We left Norfolk yesterday afternoon with no expectation for when we’ll return. Our 3-month housesit morphed into 6.5 years, and now it’s finally over. There have been lots of tears (me, not Heath) and lots of goodbyes.
I look forward to our future. We’re on our way to a housesit in Colorado by way of Harrisburg, PA, and Nashville, TN. The emotions of wrapping up our life in Norfolk are too raw right now for me to write about in full right now, so this blog post is all I can manage.
Most of these photos are from our going away “party” at the Berkshire Country Store on Saturday. I apprecaite eveyrone who showed up (and brought their dogs!), as well as those who offered well wishes if they couldn’t attend.
Fergus and his humans did come to the party, but I was too busy holding him to take any proper pictures. This photo is from our actual goodbye at Fergus’s house on Sunday morning. Of the goodbyes I had to make, this is one of the hardest. It’s tied with saying goodbye to Annie and her human.
I have nothing but gratitude and love for the people and dogs of Norfolk who stole my heart during these last 6.5 years. You have changed me forever. Thank you!
Dodger and I have been buddies since November 2017. At a book discussion of The Book of Joy by the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a woman I had not met before named Cecily said to me, I heard you were a dog person. She told me about her dog, Dodger, and wondered if I could walk him a few times a week.
Why, yes! I’d be delighted to walk Dodger.
Thus began a wonderful friendship with Cecily and Dodger.
Cecily left us too soon when she died last June, and the search began for a new home for Dodger. We couldn’t take him because of our perennial status as housesitters. We haven’t had a home of our own in years.
Thankfully, Dodger found a loving and devoted foster family where we expect he’ll live out his days. He even has two senior dog companions that are super agers (15 and 18). I couldn’t be happier for Dodger.
Dodger with foster sister Shiloh (age 15)
My only sadness around this situation is that Dodger no longer lives in the center of town. The foster family has made it clear that I’m welcome at any time. Just come on over, they say. But with my busy schedule, I can’t just pop in to say hello multiple times a week.
I especially missed Dodger this past week. His 14th birthday was on Wednesday, April 19th.
I texted his foster mom to wish him a Happy Birthday. Unfortunately, Heath and I were down to one car as the other was getting detailed, so I couldn’t see him for a birthday visit.
Instead, I spent the afternoon with Annie. Heath dropped me off at Annie’s house and we went on our usual sojourn through the Barbour Woods. We had a great time!
Because I didn’t have a car, I walked home going through the woods. In my six and a half years living in Norfolk, I’ve never walked home that way before.
Who should I see at the end of the Carriage Trail?
That’s right! A birthday miracle if I ever experienced one.
This past Sunday, Heath and I celebrated our 7-year wedding anniversary.
Some days I wake up and still can’t believe I’m married! The moment Heath and I met was such a surprise; the very essence of the word serendipity. I wouldn’t change anything about our love story and I’m so grateful to live it every day.
As I reflect on our seventh year, I can’t help but think of lucky number seven. I don’t know what that means exactly for a marriage, but I do know that with a lot of changes coming with this new chapter in our life as our Norfolk housesit ends after 6.5 years, I’ll take any and all luck given to us.
Happy Anniversary, Heath! In the spirit of our anniversary, here are seven specific things you do that I love:
1. Let Fergus sleep on your head.
2. Say “pay the toll,” as you pat Annie on the head while stepping over her.
I couldn’t find any pictures with Annie sitting on the steps; this is the closest one I have where she’s at least near the steps.
3. Sing silly songs you make up when playing around on the guitar.
4. Stop by the library while I’m working just to say hello.
5. Spritz and water your plants with the utmost care and concern for their growth.
6. Sit with me at the table even when you’re not eating.
7. Laugh at my daily doodles on the dry erase board.
Heath locked himself out of the house a few weeks ago. I drew this doodle that morning.
Heath does so many daily, little things to let me know how much he loves me. He also says thank you often and accepts my apologies graciously. I am grateful to know him and love him and to be loved in return.
With approximately ten weeks left to our time in Norfolk (we’ve been given an April/May departure from our long-term housesitting job), I’ve been savoring some of my favorite activities. At the top of my list of favorites is walking Annie.
I especially enjoy walking Annie in the wintertime. Cold feels exhilarating to me and the Barbour Woods look especially magical when covered in snow. Add in a blue sky and you’ve got a winter wonderland that’s perfect for romping.
On our usual walk this past Tuesday, I didn’t want the experience to end. Annie was having a great time zooming around and I was enjoying the extra solitude that snow brings to the woods.
But, I also had other places to be that afternoon and other things to do.
So the question became: should we take a second trail for a longer walk or should we head home after our usual romp around the Swamp Trail?
Friends, we took a second trail. Annie and I headed to the Beechwood Loop for an extra romp.
I’m so glad we did.
The number of romps we have left together is finite. Even if we came back to Norfolk in January to visit, who’s to say Annie or I would be healthy enough to take a longer walk. Or maybe the ground would be too icy. Or maybe there wouldn’t be any snow.
Should I take the longer walk with Annie?
These 10 weeks are going to go by way too quickly.
The book offers bit-sized chunks of advice, suggestions, and observations across five different aspects of decluttering: making choices, creating order, knowing yourself and others, cultivating helpful habits, and adding beauty.
We started the book discussion on October 17 and we have three more sessions to go. What I most appreciate about the book is that some of the advice is applicable to more than just decluttering. For example, in Chapter 4, Know Yourself and Others, Gretchen Rubin writes, “When we know ourselves, we can customize our surroundings and our systems to suit ourselves – rather than try to force ourselves to follow someone else’s methods.
This past Friday, I tried very much to suit someone else’s system and the results were hilariously bad. That day, Heath and I attended a watercolor class at White Gate Farm in East Lyme.
White Gate Farm
The description invited us to join a local artist to learn pen and watercolor techniques and said we could bring our own subject or choose a vegetable from the farm.
We arrived at White Gate bright and early. The artist welcomed us with enthusiasm and assurance that today was just for fun. I had confessed that my artistic capabilities were practically nonexistent. We watched a brief demonstration. Then the artist told us to pick our subject and get started.
Since I am easily overwhelmed by too much choice, I faltered. The farm stand surrounded me with too many subject possibilities. I opted for scrolling on my phone to find inspiration from one of my beach walk photos. Except that overwhelmed me, too! We’ve been here since September 30th. Just in these 13 days of November I’ve taken 373 photos of the beach. I imagine I’ve taken over a thousand at this point. How could I choose among this kind of beauty:
The artist-instructor checked on us. I confessed I couldn’t decide what to paint. Without missing a beat, she picked a red onion from a crate and plunked it on the table in front of me. There you go, she said.
I looked at the onion and began sketching. I dipped my brush into the water and selected what I hoped would be a good shade of reddish purple. After a few minutes, it became obvious – I have no skills when it comes to onions.
I tried again.
Then a third time.
With each attempt, I felt more demoralized and disinterested in the process. I stopped painting for a few minutes and looked around the farm store. There on the wall, hung a t-shirt with a White Gate Farm logo that features a two-diemnsional sheep. So, I painted that.
Heath burst out laughing a few minutes later when he spied the sheep on my paper. “I thought it was a dog,” he hooted. We both had a good laugh, which was exactly what I needed to shake me out of my funk.
I pushed the onion away and pulled up a photo of Annie on my phone.
Then, I got to painting.
This watercolor is the best painting I have ever done. I know that’s not saying a lot, but for someone who does not have natural talent with visual art, I am thrilled with the result.
And the best part is that because I was painting Annie, the greatest golden retriever in the history of the world, I loved every second of the process.
Gretchen Rubin had it right. Forcing myself into the wrong subject led to feeling disgruntled and bored. Painting Annie, however, suited me.
Now that I’m on the other side of covid (even though I still have a cough), I’ve been walking the beach here in Old Lyme nearly every day. Here are some of my favorite finds:
A Wheaton Terrier named Samson
An English Cream Retriever named Hella
Geometric patterns …
especially on a perfect seashell!
A message in the sand from Heath, which I totally walked past since my head was looking down at seashells. We found out later the mystery object is a sac of skate fish eggs.
Unfortunately, I also find a lot of garbage. On one day, I found two disposable masks and some plastic. Every time I’m out on the beach I regret not bringing a trash bag. I just don’t don’t think about it until I’m already out there.
Then there was the morning I found a pair of washed up underwear!
I talked to one of the locals that morning as I strolled back to the house and she told me that she finds a lot of underwear in the summertime, as well as items like iPods, Fitbits, and wallets.
The most surprising thing of all that I found is a renewed sense of wonder and awe! I didn’t even know I needed these emotions supercharged in my life. But watch the sunrise and sunset for multiple days in a row and you realize that you may have been taking your usual walks in the woods for granted.
Here are a few of my favorite sunrises:
And here are a few sunsets:
And since it’s Halloween, here’s a creepy tree we saw while in Essex, CT, last week.
We’re here for another 2.5 weeks. Here’s hoping I find even more … including things I’m not even looking for!
Change is coming! It’s not just the change of season, although I am thrilled to finally be on the downward slope of this hot, dry summer to a (hopefully) cool, brisk autumn. Heath and I will be leaving Norfolk for approximately six weeks at the end of the month.
The owners of the house we take care of will be returning and that means we have to find a new place to stay. Since affordable, short-term, furnished rentals are few and far between in this area of Connecticut, we’ve been looking elsewhere in the state. We found this great website, FurnishedFinders.com, whose main clientele is traveling nurses, and there are a few possibilities in south/central CT. I’m hoping we find something on the coast, as I’ve always wanted to live at the beach. I’ll be working remotely at the library for most of the time, driving in once a week to work in person.
In the meantime, I’m mentally preparing for the separation.
I’ll be missing walks with Annie!
I won’t get to extol her virtues as the greatest golden retriever in the history of the world with her human mom twice a week. We’re aiming for once a week on those days I come back to work at the library. I really hope that works out! As Annie’s mom likes to remind me, Annie can’t tell time or the days of the week, so maybe she won’t notice my absence as much as I’ll notice it.
There also won’t be any possibility of chance encounters with Fergus as I walk to and from the library. He’s in this really hilarious salty skunk phase thanks to his recent escapades.
This photo is from his dig-in-the-dirt phase. Since it’s hard to evoke “salty skunk” in a picture, I opted for a visual aesthetic.
As president of his fan club, I should be there to reassure him that salty skunk spice is way better than the onslaught of pumpkin spice coming our way. I hope he knows how delicious I find him, no matter what he smells like!
Okay, yes. You caught me! I am being a bit dramatic.
Change is just hard. Mooning about dogs is my best way to cope with it.
When it comes down to it, I know we’ll all be fine. Annie and Fergus are beloved by their humans. And I’m not the only one in their respective fan clubs. They will be loved and adored, even if I’m not the one doing it.
But if you live in Norfolk, feel free to pick up the slack of dog enthusiasm while I’m gone. I’d be happy to give lessons on how to fawn over dogs as if they the greatest animals ever (which they are).
Activities I stopped doing consistently over the past few weeks because I’ve been so tired:
Eating with nutrition in mind
Morning Pages Journaling
Visiting with Friends
Every so often I muster the energy to do one or more activities on the list; but it’s not every day and it’s not often.
I’ll know I’m in real trouble when I add Walking Dogs to the list.
Meet Willis! Willis is the most Muppet-Looking dog I’ve ever met.
As it is, dogs remain one of the greatest motivators I have in my current low-energy life. I’m hoping my energy situation vastly improves soon because I found out from some blood work that all my fatigue isn’t just narcolepsy-related. Both my iron level and my Vitamin-D level are ridiculously low.
In the meantime, I continue showing up for work and the dogs in my life, and I’ve decided to be perfectly satisfied with those choices. I could prioritize nutritious meals and more exercise since I know both are incredibly helpful to my sleep health, but then I’d have to quit my job and there goes my paycheck and health insurance.
The irony is not lost on me that the best choices for health right now I cannot prioritize because they would jeopardize losing my health insurance. The healthcare/health insurance system in this country will never make sense to me.
The only reason I still keep up with some exercise is because I’ve started thinking of Annie as my “accountability buddy.”
It’s been so hot lately, we’ve haven’t been hiking quite as much as we’ve been swimming.
Annie, not surprisingly, is an exceptional swimmer. She can both belly flop and dive, as demonstrated in the video below. (If for some reason you can’t see the video, please click here).
Annie is so awesome I can’t even be disappointed that spending time with her truly is a highlight of my blah days. Because even if I had all the energy in the world and I woke up feeling refreshed every day, I would still want to spend time splashing with her in a pool.
Well, it’s that time of year again. Happy Birthday to me and happy birthday to my blog. I turn 45 years old tomorrow and my blog turns six. I wish I could say I’m feeling festive. Unfortunately, I just feel tired and beaten down. In lieu of my typical blog birthday photos with dogs wearing party hats, here are dogs covered in dirt because that’s all I can muster today.
A friend recently told me that they lost one of their teeth. It’s going to take a few weeks until they can get an implant, but in the meantime they told me they’ve been getting the best sleep of their life.
“Which tooth?” I asked them. There’s not much I wouldn’t try at this point to get a good night’s sleep.
So, if you see me without a tooth in the coming days, weeks, or months, know that I still haven’t given up hope that someday I’ll get decent sleep on a regular basis.