Author Archives: Kelly

Happy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to My Blog! 1

Happy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to My Blog!

Today my blog turns five years old and I turn 44 years old. I remember when my dad turned 40 and we gave him a pin that read 40 isn’t old if you’re a tree. Since I’m a fan of trees and upon my death I would like to be turned into a tree, I accept that I am not old. For the record, I hope my death isn’t at least for 44 more years (God and Kelly willing).

Most importantly, I don’t feel old. And I think that’s what matters most.

One of the true highlights of my day was seeing the artists’ list for the August exhibit of Norfolk Artists & Friends that’s opening at the Library today. When I arrived at work on Thursday, I was delighted to see this painting:

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That looks like Annie,  I thought.

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Annie!

Well, sure enough. The painting is titled “Annie Rose Smells a Flower,” by Susannah Anderson.

It delights me that I know Annie so well I can spot her in an acrylic paining.

It really is the little things in life that bring the most joy.

Other little things that have been bringing me joy lately:

The little chipmunk living under the front porch.

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The blue heron who keeps visiting the drivewayHappy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to My Blog! 5

Meeting new dogs (that’s Hobbes in the front and Legend in the back). I met them at Cornwall’s Library’s outstanding Puppies Behind Bars presentation.

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Teeny tiny frogs!

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Fergus visiting my office at the Norfolk Library.

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Getting hugs from my friend, Dotty.

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And last, but not least, is watching my kalanchoe plant grow. Heath gave me this plant for our 5-year wedding anniversary in February. It seems to be doing quite well!

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My birthday wish for anyone reading this blog post is that you find little things in your day that bring you joy.

 

Cats! 11

Cats!

This week kicks off the anniversary of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. Friday is the one-year anniversary of Smudge’s death.

My dad’s decline started slowly a few years ago and then sped up quickly. He went into the hospital in June 2020 and died a little over a month later.

Smudge’s death happened with no warning whatsoever. I wasn’t even there to see him one last time as I was still in Pennsylvania with my family. One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I didn’t stop by to visit Smudge before I left Norfolk in July so I could be in Harrisburg with my dad. I’ve written about this regret before, and I don’t want to write about it again other than to say that almost a year has gone by and the sadness still cuts into my heart with as much pain as it did on July 23, 2021.

Deep breath … moving on. Only because I have to.

When it comes to the whole dog versus cat debate, I’m solidly Team Dog. I have nothing against cats.  I like them, in general. I love some cats, specifically.

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And, I think many cat internet videos are hilarious. So you can imagine my surprise that my heart has been taken over in the last few days by a cat.

Cats! 13

Her name is Bertha and I’ve never even met her!

On Friday I whiled away some time scrolling through Instagram. One of the local groups I follow is Little Guild, an animal rescue organization located in Cornwell, CT. I saw Bertha’s little face with the caption that she is now the Guild’s longest resident at around 150 days. My heart broke into 150 pieces when I read that information.

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Unfortunately, at that moment, I accidentally sent the Little Guild a laughing emoji in an attempt to “swipe up” so I could learn more information. Mortified, I then immediately sent them an apology direct message explaining that I wanted to read more about Bertha and I didn’t mean to laugh at their post.

As I’m in no position to adopt a cat, I thought I would share her here in case someone else is. She’s a senior cat at 10 years old. What I love most about her is how she looks like two cats in one. If you’re on Instagram, you can watch videos of her flopping around and meowing. Warning – she’ll steal your heart.

Here’s the description of her on their website:

BERTHA

Domestic Short Hair / Mixed (short coat)

Cats! 15 Cats! 16

Female (spayed), 10 yrs

Bertha is an affectionate and laid-back lady. She loves being pet and once she starts purring she doesn’t stop! She will roll from side to side to show you how happy and grateful she is to be getting your attention. Bertha is a quirky little girl who has been a total sweetheart from the minute we met her. She always seems to make us laugh, especially when she eats her dinner while still laying on her side! This pretty and sweet girl can’t wait to be somebody’s new best friend.

  • Approximate Weight:  11 lbs
  • Estimated DOB:  2/1/2011
  • Good with Cats: No

I have no idea if positing about Bertha on my blog will make a difference. I can only hope it does. I’d like to think my dad would be rooting for Bertha, too. Pretty sure Smudge wouldn’t, though. I’m okay with that.

For more information about how to adopt Bertha or how to support the Little Guild, please visit their website: https://www.littleguild.org/

 

 

Patriotic Pups for the Fourth of July 17

Patriotic Pups for the Fourth of July

It’s the 4th of July! You know what that means?

The year is more than half over.

Ha! Bet you didn’t see that coming. Yes, it’s true. We are officially more than halfway through 2021.

Since my brain can’t seem to wrap around how fast time is moving, I decided to distract myself by creating some patriotic pups.

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This is Indie! She’s a young Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Heath and I both had the opportunity to babysit for her recently. But since Heath is 100% smitten with her, I magnanimously offered to step out of the way so the two of them could be together.

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Say hello to Zelda! She’s an old-timey Bedlington terrier. I recently got to take care of her and her baby sister, Sadie. This is the second time I had the privilege of taking care of Zelda. The first time was over four years ago, well before she had a baby sister. I remember enjoying the experience, as Zelda is as sweet as 4th of July apple pie.

Patriotic Pups for the Fourth of July 20

Sadie, however, made this time quite different as she is a HUMONGOUS goofball. She reminded me so much of my beloved Smudge, I simultaneously wanted to laugh and cry. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him.

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Next, we have Fergus. Wednesday at work I heard some jingling outside my office door. In flew Fergus! His human mom had brought him to the library and one of my colleagues/friends brought him up the stairs to visit me. Wednesday was the last day of the extremely hot temperatures we were having (think close to 100 with the heat index). Since the library is nice and cool with our abundant AC (not common in the NW corner of CT), Fergus’ mom wanted to get some work done in a cool and relaxing environment. I asked if I could take Fergus upstairs with me. For the rest of the afternoon, Fergus sat on my desk intermittently napping and watching the world go by on Rt. 44.

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Annie is clearly a 4-star dog! Even when she’s muddy. I think that adds to her charm. I recently had the opportunity to babysit Annie overnight. Is anyone surprised to learn she’s a bed hog?

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Last but not least, we have Yankee Doodle Dodger.

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If you’re thinking that Dodger looks different, well…There was an incident at the groomers where “summer cut” meant one thing to us and something else to the person grooming him. I can’t believe how small a dog Dodger actually is. I’d been calling him “Pork Chop Dodger” all winter and it became clear I needed to apologize once I saw his true size.  Dodger forgave me (mostly) and he seems to have (mostly) recovered from being shaven. The humans have yet to recover.

I hope you have a safe and happy 4th of July! And remember — we only have six months left in 2021. Let’s make them good ones!

 

 

Virginia and Back Again! 25

Virginia and Back Again!

This past weekend, Heath and I drove almost 1000 miles in less than 60 hours. We headed out of Norfolk on Friday morning in separate cars – me in our newly leased Nissan Murano, complete with heated seats, panoramic sunroof, and front, side, and rear sonar systems, and Heath in our 2005 Altima which doesn’t even have door handles anymore because they all broke off due to our freezing Norfolk winters.

The two cars were necessary because we would be giving the Altima to Heath’s dad. We don’t need it anymore, and he has the skills and knowledge to keep a 2005 car running smoothly for several more years to come.

So, we agreed to meet Heath’s parents halfway-ish between Norfolk (CT, where we live) and Murfreesboro (TN, where they live). Heath selected Harrisonburg, VA, as our meeting point.

Harrisonburg just happens to be in an extremely lush and mountainous region of the country. The Monongahela National Forest sits to the left of it and Shenandoah National Park sits to the right. We were fully prepared to make the trip down and back in just two days because I now work Sunday afternoons at the Norfolk Library.

About 30 minutes into the drive home on Saturday morning, we suspected we might need a Plan B. We had stopped so many times in those 30 minutes, that we had barely gone three miles. It’s easy to linger among the Blue Ridge Mountains. Heath wanted to stop at particularly beautiful places to take pictures with his new camera.

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We both wanted to drive for a bit on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. We also wanted time to stop wherever we wanted, like this free little library.

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Marvelous finds like this little library are exactly why we love road trips so much.

Heath left the Plan B decision up to me. We knew we had the option of stopping at my mom’s house in Harrisburg, PA, spending the night there, and then driving to Norfolk on Sunday morning. This option appealed to us as Harrisburg is only 3 hours from Harrisonburg, as opposed to the 7.5-hour drive to get us back to Norfolk. Plus, we would get to spend some more time with my mom since we had only stopped for a quick lunch there on Friday afternoon.

But I felt anxious about having to be at work on time on Sunday. I imagined future Kelly and Heath driving to Norfolk on Sunday morning. What would it be like if we got stuck in traffic? Or if there was an accident? That level of anxiety not knowing if I would make it to work on time would be psychologically painful for me.

My boss at the Norfolk Library then did something incredibly generous – she offered to cover my first hour or so at the Library. Just in case! I am grateful every day for my job at the library. This kindness is just one more reason why I love working there.

With a little more wiggle room with when I had to be back, we decided to have a more leisurely drive to Harrisburg, spend the night with my mom, and then hit the road around 6:30 this morning. Almost immediately after making that decision, Heath took a right and we headed towards a flea market high in the mountains.

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There were NRA and Make America Great Again hats and signs for sale at this flea market. As I walked around the market, I felt acutely uncomfortable wearing my Sandy Hook Promise pin on my fleece sweater. I wear this pin often as a commitment to do all I can to eradicate gun violence in schools. I was afraid someone would ask me about it. I once met someone who denied the Sandy Hook massacre took place and I didn’t want to end up in that situation again. I also didn’t want to take the pin off because that didn’t feel right, either. I feel sad that this is what our country has devolved into.

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This picture is not at the flea market, but it’s the only one I had from the afternoon where you can see my pin.

Thankfully, nothing happened, and Heath and I continued on our way. We ended up stopping at Arrowhead Lake a short while later. I’ll just let you marvel over this picture:

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I also spotted the weirdest looking waterfowl I’ve ever seen.

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Seriously, though, that’s a dog named Harley. His human mom and brother were kayaking, and Harley kept running around the perimeter of the lake, jumping in every so often to chase the ducks and geese, with his mom yelling at him to, “leave the baby ducks alone!” Labradors!

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We stopped one more time after Lake Arrowhead; this time in Front Royal, VA for lunch. The lunch was okay, but the town itself was great. I especially liked the artwork on the side of this building:

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After Front Royal, we drove on to Harrisburg, and then did exactly as we planned: we spent the night at my mom’s house and then headed off to Norfolk at 6:30am. Special shout out to Heath who took over driving around 9:00am since I was struggling to stay awake.

We made it to Norfolk by noon, where I then made a quick salad of spinach and chicken for lunch, gobbled it up, and made it to the Library right on time!

What a great weekend – adventure, mountains, family, a dog, and making it to work on time, all with my favorite person in the world. I’m already looking forward to our next road trip; although next time, I’ll make sure to request some vacation days first!

And the Award Goes to ... 35

And the Award Goes to …

Calling all pets in Norfolk! The Norfolk Library is hosting a pet parade this Friday, June 11th at 6:30pm on the Village Green. 

And the Award Goes to ... 36

Yes, I made this poster using my favorite Norfolk animals. Obviously, I will not be a judge. How could I ever choose between my favorite furry friends in town? 

Although I wouldn’t say Abe R. Ham the pig is necessarily furry. More like tufty and dramatic, but I supposed that’s the prerogative of a pig!

And the Award Goes to ... 37

Abe R. Ham

Hammy, as he’s affectionately known, only cares about me when I give him apples and carrots. I’ve come to accept that we have this weird relationship – I give him snacks and he gives me 1.5 seconds attention. Then he’ll go rooting around the farmyard, honking and squealing as if the length of the grass and lack of crunchy leaves is somehow a personal attack on his pig-ness. Hammy would definitely win best actor in the Academy of Barnyard Dramatics.  

Now that I’ve awarded Hammy a prize, I can’t leave out the other animals. Well, except for that cat. I used a stock photo from Canva, the graphic design platform I use for all my social media work at the Library. 

I’m not anti-cat or anything. I simply couldn’t find any outdoor photos of my favorite Norfolk cats and I thought it was silly to include an indoor cat on a poster for an outdoor pet parade. This cat kinda sorta maybe looks like my buddy, Bracken, so that makes me think I can award the Canva Cat an Elmer Award for being Bracken’s stand-in. 

And the Award Goes to ... 38

Bracken

If you’ve never heard of the Elmer Awards, please click here to read about the storied history of the one and only award for Hollywood stand-ins that were given in the 1930s and 40s. 

Chloe, who may or may not be anti-cat depending on what her feline brother Dweezle is usually doing, is paws down Miss Norfolk Canine Beauty Queen. Her trendy silver color is all natural with her border collie merle coat and those blue and brown eyes can see right to your soul … or the hotdogs on your kitchen counter. Chloe is also known as quite a counter surfer in her household, so it’s a good thing she’s so stunning. 

And the Award Goes to ... 39

Dweezle

And the Award Goes to ... 40

Chloe

Next I’ll award Dodger the Sassy Britches award because even though he may have one of the sweetest faces in the history of Butterscotch Border Collies anywhere, there’s quite a bit of spice under all that fluff. Dodger, or His Royal Highness, as his other dog walker and I call him, doesn’t let a meal go by without insisting that he somehow contribute. And by “contribute” I mean that Dodger gets to sample some or all of it. 

And the Award Goes to ... 41

Dodger

Annie wins the All Around Perfect Dog award. But I’m still not convinced Annie is a real dog. I’ve told people I’ve met in the Barbour Woods while walking her that I think she’s a divine being come to Earth in a dog costume. Just to be clear – I don’t just blurt out this assertion. I usually say it after the person interacts with Annie for approximately 3 seconds and they realize they are in the presence of someone spectacular. The Barbour Woods person is then allowed to throw Annie’s ball, if they please, and I’m pretty sure Annie does this little maneuver to give the humans extra time to fawn over how truly delightful she is until she brings the ball back and it’s time to demonstrate again how perfect she is. 

And the Award Goes to ... 42

Annie

Since Annie is a hard act to follow, I’ll move on to Sheldon next since he’s a goat. And since he’s a goat (i.e., a Nigerian Pygmy goat), I’ll just go ahead and give him a GOAT award so he can be a Greatest Of All Time goat. It might be premature since he’s a young goat, but I think Sheldon has a lot of potential for goatiness — I mean, just look at his ears. 

And the Award Goes to ... 43

That leaves us with Fergus, who wins Everything Else. This award encompasses the bite-sized perfection that is Fergus — from his scruffy, adorable face, to his adventurous attitude, and every yip, snoozle, and pensive stare out the window in between.

And the Award Goes to ... 44

Fergus

And did I mention that Fergus has been known to fall asleep on human heads? The day this happened, I texted Heath and told him I would never be able to move again. That moment was one of the most joyful in my whole life. All because of little Fergus. 

And the Award Goes to ... 45

It’s truly a wonderful life where I get to love so many pets! And to think that on this Friday I get to love all the pets that come to the Library’s pet parade, too! Probably for the best they’re not allowing me to judge. Every pet would get a prize and I suspect the judging would take all night. 

If you live in the area, please feel free to join our pet parade. If you want to register your pet to participate, here’s the link: http://www.norfolklibrary.org/events/pet-parade-and-fridays-on-the-green-kick-off/

Otherwise just come and have some furry fun!

 

 

A New Credit to My Name 46

A New Credit to My Name

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life:

  • Games Attendant, Hershey Park
  • Mortgage Loan Auditor, Harris Savings Bank
  • Tutor, Sylvan Learning Center
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of North Carolina
  • Graduate Teaching Fellow, University of North Carolina
  • Research Assistant, University of North Carolina School of Medicine
  • Consultant, University of North Carolina School of Medicine
  • Assistant Professor of Psychology, Benedictine University
  • Associate Professor of Psychology, Benedictine University
  • Pet & House Sitter, TrustedHouseSitters.com; MindMyHouse.com; HousesittersAmerica.com; HousesittersCanada.com
  • Café Worker, Station Place Cafe
  • Writer, Norfolk Now
  • Online Editor, Norfolk Now
  • Liaison, Norfolk Hub
  • Executive Assistant, Norfolk Library
  • Director of Community & Creativity, Norfolk Church of Christ Congregational (UCC)
  • Community Engagement Coordinator, Norfolk Library

And, my personal favorite:

  • Dog walker!

A New Credit to My Name 47

Now, I have one more to add to the list:

  • Producer!

A New Credit to My Name 48

This one I did not see coming. But, yes, I am now a credited producer on a COVID-19 vaccine video.A New Credit to My Name 49

This video is the result of a collaboration with Dr. Richard Kessin, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology, Emeritus, Columbia University. For a little over a year, I’ve been helping Rich set up his website. Rich has been writing science columns for local newspapers in his retirement, and he wanted a website where people could access all his writing. As Rich is an expert in disease and vaccines, he was my go-to person to ask all COVID-19 virus and vaccine-related questions. The idea for a public service video came up and we just went with it!

You can check out the video here.

As someone who is three days away from being fully vaccinated, I am so proud to be a part of this video. I’ll be honest – I was scared to get the vaccine. I had concerns that it was developed too quickly and that there would be unknown effects that would only be revealed with time. As Rich explained to me, the technology to create and administer the vaccine is something that’s been in the works for over a decade. It may seem quick to us, but to the scientists it hasn’t been that quick at all.

Another point Rich made that resonated with me is that my worries were all unknown hypotheticals. What if this and what if that. COVID-19 is a very real and present danger. The risks of this virus are known. Why would I jeopardize my health and the health of those I loved for something that’s imaginary?

When I thought about the vaccine in those terms, I pushed through my fear and got the shot. There are many people in my life I would do whatever it takes to protect them and keep them safe. And if that means taking on the fear of the unknown, then I realized I would do that for them. Because I love them. Because they matter to me.

I recently got into a discussion with someone about the vaccine. I explained that I would continue to practice social distancing and masking to help keep people safe. This person explained that throughout my life I’ve already passed on many germs, getting people sick, possibly even killing them. People I would never even know. My conversation with this person then got cut off, so I’ll never really know what I would have said in the moment as my response.

But as I replayed that conversation in my head, here’s what I would have liked to say: What makes you think I’m okay with any of that? I’m someone who prioritizes the values of service to others and compassion in my life. I’m a regular blood donor. My bone marrow is in the national registry. My husband knows that if something were to happen to me, he’s to donate my organs – and my organ donor status is indicated on my license, too. I’ve learned A LOT in this pandemic about what it means to be a good citizen and a good neighbor. If there are things I can do, like stay home when I’m sick, wear a mask to prevent spreading germs, wash my hands, get a vaccine, why wouldn’t I do those things to help other people stay healthy and safe?

Why does it have to be such a big deal for us to care about others? Is there anything we can possibly say that will convince people to care about others simply because it’s the right thing to do?

I don’t know. But, I’m going to keep trying. This video is just one more way I can be a part of something bigger than myself. When I heard an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci recently, he said those of us who got vaccinated are part of the solution. Those who haven’t are now part of the problem. His words resonated with me. I am thrilled and delighted to be a part of the COVID-19 solution. It’s one of the few things I can do these days that has a direct benefit on others.

If you haven’t already gotten vaccinated, I encourage you to consider your reasons why. Think about those reasons in the context of what we actually know and what are the imaginary what-ifs. Think about what you’re truly willing to do for those you love. Yes, it can be scary to face unknowns. That’s why we have professionals who devote their entire adult lives to becoming experts. So they can answer our questions for us and alleviate any of our concerns.

So if you have any questions, you can ask me and I’ll pass them right along to Richard Kessin. I maybe be a producer, but I’m no vaccine expert. Just a fan of them!

Beary Good! 50

Beary Good!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

I’m especially grateful to the mama bear of this baby bear!

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You can watch a short video of this baby bear snacking on clovers and dandelions here.

Thank you, mama bear, for choosing our yard! And special thanks for not being grumpy at me when I finally got out of my car and ran to the front door.

At least, I think she wasn’t grumpy at me. I don’t know as I never actually saw her! Talk about a suspenseful moment of my life. After watching the baby bear for several minutes – my stomach complaining loudly the entire time that I needed to get inside and start working on my dinner – I pulled in as close to the front door as possible, put Heath on videophone just in case, and then ran to the front door and unlocked it faster than a bear licking a pot of honey.

It’s funny to think that just a few years ago my “Norfolk Bear Story,” was that I’d never seen a bear in Norfolk. It felt like everyone else had some sort of bear story. Bears showing up in their yards. Bears splashing in their ponds. Bears crossing their paths in the woods. Bears going through their garbage.

I didn’t think I was EVER going to see a bear like that, and, in fact, the first time I did see a bear in the wild it was at the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming in the summer of 2018. The experience wasn’t as magical as I hoped, since we saw signs warning park guests that bears were out and about, and then park rangers stood on the side of the roads controlling the crowd of onlookers. It totally lacked the wonder and awe that I crave during those sorts of natural encounters.

But here we are in May 2021 and now my Norfolk Bear Story is, “I’VE SEEN SO MANY BEARS.”

Here’s a bear outside my bedroom window!

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Here’s a bear crossing in front of me while out for a walk!

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Here’s a bear looking at me as I snap their picture from the safety of my car!

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And, of course, the baby bear in the yard!

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When I first encountered the baby bear, I called Heath on video phone so he could see the baby bear, too. He really couldn’t see it from where I was in the car. So I took plenty of video and pictures to share with him later.

Heath, who has SO MANY MORE wildlife stories than I do thanks to his job at Great Mountain Forest, shared these photos with me a few days later.

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I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED IT!

I have since asked Heath TO STOP HAVING WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS WITHOUT ME!

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of bear encounters. I always feel like the luckiest person in the world when a bear graces me with their presence. It makes me wonder what else is waiting for me in my future? And it serves as a good reminder that just because something you want isn’t happening right now doesn’t mean it never will.

The best part? When it finally does happen, it may even be better than your wildest dreams!

April (Snow) Showers 59

April (Snow) Showers

April in Norfolk, CT, is like experiencing all four seasons in one month. Twice I walked Annie without a coat and twice we’ve had snow showers (watch a short video of our most recent snow shower here).

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We’ve also experienced a hailstorm and for a few hours on a Wednesday afternoon we were under a tornado warning. Thankfully, the tornado never came. And all of these weather events are happening with pops of brilliant springtime colors around us.

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Although I weirdly miss winter already (I say weirdly because it clearly hasn’t gone yet) and the solitude that comes with a quiet snowfall, I’m also ready to fully embrace spring. I want continuous days of sunshine and warmer temperatures. I want the optimism of trees budding and flowers blooming to infuse my soul.

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As I wait for nature to fully catch up to my desires (our last snow shower was just this past Thursday), I continue to seek other ways to get my optimism fix. One easy way that I’m looking forward to tomorrow is donating blood at a local American Red Cross blood drive.

I’ve been donating blood for over twenty years, though not consistently. When I took Xyrem from 2008-2015, a medication prescribed for narcolepsy, one of the other unintended effects of the medicine caused me to lose so much weight I dropped below the 110 lbs. requirement to be an eligible blood donor. As the phlebotomist explained to me, I just didn’t have enough blood to give any away.

During those years, I missed donating. I have excellent veins and needles don’t bother me. I can’t think of any other volunteer activity that quite literally saves lives and requires so little effort on the part of the volunteer. You show up at the donation center, answer a bunch of questions, lie down on a table, feel a needle jab, squeeze a little ball to keep the blood flowing while you listen to some fun music, and then get up from the table to go sit at another table where you are offered all kinds of sweets and treats.

Talk about an easy way to be a hero.

In February, I reached a milestone with the American Red Cross – 24 whole blood donations for a total of 3 gallons!

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Being the minimalist that I am, I opted not to order a pin celebrating the achievement.  But I nevertheless feel a sense of pride, which when I think about it is kind of weird because all I’m doing is giving something away that I have more than enough to share.

So for any of you out there who are longing for brighter days (literally and/or figuratively), I encourage you to give blood if you’re eligible. Not everyone is, and if you’re one of those people, feel free to reach out to me and let me know. I will be happy to give blood at one of my future donations on your behalf.

If you’re in the Norfolk area, the American Red Cross will be at the Church of Christ (UCC), Congregational, 12 Village Green, from 1:00-6:00pm. If you’re not in the Norfolk area, check out the American Red Cross website for a blood donation drive near you.

For anyone who might be hesitant, I’m also happy to answer any questions about the process. I’ve donated twice during the pandemic and there are numerous safety protocols in place. I’m also happy to spiritually hold your hand during your donation time. You just have to let me know.

Happy Sunday everyone!

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Good Thing I'm Not a Hack! 67

Good Thing I’m Not a Hack!

Two weeks came and went, and I stayed true to my word not to write anything these last two weeks. Some days were harder than others to keep my commitment, especially when a new story idea popped into my head and I wanted to get cracking on the outline. Nevertheless, I stuck with my plan to give my writing creativity and imagination the break it needed.

I’m glad I did because I was reminded that I can, in fact, be considered an expert in matters of wellness, including work/life balance and stress management, when I re-read a roundup that I contributed to several weeks ago. Good Thing I'm Not a Hack! 68

Good Thing I'm Not a Hack! 69

Here was my answer:

Some healthy habits people can adopt to cope with stress during the pandemic are to keep a consistent schedule (the best you can) and schedule playtime. There are a lot of uncertainties during the pandemic, both in our local community and global one.

We keep waiting for “one more shoe to drop,” in what can feel like a never-ending string of negative events. There’s a feeling of helplessness that comes with these uncertainties, and the truth is the only aspect of the pandemic we can control is our response to it.

By keeping a consistent schedule, we are sending our brains a mental signal that we are still in control and this signal can reduce some of our feelings of stress and anxiety. The consistent schedule doesn’t have to be micromanaging your day down to the minute.

It can be as simple as getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, walking your dog in the woods every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 3pm, or sitting down for lunch every day and taking an actual break for 15-20 minutes.

These tiny rituals may not seem like much, but your brain is going to find them quite soothing. Also, because there is so much doom and gloom in our lives, it’s equally important to add planned playtime into your schedule.

Because of the pandemic, a lot of our go-to social activities are no longer available. Having planned playtime gives us something to look forward to, which boosts the amount of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, created in the brain.

So, you do not just get a dopamine boost from the playtime itself, but also the anticipation leading up to it.

Read all the answers in the expert panel here.

After reading my answer again several weeks after writing it, I felt reassured that I do take my own advice. I have no photographic evidence of me going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time, nor do I have evidence of sitting down and taking a few minutes for a lunch break, but I do of course have ample photographic evidence of walking a dog in the woods in the afternoon.

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What? Can’t find Annie in this photo? Here’s a video that may help.

I also have evidence of scheduled play time. It’s always a treat for me to spend time on the farm with my friend Katherine, Abe R. Ham the pig, and the goats. Zorro, who is getting older and suffering from arthritis didn’t come out to see me, but I got plenty of time with the little ones, Frankie and Sheldon.

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Frankie and Me

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Sheldon

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Abe R. Ham

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Zorro in his younger years

In looking at my calendar for the coming week, I realized I don’t have any scheduled play time lined up. Hmmm. The possibilities! Maybe I’ll hula hoop. Maybe I’ll watch the salamanders swim in the pond. Maybe I’ll color. Maybe I’ll sit and stare out the window watching all the cute woodland creatures snack on the birdseed I sprinkle outside in the morning since I can no longer keep a birdfeed up thanks to the bears currently out and about.

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Watch a video of this little squirrel here!

It’s fun thinking of all the possibilities. And if you have any suggestions, let me know!

P.S. – If you didn’t have time to watch the video …

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Spring Has Sprung!

Hello Spring! Now that we’re officially one full week into spring, I’m starting to see some signs of change throughout Norfolk.

First and foremost, bulbs are starting to bloom! Here’s the first little one I saw last Tuesday when I went to take Annie for a walk.

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Speaking of Annie, there is a direct, positive relationship between number of spring days elapsed and how muddy Annie gets on her walks. Here in Norfolk, spring is often referred to as mud season. These photos of Annie from our walk last week are perfect examples of why.

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I’m also feeling a sense of optimism and hope now that the days are longer and there’s more sunshine. I’m still grappling with the aftereffects of the time change, but it’s much easier to get out of bed in the morning when the sun is close to first light.

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Even with all my struggles as of late with narcolepsy, I’m delighted to report that I *finally* finished a writing project yesterday I started in November! I say *finally* because I thought I would have it finished by January. That thinking was ridiculously optimistic, considering my sleep challenges, and essentially working full-time again. Nevertheless, I am now the proud writer of the first draft of an adult fantasy novel. It’s for adults who miss the whimsical world of Harry Potter but want more romance and comedy in our fantasy stories.

I still can’t believe I wrote a manuscript that is over 96,000 words. I first started this manuscript back in July of 2016. Heath had given me a writing prompt of the word box. I then remembered one of my colleagues at Benedictine University telling me she thought there was a portal to another dimension in her apartment because her cat kept disappearing. I put those two ideas together and started writing. About 35,000 words and several weeks later, I stopped writing. I felt frustrated at how long the writing was taking, and I felt scared that I would never be able to finish a story of that nature because even at that time I knew it would be somewhere around 90,000-100,000 words.

So, I put the manuscript aside and started working on other projects. I have since written 8 books (!!!), the longest of which is 56,000 words (which, fyi, is a relatively low word count for adult books, but more on target for middle grade and young adult, which I was mostly writing). I guess that’s what I needed to do because I finally felt like I could re-commit to this project. Plus, Heath kept asking me to finish writing it because he loved the idea and some early pages I had shown him.

I re-started the project on November 1, 2020, with the kick off of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In NaNoWriMo, you’re considered a “winner” if you write 50,000 words in 30 days. I decided to start my story from scratch, but because I already knew these characters, and where the story was going, it was relatively easy for me to get those first 50,000 words. The only day I missed writing in November was the day Faith died.

After 30 days of writing sprints, my stamina petered out a bit. I made it a goal to write at least 100 words every day, just to keep momentum going. Even though 100 words a day isn’t a lot when you’re aiming for 90,000 words, it at least kept me moving forward. And, on most days, I ended up writing a lot more than 100.

Some days, I didn’t think I’d ever make it to the finish line. But on March 27, 2021, I typed the words The End and closed my computer.

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I did a victory dance around the living room, messaged Heath, and then life very quickly went back to okay, what do I do now?

At that point, it was close to bedtime so that’s what I did. For the next two weeks, I’m taking a break from writing. This blog post will be the last thing I write until April 11th. I’m kind of excited. I’ve never consciously chosen to take a break from writing like this, and I’m both terrified and relieved to give myself that kind of time.

Enjoy these early days of spring! And to those who celebrate – Have a happy Easter next week! See you in two weeks.

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View from the walkway outside the Norfolk Library