Another One of My Husband’s Cast-Off Photos
A few years ago, I read the book The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. This book is based on wisdom teachings from the Toltecs, an indigenous population native to Mexico about 1000-ish years ago. Follow the four agreements and your life will become infinitely more joyful.
I’ve now given this book to three other people, if that’s any indication of the impact it’s had on me.
Here are the Four Agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Do not make assumptions.
- Do not take things personally.
- Always do your best.
Simple. Profound. Easy. Well, not quite easy.
I recently read a blog post on a minimalism website that provided an excellent reminder of the importance of the Four Agreements. Especially #2 and #3.
In that blog post, the author detailed how they were sitting in a restaurant with their family. At another table sat a family of four who were completely absorbed by their smartphones. They were together, but not really together at all. “How sad,” commented one of the author’s children.
How sad indeed … except, that’s quite an assumption to make.
The irony is that I’m writing this blog post because I took what that author said personally.
My husband and I have been doing the exact same thing as the family of four every time we’ve been in a restaurant in the past few weeks. Usually, that’s the only time where there’s great wi-fi and we have a few minutes of downtime on our 3.5-month road trip.
If the author of that blog post had been sitting next to us, they would have probably thought the same thing as their child: how sad.
What the author would have had no idea about is everything that my husband and I have been experiencing in these past few months when we’re not phlubbing (phone snubbing) each other at a restaurant. For example:
Elk Video from Pyramid Island
Also, since June 9th, my husband and I have not been apart for more than 20 hours (in my estimation). Not 20 hours consecutively, but 20 hours total out of the 1,368 hours that have elapsed since then.
We have literally been together for 99% of the time in nearly two months.
This road trip and summer has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Every moment of wonder and joy I experience is magnified by the fact that I get to share it with the person I love most in the world.
So why is it bothering me so much what that author wrote?
After reflecting on this question for a bit, I’ve concluded it’s because I have worried about people thinking exactly what the author wrote about – that my husband and I would be judged about who we are as a couple based on how we were behaving at our restaurant table.
Then the bigger question is – why should I even worry about something like that? One of my favorite quotes from author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer is that, “Your opinion of me is none of my business.”
I suppose having a PhD in psychology does come in handy every now and then, because I realized what I’m experiencing is a classic case of cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when there’s a disconnect between certain attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, etc., that you have and your corresponding behaviors.
As someone who regularly practices mindfulness, sitting at a restaurant table with my husband while having my phone out is not being present. So, in the case of the aforementioned author, there is something fair about what they’ve written.
This “truth” allows my brain to yell at me things like:
YOU ARE NOT REALLY A MINIMALIST!
SHAME ON YOU!
HOW DARE YOU HAVE YOUR PHONE OUT WHILE YOUR INCREDIBLY HANDSOME HUSBAND SITS AT A TABLE WITH YOU!
Funny how my brain is really quick to discount the 1,348 hours where I’m mindfully enjoying the good life and spending time with my husband.
I’ve begun reminding myself to let these thoughts go. I acknowledge them and then release the hold they have on me. Again, easier said then done. As long as I’m being mindful, though, I will keep fighting the good fight whenever my dissonant brain tries to overthrow my happiness.
Besides, there’s only one month left in our road trip. I simply do not want to waste any more time on a thought process that does not serve me.
I have a lot of the United States to see – with my husband. And I plan on doing my best!
End Note: If you are so inclined, please send thoughts of love to the family whose son died at Glacier National Park last week. It is an awful tragedy that no one should have to experience.
My husband and I noticed a trend when we were in Kalispell, MT. A lot of people asked us where we were going next. We would respond, Glacier National Park. They would respond, You really need to go to Banff.
So we added Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada) to our travel plans.
While in Glacier, we got the same question: Where are you going next? We responded, Banff. They would respond, Oh, you really need to go to Jasper.
So now we’re going to Jasper National Park (also Alberta), too.
We hit the road on July 3rd, leaving Kalispell behind. Soon, we crossed the Canadian border.
About 1km after that, we met this brown bear grazing by the road side.
I took it as a good sign that I’m going to love Canada!
We didn’t go Banff/Jasper directly. I felt like I needed a little stability in our 3.5 month road trip.
Thanks to the Internet, I found us a nice, short-term housesitting job in St. Albert, Alberta. St. Albert is a little north of Edmonton.
On the way to St. Albert, we stopped in Pincher Creek to stay at an Air BnB. This place has been my favorite Air BnB place thus far in all my Air BnB stays ever. Here’s a picture of the view from their couch:
This place has gorgeous views, spectacular natural light, and not a speck of dirt to be seen in our suite. Showering there was also a rather spiritual experience filled with abundant gratitude and joy. Being at Glacier, I had not bathed in five full days.
We also met two super sweet dogs, and a giant rooster with the most feathery pantaloons. My husband nicknamed him Bear Chicken, but his real name is Pretty Princess Bracelet (named by two little girls).
We then made our way to St. Albert, after a stop in Calgary. We didn’t have much time there, but we did have enough time to visit #REGRUB and share this milkshake.
What I’m enjoying most about the housesit in St. Albert is Stella the cat. Everything about her is adorable. She also does what I call The Flop when you scratch her butt. (video)
This housesit is the first time we’ve only been responsible for a cat and house. Add cleaners that came to the house on Tuesday, and you’ve got a rather easy experience. It was exactly what I needed.
True confession, though: I thought it was closer to Jasper so we could take day trips. It’s not.
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time just to see what really happened because I know I looked at St. Albert and Jasper on a Google Maps.
Ultimately, I don’t think it matters. My husband and I have spent our time catching up on activities we haven’t been able to do a lot of while camping. Writing for me and organizing/editing photographs for him.
Catching up means we haven’t taken full advantage of St. Albert or the area. I’m okay with that. We’ve been on the road since May 15th.
I’m considering this our summer staycation.
The few places we have gone are downtown St. Albert (Jack’s Burger Shack is 5 stars in my opinion), strolled along the walking/bike trails in the surrounding parks (we saw a beaver and a muskrat!), visited the West Edmonton Mall (largest mall in North America), and, my personal favorite, went to the St. Albert Farmer’s Market (the largest Farmer’s Market in Western Canada).
We’ve been here since July 5th. I think the truest testament to how much we haven’t been doing is that I haven’t befriended a single dog while I’ve been here.
I have patted a few here and there. But never long enough where I felt like I established enough rapport with the dog parents to ask details about the dog and if I could take a picture.
Thank goodness for Stella. She’s so adorable, I’ve had no choice but to take 304 photos of her so far. Seriously, I just counted. God bless the invention of digital photos and cloud storage.
I’m going to miss Stella and the consistency of being in one place. But I’m also ready for another adventure. I’m especially eager to sleep again in a tent.
Thanks, Canada! So far, you’ve been nothing but wonderful.
Something monumental happened in my life during the first week of July — I lived in a tent for almost a week!
After my husband’s photography workshop in Kalispell, we arrived at Glacier National Park intent on camping. For my husband who grew up camping and brought a tent as part of his marriage dowry, this housing situation was no big deal.
I, however, grew up in a family that considered a three-star hotel roughing it.
Nevertheless, I have changed a lot in my adult life. One of my favorite ways is that I’ve embraced the restorative and healing power of nature. Some of my greatest moments of joy in the last year have occurred simply by walking through the woods with a dog.
So, I approached camping with an open mind and an enthusiastic spirit.
My husband approached our first camping adventure together with some trepidation.
One of his biggest concerns was that sharing an air mattress would result in poor sleep for both of us. Ironically, he slept great and I slept okay. For someone with narcolepsy, okay sleep is actually quite good.
Case in point: for the first time in years, I averaged more than 8 hours of sleep a night. One night I even slept for a solid 12 hours!
Our trip to Glacier had been planned since December. But I’ve wanted to visit Glacier for years.
Overall, I found the park … meh. The Internet isn’t kidding when it says national parks get crowded in the summer time. More than a few times I had the thought that I was in a more open-air, natural version of Disney World.
If you do not get up early to secure a parking spot at any of the park’s trailheads, which we did not since we were too busy enjoying good sleep, then a good chunk of your day is spent searching for a parking space. Sometimes, you may even have to give up and go home. We heard quite a few people complaining about that in and around the park.
There are also people EVERYWHERE!
The experience reminded me of when I visited Machu Picchu in December 2015. At some points in MP, I literally stood in a line just to walk to the next observation point. That’s the first time I drew a parallel experience from Disney World to an outdoor experience.
Since most of my time prancing around nature in CT is people-less, I had gotten use to the tranquil solitude that comes with those experiences.
I had zero similar experiences in Glacier. That’s not to say there weren’t any moments of wonder or awe for me, because there were actually quite a few. Checkout these views:
At the same time, not everyone experiences awe the same way I do. Take our hike up Avalanche Trail, for example.
The first time we tried this hike, we got rained out. We went back the next day and trekked up the mountain. The scene at the top took my breath away.
Yet my moments of delight were interrupted by a 20-something year-old, maybe even a late teenager, who stripped down to his shorts and splashed around in the lake. His friends called him crazy, snapped pictures, hooped and hollered it up, and then turned their attention elsewhere after a few moments. This guy then proceeded to yell at them, “I’m peeing in the lake!” Cue giggles and shrieks from his friends.
I can’t really get mad at a kid for acting immature. If he’s been reinforced to act this way by family and friends, he may not know any better and at this point in his life he may not want to know any better. I can only send him a silent prayer of blessing, which I did, and turn my attention to myself. Which I also did.
I sat on a rock watching this chipmunk live his best life (video).
I threw rocks in the lake contemplating the profound nature of the ripple effect (also a video).
I watched my husband take photographs.
And then it started to downpour (it rained all week), so we headed back to the trail. On our way, we met a beautiful tanager.
My Glacier trip ended up being different than I wanted it to be. And that’s okay. Some of it exceeded expectations (YAY camping) and some of it fell below (BOO peeing in a lake). Then there’s the fact that it SNOWED in July. I didn’t even know that should be an expectation! (video)
What truly matters is I had new experiences, learned a few things about myself, spent time with the person I love most in this world, and met several new dogs.
I guess that means it was perfect.
For anyone so inclined, please send love and prayers to Diane and Fred, Tana’s mom and dad. They were our neighbors at the Apgar campground and we’ve stayed in touch. Tana had to be put down last week. Love to them and anyone who is missing a loyal animal companion.
I’ve never been one of those people obsessed with supermodels. Until I found out that there’s such a thing as wildlife supermodels. Meet Bruno!
And, yes, he really is this good looking in person, plus he oozes charm. I mean, what bear doesn’t?
In all seriousness, I really didn’t understand the concept of a wildlife photography model until my husband and I took part in my Christmas 2017/Valentine’s Day 2018/Anniversary 2018/Birthdays 2018/Christmas 2018 present to ourselves.
All the way back in December 2017, I was watching episode 309 of Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild. In this episode, Jack and his wife visited a ranch in Montana to photograph bears. Hmm, I thought. That would be the perfect present for my husband for Christmas, et al., since he’s a photographer and I’ve wanted to visit Montana for many years now.
The choice was tough. I, however, couldn’t resist a workshop featuring baby wildlife. With this option, there’d be a little something for both of us: adorable animals for me to dote over and new photography skills for my husband to master.
I was determined NOT to make the same mistake I made last year in surprising my husband with his birthday present.
One of the things I love most about my husband is his curiosity and drive to learn as much as he can about anything that interests him (which is a lot). A few years ago, he made a goal to be fluent in Spanish by December 2017. I wanted to support him, so when a Norfolk friend told us about a Spanish immersion school in which she and her daughter attended in Antigua, Guatemala, I surprised my husband with a week-long program for his birthday last year (May 2017).
Unfortunately, because I wanted the trip to be before December 2017, the only time that worked for him to travel to Guatemala was at a time when I couldn’t go with him. In hindsight, I should have said to heck with the goal date, because I missed out on my husband’s first international trip. We could have hiked a volcano together!
Lesson learned! So, hello, baby wildlife!
The workshop was lead by an incredibly talented and knowledgeable photographer, Kathleen Reeder. After observing Kathleen during the workshop, I felt a renewed sense of certainty that I made the right decision to quit my teaching job two years ago. Kathleen is a natural teacher, who thoroughly enjoyed what she was doing and enthusiastically shared her gifts with others. In other words, a model teacher who embodied many of the qualities I lost (or never had) after choosing a profession by default rather than true interest and passion.
Every day the photographers would assemble at the crack of dawn to work with different animals, which included baby foxes, wolves, coyotes, otters, pine martens, Canada Lynxes, and a juvenile mountain lion.
Perhaps I’m just naïve, or, maybe the animal lover in me is too attached to the possibility that I could be wandering around the woods and happen across Canadian lynx kittens posing in a log and get to witness the adorableness of it, but I had no idea a lot of wildlife photos are staged.
Watching the animals land on their marks during photo shoots in between romping and playing is something I will marvel over for the rest of my life.
Then, I met Bruno.
You may be thinking that Bruno is not a baby animal, and you’d be right. I think Bruno is maybe 6 years old.
As part of the workshop, participants were offered the opportunity to photograph additional species for a fee. Talk amongst the participants who had previously attended Triple D workshops was that Bruno the Bear is a ham. He’ll pose during his photo sessions and look at the photographers to make sure they’re watching. He loves laughter and applause and applesauce and wants everyone to love him loving those things.
Of course, I suggested we participate in a Bruno the Bear photoshoot. No brainer, really. Just look at him!
Since I was only attending the workshop as a “sidekick,” I wasn’t allowed to take any photographs of the animals myself, lest I be charged the full cost of attending. So, the photos in this post are some of my husband’s cast-off photos. He said he’s saving his best ones for his own social media purposes, unless I wanted to pay him. HAHA, he’s such a funny guy. He and Bruno could be BFFs, if Bruno wasn’t, you know, a wild bear who just happened to also be a supermodel.
Work it, Bruno. Work it!
It finally happened! After hoping and praying for, well, my whole life to see a bear in the wild, on Tuesday morning while driving through Grand Teton National Park, my husband and I saw a mama bear with her two cubs frolicking in a pasture. I couldn’t stop smiling, and yet…
Just a few days prior, this happened when my husband and I were driving through Custer State Park in the Black Hills, South Dakota.
And the day before while driving through Badlands National Park, we saw our first bison
Which was preceded by bighorn sheep,
prong horn antelope (at least I think that’s what they are),
and the cutest prairie dogs you ever did see!
Then there are ALL THE DOGS, I’ve met so far since leaving Illinois:
Plus, Oompa Loompa!
And one of the cutest kids I’ve ever met in my whole life, who seemed in awe of my husband and his feet.
In all of these situations, I felt feelings of wonder and joy. I laughed a lot and even teared up a little at some of them, especially the bison because of how close they were to us and Lucy the dog because of how much she reminds me of Smudge, one of the dogs that we care for long-term in Norfolk, CT, during the fall and winter. Also, because she carries her blankie with her everywhere and makes the cutest rumbly noises while doing so.
Something, however, felt less than joyful with my bear sighting. Don’t get me wrong – I loved every minute of it and I even put down my phone because I wanted to stay in the moment, and I couldn’t get a good picture, anyway. So, I let myself watch those bears run, and romp, and play.
Then, we drove away and I became aware of a small sense of disappointment that was gnawing at my brain. I couldn’t understand why I had these feelings.
As a psychologist, I know about the pitfalls of having expectations and how the brain can too easily adapt to surroundings so that a novelty wears off quickly, and, in fact, I’m reading a book right now called The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations, which explains how our brains can be our own worst enemies on vacation (very useful reading for a three-and-a-half-month road trip.)
Yet, none of those reasons seemed to ring true for what I was experiencing in that moment.
Then, an a-ha moment came out of nowhere! Or, in my case, it poked its head out of the woods and looked right at me as my husband drove us down the road.
“WOLF!” I cried. “HEATH, THERE’S A WOLF!”
We both saw this majestic, white creature with grey trim stare at us as we drove the stretch of road between Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
By the time we turned around, the wolf had disappeared. And, then, I knew.
I knew exactly why my bear experience had felt less spectacular than seeing all the other creatures, great and small, on our road trip so far.
As we drove into Grand Teton, I asked a ranger where to see the best wildlife. “Oh, pretty much anywhere,” she replied. “The North end of the park is especially good. We already had a bear sighting this morning.”
We drove further and further North, until finally we were greeted with a flashing sign: Proceed with caution. Bear with cubs crossing road next 6 miles.
Not three miles later we saw her. Along with maybe a hundred other people and several park rangers checking in to make sure everyone stayed safe, including the bears.
All along the way, I had been told about THIS MOMENT. Then it happened. And then it was over.
There had been no element of surprise whatsoever, no random spotting of a creature in the wild or discovery of a silly characteristic from one of my domesticated friends as I spend time with them.
One of the reasons I love adventure so much is the discovery of the unknown and pretty much everything about my first bear in the wild experience had been made known to me in advance.
But as I type this post, my feelings of disappointment are disappearing. Because, it’s hitting me again. I. Saw. A. Bear. In. The. Wild. That’s a fact, not a feeling. And, I know the difference. Looks like my PhD paid off after all!
Happy Travels, everyone.
Happy Father’s Day to my Dad!
I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad, lately, and parents in general, as I see more and more news stories about immigrant children being taken from their parents while coming into the United States. These stories make me wonder how I was lucky enough to be born into my family.
My father is a retired physician; his specialty was internal medicine. When my father went to medical school, his textbooks cost more than his tuition each semester. His father, I believe, was an engineer, who traveled the world as part of his job, and his mother was a nurse.
When he was in high school, my Dad read the book Arrowhead by Sinclair Lewis. The story is about a man, Martin Arrowhead, who is from the Midwest and who becomes a doctor. This story was one of the motivating reasons my Dad wanted to go to medical school.
For many years, my Dad worked 14+ hours days, multiple days in a row. When he was on call at the hospital, our phone would ring all hours of the night. I’ve overhead phone conversations where he’s had to tell family members that a loved one has died.
Because of my Dad’s hard work, I had the privilege of attending private nursery school, private grade school, and private high school. Reading was the #1 activity of my childhood and almost any book I ever wanted at Waldenbooks was mine to be read. Stacks and stacks of books filled my bedroom and kept me company during childhood.
I spent summers going to horseback riding camp and Disney World. We traveled to Bar Harbor, Maine, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for vacations.
Every opportunity was afforded me as a child. I wanted for nothing. I’ve never had to know what it’s like to be hungry or wear second-hand clothing or have to worry about how a bill was going to be paid or what would happen if someone in my family became sick.
When I turned 18, I then attended college without having to take on any student debt. My summers were filled with working at a bank in downtown Harrisburg auditing mortgage loans for $6.25 an hour – this was $2.00 above minimum wage at the time.
I also got to experience international travel for the first time, as I spent not just one summer studying abroad at Oxford, but two. The programs lasted three weeks each and part of me didn’t want to come home because there was so much to see and do.
In 1999, I graduated from college with a 3.93 GPA (magna cum laude), named an outstanding senior psychology major, and earned honors in the psychology program. I had already been awarded a small research grant for my psychology honors thesis and this research had been presented at the American Psychological Association’s national conference in Boston that year.
After graduating from college, I landed a full-ride at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to pursue a doctorate in psychology. Again, I graduated with zero student debt, a university award, and the opportunity to present my research at conferences and through publication.
I immediately landed a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of psychology at a suburban Chicago University.
I continued achieving milestone after milestone in my career – professional development grants, publications in peer-reviewed journals, and presentations at national conferences. These achievements lead to promotions and raises. The university had a 7% matching program for my retirement account. I took full advantage of it. That money got added into my already growing retirement accounts that my father started for me after my first job working at Hersheypark when I was 15.
Let’s not forget my paid sabbatical for the fall 2014-spring 2015 academic year. I know full well how lucky I am to have been given nine months of time to consider my career and the changes I wanted to make. It was during my sabbatical that I realized I wanted more in my life, to pursue the other dreams I’d had, the ones that started in childhood that never got fulfilled.
And that’s exactly what I’m doing now.
Everything about my life has been an absolute privilege because of who my Dad was and how hard he worked.
Because of his hard work and sacrifices, I am now able to lead a life that is centered on creativity, imagination, kindness, compassion, and generosity. I do not have to worry about basic security needs and I never will.
So when I read stories about parents wanting a better life for their child and coming into the United States, I understand. I will not judge them for doing something “illegal” because some laws are arbitrarily created and not rooted in equality and justice but are more based on fear and lack and limitation. If you want an excellent example of this, look no further than Jesus Christ, whose own family had to seek refuge in Egypt when he was born because living in Judea was not safe at the time.
My Dad raised me to believe the messages of Jesus Christ and Jesus was quite clear in what he considered his greatest commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.
Every child deserves the same privileges and gifts I received from my Dad’s love. My Dad gave up years of his life working so I could be taken care of. And I was.
That doesn’t make me special, though, just because of who my Dad is and how hard he worked and how much he loved me. Some Dads work just hard and love their children just as much but will never be able to achieve the same kind of security that I grew up with.
Imagine what kind of world we would have if everyone could share their gifts instead of having to worry about where their next meal is coming from. That’s the life my Dad created for me and it’s one I now want to create for others in the world.
So I’m now doing that the best way I know how, the one that brings me the most joy – taking care of animals, loving my husband, and writing stories. On face value, these choices may not seem like the most proactive in terms of working for peace and social justice. Yet, I think of Gandhi’s words of “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I’ve written about Gandhi’s words before, but today, on Father’s Day, and on a day when some fathers and mothers are being separated from their children, these words seem much more alive to me than ever before.
Thank you, Dad, so much for everything you’ve done for me. I am trying to make the world a better place because of you and be that change I want to see. I love you!
We’re three weeks into our summer road trip. The experience so far has been a mix of emotions, mostly because I’ve grown attached to Norfolk.
I suppose it’s ridiculous to think I wouldn’t become attached since Norfolk is the type of place where you can be driving to a friend’s house and sheep cross the driveway.
Norfolk is also the type of place where you might find a peacock on a roof.
Of course, I miss being there!
I miss walking to the library, chatting with the librarians, and perusing their wonderful collection of books. They’re so supportive of my writing and my ideas. On Saturdays during April and May, they let me hold my Love Letters Writing Group at the library, whereby anyone who was interested could show up and write a thank you letter, or a thinking of you letter, or a support letter to people in the military.
The program was sparsely attended, but it didn’t matter because I used that time to write my own letters to people. As an added bonus, I became friends with an incredibly talented watercolor artist in town, Leslie Watkins, who read about my Love Letters Writing Group in the Norfolk Now town newspaper and loved the idea. Not only did she donate high quality cards to use, she also attended most every week, and gave me art lessons along the way. It was because of her great teaching skills, that I was able to make these cards:
I also miss walking to the Congregational Church every Wednesday morning to attend a Creative Writers’ Group, sharing my stories, and listening to the stories, poetry, and wisdom that my fellow writers share. The oldest person in the group is a 91-year-old spitfire of a woman who inspires me in so many ways and the youngest is a mid-30s man who has a good heart and believes in the saving power of grace. Every week when I leave the group, I have the biggest smile on my face.
One of the places that I don’t usually walk to, but I still miss nevertheless, is Botelle Elementary. I started volunteering there this past winter as a literacy and math volunteer in the kindergarten/first grade and second grade classroom.s Honestly, one of my favorite parts is hanging out with the kindergarten/first grade students during their snack time. We act quite silly and laugh a lot.
One day I happened to be sitting next to a little girl whose grandparents I know. The topic of conversation turned to fortune telling and making predictions. I announced to the table that I could read palms and I turned to the girl, picked up her palm, looked at it, and said: Your family loves you very much and you love them. Oh, and you love dogs, too.
The girl’s mouth dropped open. Before I knew it, every single student in the classroom wanted me to read their palms. This memory is one I will keep in my heart forever, and I suspect some of the students will, too, because when they threw me a surprise going away party (yes, I did tear up), several of the students made me cards that featured palms.
If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m a minimalist and it’s my goal to get all my belongings down to one backpack. But for this summer, I’m not yet ready to give up these cards and they will be making the trek with me across the country.
Since I’m already getting a little teary-eyed writing this post, I might as well go down the rabbit hole.
I miss the dogs of Norfolk SO MUCH! With humans, you can say, “I’ll see you soon,” and they understand that you’re coming back. I like to think Smudge, Faith, and Dodger could understand me the same way, but I can’t be sure.
Sometimes at night I’ll sing Somewhere Out There to Smudge. He really is the silliest, most mischievous dog I’ve ever known.
Then there’s Faith, who when I saw her standing among her three brothers in a picture posted on TrustedHousesitters.com, I told my husband she’s the cutest dog I’ve ever seen and we had to apply for that housesitting job. She really is an extra cute pupper!
I can’t forget Dodger dog. I walk him Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the Barbour Woods, and every single time I feel profound spiritual experiences of gratitude, love, peace, and joy.
For anyone who is feeling anxious, sad, stressed, or any other emotion that hurts their bodies, minds, or spirits, I encourage you to find a dog and let them romp around the woods in wild abandon. You will feel like a new person by the end of the walk.
For all these reasons, and more, I miss Norfolk. Yet, with leaving Norfolk behind, there are new adventures to go on, new relationships to make, and new dogs to meet.
We spent last week with the adorable Gretchen and Sebastian in Manhattan, IL:
As my husband likes to say, Manhattan, IL, is the opposite of Manhattan, NY. It’s incredibly flat, sparsely populated, and rural. The house that we sat is a typical suburban house. I love it, though, because the owners love living there and take such pride and ownership in their little piece of Manhattan heaven. The house is a typical, suburban IL house, but the little things like the raised herb garden outside, the ocean-scene tiled mosaic in the bathroom, and, the brightly-colored wood-carved picture than hangs on the front porch, make it spectacular.
And, let’s be serious here. Wiener dogs are as cute as you can get. Gretchen and Sebastian are also especially cute because they get tucked into a doggy bed at night and then greet the day first thing in the morning with exuberance.
While in Manhattan, we also got to visit a couple and their fur family who we housesat for last summer. When I first got the idea of pet/housesitting as a way to make a living after I quit teaching, it was motivated by my love of dogs, the lure of travel, and the desire to have a relaxed schedule so I could devote a lot more time to writing. Little did I know getting to know and becoming friends with the people we housesit for would be one of the best parts.
We spent a delightful evening at their house, catching up, and enjoying our time with their animals:
And the chickens
It’s experiences like these that give me the strength and motivation to leave Norfolk. When my husband and I embarked on our housesitting journey together, our plan all along was to keep moving. So I’m grateful that’s what we’re doing. I’m also equally grateful that we already know we’ll be back in Norfolk come September for another long-term housesit. We love it there and I miss ya’ll so much. See you soon!
Today is the third morning in a row I’ve woken up exhausted from narcolepsy. This occurrence is nothing new.
What’s different this time is that it’s the third morning in a row I’ve woken up from a dream about teaching. It’s always the same dream, though the details are different: I’m unprepared for class and make a fool of myself in front of the students.
In the dream, I feel myself losing control of the situation, the classroom, the students. My humiliation becomes deeper and deeper. I don’t know what to do. Then I wake up.
These types of dreams are not unique to narcolepsy. Though because of narcolepsy, my dreams will last significantly longer and be in much more vivid detail and color than a typical person’s.
I also just happen to be house-sitting in the Chicago suburbs right now, an area where I lived for 9 years as a psychology professor, except for the year I took a sabbatical. Coincidence? I’d bet not.
After my sabbatical, I handed in my resignation for a variety of reasons. At the top of the list was because I didn’t want to teach anymore. I often did not feel comfortable as a college professor and that’s something I’m still feeling the effects of today.
Part of my discomfort was because I lacked confidence. My entire time in graduate school I had undiagnosed narcolepsy. While I could handle the exhaustion and sleepiness in undergrad, I fell further and further behind in graduate school.
Yet, somehow, through the Grace of God, and perseverance on my part, I graduated with a doctoral degree. And yes, I also have dreams where I am back in graduate school and I still have to defend my dissertation.
I wake up from those dreams, too. Thank God.
A good friend of mine, who is a social worker, recently suggested to me that part of the problem was that it’s hard to take seriously the concerns of someone in a top-tier doctoral program who believes they are failing in life. By the sheer fact I had excelled enough in college to be on a full-ride in grad school, including tuition remission, stipend, and health insurance, I couldn’t be too much of a failure.
Another part of my discomfort with teaching is that being a psychology professor was never my life’s dream. It became the next best option after I listened to someone who said to me, “you can’t be a high school English teacher. Those kids will walk all over you.”
High school English teacher also had not been my life’s dream, either. It became the second-best next-best option after I listened to several people say, “you can’t get a job as an English major. You’ll never make any money and you’ll end up working at a department store.”
So, psychology professor became the goal. And I achieved it. I’m really glad I did because I met some wonderful students along the way. You know who you are. Thank you for being amazing and awesome and I hope you are doing well.
I also met some not-so-wonderful students. I didn’t get to know them in any situation other than the classroom, and that is how I judged them. That was my mistake. And, again, something I am still feeling the effects of today.
Unfortunately, these students also know who they are. How I treated them is one of my biggest regrets with teaching.
I let these students down. They are the ones I now suspect were most like me during my time in graduate school, struggling and uncertain and maybe even feeling like they were not supposed to be in school in the first place. I was often rude to these students, allowed myself to become offended by my assumptions about them, and treated them with arrogance and condescension.
To these students: I am so sorry. I wish I had been a better teacher for you, the type of person that I needed when I was in school. I didn’t see myself in you and your struggles and for that, I am sorry.
Another of my regrets is those students I met at the end of my teaching career. After 21 years of pursuing a life that never really felt like mine, I was on the verge of making my dreams come true after handing in my resignation.
I tried not to check out, but in the end I did.
To those students: I am so sorry. I never wanted to give you a bad classroom experience or an educational experience that was less than you wanted or needed. That wasn’t fair to you and the time and effort you were putting into your studies, and for that I am sorry.
To any student who may recognize themselves in this post, please know that I think about you often and hope you are living a good life. Thank you for teaching me such valuable lessons, and I am so sorry if they came at your expense.
If there are any students out there reading this who are struggling, please know you are not alone. You have my heart and prayers. I have been one of you and in some ways I still am. Please reach out to me if you need help.
Finally, to any student who has ever been told they couldn’t or shouldn’t pursue a goal, go for it anyway. No one can predict the future.
Kelly Kandra Hughes, PhD
Former Associate Professor of Psychology
Forty-seven libraries in 30 days; what an experience!
In case you didn’t read my last blog post, my husband and I spent the month of April taking part in the Passport to Connecticut Libraries program. In this program, you visit as many participating libraries in CT as you can, gaining a stamp from each one on your “passport.” Being HUGE fans of libraries, we were game to hit as many libraries as we could.
We also wanted to do the program right and that meant spending time checking out (haha) each one. Only on a few occasions did we pop in and out, and for those instances it was because we tried to squeeze in one more library before their closing time.
For the sake of brevity, I won’t provide an exhaustive list of every library we visited and what is truly awesome about each one.* But make no mistake, every library was, in fact, awesome, and I continue to be blown away by all the different types of resources libraries have available, such as:
Fitbits and Binge Boxes at the Brookfield Library
Seeds at the Harwinton Library
Cake Pans at the Cyrenius H. Booth Library in Newtown
Rokus at the Minor Memorial Library in Roxbury
Fairies at the Thomaston Library
The librarians we met made this program even more worthwhile. If I ever have to get a “real” job again, librarian is definitely in the running. Everyone welcomed us into their libraries with smiles, enthusiastically stamped our passports, and told us what they loved most about their libraries with a strong sense of ownership and pride. Including, Stella from the Minor Memorial Library in Roxbury, whose additional librarian duties involved being cute, wagging her tail, and making me realize every library should have an animal librarian.
A special shout out goes to Jay, who is not technically a librarian, but who curates the Bristol History Room at the Bristol Public Library. If you want to meet someone who absolutely loves what they do, find Jay. He’ll regale you with his favorite stories about the history of Bristol, including the first yellow taxi cab, the great blizzard of 1888, and Lake Compounce, the oldest amusement park in the United States. And, if you tell him you’re writing a blog post about your library visits, he’ll let you try out the old-fashioned Bristol Library embosser and play around on their old-timey typewriter.
This program has been such a wonder and treat during our last few weeks of housesitting in Norfolk. This coming Tuesday, my husband and I will be heading out for four-months on the road and we won’t be back in Norfolk until the beginning of September. I am so incredibly grateful to the Connecticut Libraries who participated, every single librarian we met on the way, and The Library Hop for their Connecticut Libraries Map. Thank you for making this program so wonderful and we’ll see you soon!
*If anyone would like to chat more about my library experiences or ask for recommendations, please do not hesitate to contact me at genesispotentia(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com. I promise to do my best to control my excitement, but WOW! I love libraries!
Happy Mother’s Day!
My Mom doesn’t like having her picture taken, so I didn’t have that many photos from which to choose. I’m also pretty sure she’s only going to be okay with having a picture posted on my blog at all, so I chose one that also features several of my family members so she can blend in better.
The above picture is maybe 18 years old and a lot has changed in that time except for one thing: My Mom continues to be a generous person.
I think my favorite example is that she took in my dogs, Limit and Jack, not once, but twice in their lifetimes.
I adopted Limit and Jack in 2002. Limit came with an age guesstimate of 7-9 years old. From the story I was told, a woman out in the country in North Carolina took in whatever stray dog wandered up to her door. When that dog turned out be Limit, he was dog #8 and so the woman said, “Enough! This dog is the limit.”
But Limit wasn’t the limit because none of the dogs were spayed or neutered. So Limit begat Jack and a sister, who unfortunately got hit by a car at some indeterminate length of time before they came to live with me (allegedly).
The woman ended up being evicted from her rental home and she abandoned her dogs; Limit and Jack had been locked in the house and were found by a kind neighbor. It looked like they had survived by drinking out of the toilets. They were both brought to me because at that time I volunteered as a foster mom for Independent Animal Rescue.
Within a few weeks I fell in love with both Limit and Jack and officially adopted them. But then, in the fall of 2006, Limit began struggling to walk up the stairs to my second-floor apartment. One day he collapsed going up the stairs and fell the whole way down.
I didn’t know what to do, so I called my Mom. She checked with my father to make sure her plan was okay and then she drove from Harrisburg, PA, to Chapel Hill, NC, to pick them up and move them to Harrisburg. Limit could live quite comfortably in their house since they had two floors.
And he did. So did Jack. They stayed with my parents until August, 2007, when I graduated from my doctoral program at UNC. We all moved together to the Chicago suburbs so I could start my tenure-track position as an assistant professor of psychology.
In 2009, we lost Limit to a tumor on his spleen. It ruptured and through the grace of God I was able to lift Limit up and put him in the back seat of my car. I got him to the vet in time so he didn’t have to suffer too much.
Jack and I stayed together until January of 2013.
He had started showing signs of dementia a few months earlier. Because I lived alone and worked long hours, Jack had become a danger to himself with the things he started eating in the house. He also started to confuse night and day and would continually wake me up in the middle of the night for walks.
As someone who has narcolepsy, this was dangerous for me. I once fell asleep walking him and when I woke up I had no idea where we walked to. It was after 3:00am. I did not have a smart phone and honestly I didn’t know who to call with the regular old cell phone I had. What would I say? “I don’t know where I am. Come find me?”
I eventually found our way home.
Jack’s dementia got worse. Again, not knowing what to do, I called my Mom. The next day, she drove 10 hours from Harrisburg to Naperville, IL. She packed up Jack and his belongings and the next day drove back to Harrisburg. Of course, I missed him terribly; I still do, both of them. But with my Mom now taking care of Jack I knew he would be in good hands.
Jack managed to live another 14 months with my Mom, Dad, and brother in Harrisburg. He remained happy the entire time. In January, 2014, he developed Lymphoma. He lasted until March. On my spring break, I made it home just in time. We’re all pretty sure he waited for me.
Then my Mom gave me one of the greatest gifts of all. She paid to have a vet come to the house so Jack could die in my arms.
I will never be able to say thank you enough to my Mom for all she has done for me. Taking care of Limit and Jack when I couldn’t is just one example. There are hundreds more.
Thank you, Mom, for being so kind, selfless, and generous. I love you.