Heath and I are officially back in Norfolk! The return is bittersweet because we loved living at the beach in Old Lyme. Nearly every day, I watched the sunrise and sunset. Norfolk is beautiful and the woods and mountains here are outstanding, yet they also obscure the sun. I miss these moments in a way I can only describe as grief.
Rising before the sun and heading to beach became an easy morning ritual. I woke up with excitement wondering what today’s sunrise would look like. Sometimes Heath joined me and sometimes he didn’t. Either way, the moment was almost always perfect except for one morning when I missed Heath being there. I sent him this photo to let him know I was thinking about him.
He replied back that he needed glasses. So I added a pair and then a few more artistic liberties. As one of our friends said on Facebook, “I would argue Heath has never looked better.”
Here’s my last sunrise on Friday morning, November 18th:
In time, I know the grief will subside. Norfolk turning into a winter wonderland will help, especially when I’m out in the snow-covered woods with Annie.
Although she did snub me the other day after weeks apart. She jumped out of a car door and headed straight in my direction. “Annie,” I cried with my arms open wide. Then she ran right past me to say hello to everyone else standing in our group. Quite the humbling experience.
Eventually Annie did make her way to me and she howled in delight at our reunion, so she is, of course, forgiven. How could I not forgive her, since she is towards the very top of my gratitude list.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m grateful to those who read my blog and offer words of support and encouragement when they can.
This card is from my undergraduate mentor and his wife. Two people I love very much in this world.
The book offers bit-sized chunks of advice, suggestions, and observations across five different aspects of decluttering: making choices, creating order, knowing yourself and others, cultivating helpful habits, and adding beauty.
We started the book discussion on October 17 and we have three more sessions to go. What I most appreciate about the book is that some of the advice is applicable to more than just decluttering. For example, in Chapter 4, Know Yourself and Others, Gretchen Rubin writes, “When we know ourselves, we can customize our surroundings and our systems to suit ourselves – rather than try to force ourselves to follow someone else’s methods.
This past Friday, I tried very much to suit someone else’s system and the results were hilariously bad. That day, Heath and I attended a watercolor class at White Gate Farm in East Lyme.
White Gate Farm
The description invited us to join a local artist to learn pen and watercolor techniques and said we could bring our own subject or choose a vegetable from the farm.
We arrived at White Gate bright and early. The artist welcomed us with enthusiasm and assurance that today was just for fun. I had confessed that my artistic capabilities were practically nonexistent. We watched a brief demonstration. Then the artist told us to pick our subject and get started.
Since I am easily overwhelmed by too much choice, I faltered. The farm stand surrounded me with too many subject possibilities. I opted for scrolling on my phone to find inspiration from one of my beach walk photos. Except that overwhelmed me, too! We’ve been here since September 30th. Just in these 13 days of November I’ve taken 373 photos of the beach. I imagine I’ve taken over a thousand at this point. How could I choose among this kind of beauty:
The artist-instructor checked on us. I confessed I couldn’t decide what to paint. Without missing a beat, she picked a red onion from a crate and plunked it on the table in front of me. There you go, she said.
I looked at the onion and began sketching. I dipped my brush into the water and selected what I hoped would be a good shade of reddish purple. After a few minutes, it became obvious – I have no skills when it comes to onions.
I tried again.
Then a third time.
With each attempt, I felt more demoralized and disinterested in the process. I stopped painting for a few minutes and looked around the farm store. There on the wall, hung a t-shirt with a White Gate Farm logo that features a two-diemnsional sheep. So, I painted that.
Heath burst out laughing a few minutes later when he spied the sheep on my paper. “I thought it was a dog,” he hooted. We both had a good laugh, which was exactly what I needed to shake me out of my funk.
I pushed the onion away and pulled up a photo of Annie on my phone.
Then, I got to painting.
This watercolor is the best painting I have ever done. I know that’s not saying a lot, but for someone who does not have natural talent with visual art, I am thrilled with the result.
And the best part is that because I was painting Annie, the greatest golden retriever in the history of the world, I loved every second of the process.
Gretchen Rubin had it right. Forcing myself into the wrong subject led to feeling disgruntled and bored. Painting Annie, however, suited me.
Now that I’m on the other side of covid (even though I still have a cough), I’ve been walking the beach here in Old Lyme nearly every day. Here are some of my favorite finds:
A Wheaton Terrier named Samson
An English Cream Retriever named Hella
Geometric patterns …
especially on a perfect seashell!
A message in the sand from Heath, which I totally walked past since my head was looking down at seashells. We found out later the mystery object is a sac of skate fish eggs.
Unfortunately, I also find a lot of garbage. On one day, I found two disposable masks and some plastic. Every time I’m out on the beach I regret not bringing a trash bag. I just don’t don’t think about it until I’m already out there.
Then there was the morning I found a pair of washed up underwear!
I talked to one of the locals that morning as I strolled back to the house and she told me that she finds a lot of underwear in the summertime, as well as items like iPods, Fitbits, and wallets.
The most surprising thing of all that I found is a renewed sense of wonder and awe! I didn’t even know I needed these emotions supercharged in my life. But watch the sunrise and sunset for multiple days in a row and you realize that you may have been taking your usual walks in the woods for granted.
Here are a few of my favorite sunrises:
And here are a few sunsets:
And since it’s Halloween, here’s a creepy tree we saw while in Essex, CT, last week.
We’re here for another 2.5 weeks. Here’s hoping I find even more … including things I’m not even looking for!
I’m delighted to report that Heath and I are now living in a beach house! We’ll be in Old Lyme until November 19th. Air BnB described the house as “50 steps to the beach.” I tested that claim and it’s actually 60 steps. But, it could also be that I have shorter legs than the average person.
The view from our driveway
When my mom read my previous blog post where I said I always wanted to live at the beach, she asked me: what do you mean you always wanted to live at the beach? You hate the beach!
And that’s true — I am not a fan of south Atlantic beaches that are commercialized, hot, humid, and crowded.
Most of our family vacations in my pre-teen/teenage years were spent in North Myrtle Beach. We stayed in a high-rise hotel and I did not enjoy hours upon hours of laying on a towel surrounded by hundreds of people engaging in all sorts of loudness and tomfoolery.
Furthermore, the idea of sharks skulking about has always bothered me, so it’s not like I could find solace in the waves.
Instead, I spent most of our vacation hiding away in the hotel room, watching Bold and the Beautiful at 12:30pm EST, followed by Young & the Restless. I would then switch to the ABC soap operas at 1:30 to catch the last half of All My Children, followed by One Life to Live (my favorite) at 2pm and General Hospital (second favorite) at 3pm. An excellent way to spend the afternoon, in my opinion.
Yet ever since Heath and I visited Cape Cod the last week of August in 2019, I have felt drawn to the craggy, rough shorelines of the New England coast. Perhaps it was visiting in the off season, when the crowd consisted of a handful of people (or none at all) and the background noise sounded more like quiet laughter than amusement park shenanigans.
Falmouth, Cape Cod, late August 2019
Whatever it was, I started to fancy the peaceful solitude of a New England beach. Imagine if we lived there – the inspiration, the quiet, the atmosphere! So, I got it in my head that these weeks we’re away from Norfolk were the perfect time to live out this dream.
Why I equated three years of wanting something to always as in I always wanted to live at the beach, I don’t really know. Maybe anything before the pandemic feels like a lifetime ago. Speaking of which …
Covid finally caught up with me. It was after I managed to experience a radiant Old Lyme sunset our first night at the beach house, followed by a gentle sunrise the next morning. In between, I also befriended a chocolate lab named Otis who lives across the street.
But after that sunrise and those 12 wonderful hours, my throat started to feel scratchy and my voice turned hoarse. Then, I started coughing and my sinuses filled with congestion.
My first rapid test showed negative. What a relief, although I did feel disappointed that my streak of no colds was over. The last time I had a cold was in February, 2019. I also felt annoyed because I used three of my free different government-provided tests and they all yielded invalid results. Thankfully, Heath went out to buy ones that actually worked.
The next day, I felt worse. Fever and chills. General discomfort. A pounding headache. I took another covid test and this one lit up like a traffic signal. I didn’t even have to wait the full 15 minutes to get the positive result. As Heath said, “It’s not like it’s going to get less positive.”
Positive Covid Test #1
So now I wait to feel better. It’s been 9 days. I’m still congested. I’m still coughing. I’m still testing positive.
Positive Covid Test #2
It’s been four days without a fever. Less than 12 hours since I had a headache. Improvement, yes, but not enough where I’m comfortable being around others, especially since the rapid test still shows a positive result. And I really don’t want anyone to ever have to go through feeling this way.
I hope someday soon, I get another 12 wonderful hours, followed by another 12, and then 12 more until it’s just standard health and wellness most of the day.
Heath and I finally got around to celebrating my birthday. Taking vitamin D and iron, as well as tapering down my recently prescribed narcolepsy medicine to the lowest possible dose has helped tremendously with my energy levels. So I *finally* felt up for a day out!
We started with driving to West Farms mall in West Hartford to visit the YogiBo store. One of Heath’s greatest joys in life is stretching out on a couch to relax and watch TV and movies. Because he’s so tall, there aren’t many couches that afford him this comfort. We’re also still housesitting in Norfolk (going on six years!) and so the living room furniture is not ours to replace. So we’re limited in what we can do.
A few weeks ago, I had the idea to Google “couch alternatives.” Up popped the website for Yogibo. Heath agreed that it could be a solution for his desire to stretch out. We were then thrilled to discover Yogibo is not just a website – they have stores throughout the Northeast. We decided to head there on my next day off.
Wow, that store is fun! We came home with a Yogibo Max and Support, and we’ve both been enjoying them this last week or so.
Next, Heath and I headed to Dee’s One Smart Bakery in Glastonbury to pick up my birthday cookie cake. Dee’s in an allergy-free bakery. Neither of us have food allergies; we simply find these baked goods superior to any others in Connecticut.
Since there’s a Whole Foods across the street from Dee’s, we stopped there for lunch at their hot bar. I don’t know what they put into their mac n’ cheese that’s so delicious, but it’s some of the best I’ve ever eaten.
We then returned home to watch many episodes of Friends. I’ve seen the show multiple times whereas Heath had only seen a handful of episodes. My favorite part of watching it is hearing him laugh and say, “It’s so stupid.” Friends is a stupid, silly show and that’s why I love it – it’s pure entertainment that reminds me of my younger years.
This birthday celebration included nothing special or fancy. But it was exactly what I wanted – feeling mostly awake spending time with the person I love most in this world doing things that bring me joy. May the year be filled with more of the same.
Activities I stopped doing consistently over the past few weeks because I’ve been so tired:
Eating with nutrition in mind
Morning Pages Journaling
Visiting with Friends
Every so often I muster the energy to do one or more activities on the list; but it’s not every day and it’s not often.
I’ll know I’m in real trouble when I add Walking Dogs to the list.
Meet Willis! Willis is the most Muppet-Looking dog I’ve ever met.
As it is, dogs remain one of the greatest motivators I have in my current low-energy life. I’m hoping my energy situation vastly improves soon because I found out from some blood work that all my fatigue isn’t just narcolepsy-related. Both my iron level and my Vitamin-D level are ridiculously low.
In the meantime, I continue showing up for work and the dogs in my life, and I’ve decided to be perfectly satisfied with those choices. I could prioritize nutritious meals and more exercise since I know both are incredibly helpful to my sleep health, but then I’d have to quit my job and there goes my paycheck and health insurance.
The irony is not lost on me that the best choices for health right now I cannot prioritize because they would jeopardize losing my health insurance. The healthcare/health insurance system in this country will never make sense to me.
The only reason I still keep up with some exercise is because I’ve started thinking of Annie as my “accountability buddy.”
It’s been so hot lately, we’ve haven’t been hiking quite as much as we’ve been swimming.
Annie, not surprisingly, is an exceptional swimmer. She can both belly flop and dive, as demonstrated in the video below. (If for some reason you can’t see the video, please click here).
Annie is so awesome I can’t even be disappointed that spending time with her truly is a highlight of my blah days. Because even if I had all the energy in the world and I woke up feeling refreshed every day, I would still want to spend time splashing with her in a pool.
Well, it’s that time of year again. Happy Birthday to me and happy birthday to my blog. I turn 45 years old tomorrow and my blog turns six. I wish I could say I’m feeling festive. Unfortunately, I just feel tired and beaten down. In lieu of my typical blog birthday photos with dogs wearing party hats, here are dogs covered in dirt because that’s all I can muster today.
A friend recently told me that they lost one of their teeth. It’s going to take a few weeks until they can get an implant, but in the meantime they told me they’ve been getting the best sleep of their life.
“Which tooth?” I asked them. There’s not much I wouldn’t try at this point to get a good night’s sleep.
So, if you see me without a tooth in the coming days, weeks, or months, know that I still haven’t given up hope that someday I’ll get decent sleep on a regular basis.
Working at the Norfolk Library comes with a lot of benefits. For example, I’m allowed to bring Fergus with me whenever I’m taking care of him.
The Library also pays for most of my health insurance, which is such a wonderful contribution considering I work there part-time.
I’ve also been afforded opportunities to learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Norfolk Library identifies as an anti-racist library and that means doing some deep work to ensure that we are who we say we are. So when it came time for the library to commemorate Juneteenth, we decided learning more about this holiday would be the best way to honor it.
Tomorrow I lead a book discussion of On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed. If you have never read this book written by a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian, then I highly recommend it. It’s well-written, interesting, and a slim 148 pages. It also has me caring about Texas (and US) history in ways I never thought possible.
For example, I learned that the theme park Six Flags Over Texas, which was the original Six Flags, was so named because of the six flags of the countries that ruled over Texas in its history: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States of America.
Texas was part of the confederacy?!?!?!
Maybe I knew this years ago when I was in grade school or high school and maybe not. Because I had undiagnosed narcolepsy for many of those years and the fact that those years are now approximately 3+ decades ago, I’ve given myself leeway for not remembering a lot of what I learned and experienced.
I always thought of Texas to be a land of oilmen, cowboys and ranchers. This book has taught me that’s not at all the case. Eastern Texas, an area that is vastly green and fertile, was imagined by Stephen F. Austin as, “a western version of the cotton fields of Mississippi that had produced such great wealth for plantation owners.” Austin also knew that the land could never be developed without enslaved people clearing and planting the land as free labor and intensely lobbied Mexico, who was anti-slavery, that no Americans would come without the guarantee of chattel slavery.
Yep. Eastern Texas was developed on the backs of enslaved people all in the name of wealth accumulation for white people. Just like many other states.
Again, maybe I understood this reason why slavery was historically accepted in the development of the US from long ago and maybe I didn’t. Or maybe I’m now looking at this information with the eyes, heart, and mind of a 44-year-old white woman who has seen present-day racial injustice, inequity, and inequality in this country and who is *finally* paying attention to how it’s all connected.
Because you can’t read a book like On Juneteenth and not look at the bigger picture. Or realize that there are truths out there, you just had the privilege of not knowing about them. Imagine what would it mean if we were taught in school the words of Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, in his 1861 Cornerstone speech:
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to ourpeculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
How many times have I heard people say the Civil War was about states’ rights? These words unequivocally show otherwise.
If we heard Alexander Stephens’ words taught in schools today, perhaps we would better recognize the deep-seated racism that existed and continues to exist in this country. You know, the kind of racism that gets some books banned in school districts or libraries because they suggest racism still exists.
If I could, I would give a copy of On Juneteenth to everyone in the United States. Then I would invite them to the Norfolk Library, either in-person or on-line, to talk about it. Because that’s what we do at the Norfolk Library and I’m glad to be a part of it.
If you decide to read On Juneteenth as a result of this post, let me know. The Norfolk Library’s book discussion is tomorrow night at 7:00pm, but that doesn’t mean we can’t schedule another one in the future or have a Zoom chat about it.
My world became darker this week with the loss of my friend, Cecily.
I met Cecily in November 2017, when we both attended a book discussion for The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. At the end of discussion, Cecily asked if I’d like to walk her dog Dodger a few times a week. She’d heard I was a dog person.
My life has never been the same since.
I’ve written about Cecily and Dodger multiple times on this blog. My relationship deepened with Cecily when Heath became one of her home companions in 2018. I often spent hours there on Sundays, chatting with Cecily and Heath, accompanying them on outings, and playing with Dodger.
Cecily had tears in her eyes the first time I preached at the Congregational Church in Norfolk. She stood in the pews and beamed at me when it was over. Cecily also accompanied me to my first Psychology of Stuff presentation I ever gave. She sat in the audience next to Heath at the Scoville Memorial Library and listened as I talked about why we have so much stuff and what we can do about it. The crowd numbered close to 100 and it was standing room only. Afterwards to celebrate, Cecily took us to the White Hart Inn for dinner.
More than anything, Cecily believed in me as a writer. She didn’t know me in my other life as a college professor with a long list of professional accomplishments including tenure and multiple peer-reviewed publications. So it was easy for Cecily not to judge that I left all that behind because I felt unhappy and wanted more out of my life. She asked me often about the stories I was writing and suggested just as often that Dodger would make an excellent character for one of them.
Of course, he would! Anyone who has ever met Dodger knows this guy has charisma and charm. That’s why he serves as the inspiration for the dog in my young adult novel called The Happiest Dog on the Internet. I never got the chance to tell Cecily that last month the manuscript was named a finalist in the Tassy Walden Awards for New Voices in Children’s Literature.
Mostly because I forgot.
When I last saw Cecily on Tuesday night, I reminded her of some of our favorite times together, like decorating her Christmas tree or dressing Dodger as a “chili” dog for Halloween. I spoke of the Norfolk Library’s pet parade last year and how poor Dodger had been shaved at the groomers because of a miscommunication. I told one of Cecily’s favorite stories about the time a cousin stopped her when she was out and about the town with Heath. “What’s with the guy?” the cousin wanted to know. Cecily loved to tell that story with a gleam in her eye because she loved to be on the arm of such a tall, handsome, and younger man.
I sat reminiscing with Cecily while she slept. I wracked my brain for more things to tell her. I knew that once I left my chair that would be my last goodbye. I wanted to prolong the moment. How silly of me not to think of this one thing that I know would have made her happy.
I suppose it doesn’t matter. Death goes on and the love I have for Cecily will stay with me in my heart until it’s my turn. Which, for the record, I hope is at least five decades away. There are many stories I have yet to write and many memories Heath and I have yet to make together. I hope we get the time.
Goodbye Cecily. I’m so glad you heard I was a dog person.