Tag Archives: dogs

Another Trip Around the Sun 1

Another Trip Around the Sun

Happy birthday to me and happy birthday to my blog! On August 1, I turned 46 and my blog turned 7.

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Birthday kisses from JJ, one of the goats we’re taking care of for the next several weeks.

This birthday was low-key for many reasons, not the least of which we’re still grieving for the stuff we had stolen a few weeks ago in Crescent City, CA. We spent the day working on a puzzle, which may not sound fun to everyone but Heath and I enjoy puzzles a lot.

This puzzle was especially challenging because the box only gives you a hint as to what the pieces should look like after you put them together.

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I wanted to give up at first because I thought the puzzle would be too difficult. Heath convinced me we should keep going. I’m so glad we did because it felt so satisfying when we finished.

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Working on the puzzle had the added benefit of keeping my mind worry-free. I’ve been feeling stressed lately as we try to figure out where we want to live and as I figure out what my next professional life should look like. Applying for jobs at the same time that I’m querying my latest middle-grade novel is especially demoralizing because I’m getting rejected on what feels like an almost daily basis.

It’s also demoralizing to find a job I would love in an area we’d be interested in living, only to do a home search on Zillow and see nothing available for less than $500,000. And I don’t mean nothing good available. Just nothing. No townhomes, condos, or houses. Who are the people that can afford these homes? What do they do for a living and will I ever be one of them?

The brightest part of my birthday was the cake. Heath found a bakery in Tacoma that makes custom cakes. He sent them some photos and this is the cake they made:

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I teared up hugging the cake designer after I saw that little face.

The cake is gluten-free, chocolate with a strawberry filling, and buttercream frosting. It’s absolutely delicious and upon eating our first slices Heath announced, “I always knew Fergus had strawberries in him.”

We’ll be in the Seattle area for the next month or so. Where we head next remains to be seen. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know! And keep in mind our camping stuff was stolen ….

 

Sleepy time, Colorado 7

Sleepy time, Colorado

A few years ago, I got the idea that I wanted to live in Colorado. Maybe not forever. Just to give it a try.

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This idea was much in the same vein as my desire to live on a New England beach. I even started looking for jobs in Colorado after a particularly bad night in Norfolk when multiple nights of narcolepsy-related sleep deprivation culminated with a nearby house having a loud, never-ending outdoor party (complete with DJ). I thought Heath might have to take me to the hospital to be sedated I was so agitated. The police were also unavailable to help. Seriously. I called them multiple times between 9pm and 12am, begging them to put a stop to the noise.

Anyway, I eventually recovered from that bout of sleep deprivation. But my desire to live in Colorado continued.

So when we found out our 6.5-year housesit in Norfolk was finally ending, I immediately began looking for a housesitting job in Colorado. We found one for five weeks in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, applied, and got it. YAY US!

We left Norfolk on May 14th and arrived in Highlands Ranch on May 24th. We were immediately blown away by the area.

For starters, this house is so well-designed! I could say that about the entire Highlands Ranch area. Everything seems new, as well as intentional. This neighborhood, in particular, has tons of walking trails. Not only among the houses, but also at the back of the neighborhood where trails take you through 8,000+ acres of wild backcountry.

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The only thing I found weird about the neighborhood was that after meeting many dogs, none of them were golden retrievers. I reported this observation to Annie’s human mom, which I called “highly suspicious.” Sure enough, a few days later I met two goldens. Annie apparently has magical powers to bring goldens to me, wherever we land. I always knew she was an extraordinary dog.

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Annie, the magical and extraordinary golden retriever

Now if only Annie had magical powers to fix my sleep. It turns out that sleep issues are a common problem when people move to high elevations. Highlands Ranch is over 5800 feet above sea level. Most people experience fractured sleep at night, with less time spent in deep sleep. Essentially, I have narcolepsy times two now. Suffice it to say, I am tired. Three-naps-a-day kind of tired.

So it’s probably for the best that we decided to test drive Colorado as a potential place to live. It may be beautiful, there may be a lot of dogs, and it may be fun. But none of that will matter if I can’t stay awake!

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Roosevelt & Watson, who I met at the Home Depot in Highlands Ranch

 

That's a Wrap.... 14

That’s a Wrap….

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.

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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.

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That's a Wrap.... 21

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!

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A Birthday Miracle

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.

Could I?

Why, yes! I’d be delighted to walk Dodger.

Thus began a wonderful friendship with Cecily and Dodger.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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That’s right! A birthday miracle if I ever experienced one.

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Happy Birthday, Dodger! You’re a good boy.

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In Celebration of Love

This past Sunday, Heath and I celebrated our 7-year wedding anniversary.

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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.

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2. Say “pay the toll,” as you pat Annie on the head while stepping over her.

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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.In Celebration of Love 33
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.

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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.

I cannot wait for these next seven years!

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And, Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Take the Longer Walk 37

Take the Longer Walk

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I’m so glad we did.

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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?

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Yes!

Always yes.

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These 10 weeks are going to go by way too quickly.

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Happy Holidays! 46

Happy Holidays!

If you celebrate Hanukkah, Happy Hanukkah!

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If you celebrate winter solstice, Warm Winter Wishes to you!

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If you celebrate Christmas, a Merry Christmas to you!

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If you celebrate something else (or nothing at all), may love be the greatest gift you receive.

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See you next year!

Know Thyself 51

Know Thyself

As part of my job at the Norfolk Library, I’ve been leading a book discussion on Gretchen Rubin’s Outer Order Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make Room for Happiness.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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I tried again.

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Then a third time.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Never again will I try to paint a vegetable.

Found on the Beach 63

Found on the Beach

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

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An English Cream Retriever named Hella

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Ducks

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Geometric patterns …

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especially on a perfect seashell!

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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.

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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.

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Then there was the morning I found a pair of washed up underwear!

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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:

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And here are a few sunsets:

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And since it’s Halloween, here’s a creepy tree we saw while in Essex, CT, last week.

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We’re here for another 2.5 weeks. Here’s hoping I find even more … including things I’m not even looking for!

 

Six Weeks 78

Six Weeks

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!

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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.

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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).