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Splish Splash

Activities I stopped doing consistently over the past few weeks because I’ve been so tired:

  • Meditating
  • Most Exercise
  • Eating with nutrition in mind
  • Gratitude Journaling
  • Morning Pages Journaling
  • Visiting with Friends

Every so often I muster the energy to do one or more activities on the list; but it’s not every day and it’s not often.

I’ll know I’m in real trouble when I add Walking Dogs to the list.

Meet Willis! Willis is the most Muppet-Looking dog I’ve ever met.

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As it is, dogs remain one of the greatest motivators I have in my current low-energy life. I’m hoping my energy situation vastly improves soon because I found out from some blood work that all my fatigue isn’t just narcolepsy-related. Both my iron level and my Vitamin-D level are ridiculously low.

In the meantime, I continue showing up for work and the dogs in my life, and I’ve decided to be perfectly satisfied with those choices. I could prioritize nutritious meals and more exercise since I know both are incredibly helpful to my sleep health, but then I’d have to quit my job and there goes my paycheck and health insurance.

The irony is not lost on me that the best choices for health right now I cannot prioritize because they would jeopardize losing my health insurance.  The healthcare/health insurance system in this country will never make sense to me.

The only reason I still keep up with some exercise is because I’ve started thinking of Annie as my “accountability buddy.”

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It’s been so hot lately, we’ve haven’t been hiking quite as much as we’ve been swimming.

Annie, not surprisingly, is an exceptional swimmer. She can both belly flop and dive, as demonstrated in the video below. (If for some reason you can’t see the video, please click here).

Annie is so awesome I can’t even be disappointed that spending time with her truly is a highlight of my blah days. Because even if I had all the energy in the world and I woke up feeling refreshed every day, I would still want to spend time splashing with her in a pool.

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Another Birthday

Well, it’s that time of year again. Happy Birthday to me and happy birthday to my blog. I turn 45 years old tomorrow and my blog turns six. I wish I could say I’m feeling festive. Unfortunately, I just feel tired and beaten down. In lieu of my typical blog birthday photos with dogs wearing party hats, here are dogs covered in dirt because that’s all I can muster today.

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A friend recently told me that they lost one of their teeth. It’s going to take a few weeks until they can get an implant, but in the meantime they told me they’ve been getting the best sleep of their life.

“Which tooth?” I asked them. There’s not much I wouldn’t try at this point to get a good night’s sleep.

So, if you see me without a tooth in the coming days, weeks, or months, know that I still haven’t given up hope that someday I’ll get decent sleep on a regular basis.

 

 

 

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Six Awesome Hours

Today, like most days, I feel so, so tired. Not bone-weary tired. Just narcolepsy tired.

So tired, in fact, that I fell asleep halfway through the Baz Luhrman’s Elvis Presley movie after work.

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The medicine I’d been taking since October, which I had been so optimistic about, did what it was supposed to do: provide me with quality, deep sleep every night.

Unfortunately, the medicine came with a whole host of other effects, such as anxiety to the point of panic attacks, mild paranoia, gut issues, and night sweats. Those effects weren’t even on the highest dose. For months I took a reduced dose hoping my body would habituate and the other effects would disappear.

They did not.

No matter how slowly I tapered up the medicine or how I often I reverted back to a lower dose (all working with my neurologist and the pharmacy that distributes the medicine), the other effects would race back into my life.

The end result was that I had SIX AWESOME HOURS of sleep every night. During the day I felt AWAKE. My body felt strong and I had energy.

But I was also talking myself down from anxiety and panic attacks on a regular basis. Some days I couldn’t get in my car because of the anxiety. Other days I felt certain death was imminent for myself or loved ones.

I would shake while writing on the couch. My knees would knock together while I stood to talk to others.

Yet, the other effects almost seemed worth it for the SIX AWESOME HOURS.

Except, SIX AWESOME HOURS over the course of seven months is not enough sleep to sustain an adult woman with a husband, a part-time job, dogs to love, good to do, stories to write, and agents to query. By the last month of taking the medicine, I dragged more than I thrived.

The compromise of the other effects for SIX AWESOME HOURS of sleep no longer seemed worth it. So, again, working with my doctor I stopped taking the medicine. All the other effects disappeared within a day or two.

Now I’m on a new medicine. It’s not going great, but it’s not going terrible. Some days I need upwards of three hours of naps. Other days I do not. I have yet to wake up feeling rested.

There are some days I wake up at 6am, exercise vigoroulsy for 30 minutes because I know how good it is for me, and immediately fall asleep the minute I sit on the couch.

Regardless, I pretend like I am fine. Some moments I am. Some moments I’m not. Most moments what I really want is to lay down and close my eyes. Just for a minute. Maybe two. Okay, 77 will suffice.

I can’t decide if pretending I’m fine when I’m out and about in the world is the right choice. On the three-hour-nap days, I wish narcolepsy showed a visible sign so others would know I’m struggling. Then perhaps I wouldn’t have to dig deep for the energy and enthusiasm to act like a participant in my life. I try so hard to be the Kelly that is joyful and enthusiastic about life. I want to be that Kelly. Right now, she feels miles away. I hope she comes back someday

In the meantime, I continue on the best I can. I spend time with Heath, enjoying his company and his ever-improving guitar skills.  We talk about The Court of Roses and Thorns book series by Sarah J. Maas. We work on puzzles together. We play games. We watch Downton Abbey (both the show and movies).

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I go to work at the Norfolk Library. I plan social media campaigns like the National Ice Cream Month Tournament of Taste. I can’t believe cookie dough got ousted in the first round my pistachio.  Vote here if you’re so inclined! And follow us on Instagram @norfolklibraryct if you want to see more of what I do for our community engagement.

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I visit Dodger on Thursdays and walk Annie twice a week. I moon about missing Fergus because I don’t get to see him on a regular basis and he really is the best napping buddy ever.

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Dodger

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On our walk 7-14-22

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BEST napping buddy

I volunteer my time with the Norfolk Land Trust as part of their outreach community. This past Friday, we hosted Sharon Audubon on the Village Green.

Question: How cute is this teeny tiny screech owl named Artemis?

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Answer: ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE

I write every day. Sometimes in a journal, sometimes for fun, and sometimes for the hope of publication. While I’m querying my current middle grade book, I’m revising the story I wrote about Fergus which I affectionately call Fergus Finds Adventure. (The story has a much better name now, but I’m not yet ready to share it.)

So that’s where I’m currently am. Tired, yet managing. And thank goodness I ended up not contracting covid!

Stay safe, everyone. I hope you all get AWESOME HOURS OF SLEEP tonight.

 

 

 

 

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Commemorating Juneteenth

Working at the Norfolk Library comes with a lot of benefits. For example, I’m allowed to bring Fergus with me whenever I’m taking care of him.

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The Library also pays for most of my health insurance, which is such a wonderful contribution considering I work there part-time.

I’ve also been afforded opportunities to learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Norfolk Library identifies as an anti-racist library and that means doing some deep work to ensure that we are who we say we are. So when it came time for the library to commemorate Juneteenth, we decided learning more about this holiday would be the best way to honor it.

Tomorrow I lead a book discussion of On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed. If you have never read this book written by a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian, then I highly recommend it. It’s well-written, interesting, and a slim 148 pages. It also has me caring about Texas (and US) history in ways I never thought possible.

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For example, I learned that the theme park Six Flags Over Texas, which was the original Six Flags, was so named because of the six flags of the countries that ruled over Texas in its history: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States of America.

Texas was part of the confederacy?!?!?!

Maybe I knew this years ago when I was in grade school or high school and maybe not. Because I had undiagnosed narcolepsy for many of those years and the fact that those years are now approximately 3+ decades ago, I’ve given myself leeway for not remembering a lot of what I learned and experienced.

I always thought of Texas to be a land of oilmen, cowboys and ranchers. This book has taught me that’s not at all the case. Eastern Texas, an area that is vastly green and fertile, was imagined by Stephen F. Austin as, “a western version of the cotton fields of Mississippi that had produced such great wealth for plantation owners.” Austin also knew that the land could never be developed without enslaved people clearing and planting the land as free labor and intensely lobbied Mexico, who was anti-slavery, that no Americans would come without the guarantee of chattel slavery.

Yep. Eastern Texas was developed on the backs of enslaved people all in the name of wealth accumulation for white people. Just like many other states.

Again, maybe I understood this reason why slavery was historically accepted in the development of the US from long ago and maybe I didn’t. Or maybe I’m now looking at this information with the eyes, heart, and mind of a 44-year-old white woman who has seen present-day racial injustice, inequity, and inequality in this country and who is *finally* paying attention to how it’s all connected.

Because you can’t read a book like On Juneteenth and not look at the bigger picture. Or realize that there are truths out there, you just had the privilege of not knowing about them. Imagine what would it mean if we were taught in school the words of Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, in his 1861 Cornerstone speech:

 The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

How many times have I heard people say the Civil War was about states’ rights? These words unequivocally show otherwise.

If we heard Alexander Stephens’ words taught in schools today, perhaps we would better recognize the deep-seated racism that existed and continues to exist in this country. You know, the kind of racism that gets some books banned in school districts or libraries because they suggest racism still exists.

If I could, I would give a copy of On Juneteenth to everyone in the United States. Then I would invite them to the Norfolk Library, either in-person or on-line, to talk about it. Because that’s what we do at the Norfolk Library and I’m glad to be a part of it.

If you decide to read On Juneteenth as a result of this post, let me know. The Norfolk Library’s book discussion is tomorrow night at 7:00pm, but that doesn’t mean we can’t schedule another one in the future or have a Zoom chat about it.

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

My Friend, Cecily

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

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

My life has never been the same since.

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

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

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

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

Mostly because I forgot.

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

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

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

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

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No Mow May! 25

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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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.

Help! I’ve Been Lassoed.

There’s a new man in my life and his name is Ted Lasso.

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I’m pretty sure Heath approves because he’s the one who introduced us.

I had heard of Ted Lasso before. Headlines, especially during awards seasons, gave me some indication he might be worth getting to know. But I have enough going in my life, thank you very much.

Then on Monday, May 2, Heath put on Episode 1, Season 1 for me. He left for Planet Fitness. By the time he returned, I was done with episode 3. By Friday we were on Episode 7, Season 2.  That’s approximately 500 minutes of television watching in four days. I say approximately because episodes are between 29 and 45 minutes.

Did I know at the start of last week I would be losing over 8 hours to Ted Lasso in 4 days?

No, I did not.

Do I regret what happened?

No.

But, also yes.

I’ll start with no.

This show is outstanding storytelling. From the first episode, a viewer understands the stakes – underdog coach set up for failure. Because Ted Lasso is so dang lovable, you can’t help but root for him.

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He’s also surrounded by a cast of characters that you either love or love to hate! They’re hilarious, infuriating, pathetic, and diabolical. Yet, they’re also complete characters with their own back stories that fully integrate into the world of Ted Lasso in compelling and nuanced ways.

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After we finish season 2 and I have no choice but to wait for season 3, I want to go back and watch some of the first episodes with a writer’s eye and mind to see if I can pinpoint the who/what/when/where/how/why this show hooks viewers from the get go and wins awards. In 2021, Ted Lasso was nominated for 20 Emmys and won 7.

Here’s the problem though: 8 hours of television over 4 days is too much for me. I am a person who values rest. I like long stretches of time where I simply exist, looking out a window or lounging on a couch with only my thoughts for company. I enjoy reading books and journaling. I have writing that needs revision and unpacking that needs to be done now that I’m back at my regular housesitting house.

None of that happened last week. By Saturday, I felt so off and unfocused that I had no choice but to stop everything and go back to bed for a few hours in the afternoon to simply rest. I should know better by now.

Hats off to you, Ted Lasso. You managed to crack my carefully cultivated sense of mindfulness and well-being. It’s always a good day when I realize I’m not quite there yet.

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P.S. – Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

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An Unexpected Gift

Several weeks ago I received an invitation to a child’s birthday party. When I first received the invitation, I wasn’t sure I was going to attend because I suspected I would be the only one wearing a mask. The party would be indoors and crowded.
Even though I am vaccinated and boosted, I am still cautious about covid. Omicron may be predominantly mild in those vaccinated and boosted; however, of the people I know who have tested positive, quite a few speak of the fatigue they felt for weeks afterwards.
I know what it’s like to feel fatigued for weeks (years, actually) thanks to narcolepsy. The medicine I’m currently taking is kinda/sorta working, so I don’t want to chance a step backwards with covid.
As the party day approached, I decided to go and wear a mask. Case counts had been declining and I knew it would mean a lot to the birthday kid for me to attend. But now I had another concern — what to get the birthday kid as a present.
I much prefer giving experiences than things. So when I saw the Hartford Symphony had Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert on their schedule for April 23 & 24, I knew this would be my gift. Not only does the birthday kid love Harry Potter (like I do!), but they also play violin.
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The plan was to pick up birthday kid at 11:00am for a 1:00pm show. I thought that would give us enough time to stop and get lunch somewhere and drive the 55 minutes to Hartford.
Around 10am, anxiety reared its ugly head. I had never been to the Bushnell Performing Arts Center. Of everything in this world that can give me anxiety, parking in unknown places is very high on the list. Especially the idea of running late and having to find a parking spot. Living in the Chicago suburbs for 8 years and driving downtown for shows will do that to you. I checked my map app and sure enough, traffic already increased the drive time by 10 minutes.
My brain whirred with mental math — if it now takes 65 minutes to drive there and we stop and eat for half an hour that only gives us 25 minutes to find a parking spot and arrive in time for the show.
ONLY 25 MINUTES FOR AN ANXIOUS PARKER IS NOT ENOUGH TIME.
I’m now texting the parent that traffic is increasing drive time. I’m going to leave now. I get in the car and go!
Except as I turn off my street onto the next crossroad, I imagine traffic getting even worse. What if traffic is so bad we don’t have time to stop for lunch?
I turn around and drive back to the apartment to get snacks.  I text the parent so birthday kid brings snacks for herself  just in case! 
 
I have now lost all the extra time I had by leaving a little bit early. I also still have to get gas.
When birthday kid and I are finally on the road, the drive time is now back to the original 55 minutes and I’m feeling much calmer because I know we have snacks.
We arrive at the Bushnell a little after noon. All my parking anxiety is quickly assuaged because the free lot that I knew about from the Hartford Symphony website is diagonal from the venue and it’s not even a third of the way full. It’s quite literally an anxious parker’s dream come true.
I’m further thrilled to learn there’s a small café inside the Bushnell. I order birthday kid the sandwich they want and I forgo the café options for my snacks because I know I’ll enjoy it more than the lunch offerings. We sit outside and people watch as all manner of Harry Potter fans stream into the area. Some are wearing wizard’s robes. All four Hogwarts houses are represented.
Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been years since I’ve done anything like this outing. I thought I would enjoy the movie and delight in the novelty of hearing the orchestra play. Both of those did, in fact, happen!
But what I enjoyed the most, the thing that ignited my soul from pandemic darkness where I hadn’t even realized just how dark it was in there because I’ve adapted to it after these two long years, was the shared experience of laughter, cheers, boos, and tears.
Over one thousand people sat in the theater with us. All wore masks. But that didn’t prevent us from cheering at Harry’s triumphs, laughing at Ron’s infatuation with the Beaubaxtons students, or gasping at the return of Voldemort.
The tears for me came when Alan Rickman’s name scrolled across the screen during the closing credits. Other people around me also expressed grief at the loss of such an iconic actor.
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I had no idea I was missing this kind of shared experienced until I was in the thick of it. It makes me wonder what else the pandemic has taken from me that I don’t even realize.
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A Much Needed Walk in the Rain

Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before — I attended the Connecticut Cactus and Succulent Society Annual Show and Sale. It’s the society’s 37th year of running the show/sale — who knew?

Apparently many, many people. When my friend and I made plans to attend, we decided leaving at 8:55am would give us plenty of time to get Bristol before the doors opened at 10:00am. The Society promised a free plant to the first 50 families each day and we felt confident we would be one of the first in line.

We arrived shortly after 10am to a parking lot jam-packed with cars. A line of people spilled out the doors of the Bristol Senior Center. People exited the doors with plants already in their hands or clustered in a box.

Turns out we had NO IDEA what we were getting into. I expected maybe 10 people would be there and maybe a few tables with plants.

WRONG.

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Wall-to-wall plants and so many people that I ended up trapped in a corner at one point and couldn’t get out for over three minutes. Thank goodness almost everyone was wearing a mask! I haven’t been in a crowd like that since before the pandemic. Add that to my high levels of introversion and I was ready to go 1.5 hours later.

Thankfully, I had Annie waiting for me when I got back to Norfolk since I’m taking care of her for the week. We played multiple rounds of fetch.

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Taken from earlier in the week; yesterday was too soggy to take a photo.

I learned the secret to fetch with Annie is to always have 2 or more balls ready to throw. I also learned that when Annie gets tired of running, she trots towards the woods with her ball and buries it in the leaves only to dig it up and bury again.

After about two hours of playing (and resting), I left Annie home while I went to the Norfolk Library to attend a Celebration of Ukrainian Song and Dance. It was again a large crowd and the dance company had 14 dancers total. All the dances were lively with clapping, stomping, twirling, and jumping.

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I enjoyed myself; however, by the end of the hour I again felt all my energy had drained. Thank goodness (also again) that I had Annie waiting for me at home. The rain had finally stopped and we headed out for a walk.

The Barbour Woods served as the perfect antidote to the crowds, noise, and overwhelm from earlier in the day. I didn’t even mind when a gentle rain fell from the sky. On the contrary, I lifted my head to the tree tops and let the drops splash my face. I felt refreshed and renewed.

When the rain stopped a few minutes later I whispered, “Come back.”

The rain didn’t come back, but Annie and I kept walking. Quietness surrounded me, except for the sloshing of my boots through the mud and leaves. With every step I took, I became more at ease until finally a sense of peace and joy had replaced the overwhelm from earlier.

Being with Annie in the woods was exactly what I needed it to be.

If you remember from earlier this year, I had a walk with Annie on a very cold winter’s day that I pronounced “the most invigorating thing I’ve done this year.” I was going to use that walk as benchmark for all other notable events this year. That walk still remains my most invigorating moment, followed by the walks I took in the aftermath of the ice storm. This walk also makes the list for the way it rejuvenated my spirit after such a draining day.

Thank goodness for walks. And woods. And dogs.

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Annie wouldn’t cooperate for a photo on our rejuvenating walk.