Tag Archives: Norfolk

Dog Days of Norfolk 1

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.

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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?)

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

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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),

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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.

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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.

Vote for My Happy Place! 7

Vote for My Happy Place!

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

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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.

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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.

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Barbour Woods, June 2020

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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.

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Barbour Woods, October 2022

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Barbour Woods, October 2021

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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.

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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.

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That's a Wrap.... 17

That’s a Wrap….

We left Norfolk yesterday afternoon with no expectation for when we’ll return. Our 3-month housesit morphed into 6.5 years, and now it’s finally over. There have been lots of tears (me, not Heath) and lots of goodbyes.

I look forward to our future. We’re on our way to a housesit in Colorado by way of Harrisburg, PA, and Nashville, TN. The emotions of wrapping up our life in Norfolk are too raw right now for me to write about in full right now, so this blog post is all I can manage.

Most of these photos are from our going away “party” at the Berkshire Country Store on Saturday. I apprecaite eveyrone who showed up (and brought their dogs!), as well as those who offered well wishes if they couldn’t attend.

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Fergus and his humans did come to the party, but I was too busy holding him to take any proper pictures. This photo is from our actual goodbye at Fergus’s house on Sunday morning. Of the goodbyes I had to make, this is one of the hardest. It’s tied with saying goodbye to Annie and her human.

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I have nothing but gratitude and love for the people and dogs of Norfolk who stole my heart during these last 6.5 years. You have changed me forever. Thank you!

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In Celebration of My Friends!

When Heath and I moved to Norfolk six-and-a-half years ago, I immediately looked to connect with local children’s book writers. I soon learned that Norfolk doesn’t always have a “local” option, and I ended up finding writers who belonged to a Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustators critique group that met at the Simsbury Library.

We read and constructively criticized each others’ work, attended conferences and retreats together, and supported each other through twists and turns on our respective paths to publication.

These last few weeks have brought some successes for my friends, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of them before we leave Norfolk in just six short weeks.

At the beginning of May, my friend Lynn celebrated the launch of her debut middle grade book, Chester and the Magic 8 Ball. I read chapters of Chester years ago. It’s about a toothless rescue dog who can predict the future with a Magic 8 ball.

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Author Lynn Katz

Of course, I loved the story and I never gave up that Chester would someday be published.

I’m not the only one who loved the story, as it got a starred Kirkus Review. Here’s a snippet from the review: An uplifting middle-grade story that meets sadness head-on and cuddles up to what’s important in life.

As a writer, a starred Kirkus Review is a big deal and I am so happy for Lynn.

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Left to Right: My handsome husband Heath, Me!, book coach Christy Yaros, Author Lynn Katz, Pam Kelly, Author Mary Munson, Rebecca Smith-Allen, and author Karin LeFranc.

This past Saturday, my friend Mary celebrated the launch of her debut picture book Love Will Turn You AroundThis bright and colorful story is about a heart who wakes up not feeling quite like himself. With the help of some well-meaning friends, all who are different shapes, Heart is able to turn himself right side up.

Mary’s book launch was a rousing success, complete with a rapt audience and lots of laughter and smiles.

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When Mary thanked me for coming (it was a 48-minute drive), I told her, Of course! You’re never going to be a debut author again. 

Six-and-a-half years ago, we were writers with dreams of being published as we sat in a conference room sharing our work and hoping that maybe this would be the manuscript that got us past the traditional publshing gate. Two of us have made it! Here’s to more successes and more books in our future!

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Left to Right: Author Lynn Katz (Chester and the Magic 8 Ball), Author Mary Munson (Love Will Turn You Around), Author Nancy Tandon (The Way I Say It; The Ghost of Spruce Point), and me!

 

Take the Longer Walk 30

Take the Longer Walk

With approximately ten weeks left to our time in Norfolk (we’ve been given an April/May departure from our long-term housesitting job), I’ve been savoring some of my favorite activities. At the top of my list of favorites is walking Annie.

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I especially enjoy walking Annie in the wintertime. Cold feels exhilarating to me and the Barbour Woods look especially magical when covered in snow. Add in a blue sky and you’ve got a winter wonderland that’s perfect for romping.

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On our usual walk this past Tuesday, I didn’t want the experience to end. Annie was having a great time zooming around and I was enjoying the extra solitude that snow brings to the woods.

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But, I also had other places to be that afternoon and other things to do.

So the question became: should we take a second trail for a longer walk or should we head home after our usual romp around the Swamp Trail?

Friends, we took a second trail. Annie and I headed to the Beechwood Loop for an extra romp.

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I’m so glad we did.

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The number of romps we have left together is finite. Even if we came back to Norfolk in January to visit, who’s to say Annie or I would be healthy enough to take a longer walk. Or maybe the ground would be too icy. Or maybe there wouldn’t be any snow.

Should I take the longer walk with Annie?

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Yes!

Always yes.

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These 10 weeks are going to go by way too quickly.

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Thinking About Death in the New Year, 2023 edition 39

Thinking About Death in the New Year, 2023 edition

I think about death often. I’m sure many people do.

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Sometimes the thoughts are with fear of the unknown. Having been raised Catholic, I’ve experienced more than enough trauma at literal interpretations of hell, and if I could change one thing about this world it would probably be not to scare children with eternal damnation. They have enough to worry about these days with gun violence, pandemic lives, climate destabilization, racism, and a dysfunctional government that includes politicians who make it clear that some of them (ie, BIPOC, queer, disabled) are worth less than others.

Occasionally I think about death with wonder. That’s usually when I’m in a good place spiritually. Those days are few and far between lately, and I suspect it’s from chronic stress due to poor sleep, capitalism that requires people to work to have quality health insurance, and lack of affordable housing in Connecticut.

Since my dad died in 2020, some thoughts of death are often linked with incredulity. He was literally alive one minute and dead the next. That’s it? I think. His life is now over?

Mostly I think about death with the fear of missing out, especially because it’s been seven years since Heath and I met, and I want as many years as possible to be with him.

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My annual death meditation is different from all this kind of thinking. Its purpose is to reflect on how I spent my past year and to determine what I want to prioritize in 2023.

In 2022 I decided colorful creativity would be my theme. I would create art that was not the written word, which is usually how I express myself. I wanted to draw and paint with no purpose other than to have fun!

While I got off to a good start, my year did not go as planned.

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Thanks to the pandemic and us being housesitters, we moved 8 times in 2022. From February – May, my art supplies were tucked away in a storage closet growing dusty.

Even when I had access, I didn’t have the motivation. I’ve accumulated more in these past six and a half years than I ever thought possible. The days of hoping I could get all my possessions down to one backpack is no longer realistic. With the increase of my own stuff, it’s gotten harder to live among other people’s lives. Especially when one has chronic sleep issues like I do.

I am not okay with the chronic sleep issues, and I continue to do my best to live with them.

I’m mostly okay with the stuff I’ve accumulated. We’ve been living in Norfolk for almost 6.5 years and I suppose that’s to be expected. And I’m going to have an opportunity soon to reduce and recycle some of the stuff I’ve accumulated. I will be ruthless and it will be fun!

Heath and I find ourselves at a crossroads. The couple we’ve been house-sitting for in Norfolk since September 2016 are permanently moving home. We will be living through big changes this year and we aren’t exactly sure what those changes are yet going to look like.

When I think about 2023 and imagine it’s my last year on Earth, for the first time since I’ve been death meditating, I’ve got nothing! There is nothing that I want to prioritize. No goals that I want to achieve. No places to visit. No relationships to hone. I just want to make it through this year of transition and come out still able to breathe. So that’s what I’m going to do. This year is going to be my year of breathing.

The best part is I have to do it anyway! I might as well do it with intention to help navigate all the uncertainty we’re up against.

Deep breath in … deep breath out.

I can do this.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Goodbye, Ocean! 44

Goodbye, Ocean!

Heath and I are officially back in Norfolk! The return is bittersweet because we loved living at the beach in Old Lyme. Nearly every day, I watched the sunrise and sunset. Norfolk is beautiful and the woods and mountains here are outstanding, yet they also obscure the sun. I miss these moments in a way I can only describe as grief.

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Rising before the sun and heading to beach became an easy morning ritual. I woke up with excitement wondering what today’s sunrise would look like. Sometimes Heath joined me and sometimes he didn’t. Either way, the moment was almost always perfect except for one morning when I missed Heath being there. I sent him this photo to let him know I was thinking about him.

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He replied back that he needed glasses. So I added a pair and then a few more artistic liberties. As one of our friends said on Facebook, “I would argue Heath has never looked better.”

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Here’s my last sunrise on Friday morning, November 18th:

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In time, I know the grief will subside. Norfolk turning into a winter wonderland will help, especially when I’m out in the snow-covered woods with Annie.

Although she did snub me the other day after weeks apart. She jumped out of a car door and headed straight in my direction. “Annie,” I cried with my arms open wide. Then she ran right past me to say hello to everyone else standing in our group. Quite the humbling experience.

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Eventually Annie did make her way to me and she howled in delight at our reunion, so she is, of course, forgiven. How could I not forgive her, since she is towards the very top of my gratitude list.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m grateful to those who read my blog and offer words of support and encouragement when they can.

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This card is from my undergraduate mentor and his wife. Two people I love very much in this world.

Six Weeks 52

Six Weeks

Change is coming! It’s not just the change of season, although I am thrilled to finally be on the downward slope of this hot, dry summer to a (hopefully) cool, brisk autumn. Heath and I will be leaving Norfolk for approximately six weeks at the end of the month.

The owners of the house we take care of will be returning and that means we have to find a new place to stay. Since affordable, short-term, furnished rentals are few and far between in this area of Connecticut, we’ve been looking elsewhere in the state. We found this great website, FurnishedFinders.com, whose main clientele is traveling nurses, and there are a few possibilities in south/central CT. I’m hoping we find something on the coast, as I’ve always wanted to live at the beach. I’ll be working remotely at the library for most of the time, driving in once a week to work in person.

In the meantime, I’m mentally preparing for the separation.

I’ll be missing walks with Annie!

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I won’t get to extol her virtues as the greatest golden retriever in the history of the world with her human mom twice a week. We’re aiming for once a week on those days I come back to work at the library. I really hope that works out! As Annie’s mom likes to remind me, Annie can’t tell time or the days of the week, so maybe she won’t notice my absence as much as I’ll notice it.

There also won’t be any possibility of chance encounters with Fergus as I walk to and from the library. He’s in this really hilarious salty skunk phase thanks to his recent escapades.

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This photo is from his dig-in-the-dirt phase. Since it’s hard to evoke “salty skunk” in a picture, I opted for a visual aesthetic.

As president of his fan club, I should be there to reassure him that salty skunk spice is way better than the onslaught of pumpkin spice coming our way. I hope he knows how delicious I find him, no matter what he smells like!

Okay, yes. You caught me! I am being a bit dramatic.

Change is just hard. Mooning about dogs is my best way to cope with it.

When it comes down to it, I know we’ll all be fine. Annie and Fergus are beloved by their humans. And I’m not the only one in their respective fan clubs. They will be loved and adored, even if I’m not the one doing it.

But if you live in Norfolk, feel free to pick up the slack of dog enthusiasm while I’m gone. I’d be happy to give lessons on how to fawn over dogs as if they the greatest animals ever (which they are).

 

No Mow May! 55

No Mow May!

May is almost over! I’m bummed because I’m participating* in No Mow May and I’ve enjoyed not mowing the lawn this month.

If you’ve never heard of No Mow May, feel free to read this article I wrote for Norfolk Now about it. The gist is that not mowing your lawn provides spring pollinators abundant sources for food and habitat. It’s one of the easiest conservation actions a person with a yard can take!

Not only has it been awesome not having to mow the lawn, I love how wild and free the yard looks.

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No Mow May! 57

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It makes me want to run barefoot through the wildflowers and dandelions. Of course I won’t because TICKS and SNAKES. But still. There is beauty here that I’m happy to appreciate from the gravel driveway.

Also something to appreciate from the gravel driveway — this little snake who was sunning themself when I came home the other day.

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I have come a long way to be able to coexist with snakes. They’ll never be my favorite animal, and I certainly didn’t want to disturb this little one. I fully recognize that I am about 100 times the size of them, and I feel confident this snake is scared of me. At the same time, I also didn’t fancy stepping over them.

Because what if I do and the snake springs forward to wrap around my exposed ankle?

You never know!

Thankfully, all I had to do was take some baby steps and they slithered away under the porch.

I will try not to think of them working themselves into the basement! Laugh, if you will, but it has happened more than once at this house.

On a more positive note, in some cultures seeing a snake is a sign of good luck. Let’s see what good fortune is going to come my way….

 

* With the approval of the homeowners! If you are a housesitter like I am, please do NOT do No Mow May without the homeowners’ approval.

A Different Kind of Tired 60

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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