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!

xoxo

 
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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!

xoxo

 
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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

Update: Life in Florida

It’s hard to believe that just over 6 months ago my husband and I packed up our house, moved to the sunshine state and started a new chapter in our lives. While change has been hard for me, I can’t help but admit, it was just what I needed. Last year I was dealt some curve balls, having experienced some things I wasn’t sure if or how I would get through. But in the midst of feeling lost, I truly believe I found my way to living a more meaningful and authentic life. 

Life is funny that way. In this day and age we’re always striving to live without suffering any pain - physical or emotional. Yet, the older I get, the more I realize it’s in those moments we probably learn our best lessons. We tend to grow, become more in touch with who we really are and stop listening to everyone who has an opinion about what we should or should not be doing. Often, the greater the pain, the greater the reward. 

I didn’t realize how much I needed to slow down, be quiet and simply just be. I longed to spend more time in nature, become one with the world and really listen to what my heart was telling me. My husband and I decided to rent a house that is half the size of the one we own in PA, but is also just a mere 2 miles from the beach. My favorite thing to do is head down to the ocean to sit and watch the sunset. Sometimes I read, sometimes I write, but mostly I just do nothing. I have no doubt this is what helped me find my way back to my creative self. Listening to the sound of the ocean, watching the birds and reveling in the beautiful show Mother Nature put on night after night - simple things really - helped me clear all the clutter in my brain. I had so much noise - all the “shouldn't", “couldn’t", “ought not", “can’t", “won’t" thoughts I finally reached the point where I, well, just couldn’t anymore. Should I be so surprised? 

My thinking is much more clear now. I am photographing again and creating my best work ever. I don’t doubt myself like I once did. I’m less afraid of chasing my dreams because I believe the universe intends for them to come true. Instead, I am dreaming up even bigger dreams to chase. 

There are days that I long to be back in PA. Living closer to my family, in my own home doing the same things I did for so many years. Familiarity is comforting. But it doesn’t encourage growth. I see that in so many people I know who aren’t living their best lives. Who are afraid to do something different because maybe they’ll fail. That was me too. Instead, by taking this leap of faith, I may have just started the best chapter of my life.

golden retriever on beach at sunset
 

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

 
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How my dogs helped me cope

“Change is the only constant in life.” ~ Heraclitus of Ephesus

Some people adapt to change well, while others are slow to adjust. I’d like to think I cope easily, but honestly, change is very hard for me. While the idea of moving to Florida was very exciting (what’s not to love about living just a mere 2 miles from the beach?), it was also very scary for me. After all, I’ve spent virtually all of my life in State College, a small town in the middle of cow country Pennsylvania. I left my family, my home and the business I built up behind. All to chase a dream of mine. 

There’s nothing wrong with rolling hills, farm lands and lush forests. But the beach resonates with me more. The soft lapping of the waves on the shore, the endless ocean and the oh so beautiful colors of the sunset is where I find myself most at home. So when the opportunity presented itself for my husband, our dogs and I to move to the sunshine state, it was hard to say no. 

The two day drive was exhausting. When we crossed the Florida state line, it suddenly hit me - I can’t just run back home anymore. Well, I can, but it’ll take me over 24 hours to get there. I truly am stuck here now. No problem, right? I have my husband and our dogs to lean on.

Unlike me, my husband copes well with change. Well, much better than I do anyways. His family has lived in Florida off and on for decades. For him, this wasn’t exactly new territory. Sure, he may not know all the street names and restaurants, but he had a general idea where everything is. He’s spent extended periods of time growing up and even living in Florida early in his career. I’d hop on the road and couldn’t figure out how to get to the grocery store which yesterday I swore I drove by a short mile down from our home. Unless I used a GPS, I’d get lost. My husband would tell me, just head to the wawa, stay left and then turn right. I’d go to wawa another way, stay left and end up in front of a pond with an alligator staring me down, not the grocery store I intended to shop at. 

At first it wasn’t so awful. It kind of felt like being on vacation - except with my furniture. As the days went by, I started to feel discombobulated. Nothing was familiar - my house, my routine, my meals, my work. My husband got impatient with me because he couldn’t relate. I found myself in tears more than once. Wondering if perhaps I had made the worst decision of my life. 

But I kept plugging away. At least I could watch the same shows on TV, wash my hair with the same shampoo and sleep in the same bed I had for years. But even sleep began to elude me. I started to experience mini panic attacks. Tears fell easily, Suddenly, I didn’t care about my dreams. All I wanted to do was to go back home. 

My dogs picked up on my sadness and anxiety. Izzy, who has always been able to read me like a book, especially noticed. They became my shadow, sat beside me, pawed me to pet them and in general just asked for more attention. I found comfort in their fur, their pleading eyes, their hugs. The more anxious I got, the more needy they became. They helped me feel better, reminding me it’s all going to be ok. And slowly, day by day, hour by hour, I felt like myself once again. I’m sure I would have gotten there in time anyways, but I have no doubt knowing they were there for me - waiting for me to come home from work, encouraging me to take them for walks, cuddling with me before I fell asleep helped me not feel so overwhelmed with all the changes in my life. 

I’m happy to report life is good here in Florida. As I write this, I’m listening to the waves, watching the sunset, enjoying my view. After the death of my friend, I’ve felt lost for much of this year. But my heart is happy again. I have much I want to do and explore, however long I’m in the sunshine state. I look forward to what each day brings, thankful for this experience. But I’m especially grateful for my furry kids who helped me get through one of the biggest transitions in my life. 

Florida summer sunset