May is almost over! I’m bummed because I’m participating* in No Mow May and I’ve enjoyed not mowing the lawn this month.
If you’ve never heard of No Mow May, feel free to read this article I wrote for Norfolk Now about it. The gist is that not mowing your lawn provides spring pollinators abundant sources for food and habitat. It’s one of the easiest conservation actions a person with a yard can take!
Not only has it been awesome not having to mow the lawn, I love how wild and free the yard looks.
It makes me want to run barefoot through the wildflowers and dandelions. Of course I won’t because TICKS and SNAKES. But still. There is beauty here that I’m happy to appreciate from the gravel driveway.
Also something to appreciate from the gravel driveway — this little snake who was sunning themself when I came home the other day.
I have come a long way to be able to coexist with snakes. They’ll never be my favorite animal, and I certainly didn’t want to disturb this little one. I fully recognize that I am about 100 times the size of them, and I feel confident this snake is scared of me. At the same time, I also didn’t fancy stepping over them.
Because what if I do and the snake springs forward to wrap around my exposed ankle?
You never know!
Thankfully, all I had to do was take some baby steps and they slithered away under the porch.
I will try not to think of them working themselves into the basement! Laugh, if you will, but it has happened more than once at this house.
On a more positive note, in some cultures seeing a snake is a sign of good luck. Let’s see what good fortune is going to come my way….
* With the approval of the homeowners! If you are a housesitter like I am, please do NOT do No Mow May without the homeowners’ approval.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Fall is moving by quickly in Norfolk. Although maybe that’s not entirely accurate, because we’re still having warm, sunny days. What we’re also having in between are some really wet, rainy days. Thanks to those days, the bright orange, red, and yellow leaves lasted what felt like a nanosecond this year. At least I got to spend some time with my favorite farm animals, as I typically do every fall.
I feel incredibly grateful to have a friend who lets me soak up the restorative power of being around animals in nature. It’s a tonic for life that everyone should be able to access. I wish it were enough to get me safely across the sea of narcolepsy symptoms that continue to ebb and flow in my life. It’s not, but this time with Hammy, Frankie, and Sheldon, does help me stay afloat a little easier.
Hopefully by the next time I write on this blog, I’ll have started a new/old narcolepsy treatment. It worked wonders for several years and then it didn’t so I stopped taking it. I’m hoping my body will have reset enough that it will work wonders again. Wish me luck!
This past weekend, Heath and I drove almost 1000 miles in less than 60 hours. We headed out of Norfolk on Friday morning in separate cars – me in our newly leased Nissan Murano, complete with heated seats, panoramic sunroof, and front, side, and rear sonar systems, and Heath in our 2005 Altima which doesn’t even have door handles anymore because they all broke off due to our freezing Norfolk winters.
The two cars were necessary because we would be giving the Altima to Heath’s dad. We don’t need it anymore, and he has the skills and knowledge to keep a 2005 car running smoothly for several more years to come.
So, we agreed to meet Heath’s parents halfway-ish between Norfolk (CT, where we live) and Murfreesboro (TN, where they live). Heath selected Harrisonburg, VA, as our meeting point.
Harrisonburg just happens to be in an extremely lush and mountainous region of the country. The Monongahela National Forest sits to the left of it and Shenandoah National Park sits to the right. We were fully prepared to make the trip down and back in just two days because I now work Sunday afternoons at the Norfolk Library.
About 30 minutes into the drive home on Saturday morning, we suspected we might need a Plan B. We had stopped so many times in those 30 minutes, that we had barely gone three miles. It’s easy to linger among the Blue Ridge Mountains. Heath wanted to stop at particularly beautiful places to take pictures with his new camera.
We both wanted to drive for a bit on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. We also wanted time to stop wherever we wanted, like this free little library.
Marvelous finds like this little library are exactly why we love road trips so much.
Heath left the Plan B decision up to me. We knew we had the option of stopping at my mom’s house in Harrisburg, PA, spending the night there, and then driving to Norfolk on Sunday morning. This option appealed to us as Harrisburg is only 3 hours from Harrisonburg, as opposed to the 7.5-hour drive to get us back to Norfolk. Plus, we would get to spend some more time with my mom since we had only stopped for a quick lunch there on Friday afternoon.
But I felt anxious about having to be at work on time on Sunday. I imagined future Kelly and Heath driving to Norfolk on Sunday morning. What would it be like if we got stuck in traffic? Or if there was an accident? That level of anxiety not knowing if I would make it to work on time would be psychologically painful for me.
My boss at the Norfolk Library then did something incredibly generous – she offered to cover my first hour or so at the Library. Just in case! I am grateful every day for my job at the library. This kindness is just one more reason why I love working there.
With a little more wiggle room with when I had to be back, we decided to have a more leisurely drive to Harrisburg, spend the night with my mom, and then hit the road around 6:30 this morning. Almost immediately after making that decision, Heath took a right and we headed towards a flea market high in the mountains.
There were NRA and Make America Great Again hats and signs for sale at this flea market. As I walked around the market, I felt acutely uncomfortable wearing my Sandy Hook Promise pin on my fleece sweater. I wear this pin often as a commitment to do all I can to eradicate gun violence in schools. I was afraid someone would ask me about it. I once met someone who denied the Sandy Hook massacre took place and I didn’t want to end up in that situation again. I also didn’t want to take the pin off because that didn’t feel right, either. I feel sad that this is what our country has devolved into.
This picture is not at the flea market, but it’s the only one I had from the afternoon where you can see my pin.
Thankfully, nothing happened, and Heath and I continued on our way. We ended up stopping at Arrowhead Lake a short while later. I’ll just let you marvel over this picture:
I also spotted the weirdest looking waterfowl I’ve ever seen.
Seriously, though, that’s a dog named Harley. His human mom and brother were kayaking, and Harley kept running around the perimeter of the lake, jumping in every so often to chase the ducks and geese, with his mom yelling at him to, “leave the baby ducks alone!” Labradors!
We stopped one more time after Lake Arrowhead; this time in Front Royal, VA for lunch. The lunch was okay, but the town itself was great. I especially liked the artwork on the side of this building:
After Front Royal, we drove on to Harrisburg, and then did exactly as we planned: we spent the night at my mom’s house and then headed off to Norfolk at 6:30am. Special shout out to Heath who took over driving around 9:00am since I was struggling to stay awake.
We made it to Norfolk by noon, where I then made a quick salad of spinach and chicken for lunch, gobbled it up, and made it to the Library right on time!
What a great weekend – adventure, mountains, family, a dog, and making it to work on time, all with my favorite person in the world. I’m already looking forward to our next road trip; although next time, I’ll make sure to request some vacation days first!
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.
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.