A few years ago, I got the idea that I wanted to live in Colorado. Maybe not forever. Just to give it a try.
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.
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.
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!
Roosevelt & Watson, who I met at the Home Depot in Highlands Ranch
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!
I think about death often. I’m sure many people do.
Sometimes the thoughts are with fear of the unknown. Having been raised Catholic, I’ve experienced more than enough trauma at literal interpretations of hell, and if I could change one thing about this world it would probably be not to scare children with eternal damnation. They have enough to worry about these days with gun violence, pandemic lives, climate destabilization, racism, and a dysfunctional government that includes politicians who make it clear that some of them (ie, BIPOC, queer, disabled) are worth less than others.
Occasionally I think about death with wonder. That’s usually when I’m in a good place spiritually. Those days are few and far between lately, and I suspect it’s from chronic stress due to poor sleep, capitalism that requires people to work to have quality health insurance, and lack of affordable housing in Connecticut.
Since my dad died in 2020, some thoughts of death are often linked with incredulity. He was literally alive one minute and dead the next. That’s it? I think. His life is now over?
Mostly I think about death with the fear of missing out, especially because it’s been seven years since Heath and I met, and I want as many years as possible to be with him.
My annual death meditation is different from all this kind of thinking. Its purpose is to reflect on how I spent my past year and to determine what I want to prioritize in 2023.
In 2022 I decided colorful creativity would be my theme. I would create art that was not the written word, which is usually how I express myself. I wanted to draw and paint with no purpose other than to have fun!
While I got off to a good start, my year did not go as planned.
Thanks to the pandemic and us being housesitters, we moved 8 times in 2022. From February – May, my art supplies were tucked away in a storage closet growing dusty.
Even when I had access, I didn’t have the motivation. I’ve accumulated more in these past six and a half years than I ever thought possible. The days of hoping I could get all my possessions down to one backpack is no longer realistic. With the increase of my own stuff, it’s gotten harder to live among other people’s lives. Especially when one has chronic sleep issues like I do.
I am not okay with the chronic sleep issues, and I continue to do my best to live with them.
I’m mostly okay with the stuff I’ve accumulated. We’ve been living in Norfolk for almost 6.5 years and I suppose that’s to be expected. And I’m going to have an opportunity soon to reduce and recycle some of the stuff I’ve accumulated. I will be ruthless and it will be fun!
Heath and I find ourselves at a crossroads. The couple we’ve been house-sitting for in Norfolk since September 2016 are permanently moving home. We will be living through big changes this year and we aren’t exactly sure what those changes are yet going to look like.
When I think about 2023 and imagine it’s my last year on Earth, for the first time since I’ve been death meditating, I’ve got nothing! There is nothing that I want to prioritize. No goals that I want to achieve. No places to visit. No relationships to hone. I just want to make it through this year of transition and come out still able to breathe. So that’s what I’m going to do. This year is going to be my year of breathing.
The best part is I have to do it anyway! I might as well do it with intention to help navigate all the uncertainty we’re up against.
Heath and I finally got around to celebrating my birthday. Taking vitamin D and iron, as well as tapering down my recently prescribed narcolepsy medicine to the lowest possible dose has helped tremendously with my energy levels. So I *finally* felt up for a day out!
We started with driving to West Farms mall in West Hartford to visit the YogiBo store. One of Heath’s greatest joys in life is stretching out on a couch to relax and watch TV and movies. Because he’s so tall, there aren’t many couches that afford him this comfort. We’re also still housesitting in Norfolk (going on six years!) and so the living room furniture is not ours to replace. So we’re limited in what we can do.
A few weeks ago, I had the idea to Google “couch alternatives.” Up popped the website for Yogibo. Heath agreed that it could be a solution for his desire to stretch out. We were then thrilled to discover Yogibo is not just a website – they have stores throughout the Northeast. We decided to head there on my next day off.
Wow, that store is fun! We came home with a Yogibo Max and Support, and we’ve both been enjoying them this last week or so.
Next, Heath and I headed to Dee’s One Smart Bakery in Glastonbury to pick up my birthday cookie cake. Dee’s in an allergy-free bakery. Neither of us have food allergies; we simply find these baked goods superior to any others in Connecticut.
Since there’s a Whole Foods across the street from Dee’s, we stopped there for lunch at their hot bar. I don’t know what they put into their mac n’ cheese that’s so delicious, but it’s some of the best I’ve ever eaten.
We then returned home to watch many episodes of Friends. I’ve seen the show multiple times whereas Heath had only seen a handful of episodes. My favorite part of watching it is hearing him laugh and say, “It’s so stupid.” Friends is a stupid, silly show and that’s why I love it – it’s pure entertainment that reminds me of my younger years.
This birthday celebration included nothing special or fancy. But it was exactly what I wanted – feeling mostly awake spending time with the person I love most in this world doing things that bring me joy. May the year be filled with more of the same.
I have re-discovered a new form of exhaustion! The good news is that this re-discovery means I’m sleeping well enough to notice. The bad news is that, well, I’m exhausted. I’m calling it bone-weary tired because it’s not just mental. This tiredness has seeped into my infrastructure. It comes with the territory of being a housesitter.
After fifteen consecutive months in the same housesit (phooey to you, covid), the owners finally made it home from being abroad. Fifteen months is a long time to housesit, and the effort and diligence of packing up, moving out, and making sure the house was ready to welcome their family home took several days of nonstop work. Up early. Late to bed. Oh, and also work at the library in the meantime.
Did I mention the ice storm? Yes, because there was also an ice storm that hit Norfolk on Friday, February 4. The storm itself was nothing special. Except a few tree limbs hung so low in the driveway that for three days, I couldn’t drive it.
Packing your car is not easy when you have to walk approximately an eighth of a mile one way on solid ice. Nevertheless, I did it. It helped to have the best form of motivation — mother nature in all her icy glory!
In the days following the ice storm, Norfolk turned into a sparkling ice palace thanks to the thick coating of ice everywhere and the brilliant blue skies and sunshine. I’ve never been so happy being so exhausted.
As I walked up and down the driveway over and over, I marveled at the wonder around me.
I also had my buddy Fergus as a companion, but I’m not sure he appreciated the splendor as much as I did. He likes to run, sniff, and be as cute as possible.
So even though I’m bone-weary tired, I got to spend a lot of time outside enjoying myself. I also chuckled to myself more than once to be careful what you wish for. As you may recall, in my last blog post I was craving functional fitness. I certainly got it this past week, and then some.
I’m also keeping track this year of invigorating experiences since I had one early on. The standings so far:
Last week my husband and I had the opportunity to pull double-duty for housesitting and I spent a few days with Oscar, the long-haired dachshund. I suspect when he’s alone Oscar wears a top hat and monocle around his house because he’s a rather dignified sort of dog.
Except when I photoshop a beanie hat on him:
Being with Oscar is a real treat, not the least of which is because his little legs make most of what he does hysterically funny. I will never get tired of watching him bounce down the stairs:
Also, Oscar’s human mom has Netflix and so my husband and I enjoy taking advantage of it. We’re working our way through Gilmore Girls. My brilliant 21-year-old niece got us hooked. She’s a HUGE Gilmore Girls fan and when she came to visit us last May we went on a Gilmore Girls driving tour because the show is set in the hypothetical town of Star Hollows, CT, and most small towns in CT could easily be Stars Hollow, complete with gazebos and town meetings.
Oscar likes to get up rather early, and normally I do too, but my early is between 5:30 – 6:30am and Oscar’s is 4:30 – 5:30am. One of the things I like to do when Oscar gets up early is feed him, let him out, and then we immediately fall back asleep on his couch. Sometimes, he’ll even share the pillow with me.
During this most recent housesit, Oscar followed his normal pattern. I, however, changed it up a bit and decided to stay awake for the rest of the morning. Up first on my agenda was meditation, then writing. I sat on the couch, cross-legged, set my timer, and then said, “Come on, Oscar, it’s time to meditate.”
And do you know what the little guy did? He crawled right into my lap! If my heart could howl in delight, it would have.
I know the timing is probably coincidental, but I couldn’t help wonder if dogs can sense the peace of mind and stillness that comes with meditation and are, therefore, attracted to it.
During my regular morning meditation that usually takes place at a kitchen table, Faith and Smudge, if I haven’t put Smudge back to bed with my husband because he’s whining to go upstairs, will lay directly at my feet. They’ll stay there the entire time and I rather enjoy having their company. Plus, I like to stick my feet under Faith so she can keep them warm in the morning.
While pondering this dog/meditation connection, I also began wondering about my relationship with dogs: do I love dogs so much because they love me or do dogs love me so much because I love them?
For example, on Sunday, my husband and I were at the Norfolk Library. He ended up taking a nap on one of the cushy leather chairs, while I sat in the center seating area editing a manuscript. Suddenly, I heard the pitter patter of little feet and I just knew a dog was in the library (it’s a very dog friendly library – they even have a water bowl up front).
A flash of white fur darted amongst the stacks and I thought, wait a minute! I know that dog!
Sure enough, it was Dodger! You would have thought I spotted a dinosaur the way I acted.
Dodger and I then rolled around on the library floor having fun and giving each other kisses before he and his mom had to head home.
Sometimes I wake up the morning and I still can’t believe this is my life – married to a man who is my best friend, playing with and taking care of dogs all day long, living in a town where dogs visit the library, and writing children’s books, mostly about dogs.
I don’t think I can ever say thank you to God enough for blessing me with these opportunities or to myself for finally listening to my heart which kept shouting at me that there was more to my life than what I had been living.
Little did I know the more would involve an incredibly handsome husband and more dogs to love than I ever thought possible.
So, thank you God. None of this would be possible without you.
And thank you to my husband who makes every week awesome.
Thank you Oscar, and thank you Dodger, for making last week so much fun, and thank you Faith and thank you Smudge for always being furry lights in my life.
And, finally, while I’m at it, thank you to the people in Norfolk who make living here so much fun.
The first time I visited New York City, my mom got us tickets to see Cats for my 11th birthday. Everything about the trip and the city appeared glamorous to me – the show’s costumes and makeup, the skyscrapers and people, the miles and miles of fancy stores with huge windows that displayed sophistication and wealth.
We returned to the city several times during the next two decades or so, usually to see a Broadway show, sometimes during the Christmas season. Every time, I felt a sense of wonder and awe and for a few years of my life I fantasized about what it would be like if I lived in the New York.
My husband, who was born and raised in the Nashville, visited New York City for the first time in October 2016. As a photographer, he found tons of inspiration in the people and architecture, and he’s been wanting to return ever since. So when an opportunity presented itself for us to housesit in an apartment in the financial district of NYC this last week, we said YES!
Nearly everyone we spoke to were so excited for us to spend Christmas in New York. We received many recommendations and we made our to-do lists. We both wanted to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the ice skating rink, so that’s where we headed on Christmas Day.
I felt almost giddy with nostalgia of the times my family and I had walked down 5th Avenue. Then we actually got to 5th Avenue and, Dear God, what had I been thinking?
Once when I lived in the Chicago area, I headed downtown on Christmas Eve to spend the evening with a friend and her mother. The city felt peaceful and quiet, with a cold solitude enveloping the night. Hardly anyone else was out and about and I delighted in how easy it was for me to find my way around and secure a parking space without parallel parking.
Naively, I held the same expectations for Christmas in New York. I could not have been more wrong.
THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE EVERYWHERE! People crammed onto every street corner, jostling for position to view the tree and ice skaters. SO. MANY. PEOPLE.
I still couldn’t resist having this picture taken:
Seriously, how cute is my husband?
Then we headed to Saks 5th Avenue. STILL. MORE. PEOPLE.
It was like Disney World. Literally. And I really do mean literally because this year Saks opted to have their windows display scenes from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
As a writer, I felt a huge sense of disappointment and dismay. Not to minimize the work and production that went into creating these windows, but where was the imagination in this process? Every single scene was a snapshot from the movie and I’m pretty sure most are featured on the Disney World ride.
Equally disappointing was that every window featured sponsorship by Mastercard. Although, I suppose nothing says Merry Christmas in our 21s century consumeristic society like a credit card.
Just when I was on the brink of feeling totally Scrooge like at everything going on around me, two small miracles occurred. First, I got to experience this child’s wonder at seeing the windows:
Then, I just happened to be there when the Saks’ storefront came alive in lights and music:
For a moment, I could let go of ALL. THE. PEOPLE. and I could feel the wonder around me.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last too long. I don’t know if it’s the energy in NYC or something else, but with where I am right now in my life, NYC and I are just not that into each other.
The real highlights of my trip were the animals I got to take care of and love. Meet Clyde, a mini-Schnauzer:
Schroeder, a Bichon Frise:
Sheena, a very vocal white cat:
And Heisenberg, a handsome ball of fluff and fur:
The single best part of the trip is the fact that Sheena rides around in a backpack.
We took her for a walk the first day and I’m so glad we did because it’s been so freakin’ cold every day thereafter, and even though Sheena has a sweater, it’s just too cold outside for her little body.
FUN FACT: The sweater Sheena has is the same sweater I bought for Cody the Boxer when I lived in Naperville, IL.
A gang of dogs and cats wearing matching skull-and-cross-bones sweaters? Sounds like a children’s book in the making!
There are so many benefits to the housesitting lifestyle, but at the top of my list are the sources of inspiration I encounter with each new house and animal I meet.
After this recent stay in New York, I can say with certainty that any fantasy I had about living in the city in now kaput. I wouldn’t trade the week for anything, though, because now I find myself dreaming of the stories I could write about my new furry friends.
At this very moment there could be an editor thinking to themselves, what I really want in a picture book is a story about a cat who goes everywhere in a backpack or a little dog who takes on the winter world when he’s wearing his flannel cape.
These will likely be the next stories I write. Because they’re based on my house-sitting adventures and animals I now know and love, the writing process is going to be one of joy and enthusiasm.
Nothing may ever come of these stories, although I hope that’s not the case. But in the meantime, I’m going to give myself some good laughs, stretch my creativity and imagination, and work on the art and craft of picture book writing.
Wishing everyone one a Happy New Year! May 2018 be filled with abundant joy, prosperity, love, light, and laughter.
End Note: I wrote this post before I found out yesterday that a dog I love dearly had to be put to sleep. He was surrounded by his family at the time, and although I am so sad the world has lost such a funny, loyal, brave, and true companion, I am grateful for the love and laughter he brought into our lives. If everyone who has a pet could give them a special hug and kiss from me today, I would appreciate it. The world is always a better place when there’s more love in it.
Happy Birthday to my blog! One year ago today I posted for the first time and I am now up to 97 posts. A little bit short of my (overly) ambitious 156 (3 posts a week), but I’ll take it.
Originally, I started this blog as a way to document my new career choice as a writer. I planned on writing about writing (there’s a novel idea [haha, pun totally intended]), as well as featuring some of my fiction writing (Fiction Friday posts), with a dash of other writing as well (poems, one-liners, life lessons from a dog, etc., for Whatever Wednesday posts).
Now a year in, I have more realistic expectations. It turns out there is only so much I can write about writing in any given week. A lot of my Memoir Monday pieces morphed into metacognitive pieces of how I am my own worst enemy in achieving my goals of being a healthy and peaceful person and a productive and prolific writer.
I actually quite like the evaluation process, having conducted program evaluation research for well over a decade, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that I ended up spending a lot of time reflecting on my goals, objectives, and whether or not I am making progress. As I continue writing my blog, I expect the process of what I am trying to accomplish over several different areas of my life, not just writing, will continue to fall to the forefront.
My Whatever Wednesday posts and Fiction Friday posts certainly stretched my creativity and writing muscles. But I often found myself feeling forced to come up with content. Although I am a big believer in having a consistent writing practice, I like to have freedom in the process. Telling myself I had to come up with a thought provoking one-sentence caption for a photograph or another flash fiction story created undue stress for myself and a lot of times I felt a bit resentful because the time and effort it took away from the writing projects that are closer to my heart (my children’s picture books and middle grade novels).
Therefore, year 2 of my blog will not include these outlets for my writing. Over the next few weeks, I will be updating the blog site to reflect these changes. However, at some point I would like to finish my Fox Through the Forest story. For those of you who have read, I feel it is unfair to leave Malcolm the fox and his friends stuck in narrative limbo. I know he has his journey to finish and I want to see him to the end.
It’s exciting to think about where year 2 will take me. A year ago, we were housesitting in Johnsonville, NY, and taking care of a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Border Collie, and a Bordernese mix, as well as two rag doll cats and a barn cat, in addition to goats and chickens.
Now we’re on the road in Joliet, IL, caring for an old timer Golden Retriever, a rescued Great Dane, a German Shepherd/Border Collie mix that came from the pound, one cat, and 37 (I think) chickens.
A year ago, I had no completed manuscripts over 1,000 words. Today, I have one complete 41,000 middle grade novel, and a 51,000 word middle grade novel sorely in need of revision. I wrote an additional seven picture book manuscripts. One of them won the top fiction prize in Kidlit College’s picture book contest. As a result, this manuscript is now being considered by five publishers. Plus, I now have an agent who makes me laugh a lot and is supportive of my story ideas.
I am so blessed and grateful to be on this journey. I thank God every day that I had the courage to change the life I was living for the one I wanted to live. I am grateful to my husband who has shown me unconditional love, laughter, and support as we realize our shared visions for life. My parents have also been incredibly supportive and I know they hope and pray for our continued prosperity and success, as do my extended family and in-laws. We have met so many wonderful people along the way and every day we make new connections.
We have no idea where this next year is going to take us, but there is not a doubt in my mind it will be filled with abundant gratitude, joy, love, light, and laughter. I look forward to telling you all about it.
With New Year’s upon us, it’s a time when a lot of us reflect on where we are and where we’re going, metaphorically, that is. I don’t know if it’s because of my measurement background, but this is something I do on a regular basis. However, I’m still traveling for the holidays (which is why I didn’t write a Monday post last week) and
I find it hard to think about where I am and where I’m going spiritually when a lot of my time and energy is spent on physical transitions.
Since December 26th, my husband and I have gone from Norfolk, CT, to Harrisburg, PA, to Pigeon Forge, TN, to Smyrna, TN and today we are heading out to Leoma, TN. We’ll be there until January 6th when we head back to Norfolk, CT. Because we like to be leisurely when we travel, we’re planning on making it a three-day trip. My husband likes to take many stretching breaks and sometimes a tourist attraction will catch our eye (I’m talking about you Natural Bridge). Occasionally we also get stuck in a time warp and for inexplicable reasons it takes a much longer to get somewhere than we anticipated, like the time it took us over nine hours to get from Smyrna to Cornelius, NC.
It’s therefore good that we have the luxury of time to get us where we need to go, just in case. On the other hand, I’ve been feeling a little bored with all of our time in the car, even though I consider my husband to be one of the most fun people on the planet.
Since we got married in February, my husband and I have driven over 30,000 miles on our housesitting adventures. We’ve driven all over the Midwest, the South, and the Northeast, including New England. We’ve listened to audio books, played games, and talked for hours about everything and anything.
The difference is since November, we have taken the same trips (Norfolk-Harrisburg-Smyrna and back) twice now, with some small trips of just Norfolk-Harrisburg too. I feel like I’m missing a sense of adventure. It’s always the same roads, same landscapes, same tourist destinations. My husband and I both like discovering new places and it’s one of the reasons we try to find a new place to go every week when we’re housesitting.
When we drove into Pigeon Forge last week, it was a place I’d never been before. There was so much for me to look at, I asked if we could turn off our audiobook because I had completely stopped paying attention. I was filled with a sense of wonder and awe as we drove through the Smokey Mountains. These feelings are something that’s not there when we’re on miles and miles of interstate with billboards, especially interstates and billboards I’ve seen what feels like hundreds of times over.
Funnily enough, I thought this was going to be a post about physical transitions but as I’m writing it’s clear to me this problem goes much deeper than just getting bored while driving. Have I become ungrateful for the wonderful opportunities that have been afforded to me with this wandering lifestyle? It sure sounds that way as I complain about the same-ness of it all. That’s not who I want to be and no wonder I’ve been feeling bored lately. When you simply let things go by in life,
you can end up missing everything and then you’re stuck somewhere where you have no idea how you got there and how to get out.
So I guess I will be going somewhere spiritually as I finish off these physical journeys in the next week. I am challenging myself to pay attention to what I see around me even though I think I’ve seen it before and even though I think I won’t like it. I challenge myself to watch the world go by me with a renewed sense of wonder and awe. And to not just be grateful for all I have, such as a husband who is my best friend, a car filled with safety features, time for adventures, and the financial resources to have them, but to express that gratitude every chance I get.