Tag Archives: Connecticut
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.
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.
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.
And I was right!
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?
There’s Something in the Woods….
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.
This creature enjoys splashing and swimming. Every so often, she jumps out of the swamp and shakes off her coat all over innocent bystanders.
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!
It moments like these that I hold onto because the narcolepsy continues. Of course I’m still sleepy.
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!
Another Example of Why I Love Norfolk
The town of Norfolk has a new addition this week! Say hello to our social justice chairs.
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.
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 “13th”and “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.”
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.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!
I’m especially grateful to the mama bear of this baby bear!
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!
Here’s a bear crossing in front of me while out for a walk!
Here’s a bear looking at me as I snap their picture from the safety of my car!
And, of course, the baby bear in the yard!
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.
I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED IT!
I have since asked Heath TO STOP HAVING WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS WITHOUT ME!
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of bear encounters. I always feel like the luckiest person in the world when a bear graces me with their presence. It makes me wonder what else is waiting for me in my future? And it serves as a good reminder that just because something you want isn’t happening right now doesn’t mean it never will.
The best part? When it finally does happen, it may even be better than your wildest dreams!
April (Snow) Showers
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).
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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?
Cool Winter Blues
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!
Small Town Rally for Black Lives Matter
Norfolk, CT, is not a diverse town in terms of skin color. But that does not mean we cannot support our Black sisters and brothers during this time of crisis.
Last week, we came together for an impromptu peace rally on the Village Green. We wore masks, maintained social distances, and stood in solidarity with those who are protesting far and wide across the country.
There is nothing like impromptu singing to give you those good, spine-tingling chills that provide a jolt of optimism to the soul. You can listen to snippet of us singing America, the Beautiful here.
Today, we came together again to rally for peace and justice for Black Lives.
We stood in solidarity with our Black sisters and brothers. We said the names George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We professed no justice, no peace. We then marched to Town Hall and knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
If you haven’t already participated in a Black Lives Matter event, I would encourage you to set a timer for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and then kneel wherever you are.
Now imagine killing someone as you do it.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds of actual killing.
It’s a long time to torture someone to death.
To hear someone plead that they can’t breathe.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds of kneeling in silence with others broke my heart for every Black person who has to suffer this kind of collective inhumanity.
We then ended with the Reverend Erick Olsen of Norfolk Church of Christ asking us to make four commitments to supporting Black Lives Matter:
I am committed to supporting Black Lives Matter until we see systemic change. I’m not sure what that looks like in the long-term, but in the short-term I am supporting Black authors by buying their books and some of my friends and I are forming a book club to read the works of Black authors. We’re starting with Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes.
Our Norfolk event today was sobering and sad, and we remained peaceful. Being a small town of 1600+ people, it’s easy for us to maintain peace during these events. However, that’s not the case for many of the peace rallies throughout the country this past week and beyond.
For people who may be struggling with the violence that sometimes erupts during the protests, I urge you to remember three important points. The first comes from my k-12 education, the second comes from my doctoral studies in psychology, and the third comes from my life-long spiritual education.
- One of the seminal events in the formation of the United States involved looting and protesting when frustrated American colonists dumped 342 chests of tea in the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773. In today’s dollars, that’s the equivalent of $1.7 million of damage. If you enjoy the freedom that comes with our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, then you accept that there are ideals worth fighting for, and sometimes that fight becomes destructive.
- We are not as in control of our thoughts as we think we are. Behavior is led by the brain. And the brain is easily influenced by the release of neurotransmitters. When we are in situations of heightened insecurity, fear, anxiety, etc., the brain releases chemicals that push us into flight or fight mode. Sometimes, we fight. Add a group mentality into the mix and you have a perfect storm for rioting.
- Jesus, himself, was a rioter. In all four of the Gospels, he felt so much rage at merchants and money changers in the temple that he cast them all out, dumped out their money, and upturned their tables. Also, remember that when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus to put him to death, Simon Peter drew out his sword and cut off one of the guard’s ears. When we are angry or afraid, we do not act as we normally would.
I make these points to say that while I do not ever wish for violence to descend on our country (or anywhere for that matter), I understand why it does. If I couldn’t breathe, I would be clawing and fighting with whoever was holding me down.
I stand with Black Lives Matter. I hope you do too.