Are You Engaged?

If there is one word I have come to detest within the past six months, that word would be ‘DROPLETS.’ But, wouldn’t you know it, Terri Webster has gone and chosen it as this week’s Sunday Stills Photo Challenge. At first I envisioned staging two people, both not wearing masks and one sneezing toward the other. That seemed a bit too ‘real’, so I took the lazy route and dug into my photo archives.

In case you don’t already know this about me, I love going to the beach and photographing big splashes at high tide. The natural shoreline of Coquina Rock in front of my favorite location, The House of Refuge, is perfect for those types of shots, as the structure provides perspective as the waves hit the rocks.

My last post featured a series of shots from this same location. I took those shots last week when we were experiencing King Tide. This photo, which is an all-time favorite is from around the same time last year. The droplets are just inches from my lens, and were an unexpected surprise. My camera was set to Automatic Focus and the lens was anticipating the tower as the center of the photo. This is the result of what I call a good oops, or happy accident. Nothing is in focus, but is has a dream like quality that I love; all created by sea spray, which could be mistaken for snow. Most people would never guess that this was taken in Florida.

Some years ago I started a photography club and we were often invited to shoot at local events. One of those was a CosPlay event at my favorite beach. The group acted out scenes from Star Wars as we positioned ourselves in various locations to maximize our advantage of the rocks and ocean. There were about twelve members of the group, so each photographer chose two people to work with, then we switched around so everyone had a chance to get lots of different photos.

When it was my turn to shoot the couple in the photo below, (who I thought had the most awesome costumes), the wind kicked up and a rain storm could be seen on the horizon. What luck! The droplets (splash) in the background of this photo along with the deteriorating sky made this shot. I processed the photo in PhotoShop Elements to increase the drama of the sky and pop the color of her cape.

What I missed, and some of you will notice, is the water droplets on my lens. Shooting at the beach does have its challenges, and you should always check your images for spots, which can be easily removed in post-processing.

I love taking action shots, and there is nothing better than capturing surfers doing what they love to do. My camera is set to burst mode for this type of photography. I track one surfer at a time and have my camera ready to zoom in as soon as they are upright on the board. Sometimes the ride is a bust and sometimes I get lucky. The droplets (fanned spray) in the photo were intentionally created by the surfer with a spin of the board, just before bailing out.

I spent a couple of hours scrolling through my photo files this week and enjoyed the trip down memory lane. My photographs reflect a joyous life, that has been well lived. These past months I have struggled to keep even the most basic cornerstones of that life in place as we face the question; what next?

What makes me smile this week is a reminder that contentment requires a high degree of engagement, curiosity, creativity and gratitude. How about you? Are you engaged with life, or just going through the motions right now?

Shared with Trent’s Weekly Smile.

Miles of Smiles

Even though yesterday was officially the first day of Fall, it is still hot, humid and tropical in South Florida. The storms lined up in the Atlantic Basin have created some very interesting situations at the beach these past two weeks. Coupled with a King tide which happens about twice per year, we have seen an enormous swell and crushing waves along our coast – not good for beach erosion, but spectacular for photography.

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Book Reviews

It has been more of the same this week in hot, humid South Florida and instead of sharing what I’m doing, (eating less and moving more), I thought you might like to hear about what I’m reading.

I have taken this ‘down time’ (are we still allowed to call it that?) to branch out beyond my two favorite genres – historical fiction and psychological thrillers. While I did not like all of the books I reviewed below, I did find something of value in each of them. When a book is relatable, even in a small way, I consider the time spent reading worthwhile.

Conviction, Denise Mina ****

Anna, who is obsessed with listening to true-crime podcasts, is startled to learn that she knows the victim in the story she is currently listening to. Leon was a character in her previous life, and while she recognizes that solving his murder could reveal her true identity, or worse, get her killed, it is something she feels compelled to do. Things just don’t add up.

The case is closed, someone is in prison, but there are too many questions that don’t have answers. It all sounds vaguely familiar. Will she be strong enough for the confrontation that must come? This novel is filled with questions, clues, narrow escapes, deception, secret identities, adultery, cover-ups and murder. As much as I tried to savor it, I could not and read it through much too quickly. My advice – slow down, take in all the details, sort the characters carefully at the beginning and enjoy the ride.

The Scent Keeper, Erica Bauermeister *****

If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, you will love The Scent Keeper, by Erica Bauermeister, just as much if not more. A brilliant scientist, renowned for an invention that captures and preserves scents, is disgraced when the public learns that the scent papers fade and precious memories are forever lost. Unable to face the brutal onslaught of law suits and criticism, he takes his infant daughter and escapes to a remote island off the coast of Canada, to live in isolation.

Emmeline’s childhood is filled with wonder and shaped by her senses as she learns lessons from her beautiful island. Her life is filled with mermaid parties, fantastical tales and little bottles of scent papers that line the walls of their hilltop cabin. Little does Emmeline know that her father’s tales and those little bottles will unlock the mystery of who she really is and lead her back to a life she may wish she had not found.

This book is simply beautiful. Enough said.

The Jetsetters, Amanda Eyre Ward**

The Jetsetters – Prim and proper seventy year old Charlotte from Savannah, dreams of reuniting her adult children on a ten day Mediterranean cruise that she won by submitting an erotic essay to a contest. That is just the first of many deceptions being played out in this family drama. Charlotte and her children board the ship with a lot of baggage; Charlotte just lost her best friend and is adrift, Lee is a washed up actress who just got dumped by her recently famous boyfriend, Cord has just proposed to the love of his life but can’t quite muster up the courage to tell mommy dear that he is gay, and Reagan has lost her true identity as an artist as she embodies the cliche character of a frazzled mother with a wayward husband. Lee and Reagan have been estranged for years, and Cord is desperately trying to hold onto sobriety as the future of his company hangs in balance. The story touches on alcoholism, depression, mental illness, family secrets, a mother’s love, and trying to keep a family together at all costs.

To say that communication is an issue would be an understatement and it becomes frustrating to follow a story that centers around a needy, sex-obsessed 70 year old woman with three seriously messed-up adult children who need to sit down and have an honest chat. There was so much substance that could have been explored in this book, but the author seemed conflicted with what she wanted to say.

It wasn’t awful, it just never fully developed. This was a pick from Reese Witherspoon’s book club and was a big miss for me.

That’s it for me this week, how about you. Have you read anything interesting lately? Please share your recommendations, summer isn’t over yet.

Comfort Food and Consequences

These past months of social isolation have affected us all in a variety of ways, with health and fitness not the least among them. Self soothing with comfort food seemed like a good idea at the time, but if you kept it up for as long as I did, you already know where this post is going.

When we began Covid isolation back in March, I was already about 7 pounds beyond my ideal weight, and had been for a few years. Somewhere along the way I got used to the number on the scale and considered it to be at the top of the range for ‘acceptable’ weight.

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Cyber Pen Pals

Blogging is a hobby that I fell into a few years ago. It began as a creative way to chronicle our retirement life and showcase my photography. I had no pre-conceived notions about where it might lead or how long it would last. I have a tendency to drift in and out of hobbies, with two years being the max for most new experiences. So, imagine my surprise when I woke up one day and realized I’ve been at this for almost four years!

Why Am I Still Here?

When I think about the reasons why I am still here, there are several, including the fact that I still feel motivated to write about our retirement lifestyle – even during a pandemic. But, mostly it comes down to each one of you – the folks I interact with on a weekly basis.

When I was a teenager, I had a pen pal who lived several hours away in a different part of Florida. Her life was very different to mine, but we still had a lot in common. It was the late sixties and music and boys were our priority. The letters we exchanged were covered with brightly colored peace signs and slogans of the day. I delighted at the sight of one arriving in the mailbox. The stories we shared connected us and made us feel like true friends, even though we never met. That’s what blogging feels like to me.

Modern Day Pen Pals

I like hearing about Judy’s garden in NH and Joe’s cross country RV adventures. Hugh writes great WordPress tutorials, and Teri hosts Sunday Stills. Sue is taking her incredibly fit self on a brave new adventure and Jo is baking bread and releasing her latest book(s); simultaneously. Karen shares the most Pin-worthy, picture-perfect, delicious recipes and Donna takes me on a daily hike around Vancouver Island. Trent shares Weekly Smiles from New England and Natalie, is well, just a constant whirlwind of activity in Toronto. Dan is always building something or sharing ‘crack me up’ one-liners. Kathy has figured out how to Right Size and Laurel is taking some Covid inspired time off from her RV travels! Leanne from Australia has scraped her knees a few times, and passes on hard earned, heart wise advice. Pat and Nancy are snow birds who fly south in the winter and are pretty new to this retirement gig. They are still finding their ahem, wings. KemKem is queen of the expats and hosts an entertaining Podcast from Spain. Laurie ponders life on the run, as she runs, and shares insights on just about anything important. Erica is the big sister everyone wishes they had and always offers an encouraging word. Beth shares her retirement life from coastal Georgia and Janis, from California. You can count on both these gals for a positive post and amazing photos.

This talented cast of characters have become my modern day ‘pen pals’ and metaphorically speaking, I look forward to their brightly decorated envelopes arriving in my mailbox each week. The fact that your letter is meant for hundreds of other readers, does not lessen its value as it often feels personal to me. Posts that resonate, even in a small way, move us closer to understanding each other. Your comments on posts that I share are personal to me and I appreciate the time you take to make them specific and meaningful.

Connections are important, especially now, when our personal interactions are so restricted. So, ‘thank you’ to each of you who offer encouragement, inspiration, humor, beautiful photographs of far-away places, recipes, instruction and tips for making positive lifestyle choices. Keep those cards and letters coming…..I value what you have to say and you make a difference in my life.

To those of you who have drifted away or are taking a break from your regular schedule, I hope you will find your way back soon. Until then, be well and know that I will be here when you return.


Writing blog posts and reading your posts make me smile each week. If you would like to share a smile, please visit Trent’s World Weekly Smiles. You are sure to come away smiling!

Marsha Ingrao - Always Write

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Master Gardener, amateur photographer, intermediate quilter and lover of day trips around New England

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