Tag Archives: dogs

Mid-Year Check In 1

Mid-Year Check In

Now that 2024 is just about half over, it’s a good time to take stock of my 24 in 24 goals. As you may recall, in January, I created a list of 24 goals I would like to accomplish this year. I got the idea from journalist Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft, who together host the Happier Podcast (which I highly recommend.)

Before I report on my progress, shout out to what is still holding on as my (perhaps) greatest achievement this year – getting thousands upon thousands of likes for my comments on the Frannie’s Fight Instagram account.

Mid-Year Check In 2

For those of you who need a reminder, Frannie was an extremely obese golden retriever who lived her life on a concrete slab until Rover’s Retreat in California rescued her. Thanks to the love, hard work, and diligent medical care from her foster mom (now adopted mom), Frannie has lost a total of 46.6 pounds. She has about 13.5 pounds to go to reach her goal weight.

I find myself more invested in Frannie’s story than anything else in pop culture at the moment. It’s filled the Ted-Lasso-Sized hole in my heart. Even on days when I take a social media fast, I allow myself five seconds to open my Instagram app to see if there are any new Frannie posts. This essentially means that instead of social media fasting, it’s a no-social-media-scrolling type of diet. Which I’m okay with. Frannie is worth it!

Without further ado, here is my 24 in 24 progress report:

  1. Order a passport to replace my stolen one.
    1. Some progress: A replacement passport requires a certified birth certificate, which can be ordered online. However, the website requires the shipping address and billing address to be the same, so it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I felt confident enough that we were staying in Colorado to update my billing address to our PO Box in Boulder. The birth certificate has been ordered, and I’m waiting for delivery. Once I have that, I’ll take the next steps for a passport replacement.
  2. Move for at least 24 minutes a day.
    1. Gold star! I’ve only missed five days of intentional movement this year. Although some friends have argued that I should count the days I walk for transportation in this category, I don’t because that movement is a means to an end and not for the specific purpose of keeping my body fit and mobile.
  3. Meditate for at least 24 minutes a day.
    1. Gold star! I have only missed six days of meditation this year. These are not the same days as when I also missed my daily movement goal. Meditation and movement are two of the most important things for keeping me healthy and happy, so if I ever miss one day for one of them, I always make sure the other gets fit in.
  4. 2-4 minutes of breathwork, 2-4 times per week.
    1. Gold star! I missed one full week of breathwork in June, and the week of April 14th, I only did one breathwork session. However, for five weeks so far this year, I surpassed my goal of 2-4 sessions; for three weeks I did breathwork every day!
  5. 24-hour social media breaks every week.
    1. Silver star! As I mentioned above, because of Frannie, I’m not taking a full social media break at all. But I do limit my social media one day a week to just the Instagram peeks for Frannie content. On those days, I don’t partake of any other social media website or app.
  6. 24-hour game breaks every week.
    1. Platinum star! In addition to my weekly game breaks (Daily Wordle excluded), it has been 61 days since I’ve wasted any time playing Royal Match. I found myself consumed by the game this winter and early spring, and I decided to take a mental health break from it in May. Because I’ve been keeping track of days off the game, I didn’t want to break the chain and start up again. Unless something catastrophically stressful happens in my life, I hope I won’t need to open this game app ever again in my life.
  7. 2-4 months of news fasting.
    1. Gold star! So far, I’ve fasted in January and May. I plan to do another fast in August as a birthday gift to myself, and I’m contemplating July, as well. One of the downsides of a news fast is that I miss reading the NY Times Well newsletter where I learn cool psychology stuff, so perhaps what I’ll do is fast from political, climate, and war news and only read the NY Times Well Newsletter every week in July. For what it’s worth, I extended my January news fast into February. When I finally watched the news the second week of February to be social with some friends, 90% of the news stories were the same ones that were reported in December.
  8. Review 24 dog books for a new Instagram account.
    1. Minimal progress: I *FINALLY* got a library card here in Colorado! So now I’ll have a cost-effective way to obtain the books that I want to review. Not that I’m opposed to buying books. In fact, even though I’m a minimalist, I often buy children’s books because I have so many friends who are authors. Once I’m done reading them, I send them off via media mail to my friend, who just happens to be a school librarian. However, not having had a job for 13 months has reinforced the need to be cost-effective in as many aspects of my life as possible. So, library books it is for the time being.
  9. Create 24 dog posts for a new Instagram account (same new account mentioned in #8).
    1. Minimal progress: I’ve created 2 posts. Because this goal is tied to #8 and my lack of a library card impeded #8, I didn’t prioritize this goal. Now that things are moving along for #8, this goal should be more of a priority for these next six months.
  10. Eat 24 baby spinach leaves 2-4 times per week.
    1. Hit or miss! Having been plagued with gut issues since childhood, whenever I have an IBS flare-up, the first thing I do is cut way down on insoluble fiber. So even though I want to eat spinach or drink a green smoothie because I consider leafy greens to be the most energizing food, sometimes my body can’t handle it. Also, I didn’t start keeping track of this goal until the middle of February because I was moving around so much, and I didn’t have the luxury of being able to transport fresh produce from house to house. So gut flare-ups aside, of the 18 weeks this year I felt comfortable enough to eat leafy greens, I met this goal 13 of those weeks. I’m pretty pleased with my progress and here’s hoping the second half of the year is more gut-friendly.
  11. Revise 2-4 manuscripts I’ve already written.
    1. Silver star! I’m delighted to report that my revision of a middle-grade novel I wrote last year is completed, and I’m now working on a revision of a 97,000-word adult romcomantasy (ie, a romcom-fantasy for those of you not familiar with this word). Working on the romcomantasy is taking so much longer than I anticipated, although I can’t be too surprised because I knew that the manuscript needed a lot of revision. I only have six chapters left on this go around, but there are some new developmental issues I need to flesh out, so I’m going to have to take at least two more passes at it before it will be ready to share with beta readers. As you can imagine, 97,000 words is A LOT, and compared with the 37,000 words of my middle-grade novel, I find it impossible to remember all the little details, so I’m constantly highlighting points I need to double-check in later chapters that were first mentioned in earlier chapters. I drag my feet a lot on this manuscript simply because it is so daunting. Nevertheless, I’m going to get it done.
  12. Watch 24 sunrises outside.
    1. Platinum star! I have already watched 51 sunrises outside! However, I’m taking a hiatus from making any further progress on this goal because now that it’s summer, the sun rises so early.
  13. Do yoga 2-4 times per month.
    1. Gold star! After a slow start of squeezing in two yoga sessions at the end of January and February, I found a renewed sense of yoga vigor when my friend shared with me this 12-sequence series to help prevent bone loss. I now average yoga 2-4 times per week instead of monthly. YAY!
  14. Visit 2-4 friends out of state.
    1. I visited friends in Norfolk in February, and I’ll be back again in July. So consider this one accomplished!
  15. Go rucking 2-4 times per week.
    1. Hit or miss! I got off to a great start with rucking 2-4 times per week in January and February. Then I inflamed the insertional Achilles tendonitis in my left heel, and I still haven’t fully recovered. So, while I’m currently lifting lighter weights during workout sessions, the stress from climbing mountains with a weighted backpack was too much on my heel, and this goal is currently on hiatus for the foreseeable future.
  16. Meet 24 new dogs.
    1. Platinum star! Is anyone surprised I’ve already met 57 new dogs this year?
  17. Write and post 24 new blog posts.
    1. Bronze star! This goal was based on writing a new blog post every two weeks. Sometimes, I meet that deadline, and sometimes, it stretches to three or four weeks between posts. So we’ll see if I can course correct for the second half of the year.
  18. Listen to 2-4 Great Courses.
    1. No progress: I’ve been embracing podcasts this year, which I never have before, and so I’m reluctant to give up listening time for a Great Course. But there’s at least one course I would like to take, so this is another goal where we’ll see if I’m course correct, knowing I haven’t made any progress.
  19. Attend 24 cold-water plunges (assuming we stay in CO).
    1. Platinum star! So far, I’ve attended 16 cold-water plunges with a Meetup Group. The best part was that they asked me if I wanted to be a leader. I said YES!, and I’ve now led four meditations and one full group experience. Years ago, I listed all my life goals, hopes, and dreams, and meditation instructor made my list. How amazing for this dream to come true without any additional effort than showing up (and practicing meditation almost every day).
  20. Buy 2-4 outfits I genuinely like and that feel comfortable.
    1. No progress: But I’m optimistic that I’ll soon be making significant progress on this goal. It will help to have a steady paycheck again.
  21. Hike 2-4 times at Rocky Mountain National Park (assuming we stay in CO.)
    1. Some progress: I hiked at RMNP in January, and Heath and I visited in March, although we didn’t hike. I’m optimistic that I’ll make this goal in another 6 months.
  22. Sell my book, D Is for Doggo, at 2-4 events.
    1. No progress, and unlikely to happen in 2024. Despite my best intentions, I really didn’t think it would take me over 13 months to get a new job. This goal requires a steep financial investment upfront for me to purchase my book in bulk to sell at events, and I’m not in a position to do that right now. So unless something truly unexpected happens (and you never know because I once went from single to married in the course of three weeks), I’m not optimistic that this goal will be met (and I’m okay with that). There’s always 2025!
  23. Give 2-4 psychology presentations.
    1. Some progress: I’m delighted to report that I’m scheduled for two psychology presentations this year. Both will be in November. One is for Eco-Cycle, and I’ll be presenting on The Psychology of Stuff: Why We Have So Much and What We Can Do About It just in time for Black Friday, and the other is Today Is Not The Day: Procrastination Hacks for Writers for YA (Young Adult Writers) Connect of the Rocky Mountain Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrations. The latter presentation is like a procrastination presentation I gave on spring cleaning at some CT libraries in the spring of 2023, so I’m excited to revamp the presentation for my writer friends.
  24. Color 2-4 times per week.
    1. Bronze star! I like coloring as a wind-down/relaxation technique, and I was on quite the coloring roll for most of this year. But since I’ve been at three different housesits in June, I’ve fallen out of the habit. I started keeping track in February, and of the 22 weeks that have since elapsed, I met my target 13 times. Not bad, but there’s room for improvement.

All in all, it feels good to see how much progress I’ve made towards goals I deemed important for my life. Here’s hoping the next six months bring even more success! And many more dogs.

Mid-Year Check In 3

To Love Them All 4

To Love Them All

At the end of May, I returned to North Boulder to housesit a dog and two cats. Everyone, meet Noodle the Labradoodle,
To Love Them All 5
Pabu,
To Love Them All 6
and Momo.
To Love Them All 7
Noodle is a silly and sweet dog who requires very little effort. Her most consuming care is twice daily walks around Wonderland Lake. But when this is your walking area, it’s not a burden at all.
To Love Them All 8
Heath is also quite taken with Noodle and he dotes on her quite a bit. It’s all very cute.
To Love Them All 9
The problem is she’s such a delightful dog that we want to take her with us everywhere. Yesterday when we went to see The Fellowship of the Ring, which was re-released in the theaters this weekend, we lamented that we had to leave Noodle behind. So unfair!
Nevertheless, we persevered and went without her.
When people ask me if I’m going to get a dog once we settle down (which is very, very soon, by the way),  I tell them no. And it’s because of dogs like Noodle.
And Max.
To Love Them All 10
And Maka.
To Love Them All 11
Who are Max and Maka, you may be wondering? They’re the dogs I took care of in Central Boulder for most of May. Every morning we walked in the open space areas by their house and it was such a joyful experience to see them zooming all over the place.
To Love Them All 12
I became so attached to them that in the week following the housesit move to Noodle’s house, I went to visit them twice and walk them once. Not because they needed someone to walk them but because I missed them so much and wanted to spend time on the trails with them.
To Love Them All 13
When I also take into account the other dogs across the country that I love, frankly, I don’t have it in me to want a dog of my own.
In Connecticut, there’s Dodger, Annie, Chloe, and Fergus. In Tennessee there’s Rafiki. In Washington there’s Arnold, Kona, and Bitsy. And in Colorado, there’s now Foster, Mookie, Willow, Arthur, Stella, Max, Maka, and Noodle.
And this doesn’t take into account the cats and goats I love, too.
Because I know myself so well and I know how attached I get to animals, it’s best for me to spread all my love out and care for other people’s animals.
Maybe someday I’ll see things differently. But for now, it’s my goal to love all the dogs as much as I can. And cats. And goats.
To Love Them All 14
Dog Days of Norfolk 15

Dog Days of Norfolk

I’ve now returned to Boulder after 2.5 weeks of taking care of my buddy Fergus back in Norfolk, Connecticut.

Dog Days of Norfolk 16

Such a distinguished gentlepup.

There’s a lot I could say about the trip, but for right now, I’m not yet ready to share because I’m just starting to process some “life just sucks sometimes” events that have evolved these past few days.

In the meantime, I am overwhelmed with the amount of love and friendship I developed in Norfolk since September 2016. The support these past few days has been comforting and uplifting. From dogs, yes, but also the people. I got to visit with so many friends and friends who are like family. I love you all so, so much.

Some highlights from the week include:

a tea party worthy of Downton Abbey with some friends who are the epitome of aging well (can you guess who in the group is 100?)

Dog Days of Norfolk 17

walking with Dodger, Fergus, Dodger’s other dog walker, and his adopted mom in the Barbour Woods,

Dog Days of Norfolk 18

many walks with Annie in the woods, which also means I got to see Annie’s mom a lot (she is also very near and dear to my heart),

Dog Days of Norfolk 19

a walk up Haystack mountain with two friends, but because I’ve been trying to distance myself from my phone, I didn’t take any pictures,

and discovering that the groomers missed one hair on Fergus’s head.

Dog Days of Norfolk 20

I hope by the time I post again I’ll have some happy updates to share. If not, well … I’m sure I’ll have some more dog photos.

My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps) 21

My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps)

One month into the new year, I remain entirely unimpressed with 2024. I also fear that my greatest achievement is already behind me.

On January 3, I posted a comment on the Instagram account Frannie’s Fight.

My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps) 22

As you can see, it’s amassed almost 14,000 likes! I have never had something I said on the internet be this well received. So it very well could be my greatest achievement this year.

There are obvious reasons I’m so invested in Frannie’s Fight. As her first-ever Instagram post shared with us, “She is an 8-year-old, 125-pound golden retriever who was set to be euthanized due to her weight. She could barely even sit up and was defeated. She lived outside and slept on concrete her whole life leading to massive callouses on her legs. Her tail has been rubbed raw due to her sitting on it as she cannot sit normally due to her weight, in addition to her hypothyroid condition.”

My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps) 23

Frannie was rescued by Rover’s Retreat and adopted by a vet student (a hero, in my opinion). They’ve been posting updates on Instagram regularly, and I find myself repeatedly opening my Instagram account to see if there is any Frannie news. This habit sure beats doom scrolling the news and other social media accounts (which I’ve stopped), so I can’t be too hard on myself.

My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps) 24

Based on the other comments I read on Frannie’s posts, A LOT of us seek emotional uplift from this content. I can’t help but wonder if we’re all feeling stuck, aimless, and out of sorts.

I offered to be president of the Fran Club as a way to find some much-needed purpose, but because this was one comment out of literally thousands, I’m not surprised it got no response.

In the meantime, I continue to love all the dogs I can here in Boulder (and soon-to-be Norfolk when I return for a 2.5-week visit starting on Thursday). I especially got to show my love to a dog named Copper, who had such a wild case of spring fever on Thursday when temperatures here climbed into the 60s that he snuck out of his fenced-in yard and took a hike on the Shanahan Ridge Trail.

I just happened to be standing on the back deck when I noticed a park ranger holding onto a dog by the collar as they navigated down the trail. The park ranger was on the phone, and it became clear that he was trying to figure out how to return Copper to his family. I waved and called out with an offer to leave Copper with me until his human mom could get him.

So that’s what we did.

Everyone, meet Copper!

My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps) 25

Special thanks to Foster, who had to watch us from the window without helping and who had to share his leash and water bowl. Also, thanks to Heath for bringing Foster’s leash and water bowl onto the back deck so we could keep everyone safe and happy.

My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps) 26

Foster, just in case you forgot what he looks like.

Copper had a happy reunion with his mom, and I went back to Instagram to see what was new with Frannie. I was generously rewarded.

My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps) 27

If you want to follow along with Frannie’s Fight, her Instagram account is @frannies.fight.

24 in 24 28

24 in 24

So far, I am not impressed with 2024. On a macro level, that is. The big things I want, like my own bed and home, continue to be outside my reach. I will nevertheless persist because that’s the type of person I am.

On a micro level, however, things are going well. The podcast discussion group I lead finished off 2023 with some Gretchen Rubin “Happier” podcasts. Gretchen and her sister each came up with 24 in 24 lists, which are 24 goals they’d like to accomplish this year.

Most of us in the discussion group liked this idea, and we had a fun time creating our own. Here’s my list:

  1. Order a passport to replace my stolen one.
  2. Move for at least 24 minutes a day.
  3. Meditate for at least 24 minutes a day.
  4. 2-4 minutes of breathwork, 2-4 times per week.
  5. 24-hour social media breaks every week.
  6. 24-hour game breaks every week.
  7. 2-4 months of news fasting.
  8. Review 24 dog books for a new Instagram account.
  9. Create 24 dog posts for a new Instagram account (same new account mentioned in #8).
  10. Eat 24 baby spinach leaves 2-4 times per week.
  11. Revise 2-4 manuscripts I’ve already written.
  12. Watch 24 sunrises outside.
  13. Do yoga 2-4 times per month.
  14. Visit 2-4 friends out of state.
  15. Go rucking 2-4 times per week.
  16. Meet 24 new dogs.
  17. Write and post 24 new blog posts.
  18. Listen to 2-4 Great Courses.
  19. Attend 24 cold-water plunges (assuming we stay in CO).
  20. Buy 2-4 outfits I genuinely like and that feel comfortable.
  21. Hike 2-4 times at Rocky Mountain National Park (assuming we stay in CO.)
  22. Sell my book, D Is for Doggo, at 2-4 events.
  23. Give 2-4 psychology presentations.
  24. Color 2-4 times per week.

Three weeks into the new year, I’ve kept my daily tasks, such as meditating for 24 minutes every day and 24 minutes of movement every day. I’m on track for my weekly tasks, as well, and I’m enjoying the heck out of rucking.

I had never heard of rucking until late last year when the NY Times ran an article. Essentially, rucking is hiking/walking with a weighted backpack. Should I ever get hired somewhere, one of my first fun purchases is going to be an actual rucksack. Right now, I pile barbells and books in my regular backpack and use that. It’s certainly sufficient, and as a minimalist I appreciate using what I already have, but I would love less bulky weight, as well as a pack that has hip and chest supports.

24 in 24 29

Sunrise rucking session on Thursday,  January 18, 2024

I find my list manageable and doable, especially when I use the two-to-four mindset for activities I’d like to do but aren’t my highest priority, like doing yoga 2-4 times a month.

And for anyone who knows me, I also just like setting goals and achieving them!

I’ve already met three new dogs: Packa, Karmine, and Nala, and I’ve even been to Rocky Mountain National Park once already in 2024.

24 in 24 30

Hiking to The Pool at Rocky Mountain National Park on Friday, January 5, 2024.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my new canine friends, but you can enjoy these photos of Willow and Mookie. I came back to Fort Collins for a housesit two weeks ago, and now I’m back with them again.

24 in 24 31

24 in 24 32
I’ll be here until Tuesday. After that, it’s back to Boulder for the time being. Fingers crossed for some macro-level progress in the coming weeks.

 

Thinking about Death in the New Year: 2024 Edition 33

Thinking about Death in the New Year: 2024 Edition

It’s time once again for my annual death meditation. Every year, I imagine what my life would be like this year if I knew it was my last one on Earth.

Previous death meditations have prompted me to visit more National Parks and go all in with my writing. Last year, because I knew 2023 would be filled with immense change, I made it a goal to keep breathing to get through what I knew would be stressful times.

Now that 2024 is here, I still need to keep breathing. The stress and uncertainty that lived with us for 2023 is sticking into 2024. Despite my best efforts, I still don’t have a job. And finding decent housing in Boulder is proving to be much more challenging than I ever thought possible.

But through it all, I’ve learned what I really and truly want, and that information is priceless.  It’s just three things: a bed, a home, and a Heath. Anything else is a bonus.

Thinking about Death in the New Year: 2024 Edition 34

What I want more than anything in 2024 is my own bed. A bed that I picked out for its features, comfort, and design. I want to buy my own sheets (bamboo for warmer days and flannel for colder ones) and comforter (style and material yet to be determined). I want to wake up feeling refreshed and energized, ready to tackle whatever comes my way. I don’t know if that will ever be possible because of narcolepsy, but I’m ready to do all I can to get a good night’s rest.

I also want that bed in my own home. I love housesitting and meeting new furry friends. Taking care of dogs brings me joy and purpose. But I also need my own space. A place to return to that holds the most important things in my life. Heath has been my “home” for nearly eight years, but we both need a physical space that belongs to us. Heath has been saying this for years. I am now 110% on board.

Thankfully, I already have a Heath. At least for now. The future can be amazing and wonderful. It can also be challenging and cruel, a reminder to never take anyone for granted. We all know what it’s like to lose someone too soon.

I don’t think I’m asking for too much. I’m certainly willing to do the work. Fingers crossed that the stars align sooner rather than later. I have never been more ready than I am right now.

Happy New Year, my friends!

Thinking about Death in the New Year: 2024 Edition 35

Dogs, Cat, Book 36

Dogs, Cat, Book

Greetings from Boulder! After a couple of weeks housesitting outside of Taos, New Mexico, we are back housesitting in Colorado until next year. Haha! Can you believe 2024 is a little over a month away?! Seriously, though, we’re here through December.

There’s been a lot of new animals in my life these past several weeks.

Dogs, Cat, Book 37

Friends, say hello to:

Dogs, Cat, Book 38

Tobi, a sneaky German short-haired pointer with the snuggly heart of a little dog, and who nearly always has his emotional support stuffed animal with him.

Dogs, Cat, Book 39

Gus, the ring-leader of the New Mexico pack, who zooms with style and gusto when we’re out on our walks.

Dogs, Cat, Book 40

Dogs, Cat, Book 41

And Puddles, who may have some fluff for brains, but also wins over hearts with just one look.

Dogs, Cat, Book 42

Dogs, Cat, Book 43

I’ve posted multiple times on this blog about my love for walking dogs (especially Annie and Dodger) in the woods. It turns out I also love walking dogs in the high desert of New Mexico. Few things in life have brought me as much joy as walking with Tobi, Gus, Puddles, and Heath on a one-mile stretch of dirt road that leads to a national forest. We walked together every day, and every day I felt connected to something greater than myself. Dogs really are magical that way.

Dogs, Cat, Book 44

Although I was sad to leave our housesit in New Mexico behind, I wasn’t sad to leave New Mexico. It’s a beautiful state, and I saw shooting stars in light-pollution-free skies. But, it’s not a place I want to live.

Which brings us to Boulder ….

Friends, I would love to stay here for the foreseeable future! I’ve applied for so many jobs back in Connecticut, none of which have panned out, that I’m forced to conclude it’s not yet time for us to return there. Of course, I could get a job offer tomorrow and then we may be packing our bags and humming a different tune come January. Until that happens, Boulder is the place I (we) want to be. I have honestly never seen Heath happier anyplace than here.

Unfortunately, Boulder is absurdly expensive and has limited options for housing. We’re using this time housesitting to investigate whether we can realistically stay. For me, that means applying for jobs in the area. Monday I’m going to visit a few places in person to network and see if I can make some connections. I’ll also continue applying for remote jobs. So if you know anyone who needs a talented research psychologist with excellent communication and community engagement skills, feel free to send my information their way.

In the meantime, I’m savoring my time in Boulder. The house we’re staying in is at the base of the Flat Iron Mountains. We got a couple of inches of snow over the last few days and I’m filled with wonder and awe every time I look at them. To make my heart completely buoyant, I’m also walking one of the sweetest, lovey-dovey-est dogs I’ve ever known.

Dogs, Cat, Book 45

Everyone, meet Foster:

Dogs, Cat, Book 46

Foster is half couch potato/half love bug who enjoys walks as much as I do. I love taking him outside for our daily sojourns and we’ve become good friends.

Dogs, Cat, Book 47

Foster also has a cat brother named, Joey.

Dogs, Cat, Book 48

Joey is aloof most of the time until he absolutely wants your attention. Which, he then lets you know. He’s a champion mouser and very vocal about his trophies so I’m learning to deal with some circle of life stuff that I’d rather pretend doesn’t exist.

While in Boulder, I’m also sorting out what it means to be a self-published author. Yes, that’s right – I took the plunge and decided to self-publish an illustrated book about dogs (BIG surprise there) and the ridiculous ways we describe them.

Dogs, Cat, Book 49

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know it’s my dream to be a traditionally published author. I’ve been working at it for seven years now and I reached the point where I wanted to see something published with my name on it.

So, I took this book of silly dog poetry I wrote nearly six years ago about doggolingo (the internet language invented to better describe our dogs), purchased some photos from Shutterstock, and hired a book designer that I connected with through Facebook. I’m thrilled with how the finished project turned out.

What’s not so thrilling is that the self-publishing landscape is not easy to figure out. For example, I don’t know why my book is available through the Barnes and Noble website (you can buy a copy HERE), but not Amazon. Lest I let perfection be the enemy of good, I’m simply embracing my I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing  ways and leaning into the discomfort.

At the very least, it’s a good (albeit expensive) learning experience.

Thank you to everyone who’s been reading this blog throughout the years. I’m grateful that you’ve been with me on this journey. Now, onward and upward. I’m excited to see what happens next.

Dogs, Cat, Book 50

Vote for My Happy Place! 51

Vote for My Happy Place!

One of my happy places is being in the woods, especially if I’m with a dog.

Vote for My Happy Place! 52

Barbour Woods, Fall 2021

There’s a sense of freedom and hope surrounded by all the beauty where I can’t help but feel comfortable and connected to something greater than myself.

Vote for My Happy Place! 53

Barbour Woods, December 2021

For most of our time in Norfolk, the Barbour Woods was my go-to spot for being in the woods. I started walking Dodger there in 2017 and then in 2020 added Annie (and occasionally Fergus) to my walks.

Vote for My Happy Place! 54

Barbour Woods, June 2020

Vote for My Happy Place! 55

Barbour Woods, Winter 2023

The Barbour Woods has 10 different trails, all with their own woodland charms. For example, the Old Carriage Trail has the Kilarney Bridge, the Swamp Trail has vernal pools, and the Beechwood Loop Trail has a view of Haystack Mountain.

Vote for My Happy Place! 56

Barbour Woods, October 2022

Vote for My Happy Place! 57

Barbour Woods, October 2021

Vote for My Happy Place! 58

Barbour Woods, Spring 2022

There are few places in this world where I’m happier than the Barbour Woods.

So it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Barbour Woods is a finalist in the 3rd Annual Readers’ Choice Awards from Rural Intelligence for Best Hiking Trail.

If you don’t mind sharing your name, email address, zip code, and gender with Rural Intelligence, you can vote for the Barbour Woods every day through November 13 by clicking here.

Yes, you can vote every day in each of the categories. No, you don’t have to vote for any other category if you don’t want to.

Vote for My Happy Place! 59
I’ve had a lot of professional and personal disappointments these past few months, so I’m throwing myself into campaigning for the Barbour Woods to win. As a board member of the Norfolk Land Trust and Co-chair of their outreach committee, I have access to our social media accounts. I’m posting daily reminders to vote on our Instagram Stories. It’s fun because it gives me an excuse to go through my photos and find my favorites of being in the woods.

I know it’s not much, but when there are so many things out of my control right now, it feels good to have a plan: post every day on social media and remind people to vote.

So please vote for the Barbour Woods!

Even if you’ve never been on a trail there, you can take my word for it that these woods are AWESOME.

Vote for My Happy Place! 60

Fall in Fort Collins 61

Fall in Fort Collins

Where did the summer go? It seems like just yesterday Heath and I were saying goodbye to my beloved dogs, friends, and community in Norfolk, CT, and saying hello to a new future that was yet to be determined

When we left Norfolk we knew we would spend 5 weeks in Colorado and then 8 weeks in Washington, with a side trip in between to see the Redwoods in California and a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway.

At least that was the plan. We also managed to squeeze in a short housesit in the Portland area before heading to Northern California. Things unfortunately went awry when our car was broken into while we spent the night at a hotel in Crescent City, CA. Not having a window in the back of our car thwarted our trip up the Pacific Coast Highway. We recovered the best we could, enjoyed 9-weeks in the Seattle area, and even managed a few days touring around the Olympic Peninsula.

Fall in Fort Collins 62

Cape Flattery, Olympic Peninsula

Fall in Fort Collins 63

Hall of Mosses, Olympic National Park

Fall in Fort Collins 64

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

After that, our next steps depended on whether I had landed a new job or if we had found a place where we both thought, yes, this is it! We both want to live here.

Since I do not yet have a new job nor did we find a place we both wanted to call home, we opted to keep housesitting. Yesterday we started a three-week housesit in Fort Collins, CO.

You may be thinking – but Kelly, you slept terribly while in Denver because of altitude insomnia. Why would you want to go back?

Well, the truth is the couple we’re housesitting for asked us. I had favorited their housesit listing on TrustedHousesitters.com because 1) Heath really liked Colorado despite altitude insomnia; 2) The dogs looked cute in their photos; and 3) The house looked comfortable. I had also favorited several others, but this housesit was the only one to reach out and ask us to apply.

In a summer of rejection from agents, editors, and employers, it felt good to be wanted. So we applied and now here we are.

Everyone, say hello to Willow and Mookie.

Fall in Fort Collins 65

Willow, a 4-year-old sheepadoodle; photo by Heath Hughes

Fall in Fort Collins 66

Mookie, a 6-month old golden doodle; photo by Heath Hughes

It’s going to be a fun few weeks in Fort Collins!

Meet Bitsy! 67

Meet Bitsy!

When I applied for us to housesit in the Seattle area I knew what we were getting into: a cat, two goats, and a beautiful house with views of Mt. Rainier.

Meet Bitsy! 68

What I did not anticipate was a surprise guest who graces us with her presence on a regular basis:

Meet Bitsy!

Meet Bitsy! 69

Bitsy was in fact the first one to greet us upon our arrival. We had turned down the wrong driveway and she met us on our way back up to the street. There she stood in all her floofy glory, alerting everyone in the area that we had arrived.

She held fast to her position to the point that I had to get out of the car and coax her out of the way.

We soon learned that Bitsy lives at one of the nearby houses, but that she comes to visit often. So much, that the couple whom we’re housesitting for have a box of biscuits from Costco and a dog brush in their garage.

During our first few days at the housesit, we would open the front door to find Bitsy lying in the sun. She acted hesitant at first, though her tail kept wagging the entire time. We would reach out to pet her, but she would dance away before contact.

Meet Bitsy! 70

Except when offered a biscuit. Then we were suddenly her best friends.

After a few weeks, Bitsy learned to trust us. My interactions with Bitsy are how I know, 100%, unequivocally, that first and foremost, I am a dog person.

Not to say that I’m not loving my time with the other animals. Inky is such a delightful cat, Heath and I would like to clone her.

Meet Bitsy! 71

JJ and Sumo are so silly and sweet that we’ve added goats to our future goals of when we finally have a home.

Meet Bitsy! 72 Meet Bitsy! 73

But there is just something about Bitsy. Seeing her run down the driveway or the stone stairs and I know my day is about to get better.

Meet Bitsy! 74

I reached a new milestone with her the other day when she let me brush her tail. The afternoon had turned to twilight and a cool breeze danced through the air. Bitsy and I spent some time chasing each other around the driveway until she plopped down and showed me her belly. I rubbed it for an appropriate amount of time before I started brushing her. I learned that if I kept one hand on her belly, I could tackle one or more tangles in her tail with a few brush strokes.

Meet Bitsy! 75

We stayed that way for a long, long time. I haven’t felt quite like myself ever since our car was broken into in California in July and a lot of our stuff was stolen. In those moments with Bitsy, I felt content. I felt peaceful. I even felt joy at how such a simple act of brushing could soothe my weary soul.

When I asked Heath if we could plan to put Bitsy in our car on our way out of town, with the idea that no one would notice she’s missing because everyone would assume she’s visiting someone else, he replied that we certainly could. Then he added that once she realized she was no longer the Cul-De-Sac Queen, she may not be too happy about it. Of course, Heath is right.

And I (probably) wouldn’t steal someone’s dog, anyway.

Here’s to you, Bitsy, Queen of the Cul-De-Sac!

Meet Bitsy! 76