Floating In A Sea Of…..

If you are anything like me, you are probably feeling more stressed out than normal. Reading the news is enough to make anyone depressed,afraid, and hopeless.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”-Krishnamurti

When I feel really stressed out, I know I need to spend more time in nature. It is the best way to connect to the Divine, and get a real boost of healing energy. I feel closest to God when I am camping. ūüôā

We went camping in the Florida Keys this weekend. We camped at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and snorkeled pretty much all day Saturday, and all morning on Sunday.

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Snorkeling at Cannon Beach, Key Largo

Sunday afternoon, we drove further south, down to Islamorada for a picnic lunch and a swim. If you know the Florida Keys, you know in summer time, the water is warm, like a bath.  It was sunny. It was bright.It was HOT.  According to my phone it was 94 degrees but with the humidity, it felt like 110. 

At¬†midday, the sun’s rays were extra¬†intense, ¬†so I found a place for us to have a picnic in the shade.¬†I looked down at the water by the shoreline and instantly felt depressed and angry. There was garbage everywhere floating in the water. There was garbage in the bushes too.

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How is this for a Florida Keys Postcard?

There literally was trash everywhere!! But it was the only area with shade, so we sat down, made sandwiches and ate them quietly as we looked at the trash bobbing around the water. ¬†It was hard to eat my almond butter sandwich because the garbage was so upsetting.¬†¬†I kept shaking my head wondering¬†“who does this?” ¬†

Feeling upset and grossed out, ¬†I walked out onto a limb of a tree and looked around. Just beyond the trash, was clear, beautiful, blue water. I saw small fish swimming around. I knew the plastic could easily end up in the belly of a sea turtle, a fish, a shark, or a bird. I argued with myself that “I didn’t create that mess, so why should I touch it or get involved”. But I realized that¬†the tree I was standing on, also didn’t create that mess, a mess that was ¬†choking it. The animals that live there and depend on the ocean didn’t make that mess either, but they are now forced to swim in it.. Seriously, can¬†you imagine, floating in a sea of trash?

With that, I jumped in the knee deep water and fished out a plastic bag.  I began cleaning. My son joined in and within 20 minutes, the area was so much cleaner. It was beautiful. Amazingly, (sarcasm) there was a garbage can less that twenty feet away.

However minor our impact was, we made an impact. We felt good. We were working to heal the Earth, not harm her.

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The Tree- (After We Picked Up Garbage)

 

We jumped in the water to cleanse and cool off. And the ocean seemed to bless us with a particularly magical swimming session….

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Sea Blessings

 

I keep thinking of that experience as a big lesson. It applies to all aspects of our lives.. There are many messes in the world right now, that maybe we didn’t make, and maybe we try to argue that “it wasn’t our fault.”¬†but regardless of who is to blame, these messes are here, and if we truly want to make changes, we have to do something.

 

I prefer floating in a healthy, happy sea ~Tiff

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Wild Adventure-Grayson Highlands State Park

For the entire month of July we were on¬†vacation.¬†¬†YEAH! We camped, hiked, swam, and visited friends as we slowly made our way up to New York City and then back down again. Our whole trip was based around my son’s acceptance into an “elite”¬†theatre ¬†intensive with the Broadway Artists Alliance¬†in New York City.¬†¬†On this trip, we experienced the powerful magic of nature and the¬†crazy-making magic of the city. ¬†A little bit of everything. Perfect Gemini road trip!

One of the most beautiful places we explored on our trip is called Grayson Highlands State Park, in Southwestern Virginia. The park is home to several herds of wild ponies.

There are signs telling visitors not to pet or harass the ponies, but in all honesty, those sweet little ponies walked right up to us and forced us to pet them! We had no choice!!! (Not sure how wild they really are, but we loved them!)

ponies

 

 

The weather on the mountain is known to change very quickly, and it did. The first afternoon we were there it was warm and sunny, but by late afternoon, and with no warning, strong winds began to blow. The temperature quickly dropped from perfect to freezing, and as the wind howled, heavy rain poured¬†out of the sky. We huddled in the tent, feeling both excited and nervous…rain began to drip into the tent.¬†Would our tent hold up?¬† Thankfully the storm passed quickly but the cold stayed with us. It was¬†so cold that we had¬†to bundle up in our winter jackets, the only time we needed them on our trip.¬†IMG_4122

The air was so fresh. The views so beautiful. The energy so calm but so alive. The forest speaks a language my soul remembers.

The park has several hiking trails, there are beautiful waterfalls,  and the Appalachian trail runs right through the park too.  We spent hours skipping rocks into the river. I am certain the world would be a better place if we all spent more time quietly skipping rocks. 

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If you ever find yourself in the mountains of Virginia, go to this park, it is worth it. So beautiful.

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Beautiful waterfall At Grayson Highlands State Park

Our whole trip was really magical and I will try to write soon about each place.  

Go on a WILD  adventure~Tiff

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”~John Muir

 

 

 

Restoring Under the Hammock

Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.

Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing.  There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much  wildlife.

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Barred Owl

Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.

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Cottonmouth Eating a Fish

 

We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.

The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.

 

We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.

Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.

Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.

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~Tiff

 

The Loaded Gun At DisneyWorld

On Saturday morning, Feb 20th, 2016, I found a loaded handgun in the grass, at a playground, in DisneyWorld, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The gun triggered strong emotions of fear and anger, and completely altered our weekend plans.

My mom, sister, and I all live far away from each other, but we decided to meet and go camping together. It wasn’t my idea to camp at Disney, it was my sisters idea. She said the resort was beautiful, and while I protested a little, I finally agreed. Upon arriving and exploring on Friday afternoon, I realized my sister was right. Fort Wilderness is beautiful. ¬†There was a playground right next to our campsite, that my daughter loved. ¬†She probably went down the slide 50 times. Friday night we attended a campfire sing a long with Chip and Dale, and while it certainly is not “normal” camping, it was a lot of fun.

 

Saturday morning, I woke up cold, body stiff. Sleeping in a tent, on cement (even with a yoga mat), is not comfortable. I did a little yoga, drank some cold instant coffee with almond milk, watched two cardinals fly from tree to tree, and enjoyed the early morning quiet.

When the kids woke up, almost immediately, they started begging us to take them to a theme park. We told them they would have fun at the campground, which has playgrounds, trails, and swimming pools with waterslides.I thought of sending the kids off to the playground, but I wanted hot coffee, and the kids needed breakfast, so we all decided to walk to a restaurant at the resort.

Pushing my daughters stroller, I looked down in the grass and ¬†I saw a gun. At first glance, I thought it had to be a toy. Upon closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t. We told park management, and soon the Orange County Police arrived. We spoke with one officer who shook his head in disbelief and said, “That gun was fully loaded and at a playground in DisneyWorld.”

I felt really upset. I ¬†kept thinking “What if a kid had found that gun?” Of course I imagined all sorts of frightening scenarios.Loaded guns, children, Disneyworld. Certainly not the normal situation for the “Happiest Place On Earth.”

Back at our campsite, management was there, waiting to take our statements. We told our story, and added that we felt very uncomfortable and wanted to change campsites. They said the resort was completely full, but instead they offered us a 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom suite at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. In addition to the suite, they gave us one day park hopper passes to the theme parks.

When we told the kids, they started jumping up and down in excitement. My niece and nephew ran over to me, hugged me, smiled, and said “Thank you for finding that gun!!!” Of course they didnt really understand what could have happened.

We packed our things and drove to Animal Kingdom resort. When we entered our room, our jaws dropped. We walked slowly, in awe of our beautiful and enormous suite. The Disney Staff gifted us with Chocolates, Candy, Coloring Books, Crayons, and even a Disney Board game.  Our suite had three sliding glass doors that opened to a large balcony, overlooking a large field, designed to look like the African Savannah. Zebras, Giraffes,gazelles, ostriches, and many other African animals walked around freely. I had never seen anything like it.

Feeling like all of this was a strange dream, we checked the internet for the price of our suite, and saw that it costs over 1,500 dollars per night.  (Slightly above my normal hotel price range. Haha.)

 

We rode the shuttle to Magic Kingdom, which was very crowded. But it was beautiful. The kids were happy, smiling ear to ear, they seemed to skip rather than walk. My 2 year old daughter, who looks like an owl,  her large eyes grew even wider as she looked around and took it all in. We rode many rides, saw two parades, the firework show.  We stayed at Magic Kingdom until the park closed. All of us had a wonderful time, even though in the back of our minds we kept wondering about that gun.

 

 

 

Back at the hotel, we slept in the master suite, and that bed was the most comfortable bed ¬†I have ever laid on. Very different than sleeping on cement as we did the night before. ūüôā

We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely morning and an afternoon of waterslides and swimming.

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I made it back down to South Florida last night, just in time to see the very end of the Street Painting Festival in Lake Worth. I saw a painting that fit our weekend perfectly. And right below the painting, someone had written the word “destiny.”

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Destined Disney Weekend

 

The weekend could have ended tragically, but through destiny and perhaps some guidance from a guardian angel, we had a beautiful, safe,  fun, and memorable weekend.

 

I want to add, that Disneyworld has clear rules that guns are prohibited. I think the police handled the situation quickly and professionally. However,¬†¬†I don’t know if the gun was registered or if the police were able to find the gun owner. I don’t know if someone¬†accidentally¬†dropped their gun or if this was malicious. ¬†But I do know that this should not have¬†happened. This is just one more story, that proves, once again, ¬†that this country has a problem with gun safety. This was a loaded gun at a playground.¬†And while our story has a happy ending, most stories involving loaded guns, do not.¬†

 

 

The Swamp to The Salty Sea:Everglades National Park

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling tired. ¬† Even after a cup of ‘bullet coffee’, (coffee with butter, coconut oil, and a little cayenne pepper), I still felt low energy. Luckily, we had plans to go camping, and I knew some leisurely hiking would be the perfect cure. ¬†Nature is the best healer.

We packed up and headed out for what we thought would be a camping trip in the Everglades National Park. The drive down to the Everglades, into Homestead, is one of the most awful, depressing, (what have we done to the earth?), drives one can take. We listened to Harry Potter, and The Half Blood Prince on CD, and that made the drive much better.

Slowly the concrete nightmare, gave way to large commercial crops, and then the park entrance. Once inside the park, we entered a whole different world. ¬†Nature. Beauty. ¬†Quiet. Healing. Balance. ¬†MOSQUITOES…

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And Alligators-Such different, ancient, scary energy

The park doesn’t take reservations, and while the campgrounds are very rarely full, they were full. Booked, for the holiday weekend. Once again, as often in life, we had to be flexible, our plans were forced to change.

While swatting mosquitoes, and walking on a boardwalk over a swamp,  we all agreed we were a little bummed but not totally devastated, that our camping trip would become  a day-trip.

Winter in the Everglades, is said to be less “buggy,” but the mosquitoes were intense. ¬†Not everywhere or all the time… BUT, we could be walking quite comfortably, and out of nowhere, ¬†swarms of mosquitoes would rush out and attack us… and yes, we were all wearing repellent. We saw the sweetest (but also funniest) seeming family wearing matching mosquito suits, faces fully covered. There was a moment, where mom, dad, and kid, were all looking through there binoculars at the same time, and in the same direction, with matching clothes. ūüôā¬†

We saw Hawks and Ospreys literally EVERYWHERE. I felt the need to be very quiet and just listen and feel. As to be expected, we saw several alligators. And in Flamingo, which is the very southern part of the park, the southern tip of the Florida, we saw two manatees.   Manatees are fascinating to watch (and swim with), so gentle and magic, and very different from alligators.. ..

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Hawk Watching Over Us-Spirit Animals

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Down in Flamingo, where we saw the manatees,. there were hundreds of birds, called Black Skimmers hanging out on a pretty shoreline,  they literally skim the water when they fly, it was so beautiful to watch them. They are beautiful and VERY loud.

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Mermaid Pose By The Salty Sea

We stayed in the park exploring, until after sunset, and Florida sunsets really are beautiful.

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Driving back, that night, we snacked on gluten free and vegan (uncooked) Smores. Dark Chocolate. Mmmmmm..  I smiled, feeling so grateful to have these moments, these memories with my kids, my family, our mother Earth.

From the Swamp to The Sea, Mother Nature, You Amaze Me.~Tiff

 

 

Say I Do…..

A few nights ago, while we were in St Augustine, we witnessed, actually we were a part of something so sweet and beautiful. We were wandering around, enjoying the crisp weather of north Florida, the art galleries, and the old buildings..   when something so unexpected happened, something that still makes me smile. IMG_2607

Downtown St Augustine is old. The city is haunted, and has a very painful and dark history. But there is something there that I am drawn to, and always have been. In the center of the downtown, is a park. A park that was once the location of the slave market. Today, it is a well used and much loved park busy with tourists. Adding to the beauty, for the holidays, there are lights strung all around the park.

Anyways, my daughter was running around, laughing, enjoying her freedom, when I noticed a young attractive couple trying to prop their phone against a railing to take a photo. I offered to take their picture. I snapped some photos, we exchanged smiles, and then they offered to take our picture.

The sweet couple took our picture, we said thank you, I started to turn away, and¬†then the young man said “Sorry, but will you take another photo of us? The photos turned out blurry.” ¬†I was a little confused, because I knew at least a few of the photos turned out nice, but I happily agreed.

As soon as I positioned the camera, he got down on one knee, pulled out a ring, and asked his beautiful girlfriend if she would marry him. I was smiling from ear to ear, snapping photos, shocked to be witnessing something so beautiful. LOVE. She was crying, in complete shock. She said “YES!!” They hugged and a huge crowd gathered around and started clapping and cheering. I was nearly crying. Everyone felt this strong, happy, magical energy of love.

I congratulated them, gave them back their camera, and we slowly walked away. My son had also snapped pictures of the couple, and he ran over to them, got their email address, and sent them their magical moment caught on camera.

So, to the beautiful couple, recently engaged, thank you. You made our night so special, full of the magic of love, and I wish you every happiness in the world.

Blessings~Tiff

The Great Transition

Tuesday was moving day. It was a day full of tears, saying goodbye to so many people we love. It was also the beginning of three days of flying. The start of a great transition.

Looking Forward
Looking Forward Together

Back to Tuesday, we packed and cleaned and cried all day. Leaving a place you love, and people you love, is never easy. We had a house full of friends who came to say goodbye, and even at the airport, many of our closest friends came to see us off. The day and our situation could be described as the perfect Fado song. Fado is beautiful and mournful Portuguese music with lyrics of longing and sadness.. 

Back To Tuesday, after all the crying and goodbyes, we took an airplane to the island of Sao Miguel, where we spent the night. We stayed with a dear friend who lives there. Outside the door to her house was a welcome banner my friend’s son made, that read “Bem Viendos.” It was very sweet.¬†We sat around, ate pizza, talked, and laughed, and cried.

We woke Wednesday morning and went to the park, I kept thinking that maybe we should move to Sao Miguel.. it is a big island, with a big modern city.Maybe someday. 

Sao Miguel fun
Sao Miguel fun

Before lunchtime, we were on a plane to Germany. A 1 day layover in Dusseldorf, felt like a mini vacation. We decided to take the train to our hotel. It was a good way to see the city and it was fun. Well, it was fun after we figured out which train to take. A very helpful couple from India, helped us figure out the train schedule and we rode the train with them into the city.

Train To Germany
Train To Germany
Old Dusseldorf
Old Dusseldorf

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We stayed in a hotel right in the center of the city. Right next to the “Old Town”, the fashion district, the main train station. We walked around for hours. ¬†We had a dinner at a restaurant that played Portuguese music (that dinner is quite a story, maybe next post). The night was fun, we wanted to keep exploring, but it was cold, it was late, and we had an early flight to catch the next morning.

We woke early yesterday morning and went to the airport, dreading our 11 hour flight to Miami. 11 hours is a VERY LONG TIME. Especially when traveling with a 22 month old. But we made it. And we made some new friends.

Our friend picked us up at the airport, and we drove up to West Palm Beach. I felt exhausted. I felt culture shock. I needed to sleep. But sleep wasn’t an option. We dropped off our suitcases, and I took my son straight to rehearsal. My son did a video audition to be in a musical, and he was cast, and last night was his first rehearsal.¬†

My daughter and I watched the end of rehearsal. ¬† I felt so much joy watching my son onstage. He was shining, back in his element, performing. When he left the stage, smiling from ear to ear, he skipped over to his sister, picked her up and said “that was the funnest rehearsal of my life.”

I am awake early. I miss my sweetheart. But I am strong. I know why we are here. Life is always in transition. And great big transitions can offer beauty, growth, and possibilities. 

Have a beautiful day. I am going to the beach. ūüôā ~Tiff

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ¬†~Maya Angelou¬†