Tag Archives: Dog

April (Snow) Showers 1

April (Snow) Showers

This past Friday, Heath and I drove to Longmont, CO. The gray skies turned white on the way back, and snow began falling.

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When I woke up on Saturday morning, a winter wonderland greeted me.

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I love winter and snow. Yet, the high temperatures of 80 degrees on multiple days last week and the fact that we’re heading into May made me less welcoming than I usually am to our surprise winter guest. I decided I didn’t want to go anywhere. So, I picked up my phone, opened the MeetUp App, and changed my RSVP from Yes to No for the cold water plunge I’ve been attending semi-regularly at a park in Boulder.

I felt good about my decision, even when I second-guessed myself. During those moments, I practiced some compassionate self-talk and told myself that I was allowed to change my mind, especially because it would take me over an hour to get to the park on the bus. I especially wasn’t keen to wear my wet bathing suit under my clothes for the long bus ride back to Lafayette (where I’m currently housesitting).

Then, I took my new favorite friend, Arthur, out for our morning walk.

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Everyone, meet Arthur!

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Arthur is a big love bug and one of the goober-iest dogs I’ve ever known. We both enjoy naps on the couch, which means we get along well.

While I was walking Arthur on Saturday morning, a small beam of sunlight broke through the clouds and shone down on us. I immediately felt overcome that I had made the wrong decision – I needed to go to the cold water plunge instead of staying home. I still had enough time to make the bus, and that’s exactly what I did.

As I rode the bus, I marveled at the beautiful winter landscape that befell me. I couldn’t see the mountains because of the cloud cover, but snow-covered prairies stretched for miles. This was definitely the right decision.

At least, that’s what I thought until I almost missed my bus stop because I had been listening to an audiobook on my phone. I jumped up, grabbed my bag with towels and other cold plunge necessities, and hopped off the bus.

About twenty feet from the bus, I stopped cold (pun intended). I reached up to my head. My glasses weren’t there. With a sinking heart, I remembered I had set them down on the seat next to me. I took them off because I can’t read with them on, and I wanted to make sure I could quickly look at my Google Maps app in case I couldn’t remember my bus stop (oh, the irony).

I turned around. If I sprinted, I may be able to reach the bus before it turned the corner. But the Achilles tendon on my left foot has been inflamed for nearly two months. So, I wavered. And I lost my chance.

Needing to do something, I pulled out my phone and found the number for the Boulder transit lost and found. To my surprise, even though it was a Saturday, they had actual human beings you could speak with to help you figure out where and when you could catch the same bus to retrieve your lost item. The incredibly kind woman gave me two different times, and I vowed to be at one of them.

Because there was nothing else I could do at that moment, I did my best to push away my worry that my glasses would be forever gone. Who would want prescription glasses? I told myself. Instead, I focused on the beautiful (albeit sad) juxtaposition of the bright spring flowers covered in snow.

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By the time I arrived at the park, I felt better. I would be reunited with my glasses, and all would be well. My mind mainly focused on our deep breathing exercises, and I only would worry about my glasses every so often.

I completely forgot about my glasses the moment we entered the creek.

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I’m waving at a bike rider! For privacy reasons, I blurred out the faces of group members.

Based on my past experiences, I would guess that the water was somewhere around 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Ninety-five percent of my body and mind love it! The remaining 5% is in my feet, and once we settle on a place to live (fingers crossed, we’ll know soon), one of my first purchases is going to be water shoes for future cold water plunges.

Today was extra special because of the beauty of the snow. I enjoyed the company and the connection, and the cold plunge itself was everything I wanted it to be. Yes, I had definitely made the right decision to be here. Everything would work out with my glasses.

After the plunge, I felt great joy and optimism as I made my way to the Boulder Public Library. I planned to hang out there until it was time to meet the bus I had ridden that morning. Before I knew it, it was time to head to the bus stop.

When the bus pulled up, I felt relief when I saw it was, in fact, the same driver from this morning. I greeted him and asked if anyone had turned in my glasses.

I held my breath.

No, he told me. He had even done a sweep of the bus. But look around, he encouraged.

So I did. They weren’t on the seat I had left them, nor were they on the floor. Every time the bus stopped, I scoped out different sections of the floor in case they had fallen and were sliding around. Sadly, nothing.

All too soon, I had to give up hope that my glasses would magically appear. But I felt determined to do everything I could to get them back, so when my bus stop came, I approached the driver again to give him an update. He was kind and courteous, and I left feeling optimistic that perhaps someone would turn them in.

About thirty seconds after I got off the bus, I again stopped cold (pun even more intended). This time, I had left my gloves behind!

I had been so focused on my glasses and ensuring I talked to the driver that I left them the seat next to me.

Seriously!?!?!?!

I had hoped that by the time I wrote this story, there would be a wonderful moral about listening to the little voice inside my head or how everything works itself out. But, alas, I am still stuck in the middle of it without my glasses. By no means do I think the story is over. How it’s going to resolve itself is still a mystery.

In the meantime, I will dig out an old pair of glasses from my luggage, snuggle with Arthur, and hope for the best.

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An older woman gets licked by a border collie while her friend laughs - Honoring Those Who Serve

My Friend, Cecily

My world became darker this week with the loss of my friend, Cecily.

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I met Cecily in November 2017, when we both attended a book discussion for The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. At the end of discussion, Cecily asked if I’d like to walk her dog Dodger a few times a week. She’d heard I was a dog person.

My life has never been the same since.

I’ve written about Cecily and Dodger multiple times on this blog. My relationship deepened with Cecily when Heath became one of her home companions in 2018. I often spent hours there on Sundays, chatting with Cecily and Heath, accompanying them on outings, and playing with Dodger.

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Cecily had tears in her eyes the first time I preached at the Congregational Church in Norfolk. She stood in the pews and beamed at me when it was over. Cecily also accompanied me to my first Psychology of Stuff presentation I ever gave. She sat in the audience next to Heath at the Scoville Memorial Library and listened as I talked about why we have so much stuff and what we can do about it. The crowd numbered close to 100 and it was standing room only.  Afterwards to celebrate, Cecily took us to the White Hart Inn for dinner.

More than anything, Cecily believed in me as a writer. She didn’t know me in my other life as a college professor with a long list of professional accomplishments including tenure and multiple peer-reviewed publications. So it was easy for Cecily not to judge that I left all that behind because I felt unhappy and wanted more out of my life. She asked me often about the stories I was writing and suggested just as often that Dodger would make an excellent character for one of them.

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Of course, he would! Anyone who has ever met Dodger knows this guy has charisma and charm. That’s why he serves as the inspiration for the dog in my young adult novel called The Happiest Dog on the Internet. I never got the chance to tell Cecily that last month the manuscript was named a finalist in the Tassy Walden Awards for New Voices in Children’s Literature.

Mostly because I forgot.

When I last saw Cecily on Tuesday night, I reminded her of some of our favorite times together, like decorating her Christmas tree or dressing Dodger as a “chili” dog for Halloween. I spoke of the Norfolk Library’s pet parade last year and how poor Dodger had been shaved at the groomers because of a miscommunication. I told one of Cecily’s favorite stories about the time a cousin stopped her when she was out and about the town with Heath. “What’s with the guy?” the cousin wanted to know. Cecily loved to tell that story with a gleam in her eye because she loved to be on the arm of such a tall, handsome, and younger man.

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I sat reminiscing with Cecily while she slept. I wracked my brain for more things to tell her. I knew that once I left my chair that would be my last goodbye. I wanted to prolong the moment. How silly of me not to think of this one thing that I know would have made her happy.

I suppose it doesn’t matter. Death goes on and the love I have for Cecily will stay with me in my heart until it’s my turn. Which, for the record, I hope is at least five decades away. There are many stories I have yet to write and many memories Heath and I have yet to make together. I hope we get the time.

Goodbye Cecily. I’m so glad you heard I was a dog person.

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A Different Kind of Tired 15

A Different Kind of Tired

I have re-discovered a new form of exhaustion! The good news is that this re-discovery means I’m sleeping well enough to notice. The bad news is that, well, I’m exhausted. I’m calling it bone-weary tired because it’s not just mental. This tiredness has seeped into my infrastructure. It comes with the territory of being a housesitter.

After fifteen consecutive months in the same housesit (phooey to you, covid), the owners finally made it home from being abroad. Fifteen months is a long time to housesit, and the effort and diligence of packing up, moving out, and making sure the house was ready to welcome their family home took several days of nonstop work. Up early. Late to bed. Oh, and also work at the library in the meantime.

Did I mention the ice storm? Yes, because there was also an ice storm that hit Norfolk on Friday, February 4. The storm itself was nothing special. Except a few tree limbs hung so low in the driveway that for three days, I couldn’t drive it.

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Packing your car is not easy when you have to walk approximately an eighth of a mile one way on solid ice. Nevertheless, I did it. It helped to have the best form of motivation — mother nature in all her icy glory!

In the days following the ice storm, Norfolk turned into a sparkling ice palace thanks to the thick coating of ice everywhere and the brilliant blue skies and sunshine. I’ve never been so happy being so exhausted.

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As I walked up and down the driveway over and over, I marveled at the wonder around me.

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I also had my buddy Fergus as a companion, but I’m not sure he appreciated the splendor as much as I did. He likes to run, sniff, and be as cute as possible.

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So even though I’m bone-weary tired, I got to spend a lot of time outside enjoying myself. I also chuckled to myself more than once to be careful what you wish for. As you may recall, in my last blog post I was craving functional fitness. I certainly got it this past week, and then some.

I’m also keeping track this year of invigorating experiences since I had one early on. The standings so far:

Most Invigorating: My walk with Annie dog in the woods on January 11

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Runner Up: Packing up my car after an ice storm, February 5-6.

Starting on Thursday, I have five days of vacation. They cannot get here soon enough. My bones and brain need it. And the best part — I’ll be with my buddy Fergus the entire time.

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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.

Contemplating My Place in the World

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Saturday brought significant snow fall to Norfolk.

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Snow 1

Since it’s still early in the season, I’m welcoming the snow with open arms and a profound sense of joy. I think part of that has to do with my new dog buddy, Dodger.

Dodger in Snow Edited

At the request of his human mom, I’ve been walking Dodger a few times a week. He’s a frisky pup who likes running and adventures, so when I arrive on their doorstep to pick him up for our walks, you can imagine his excitement. Not only do I receive lots of licks and paw offerings, but he likes to sit on my lap and lean into me like we’re hugging.

Eventually we end our love fest and get on with the walking. But first, I have to get Dodger past the electric fence in his yard. Even without his collar on, he refuses to cross the boundary line. Sometimes, he won’t even get in the car when he thinks it’s too close. But once I drive him out of the yard, we are good to go!

We then head off to a local field for some excellent romping. On the way, I’ve taken to singing Dodger songs, since he’s so happy and I can’t help but feel happy around him. Also, the name Dodger lends itself well to many holiday songs.  For example:

Dodging through the snow

In a one-dog open sleigh

O’er the fields we go

Barking all the way

Woof Woof Woof

Bells on Furry Rings

Making Spirits Bright

What fun it is to Dodge and Sing

A Dodger Dog tonight

Oh, Dodger Dog, Dodger Dog

Dodger All the Way!

Oh what fun it is to Dodge

In a one-dog open sleigh, hey!

Dodger seems to enjoy my singing despite my awful voice.  He definitely enjoys the snow more. Though if I’m being honest, I can’t imagine there are things in this world he doesn’t enjoy.

Dodger in Snow

As we walked through the woods, the snow freezing in my hair, on my hat, and on my scarf, I almost started crying for how beautiful the world looked. I said prayers of gratitude for being allowed to experience the moment; not just the quiet solitude of the snow, but also being blessed with the companionship of Dodger.

Not once when I was a college professor did I ever feel so at one with the world and my place in it than I did for those moments with Dodger in the woods.

I often joke these days that I should start replying to people when they ask that my PhD is in Professional House and Dog Sitting. I know it doesn’t quite have the same prestige as a PhD in psychology, but I didn’t truly belong in the classroom as a professor.

Yes, there are some students out there who have let me know throughout the years that I had a positive impact on their lives; similarly, there are some students who impacted me just the same. I’m not saying I don’t have some wonderful memories of teaching or that I didn’t enjoy certain aspects of my job.

But my heart was never truly in teaching, at least not teaching statistics and research methods. I knew in year 2 of my PhD program that I was in the wrong field. For a variety of reasons, I wasn’t brave enough to quit then.

Once I graduated, I picked a job I thought I would like and one that had many appealing qualities, especially a flexible schedule and summers off. In retrospect, I learned the hard way that when I lived a life I was not passionate about I was slowly poisoning myself. It’s no wonder I had so many health issues for so many years.

Since leaving teaching, I’m still asking the question where do I belong? It’s scary not to be sure, but at the same time exhilarating because I’m open to so many possibilities.  I may never end up knowing the answer for certain, but for right now I can say with enthusiasm and joy in my heart that I belong in the woods, with a dog, writing about the experience. Thank you for your willingness to read my words.  And WOOF! From Dodger.

 

Memoir Monday, February 13th, 2016

TItle

I’ve shared this picture through social media before, but given how ridiculously cute it is you can expect me to share it every February 14th(ish) until I die.  I also like to believe that little squirrel created his tree art just for me, but it could have been for somebody else.

Regardless, I can still remember the wonder I felt as I turned around a corner on the Naperville River Walk

around the corner

and came across the little fella scampering around.

squirrel

Then I saw the heart and I could have melted on the spot.  Thankfully it was too cold in Naperville for that to happen, but at least my hands weren’t frostbitten enough that I couldn’t take out my phone to snap a few pictures.

Seeing my little squirrely love note came at just the right time, too, because I was feeling pretty lonely at that point in my life.  I had recently given up my dog, Jack, to my parents in Harrisburg, PA.

Jack

His dementia was getting progressively worse and me being at work for 8+ hours a day wasn’t helping.  I feared I would come home one day and find him in agony because he had eaten something he shouldn’t have.

My parents, in one of the greatest acts of kindness I have ever received, offered to take care of Jack.  They no longer work outside the home, and my older brother also lives with them, so there’d be plenty of people to keep Jack company throughout the day.

In addition, one of my best friends at work had moved on to a new job.  Even though I felt thrilled she was finally out of a position in which she was clearly underutilized and, frankly, not fairly compensated or appreciated for her talents and work, I still missed our daily interactions.  I didn’t have many other close friends where my office was located and many days I felt isolated.

So when I came across this message of love in one of my favorite places, by a cute and furry critter no less, I couldn’t help but smile.  I even sent the photo off to Shutterfly to have it made into a notebook with the song lyrics, Put a little love in your heart and the world will be a better place on the front cover (lyrics by Jackie DeShannon, Randy Myers, & Jimmy Holiday).

That song had been in my mind a lot at the time.  A local musician performed it at an interfaith New Year’s Day celebration in downtown Naperville and I became hooked.  I honestly can’t say if I’d never heard it before or

if I just hadn’t heard it with my new evolving life perspective that there was a lot more to the world than the little life I was living. 

I ended up playing it on repeat on my iPad many times that winter and each and every time I felt a renewed sense of love and spirit in the world.

I’m very glad I have these reminders about love because as of late, I haven’t been treating myself with very much love.  I don’t know why my narcolepsy seems so much worse these past few months, but I feel frustrated and demoralized that some days my greatest accomplishment is making it downstairs in the morning to feed the dogs.

I then surf the internet ad nauseam because it feels like I’m doing something, but I know I’m not, and so I beat myself up for it – I should be writing; I should be reading; I should be working on my website; I should be doing anything other than mindlessly thumbing through social media to the point where my eyes glaze over and I doze off.

Is this because of narcolepsy or inertia, I can’t say for certain.  But in addition to feeling tired from a disease, I am tired of “shoulding” on myself (perhaps another disease in and of itself).  My husband has very kindly and lovingly pointed out that it’s okay for me to take breaks and maybe I should cut myself some slack.  Why is it that these “shoulds” I am more inclined to reject than embrace?  These are the same things I would tell (have told) my loved ones when they beat themselves up.  I would never let anyone talk to my family or friends that way, yet somehow, I accept it for myself.

It’s a funny situation because when I realize my hypocrisy, I get further down on myself for not remembering to be more enlightened.  It seems like an endless patter, until I finally reach a point where I remember that violence in any form, which to me includes emotional bullying, sarcasm, and insults, is unacceptable.  And the way I mentally beat myself up is violent.

This recognition is a good thing because above all I want to be a peaceful a person.

And if I can’t be at peace with myself, how can I expect to contribute peacefully to our world? 

I put a little love in my heart and I try to remember how much I have to be grateful for, as well as remembering that you never know when you might turn a corner and find something so wonderful you didn’t even know to hope for it.