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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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).
I, respectfully disagree with Heath. I think my nicknames are hilarious. For example, this is Smudge:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s that time of year again – when I think about what would happen if 2020 was my last year on Earth. Before you start worrying that I’m in a deep, dark place this holiday season, have no fear. I’ve been doing a death meditation for years now, as recommended by some of the most notable authors on how to live joyful lives.
This practice is one of the best ways I’ve found to make sure I’m doing what I want to be doing with my life. Because of my death meditations in recent years, Heath and I traveled across the US and Canada on an epic 11,500+ mile road trip, and I went to live among the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.
So, in looking towards the year ahead, I find myself reflecting on this past year to help guide me.
I didn’t have any grand adventures in 2019 and I felt disappointed by that. The unkind Kelly, the one who loves to beat herself up and make “big, fat judgments” about herself (a concept I learned from Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers), likes to tell myself I am no longer interesting and, therefore, I don’t do interesting things.
The truth is I did less travelling, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything interesting. This past year, I had an actual dream come true in Norfolk with the salvage shed opening up at the town transfer station (aka the dump). This project is more successful and going better than I could have ever imagined. This success is due in large part to two volunteers who stepped up, just when things were getting out of control with donations. God bless those volunteers because they have now become the lifeblood of our salvage shed.
I also helped orchestrate Can’d Aid giving 75 bikes away to students at our local elementary school. The way that happened is I eavesdropped on a conversation about how Can’d Aid does bike builds throughout the country, butted myself in, and said, “Have you heard of Norfolk NET? Let me tell you about it!” NET is a grassroots organization I belong to that was created to alleviate poverty in Norfolk. Three months after that conversation, which coincidentally took place at the salvage shed, this happened:
If you want to see a video of the big reveal of the bikes to the kids, you can watch it here.
When I think about 2020 being my last year on Earth, making these connections in the community are ways I would still want to spend my time. So expect more do-goodery from me in 2020 (Note. Do-goodery is a word I learned from Can’d Aid’s tagline: People Powered Do-Goodery).
My single best moment in 2019 happened fairly recently on December 8th. That was the Sunday the Norfolk Church of Christ, Congregational (UCC), formally blessed me as I started a part-time position working as their new Director of Community and Creativity. I stood in front of the church with the senior deacon and the pastor and then they led the congregation of maybe 100 people in the following prayer:
I teared up about halfway through. The power of blessings from all these people as they prayed for me was overwhelming in the best way possible. When they were finished, I wiped away my tears (futile, because more kept coming) and told the congregation, “I’ve never been prayed over that way before. It’s really nice!”
Two other of my best moments in 2019 also happened in the Congregational Church, when I got to preach in both June and November. It still amazes me that anyone wants to listen to what I say, especially as someone who had students literally turn their backs on me when I would be lecturing during my research methods class.
Thanks to Heath for taking this picture!
So if 2020 were my last year on Earth, I would still want to keep connecting with others through God.
Hmm. I think I’m noticing a theme about connections here….
This brings me to what I think is my biggest disappointment in 2019. It’s the same as 2018: I still haven’t sold any books. Last year, I set out that 2019 would be the year “I went all in.” I would try to conquer my fear of failure, which leads to self-doubt and wasting of my time.
I’m happy to report I did make progress on this goal. For example, I queried quite a bit and got several requests for more work or for full manuscripts. A few agents with fulls are still considering me as I write this. I also got a few personalized rejections, which suggests writing that is suitable for publication.
Most notably, I did, in fact, have an offer of representation from an agent whom I liked quite a bit in terms of their work ethic and enthusiasm for my work. At the end of the day, I didn’t think I was a good fit at this person’s agency, and I declined their offer. That was a big step for me, to believe in my work so much that I didn’t want to settle for anything less than the best fit for me.
Of course, the unkind Kelly has a lot to say about my biggest disappointment in 2019. Here’s how it goes in my mind: I’m so embarrassed I told everyone I’m going to be an author, and it hasn’t happened yet. What if it never happens? What if I’m on the wrong path? Do I really want to be an author for the “right reasons?” Is this really my life’s purpose?
For 2020, I’m letting go of my desire to be a published author. After 2019, I don’t actually think it’s my life’s purpose to write books per se. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to write was to connect with others; so they would read my words and stories and feel like they’re not alone. I’ve had those feelings of isolation many times in my life, and I found solace, friendship, and hope in the books I was reading. What I really want is to connect with others so they don’t feel alone. Building those connections – I think that may be my true life’s purpose. One of those ways to do that is through my writing. But, it’s not the only way. I’m still going to write. I’m still going to query. I’m still going to go all in and face my fears. I’m just not going to let it define me or the amount of joy I experience on any given day.
Going forward in 2020, I am prioritizing connections in my life. Connections with God, with myself, with Heath, with others, and, of course, with as many dogs* as I can find. May 2020 bring you joy and contentment.
This fall has been glorious in Norfolk. When Heath and I began housesitting here in September 2016, people assured me the fall we were experiencing was not up to its usual standards.
I respectfully disagreed because I thought this was pretty good:
October 10, 2016 in Norfolk, CT
October 16, 2016, in Norfolk, CT
We heard the same thing in 2017. Still good, I thought. In fact, maybe even better than last year.
October 23, 2017, Norfolk, CT
Zorro the Goat, October 23, 2017, Norfolk, CT
In 2018, I don’t know what people said because I was off to Churchill for my seven-week stint as a polar bear season volunteer. I did see what I think is a halo:
October 13, 2018, Churchill, Manitoba
October 13, 2018, Churchill, Manitoba
And polar bears!!
October 15, 2018, Churchill, Manitoba
October 20, 2018, Churchill, Manitoba
This year, however, I think I understand what everyone had been saying. The colors POPPED overnight. And they’re lingering, too. Add in multiple days of sunshine and crisp temperatures, and you have yourself a Gold Medal in Fall Foliage.
All this loveliness makes me want to skip my plans and go off for a walk in the woods with my favorite friends.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing!
Annie, October 12, 2019
Annie, October 12, 2019
Dodger, October 13, 2019
Dodger, October 13, 2019
Smudge and Faith, October 13, 2019
Faith, October 13, 2019
Smudge, October 13, 2019
I hope you’re enjoying your fall, wherever you are.
Happy Birthday to my blog! And Happy 42nd Birthday to me!
It feels like I just wrote my second blog birthday post a few days ago. Gretchen Rubin, author of TheHappiness Project, sure is on to something when she says, “The days are long but the years are short.”
So what have I learned this past year? Most importantly, I learned how to reincarnate.
This year, I died a metaphorical death on my Mount Everest (i.e., publishing). Nobody is more surprised about this turn of events than me. It all started back in December when I did my most recent death meditation.
During that time, I realized I was letting fear keep me from going all in with my writing.
I then decided 2019 would be my year of discipline and I would put everything I had into getting published.
So far, I’ve written a lot of new material and I’ve now submitted my manuscripts to more agents than ever before. I’ve had some requests for more material and although I receive plenty of form rejections, I’ve also gotten some really nice personalized ones. All good signs on the path to publication.
Here’s what I didn’t expect: I lost my joy for writing somewhere along the way. Talk about a kick in the pants!
Of course, there are ripple effects when you lose something you value. My sense of wonder and awe in the little things all but disappeared. My curiosity decreased. So did my sense of adventure.
I didn’t even have the heart to write on this blog for the last few months, despite some truly wonderful happenings in my life.
Since January, I have now had eight articles published in a local newspaper. Bonus: I get paid to write these!
In May, I spent time in San Antonio and Austin, celebrating graduation milestones for my nephew and niece.
In June, an actual dream of mine came true when Norfstroms, Norfolk’s first and only salvage shed opened at the town transfer station. We had a salvage shed where I lived in North Carolina and I’ve missed having one here in town. I’ve been working with a local grassroots organization called Norfolk NET (Networking Everyone Together) and town hall to get one here. And it actually happened! You can read about it here and here.
Also in June, I was invited to speak at the Norfolk UCC Congregational Church during the pastor’s sabbatical.
As I texted Heath that morning:
You can listen to the sermon here. At the age of 42, I can say with certainty that experience was one of the greatest moments in my life.
And in a few weeks, I’ll be starting a part-time job at that same church as the director of community and creativity. This is a new position designed to increase the flow of God’s love in this world through good works and relationship building. What a gift and, again — I’m going to get paid to do it!
And speaking of getting paid for fun things, I have another opportunity in the works that I can’t speak about yet. But it involves working part-time at another one of my favorite places in the world!.
Then there are the little moments these past few months: so many dogs to love and each and every moment with Heath.
Cutie Pie Faith
Dodger and Annie
Smudge “helping” Heath practice the guitar
All this joy, and, yet…I let the cloud of being so hyper-focused on my publishing goal touch everything that I forgot to enjoy myself along the way. As I learned in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman, this is how people actually die on Mount Everest. They get so focused on getting to the top, they lose sight of everything else. This includes how they’re going to get back down.
The funny part is, I realized I lost my joy for writing when I couldn’t write for a few weeks.
I’m currently spending the month of July in Birdsboro, PA, taking care of the ever entertaining and adorable Bonnie and Jasper.
While housesitting here, I don’t have a car. Which has been mostly fine. Until my Microsoft Surface crashed.
It’s been two weeks. At first, I tried writing using apps on my phone. This is okay for jotting ideas down and short pieces, but incredibly frustrating for anything longer that requires formatting. Case in point: this blog post has now taken me over three hours to write, format, and publish. It’s for this reason, I included so few dog photos above.
I also tried writing by hand. But as someone who wrote an entire novel with a pen on yellow legal pads and has yet to type that novel up two years later, I know the futility of this practice.
So I filled my time other ways. Every day, I dance for fun and exercise, especially since it’s too hot to walk outside for very long. I stamp and watercolor, making cards and art. I watch YouTube videos to learn how to draw dogs.
My work may not be a masterpiece in the traditional sense, but I DID THIS!!
It’s good to have the joy back in my life. I didn’t realize how hard life has been without it. And I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present!
Last week, I attended a New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators writer’s retreat at Whispering Pines in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. In addition to making new friends, chatting with and learning from industry professionals, and eating New Orleans French Toast for the first time in my life (YUM!), I found out about something VERY IMPORTANT:
How did I NOT know that every Tuesday social media encourages us to post pictures of animals with their tongues sticking out?
Special shout-out to my new friend, Kathy Halsey, a children’s book writer, school librarian, and dog mom to one Wiley Corgi, who first told me about #TongueOutTuesday.
Since I’ve been missing out for who knows how long, I am pleased to present you The Kelly Kandra Hughes #TongueOutTuesday Catch-Up Compilation. This is not an exhaustive list. If it were, we’d be here all night.
Cody, Naperville, IL
Phyllos and Rafiki, Joliet, IL
Lilu and Rafiki, Joliet, IL
Lukas, Jackson Hole, WY
Stella, St. Albert, Alberta
Sam, Murfreesboro, TN
Horse at the PA Farm Show
Annie and Dodger, Norfolk, CT
Chance Long Nose, Norfolk, CT
Moon, Norfolk, CT
Tobey, Norfolk, CT
Smudge, Norfolk, CT
Faith, Norfolk, CT
Bruno, picture courtesy of my husband Heath, Kalispell, MT
PS – Are there any other animal-related social media hashtags I should know about? Let me know in the comments or you can email me at genesispotentia(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com.
I recently contributed to an article “18 Expert Tips on Living a Simple Life” on the UPJOURNEY website. You can read the article here.
Anyone who reads this blog won’t be surprised that my expert tips include an example of a dog licking my elbow. Fun fact: Smudge did actually lick my elbow as I was writing those tips. I think he was trying to help. Smudge likes to “help” with just about anything.
Smudge “helping” with my yoga
Smudge “helping” Heath practice the guitar
That moment brought me a lot of joy. I know not everyone will share the same positive feelings about getting licked by a dog, particularly on your elbow. For me it’s a moment of pure love.
And I am so grateful to know what brings me the most joy in this world.
This sort of information is useful for when things don’t go they way you want them to. For example, two weeks ago, I found out about a small writing contest for Valentine’s Day. The contest was for a children’s story (214-word limit) with the theme of guilt. The contest was posted on February 13th and entries were due by 11:59pm on February 14th. So, not a lot of time to write something.
I set my alarm for 5:00am on February 14th. I wanted to make sure I had enough time to work on my story before my busy Valentine’s Day, which included my regular Thursday morning volunteering at Botelle Elementary School and a Pink Tea that afternoon sponsored by the Congregational Church in town in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
As I fell asleep on the night of the 13th, an idea came to me: I’ll write a story about a kid who eats all his mom’s valentine’s day candy. It will be hilarious!
My alarm clock went off the following morning and I immediately started working on my story. A few hours later I had what I thought was a great story, A Valentine’s Gift for Daddy. I went to the contest website to upload my entry. Before I did, I thought I would take a peek at a few of the entries.
I noticed one had a similar title to mine. I clicked on the story, read it, and my heart sank. It was pretty much the same story I had written, even down to the kid hating coconut!
To demoralize me even more, I scrolled through all the entries so far posted and discovered quite a few featured a kid eating all their parents’ valentine’s candy.
Yikes! Looks like I’d written a cliché.
I wasn’t sure what to do at that point, since I had to be at Botelle soon. I decided to think about it later, and I spent the next few hours celebrating valentine’s day. Activities included delivering valentines to all the students I work with at Botelle and enjoying all manner of baked goods at the Pink Tea.
Valentine Cards for Botelle Students
Goodies at the Pink Tea, Photo courtesy of Heath Hughes
Feeling like my day wouldn’t be complete without wishing Cecily and Dodger a happy valentine’s day, I walked over to their house after the tea. I wasn’t planning on taking Dodger for a walk that day, but one look at his little face and I succumbed to his charms.
I’m so glad I did. The afternoon sunlight streamed into every nook and cranny of the Barbour Woods. It was now approaching five o’clock and although I felt a moment of panic that I still didn’t know what to do about the valentine’s writing contest, I couldn’t help but marvel at how beautiful the day had turned out.
Dodger in Botelle Woods on Valentine’s Day
As Dodger and I walked out of the woods and headed back to his home, a little idea popped into my head.
There is a place outside of town
Where trees grow up and leaves fall down ….
I immediately pulled out my phone to write this idea down in my notes app, lest I forget it by the time I walked home.
About an hour later, I finally sat down at my computer and started writing. Three hours after that, I finished my story.
Of course, if I had won the contest this blog post would have an even better ending. But I didn’t. I did get a shout-out for “lovely writing,” though.
What I did manage to do was spend time in my favorite place, with one of my favorite dogs, and then do one of the things that I enjoy in the most – write. And that, right there, is me living my simple life.
Just for fun, I’m going to include the first story I wrote for the contest. The second story ended up being something I’d like to work on later for a possible submission elsewhere. So, unfortunately I can’t share it here.
A Valentine’s Gift for Daddy
Mommy and I went shopping today. She said Valentine’s Day is in tomorrow and we have to get Daddy a present.
Have you ever seen anything so perfect? We hid the chocolates in the laundry room so Daddy wouldn’t find it.
When I got home from school the next day, I went to check on his gift.
Maybe I’ll just take a peek inside.
Maybe I’ll just try one.
Coconut. I hate coconut.
Before I knew what I was doing, I ate another one.
Oh my goodness!
Peanut butter – did anything more tasty ever exist?
I went to practice the trumpet.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about Daddy’s Valentine’s Day present.
Okay, fine. Just one more.
I mean two more.
How did I eat three, five?
Don’t do it, I told myself. There’s only two pieces left.
Uh-oh. I ate all of Daddy’s Valentine’s Day present.
Maybe if I put the box back no one will notice.
But Mommy noticed. “Do you know what happened to Daddy’s chocolates?”
I couldn’t look at her when I said, “I ate them.”
To my surprise, Mommy started laughing.
“You’re just like me,” she said. She pulled out a second box of chocolates. “These were for you and I ate them all!”
I wanted to be mad, but how could I?
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s go make Daddy a card.”
Right around New Year’s, I found out there’s something called a Smudge Prayer. Theses prayers are intended to clear out negative energy and refresh your environment.
I, of course, was expecting something different because of this guy:
I thought the prayer should be along the lines of, Dear God, please help Smudge be a good dog so he doesn’t keep stealing my ginger snap cookies off the counter.
If you think the answer to my Smudge Prayer is to move the cookies, you’d be right. Except the first time Smudge ate my cookies, he somehow managed to get them out of a bowl I had them in for safe keeping. The second time, he stole the Tupperware container off the counter and then chewed off the lid.
I am dealing with no ordinary dog.
My mom once came to Norfolk to watch the pups when Heath’s brother died. She loves to tell the story how Smudge worked for what seemed like an hour, twisting and contorting his body to get a single piece of dog food that had fallen behind their plastic food bin.
If you want a role model for perseverance, look no further than Smudge.
The idea of a Smudge prayer got me thinking — I probably should be praying to be more like Smudge in my daily life.
Smudge knows what he wants and always goes for it, whether it’s a container of cookies on the counter, the spot where you’re sitting on the couch, or deciding when it’s time for bed, in which case he will immediately leave you and go jump on your bed to settle down for his nighttime snoozle.
He also sees possibility wherever he goes, which includes stealing our socks and winter gear, such as hats and gloves, understanding the value of a stick as the best toy ever, or hearing the toaster pop and thinking maybe it’s for him.
One of my favorite Smudge stories takes place on the first day it actually felt like spring in March or April of 2017. The sun was shining, the pond had thawed, and a warm breeze finally graced us with its presence.
That day, Smudge headed out to the pond after breakfast to splash around and chase fish. In the three years we’ve been taking care of the pups, I’ve been there when he’s caught two. They’re little tiny creatures and he drops them at my feet as a gift. Each time, I toss them back, hoping they’re still alive.
Smudge, however, thinks we’re playing fetch and dives back into the pond.
It’s adorable because he can never quite find that fish again.
On that beautiful spring day in 2017, Smudge spent ALL DAY in the pond. Seriously. He didn’t even want to come in for dinner.
When I finally did coax him in, he wolfed down his food even faster than usual, and then busted out the front door on his own to get back into the pond. Heath and I laughed ourselves silly as the door banged shut.
He didn’t come in until after dark.
Smudge also loves his humans. When Heath and I came back to Norfolk the first week of January to resume our house-sitting job, we overlapped for a morning with Smudge’s human mom and dad. As we sat at the table chatting, Smudge went from person to person, getting all the love, head rubs, and ear scratches he could before moving on to the next person. Again, he did this for hours.
So, yes, I do want to be more like Smudge. To help me on my way, I’ve written my own Smudge prayer.