Everyday adventures

Field Trip Friday—Silver Springs

April 23, 2021

“There’s one!” I pointed.

The rest of the passengers on our glass bottom boat swiveled their heads to the rear of the craft, where a large mass floated beneath the surface: a manatee!

The guide gently reversed and drifted over the creature, and we could see him (her?) grazing on the grasses at the bottom of the river.

Those two blobs are manatees

My heart lifted, as we looked down into the crystal water, or up to the cobalt sky dusted with puff-ball clouds, or to the river’s banks where cypress trees dipped their toes into the turquoise water. Anhingas dried their wings and alligators lounged in the sun. For 90 minutes, we moved slowly up and down the Silver River on a glass bottom boat, while our guide told us about the springs, the wildlife, and the history of the park.  After a year of pandemic precautions, stress, and upheaval, it felt so good to be out exploring in the world.

Sometimes conditions combine to create a situation that is more than the sum of its parts. My recent visit to Silver Springs State Park was one of these experiences.


It started when my friend Kerri, a teacher from Washington State declared she was coming to Florida for her spring break following completion of her Covid-19 vaccinations. We’ve made it a habit to try to see each other once a year, often on her spring breaks, when we meander around the country exploring (and, of course, catching up on what’s been happening in our lives). Because of Covid and other factors, we hadn’t seen each other in three years! That’s a lot of catching up.

We decided this year to meander up central Florida and into the panhandle, where she planned to meet some friends she’d known since high school. I was game, so we set out. Our first destination is the subject of today’s Field Trip Friday.

Silver Springs

Silver Springs was one of the first tourist attractions in Florida—glass bottom boats have plied the 5.4-mile river since the 1870s and the story goes that they were invented here. But once Disney, Sea World and Universal Studios opened theme parks in the Orlando area, visitors began to drop off. The river also suffered from environmental problems associated with fertilizer runoff and septic outflow (eww). In 2013, the Florida Park Service took over control of the attraction, and merged it with the adjacent Silver River State Park, creating the current Silver Springs State Park. The Park Service seems to have done a great job restoring and preserving the river. Hiking, mountain biking, equestrian trails, camping, and various educational exhibits complete the state park complex.

A glass bottom boat tour is a great way to explore the river (choose from 30- and 90-minute options), but if you prefer, you can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. No swimming is allowed. Thirty springs make up the Silver Springs group, and the largest one, Mammoth Spring, provides about 45 percent of the flow of water.

Glass bottom boat

But we didn’t come to Silver Springs to look at water. We were hoping to see the animal “trifecta”: alligators, manatees, and believe it or not, monkeys.

We knew there’d be no problem seeing alligators. Here’s one for your viewing pleasure:

Say “cheese”

And as you know from the intro, we were lucky enough to see manatees, too. But monkeys? Why are there even monkeys at the park? Well, it seems that in 1938, entrepreneur Colonel Tooey decided to bring monkeys to Silver Springs to enliven his Jungle Cruise boat ride. He placed his primates on an island in the river, not realizing that the monkeys could swim (apparently he thought he was buying non-swimming squirrel monkeys rather than the rhesus macaques he wound up with). All the monkeys escaped the island, and their descendants swing through the trees along the Silver River, as well as spreading out into the Ocala National Forest and other areas. (The monkeys can be aggressive and some carry a virus harmful to people, so we weren’t tempted to get close to them. This photo was taken with a long camera lens!)

Silver Springs on the silver screen

You may have caught glimpses of Silver Springs on the silver screen. Scenes from Rebel Without a Cause, Moonraker, Creature From the Black Lagoon, six Tarzan movies, and Sea Hunt were all shot here. In fact, you can still see props from several shows in the clear water, including sunken statues used in the 1960s Bill Cosby/Robert Culp show I Spy.

Silver Springs was ideal for getting out of the house during a pandemic. We could be outdoors, soaking in sunlight, walking, talking, taking photos, drifting on a lazy river and still feel safe. Even thought things aren’t “back to normal,” getting outside and seeing a new place is good for the spirit. And I think we all need that right now.

How can you take in inspiration and adventure in this pandemic world? Is there someplace you feel safe visiting as spring days get warmer?


Discovering Happiness

April 16, 2021

“Nothing is so personal as happiness; each soul is fitted for a joy entirely individual; often a whole life is required to discover it.”

—Jeanne de Vietinghoff, The Understanding of Good

What are some things that make you happy? 

One thing that makes me happy—travel/road trips! I just returned from a quick road trip with my friend Kerri (she’s fully vaccinated and I’m halfway there), and there would have been a Field Trip Friday today except that I’ve been wrestling with my computer much of last night and today. First it hid my photos, then it ate my blog post. Twice. So stay tuned—trip adventures and photos to follow. (I took the one above on Panama City beach.)



It’s Been a Year

March 29, 2021

Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

It’s been about a year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives. And it’s also been a year, if you know what I mean. In addition to a pandemic, so many other awful things happened—or were revealed—during 2020. I’ve been trying to come up with some thoughts to mark the occasion, but the document for this post has been open on my computer for two weeks! The Year That Must Not Be Named has left me speechless.

Well, almost. Here are a few thoughts…

Surviving, not thriving

Most of us have experienced a year of isolation, confusion, frustration, fear, and sorrow. But if we’ve been lucky, it’s also been a year of small pleasures, slowing down, and deep thankfulness. Pretty much the same as any year, but much more intense. Anyone who lived through 2020 has likely been changed forever in some way. Think about what you were looking forward to at the start of last year, the things that took up much of your attention. How have they changed? What has become more important to you, or less so?

I’m disappointed that I didn’t produce any brilliant work, make sourdough bread, or learn a new skill (I did complete a year of French practice on Duolingo. Je regrette to say I’m nowhere near being skillful, let alone fluent). But I did keep our household stocked with food and other essentials (including toilet paper) and we all survived, even my husband who actually had COVID. For me, 2020 was about surviving. Some seasons of life are just about surviving, and perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by that. 2021 has not been much different yet, but there are signs that things are slowly changing.

A shot in the arm

Last week I got my first dose of vaccine against COVID. My planner is starting to fill up again, with a haircut here, and an outdoors coffee date there. I’m taking a Florida road trip with my friend Kerri. And while I haven’t reserved the ticket yet, I’m tentatively planning a trip to visit my mom in California sometime later this year. Provided it seems relatively safe to do so.

And while last year was mostly a long, slow nightmare, no experience is wasted—even the pandemic ones. As we stumble toward a new normal (should we call it “nermal” with apologies to Garfield cartoonist Jim Davis?), ask yourself, “What have I learned about myself this past year? How has it changed me? Have I made changes I want to bring forward into the future? 

I still feel like I’m picking up the pieces of my life and trying to fit them into a new pattern. Nothing gets put back in without scrutiny. Does it belong here? Or here? Or maybe it doesn’t fit at all anymore. This is going to take some time.

I hope that 2020 brought you some gifts along with all its trauma. I hope that 2021 is objectively a much more positive year. I hope that we don’t forget how at the beginning of all this, we tried so hard to be positive and help each other.

That’s what I’d like to see carry over into the future.  

Kate Gavina

It's Time to Say Yes Again

March 05, 2021

Photo courtesy Luiza via Pixabay

“If you say ‘yes’ enough, life starts saying ‘yes’ back.”
—Saeed Jones, quoted in Last Night’s Reading, by Kate Gavino


Signs of Spring

February 26, 2021

Early yesterday morning I pulled out my planner/calendar and a small stack of embellishments—stickers, washi tape, etc. Snuggled up in my bed, sipping coffee with Luna sleeping next to me, I decorated my month-at-a-glance pages for March and April, choosing inspirational, encouraging words as well as colorful stickers and tape. After that, I decorated my weekly spreads for the month of March. I spent probably 45 minutes to an hour of my precious early morning quiet time matching colors, and looking for words that will gently encourage or inspire.

Why is this significant?

Because I haven’t wanted to do this, or indeed even felt able to, for almost a year. Why bother, when I wasn’t going anywhere except the grocery store or the barn? Even though I still used my daily planner, I didn’t care what it looked like. When the to-dos on my list never varied from the mundane daily “keep us alive” chores week after week, I didn’t have the mental energy to make my pages pretty.

Just like snowdrops and crocus are harbingers of the spring season, my desire to pretty things up in my planner indicates to me that something is stirring in the frozen wasteland of my psyche! Could a spring thaw be coming?!

While I was playing in my planner, flipping through sheets of stickers with inspirational words, matching washi tape to my weekly to-do list, I felt a little current of happiness flowing through me. A gathering of energy, even a flicker of creativity—things that have been sorely lacking lately.

Even though I’m still essentially going no place that isn’t necessary, I feel the slightest tickle of, could that be…hope? That I will—we will—be able to enjoy life a bit more soon. When I’ll be able to write “coffee with ______” on my pages, when the exhortation of “wake up and be awesome” won’t make me want to hide under the covers (my stickers are ambitious).

Even though my pages are still mostly blank, surely they will begin to fill up soon? Maybe with a visit to an outdoor market before it gets too hot? Maybe even with “plan trip to California”? I need to start penciling in things to look forward to!

It’s such a small thing, this desire to decorate my daily calendar. But I hope it’s the start of something positive.

When you’ve been down, what small thing(s) demonstrate to you that you’re feeling better?




The Quiet of Alone

February 19, 2021

“We’re spread so thin there’s nothing left for us. But here’s the thing: Time alone is as essential as breathing.

“Time to check in with ourselves, to sit in the core of who we are and uncover what’s really going on in there. If our cells are repaired while we sleep, then our heart is renewed in the quiet of the alone. And it’s there in the stillness that we truly get to know ourselves, learning how to live with genuine curiosity and desire, rather than need and avoidance.”

—Susannah Conway, This I Know


Barbara De Angelis

Love Yourself, Love Others

February 12, 2021

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

“If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.”

—Barbara De Angelis

On Valentine’s Day—and every day—don’t forget to show yourself some love. So often we don't offer ourselves the same forgiveness, kindness, or encouragement that we offer to others. These things are far more important gifts than chocolates or flowers, lovely as those things are.

 Life has been hard lately. We all deserve a little loving kindness.



Friday Favorites + Seven Things Saving My Life Right Now

February 05, 2021

Thing seven

Recently I’ve seen a proliferation of blog posts titled “Things Saving My Life Right Now” (see below for links to a few, and click here to read blogger and author Modern Mrs. Darcy’s description of the origin of the practice). I think we’re all in need of little life saving—sanity saving at the very least. The past year has been hard, hard, hard. So let’s turn our attention to what’s making us happy and try to forget about the negative stuff for a while.

Back in October, I listed a few of my favorite things and asked for some of yours. Here are the Friday Favorites from the Catching Happiness readers who responded to that post:

  • Homemade chicken Parmesan meatballs—Marianne (she gave me the recipe—I can attest to the fact that they are a Happy Little Thing)
  • Practicing and teaching yoga—Terry
  • Watching the old Andy Griffith show with my husband (“Barney never fails to make us laugh”), and walks with the dogs in the fall weather—Debbie

Saving my life right now:

Health. Never has it been more appreciated. As Happy Little Thoughts subscribers know, my husband is recovering from COVID-19. He had a mild case, and while he still has the stray odd symptom, he’s essentially over it. Our son and I never caught the virus—something we are very thankful for.

Instacart (no affiliation). They delivered our groceries during quarantine, and it made me feel like royalty. “Just leave the bags on the front porch, my good woman” (spoken in a British accent). 

Reading. My reading year has gotten off to a booming start (I guess quarantine isn’t all bad)—I read 12 books in January!  In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, Reading Is My Favorite. One of my recent favorite reads is Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I grew to have a real affection for Eleanor. 

The Great Pottery Throw Down. My husband and I finished watching The Great British Baking Show a few weeks (months? who can keep track) ago, and just stumbled onto this show last week. I knew nothing at all about making pottery, but now I’m tossing around terms like slip and raku like I know what I’m talking about. And I’ve gained a huge amount of respect for potters in general.

Broadway musical soundtracks. I so much miss going to the musicals at the Straz Center in Tampa. It’s a poor substitute, but I’ve been listening to soundtracks in my car and while I work in my office. I own a few (Hamilton, Hairspray, Wicked), and am borrowing others from the library (Mean Girls, Into the Woods, Dear Evan Hansen). Singing along is optional but recommended.

Yoga practice. The aforementioned Terry is a yoga teacher with an online yoga membership program. I’ve been practicing with her two times a week most weeks, and my body feels the better for it. I get a lot of “help” when I’m on the mat—both Luna and Prudy are very interested when I sit or lie down on the floor. Luna especially likes to drop her toys on me while I’m down there.

Luna ready for yoga class

Tank. If I hadn’t had the barn and my horse to be with over the past year, I wonder just how crazy I would be by now. Staying away during quarantine was tough. I know most people probably don’t want a horse of their own, but maybe there is some other truly absorbing hobby or pastime you could pursue that would help you forget your worries and responsibilities for a while. It really is life saving…or at least sanity saving.

I think it’s interesting to see all the different things people feel are saving their lives. If you’re nosy like me, here’s a small selection of additional life-saving posts:

The Tiny Domestic Tasks That Are Saving My Life Right Now

Five Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now

7 Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now

What’s Saving My Life Right Now?

Now it’s your turn—what’s saving your life right now?


The Strength of a Word

January 29, 2021

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

I’ve been trying to cling to some vestiges of normalcy in these far from normal times, so as I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve chosen a word of the year to be a sort of one-word guidance system. I say I chose it, but really, it chose me, because this word is not one I would normally gravitate to.

The word is dare.

Dare strikes me as a bossy word—at first glance, it sounds like a word that is going to make me do a whole lot of things I don’t want to do, as in “I dare you to…” After the exhausting slog of 2020, I’m skeptical of my ability to live up to a word like dare. However, one of my online friends called it, more charitably, a strong word. OK, we’ll go with that. Maybe I can draw strength from it as well as be pushed by it?

I’m willing to take on dare because after some thought and exploration (and consulting a thesaurus and dictionary, thanks to a friend’s suggestion). I’m choosing to focus on the meanings of to take heart, try one’s hand, venture, to have sufficient courage to try. Dare is also associated with imaginative or vivacious boldness. I kind of like the sound of that.

Also, for the first time, I created an acronym to correspond with the word’s letters (hat tip to another friend for this idea). Here it is:

D: Dream (because dreaming starts everything)

A: Act (dreams won’t become reality without action)

R: Recharge (after taking action, I’ll need to recharge)

E: Evaluate (evaluate the result of my action to see what comes next)

Where will dare take me? I don’t know yet, but I have some projects in the works that I might not have decided to tackle without the support of such a strong word.

If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that I shouldn’t put off things I want to do—there’s no guarantee the future will be anything resembling the past. It’s up to me to figure out what I really want to do/be/have, and try to make those things happen. No one is going to do it for me.

Have you chosen a word of the year for 2021? I dare you!

Amanda Gorman

If We're Brave Enough To Be It

January 22, 2021

I was in my car Wednesday when on the radio I heard the voice of 2017 Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reading her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Her passionate reading thrilled me and brought tears to my eyes. Apparently she touched and inspired many people that day, as I’ve come across many quotes and memes on social media sharing her words. For me, the last few lines were the most meaningful:

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Click here if you’d like to read her poem in full. Or click below to see her recite it. 

May we all be brave enough to be the light.



Feeling overwhelmed

January 2021 Link Love

January 15, 2021

Things continue to be slow around here. As expected, not much has changed since we turned the calendar from 2020 to 2021. In case you need a little encouragement or food for thought during these strange days, here are a few links I’ve found interesting lately:

The Year That Must Not Be Named was hard on everyone. Still, nothing is all bad. Here are “35 Good News Stories From 2020 You Might Have Missed.”

It’s not too late to make your “21 for 2021 List.”

I LOVED this short and simple story about the nature of happiness.

Sometimes it’s hard to feel like our creative efforts and personal needs and desires matter in the face of frightening and unsettling world events. Jennifer Louden addresses this in “How Do You Balance the World’s Horror With Your Calling?” (Don’t be put off by the word “calling”.) This point especially resonated with me: “Sharing our voices, our ideas, our wisdom is actively building the world we want.”

I love the backpack analogy in this post about coping with overwhelm. Use these tips to unload some of your burdens.

Some habits to drop, some to pick up for 2021 (and beyond).

I wrote this back in 2018, but the advice still stands. 

I love this song, and this was such a fun video:

Happy Friday, and may we all dance into the weekend!

New Year

Taking It Slow

January 08, 2021

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Even though I’d like to dive into the New Year with gusto, I’m finding it slow going. Nothing much has really changed yet, and most of 2020’s challenges remain. Even though it’s already one week into January, I’m still going through my usual end-of-one-year/beginning-of-another rituals and planning practices

I tell myself there’s no need to rush. I have a lot of unfinished business from last year, a lot of projects started and abandoned that I may or may not pick up again. I don’t want to stop dreaming, but I also don’t want to utterly frustrate myself with plans that stand little chance of happening in the coming year.

I believe this is a time for gentleness and kindness (with ourselves and others), for optimism, but also patience and caution.

So I’m going slow. Taking down mementos from 2020, clipping photos for a new vision board, choosing a word of the year (or rather, letting it choose me).

If you’re having trouble getting excited about a new year, or finding it hard to make plans for the future, feel free to take it slow. Last year was a hard year, and we’re still feeling its effects.

How is your planning process for 2021 different from past years? What would you really love to see happen this year?

P.S. Before we shut the door on The Year That Must Not Be Named, click here to read Cleo Wade’s “It is Okay (a poem of validation for the year 2020)”. I promise it will make you feel better. 

Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Writing The Year’s First Chapter

January 01, 2021

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.”

―Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Wishing you all a happy New Year. May it be filled with peace, happiness, and health.