A look back on the last year

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since my husband, our 3 furry kids and I packed up everything we owned and moved to Florida. It was an exciting time as we chased a dream and began a new chapter in our lives. We didn’t know how things would unfold or if it would even work out. But realizing how short life is, we knew we needed to at least try.

Just over a year ago, after the sudden and unexpected death of my friend, I found myself lost. Especially creatively. I saw the world through a different set of eyes. Ones that I truly believe made me live life more fully and deeper than I ever had before. I had little to no desire to photograph during this time which befuddled me because this is truly one of my passions. But after our move to the sunshine state, slowly I began to feel like creating again. 

The beach is my happy place. It’s where I find peace. It’s also where I found my soul re-awakening again after so many months of sadness and loss. The more I sat on the beach listening to the sounds of the waves lapping on the shore, feeling the wind in my hair and watching the sun set at the end of the day, the more alive I became. It’s where I was when I first started seeing images in my mind that I wanted to create with my camera. No matter how lost I had felt, bit by bit, I was beginning to see, my life was unfolding exactly the way it was supposed to.

It hasn’t been an easy journey. In fact, I’d be lying if I didn’t say more than once I wanted to pack up and go back home. To Pennsylvania. My safe place of over 40 years. It was familiar. And that made me feel less afraid. But I also knew if I did leave, it would only be a matter of time before I found myself wishing I was here, where I am now. In Florida.

They say when you step outside of your comfort zone, that’s when you truly begin living life. The thing you are most afraid of, is exactly the thing you must do. The bigger the fear, the more important it is you face it. I’m a creature of habit. I love familiarity and hate change. Everything in my life was new. If I was having a panic attack, all I had to do was close my eyes and picture myself back in my old home. Then I’d be ok again. 

We sold our home in June. It wasn’t our dream home, so we decided it was time for someone else to love it like we had. When we accepted the offer, I sat down and wept. Not because I was ecstatic, but because I could no longer go back to the one place I always felt safe and welcome. I was way outside of my comfort zone. Yet, somehow I knew I was right where I needed to be.

I was fortunate to get the job I wanted if we had moved to Florida. I’m working for one of the most talented photographers of our generation. Everyday when I go to the gallery, I am surrounded by his beautiful photographs. I work with a team of people I feel like I knew long before I ever met them. I get to talk photography with customers and co-workers. For a girl who wanted to shift careers from pet sitting to photography, there couldn’t have been a more perfect way to make this happen.

Because of my new work schedule, I have more time to devote to my own photography. I earned my CPP (certified professional photographer) at the end of 2018. I made progress toward earning my Master of Photography degree by getting more education and exhibition merits this year. I’ve learned new lighting techniques and bought more equipment so I can continue to perfect my skills. After reading some incredible marketing books, I’ve revamped my marketing plan to promote my newly open photography business in southwest Florida. And finally, I am photographing again. I think my work is better than it ever was. Not just because the old adage - the more you practice, the better you become. But because the time I spent lost helped me find my true photographic voice. For all the tears I shed, the moments I spent curled up under a blanket, the words spewed in utter frustration, it was worth it. For I am home. Here. In. Florida. Doing exactly what I was meant to do. 

The following quote has been my inspiration on this journey: 

“Follow your dreams, because you wouldn’t want it so bad if you couldn’t have it. The universe gives you these dreams because you can have them. If you’re willing to work for it, you can have anything you want.” ~ Michael Flatley

Always chase your dreams. The universe wants them to come true. I can’t wait to see what the next twelve months has in store for me!

Thanks for reading!


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Dog in Venice Florida

Living a simple life

When my husband and I decided to move to Florida, we wanted to give ourselves a trial period of at least a year before deciding if we would make this a permanent move or not. Thus, finding a home to rent was the best option for us. Our wish list included living someplace convenient to the beach, shopping places and where we thought we might like to work. It also had to allow dogs and be budget friendly as I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on rent. All of those conditions meant we would probably end up in a home smaller than the house we own in PA. Which I was ok with.

It’s been several months since we packed all of our belongings and moved to a place almost 1/2 the size of the house we’ve called home for years. It meant making decisions on what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away. At first it was hard, but the more I simplified my possessions, the more free I felt. We still have quite a bit of our stuff in boxes, some of which hasn’t yet been sorted. But all in all, I can’t help but admit, the advantages of living in a smaller home are many!

To start, I spend considerable less time cleaning. And while I may clean more frequently - it’s much harder to hide fur balls - in a fraction of the time, I can get pretty much the entire house cleaned. This has reduced my stress so much and enabled me to spend more time on other things that matter more to me.

While we downsized, we still have too much stuff for the space. Thus, I have virtually no need to buy anything for the home. Now, I’m not a shopaholic, but I do love picking out new things every once in a while to spruce up the space we inhabit. Not spending any money, means putting more in the bank and creates another stress reducer ultimately leading to a more peaceful life.

Living in a smaller space means less energy spent on heating and cooling the place. Cha ching! Even more money in the bank! And yet another reason to be less stressed. Which leads me to the next advantage of living in a small home. I’m more aware of the amount of energy it takes to maintain a larger home, the impact it has on the environment and how unnecessary it is. We love our mansions, but much of the space in these homes is hardly ever used. Yet, we have to pay to heat and cool it, repair materials as they age, and spend time keeping it clean. That’s a lot of energy.

A huge perk of living in small home is how much more time I have to do things I really want to do. While I am working a lot - I have a full-time job, manage my pet sitting business up north and work on marketing my photography business - on my days off, I’m not trying to cram a ton of household chores into my day. I don’t feel worn out, exhausted and frustrated because all I did was “work” in my off duty hours. That right there has improved my state of mind tremendously.

As I think about the next home I want to own, I do know I’d like a little more space than I have right now. I also know I’d like an outdoor area to hang out in when the weather’s nice. Which is a whole lot often here than up north. And I want to create a home that is calm, relaxing and peaceful. I don’t want to fill up the space with “stuff” just because. I want to surround myself with things that matter to me - like art work from my travels, photos of the people in my life, and and design touches that are practical as well as pleasing to the eye.

While it was hard to downsize, I am so glad I did! I truly understand why more and more people are opting for tiny homes. For me, that is too extreme. Life should be more about experiences than responsibilities. I want to look back on my life fondly remembering all the good times I had instead of feeling regret over working so hard to own material possessions.

Thanks for reading!


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man and dog on bench in front of house

Looking back on 13 years

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. I’m not superstitious, but I have decided to embrace our 13th as our lucky year! It was a pretty low keyed day since we both worked. But we did go out to dinner to a restaurant we’ve been wanting to try but always had a huge crowd. By the time we got there, it was well past normal dinner time hours and surprisingly there was a short wait. We thought it would be perfect since it was right on the intercoastal waterway. And it was, until shortly after we arrived, the sun set and we were sitting in darkness except for the lights on the tables. Even still, it was nice to spend a quiet evening together doing something other than work after work!

One of my traditions has been to bring a camera, set up my tripod and take a photo of us on or near the day of our anniversary. You’d think that with me having a camera almost everywhere we go, we’d have plenty of photos of us. The truth is, we have very few. Sure, we take the obligatory selfies whenever we do something exciting that we want to share on social media. But I’d certainly never consider them print worthy.

Since I’m always behind the camera, I’m rarely in any photos. I know one day I’ll be grateful I’ve done this. My ultimate goal is to print a book of us, through all the years of our marriage. This is us…13 years after we said “I do.”

Thanks for reading!


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13th anniversary photo

Getting away from it all!

Last weekend my parents came down to Florida to visit. I haven’t seen my family since we moved down last August, so it was really nice to spend some time together. Guests are always a great excuse to get out and explore someplace you’ve never been before. We have heard about Cabbage Key and thought this might be the perfect adventure all of us would enjoy.

Cabbage Key is accessible only by boat, so we headed down to Pine Island to take the ferry over. Since all of us had skipped breakfast, we were ready for a bite to eat in the famous Dollar Bill Bar. After a delicious meal, we checked out the room with all the dollar bills, learned the story behind why dollar bills are taped to the walls (fishermen would tape an autographed bill guaranteeing an ongoing bar tab), then headed out to explore the rest of the island. I climbed the water tower and took in the spectacular view. We walked the trail counting all the gopher tortoises we saw - I believe the final number was 8. I kept my eye out for sea otters, but had no luck spotting one.

We did however get get to say hello to two manatees! I have always loved these sea cows and was thrilled to finally see some in the wild.I visited Blue Springs years ago, the only time I have ever seen manatees in the wild. After checking out the gift shop and waving bye to the manatees, it was time to get back on the boat.

Stops to North Captiva resulted in watching dolphins swimming close by. They hung around for a bit before swimming away, but it was delightful to watch these seemingly happy creatures enjoy themselves. When we arrived at the dock, a gentleman and his golden retriever came over to greet his family who had arrived for a visit. My husband and I shouted “We Are” and received the correct response - “Penn State!”. As you already know, I’m a sucker for golden retrievers, the fact that this one’s owner was a Penn State fan made me love her even more! We fussed over Cheyenne (the dog), and chatted about Penn State, Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania. It’s always fun to meet new people and talk about home and our favorite college football team, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Our next stop brought a family with a yellow lab on board. A young pup, she was part of a family with 4 children. I have no doubt this girl is living a dog’s dream life! Cuddling two dogs - I definitely got my dog fix on this adventure! We arrived safely back on land and went in search of ice cream - my all time favorite treat!

It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday - with family, wildlife, nature, a quaint island and view that simply can’t be described as anything but paradise! I understand now why so many folks rave about what a gem Cabbage Key is. While we chose to only spend the afternoon there, you can rent cottages or stay at the local inn. While there are television, there is no cable, satellite or DVD players. Cell phone reception is spotty and no landline phones are provided in any of the rooms. It really is a quiet and tranquil. Sometimes the simple things are the best experiences!

Here are a few of my cell phone shots I captured from this wonderful day!

Thanks for reading!

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Cabbage Key
Water tower at Cabbage Key
Dollar Bill Bar at Cabbage Key
Water Tower view at Cabbage Key
Cabbage Key
Shower with a friend - Cabbage Key
Cabbage Key

Springtime at Selby Gardens

This past weekend, a few of my co-workers and I met at Selby Gardens in Sarasota to photograph the flowers. I was really excited about getting there as I’ve heard wonderful things about these gardens. And I was itching to see some flowers in bloom. By now, up north, we’re starting to see some new growth as the earth comes alive after a long dormant winter. I miss seeing the change of the seasons, so I welcomed the opportunity to feast my eyes on some color. Indeed, the gardens did not disappoint! There was eye candy everywhere you turned. Here are some of my favorite images I captured.

orchid flowers
orchid flower
Selby Gardens
unusual orchid flower
leaves on plants
abstract of leaf

Thanks for reading!


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