The best nurses a girl can ask for!

Spring has arrived here in Florida! Though when it’s green pretty much every day of the year, I haven’t figured out what makes this season different than any other one. Except for the pollen. Oh my gosh! Some reports I’ve read have suggested pollen counts are really high this year because of a mild winter. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know my head aches, my throat is scratchy, my sense of taste has decreased, my eyes are watery and just generally don’t feel very good. This isn’t anything new, I’ve suffered from allergies off and on for several years. However, not usually this early in the season. Medication helps alleviate the symptoms, but mostly all I want to do is sleep or just sit still trying to prevent the feeling that my head is going to explode. I’ve had worse symptoms in previous years, so I know I’ll survive this bout. Even if at times, I find myself questioning that!

Being under the weather is also hard on my dogs too. They don’t get as much attention, and because of the pollen, I spend as little time outdoors as possible, which means short, like really short, walks. I can tell my girls are antsy - they have a lot of pent up energy. But they also have been a source of comfort for me.

This weekend for example, when I curled up on the couch and watched TV for several hours (I rarely watch television, so this is a huge anomaly for me), Kita curled up right there with me. Izzy laid at my feet, giving me big brown sad eyes every time I tried to cough up a lung or used up yet another box of tissues blowing my nose. Tillie did her best to fight her way to my side to comfort me in her own way as well…bumping my arm to get me to pet her. It was all very cute and very sweet. Even though it meant mustering up more energy than I felt I had, I truly appreciated the effort my 3 furry nurses made to try to make me feel better.
It’s hard not to feel cranky and irritable when you don’t feel well. I do my best to keep an upbeat attitude, but I know I have my moments when I fail at this. Having these 3 pups to cheer me up does my soul so much good. They may not be able to “cure” me of my ailments, but they sure do make it easier to suffer through these allergies!

Anyone else feel the same way about their furry kids? Leave a comment and share your story!

golden retriever in bed

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Gone to the birds!

I’ve never been much of a birder. It’s not that I don’t like birds, it’s just that I’m more fascinated with other creatures like muskrats, raccoons, and bears. But since I’ve moved to Florida, I’ve become more interested in our avian wildlife. And some species in particular. Like the roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets and white pelicans.

There are several great places to watch and photograph all kinds of birds including the pond right down the street from where I live. Winter means it’s mating season and the opportunity to see baby birds. I don’t have the longest lens so I know not to expect to capture fabulous photos. But the more I do this, the more addicted I become! It’s been fun watching and learning all about these magnificent animals. Who knows? Maybe I will become a bird photographer!

snowy egrets mating season

Snowy egrets preparing the nest.

Blue heron family

Blue herons and their babies.

white pelicans Ding Darling

White pelicans at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

white pelican swimming

White pelican swimming at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.

burrow owl southwest FL

Burrow owl in southwest Florida.

juvenile bald eagles

Juvenile bald eagles - 11 weeks old.

bald eagle nest

Momma brings home lunch.

bald eagle juveniles and mom

Juvenile bald eagle learning how to fly while her siblings and mom look on.

Is it spring?

Life so far in the sunshine state has been fantastic! Who can complain about warm weather, abundant sunshine and frequent visits to the beach? Before I moved to Florida, I was told I would miss experiencing the 4 seasons. Since I’ve lived in Pennsylvania pretty much my whole life, I had no opinion and couldn’t agree or disagree. Now that it’s been six months and 2 seasons since my move, I can attest I now understand why people split time living south in the winter and north in the summer.

Most Floridians will tell you we have 2 seasons. I thought they meant spring and summer! But it turns out, it’s the wet and dry season. Others might say it’s tourist season and non-tourist season. But one thing is for sure, the arrival of spring isn’t quite the same in the south as it is up north. And honestly, while I didn’t miss a cold snowy winter, I do miss all the signs of spring’s arrival.

It was always exciting to see the grass come to life and turn from brown to green. I looked forward to listening to the sounds of the robins as they migrated back north. The pops of color as the crocuses and snowdrops peeked through the snow was a welcome sight. And if I could shed my winter coat, even for an afternoon, it was a great day! There’s just something magical about the earth coming alive again after being dormant for months.

Here in Florida, the grass has been green ever since we arrived in August and I don’t see any signs of that changing. We see birds every day on our walks, so there is no reminder that the wildlife has hunkered down or fled from the cold winter weather. After spending days, weeks and months cooped up indoors, it’s always a treat when we can spend some time outdoors once again without the fear of suffering from frostbite. But in Florida, with the warmer weather, it’s nice every once in a while to have a cool rainy day. Just so I can a spend an afternoon curled up on the couch with a good book or binge watch some of my favorite movies.

Do I miss the 4 seasons? Yes, without a doubt. I just wish our summers up north were longer and the winters shorter. Perhaps one day, I, too, will join the millions of folks who have become a snowbird.

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terrier mix in field of spring flowers

Outdoor Adventure: Myakka River State Park

I’ve always loved spending time in Myakka River State Park. One of the oldest and and largest parks in the state, I’ve been coming here ever since my husband’s parents took me and the rest of the family on a boat tour one holiday season. Even though it was a cold winter day (when the northerners are wearing parkas, it’s definitely cold!), the beauty of the mostly undeveloped land left a huge impression on me.

Myakka River State Park Spanish moss canopy

We didn’t see any alligators that day, but the experience was enough to make me want to go back and visit again. Each time I went, I discovered something new I hadn’t seen before. Now that I’m living in southwest Florida, it’s been fun exploring the 37,000 acre park. Recently my husband and I brought our bikes so we could hop on and off the many trails to hike giving us a new and different perspective on scenes we had only glanced at before.

Myakka River State Park spanish moss

I’m fortunate that several of my co-workers are also photographers. We’ve chatted often about getting together to shoot one day and quickly settled on Myakka for our first adventure. None of us had been to the Deep Hole - a place in the park I had only recently learned about. It involves getting a permit as soon as the park opens and hiking about 4.5 miles round trip. The day of our photoshoot, it was a cloudy morning, something we were all grateful for as the day quickly became hot and humid. This is an adventure you definitely have to plan for, which unfortunately I had not done. But at least now I know what to expect and how to make this a better experience the next time I visit.

Myakka RIver State Park Deep Hole

The hole is known for dozens of alligators that congregate on the water’s edge. It’s estimated that the sinkhole is about 140 feet deep which is why the alligators come here when the waters recede in the dry season. We didn’t stay long enough to see what others have photographed, but we did see the alligators moving toward land during the time we were there. One fellow was close enough to the edge that we were able to get some really great shots without needing a super long telephoto lens.

Myakka RIver State Park alligator

We made sure to get a group shot before we left the park. It’s not like we saw a lot of folks out here, they only give out 30 permits a day, so dragging a tripod on the entire hike was worth it! Now that I’ve learned more about this mysterious Deep Hole, I can’t wait to go back!

women photographers

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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

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