Happy birthday to me and happy birthday to my blog! On August 1, I turned 46 and my blog turned 7.
Birthday kisses from JJ, one of the goats we’re taking care of for the next several weeks.
This birthday was low-key for many reasons, not the least of which we’re still grieving for the stuff we had stolen a few weeks ago in Crescent City, CA. We spent the day working on a puzzle, which may not sound fun to everyone but Heath and I enjoy puzzles a lot.
This puzzle was especially challenging because the box only gives you a hint as to what the pieces should look like after you put them together.
I wanted to give up at first because I thought the puzzle would be too difficult. Heath convinced me we should keep going. I’m so glad we did because it felt so satisfying when we finished.
Working on the puzzle had the added benefit of keeping my mind worry-free. I’ve been feeling stressed lately as we try to figure out where we want to live and as I figure out what my next professional life should look like. Applying for jobs at the same time that I’m querying my latest middle-grade novel is especially demoralizing because I’m getting rejected on what feels like an almost daily basis.
It’s also demoralizing to find a job I would love in an area we’d be interested in living, only to do a home search on Zillow and see nothing available for less than $500,000. And I don’t mean nothing good available. Just nothing. No townhomes, condos, or houses. Who are the people that can afford these homes? What do they do for a living and will I ever be one of them?
The brightest part of my birthday was the cake. Heath found a bakery in Tacoma that makes custom cakes. He sent them some photos and this is the cake they made:
I teared up hugging the cake designer after I saw that little face.
The cake is gluten-free, chocolate with a strawberry filling, and buttercream frosting. It’s absolutely delicious and upon eating our first slices Heath announced, “I always knew Fergus had strawberries in him.”
We’ll be in the Seattle area for the next month or so. Where we head next remains to be seen. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know! And keep in mind our camping stuff was stolen ….
Dodger and I have been buddies since November 2017. At a book discussion of The Book of Joy by the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a woman I had not met before named Cecily said to me, I heard you were a dog person. She told me about her dog, Dodger, and wondered if I could walk him a few times a week.
Why, yes! I’d be delighted to walk Dodger.
Thus began a wonderful friendship with Cecily and Dodger.
Cecily left us too soon when she died last June, and the search began for a new home for Dodger. We couldn’t take him because of our perennial status as housesitters. We haven’t had a home of our own in years.
Thankfully, Dodger found a loving and devoted foster family where we expect he’ll live out his days. He even has two senior dog companions that are super agers (15 and 18). I couldn’t be happier for Dodger.
Dodger with foster sister Shiloh (age 15)
My only sadness around this situation is that Dodger no longer lives in the center of town. The foster family has made it clear that I’m welcome at any time. Just come on over, they say. But with my busy schedule, I can’t just pop in to say hello multiple times a week.
I especially missed Dodger this past week. His 14th birthday was on Wednesday, April 19th.
I texted his foster mom to wish him a Happy Birthday. Unfortunately, Heath and I were down to one car as the other was getting detailed, so I couldn’t see him for a birthday visit.
Instead, I spent the afternoon with Annie. Heath dropped me off at Annie’s house and we went on our usual sojourn through the Barbour Woods. We had a great time!
Because I didn’t have a car, I walked home going through the woods. In my six and a half years living in Norfolk, I’ve never walked home that way before.
Who should I see at the end of the Carriage Trail?
That’s right! A birthday miracle if I ever experienced one.
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.
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.
Today my blog turns five years old and I turn 44 years old. I remember when my dad turned 40 and we gave him a pin that read 40 isn’t old if you’re a tree. Since I’m a fan of trees and upon my death I would like to be turned into a tree, I accept that I am not old. For the record, I hope my death isn’t at least for 44 more years (God and Kelly willing).
Most importantly, I don’t feel old. And I think that’s what matters most.
One of the true highlights of my day was seeing the artists’ list for the August exhibit of Norfolk Artists & Friends that’s opening at the Library today. When I arrived at work on Thursday, I was delighted to see this painting:
That looks like Annie, I thought.
Well, sure enough. The painting is titled “Annie Rose Smells a Flower,” by Susannah Anderson.
It delights me that I know Annie so well I can spot her in an acrylic paining.
It really is the little things in life that bring the most joy.
Other little things that have been bringing me joy lately:
The little chipmunk living under the front porch.
The blue heron who keeps visiting the driveway
Meeting new dogs (that’s Hobbes in the front and Legend in the back). I met them at Cornwall’s Library’s outstanding Puppies Behind Bars presentation.
Teeny tiny frogs!
Fergus visiting my office at the Norfolk Library.
Getting hugs from my friend, Dotty.
And last, but not least, is watching my kalanchoe plant grow. Heath gave me this plant for our 5-year wedding anniversary in February. It seems to be doing quite well!
My birthday wish for anyone reading this blog post is that you find little things in your day that bring you joy.
Happy Birthday to my blog! And Happy 42nd Birthday to me!
It feels like I just wrote my second blog birthday post a few days ago. Gretchen Rubin, author of TheHappiness Project, sure is on to something when she says, “The days are long but the years are short.”
So what have I learned this past year? Most importantly, I learned how to reincarnate.
This year, I died a metaphorical death on my Mount Everest (i.e., publishing). Nobody is more surprised about this turn of events than me. It all started back in December when I did my most recent death meditation.
During that time, I realized I was letting fear keep me from going all in with my writing.
I then decided 2019 would be my year of discipline and I would put everything I had into getting published.
So far, I’ve written a lot of new material and I’ve now submitted my manuscripts to more agents than ever before. I’ve had some requests for more material and although I receive plenty of form rejections, I’ve also gotten some really nice personalized ones. All good signs on the path to publication.
Here’s what I didn’t expect: I lost my joy for writing somewhere along the way. Talk about a kick in the pants!
Of course, there are ripple effects when you lose something you value. My sense of wonder and awe in the little things all but disappeared. My curiosity decreased. So did my sense of adventure.
I didn’t even have the heart to write on this blog for the last few months, despite some truly wonderful happenings in my life.
Since January, I have now had eight articles published in a local newspaper. Bonus: I get paid to write these!
In May, I spent time in San Antonio and Austin, celebrating graduation milestones for my nephew and niece.
In June, an actual dream of mine came true when Norfstroms, Norfolk’s first and only salvage shed opened at the town transfer station. We had a salvage shed where I lived in North Carolina and I’ve missed having one here in town. I’ve been working with a local grassroots organization called Norfolk NET (Networking Everyone Together) and town hall to get one here. And it actually happened! You can read about it here and here.
Also in June, I was invited to speak at the Norfolk UCC Congregational Church during the pastor’s sabbatical.
As I texted Heath that morning:
You can listen to the sermon here. At the age of 42, I can say with certainty that experience was one of the greatest moments in my life.
And in a few weeks, I’ll be starting a part-time job at that same church as the director of community and creativity. This is a new position designed to increase the flow of God’s love in this world through good works and relationship building. What a gift and, again — I’m going to get paid to do it!
And speaking of getting paid for fun things, I have another opportunity in the works that I can’t speak about yet. But it involves working part-time at another one of my favorite places in the world!.
Then there are the little moments these past few months: so many dogs to love and each and every moment with Heath.
Cutie Pie Faith
Dodger and Annie
Smudge “helping” Heath practice the guitar
All this joy, and, yet…I let the cloud of being so hyper-focused on my publishing goal touch everything that I forgot to enjoy myself along the way. As I learned in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman, this is how people actually die on Mount Everest. They get so focused on getting to the top, they lose sight of everything else. This includes how they’re going to get back down.
The funny part is, I realized I lost my joy for writing when I couldn’t write for a few weeks.
I’m currently spending the month of July in Birdsboro, PA, taking care of the ever entertaining and adorable Bonnie and Jasper.
While housesitting here, I don’t have a car. Which has been mostly fine. Until my Microsoft Surface crashed.
It’s been two weeks. At first, I tried writing using apps on my phone. This is okay for jotting ideas down and short pieces, but incredibly frustrating for anything longer that requires formatting. Case in point: this blog post has now taken me over three hours to write, format, and publish. It’s for this reason, I included so few dog photos above.
I also tried writing by hand. But as someone who wrote an entire novel with a pen on yellow legal pads and has yet to type that novel up two years later, I know the futility of this practice.
So I filled my time other ways. Every day, I dance for fun and exercise, especially since it’s too hot to walk outside for very long. I stamp and watercolor, making cards and art. I watch YouTube videos to learn how to draw dogs.
My work may not be a masterpiece in the traditional sense, but I DID THIS!!
It’s good to have the joy back in my life. I didn’t realize how hard life has been without it. And I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present!
Today I turn 41 years old, and today my blog turns 2.
These last two years have been the best of my life! That’s not a coincidence. Nor is it luck, magic, or random chance.
Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows I value mindfulness. I’m a big believer in taking stock of my life on a regular basis and checking in to see how I’m doing.
I also believe in God. When I say God, I do NOT mean I believe there is a some man with a long white beard and a gold letter G on a white robe hanging out in heaven with a score card keeping track of my every move.
Because I was made in God’s image … and I don’t look like that! Neither do approximately 7.5 billion people on this planet.
Although, my good friend, Lem, does so maybe that what’s God looks like to him.
To me, God is the Divine Source of energy or Spirit, that connects us all to each other and to the universe. The holiest Holy Spirit that resides and dwells in each one of us. Both male and female.
I can’t take credit for that idea. I learned it from Father Don McLaughlin at St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. On Mother’s Day 2013, I sat in a church pew mesmerized as Father Don discussed God as loving Father AND Mother and how the feminine is nearly forgotten in the church today.
Now that was an idea I could get behind.
In fact, when I now pray to God I pray to my Loving Father/Mother God. So my Our Father prayer begins with Our Father, Mother, Spirit Who Art in Heaven.
This realization that God is Mother and Father to us all and we are all a part of God is why I care about girls receiving an education in Burkina Faso, children being separated from their parents at the US borders, and polar bears losing their habitat in the Arctic.
Because I am them and they are me. The only difference between us is that for the Grace of the God, I ended up being born to the parents I did.
So when I take stock of my life on a regular basis, it’s to make sure I’m on the right path. The one that God intended for me, and the one in which I am an active participant and creator.
Two years ago for my birthday, my best friend Arlene sent me a beautiful card in which she hand-wrote a prayer for me. It’s from Matthew Kelly, founder of the Dynamic Catholic movement.
Prayer by Matthew Kelly. Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
I’ve been saying this prayer every day before I start my morning meditation for two years now.
Even when I added Rumi’s Prayer of the Chalice to the start of my meditation practice because I wanted to keep the practice fresh, I still found myself saying the one Arlene sent.
It’s not like you can go wrong with TWO prayers.
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that these past two years have been the best of my life. My life is God AND Kelly willing, and I choose for it to be this way with love and guidance from God.
So on my 41st birthday, I say thank you to God for showing me where I need to be in my life and what I need to be doing, especially these last two years.
These last two years brought me to Norfolk and gave me more dogs to love than I could possibly imagine, friends that keep my spirit up when life gets me down, a community that makes me a better person, writing that makes me proud and takes me one step further towards my goal of published author, visits with family near and far, travels to new and wondrous places, and time with my husband to love and laugh and love and laugh some more.
There has also been loss; of course there has! This is life, after all, and that comes with being here. But through the love around me and which dwells in me through God, I am able to accept it and channel it into making me a better version of myself.
Thank you also to everyone who reads my blog and supports me on my journey. I couldn’t live this life without you either.
Tomorrow marks an important milestone in my family’s genealogy – my niece turns 21! I can hardly believe it. I remember when she was a little nubbins of a human being, super sweet and quiet, barely making a sound.
Since then she has grown into an extraordinary adult. And although I can no longer pick her up, some of us still can because her nubbinsy-ways have carried forth.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, here are 21 reasons why my niece is AWESOME, in no particular order.
#1. Her nickname is Monster because she was so quiet and good-natured as a baby that I had to somehow create excitement for her; thus, an ironic nickname.
#2. She loves dogs nearly as much as I do (she’d probably argue that we are on equal footing when it comes to doggo love; however, as I’m older that means I’ve had more time to love them).
#3. In the Harry Potter Universe, she’d totally be a Ravenclaw. That girl is SMART! and I’m not saying this because I’m biased (and I’d totally be in Hufflepuff, by the way). She graduated from high school with the highest science GPA in her class, she got accepted into the Honors College at UT-Austin, she double majors in Chemistry and Economics, and she’s living right now in Washington DC as part of a prestigious fellowship program.
#4. Her motto is, “God made the dirt and dirt don’t hurt.” Don’t we look GOOD in our detox mud masks?
#5. She totally gets my narcolepsy frustrations because she has narcolepsy, too!
#6. Even though she has narcolepsy, she was totally on board with my let’s go watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon plan during our 2016 southwest springbreak roadtrip extravaganza. As she said when the sun started to rise, “Narcoleptics Prevail!”
#7. Speaking of roadtrips, she’s always up for one! So far we’ve gone from San Antonio, TX to Chapel Hill, NC, by way of Hot Springs, Arkansas, with stops in Austin, Murfreesboro, and Memphis; Phoenix to Las Vegas, with stops at the Petrified Forest, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon; and a mini-tour of CT ala the television show Gilmore Girls.
#8. Together we created only one rule for our roadtrips – if you see a stone staircase, you have to take it!
#9. You should always stop at botanical gardens, too, especially when they’re on a top 10 list. That’s not an official roadtrip rule, but I think it’s good practice. I almost didn’t stop because I thought the admission fee was too high. That would have been silly, but she was okay with that. This glass chapel helped me see the error my ways.
#10. She’s enthusiastic about llamas, as we all should be!
#11. If you ask her to make a face like a tiger, she quickly obliges.
#12. She also quickly obliges when you ask her to play games like Memory. I will never get tired of playing games like that, especially with someone as fun as she is.
#13. Her advice is excellent. When I asked her how I should tell my parents my husband and I eloped in Nashville, she suggested I spell it out during a game of Scrabble since my mom and I play every time I visit home.
#14. Hamburger cakes are just weird, but because she wanted to try one I now know differently.
#15. She believes in reduce, reuse, and recycle. See these awesome sandals? She wore them for a few seasons then passed them on to me when I needed a pair.
#16. Even though she’s sleepy a lot of the time, she’s always willing to be a co-pilot. Even when we have to drive to the airport at 4:00am.
#17. We both hate Las Vegas. That right there makes her an outstanding individual.
#18. She always has a book to read. And she takes it with her everywhere!
#19. My extreme sun safety protective measures – she always supports them.
#20. Have you seen her smile? Beautiful, always.
#21. She is a bright light in this world. Literally and figuratively.
Happy 21st birthday! These last 21 years have been a true gift. Thanks for being one of the best parts of my life. You are amazing and I love you.