Today marks my least favorite day of the year. For people with narcolepsy, daylight savings can wreak all kinds of havoc on our already precarious sleep-wake cycles. If my past is any indicator of my future, It will take me weeks to recover from this loss of one hour.
Morning #1 of Daylight Savings 2021
In the meantime, I hold onto the small things in life that bring me joy. Here are two examples:
First, meet Fergus! I had the delightful privilege of caring for this little fella for a few days recently. For such a small dog, he has taken up a big space in my heart.
Second, the artwork! The Norfolk Library is known for its rotating art shows. During the pandemic, the Library featured several shows from Norfolk Artists & Friends, a community of visual artists in Norfolk. When this piece was displayed in December/January, I told the artist, Hilary VanWright, how much I loved it — the colors, the message, the exuberance. When it came time to take the show down, Hilary gave the piece to me. Just like that! She didn’t have room for it and she knew how much I appreciated it. Every day I look at this art and I feel not only gratitude, but encouragement to keep going.
Since it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, here’s another small thing that has brought me joy lately:
The president of the Norfolk Library Associates brought in shamrocks for us to give to patrons. I love coming into the kitchen every morning and seeing the bright pop of green and the lean of the flowers towards the sun.
That’s what I’ll be doing these next few weeks. As I try to work within my disabled sleep to get back on schedule, I will lean into the longer days of sunlight. I know I’ll make it through these next weeks no matter what. But it’s good to have a literal beacon of light guiding me forward.
Stay rested, my friends! And may the luck o’ the Irish be with you this week.
Although I do agree with the critics that Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday, I am always an advocate for anything that adds more love to this world. Examples include my feelings for Heath, dogs, and polar bears, and, yes, that order is correct.
Our wedding day, Friday, February 12, 2016, at the courthouse in Nashville, TN.
To celebrate our anniversary, I asked one of my favorite Internet dogs, Casper, to film a Happy Anniversary video to Heath via Cameo. Heath is the one who first introduced me to Casper and his sister, Daisy, and their TeamCasp47 account is the only reason I have a TikTok account. They are the only account I follow, and I think it goes without saying that I am here for talking dogs being silly and mischievous.
You can watch our anniversary video here:
If you watched the video and didn’t understand the reference about the Elvis glasses, I asked if Casper could wear them in the video since the first words Heath ever said to me was to sing I’ll have a blue Christmas with you, but Casper wasn’t having it the day the video was filmed. Heath and I also like to indulge our sweet tooths with chipwiches from Dee’s One Smart Cookie in Glastonbury, and the day we got married we fell asleep watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in what was one of the best naps of both of our lives. It is also my dream that someday we are a family with six dogs!
Since I’ve mentioned both Heath and Dogs, it seems only fitting to also write something about polar bears and how much I love them. Well, I’m going to do one better and share with you an invitation to a program I’m giving in conjunction with our town’s annual winter festival, Winter WIN. This year the festival is virtual, and I offered to present Adventures with Polar Bears on behalf of the Norfolk Library.
Here’s the description from the Library’s website:
Join us on Sunday, February 21, at 4:00 p.m., to find out what it’s like to live among polar bears, one of the world’s cutest, yet most dangerous animals. In the fall of 2018, polar bear enthusiast Kelly Kandra Hughes spent seven weeks living at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, in Churchill, Manitoba, as a polar bear season volunteer. Known as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is the destination for over a thousand polar bears every migration season. This presentation provides an overview of Kelly’s time in Churchill and the surprising truths she learned about eco-tourism and life in sub-arctic Canada. Please register here to be emailed the Zoom link.
Finally, since this whole post is about love I’m sharing with you an initiative I’m working on as the Director of Community & Creativity at the congregational church in Norfolk. This year for Lent, we are adding more love to the world by offering daily loving kindness meditation.
If you’re not familiar with loving kindness meditation, it’s when you think of a specific person (whom you may or may not know, and whom you may or may not like) and send positive thoughts and love their way. Every day during Lent and Holy Week, we created a guided meditation with a specific person in mind, for example, a friend you haven’t seen in while or someone who has hurt you in the past.
Here are the opening pages from the devotional:
If you’d like to access the full daily devotional, you can do so here. It’s a large file because of all the photographs, so you’ll need to download it before you can view it. Feel free to share it with whoever you think may enjoy adding more love into the world over the next few weeks.
Both Dodger and Annie run with abandon through the woods, stopping to poke their noses in snow drifts, and ever so often chomping up a mouthful of snow when the mood strikes. One of the differences between them is Annie usually brings a ball on her walk while Dodger does not. I suspect it’s the retriever in her versus Dodger who just wants to show off his border collie agility skills.
Both dogs, in my humble opinion, are super-duper smart. Sometimes when I get lost in my imagination and debate who would be valedictorian in Kelly’s World of Dogs, it’s a tough choice. For example, look at how Dodger sits and stays in the car until I tell him to go:
I know the picture isn’t that impressive, so you can watch the video of Dodger showing off his “stay” skills here.
But in one way Annie has outshone my other beloved canine buddies simply because of how she approaches her ball on our walks.
Annie has a bazillion balls to choose from when we start. Usually, there’s already a few out in the yard, and she’ll scoop one up and bring it to me. I throw it, she chases, and then we continue our walk until the process repeats itself.
Sometimes, I’m not fun enough for Annie and her ball. When that happens, she’ll set her ball on the ground, push it beneath a log, under an upturned tree, off the creek bank, etc., and then work like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel trying to get it back.
You can watch Annie show off her digging skills here.
Most of the time, she’s successful. She’ll scoop up the ball again and be on her merry way.
Every so often, though, the ball is lost. It gets taken upstream, it gets pushed into a deeper hole, or sometimes a mole absconds with it. The last one is pure speculation, but it’s the only reason I can come up with for why sometimes her ball vanishes.
I also think it’s hilarious to imagine that a gang of moles have an underground network of tunnels in the Barbour Woods waiting to steal Annie’s ball.
Nevertheless, Annie tries to get her ball back. But after a few minutes, she decides, no, that’s okay. I’ll continue on without it. And then she does! Tail wagging, happy smile, Annie takes off into the woods, leaving the lost ball behind. I don’t think she actually misses it for even one second.
Here’s the weirdest part about Annie and her ball – nine times out of ten, she’ll find another ball somewhere in the woods! We’ll be walking along, me marveling at the beauty of the Barbour Woods, Annie zooming down hills, over tree stumps, and tackling over-sized sticks, and before I know it, she returns to me with another ball in her mouth.
Is it the same ball as before? Nope! Does it matter to Annie? Not at all.
We continue our walk, she occasionally lets me throw the ball for her to chase, and eventually we return to where we started.
Annie and her ball are an excellent primer for learning how to let go: Leaving something behind can be so hard, yet Annie does it with aplomb. She never knows where that next ball is going to show up, yet she almost always finds it.
What are we unable to let go of?
What could be waiting for us up ahead when we do?
A life lesson for us all, I think.
Looks like Dodger is going to have to up his game!
I snapped this picture in the Norfolk Library on November 10, 2020. Naturally, I posted it to the Dogspotting Facebook group to which I belong. The sole purpose of the group is to post pictures of dogs we’ve never met before and share their awesomeness with others.
A few days later, over four thousand people had liked this photo.
I didn’t have much to celebrate in 2020, but I will always have Koda.
Now that it’s 2021, it’s time for my annual death meditation. This is my fifth year in a row of imagining how I would live if I knew 2021 would be my last year on Earth, and thanks to the gut-punch-then-kick-me-while-I’m-down year that was 2020, thinking about my death this year has been quite different from past death meditations.
I experienced a staggering amount of loss and grief in the last year. It started early on with learning about Faith’s liver tumor in January, followed by the loss of Oscar Meyer Weiner Dog a few weeks later.
In February, we lost the incomparable Eve Thew, one of my first (and dearest) friends in Norfolk.
In March, the whole world changed as COVID-19 spread and we, humans, made it significantly and substantially worse than it had to be. Heath and I had to temporarily leave our Norfolk housesitting job, which meant I had to say goodbye to living with my beloved Smudge and Faith for the foreseeable future.
In June, my father went into the hospital after an acute attack of his nervous system by his own immune system. The doctors diagnosed him with Guillain-Barrè syndrome. While in the hospital, he also suffered a heart attack and contracted pneumonia. When he was released a month later, it was to come home to die.
My father died in the early morning hours of July 19th. Eight people attended his funeral, and nine people attended his burial three months later on a freezing cold and wet day in late October.
Four days after my dad died, Smudge unexpectedly collapsed. The vet recommended immediate euthanasia. I said goodbye through video messenger because that was the only option I had.
Then, on November 14th, I said a final goodbye to Faith. I had moved back into our Norfolk housesitting home on November 12th. All through the summer when I visited Faith, I asked her to please hang on until I moved back. With all the loss this year, I didn’t think I could handle losing her, too, and not being there.
On November 12th, I brought an overnight bag to get me through until the weekend. That Saturday, the 14th, Faith and I woke up together. We sang our going down the stairs song, which I created one morning while walking down the stairs back when we took care of four dogs – Tobey, Smudge, Faith, and Moon – and their tippy tappy paws provided a nice accompaniment. It goes a little something like this,
We’re going down the stairs
Without any cares
Not wearing underwears
It’s time to eat some food
We hope that it is good
If not, then we’ll be rude
Faith and I had a nice morning together. I snuck her lots of extra turkey slices every time I went into the fridge, because I thought she was looking a little thin. We went for a walk about around the pond and up and down the driveway. I even snapped a picture to send to her human mom and described Faith as being “very frisky on this chilly day!”
I then went over to our apartment to pack up the rest of my belongings since I had only brought that overnight bag for the first few days.
When I got back to the house, Faith watched me make five trips back and forth from the car. I set my belongings on and around the dining room table. That’s our staging area for whenever we leave or come back to this house. Faith has watched me do this unpacking at least a dozen times in the past.
She died less than three hours later. It was like she knew I had *finally* moved back to the house and she had fulfilled my request to please hang on until I got back.
As Faith lay dying, I lay next to her. Heath sat by her head. We both put our hands on her, giving her all the love we could. I stroked her little ears, scratched her head, and petted her back. I told her my favorite stories of our time together. I told her that she would be with Tobey, Smudge, and Moon again very soon.
I thanked her for the chance to love her and to live with her these last four years. That she brought so much joy and happiness to my life. And that it was her little face, more than Tobey’s or Smudge’s or Moon’s that I fell in love with at first sight on the TrustedHousesitters.com website that made me say to Heath, “Look at how cute this dog is! Let’s apply for this job.”
Losing Faith after losing so many other people and dogs this year was right in line with how awful 2020 was. At the same time, my love for and loss of Faith has instilled in me the mantra I want to take forward into 2021. We spent a perfect last day together. We filled it with love and fun and some of our favorite activities.
I didn’t know when I woke up on Saturday morning, November 14th, that it would be the last time I woke up with little Faith asleep next to me on her dog bed.
I didn’t know it would be our last time singing down the stairs.
That it would be our last parade up and down the driveway.
That it would be the last time I said, “let’s go to bed,” and then wait for her to walk up the stairs with me.
I didn’t know that my life would change (again) forever that day.
And it didn’t matter that I didn’t know because I enjoyed every single moment of that day with her. I loved her. I appreciated her. I thanked God for letting us be together again.
So, as I think about my own death and what, if anything, I would do differently if I knew 2021 was my last year on Earth, I think about that last day with Faith. I take that day with me going forward. That day with Faith will serve as my guideposts for how I want to live in 2021 – quality time with those I love, enjoying the quiet moments of our lives, and knowing and expressing just how grateful I am to be there.
For the last 10 years, a children’s book writer named Susanna Leonard Hill has hosted a holiday writing contest. Last year I entered a story entitled Christmas Peach Pie, and out of a few hundred submissions, I was in the final twelve. Voting ensued and I won third place! I’m now querying that story to agents and editors, so we’ll see what happens.
This year the theme was “Holiday Helper.” The stories are always judged on : 1) kid appeal; 2) adherence to theme; 3) quality of story; 4) quality of writing; 5) originality and creativity; and 6) following directions, including the strict word limit of 250 words).
I hadn’t planned on entering this year. But, the prizes seemed pretty good, and a story popped into my mind. I cranked it out in one sitting, made some minor edits and submitted it to the contest.
I didn’t win. Not in the top 12 and not even an honorable mention or special shoutout.
What a holiday bummer.
I really love the story I wrote (scroll down to the bottom of the post to read it). It features my favorite children’s story elements: talking animals being silly. I especially love a good dog story, and this one features my buddy, Smudge. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss this guy.
This week was especially hard for me because we got almost 14 inches of snow and there was no moment of joy as I opened the door for the dogs to run outside and witness their snow-fall antics.
Heath and I laugh often over the time we got so much snow, there was no distinction between the porch and the sidewalk. Smudge tore out the door, promptly belly flopped off the front porch and then swam a small circle before coming back inside, very upset at how the whole situation went down.
The absence of these moments in my life is one of the hardest adjustments with losing our Norfolk family pack.
We did, however, get to romp with Annie for a bit in the snow.
Doesn’t she look cute? I think she might have part Sasquatch in her, the way the snow freezes on her in such a becoming manner.
For those of you who celebrate, I wish you all a Merry Christmas! For all of us who are missing loved ones this Christmas, I’m holding you especially tight in my heart.
Now, without further ado, I give you:
SMUDGE AND TWIGGLES SAVE CHRISTMAS
Smudge patrolled the yard for the tenth time that night.
“Anything yet?” Twiggles the squirrel hopped from branch to branch as she shadowed the black Lab.
“Noth – hold on!” Smudge sniffed the air. Reindeer! Wrapping paper! Coal!
“He’s here,” howled Smudge. “Let’s go.”
Smudge and Twiggles scampered to the house. Three years of Christmas Eve patrolling and so far, they had only spotted the backsides of nine reindeer and a bumper sticker that read I brake for elves.
In his excitement, Smudge started barking. “SANTA! HEY SANTA!”
“HO, HO, OOOOOOOOH!”
Smudge and Twiggles stared at the lump of red and white velvet in front of them.
“What do we do now?” Twiggles poked the lump. Nothing happened.
“I think we’re supposed to put on the suit. I saw it on TV once with the humans.”
Twiggles and Smudge looked at each other. “Dibs,” called Smudge.
“Nuts,” said Twiggles “How about we split it? You take the pants. I’ll take the shirt. Then we can deliver presents together!”
They burrowed their way into the mounds of velvet. A wind began to whirl, magic began to twirl and …
Smudge and Twiggles found themselves on the roof sitting in Santa’s sleigh.
“What are you supposed to be?” asked Rudolph.
“Santa’s best helpers ever!” yipped Smudge.
“Oh, boy,” said Dasher. “This is going to be some night.”
“Merry Christmas to all,” howled Smudge as the sleigh took off.
“And to all a good night,” squeaked Twiggles. “Which way do we go?
Our daylight hours are dwindling. With the shortest day of the year only two weeks away, here in Norfolk we’re down to about 9 hours of daylight each day.
That’s a lot of darkness we’re up against.
On the other hand, it means that when I walk Dodger on Sundays, I get to see some spectacular light displays shining through the tree branches in the Barbour Woods.
I know winter is not the favorite season for most people. I think I’m in the minority as it’s my favorite season.
At least, I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite season. I do enjoy the leaves changing in fall and the promise of new life and growth in spring. And then we have those long summer days.
Maybe my favorite season is the one I’m currently experiencing?
Anyway, I do love winter. I especially love being outside when it’s sunny and cold. With the proper equipment and clothes, the experience can be wonderful.
On my walk with Dodger this afternoon, the light cast a gentle blue tint over the woods.
It’s magical, don’t you think?
And let’s be honest — Dodger is once handsome devil!
Feeling grateful to have this experience with one of my favorite dogs! At the same time, the experience is blue in other ways. Much like I wrote about when the leaves were changing color a few weeks ago, I can’t help but think of my Dad and how he didn’t know it was his last fall in 2019, just like he didn’t know it would be his last chance to see snow fall last winter. I suppose this cycle of “lasts” will continue as I work through my grief.
The only way forward is through. It’s not easy. It’s certainly not quick. But it is good. I think I’m starting to understand the expression good grief.
Thank goodness I have such a wonderful support system in place, with includes Heath, and Cecily and Dodger here in Norfolk.
Speaking of them, I managed to coax Heath and Cecily into participating in an Advent wreath lighting for UCC Norfolk’s online service this Sunday. You can catch us around the 11-minute mark. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1308360392861281
I hope you all have a wonderful week. Maybe it be blue in the very best ways!
2020 is a year of a lot of things — many of them are not good. However, 2020 is also the year I learned about something wonderful and uplifting — a reverse Advent calendar! With Advent fast approaching, this calendar is a great way to connect with the spirit of the season and do some good for your community.
Last year, I started working for a Congregational Church as the Director of Community and Creativity. One of the best parts of this job is I get paid to think of new ideas to engage people around town with the ministries of the church. With the pandemic severely limiting community engagement while at the same time making it more difficult for some people to meet their basic needs, I felt challenged to find something new and different for Advent, yet also meaningful for the congregation. Then I came across the idea of a reverse advent calendar and lo and behold — I found my solution!
A traditional Advent calendar provides individuals with a “door” or “window” to open on the calendar, inside of which a treat or inspirational quotation is found.
With a reverse Advent Calendar, individuals give something on each day of Advent. The reverse advent calendar I came across on social media had a theme focused around food banks. Since the Norfolk Food Pantry is housed in the church where I work, it seemed like a perfect partnership.
Photo courtesy of Lynn Deasy
A lot of people may not know this, but there are significant wealth disparities in Norfolk, CT. Yes, we have very wealthy families in Norfolk. To their credit, I have seen some jaw dropping displays of generosity in this town. At the same time, one-third of the students at the local elementary school are on free or reduced lunch, so we clearly have more work to.
The Norfolk Food Pantry has also seen their number of requests double in the last few weeks. They suspect the increase has to do with the discontinuation of supplemental employment assistance during the pandemic.
The reverse Advent calendar is a win-win situation. Participants get to do an act of kindness every day leading up to Christmas. People in need will have access to food.
Added bonus if you live in Norfolk: You can drop off your filled food box at Battell Chapel from 5:00-8:00pm on Christmas Eve and get to experience a drive through experience with luminaries, lessons, and carols.
If you don’t live in Norfolk, then I’m confident any local food bank would be grateful to get a box filled food.
If you want to hear more about how the reverse Advent calendar works, you can watch a video of the church’s online service here. I come in at about 6:36. You can also see my decorated reverse advent calendar box. Even though I am the Director of Community and Creativity, the creativity does not necessarily translate to arts and craftsy type projects.
Here’s a link to the Advent devotional I spoke of in the video. I made the devotional book myself and I think it’s one of my greatest creations in 2020. Okay, Canva helped. A lot. I don’t know what I would do without their templates because design and color combos are not my strengths. But I did find the quotes and choose the pictures featured each day. Anyway, I hope you like it! Here’s a sneak peak to entice you to click on the link!
And just to be thorough and accommodating, here’s an easy-to-print calendar without the daily devotional:
May you find joy and gratitude this Advent season! If you have any questions or would like to use the reverse Advent calendar daily devotional I created for UCC (Congregational), Norfolk, feel free to reach out to me at genesis.potentia(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com. A few simple edits and you can use it at any church, any where.
Last week was an emotional week for me, as it was for many Americans. I had already cried many tears in the last several weeks leading up to the election. I had hope that the current president would be defeated. But I also felt terrified he would not. I didn’t know how I could stand another four years of the heartache.
Someone once asked me why I care so much. I’m not always good at thinking of a quick response and I couldn’t come up with a coherent answer that summed up everything I was feeling about the election. I mean, I was sobbing at the time, so I’m not sure what kind of answer I could come up with in that kind of moment.
I’ve taken the time to reflect on that moment these last few weeks. Here’s what I’ve come up with about why I care so much.
In the past, I’ve served as a math and literacy volunteer at the local elementary school. Children are adorable! They’re clever and witty and they’re imaginations are delightful.
From one of the students I worked with at Botelle Elementary.
Knowing that our country purposefully chose to separate children from their parents at the border and put them in cages has destroyed pieces of my heart. I don’t understand why everyone also isn’t destroyed by this cruelty. Sometimes, I wonder if people just lack empathy that they could never imagine a situation in which they could be separated from their children in such an awful and scary way. And, perhaps, even if they couldn’t, surely they have heard the words of Jesus at some point in their lives – that which you did for the least of my brothers, you did unto me. I suppose those words don’t really mean that much to people anymore.
Or, what about knowing that these children are watching and hearing “the most powerful man in the world” berate, condemn, criticize, name call, insult, and admit to sexually assaulting women and not be held accountable? He is not a role model for children in any way, shape, or form. Yes, I cry over the idea that some children will lose their innocence because somehow this level of rudeness, incivility, and criminality is acceptable to many people. It will never be acceptable to me.
There is only one person that I stay in touch with from my grade school and high school years. She is a Black person and I love her dearly. When Heath and I eloped, I carried pictures in my pocket of all the people I would have had as a bridesmaid in my wedding party if we had married in a traditional ceremony.
How can I love her and value our friendship and not get emotional when I see people in this country targeted for something as stupid as skin color? What if she were next?
Some of my favorite students from my time as a college professor are Muslims. These students are some of my best and brightest memories from an often-depressing time in my life when I wasn’t brave enough to say I had chosen the wrong career path.
We share the same God! How is it fair that their particular beliefs are not just considered less sacred than mine, but also considered radicalized and extremist? Christianity has also had its fair share of radicalization and extremism throughout history, yet somehow, we’re better than others? How does that make sense?
One of my favorite people at the church I attend is a 90-something year old woman named Dottie. I love her! She has such a mischievous twinkle in her eyes and she is always happy to see me. Getting a hug from Dottie is one of my favorite parts about going to church on Sundays. I haven’t hugged Dottie since March due to the pandemic. It is almost painful to see her and not be able to hug her. So, yes, I cry over this loss. How many more people are out there who can’t hug each other? Who miss their family members? And for some people, there will never again be the chance to hug them. Over 238,000 people in our country died in part because of the ineptitude of our leaders. It is so bad that one of the most esteemed medical journals in the country took a stance on the election for the first time in their 200+ year history. My dad was a doctor. I took it very personally when the president claimed that doctors get more money when they put “covid” on a death certificate. Yes, of course, I am emotional!
But that’s not the case everywhere. Millions of acres of protected lands have now been opened for industrialization. God is the breath of life! When there are no more trees, how are we going to breathe?
Seeing polar bears lose their habitat and the rippling effects that loss of arctic ice has on the rest of the world devastates me. I can’t imagine a world without these bumbling, lovable, playful, and yes, powerful creatures, and I can’t imagine a world where we can survive the coming climate catastrophe from climate change. Why wouldn’t I cry over more loss of life?
As I think over this list, frankly, it is amazing that I wasn’t crying nonstop these last four years! But you grieve when you need to and then you live the best you can other times. Hopefully, there’s a good balance between the two. For the last month or so, I have been so out of balance I cried many, many days.
This morning as I stood by our sliding glass door and stared out the window, I realized a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Everything that broke my heart these last four years, those problems are still there. Yet, I now have hope.
In fact, today when I walked Dodger in the woods, I sang to God about my blessings. I do not have a singing voice. And then, I cried. But this time, they were tears of joy.