Happiness is …
the many states of Annie’s ears!
I know it’s not much, but time with Annie is always golden (haha!). I hope you all have an Annie (or equivalent) in your lives.
Happiness is …
the many states of Annie’s ears!
I know it’s not much, but time with Annie is always golden (haha!). I hope you all have an Annie (or equivalent) in your lives.
Winter is upon us! A blanket of snow has covered Norfolk for many weeks now, and we’re gearing up for a winter storm tomorrow which is predicting an additional 12-18 inches of snow.
Being the winter lover that I am, I’m still getting out a few times a week to walk Dodger or Annie.
Both Dodger and Annie run with abandon through the woods, stopping to poke their noses in snow drifts, and ever so often chomping up a mouthful of snow when the mood strikes. One of the differences between them is Annie usually brings a ball on her walk while Dodger does not. I suspect it’s the retriever in her versus Dodger who just wants to show off his border collie agility skills.
Both dogs, in my humble opinion, are super-duper smart. Sometimes when I get lost in my imagination and debate who would be valedictorian in Kelly’s World of Dogs, it’s a tough choice. For example, look at how Dodger sits and stays in the car until I tell him to go:
I know the picture isn’t that impressive, so you can watch the video of Dodger showing off his “stay” skills here.
But in one way Annie has outshone my other beloved canine buddies simply because of how she approaches her ball on our walks.
Annie has a bazillion balls to choose from when we start. Usually, there’s already a few out in the yard, and she’ll scoop one up and bring it to me. I throw it, she chases, and then we continue our walk until the process repeats itself.
Sometimes, I’m not fun enough for Annie and her ball. When that happens, she’ll set her ball on the ground, push it beneath a log, under an upturned tree, off the creek bank, etc., and then work like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel trying to get it back.
You can watch Annie show off her digging skills here.
Most of the time, she’s successful. She’ll scoop up the ball again and be on her merry way.
Every so often, though, the ball is lost. It gets taken upstream, it gets pushed into a deeper hole, or sometimes a mole absconds with it. The last one is pure speculation, but it’s the only reason I can come up with for why sometimes her ball vanishes.
I also think it’s hilarious to imagine that a gang of moles have an underground network of tunnels in the Barbour Woods waiting to steal Annie’s ball.
Nevertheless, Annie tries to get her ball back. But after a few minutes, she decides, no, that’s okay. I’ll continue on without it. And then she does! Tail wagging, happy smile, Annie takes off into the woods, leaving the lost ball behind. I don’t think she actually misses it for even one second.
Here’s the weirdest part about Annie and her ball – nine times out of ten, she’ll find another ball somewhere in the woods! We’ll be walking along, me marveling at the beauty of the Barbour Woods, Annie zooming down hills, over tree stumps, and tackling over-sized sticks, and before I know it, she returns to me with another ball in her mouth.
Is it the same ball as before? Nope! Does it matter to Annie? Not at all.
We continue our walk, she occasionally lets me throw the ball for her to chase, and eventually we return to where we started.
Annie and her ball are an excellent primer for learning how to let go: Leaving something behind can be so hard, yet Annie does it with aplomb. She never knows where that next ball is going to show up, yet she almost always finds it.
What are we unable to let go of?
What could be waiting for us up ahead when we do?
A life lesson for us all, I think.
Looks like Dodger is going to have to up his game!
Our daylight hours are dwindling. With the shortest day of the year only two weeks away, here in Norfolk we’re down to about 9 hours of daylight each day.
That’s a lot of darkness we’re up against.
On the other hand, it means that when I walk Dodger on Sundays, I get to see some spectacular light displays shining through the tree branches in the Barbour Woods.
I know winter is not the favorite season for most people. I think I’m in the minority as it’s my favorite season.
At least, I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite season. I do enjoy the leaves changing in fall and the promise of new life and growth in spring. And then we have those long summer days.
Maybe my favorite season is the one I’m currently experiencing?
Anyway, I do love winter. I especially love being outside when it’s sunny and cold. With the proper equipment and clothes, the experience can be wonderful.
On my walk with Dodger this afternoon, the light cast a gentle blue tint over the woods.
It’s magical, don’t you think?
And let’s be honest — Dodger is once handsome devil!
Feeling grateful to have this experience with one of my favorite dogs! At the same time, the experience is blue in other ways. Much like I wrote about when the leaves were changing color a few weeks ago, I can’t help but think of my Dad and how he didn’t know it was his last fall in 2019, just like he didn’t know it would be his last chance to see snow fall last winter. I suppose this cycle of “lasts” will continue as I work through my grief.
The only way forward is through. It’s not easy. It’s certainly not quick. But it is good. I think I’m starting to understand the expression good grief.
Thank goodness I have such a wonderful support system in place, with includes Heath, and Cecily and Dodger here in Norfolk.
Speaking of them, I managed to coax Heath and Cecily into participating in an Advent wreath lighting for UCC Norfolk’s online service this Sunday. You can catch us around the 11-minute mark. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1308360392861281
I hope you all have a wonderful week. Maybe it be blue in the very best ways!
2020 is a year of a lot of things — many of them are not good. However, 2020 is also the year I learned about something wonderful and uplifting — a reverse Advent calendar! With Advent fast approaching, this calendar is a great way to connect with the spirit of the season and do some good for your community.
Last year, I started working for a Congregational Church as the Director of Community and Creativity. One of the best parts of this job is I get paid to think of new ideas to engage people around town with the ministries of the church. With the pandemic severely limiting community engagement while at the same time making it more difficult for some people to meet their basic needs, I felt challenged to find something new and different for Advent, yet also meaningful for the congregation. Then I came across the idea of a reverse advent calendar and lo and behold — I found my solution!
A traditional Advent calendar provides individuals with a “door” or “window” to open on the calendar, inside of which a treat or inspirational quotation is found.
With a reverse Advent Calendar, individuals give something on each day of Advent. The reverse advent calendar I came across on social media had a theme focused around food banks. Since the Norfolk Food Pantry is housed in the church where I work, it seemed like a perfect partnership.
A lot of people may not know this, but there are significant wealth disparities in Norfolk, CT. Yes, we have very wealthy families in Norfolk. To their credit, I have seen some jaw dropping displays of generosity in this town. At the same time, one-third of the students at the local elementary school are on free or reduced lunch, so we clearly have more work to.
The Norfolk Food Pantry has also seen their number of requests double in the last few weeks. They suspect the increase has to do with the discontinuation of supplemental employment assistance during the pandemic.
The reverse Advent calendar is a win-win situation. Participants get to do an act of kindness every day leading up to Christmas. People in need will have access to food.
Added bonus if you live in Norfolk: You can drop off your filled food box at Battell Chapel from 5:00-8:00pm on Christmas Eve and get to experience a drive through experience with luminaries, lessons, and carols.
If you don’t live in Norfolk, then I’m confident any local food bank would be grateful to get a box filled food.
If you want to hear more about how the reverse Advent calendar works, you can watch a video of the church’s online service here. I come in at about 6:36. You can also see my decorated reverse advent calendar box. Even though I am the Director of Community and Creativity, the creativity does not necessarily translate to arts and craftsy type projects.
Here’s a link to the Advent devotional I spoke of in the video. I made the devotional book myself and I think it’s one of my greatest creations in 2020. Okay, Canva helped. A lot. I don’t know what I would do without their templates because design and color combos are not my strengths. But I did find the quotes and choose the pictures featured each day. Anyway, I hope you like it! Here’s a sneak peak to entice you to click on the link!
And just to be thorough and accommodating, here’s an easy-to-print calendar without the daily devotional:
May you find joy and gratitude this Advent season! If you have any questions or would like to use the reverse Advent calendar daily devotional I created for UCC (Congregational), Norfolk, feel free to reach out to me at genesis.potentia(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com. A few simple edits and you can use it at any church, any where.
Part of my job at the Norfolk Library is to research what other libraries are offering in terms of programming. I then make recommendations to the Executive Director and Events Coordinator.
Since nearly every library event is a virtual library event, I’ve also taken the liberty to sign up for events at libraries across the state.
On September 14th, I participated in a country line dancing class through the Bloomfield Library. The next class is on October 19th, if anyone else would like to sign up.
Two weeks ago, Heath and I participated in an online calligraphy class. In just 90 minutes, I learned some good calligraphy skills, as well as tips as how to spiff up the letters with color. We first practiced writing the alphabet, then we moved on to the most famous pangram in the English language:
For my final project of the night, we were asked to select a single word or a phrase to write. Here’s what I chose, in honor of this dog that I love so very much.
Another class I signed up for is a 5-week workshop on grief journaling. This workshop is through the Greenwich Library and is taught by a certified grief counselor. The theme of the workshop is processing grief during the time of Covid. I thought I’d make a good candidate for the class since this past summer has been especially filled with loss and sadness, in addition to the grief and loss of the pandemic, as well as the fall of our country.
One of the insights I’ve already gained from the workshop is that I’m not as aware of the quiet moments of happiness in my life anymore since this summer. I consider quiet moments of happiness to be the ordinary moments in my day that despite their mundanity, still bring about a feeling of wonder, awe, or delight. Upon reflection, the sadness from my losses or the exhaustion from having narcolepsy has consumed much of my mental bandwidth. The quiet moments are still there, I’m just not present enough to always recognize them.
Now that I’m actively trying to pay more attention, I’ve been moderately successful.
A friend recently sent me a prism so I could brighten up my day with rainbows. I often carry the prism with me to work so I can take the rainbows with me. We had a brilliant day of sunshine recently and I was treated to this quiet moment of happiness.
Then there’s the book donation chute at the library. I do NOT have a mechanical mind and understanding mechanics and engineering do not really interest me at all. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the outcome. Watching boxes of books travel down this chute takes me back to Museum of Scientific Discovery in Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, that I loved so much as a kid. Every time I put a box of books on this chute, I feel delighted!
Watch the video of the book chute here.
Then there’s my most recent walk with Annie.
The leaves have started to change here in Norfolk, and the woods have a nice coating of crunchy leaves to walk through.
You can listen to the crunchiness here.
Okay, not necessarily a quiet moment, but walking through these leaves sure did bring me happiness.
For anyone else grieving, I hope you find some quiet moments of happiness this coming week.
For the first time in a long time, I find myself living without any dogs. Long story short: our Norfolk housesit is on hiatus due to the pandemic. Smudge and Faith now have their human brother living at their house, and Heath and I moved into a small apartment in Norfolk.
The first few days upon moving here, the sadness of being without Smudge and Faith stayed with me like a shadow. I scrolled through my phone, looking at photos of them.
I watched videos of them being silly. Even mundane videos like watching them walk down the stairs, I would watch on repeat.
Confession: It’s been about a month and I’m still mooning over their photos and videos. This may or may not be the most effective coping mechanism. Of course, I still visit Smudge and Faith, and I’m still walking Annie and Dodger.
And, yes, having Heath be so supportive and loving helps quite a bit.
But with all these changes in my life, plus living through a pandemic, and witnessing the heartbreak and injustice of racism in real time, and grieving the loss of my father’s health as he remains in the ICU without a good prognosis, I find myself struggling to let go of my attachment to Smudge and Faith.
So, when I feel like I should be doing more to help deal with my sadness over not living with Smudge and Faith anymore, I turn to the wealth of dog videos that is the internet in an attempt to branch out.
Sometimes, I think the invention of the internet has done more damage to the world than its intended benefits. But if it wasn’t for the internet, I never would have “met” Stevie the Wonderdog.
Stevie has cerebellar hypoplasia. This means Stevie’s cerebellum is much smaller than normal or not completely developed. It’s the reason why Stevie’s balance, posture, and coordination is much different from other dogs.
Here’s the first video I ever saw of Stevie:
You can see why I love him!
When I watch videos of Stevie, my heart does a tippy dap dance of joy the same way Stevie tippy taps his paws in puddles. It’s like I can press pause on my life for just a moment. He’s the breath of fresh air I need to know I’ll be okay with all these changes in my life.
That’s why I want to share Stevie with you today. Just in case you could use some tippy tap love and joy in your heart, too.
Norfolk, CT, is not a diverse town in terms of skin color. But that does not mean we cannot support our Black sisters and brothers during this time of crisis.
Last week, we came together for an impromptu peace rally on the Village Green. We wore masks, maintained social distances, and stood in solidarity with those who are protesting far and wide across the country.
There is nothing like impromptu singing to give you those good, spine-tingling chills that provide a jolt of optimism to the soul. You can listen to snippet of us singing America, the Beautiful here.
Today, we came together again to rally for peace and justice for Black Lives.
We stood in solidarity with our Black sisters and brothers. We said the names George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We professed no justice, no peace. We then marched to Town Hall and knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
If you haven’t already participated in a Black Lives Matter event, I would encourage you to set a timer for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and then kneel wherever you are.
Now imagine killing someone as you do it.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds of actual killing.
It’s a long time to torture someone to death.
To hear someone plead that they can’t breathe.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds of kneeling in silence with others broke my heart for every Black person who has to suffer this kind of collective inhumanity.
We then ended with the Reverend Erick Olsen of Norfolk Church of Christ asking us to make four commitments to supporting Black Lives Matter:
I am committed to supporting Black Lives Matter until we see systemic change. I’m not sure what that looks like in the long-term, but in the short-term I am supporting Black authors by buying their books and some of my friends and I are forming a book club to read the works of Black authors. We’re starting with Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes.
Our Norfolk event today was sobering and sad, and we remained peaceful. Being a small town of 1600+ people, it’s easy for us to maintain peace during these events. However, that’s not the case for many of the peace rallies throughout the country this past week and beyond.
For people who may be struggling with the violence that sometimes erupts during the protests, I urge you to remember three important points. The first comes from my k-12 education, the second comes from my doctoral studies in psychology, and the third comes from my life-long spiritual education.
I make these points to say that while I do not ever wish for violence to descend on our country (or anywhere for that matter), I understand why it does. If I couldn’t breathe, I would be clawing and fighting with whoever was holding me down.
I stand with Black Lives Matter. I hope you do too.
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:
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.
Stay safe everyone. Sending love and prayers.
This fall has been glorious in Norfolk. When Heath and I began housesitting here in September 2016, people assured me the fall we were experiencing was not up to its usual standards.
I respectfully disagreed because I thought this was pretty good:
We heard the same thing in 2017. Still good, I thought. In fact, maybe even better than last year.
In 2018, I don’t know what people said because I was off to Churchill for my seven-week stint as a polar bear season volunteer. I did see what I think is a halo:
And polar bears!!
This year, however, I think I understand what everyone had been saying. The colors POPPED overnight. And they’re lingering, too. Add in multiple days of sunshine and crisp temperatures, and you have yourself a Gold Medal in Fall Foliage.
All this loveliness makes me want to skip my plans and go off for a walk in the woods with my favorite friends.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing!
I hope you’re enjoying your fall, wherever you are.
We’re three weeks into our summer road trip. The experience so far has been a mix of emotions, mostly because I’ve grown attached to Norfolk.
I suppose it’s ridiculous to think I wouldn’t become attached since Norfolk is the type of place where you can be driving to a friend’s house and sheep cross the driveway.
Norfolk is also the type of place where you might find a peacock on a roof.
Of course, I miss being there!
I miss walking to the library, chatting with the librarians, and perusing their wonderful collection of books. They’re so supportive of my writing and my ideas. On Saturdays during April and May, they let me hold my Love Letters Writing Group at the library, whereby anyone who was interested could show up and write a thank you letter, or a thinking of you letter, or a support letter to people in the military.
The program was sparsely attended, but it didn’t matter because I used that time to write my own letters to people. As an added bonus, I became friends with an incredibly talented watercolor artist in town, Leslie Watkins, who read about my Love Letters Writing Group in the Norfolk Now town newspaper and loved the idea. Not only did she donate high quality cards to use, she also attended most every week, and gave me art lessons along the way. It was because of her great teaching skills, that I was able to make these cards:
I also miss walking to the Congregational Church every Wednesday morning to attend a Creative Writers’ Group, sharing my stories, and listening to the stories, poetry, and wisdom that my fellow writers share. The oldest person in the group is a 91-year-old spitfire of a woman who inspires me in so many ways and the youngest is a mid-30s man who has a good heart and believes in the saving power of grace. Every week when I leave the group, I have the biggest smile on my face.
One of the places that I don’t usually walk to, but I still miss nevertheless, is Botelle Elementary. I started volunteering there this past winter as a literacy and math volunteer in the kindergarten/first grade and second grade classroom.s Honestly, one of my favorite parts is hanging out with the kindergarten/first grade students during their snack time. We act quite silly and laugh a lot.
One day I happened to be sitting next to a little girl whose grandparents I know. The topic of conversation turned to fortune telling and making predictions. I announced to the table that I could read palms and I turned to the girl, picked up her palm, looked at it, and said: Your family loves you very much and you love them. Oh, and you love dogs, too.
The girl’s mouth dropped open. Before I knew it, every single student in the classroom wanted me to read their palms. This memory is one I will keep in my heart forever, and I suspect some of the students will, too, because when they threw me a surprise going away party (yes, I did tear up), several of the students made me cards that featured palms.
If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m a minimalist and it’s my goal to get all my belongings down to one backpack. But for this summer, I’m not yet ready to give up these cards and they will be making the trek with me across the country.
Since I’m already getting a little teary-eyed writing this post, I might as well go down the rabbit hole.
I miss the dogs of Norfolk SO MUCH! With humans, you can say, “I’ll see you soon,” and they understand that you’re coming back. I like to think Smudge, Faith, and Dodger could understand me the same way, but I can’t be sure.
Sometimes at night I’ll sing Somewhere Out There to Smudge. He really is the silliest, most mischievous dog I’ve ever known.
Then there’s Faith, who when I saw her standing among her three brothers in a picture posted on TrustedHousesitters.com, I told my husband she’s the cutest dog I’ve ever seen and we had to apply for that housesitting job. She really is an extra cute pupper!
I can’t forget Dodger dog. I walk him Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the Barbour Woods, and every single time I feel profound spiritual experiences of gratitude, love, peace, and joy.
For anyone who is feeling anxious, sad, stressed, or any other emotion that hurts their bodies, minds, or spirits, I encourage you to find a dog and let them romp around the woods in wild abandon. You will feel like a new person by the end of the walk.
For all these reasons, and more, I miss Norfolk. Yet, with leaving Norfolk behind, there are new adventures to go on, new relationships to make, and new dogs to meet.
We spent last week with the adorable Gretchen and Sebastian in Manhattan, IL:
As my husband likes to say, Manhattan, IL, is the opposite of Manhattan, NY. It’s incredibly flat, sparsely populated, and rural. The house that we sat is a typical suburban house. I love it, though, because the owners love living there and take such pride and ownership in their little piece of Manhattan heaven. The house is a typical, suburban IL house, but the little things like the raised herb garden outside, the ocean-scene tiled mosaic in the bathroom, and, the brightly-colored wood-carved picture than hangs on the front porch, make it spectacular.
And, let’s be serious here. Wiener dogs are as cute as you can get. Gretchen and Sebastian are also especially cute because they get tucked into a doggy bed at night and then greet the day first thing in the morning with exuberance.
While in Manhattan, we also got to visit a couple and their fur family who we housesat for last summer. When I first got the idea of pet/housesitting as a way to make a living after I quit teaching, it was motivated by my love of dogs, the lure of travel, and the desire to have a relaxed schedule so I could devote a lot more time to writing. Little did I know getting to know and becoming friends with the people we housesit for would be one of the best parts.
We spent a delightful evening at their house, catching up, and enjoying our time with their animals:
And the chickens
It’s experiences like these that give me the strength and motivation to leave Norfolk. When my husband and I embarked on our housesitting journey together, our plan all along was to keep moving. So I’m grateful that’s what we’re doing. I’m also equally grateful that we already know we’ll be back in Norfolk come September for another long-term housesit. We love it there and I miss ya’ll so much. See you soon!