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

My Friend, Cecily

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

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

My life has never been the same since.

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

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

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

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

Mostly because I forgot.

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

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

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

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

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No Mow May!

May is almost over! I’m bummed because I’m participating* in No Mow May and I’ve enjoyed not mowing the lawn this month.

If you’ve never heard of No Mow May, feel free to read this article I wrote for Norfolk Now about it. The gist is that not mowing your lawn provides spring pollinators abundant sources for food and habitat. It’s one of the easiest conservation actions a person with a yard can take!

Not only has it been awesome not having to mow the lawn, I love how wild and free the yard looks.

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It makes me want to run barefoot through the wildflowers and dandelions. Of course I won’t because TICKS and SNAKES. But still. There is beauty here that I’m happy to appreciate from the gravel driveway.

Also something to appreciate from the gravel driveway — this little snake who was sunning themself when I came home the other day.

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I have come a long way to be able to coexist with snakes. They’ll never be my favorite animal, and I certainly didn’t want to disturb this little one. I fully recognize that I am about 100 times the size of them, and I feel confident this snake is scared of me. At the same time, I also didn’t fancy stepping over them.

Because what if I do and the snake springs forward to wrap around my exposed ankle?

You never know!

Thankfully, all I had to do was take some baby steps and they slithered away under the porch.

I will try not to think of them working themselves into the basement! Laugh, if you will, but it has happened more than once at this house.

On a more positive note, in some cultures seeing a snake is a sign of good luck. Let’s see what good fortune is going to come my way….

 

* With the approval of the homeowners! If you are a housesitter like I am, please do NOT do No Mow May without the homeowners’ approval.

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An Unexpected Gift

Several weeks ago I received an invitation to a child’s birthday party. When I first received the invitation, I wasn’t sure I was going to attend because I suspected I would be the only one wearing a mask. The party would be indoors and crowded.
Even though I am vaccinated and boosted, I am still cautious about covid. Omicron may be predominantly mild in those vaccinated and boosted; however, of the people I know who have tested positive, quite a few speak of the fatigue they felt for weeks afterwards.
I know what it’s like to feel fatigued for weeks (years, actually) thanks to narcolepsy. The medicine I’m currently taking is kinda/sorta working, so I don’t want to chance a step backwards with covid.
As the party day approached, I decided to go and wear a mask. Case counts had been declining and I knew it would mean a lot to the birthday kid for me to attend. But now I had another concern — what to get the birthday kid as a present.
I much prefer giving experiences than things. So when I saw the Hartford Symphony had Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert on their schedule for April 23 & 24, I knew this would be my gift. Not only does the birthday kid love Harry Potter (like I do!), but they also play violin.
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The plan was to pick up birthday kid at 11:00am for a 1:00pm show. I thought that would give us enough time to stop and get lunch somewhere and drive the 55 minutes to Hartford.
Around 10am, anxiety reared its ugly head. I had never been to the Bushnell Performing Arts Center. Of everything in this world that can give me anxiety, parking in unknown places is very high on the list. Especially the idea of running late and having to find a parking spot. Living in the Chicago suburbs for 8 years and driving downtown for shows will do that to you. I checked my map app and sure enough, traffic already increased the drive time by 10 minutes.
My brain whirred with mental math — if it now takes 65 minutes to drive there and we stop and eat for half an hour that only gives us 25 minutes to find a parking spot and arrive in time for the show.
ONLY 25 MINUTES FOR AN ANXIOUS PARKER IS NOT ENOUGH TIME.
I’m now texting the parent that traffic is increasing drive time. I’m going to leave now. I get in the car and go!
Except as I turn off my street onto the next crossroad, I imagine traffic getting even worse. What if traffic is so bad we don’t have time to stop for lunch?
I turn around and drive back to the apartment to get snacks.  I text the parent so birthday kid brings snacks for herself  just in case! 
 
I have now lost all the extra time I had by leaving a little bit early. I also still have to get gas.
When birthday kid and I are finally on the road, the drive time is now back to the original 55 minutes and I’m feeling much calmer because I know we have snacks.
We arrive at the Bushnell a little after noon. All my parking anxiety is quickly assuaged because the free lot that I knew about from the Hartford Symphony website is diagonal from the venue and it’s not even a third of the way full. It’s quite literally an anxious parker’s dream come true.
I’m further thrilled to learn there’s a small café inside the Bushnell. I order birthday kid the sandwich they want and I forgo the café options for my snacks because I know I’ll enjoy it more than the lunch offerings. We sit outside and people watch as all manner of Harry Potter fans stream into the area. Some are wearing wizard’s robes. All four Hogwarts houses are represented.
Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been years since I’ve done anything like this outing. I thought I would enjoy the movie and delight in the novelty of hearing the orchestra play. Both of those did, in fact, happen!
But what I enjoyed the most, the thing that ignited my soul from pandemic darkness where I hadn’t even realized just how dark it was in there because I’ve adapted to it after these two long years, was the shared experience of laughter, cheers, boos, and tears.
Over one thousand people sat in the theater with us. All wore masks. But that didn’t prevent us from cheering at Harry’s triumphs, laughing at Ron’s infatuation with the Beaubaxtons students, or gasping at the return of Voldemort.
The tears for me came when Alan Rickman’s name scrolled across the screen during the closing credits. Other people around me also expressed grief at the loss of such an iconic actor.
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I had no idea I was missing this kind of shared experienced until I was in the thick of it. It makes me wonder what else the pandemic has taken from me that I don’t even realize.
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A New Challenge in 2022!

This winter has been nothing short of wonky for Norfolk. December ended with warmer temperatures than usual, a lot of rain, and barely a dusting of snow. January also started off the same way. The second week of January changed everything – a few inches of snow and some chilly temperatures!

Just how chilly? On Tuesday, January 11th the temperature was -8°F with the wind chill. That day also happened to be one of my scheduled walks with Annie. I asked Annie’s mom how long she thought Annie could be out in the cold. Annie’s mom said she was more worried about me.

Pish posh! I replied (though not quite in those words). I believe that because my formative years were spent on an ice-skating rink, my blood carries a small percentage of ice in it.

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I was not at all worried about myself being in the chilly temperatures, especially when I wear the proper attire.

In the case of Tuesday’s temperatures, appropriate wear meant hat, gator, gloves, hand warmers, fleece-lined pants, LL Bean socks, Xero winter boots, and my Columbia Omni Heat coat that is filthy dirty but I remain steadfastly committed to because I only paid 75 cents for it while volunteering in Churchill, Manitoba.

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Annie and I set off with determination to complete our full loop of the Swamp Trail in the Barbour Woods. With blue skies that stretched for miles and a glorious sun for company, I felt confident we could do it.

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And I was right!

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By the end of our walk, my brain was awash in all the feel-good neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. When I returned Annie home, I reported that our walk was “the most invigorating thing I’ve done all year.”

Since the year was only 11 days old, I’m not sure I impressed anyone.

But I did come up with the idea that this walk with Annie will be the benchmark for my experiences in 2022. Anything notable that happens, I will compare it to how I felt on that cold winter’s day with Annie in the woods. By the end of 2022, I’ll have a list of my best moments.

Anyone want to guess how many will involve dogs?

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There’s Something in the Woods….

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I don’t want to alarm anyone in Norfolk, but there’s some sort of creature hanging out on the Swamp Trail in the Barbour Woods.

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This creature enjoys splashing and swimming. Every so often, she jumps out of the swamp and shakes off her coat all over innocent bystanders.

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If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get to see her. Be forewarned: encounters with this creature result in moments of pure joy and lots of smiling. I mean, honestly! Just look at those ears!

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It moments like these that I hold onto because the narcolepsy continues. Of course I’m still sleepy.

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Today, however, I am also hopeful.

When I spoke with my sleep doctor last week, we agreed to try a medicine that worked wonders for me for seven years. Overtime, its effectiveness diminished and the side effects became more pronounced. I’m hoping because I haven’t taken this medicine since 2015 that my body and brain will have completely reset itself.

Now, the challenge is getting the medicine. It’s only available at one pharmacy in the country and there’s a lot of paperwork and verification that needs to happen first. So far, I’ve had to email the pharmaceutical company a copy of my marriage certificate and license since the last time I took the medicine I had a different name ,and then on Friday I received notice I have to fill out a new enrollment application.

So, I wait.

In the meantime, Norfolk is on the brink of being a cornucopia of fall foliage. Now’s the time to get outside and enjoy it. Even better, bring a dog!

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Another Example of Why I Love Norfolk

The town of Norfolk has a new addition this week! Say hello to our social justice chairs.

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Photo by Erick Olsen

The chairs started with an idea by one person at the Congregational Church. Then, a whole lot of goodness and generosity happened. There was also a delay. But the chairs finally made their debut on Friday, August 27th, along with the following signs: God Sees & Loves All Colors & So Do We! You can see a video of the signs here: https://www.facebook.com/1118857914/videos/pcb.10225536106045713/923143698548997

I already wrote about these chairs for the June issue of the Norfolk Now. And since I’m not feeling that well this week (thank you, Narcolepsy et al.) and I don’t think I can write it any better the second time around, the original article is below.

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Norfolk resident Leslie Battis has seen Adirondack chairs outside of churches for over a year now. Often painted in vibrant rainbow colors representing LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, these chairs started popping up more frequently during the pandemic. Battis wanted to see her church, the Norfolk Church of Christ Congregational (UCC), have their own chairs, too. She thought they would be a great way to encourage conversations outdoors in a socially distant manner. But she also had a different vision for how the chairs should look – what if they were painted in all different skin colors?

For the past several years, the Norfolk UCC has promoted racial justice as one of its missions. Some of their activities, often in collaboration with the Rev. Dr. Shelley Best of The Redeemer’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Plainville, Conn.have included group discussions of books such as “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” and the documentaries “13thand “All In: The Fight for Democracy”Battis’s idea for these chairs would be an outward expression of the church’s mission, so that the town of Norfolk could see on the church’s front lawn their solidarity with their Black sisters and brothers.

Battis, who is also part of the church’s Fellowship & Growth team, brought her idea to the other members, who all enthusiastically and unanimously voiced their support. The next step was to price Adirondack chairs. Wanting to support a local business, if possible, Rev. Erick Olsen, pastor of Norfolk UCC, visited Olde Farms Furniture in East Canaan. Owners Ron and Ann Reich loved the idea so much they donated seven Adirondack chairs. “When Pastor Olsen spoke to me about the project,” says Ann Reich, “I thought it over and realized what a great opportunity to donate the chairs for this great cause. In these trying times, anything to bring all peoples together to live in peace and harmony is what I believe God wants us to do. I felt the Lord has been watching over us and keeping us safe through this pandemic, and this was the least I could do to give back to the community in some small way.”

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With its generous donation of Adirondack chair’s, Canaan’s Olde Farms Furniture helps Norfolk UCC bring its racial justice mission comfortably front and center. Photo by Erick Olsen.

With the chairs so generously donated, the next step was to determine the colors to paint them. Recognizing the need to choose colors with sensitivity and awareness, the church knew they needed an expert and, thankfully, already knew one–the Rev. Dr. Shelley Best. In 2019, Rev. Dr. Best’s art show, “What Is Black? Prayers & Portraits,” exhibited at The 224 EcoSpace in Hartford, showcased the myriad flesh colors that constitute “Black.” “The colors of Black people can be any color of human flesh,” says Rev. Dr. Best. “White, pink, brown, mauve. But when you identify as Black, there are shifts in how you are perceived and ramifications for your life.” Educating and building awareness of these perceptions is why Rev. Dr. Best is so enthusiastic about the Congregational Church’s project. “This installation goes one step further than walking in another person’s shoes. It gives people a chance to sit in another person’s skin color and think about the differences.”

After Rev. Dr. Best made her color recommendations, the church still needed to determine the best way to paint and care for the pressure-treated wood. Rev. Olsen reached out to Matt Bannerman, a local painter and owner of Mad River Painting Co. The spirit of generosity surrounding the chairs continued to flow as Bannerman offered to paint the chairs free of charge. All the church had to do was buy the materials.

“There is clearly something good in the air and in people’s hearts when so many friends jump on board an initiative like this!” says Rev. Olsen. “This project is powerful, not only because of its clear visual representation of our desire for racial justice, but also due to the creative collaboration it has inspired in Norfolk and beyond. I am humbled and delighted to find myself in the middle of a community that works in such a grassroots manner toward such a noble goal.”

At press time, the chairs are still being painted. Once they arrive on the Congregational Church’s front lawn, all are welcome to sit in and enjoy them.

*****

So we finally have our chairs! And do please come sit in them. Dogs are, of course, welcome, too.

 

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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!

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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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Annie Is Winning ….

Winter is upon us! A blanket of snow has covered Norfolk for many weeks now, and we’re gearing up for a winter storm tomorrow which is predicting an additional 12-18 inches of snow.

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Being the winter lover that I am, I’m still getting out a few times a week to walk Dodger or Annie.

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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Smudge and Twiggles Save Christmas

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.

And….

I didn’t win. Not in the top 12 and not even an honorable mention or special shoutout.

What a holiday bummer.

Except….

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.

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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.

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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

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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!”  

CRASH! 

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 … 

POOF! 

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?