Living in the Moment: Torreya State Park #MondayBlogs #livinginthemoment

My husband recently bought a new tent. One that you can actually stand up in. One that unfolds like an umbrella, making assembly easy-peasy. If I were taller, I could probably put the tent up myself.

Our new tent (courtesy of LL Bean) with a tarp as a front porch.

Our new tent (courtesy of LL Bean) with a tarp as a front porch.

To test out the tent, we spent a couple of nights at the campgrounds of Torreya State Park.  The park is only about an hour driving distance, yet after 26 1/2 years living here in north Florida, we’ve never camped here. We’ve hiked; the park has some fine hiking trails, although the bugs can be murderous during the (long) hot and humid summers. We elected to go during the Christmas holiday weekend with our fingers crossed that it would be safe to be outside.

View from the vista point a few yards from our tent.

View from the vista point a few yards from our tent.

We had beautiful weather, although we had hoped for cooler temperatures. It was high 70s, low 50s, which anywhere else would be perfect. In Florida, however, that can mean that armies of mosquitoes patrolling the skies, striking with and without warning, wreaking havoc and tears of frustration. Yet … aside from a few slow-moving, large mosquitoes that showed up at dusk and then promptly disappeared when night fell, we were practically mosquito-free. Will wonders never cease?

Trees in late afternoon light.

Trees in late afternoon light.

I like trees. Although they can make stargazing difficult, generally I like trees and there were some interesting specimens that I don’t see often in my own neighborhood, such as the American Beech. We have one that my husband planted in our yard a number of years ago; however, we’ll likely be dead before it reaches the height of the trees at Torreya.

We almost cut our camping in trip in half. Our first evening, neighbors at the nearest RV decided they wanted to listen to some (loud, obnoxious, contemporary) music while they cooked their dinner outdoors. It was the strangest mix of country and rap I’d ever heard and the music-lovers were roughly our age so … not only were we perplexed but we were also annoyed. We came to the campgrounds to enjoy the singing of birds and the sighing of the wind through the trees; apparently they didn’t and, while that is their choice, they were ruining the respite we had been looking forward to.

Fortunately, once their cooking was done and they were ensconced in their RV, the music was muffled and eventually all was quiet. We went to bed feeling hopeful. Although I woke often during the night, I experienced a state of near bliss finding myself in soft darkness, the starry sky visible from our open front flap, a light breeze lulling me back to sleep. At one point in the night, however, I was awakened by my husband shooing something away from our picnic table.

Forensic evidence of an intruder in the night.

Forensic evidence of an intruder in the night.

We had left a bit of trash on the picnic table, enough to encourage a little thievery.  Fortunately, this critter took off as soon as my husband hissed at him, unlike the raccoons we used to encounter at Big Basin State Park in California, who would bring their entire families to our campground while we were cooking hot dogs, assuming an invitation to dine and ignoring our demonstrative entreaties to “go away.”

The night was so quiet and the next morning so peaceful, we decided not to leave. Instead, after a repast of mushroom and cheese omelettes and copious cups of coffee, a little knitting time for me and photo processing time for my husband, we went on a hike.

Interestingly, this is a simple pattern. Yet, I spent part of the weekend ripping out and then redoing rows because my counts were off. Sometimes simplicity is complicated.

Interestingly, this is a simple pattern. Yet, I spent part of the weekend ripping out and then redoing rows because my counts were off. Sometimes simplicity is complicated.

We hiked the Weeping Ridge Trail which took us to a waterfall that had a mere trickle of water, but was still worth the visit. We detoured to a side trail which followed along floodplain forest and then back up to the road and eventually our campgrounds.

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(All the years I’ve been blogging and only now did I figure out how to do a slideshow …)

It’s a good thing I like trees, right?

I hope you all have had a holiday season that brought you joy, peace and happiness.



Inconsistency or I Did What? Again? #MondayBlogs #whereicandothemostgood

My mother once said I was predictably unpredictable.  I would argue that I’m simply consistently inconsistent.  Some of you may have noticed that I’ve “rebooted” my LinkedIn account.  Those who know me well aren’t the least bit surprised.  This seems to my M.O.:  I’ll think long and hard about taking an action, consider all the pros and cons, and after considerable debates with me, myself, and I, make a decision and announce it to the world.  Then, within a short period of time, I will flipflop.  I will discover some reason, some argument that I had somehow overlooked, and come to regret what now seems to be an ill-informed decision.

Well.  So it goes.

I try to simplify my life, but life simply isn’t simple.

And I really can’t complain about that.  As an older yogi friend of mine said, after asking him how he was feeling:  “Well, I’m still vertical and sucking air.”  True dat.  Still, I get annoyed with myself for being what I perceive as inconsistent.  That said, while filling in all my employment and education history (I had deleted my previous account and obviously all the data that went with it), I saw a lot of consistency.

I’ve been working for the same state government for 15 years and have progressively gained more experience in working with, what we in the biz call, “large administrative data sets.”  Your birth certificate data sets, your hospital discharge data sets.  These files of millions of records that were never designed for research, never meant to “communicate” with each other.  But I make them talk, in a manner of speaking.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m no magician or even expert when it comes to this kind of work.  I was (and still am to a degree) part of a team of highly skilled epidemiologists and public health experts.  Working with data like this is like working on a massive jigsaw puzzle that was designed by different people for different reasons.  Not all the pieces are going to fit.  Some may even be missing.  The fun is in finding those pieces that will fit, and the reward is in knowing that the completed puzzle, even with its missing pieces, will be used to understand health behaviors and, ideally, improve health outcomes.

The true benefit of deleting and then resurrecting my LinkedIn account is my realization that this part of my life is still pretty important to me.  Of course, if I could afford to live off my writing, I would.  I’m not a fool.  But since I have to have a day job, I’m glad it’s in a field that seeks to make a positive difference in the world.  A colleague recently said to me, “I just want to be where I can do the most good.”  I know some if not many people think government employees are slackers at best, parasites at worst.

Well, hello there, dear Reader.  My name is Marie and I am a state government employee.  What motivates me in my work is not my salary, not even my benefits (although I truly appreciate having them).  My motivation is in being “where I can do the most good.”  And I know, in this case, I am very, very lucky.

And now for something different.

A tree!

A tree!

Yes, a tree and not a cat!  This photo was taken a few years ago when I was visiting my childhood home.  There’s a wonderful footpath through the woods and past the cornfields near my old house.  The photo doesn’t do justice to the wonderful late afternoon light which made the leaves of this tree glow.  Soon, I’ll be making another trip to this area.  I’ve plan for a couple of posts while I’m gone, but comments will be off since my access to the internet will be intermittent at best.

But you know, dear Reader, I’m always with you in spirit.

Office space and wall art

Recently I moved from a small cubicle to a corner office with enough wall space for a mini-art gallery.  Since I’m prohibited from painting the walls anything other than the dullest off-white, I found a supplier of removable vinyl wall decals ( and proceeded to decorate.IMG_0011 IMG_0009 IMG_0015 IMG_0014You may note that cats are a big theme for me.  I didn’t stop with decals though.

IMG_0013We bought this poster when we were in New Orleans last year; it reminds us of our cat Luisa.  You can see the resemblance, can’t you?Luisa

And I like trees …

Tree in Office

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