My Greatest Achievement in 2024 (Perhaps) 1

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

24 in 24 8

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.

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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 10

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.

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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 13

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.

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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!

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Happy Howlidays! 16

Happy Howlidays!

In honor of all the animals across the United States I’ve had the privilege of loving and caring for this past year, I present Happy Howlidays 2023:

Happy Howlidays! 17

Happy Howlidays! 18

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Thank you to everyone who has shown us support, encouragement, and love this past year. It hasn’t been the easiest to be on the road since May but fingers crossed we’ve found our home in Boulder.

See you next year 🙂

Dogs, Cat, Book 20

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.

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Friends, say hello to:

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Everyone, meet Foster:

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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.

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Foster also has a cat brother named, Joey.

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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.

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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.

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Vote for My Happy Place! 35

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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Puppy Power! 45

Puppy Power!

I’ve been waking up every morning to these sweet little faces.

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Although struggling to get out of bed in the morning is one of the effects of narcolepsy I experience on a near-daily basis, I find myself motivated by these two. I’m especially motivated because they’ve been taught to ring a jingle bell hanging on the back door when they want to go out. The last thing I want is Mookie ringing the bell with such vigor that he wakes up Heath.

Mookie is quite expressive with his bell ringing compared to Willow. There’s his “fake news” ring that Heath identified a few days ago where Mookie only wants to get outside so he can turn around on the step and then come right back inside. Then there’s his ring which we describe as “aggressive” where it’s like he’s using the bell as a punching bag. Mookie means business with that ring!

His aggressive ring is usually what I hear first thing in the morning. Even when we all go down the stairs together and I have never once let him down by not opening the door, Mookie still runs over there and jumps on it like a dog on a mission.

So, I get out of bed no matter how tired I am. That’s Puppy Power, my friends.

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Puppy Power is also responsible for a trip Heath and I took to Niwot, CO, this past week. In 2018, a tweet appeared in my feed that showed an adorable doodle puppy announcing him as someone’s new love and that she was still trying to decide on his name.

So I did what any good dog-loving person would do. I responded with a suggestion.

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That’s when Laura and I started to get to know one another. In addition to having a love of dogs, Laura also writes children’s books and she used to live in Chicago. We’ve followed each other on Twitter ever since then and she also follows this blog.

Laura is a rare breed of author in that the first children’s book she ever wrote, Aliana Reaches for the Moon, was acquired by Eifring Publishing and published in 2019. She now has another book coming out in winter 2024 entitled An Accidental Hero: A Mostly True Wombat Story.

When Laura commented on my last blog post about how close Fort Collins is to where she lived, I suggested we meet in person. Laura, in turn, suggested The Wandering Jellyfish children’s bookstore in Niwot, CO.

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We met on Tuesday and had a wonderful time, hugging in person and discussing the ups and downs of children’s publishing.

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Laura is lovely and delightful and my first friend in Colorado. All because of Puppy Power. Is there anything that our love for dogs can’t do?

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For the purposes of this blog post, puppy is not a chronological term, but a state of mind.

Fall in Fort Collins 52

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.

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Cape Flattery, Olympic Peninsula

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Hall of Mosses, Olympic National Park

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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.

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

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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! 58

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.

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

Meet Bitsy!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Another Trip Around the Sun 68

Another Trip Around the Sun

Happy birthday to me and happy birthday to my blog! On August 1, I turned 46 and my blog turned 7.

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Birthday kisses from JJ, one of the goats we’re taking care of for the next several weeks.

This birthday was low-key for many reasons, not the least of which we’re still grieving for the stuff we had stolen a few weeks ago in Crescent City, CA. We spent the day working on a puzzle, which may not sound fun to everyone but Heath and I enjoy puzzles a lot.

This puzzle was especially challenging because the box only gives you a hint as to what the pieces should look like after you put them together.

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I wanted to give up at first because I thought the puzzle would be too difficult. Heath convinced me we should keep going. I’m so glad we did because it felt so satisfying when we finished.

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Working on the puzzle had the added benefit of keeping my mind worry-free. I’ve been feeling stressed lately as we try to figure out where we want to live and as I figure out what my next professional life should look like. Applying for jobs at the same time that I’m querying my latest middle-grade novel is especially demoralizing because I’m getting rejected on what feels like an almost daily basis.

It’s also demoralizing to find a job I would love in an area we’d be interested in living, only to do a home search on Zillow and see nothing available for less than $500,000. And I don’t mean nothing good available. Just nothing. No townhomes, condos, or houses. Who are the people that can afford these homes? What do they do for a living and will I ever be one of them?

The brightest part of my birthday was the cake. Heath found a bakery in Tacoma that makes custom cakes. He sent them some photos and this is the cake they made:

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Another Trip Around the Sun 73
I teared up hugging the cake designer after I saw that little face.

The cake is gluten-free, chocolate with a strawberry filling, and buttercream frosting. It’s absolutely delicious and upon eating our first slices Heath announced, “I always knew Fergus had strawberries in him.”

We’ll be in the Seattle area for the next month or so. Where we head next remains to be seen. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know! And keep in mind our camping stuff was stolen ….