Heath and I are officially back in Norfolk! The return is bittersweet because we loved living at the beach in Old Lyme. Nearly every day, I watched the sunrise and sunset. Norfolk is beautiful and the woods and mountains here are outstanding, yet they also obscure the sun. I miss these moments in a way I can only describe as grief.
Rising before the sun and heading to beach became an easy morning ritual. I woke up with excitement wondering what today’s sunrise would look like. Sometimes Heath joined me and sometimes he didn’t. Either way, the moment was almost always perfect except for one morning when I missed Heath being there. I sent him this photo to let him know I was thinking about him.
He replied back that he needed glasses. So I added a pair and then a few more artistic liberties. As one of our friends said on Facebook, “I would argue Heath has never looked better.”
Here’s my last sunrise on Friday morning, November 18th:
In time, I know the grief will subside. Norfolk turning into a winter wonderland will help, especially when I’m out in the snow-covered woods with Annie.
Although she did snub me the other day after weeks apart. She jumped out of a car door and headed straight in my direction. “Annie,” I cried with my arms open wide. Then she ran right past me to say hello to everyone else standing in our group. Quite the humbling experience.
Eventually Annie did make her way to me and she howled in delight at our reunion, so she is, of course, forgiven. How could I not forgive her, since she is towards the very top of my gratitude list.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m grateful to those who read my blog and offer words of support and encouragement when they can.
This card is from my undergraduate mentor and his wife. Two people I love very much in this world.
The book offers bit-sized chunks of advice, suggestions, and observations across five different aspects of decluttering: making choices, creating order, knowing yourself and others, cultivating helpful habits, and adding beauty.
We started the book discussion on October 17 and we have three more sessions to go. What I most appreciate about the book is that some of the advice is applicable to more than just decluttering. For example, in Chapter 4, Know Yourself and Others, Gretchen Rubin writes, “When we know ourselves, we can customize our surroundings and our systems to suit ourselves – rather than try to force ourselves to follow someone else’s methods.
This past Friday, I tried very much to suit someone else’s system and the results were hilariously bad. That day, Heath and I attended a watercolor class at White Gate Farm in East Lyme.
White Gate Farm
The description invited us to join a local artist to learn pen and watercolor techniques and said we could bring our own subject or choose a vegetable from the farm.
We arrived at White Gate bright and early. The artist welcomed us with enthusiasm and assurance that today was just for fun. I had confessed that my artistic capabilities were practically nonexistent. We watched a brief demonstration. Then the artist told us to pick our subject and get started.
Since I am easily overwhelmed by too much choice, I faltered. The farm stand surrounded me with too many subject possibilities. I opted for scrolling on my phone to find inspiration from one of my beach walk photos. Except that overwhelmed me, too! We’ve been here since September 30th. Just in these 13 days of November I’ve taken 373 photos of the beach. I imagine I’ve taken over a thousand at this point. How could I choose among this kind of beauty:
The artist-instructor checked on us. I confessed I couldn’t decide what to paint. Without missing a beat, she picked a red onion from a crate and plunked it on the table in front of me. There you go, she said.
I looked at the onion and began sketching. I dipped my brush into the water and selected what I hoped would be a good shade of reddish purple. After a few minutes, it became obvious – I have no skills when it comes to onions.
I tried again.
Then a third time.
With each attempt, I felt more demoralized and disinterested in the process. I stopped painting for a few minutes and looked around the farm store. There on the wall, hung a t-shirt with a White Gate Farm logo that features a two-diemnsional sheep. So, I painted that.
Heath burst out laughing a few minutes later when he spied the sheep on my paper. “I thought it was a dog,” he hooted. We both had a good laugh, which was exactly what I needed to shake me out of my funk.
I pushed the onion away and pulled up a photo of Annie on my phone.
Then, I got to painting.
This watercolor is the best painting I have ever done. I know that’s not saying a lot, but for someone who does not have natural talent with visual art, I am thrilled with the result.
And the best part is that because I was painting Annie, the greatest golden retriever in the history of the world, I loved every second of the process.
Gretchen Rubin had it right. Forcing myself into the wrong subject led to feeling disgruntled and bored. Painting Annie, however, suited me.
Now that I’m on the other side of covid (even though I still have a cough), I’ve been walking the beach here in Old Lyme nearly every day. Here are some of my favorite finds:
A Wheaton Terrier named Samson
An English Cream Retriever named Hella
Geometric patterns …
especially on a perfect seashell!
A message in the sand from Heath, which I totally walked past since my head was looking down at seashells. We found out later the mystery object is a sac of skate fish eggs.
Unfortunately, I also find a lot of garbage. On one day, I found two disposable masks and some plastic. Every time I’m out on the beach I regret not bringing a trash bag. I just don’t don’t think about it until I’m already out there.
Then there was the morning I found a pair of washed up underwear!
I talked to one of the locals that morning as I strolled back to the house and she told me that she finds a lot of underwear in the summertime, as well as items like iPods, Fitbits, and wallets.
The most surprising thing of all that I found is a renewed sense of wonder and awe! I didn’t even know I needed these emotions supercharged in my life. But watch the sunrise and sunset for multiple days in a row and you realize that you may have been taking your usual walks in the woods for granted.
Here are a few of my favorite sunrises:
And here are a few sunsets:
And since it’s Halloween, here’s a creepy tree we saw while in Essex, CT, last week.
We’re here for another 2.5 weeks. Here’s hoping I find even more … including things I’m not even looking for!
I’m delighted to report that Heath and I are now living in a beach house! We’ll be in Old Lyme until November 19th. Air BnB described the house as “50 steps to the beach.” I tested that claim and it’s actually 60 steps. But, it could also be that I have shorter legs than the average person.
The view from our driveway
When my mom read my previous blog post where I said I always wanted to live at the beach, she asked me: what do you mean you always wanted to live at the beach? You hate the beach!
And that’s true — I am not a fan of south Atlantic beaches that are commercialized, hot, humid, and crowded.
Most of our family vacations in my pre-teen/teenage years were spent in North Myrtle Beach. We stayed in a high-rise hotel and I did not enjoy hours upon hours of laying on a towel surrounded by hundreds of people engaging in all sorts of loudness and tomfoolery.
Furthermore, the idea of sharks skulking about has always bothered me, so it’s not like I could find solace in the waves.
Instead, I spent most of our vacation hiding away in the hotel room, watching Bold and the Beautiful at 12:30pm EST, followed by Young & the Restless. I would then switch to the ABC soap operas at 1:30 to catch the last half of All My Children, followed by One Life to Live (my favorite) at 2pm and General Hospital (second favorite) at 3pm. An excellent way to spend the afternoon, in my opinion.
Yet ever since Heath and I visited Cape Cod the last week of August in 2019, I have felt drawn to the craggy, rough shorelines of the New England coast. Perhaps it was visiting in the off season, when the crowd consisted of a handful of people (or none at all) and the background noise sounded more like quiet laughter than amusement park shenanigans.
Falmouth, Cape Cod, late August 2019
Whatever it was, I started to fancy the peaceful solitude of a New England beach. Imagine if we lived there – the inspiration, the quiet, the atmosphere! So, I got it in my head that these weeks we’re away from Norfolk were the perfect time to live out this dream.
Why I equated three years of wanting something to always as in I always wanted to live at the beach, I don’t really know. Maybe anything before the pandemic feels like a lifetime ago. Speaking of which …
Covid finally caught up with me. It was after I managed to experience a radiant Old Lyme sunset our first night at the beach house, followed by a gentle sunrise the next morning. In between, I also befriended a chocolate lab named Otis who lives across the street.
But after that sunrise and those 12 wonderful hours, my throat started to feel scratchy and my voice turned hoarse. Then, I started coughing and my sinuses filled with congestion.
My first rapid test showed negative. What a relief, although I did feel disappointed that my streak of no colds was over. The last time I had a cold was in February, 2019. I also felt annoyed because I used three of my free different government-provided tests and they all yielded invalid results. Thankfully, Heath went out to buy ones that actually worked.
The next day, I felt worse. Fever and chills. General discomfort. A pounding headache. I took another covid test and this one lit up like a traffic signal. I didn’t even have to wait the full 15 minutes to get the positive result. As Heath said, “It’s not like it’s going to get less positive.”
Positive Covid Test #1
So now I wait to feel better. It’s been 9 days. I’m still congested. I’m still coughing. I’m still testing positive.
Positive Covid Test #2
It’s been four days without a fever. Less than 12 hours since I had a headache. Improvement, yes, but not enough where I’m comfortable being around others, especially since the rapid test still shows a positive result. And I really don’t want anyone to ever have to go through feeling this way.
I hope someday soon, I get another 12 wonderful hours, followed by another 12, and then 12 more until it’s just standard health and wellness most of the day.
Change is coming! It’s not just the change of season, although I am thrilled to finally be on the downward slope of this hot, dry summer to a (hopefully) cool, brisk autumn. Heath and I will be leaving Norfolk for approximately six weeks at the end of the month.
The owners of the house we take care of will be returning and that means we have to find a new place to stay. Since affordable, short-term, furnished rentals are few and far between in this area of Connecticut, we’ve been looking elsewhere in the state. We found this great website, FurnishedFinders.com, whose main clientele is traveling nurses, and there are a few possibilities in south/central CT. I’m hoping we find something on the coast, as I’ve always wanted to live at the beach. I’ll be working remotely at the library for most of the time, driving in once a week to work in person.
In the meantime, I’m mentally preparing for the separation.
I’ll be missing walks with Annie!
I won’t get to extol her virtues as the greatest golden retriever in the history of the world with her human mom twice a week. We’re aiming for once a week on those days I come back to work at the library. I really hope that works out! As Annie’s mom likes to remind me, Annie can’t tell time or the days of the week, so maybe she won’t notice my absence as much as I’ll notice it.
There also won’t be any possibility of chance encounters with Fergus as I walk to and from the library. He’s in this really hilarious salty skunk phase thanks to his recent escapades.
This photo is from his dig-in-the-dirt phase. Since it’s hard to evoke “salty skunk” in a picture, I opted for a visual aesthetic.
As president of his fan club, I should be there to reassure him that salty skunk spice is way better than the onslaught of pumpkin spice coming our way. I hope he knows how delicious I find him, no matter what he smells like!
Okay, yes. You caught me! I am being a bit dramatic.
Change is just hard. Mooning about dogs is my best way to cope with it.
When it comes down to it, I know we’ll all be fine. Annie and Fergus are beloved by their humans. And I’m not the only one in their respective fan clubs. They will be loved and adored, even if I’m not the one doing it.
But if you live in Norfolk, feel free to pick up the slack of dog enthusiasm while I’m gone. I’d be happy to give lessons on how to fawn over dogs as if they the greatest animals ever (which they are).
Heath and I finally got around to celebrating my birthday. Taking vitamin D and iron, as well as tapering down my recently prescribed narcolepsy medicine to the lowest possible dose has helped tremendously with my energy levels. So I *finally* felt up for a day out!
We started with driving to West Farms mall in West Hartford to visit the YogiBo store. One of Heath’s greatest joys in life is stretching out on a couch to relax and watch TV and movies. Because he’s so tall, there aren’t many couches that afford him this comfort. We’re also still housesitting in Norfolk (going on six years!) and so the living room furniture is not ours to replace. So we’re limited in what we can do.
A few weeks ago, I had the idea to Google “couch alternatives.” Up popped the website for Yogibo. Heath agreed that it could be a solution for his desire to stretch out. We were then thrilled to discover Yogibo is not just a website – they have stores throughout the Northeast. We decided to head there on my next day off.
Wow, that store is fun! We came home with a Yogibo Max and Support, and we’ve both been enjoying them this last week or so.
Next, Heath and I headed to Dee’s One Smart Bakery in Glastonbury to pick up my birthday cookie cake. Dee’s in an allergy-free bakery. Neither of us have food allergies; we simply find these baked goods superior to any others in Connecticut.
Since there’s a Whole Foods across the street from Dee’s, we stopped there for lunch at their hot bar. I don’t know what they put into their mac n’ cheese that’s so delicious, but it’s some of the best I’ve ever eaten.
We then returned home to watch many episodes of Friends. I’ve seen the show multiple times whereas Heath had only seen a handful of episodes. My favorite part of watching it is hearing him laugh and say, “It’s so stupid.” Friends is a stupid, silly show and that’s why I love it – it’s pure entertainment that reminds me of my younger years.
This birthday celebration included nothing special or fancy. But it was exactly what I wanted – feeling mostly awake spending time with the person I love most in this world doing things that bring me joy. May the year be filled with more of the same.
Activities I stopped doing consistently over the past few weeks because I’ve been so tired:
Eating with nutrition in mind
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Question: How cute is this teeny tiny screech owl named Artemis?
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.