Since I am supposed to be on vacation this week, but am instead dealing with being willfully exposed to covid I will simply say to everyone: Stay safe and healthy on this July 4th.
Working at the Norfolk Library comes with a lot of benefits. For example, I’m allowed to bring Fergus with me whenever I’m taking care of him.
The Library also pays for most of my health insurance, which is such a wonderful contribution considering I work there part-time.
I’ve also been afforded opportunities to learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Norfolk Library identifies as an anti-racist library and that means doing some deep work to ensure that we are who we say we are. So when it came time for the library to commemorate Juneteenth, we decided learning more about this holiday would be the best way to honor it.
Tomorrow I lead a book discussion of On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed. If you have never read this book written by a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian, then I highly recommend it. It’s well-written, interesting, and a slim 148 pages. It also has me caring about Texas (and US) history in ways I never thought possible.
For example, I learned that the theme park Six Flags Over Texas, which was the original Six Flags, was so named because of the six flags of the countries that ruled over Texas in its history: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States of America.
Texas was part of the confederacy?!?!?!
Maybe I knew this years ago when I was in grade school or high school and maybe not. Because I had undiagnosed narcolepsy for many of those years and the fact that those years are now approximately 3+ decades ago, I’ve given myself leeway for not remembering a lot of what I learned and experienced.
I always thought of Texas to be a land of oilmen, cowboys and ranchers. This book has taught me that’s not at all the case. Eastern Texas, an area that is vastly green and fertile, was imagined by Stephen F. Austin as, “a western version of the cotton fields of Mississippi that had produced such great wealth for plantation owners.” Austin also knew that the land could never be developed without enslaved people clearing and planting the land as free labor and intensely lobbied Mexico, who was anti-slavery, that no Americans would come without the guarantee of chattel slavery.
Yep. Eastern Texas was developed on the backs of enslaved people all in the name of wealth accumulation for white people. Just like many other states.
Again, maybe I understood this reason why slavery was historically accepted in the development of the US from long ago and maybe I didn’t. Or maybe I’m now looking at this information with the eyes, heart, and mind of a 44-year-old white woman who has seen present-day racial injustice, inequity, and inequality in this country and who is *finally* paying attention to how it’s all connected.
Because you can’t read a book like On Juneteenth and not look at the bigger picture. Or realize that there are truths out there, you just had the privilege of not knowing about them. Imagine what would it mean if we were taught in school the words of Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, in his 1861 Cornerstone speech:
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
How many times have I heard people say the Civil War was about states’ rights? These words unequivocally show otherwise.
If we heard Alexander Stephens’ words taught in schools today, perhaps we would better recognize the deep-seated racism that existed and continues to exist in this country. You know, the kind of racism that gets some books banned in school districts or libraries because they suggest racism still exists.
If I could, I would give a copy of On Juneteenth to everyone in the United States. Then I would invite them to the Norfolk Library, either in-person or on-line, to talk about it. Because that’s what we do at the Norfolk Library and I’m glad to be a part of it.
If you decide to read On Juneteenth as a result of this post, let me know. The Norfolk Library’s book discussion is tomorrow night at 7:00pm, but that doesn’t mean we can’t schedule another one in the future or have a Zoom chat about it.
My world became darker this week with the loss of my friend, Cecily.
I met Cecily in November 2017, when we both attended a book discussion for The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. At the end of discussion, Cecily asked if I’d like to walk her dog Dodger a few times a week. She’d heard I was a dog person.
My life has never been the same since.
I’ve written about Cecily and Dodger multiple times on this blog. My relationship deepened with Cecily when Heath became one of her home companions in 2018. I often spent hours there on Sundays, chatting with Cecily and Heath, accompanying them on outings, and playing with Dodger.
Cecily had tears in her eyes the first time I preached at the Congregational Church in Norfolk. She stood in the pews and beamed at me when it was over. Cecily also accompanied me to my first Psychology of Stuff presentation I ever gave. She sat in the audience next to Heath at the Scoville Memorial Library and listened as I talked about why we have so much stuff and what we can do about it. The crowd numbered close to 100 and it was standing room only. Afterwards to celebrate, Cecily took us to the White Hart Inn for dinner.
More than anything, Cecily believed in me as a writer. She didn’t know me in my other life as a college professor with a long list of professional accomplishments including tenure and multiple peer-reviewed publications. So it was easy for Cecily not to judge that I left all that behind because I felt unhappy and wanted more out of my life. She asked me often about the stories I was writing and suggested just as often that Dodger would make an excellent character for one of them.
Of course, he would! Anyone who has ever met Dodger knows this guy has charisma and charm. That’s why he serves as the inspiration for the dog in my young adult novel called The Happiest Dog on the Internet. I never got the chance to tell Cecily that last month the manuscript was named a finalist in the Tassy Walden Awards for New Voices in Children’s Literature.
Mostly because I forgot.
When I last saw Cecily on Tuesday night, I reminded her of some of our favorite times together, like decorating her Christmas tree or dressing Dodger as a “chili” dog for Halloween. I spoke of the Norfolk Library’s pet parade last year and how poor Dodger had been shaved at the groomers because of a miscommunication. I told one of Cecily’s favorite stories about the time a cousin stopped her when she was out and about the town with Heath. “What’s with the guy?” the cousin wanted to know. Cecily loved to tell that story with a gleam in her eye because she loved to be on the arm of such a tall, handsome, and younger man.
I sat reminiscing with Cecily while she slept. I wracked my brain for more things to tell her. I knew that once I left my chair that would be my last goodbye. I wanted to prolong the moment. How silly of me not to think of this one thing that I know would have made her happy.
I suppose it doesn’t matter. Death goes on and the love I have for Cecily will stay with me in my heart until it’s my turn. Which, for the record, I hope is at least five decades away. There are many stories I have yet to write and many memories Heath and I have yet to make together. I hope we get the time.
Goodbye Cecily. I’m so glad you heard I was a dog person.
May is almost over! I’m bummed because I’m participating* in No Mow May and I’ve enjoyed not mowing the lawn this month.
If you’ve never heard of No Mow May, feel free to read this article I wrote for Norfolk Now about it. The gist is that not mowing your lawn provides spring pollinators abundant sources for food and habitat. It’s one of the easiest conservation actions a person with a yard can take!
Not only has it been awesome not having to mow the lawn, I love how wild and free the yard looks.
It makes me want to run barefoot through the wildflowers and dandelions. Of course I won’t because TICKS and SNAKES. But still. There is beauty here that I’m happy to appreciate from the gravel driveway.
Also something to appreciate from the gravel driveway — this little snake who was sunning themself when I came home the other day.
I have come a long way to be able to coexist with snakes. They’ll never be my favorite animal, and I certainly didn’t want to disturb this little one. I fully recognize that I am about 100 times the size of them, and I feel confident this snake is scared of me. At the same time, I also didn’t fancy stepping over them.
Because what if I do and the snake springs forward to wrap around my exposed ankle?
You never know!
Thankfully, all I had to do was take some baby steps and they slithered away under the porch.
I will try not to think of them working themselves into the basement! Laugh, if you will, but it has happened more than once at this house.
On a more positive note, in some cultures seeing a snake is a sign of good luck. Let’s see what good fortune is going to come my way….
* With the approval of the homeowners! If you are a housesitter like I am, please do NOT do No Mow May without the homeowners’ approval.
There’s a new man in my life and his name is Ted Lasso.
I’m pretty sure Heath approves because he’s the one who introduced us.
I had heard of Ted Lasso before. Headlines, especially during awards seasons, gave me some indication he might be worth getting to know. But I have enough going in my life, thank you very much.
Then on Monday, May 2, Heath put on Episode 1, Season 1 for me. He left for Planet Fitness. By the time he returned, I was done with episode 3. By Friday we were on Episode 7, Season 2. That’s approximately 500 minutes of television watching in four days. I say approximately because episodes are between 29 and 45 minutes.
Did I know at the start of last week I would be losing over 8 hours to Ted Lasso in 4 days?
No, I did not.
Do I regret what happened?
But, also yes.
I’ll start with no.
This show is outstanding storytelling. From the first episode, a viewer understands the stakes – underdog coach set up for failure. Because Ted Lasso is so dang lovable, you can’t help but root for him.
He’s also surrounded by a cast of characters that you either love or love to hate! They’re hilarious, infuriating, pathetic, and diabolical. Yet, they’re also complete characters with their own back stories that fully integrate into the world of Ted Lasso in compelling and nuanced ways.
After we finish season 2 and I have no choice but to wait for season 3, I want to go back and watch some of the first episodes with a writer’s eye and mind to see if I can pinpoint the who/what/when/where/how/why this show hooks viewers from the get go and wins awards. In 2021, Ted Lasso was nominated for 20 Emmys and won 7.
Here’s the problem though: 8 hours of television over 4 days is too much for me. I am a person who values rest. I like long stretches of time where I simply exist, looking out a window or lounging on a couch with only my thoughts for company. I enjoy reading books and journaling. I have writing that needs revision and unpacking that needs to be done now that I’m back at my regular housesitting house.
None of that happened last week. By Saturday, I felt so off and unfocused that I had no choice but to stop everything and go back to bed for a few hours in the afternoon to simply rest. I should know better by now.
Hats off to you, Ted Lasso. You managed to crack my carefully cultivated sense of mindfulness and well-being. It’s always a good day when I realize I’m not quite there yet.
P.S. – Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!
I recently found myself in the company of my friend, two goats, and a pig.
It’s a good place to be because I enjoy my friend’s company, Frankie and Sheldon are hilarious and adorable, and Abe R. Ham adds a certain level of drama to every situation.
I don’t know if all pigs are dramatic or just Hammy. Regardless, he been an excellent muse as I put the finishing touches on another middle grade manuscript that I will soon be querying. Yes, it involves a pig but that’s all I’m going to say about the story.
This manuscript makes ten total (not counting picture books), or over half a million words written in my quest to be a traditionally published author. I remember when I was a child with a notebook in my bedroom and I couldn’t get past the title and the name of the main character. How do writers do this? I wondered.
As I was writing the preceding paragraph, I couldn’t remember if it was nine or ten books that I’ve written and I had to make a list to count. So now I’m laughing because look at how far I’ve come!
I have written ten whole books in the last six years. For the record, only four of these manuscripts are high enough quality at the moment that I could actually send them out to agents to consider.
But, still. I had a dream to be a writer and here I am six years later and that’s exactly what I’m doing. When I decided I wanted to be a writer I had ZERO books. Now I have TEN. It really is something to wake up one day and realize that you are smack dab in the middle of your dream.
I have no intention of stopping. I write because I love it! I love creating new worlds in which anything is possible. Talking dogs — yes! Dramatic pigs — of course! Magic? You bet. Happily ever after? All. Day. Long.
Now I just wait for luck and circumstance to be in my favor. In the meantime, I keep writing.
I also keep getting out there and living life to the best of my ability. Yes, I’m looking at both of you, pandemic and narcolepsy.
Because how can you look at this photogenic pig and not think he doesn’t have a story to tell?
Could we please stop with daylight savings time? Forcing me into unnecessary sleep disruptions seems cruel. I have enough sleep struggles at the moment.
I am no longer cautiously optimistic my sleep medicine is working. I know it is. I’m finally getting into deep sleep. But it’s coming at a high price in terms of other effects.
Because the medicine is a central nervous system depressant it can cause breathing issues. Not only do I now snore, but the snoring is LOUD; I have both earwitness testimony from Heath and my newly downloaded SnoreLab app. The app literally calls my snoring “epic.” I sound like an angry swarm of bees attacking an equally angry dragon.
There have even been a few times when I stopped breathing. The medicine I take has been shown to trigger sleep apnea, so now I have a sleep study scheduled in mid-May to see how dangerous a problem I have.
I’m also back to waking up drenched in sweat every night. I had a brief reprieve when I made the switch from Xywav (the newer formula of the medicine) to Xyrem (the older formula). I had to switch because the Xywav includes an artificial sweetener as an added ingredient and I was having all kinds of GI issues as a result. I then had a few wonderful nights of absolutely no sweat. It felt glorious to wake up warm and dry! Now I wake up feeling cold, clammy, and uncomfortable. Sometimes I even have to change my shirt in the middle of the night when I take my second dose because I’m soaked with sweat.
These effects are not what I signed up for to treat narcolepsy. All I want is a good night’s sleep. And then we had to throw out a perfectly good hour this morning. I was a shaky, anxious mess this morning.
Here’s what’s keeping me going:
Thank goodness for this little guy. I’ve had the privilege of taking care of Fergus since Tuesday. We sit on the couch together for hours. He watches out the window; I read a book. He chases his ball and I laugh. These moments are pure joy. How lucky I am to be with Fergus. He reminds me that there are still good things in life. I know because he’s one of them.
So is Heath. He’s been super supportive. He knows the snoring and the challenges with taking Xyrem aren’t my fault. Still. I love Heath more than any other person in this world. I hate that my quest for good sleep is negatively affecting his.
Thankfully, Heath has travel plans taking him to Illinois in about a week and a half. He’ll be gone over a month. Even though I’ll miss him terribly, there’s relief in knowing that I won’t be affecting his sleep.
I don’t know if I’m going to be able to continue taking this medicine. I feel terror and relief at the thought. There has got to be a better way. I just wish I knew what it was.
In October 2021, the Norfolk Land Trust put out a call to local photographers asking them to contribute to a January and February 2022 exhibit of their trails. Now, I am not a photographer; however, I do take a lot of photos.
A lot of my photos are of Annie in the Barbour Woods, which happens to be a Norfolk Land Trust Trail. Sometimes, I even take photos of the Barbour Woods without Annie in them. She’s very fast and quite curious so she’ll zoom ahead to get in some good sniffs or bury her ball to dig it up.
Meanwhile, I walk to catch up with her and marvel at the natural splendor around me.
The most marvelous of those places (in my opinion) is the Swamp Trail. During the spring and fall, vernal pools pop up and the beauty of the trail takes on a fantastical quality. I have probably taken close to 1000 photos of the Swamp Trail in the last 2-3 years. One of them was bound to be good.
So I offered my photo for the exhibit.
Imagine my delight when my photo sold for $75.00!
To know that someone saw my photo and saw value in it is validating in surprising ways. I love those woods and I love being there with Annie. And I just happened to be lucky enough to be there at the right time with my smartphone to capture the way the light danced between the trees and water. I remember that day and how I felt awe and wonder at the way the woods looked. The moment felt like magic; like a wonderful gift that Annie, the woods, and I will share forever.
I took that photo and somebody saw something in it enough to pay $75.00. Yeah, that feels good.
Here’s the best part: I know the person who bought the photo. Norfolk has an abundance of good people, and this person and their spouse are two of them. I consider both my friends.
When my friend handed me an envelope today with the check, I shook my head. I wanted them to have the photo just because. My gift to them because when we eventually move, I will miss them dearly and I will miss their in-person friendship. It makes me so happy to know that photo has a home with them.
That feeling is worth way more than $75.00!
I also contributed a photo of Annie and Dodger running on the Carriage Trail.
Because of course I did. Raise your hand if you’re not surprised.
I can always tell when my sleep is better — the number of simple joys I experience throughout my day increase exponentially.
Lately, I’ve been delighted by:
all the animal tracks in the snow;
the way the snow accents the wreath I made;
the light streaming through the trees in the Barbour Woods;
Okay, I know this one is a little weird. But lately my body and mind have been craving functional forms of fitness and shoveling snow will give me that fix every single time.
I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying walking Annie through the snow-covered woods for the same reason. It’s such a great, blood-pumping, muscle-engaging workout to walk through the ankle-deep snow.
And last, but not least, these mashed potatoes:
I made a low fodmap vegetable stock recipe the other day. You throw a bunch of vegetables like leeks, the green parts of scallions, carrots, parsnips, parsley, and potatoes in a big pot with water and let it simmer for an hour. Then the recipe says to strain the liquid and discard the vegetables. Heath questioned the part about discarding the vegetables. I told him, “that’s what the recipe says.”
Yet, when the time came to actually discard them I looked at the wonderfully soft potatoes and thought, surely I should mash these instead of throw them out. Which is exactly what I did. And, oh, my, potatoes! They are the most delicious mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten, a sentiment also shared by Heath.
So that’s where I am these days. My sleep is improved enough that I find mashed potatoes marvelous. Life is good.