Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It Started with a Photo

Yesterday, I took the girls to the South FL Fair. With a high of 80F, we were in sandals and short sleeves. It was a fun time, and except for the warm weather, it was much like the Altamont Fair we visit in NY every year.

Then I got a text from my mom, a photo through the window at her work, and the message, "Snowing at CASA". Well, that doesn't happen too often in Birmingham, and I thought: neat, enjoy, I am glad I am not there.

Next come the replies (she had sent it to all of us kids), of snow in other parts of the city. Then more, the snow was sticking. The roads were getting bad, everyone should just get home. Those on the roads were not getting far, cars were sliding, the snow continued. Standing at the fair, watching the girls having fun in the sunshine, it was a surreal moment, realizing my family in Birmingham were in an increasingly difficult, potentially dangerous winter weather event.

In the end, some family got home, others did not, but all at least were in warm, if not quite comfortable shelter (one spent the night with about 30 others in a Walgreen's). I am glad it did not turn into a disaster for us, though I know it was not fun, and still others had it worse.

All that time, I was getting a little bit sunburned,  worried about loved ones in a paralyzing winter event. After so many winters in NY, my brain had some difficulty processing it all.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Launch Day!

The girls finished building their rockets, so back to the park we went to launch them. A couple of lessons learned:

1) Dollar store batteries may be cheaper, but not if they don't work.

2) Go to a busy park on a sunny day to launch a couple of rockets, and you will quickly find new friends.

So despite a few misfires, we had several successful launches, and it was a great afternoon.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Definitely Warmer

A native Floridian, I am still having trouble grasping that it is really January. It seems I spent enough time in NY to forget what winter is like here in FL. I am not complaining at all, but I keep asking myself, "is it really January?"

Thursday, January 9, 2014


We started our lessons in a pool, and that was a good thing! We had studied plenty prior to getting in the pool, but it was a lot of work, just to get the basics down. Remembering to continually equalize our ears (like on an airplane), was just the beginning. We had read all about how to keep neutrally buoyant, but actually getting it down was tough. We all worked hard, and after what seemed like an entire day in the pool (really, it was a couple of hours), I think I was starting to get the feel of it. If I had been in the ocean, though, I am sure I would have killed a lot of coral trying to keep my fins off the floor!

Janele has a handle on this buoyancy thing!
Thia's interpretation of hanging, neutrally buoyant.

An exciting first day, and a lot of fun!

After a few days in the pool, and a lot of studying and test taking, we got to head out into Ginnie Springs. All through northern central Florida there are freshwater springs and series' of caves. The water is clear, and there is a lot of marine life to be seen. We didn't get to see any manatee, but there were a lot of fish, turtles and plant life.

Oh yeah, it's heavy out of the water!
In 15' of water, going to see a sunken steamboat from the Civil War.
Some underwater fun!
Yay! We made our first successful open water dive.
More, please!

Then we dove at Troy Springs, for our final open water dives. We were feeling more comfortable in the gear, and it was loads of fun. Throughout this process, I have continually been impressed at how the girls both worked toward accomplishing this goal. We studied as a family, and each time we dove, we had a buddy. So I got to see their determination, and when things weren't quite right, they knew to work things out. We all had to run through all kinds of potential danger scenarios, so we would know what to do, and how to think through the solution. It can be scary, thinking of all the things that can go wrong while under water, but if you keep your head, you know what to do, and they showed that time and time again. I am very proud of our girls, and their accomplishments in this, and I look forward to seeing what we can find on future dives, in varying waters.

First, we had to get the gear down to the water.
Ready for Troy Springs

Janele and Thia with our instructor, Howard, or H and R SCUBA.

 With Troy, we completed our training, and are fully certified Open Water and Junior Open Water divers! Woo! Since then, we all went to Manatee Springs, where we didn't see any manatee, but found very cool shells, and we went in a sink there called Catfish Hotel. There is duckweed at the surface, so when you go under, it is weirdly eerie. There a whole bunch of catfish under there, and it was fun to watch them, and the turtles swimming by. We went down, and Janele and I found where other divers had used rocks to write their names at different depths on the walls of the sink. Fowler and Janele also went on a F.U.N. dive with a group of other divers. All in all, we have had a good time with this, and plan to continue. In fact, on January 25, we are going to EPCOT's Divequest, to dive in their coral reef aquarium. I can't wait to see all the creatures. We will be part of the exhibit.

Until then, and after, we are going to continue our diving in and around the south Florida area, where we are staying for a while. Look out Nemo, we may just find you!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I Keep Leaving My Friends

Heading off to college in Tallahassee. From Tallahassee to Albany. From Albany to the boat, and on we go.
I love to go new places, meet new people, and see new things, so I am always excited to make a change, but whenever I make that change, I leave friends. Through the years I have found that some of those people I keep close. I make the effort, they make the effort (not having to count the minutes on a long-distance phone call is a luxury my children will never understand), though it is impossible to keep up with everyone. There are many people I remember fondly, but it has been years since we’ve been in touch.
I use my friends.
There are some, when we talk, it is like we picked up just where we left off, or who can always put a smile on my face, or who make me want to be better. I can share my frustrations, and they will offer a big hug, or a glass of wine, and even through the ether, all will again be right in my world. They challenge me, help me figure things out, decide which way to go, remind me who I am and what I want to do. I know some pretty smart, funny people, who so often help me see a situation from a wholly different perspective, which in itself, is immensely helpful. Fowler and the girls are part of this, but not the whole. I like to think my friends use me in the same way.
On this trip, I spend most of my time with my family, and I love that. But there have also been times we are cut off from the world, either with bad cell reception, or limited wifi. So often, something happens, and I want to share it, or get a different opinion or view from a friend, but cannot. With all the ups and downs and stressors that accompany this adventure, I think this has been the hardest one for me. I often can’t just pick up the phone, shoot off a text message or make a call. I miss that very much. I know they will be there, when I need them, but it is very different. When we do have conversations, they are never long enough to include everything, and I can’t remember it all anyway. But I always feel better after a chat, even if I wasn’t feeling lousy before. I cannot explain this feeling, I am just better.
My family is the most important thing in my life. But I could not imagine my life without my friends. For each and every one of them, I am incredibly grateful. Perhaps I should make a New Year’s Resolution to stay in better touch. That should be an easy one to keep, because I need to. For me.