolk during the creative writing group at the Congregational Church. When Barbara’s husband of 60+ years died in October 2017, I imagined what it would be like if something happened to Heath and how lonely that would feel. Coming over for tea and company is what I would want someone to do for me, so I started going over to Barbara’s house for (mostly) weekly tea dates. We have such a nice time together, and Barbara has two excellent recliner chairs where we drink our tea, listen to classical music, and sometimes nap because the music is so relaxing.

I wear my mask for Barbara, too. She deserves not to have her health put at risk for circumstances she can’t control.

So on this Memorial Day, let us continue honoring those who died. We choose how to celebrate Memorial Day and the lives lost by being good citizens.

Let our soldiers’ sacrifices not be in vain.

Let us make sure that in our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, we start with life.

Protect each other.

It’s that simple.

Adorable dog wearing a photoshopped patriotic hat - how to celebrate Memorial Day

Celebrating Mother’s Day 2020

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I’m at a loss today for what to say to all the people celebrating Mother’s Day. As a writer, I feel compelled to make my sentiments witty and heartfelt, with a dash hilarity. Yet, I don’t have it in me today. I suspect part of it is quarantine fatigue. I miss seeing my friends and friends who are family.

I suspect it also may be because I’m just tired today. I’ve had a few especially long and emotional days in a row. On Wednesday at 4:50pm, I took Dodger to the vet and we found out he had an abscess that needed to be removed ASAP. I picked him up on Thursday morning at 8:00am and brought him back to the vet.

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On our way to the vet Thursday morning. You can tell he felt poopy.

Around 3:00pm I got a call that everything had gone well, but he was still quite loopy from the anesthetia. When I picked him up at 6:00pm, Dodger stumbled out with the vet tech. I opened the car door for him and before the tech could help him up, he tried to jump into the backseat of Cecily’s car. This feat would be no problem for regular Dodger. Dopey Dodger, however, belly flopped as the tech and I gasped in horror.

As Dodger recovers (he’s doing well, btw), he can’t be a free-range dog in Cecily’s yard and always needs to be on a leash. For the past three days, I’ve been getting to Cecily’s around 8:00am to take Dodger out and give him his medicine. It’s a break in routine and I even missed meditating this morning, only the fifth time in 2020 that I’ve missed my morning meditation practice.

Like a lot of other people, I haven’t been sleeping well anyway from the stress and uncertainty about what’s going to happen with the pandemic.

We’ve also had some really weird weather as of late, what with freezing cold temperatures and snow. It’s not often you see forsythias blooming and snow on the ground. Third Winter is definitely messing with my mind just a bit.

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Add in the typical sleep problems of a person with narcolepsy, and you’ve got yourself a tired person.

So words fail me on how to properly say thank you to all the Moms out there, and all the women and men who serve in some mom capacity.

The best I can do is represent my feelings in these cards I made this morning.

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I realized last week I haven’t done any just-for-fun creative endeavors since the pandemic started. Since I was too tired to write this morning, I got out my art supplies and set to work making some cards.*

If you can believe it, I painted those cards myself using a gel plate painting technique under the instruction of Norfolk artist Tom Hlas. Tom gave a gel plate painting workshop a few months ago (feels like years ago), and I ended up loving it! I also ended up with multiple gel plate paintings left over to use as I so desire for future projects.

The hearts on these cards aren’t perfect. They’re lopsided and uneven. They’re splattered, messy swirls of color that shine in some areas and fade in others. Yet, they are beautiful in their imperfections (at least I think so) and the whole of each card is greater than the sum of its parts.

Which I think pretty much sums up the way we love each other in any relationship that we have, including the relationships we have with our moms and mom-like figures.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

*Shout out to Norfolk artist Leslie Watkins! Without her support, not only would I NOT have art supplies, I wouldn’t even know how to begin being creative with visual arts. You can watch her teach me how to make a card here.

An Unexpected WOW Moment

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I had the opportunity recently to share some of my ideas on spiritual ways to manage anxiety, stress, and depression. Of course, I spoke about the therapeutic power of dogs. Here’s a little teaser:

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If you want to read my full coping method, as well as methods from other experts you can read the full list here: https://mattbeech.com/spiritual-ways-manage-stress-anxiety-depression/

Last week, I experienced a one-two punch of spiritual therapy when we had an unexpected snowstorm. There I was sitting on the couch with Smudge, Faith snoozing on the floor next to me, and as I glanced out the window, the rain had turned into what looked like a snow squall.

It snowed that way for maybe an hour. Then the sun came out. The combination of snow and sun is one of my favorites for being wowed by nature, so I put on my boots and the dogs and I headed outdoors.

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While we were outside, the snow started melting from the tree branches at such a rapid rate, it felt and sounded like rain.

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If you’d like, you can listen to the wonder of it for yourself here.

I’ve never experienced anything like it, to feel the raindrops fall on my face, under the shining sun, while snow crunched under my feet. Then there were Smudge and Faith snooping around the yard just being dogs.

WOW, indeed!

I hold on to these little moments of joy as we continue facing the uncertainty of what’s happening in the world. It’s not much, but it reminds me that unexpected events can be beautiful and wonderful and full of magic. Thank you, God, for giving me this moment, and thank you Smudge and Faith for bearing witness to it with me.

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Finding New Joys During a Pandemic

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Photo by Irina Iriser on Unsplash

Being able to celebrate the simple joys in life is a gift. Since our lives have all been upended by the pandemic, I hope you’ve been able to find a few new simple pleasures that give you this joy.

For me, I’ve discovered that I could watch salamanders playing in the water for hours on end. How cute are these little guys?

They even inspired this poem.

On this warm and sunny day
The salamanders swim and play
They twist
They turn
They flip
They flop
To my delight,
They never stop!

I’m also finding joy in removing this rock from the driveway.

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Every time I walk Smudge and Faith around the yard, I stop to dig up some dirt. I use my foot, so it’s maybe not the most effective method. Still, I make progress every day, and one of these days the rock will be free.

How I’m approaching this rock could also be a metaphor for how I’m approaching the pandemic. Maybe I’m not as productive as I would like during my time of isolation, but little by little I work on projects that are important to me, and with enough small steps on a consistent basis, I’m hoping that by the end I’ll look back on this time as one of great creation.

I’m also loving my pandemic diet, which consists of eating the same meal for breakfast and lunch every day. Here’s what I eat: 4 strips of chicken bacon, an Ezekiel bread English muffin with coconut oil, and a smoothie. My breakfast smoothie uses almond milk, protein powder, one chopped up carrot, four strawberries, and a few shakes from the cinnamon, the ginger, and the turmeric spice jars. My lunch smoothie is ½ coup of tap water, ½ cup of maple water or coconut water, two handfuls of frozen greens, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and a sprig of frozen mint.

I end breakfast and lunch with one Chocolate Coconut Mint Cookie from Emmy’s Organics.

I savor these foods every meal. They are delicious and healthy, and because I enjoy the taste so much, I don’t mind that it’s the same foods twice a day every day. In fact, I look forward to it!

Also with this meal plan, I don’t have to waste any brain power deciding what to make. Cooking is not a strength of mine and the relief of being free of that stress is priceless. I also don’t procrastinate on doing my dishes because: 1) I need a clean blender for both breakfast and lunch; 2) there’s not that many dishes to do; and 3) I know how long washing the dishes will take since I’m washing the same ones over and over.

At first, I felt like eating this way was somehow “wrong.” That I should have more variety. It wasn’t until Heath said to me, “Kelly, if that’s what you want to eat, then just eat it,” that I let go of all the worrying and shoulding on myself.

Isn’t it funny how giving someone permission, even if they don’t need permission, can have such a positive effect on the way they approach something. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I suspect I’m going to keep eating this way even when the pandemic is over.

Finding these new joys is a good reminder that there are things to be grateful for even during times of uncertainty. And even when there are days when life seems so hard and I worry about what is happening to this world we live in, there is always Smudge, ready to pose for a picture for the simple price of one toss of a tennis ball. How could I not be grateful for this guy?

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A Prayer for the People During COVID-19

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For those of you who don’t know, I work part-time at the Congregational Church in Norfolk as The Director of Community & Creativity. Essentially, the job is exactly how the title sounds. I look for creative ways to connect others throughout the Norfolk community (and beyond) in activities that celebrate compassion, generosity, love, tolerance, and spirituality. Examples of such activities are our Does It Matter Bible Study, where we debate theology for 50 minutes every week and then decide none of it matters because all we want is to not be a jerk to other people, Sunday Night Loving Kindness Meditation meetups (currently suspended due to COVID-19), and The Blessing of Less, a lesson and meditation on living with less in honor of Earth (very likely suspended due to COVID-19).

One of my job requests recently was to record a “prayer for the people” to be included in our new weekly worship service videos. You know, since we’re all trying to stay safe and healthy since congregating in groups is a bad idea.

I received the request on a Friday around noon and had a draft ready to read and record by Friday at 4:30pm. Of course, when I read it the following morning, I thought, oh, it could use some more editing, couldn’t it?

Well, too late for that! Well … too late for the video. I had to send off the recording ASAP on Friday to our outstanding video editor so he could work his magic on it. By outstanding video editor, I mean the pastor’s newly college-graduated son who is AWESOME at this sort of thing and offered to help the church with our social media content now that he’s back home.

But not too late for my blog post! So, with love in my heart and joy at the opportunity to share these words, I present to you my Prayer for the People:

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If you’d like to see the online worship video, you can check it out  on YouTube:

And if you’d like to see my outtakes from the recording, you can check that video out here:

Now that a full week has gone by, I wish I had spoken extemporaneously instead of reading from my computer. Being a recovering perfectionist, I sometimes try too hard to get something “right” rather than speak directly from my heart. It’s a good lesson to be reminded of should I be asked to do something like this again. A

Special thanks to Heath, my cameraman, who did an excellent job with the filming, and Smudge, a most-excellent co-star who hit his mark every single time.

Labrador standing at edge of pond

Stay safe everyone. Sending love and prayers.

Hello, Daylight Savings Time! I Hate You.

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Welcome back, Daylight Savings Time! Except, you’re not really welcome here. In fact, I kind of hate you. Not that I mind the extra sunlight. It’s losing that hour of sleep. For a person with narcolepsy, daylight savings time can be especially challenging. Keeping a consistent sleep/wake cycle goes a long way towards managing my narcolepsy symptoms. With daylight savings time, there’s nothing I can do about it other than accept the loss of the hour and try to recover the best I can. Sometimes, it can take weeks.

Good thing I have an excellent napping companion with Smudge.

So, on that note, I give you my latest blog post: Pictures of yawning dogs (that I personally know and love) because I’m too tired to come up with anything else.

I hope you enjoy!

Love,
Kelly

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When Less Is More

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Heath and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. For those of you who haven’t heard the story of how we met, fell in love, and eloped three weeks later, you can read it here. It’s a story I enjoy telling and not a day goes by that I don’t Thank God for ignoring societal norms and doing what I believed in my heart was the right thing to do.

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Our Wedding, February 12th, 2016, Nashville Courthouse

This year we decided to celebrate by going out to lunch. I posted on Facebook asking for suggestions. One of my friends recommended that we try a restaurant in Mystic, CT, and then head to the Mystic Seaport Museum to see The Turner Watercolor Exhibit. People around Norfolk have been talking about this exhibit for weeks. It seemed like a good idea and we haven’t been on any grand adventures lately, so we decided to make that our anniversary outing.

If you’re unfamiliar (as I was), J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) was a master watercolorist, who painted a lot of maritime seascapes. His collection is permanently on display at the Tate Museum in London and this exhibit is the first time some of his pieces have been on tour. Before stopping at Mystic, which is the only North American stop, the collection was exhibited in Rome, Buenos Aries, and Santiago. Up next will be Paris.

If you’re thinking one of these cities is not like the others, you’d be right. Except when the Mystic Seaport Museum designed and built the Thompson Exhibition Building (opened in 2016), they specifically wanted to create a building worthy of a Turner. So there’s something to be said for aiming high and acting on your dreams.

Anyway, Heath and I drove the nearly two hours to Mystic. We had lunch and then hit the exhibit. And to be quite honest, I was underwhelmed. Sure, I can look at Turner’s pictures and see beauty in them. And the light in some of them was outstanding. But I didn’t feel any sort of joy that I usually do with watercolor. Here’s the one I liked best from the exhibit:

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In hindsight, I think I got caught up in the fear of missing out. Never before exhibited! Only one stop in North America! Last week of the exhibit!

Compare our Turner experience to the one Heath and I had yesterday. It was the first day of Winter Weekend in Norfolk, a town-wide festival celebrating all things Norfolk. We signed up for a Clay Play experience at Botelle Elementary, sponsored by the Norfolk NET Makerspace and hosted by the Botelle Elementary art teacher. Essentially, we were given a hunk of clay and told we could do whatever we want with it.

Not having a good imagination for what I could do with clay, I watched what others were doing. I ended up making a cup. I then branched out to making a pet rock. And a Kelly Was Here stone for that inevitable day when we leave Norfolk. My plan is to leave the stone in the woods somewhere so I’ll always know a physical piece of me will be here.

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Such simple creations and yet I was thrilled with the outcomes!

We also had a blast listening to great music, getting to know the other participants, sharing our funniest food poisoning stories (not sure how we got on that topic), and just laughing in general.

Then there was watching Heath get into his sculpture. I couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary gift to see the person I love most in the world find something he enjoys and something he has natural talent for (not my words, but the words of a local artist who is quite talented).

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After our Clay Play experience, we came home, made lunch, and watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (we’re currently in season 12 SO NO SPOILERS PLEASE). I then napped on the couch and spent the rest of the day writing.

When I think of the intention I set at the start of 2020 for prioritizing connections in my life, today was a perfect day. I couldn’t have asked for anything more and it didn’t involve grand plans or much effort.

For this experience, I am grateful. I am blessed. Thank you, God. Thank you, Heath. Thank you, Ms. Bazelmans (that’s the art teacher). Thank you to everyone who showed up. And thank you Smudge. That nap was most excellent.

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In Memory of Eve Thew 32

In Memory of Eve Thew

If the world seemed a little darker to you this past Monday, February 3rd, it’s because a woman named Eve Thew died in the early hours of the morning. And if the world seemed to brighten in unexpected and myriad ways in the days after that, well… that was all of us celebrating her life.

I met Eve within our first month of moving to Norfolk in September, 2016. The congregational church on the Village Green offers a creative writing group on Wednesday mornings in their Battell Chapel, and since I’m a writer, I thought I’d give it a try.

Eve was outside the chapel doors that first morning I showed up. “I’m here for the writers’ group,” I told her.

“You are?” Eve’s face lit up like someone flipped a dimmer switch  to it’s highest setting. “That’s wonderful.”

Eve and I have been friends ever since.

We have spent Sunday mornings together at church, Sunday evenings together at supper, Saturdays at Makerspaces, and random other times of friendship and fun throughout these last three and a half years.

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Eve was sitting in the front the first time I preached at the church. “This is so exciting,” she said, “to watch you go through this.” She then gave me a truly wonderful gift: she cried tears of joy for me when I had finished my sermon.

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Thanks to Heath for taking this picture!

To know Eve is to know joy. Even in Eve’s death, there is still joy. When I ran into John, Eve’s husband of nearly 69 years, in the parking lot of the post office on Wednesday, his eyes twinkled and there was a wondering smile on his face – he told me he could still feel Eve. He marveled over the different ways Eve had let him know she was okay and happy where she was, and he was excited to keep experiencing these “joy bubbles” as he called them throughout the day. He wondered when he would next encounter Eve’s love from beyond. John didn’t know, and he couldn’t wait to find out.

I love you, Eve. I know you still can’t wait to see what I do next in this life of mine. I feel the same way about you.

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What’s in a Name?

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I took this guy to the vet on Friday. Dodger is not my dog, but I sure do love him a lot. His mom, Cecily, can’t drive anymore so I help out when I can.

While there, the vet said, “Okay, Dodgeball, let’s go.”

Dodgeball?!?!

How had I never thought of that nickname for Dodger before? Dodger already comes with quite a few nicknames: Dodge Podge, Dodgey, Podgey, Mr. Podger*, Rodger Dodger, Didgeridodge, BossyPants*, BossyBritches*, Sassafrass*, Dirt Bag Dodger* (reserved for the summertime when he gets filthy dirty from laying in the dirt all day long), and, most recently, Pork Chop Dodger*, owing to the fact that he has gained 10 lbs since his last visit to the vet. Let the diet and exercise regime begin!

But Dodgeball certainly fits in with his personality, given the way he bounces around the woods.

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Suffice it to say, I will be rotating Dodgeball into the mix.

My husband, Heath, thinks I’m terrible at coming up with nicknames for dogs. According to Heath, only one time in the history of our four-year marriage have I come up with a good nickname for a dog. Meet Mission Control on the left (her real name was Missy). What's in a Name? 41

 

I, respectfully disagree with Heath. I think my nicknames are hilarious. For example, this is Smudge:

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I think he needs a fancier name sometimes, and so I call him Smudgerton. I also gave him the middle name Peter, which is shorthand for Poop Eater (I know, gross, but … DOGS!).

Then there are times when he’s just a cuddle bunny. So in those instances, I call him Smudgey Bear.

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Okay, maybe this one is embarrassing. But he’s so cute. I can’t help it.

Smudge’s sister, Faith, on the other paw, comes with a whole slew of nicknames, as well.

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She has been known as Lumpy Butt, because of, well, a lump near her butt. Also, just Lumpers because we as humans like to shorten long names. Then there are times when she’s been out romping in the woods all day long and she gets kind of stinky. So then she becomes Stinky Lumper/Lumpy Butt, also shortened to Stinky Lumpers.  A few times she has been THE PREDATOR because her hunting skills on poor woodland creatures are quite good. And every once in a while we call her Bulldozer because she likes to push her way past Smudge.

Coming up with these names is one of the simple things in life which brings me a lot of joy and laughter. I don’t think I’m the only one who does. Anyone else want to fess up?

And feel free to send me photos of your dogs/cats/nicknamed animals to my email genesispotentia(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com. I would love to see them!

Have a great day, everybody 🙂

* Indicates Dodger nicknames I personally created.

A Bold Prediction for 2020

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Less than two weeks into 2020, I am ready to make a bold prediction:

I, Cosmo, will be my favorite book of the year.

One look at this cover gives you a hint why.

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Okay, probably not what you were thinking in terms of bold. Except I have made it a goal to read 104 books (including picture books) so I think this is really saying something about how much I love this book.

I came across I, Cosmo, while reading Kirkus Reviews as part of my job at the library. Yes, you read that correctly: I get paid to read book reviews and then I make recommendations for which ones the library should buy.

For the purposes of my library job, I mostly stick with the adult books for recommendations since we have a children’s librarian. But when I saw the cover of I, Cosmo, I thought I’ll just take a look at this review. Here’s the first sentence: “Cosmo has the soul of a dancer.”

A story about a golden retriever with the soul of a dancer? Say no more. I already know I’m going to love this book. It’s not like I don’t already know and love two goldens in my life.

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Phyllos!

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Annie!

I bought the book the day it released on Christmas Eve at Oblong Books in Millerton, NY (the closest indie book store to Norfolk).

I, Cosmo, didn’t disappoint. Cosmo learns he has the soul of a dancer because his family leaves the TV on for him during the day and, one day, he watches the movie Grease.

This book is everything I want my writing to be. Funny, imaginative, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking.

Carlie Sorosiak, really gets dogs and her descriptions of how Cosmo comes to make his decisions, like eating a sheepdog ornament on the Christmas tree, or inviting a stray cat into the house, seem so plausible, I’m now looking at Smudge and Faith with a renewed sense of understanding.

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Smudge!

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Faith!

I recommend this book to anyone who loves dogs. If any of you do decide to read, let me know! I would love someone with whom I could laugh about it.