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.
Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before — I attended the Connecticut Cactus and Succulent Society Annual Show and Sale. It’s the society’s 37th year of running the show/sale — who knew?
Apparently many, many people. When my friend and I made plans to attend, we decided leaving at 8:55am would give us plenty of time to get Bristol before the doors opened at 10:00am. The Society promised a free plant to the first 50 families each day and we felt confident we would be one of the first in line.
We arrived shortly after 10am to a parking lot jam-packed with cars. A line of people spilled out the doors of the Bristol Senior Center. People exited the doors with plants already in their hands or clustered in a box.
Turns out we had NO IDEA what we were getting into. I expected maybe 10 people would be there and maybe a few tables with plants.
Wall-to-wall plants and so many people that I ended up trapped in a corner at one point and couldn’t get out for over three minutes. Thank goodness almost everyone was wearing a mask! I haven’t been in a crowd like that since before the pandemic. Add that to my high levels of introversion and I was ready to go 1.5 hours later.
Thankfully, I had Annie waiting for me when I got back to Norfolk since I’m taking care of her for the week. We played multiple rounds of fetch.
Taken from earlier in the week; yesterday was too soggy to take a photo.
I learned the secret to fetch with Annie is to always have 2 or more balls ready to throw. I also learned that when Annie gets tired of running, she trots towards the woods with her ball and buries it in the leaves only to dig it up and bury again.
After about two hours of playing (and resting), I left Annie home while I went to the Norfolk Library to attend a Celebration of Ukrainian Song and Dance. It was again a large crowd and the dance company had 14 dancers total. All the dances were lively with clapping, stomping, twirling, and jumping.
I enjoyed myself; however, by the end of the hour I again felt all my energy had drained. Thank goodness (also again) that I had Annie waiting for me at home. The rain had finally stopped and we headed out for a walk.
The Barbour Woods served as the perfect antidote to the crowds, noise, and overwhelm from earlier in the day. I didn’t even mind when a gentle rain fell from the sky. On the contrary, I lifted my head to the tree tops and let the drops splash my face. I felt refreshed and renewed.
When the rain stopped a few minutes later I whispered, “Come back.”
The rain didn’t come back, but Annie and I kept walking. Quietness surrounded me, except for the sloshing of my boots through the mud and leaves. With every step I took, I became more at ease until finally a sense of peace and joy had replaced the overwhelm from earlier.
Being with Annie in the woods was exactly what I needed it to be.
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.
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.