An Unexpected WOW Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOW, indeed!

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

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Finding New Joys During a Pandemic

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Photo by Irina Iriser on Unsplash

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

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

They even inspired this poem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Prayer for the People During COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labrador standing at edge of pond

Stay safe everyone. Sending love and prayers.

Hello, Daylight Savings Time! I Hate You.

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

Good thing I have an excellent napping companion with Smudge.

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

I hope you enjoy!

Love,
Kelly

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When Less Is More

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

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Our Wedding, February 12th, 2016, Nashville Courthouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memory of Eve Thew 27

In Memory of Eve Thew

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

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

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

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

Eve and I have been friends ever since.

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

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

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Thanks to Heath for taking this picture!

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

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

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What’s in a Name?

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

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

Dodgeball?!?!

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

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

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

My husband, Heath, thinks I’m terrible at coming up with nicknames for dogs. According to Heath, only one time in the history of our four-year marriage have I come up with a good nickname for a dog. Meet Mission Control on the left (her real name was Missy). What's in a Name? 36

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day, everybody 🙂

* Indicates Dodger nicknames I personally created.

A Bold Prediction for 2020

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

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

One look at this cover gives you a hint why.

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

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

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

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

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Phyllos!

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Annie!

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

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

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

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

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Smudge!

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Faith!

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

Thinking about Death in the New Year

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Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

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.

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Before

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After

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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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*All animals are welcome 🙂

 

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas to all my family and friends! May the joy of this holiday season be as much as the joy of Smudge running in the snow:

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And since it is Christmas, here’s my gift to you: Some of my favorite Norfolk animals in Santa hats. You’re welcome 🙂

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Cuite pie Faith (with a photo bomb by Smudge)

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Santa Smudge with a snowy snoot

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Dodger and his cousin Maestro! Too much cuteness for words.

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Sooty Sam and Stuffed Dodger (courtesy of the incomparable Eve Thew)

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Benjamin Button, the bravest kitten I’ve ever known

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Annie Banannie, the happiest dog I’ve ever known

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Chloe, a dog with the heart of an angel

I hope you all have a wonderful day.

Love,
Kelly