Walking My Talk: The Difference Between Believing & Having Faith

The busy season is in full swing in the Florida Keys, with the excitement of spring just peeking around the corner.  At the time I sit down to write this article, however, it’s nearing the end of January and I’m still up North watching the river freeze, thaw and repeat, with this crazy weather we’ve been having. Staying up North really wasn’t the plan—I was “supposed” to be in the middle of my snowbird migration, settled in Key West, enjoying the sun and surroundings of my most “magical place on earth”, along with the people who have become extended family for me there.

Now, if you’ve followed my articles here from the start, you’d know the mindset I carry for trusting the process of how my life unfolds, but it seems I’ve been more than tested these days.  Suitcase full and only a day before I was set to embark on another adventure in my Southernmost home, I had to call the whole thing off to care for a very special furry family member—which was absolutely no question for me. Since then, a whole host of changes have been set in motion, and although I know I’ll return to the Keys, right now, I’m forced to live in the unknown and, as a result, really practice walking my talk when it comes to this “trusting the process of life” thing. And, let me tell you, just because I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be at the moment, doesn’t mean it’s easy to understand.

It’s a very strange place to be when you begin to observe things happening outside of yourself.  Standing in the background watching conversations and situations happen at home that I was never “supposed” to be around for, and missing out on all of the events taking place in Key West that I had fully anticipated participating in.  I can tell you, in the beginning, this was almost like an out of body experience—just wondering where your place in life is.

One thing I know, and have written about before during my travels, is that paradise really does come from within.  You take yourself wherever you go, so it’s not all about your surroundings when it comes to your own perspective on life.  You can be in the most beautiful of places, and still feel sad, lost, or lonely.  It is up to you to make your magic wherever you may be.  Surely paradise can be found in sub-zero temps and snow then, right?

The biggest lesson I’ve been learning while living in the great question mark of life, is that there is an absolute difference between believing and having faith.  I believe everything happens for a reason, but sitting still in that space and accepting that it is for my highest good, are two entirely different things.  Believing something is the “talking”, and having faith in that idea is the actual “walking”.  And, how ironic is it that having faith in something often forces you to sit still and not walk at all?!  Patience is powerful, but there’s no doubt it’s a practice.

Patience is powerful, but there’s no doubt it’s a practice.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), along with my own term, FOMU (Fear of Messing Up), have reared their ugly heads into my thoughts on more than one occasion, and I have consciously had to take those fears and put them out with the trash.  Amidst these fears, I also get excited about forward movement and new possibilities that have shown up as a result of my staying here at home.  Everything is a dichotomy.  Wrapping your head around the duality of life can take serious work some days.

For now, I live in the great wide-open space of “what’s next?”  Really having to walk my talk when it comes to having faith in some of my biggest beliefs—not simply knowing that “a delay is not a denial” and that “there are no mistakes”, but really feeling that they are truths and fully trusting the process by letting things unfold as they may in this moment. The trick is staying at peace with what is, while still actively moving forward with the situation at hand.  The best I can do is get excited about what waits for me in this portal of possibility.

And, who knows? By the time this article is published, maybe I’ll have made my way back to the city where the sidewalk ends for another adventure. But, regardless of when I do, I know it will be at just the right time and under just the right circumstances…and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be there to join me for a sunset and a cocktail or two.

After the Storm: Remaining Strong in the Broken Places

Hurricanes, broken hearts, unexpected life changes. All of these storms, real or metaphorical, can pass through your life and change your entire world in the blink of an eye. Sometimes the aftermath of the storm hits you immediately and, other times, just when you thought you were sailing smoothly ahead. Either way, you’re left standing in the rubble of loss, hurt, grief, and any other number of emotions as you process the change that has entered into your life. Often times, you’re left feeling broken and wondering just where and how you will rebuild.

The Southernmost Buoy Standing Tall in the Aftermath of Hurricane Irma

As this New Year begins, many of us are trying to start anew and move forward in our lives, putting the pieces back together in our broken places— homes and hearts—after the storms of 2017. For some, it was life as they knew it on an island they called home, a big move, or the loss of a beloved pet. For others, it was recovering from an injury that prevented them from participating in life as they were accustomed to, a relationship breakdown, or a large transition in life, like a job loss or retirement, that left them searching for their own identity.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

~ Ernest Hemingway

Remaining strong in our broken places requires us to be patient and gentle with ourselves. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, questioning just how long it’s going to take to rebuild and get back to that comfortable space in life we’re so desperately longing for. Sometimes, however, we confuse strength with having to handle everything on our own and putting on a brave face, when, in reality, there is incredible strength in our own vulnerability. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is an even stronger approach than putting on the armor or pushing the ill feelings that arise aside, and what we often fail to give ourselves credit for, is the strength we exude in these more vulnerable choices that we make along this journey.

Here is what being  S T R O N G  can look like, too:

Support – Asking for help and seeking support from an outside source.  Whether through close friends, a therapist, inspirational books, etc., it’s okay to ask for help.  You do not have to weather your storm alone.

Time Out – It’s okay to stop.  Taking time to yourself is a powerful choice on your road to recovery. Going for walks, taking a break from social activities, booking a vacation, or even taking a leave from your regular work schedule are all empowering steps you can gift yourself.  Too many times we equate stopping with failure, yet so much healing can come from being still and taking the time to focus on ourselves.

Reflection – Quiet time, journaling, yoga, meditation.  All are powerful tools that allow you to ground yourself, organize your thoughts and gain some insight and clarity on your journey.

Opening Your Heart – It’s easy to shut down, numb the feelings and simply protect yourself from any future hurt, but the only way we ever fully heal is to feel—all of it. Staying open to new possibilities ahead and trusting the process creates the space for hope.  Stay open.  You never know just what’s around the corner or what the Universe is conspiring on your behalf.

No – Don’t be afraid to say NO to what doesn’t resonate with you. Creating healthy boundaries with people and projects and remaining true to yourself builds personal strength.  Sometimes saying NO means saying YES to yourself.  It’s not selfish to choose YOU.

Gratitude – Being thankful for even the smallest of things and choosing to focus on the positive aspects of our lives is a huge energy shifter.  Whether mentally listing all of the things you’re grateful for while out for a walk, before bed, or writing them in a journal, bringing these things into your awareness has a powerful effect on your perspective.

Reflecting on my time in Key West. (Historic Seaport ~ May 2017)

As we step into a New Year, and what for many of us signifies an opportunity for a fresh start, may I also remind you that there is still beauty to be found in the broken places; a new bloom reminds us of life’s natural flow and resiliency during tough times—that we can survive and thrive; a difficult life experience brings with it an opportunity to embrace our vulnerability, a deeper awareness for this life we’re gifted with each day, and a reminder of what really matters.

If you’re wondering if you have what it takes to be strong, or, even worse still, you’re judging yourself for what you perceive to be weakness while you navigate your way, remember that strength doesn’t always look like armor and feel like solitude. If you’re putting any of the above practices into place, you, too, are STRONG…you are BRAVE… and I believe in YOU.


Walking the Rock: Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

It’s been exactly one year since I announced my “Leap of Presence” right here in the blogging world–twelve months since I followed the callings of my heart and stepped away from my 18-year career as a first-grade teacher; 365 days since I started growing my own business and working from anywhere there has simply been a good wifi signal and a phone line. There are days I have worked hard, and days I have hardly worked, but “somehow”, the Universe has fully supported me on my journey. I like to think that has everything to do with honoring the callings of my soul, because, let’s be real, there is nothing more real than the constant longings of your heart.

One of the greatest driving forces for creating this change in my life was to be where my heart has continued to be called—right where the sidewalk ends, in Key West. I think it’s safe to say, I manifested some serious time in the Southernmost City this past year, and, if I didn’t feel at home already, there was no way my snowbirding experience in the Conch Republic this past winter was going to leave me without an even deeper connection to my little island paradise.

Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.  That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.

~ Pico Lyer

One of my favorite things to do in Key West, is to “walk the rock”. Whether heading down to the Historic Seaport to catch Happy Hour with some friends or simply getting out of the house for some sunshine and fresh air, the time I spend walking from Southernmost Point A to Southernmost Point B always, ALWAYS, makes me feel like a million bucks. More often than not, it is exceptionally difficult to wipe the permanent, “feeling-ever-so-grateful”, smile off of my face and to keep myself from literally dancing in the street, headphones in place, one foot after the other. If I’m not listening to music, (and giving not a care in the world that I may or may not be singing out loud—in broad daylight, no less) the time I spend walking is generally still headphones in, on the phone with friends and family back home. Except on one “unfortunate” night, when the battery in my phone decided to pooch…

Ready to “Walk the Rock!”

This particular incident couldn’t have come at a more interesting time. After spending the winter in the Keys, I had hopped back onto the island for another shorter extended stay when I was en route back North after my writer’s retreat in Old San Juan. It was June and my friend was in need of a cat sitter for his own summer vacation off the rock. Key West? Cats? I mean, how could I resist? These really are a few of my favourite things. A thought had come to mind, however, that somewhere along these repeated travels to the Keys, it was going to lose some of its magic. You know, where the extraordinary becomes ordinary? WRONG!

A “subtle” reminder that “Life is Good” in Key West!

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly love Key West any more…FRANGIPANI! The smells from the blooms on these trees were so alluring I could wander the island just in search of all of these intoxicating trees. And on that particular night, that is exactly what I did. With no music in ear or any distractions from an otherwise fully charged phone, I remember looking up at the stars and thinking of how fully charged I felt as I “walked the rock” for well over the hundredth time this year. I walked down William Street from tree to tree, zig-zagging from one side of the street to the other, pulling down the branches to reach my nose, and collecting the blooms that had fallen to the ground, breathing in the real essence of Key West. By the time I got back to the “kitty” condo, I had a small bouquet that I was able to place on a dish and enjoy in my room for the next several days. And so, this magical love affair continued.

I have always paid close attention to the seemingly “little things” as I’ve meandered through the streets of Key West (with or without headphones), but, after this last visit, it was even further validated that I can’t go anywhere on that tiny rock without some kind of sign from the Universe that I am exactly where I am meant to be. From the heart-shaped markings in the sidewalks, to the meaningful graffiti and artwork scattered about the streets, it always seems that I look in the right direction, at just the right time, for this little island to let me know that, even after all these visits, it still loves me, just as much as I love it.

Although I’ve had to say a somber farewell to my soul place for the next several months, I don’t have any doubts that Key West and I will pick up right where we left off, as soon as I return. And, I can’t wait to see what this great love has in store next, when I do!

Love is everywhere…
Farewell Key West…but I know this is “only the beginning”…

Want to “Walk the Rock” yourself? Purchase my self-guided walking tour here and check out many of my favourite places!

Kappa Kappa Rock: An Island Writer’s ROCKtreat in Puerto Rico

At the beginning of June, I had the opportunity to connect with nine fabulous island women (and all at once, I might add!) when I was invited to be an attendee at Women Who Live on Rocks first island writer’s retreat in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Pretty exciting right?) As a girl not originally from the islands asked to attend to represent my “island home”, Key West, this was pretty much manifestation at its finest. #ROCKtreatPR was a magnificent meeting of beautiful hearts, creative minds, and fierce and inspirational women—a magical gathering and collaboration of true island souls.

Old San Juan, with its historical blue cobblestone streets and architecture, incredible food, endless activities, and entertaining nightlife, provided the perfect midpoint to bring these women, connected by their love for all things sea, sun, sand…and words, together. Ideas were shared, adventures abound, and an amazing new bond grew between 10 women who had only ever known one another from their online presence—all of us leaving with hearts full and new stories to add to our interconnected book of life. I was nothing short of inspired by these women and the brave choices they make every day in their own island lifestyles.

From feasting like queens at the top restaurants, paddle boarding with manatees (watch us here!), and all of the VIP treatment we received at the Mall of San Juan, this 4-day weekend ROCKtreat in the heart of Old San Juan really did have us giggling, and bonding, like a bunch of silly island sorority sisters. We found this ironic since none of us had ever even belonged to a sorority, so decided we should make our own…and Kappa Kappa Rock was born!  I’m beyond blessed to now call each one of these women “friend” and could not miss the opportunity to share these creative island souls with you here!

So, grab a cocktail, along with your iPad, and get comfy under a shady palm, while you dive deeper into the island happenings of these international island women, that I know will be sure to inspire YOU, too!


Name:  Chrissann Nickel  Hometown:  San Jose, CA  Current Island:  Virgin Gorda, BVI  My previous job:  Hotel Sales  My current job:  Creator, Writer, & Editor for Women Who Live on Rocks  My favorite island pastime:  Boating around the BVI with my pup, Diego, and friends  My favorite island dish:  Johnny Cakes  My island pet peeve:  Mosquitoes  My island super power:  Connecting island girls near and far  Website:  Facebook:  /womenwholiveonrocks  Instagram:  @womenwholiveonrocks


Name:  Lizzy Yana  Hometown:  Bloomington, IL  Current Island:  St. Thomas, USVI  My previous job:  Sales  My current job:  Momming  My favorite island pastime:  Entertaining company  My favorite island dish:  Coconut Curry Chicken  My island pet peeve:  Litterbugs  My island super power:  Seeing the funny in the ugly  Website:  Facebook:  /islandlizzy  Instagram:  @lizzyyana


Name:  Riselle Celestina  Hometown:  Curaçao  Current Island:  Sint Maarten  My previous job:  Event Planner and Radio News Anchor  My current job: Owner of a small travelers’ inn; travel and island lifestyle blogger  My favorite island pastime:  the beach  My favorite island dish:  Saltfish and Johnny Cake  My island pet peeve:  Hearing outsiders complain about the island ways.  It’s a privilege to live here and, although not perfect, it is pretty awesome.  Besides, if it’s not for you, there are dozens of flights leaving from our international airport every day. Choose one.  My island super power:  I can sip on a drink while floating in the water.  Website:  Facebook:  /thetravelingislandgirl  Instagram: @thetravelingislandgirl


Name:  Jen Morrow  Hometown:  Phoenix, AZ  Current Island:  Puerto Rico  My previous job/My current job:  Director of Project Management Office (PMO) for Information Technology (IT) company – self employed  My favorite island pastime:  Scuba diving, snorkeling, or sailing  My favorite island dish:  Fresh caught, grilled Red Snapper fish or pork anything  My island pet peeve:  Never knowing if I should call ahead, make an appointment, or just show up.  Whatever I choose, it is wrong.  My island super power:  Living, working, and thriving in Puerto Rico  Website:  Facebook:  /jentheredonethat  Instagram:  @jentheredonethat


Name:  Liz Wegerer  Hometown:  Milwaukee, WI  Current Island:  Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean  My previous job:  Lawyer  My current job:  Writer  My favourite island pastime:  Kiteboarding  My favourite island dish:  Baka Stoba (beef stew)  My island pet peeve:  Periodic fruit shortages…makes it challenging to whip up tasty tropical cocktails.  My island super power:  I can fly! (Ok…not really, but I can jump really high when I’m kiteboarding, and that feels like the same thing.)  Website:  Facebook:  /theadventuresofislandgirl  Instagram:  @islandgirlwrites


Name:  Claudia Hanna  Hometown:  Harrisonburg, VA  Current Island:  Cyprus  My previous job:  Senior Financial Analyst  My Current Job:  Mediterranean Lifestyle Coach  My favorite island pastime:  Picking olives, grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers and more from my garden – then eating them when they are still slightly warm from the sunshine.  My favourite island dish:  Grilled octopus (or tabbouleh or grilled halloumi or spanokopita or taramosalata or…you get the picture!)  My Island Pet Peeve:  Terrible parking manners!  Cars parked on sidewalks, leaving little room for pedestrians to get around.  My Island Super Power:  Whipping up an extravagant meal from humble ingredients.  It’s a little trick we Mediterranean goddesses possess!  Website:  Facebook:  /livelikeagoddess  Instagram:


Name:  Brittany Meyers  Hometown:  Chicago, IL  Current Island:  Tortola, BVI  My previous job: Recruiting Manager  My current job:  Owner of Aristocat Charters; wrangler of three little girls  My favorite island pastime:  sailing to a nearby anchorage to explore, and relax for a few nights. I must admit that I also enjoy beach bars very much.  My favorite island dish:  I love making plantains and black beans. Not exactly native to my rock, but island-ish!  My island pet peeve:  Driving!!!  The drivers here are reckless, hills are steep and roads too narrow.  My island super power:  Raising babies on a sailboat without losing my mind (I actually love it!)  Website:  Facebook:  /sailwindtraveler  Instagram:  @windtraveler


Name:  Mariah Moyle  Hometown:  Snohomish, WA  Current Island:  Nassau, Bahamas  My previous job:  Island Administrator on Norman’s Cay, Exumas  My current job:  Co-business owner of Out Island Life (Chief Editor & Web Designer) and M&M Management (Marketing Manager); Sales Assistant for HG Christie Real Estate  My favorite island pastime:  Kiteboarding, surfing, snorkeling, boating and taking my three island dogs to the beach  My favorite island dish:  Conch Salad  My island pet peeve:  Power outages and how terrible the drivers are in Nassau  My island super power:  Expert on Out Island living, travel and relocation  Website:  Facebook:  /outislandlife  Instagram:  @outislandlife


Name:  Jennifer Legra  Hometown:  Edison, NJ  Current Island:  Dominican Republic  My previous job:  English Teacher  My current job:  Author of Drinking the Whole Bottle; Independent Consultant for Rodan & Fields  My favorite island pastime:  Riding ATVs  My favorite island dish:  chinola margaritas and mofongo from Freddy’s  My island pet peeve:  The driving. Dominican driving is the craziest!!  My island super power:  finding humor and uncorking life in all situations.  And of course, drinking whole bottles.  Website:  Facebook:  /drinkingthewholebottle  Instagram:  @drinkingthewholebottle

Kappa Kappa WHAT? Kappa Kappa ROCK! ~ Rooftop at Mist


The City Conch & The Country Conch: Switching Keys

How many of you can remember Aesop’s fable “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse” from your childhood school days? You know, the book where the two mice switch places and get to experience each other’s worlds from the urban and rural perspectives? Although I’ve not been blessed to be labelled as an official Conch (these beautiful people are a delightful rarity to find!), I’ve had the grand privilege of experiencing life here in the Florida Keys from both the “city”—if there is such a thing here—and the “country” perspectives during my time as a snowbird this past winter.

Most of my readers know that I tend to spend the bulk of my time here in this archipelago oasis on the 4 x 2-mile island of Key West. For the first three months of my winter migration, I had the luxury of living right “in town” in a traditional Conch home in a beautiful neighborhood known as “The Meadows”, only a short “bike, skip and a (20-minute) walk” from my favorite place to be—the Historic Seaport. It’s mid-April as I’m writing away and I literally haven’t driven a vehicle since I left home in January. There are definitely lots of perks to being close to where all of the action is!

“City” Life in the  Seaport!

On any given day, I could stroll to any number of amazing restaurants, art galleries, shops, markets, historical sights, beaches and water activities—and, of course, the ever-famous action on Duval Street. I woke up to the resident roosters and the buzz of scooters, was always surrounded by people, and was never at a loss for what to do. Heading on down to the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square or reading a book on Smather’s Beach were always an option. In fact, the times I would “walk the rock” were some of my most cherished. I’d often listen to music or call friends and family back home while I basked in the blue skies and took in all of the gorgeous architecture and foliage this tiny island has to offer. Such a magical little place—and oh, so good for the soul.

As life would have it, during the final month of my stay, I had to switch up my living arrangements and the good ole Universe gave me the opportunity to move up to Big Coppitt Key at Mile Marker 10 (most everyone knows that staying directly in Key West is an expensive treat!). “Oh, the horror! You’ll be so far away!”, my “city” friends worried. This made me chuckle, but, I will admit, I had my concerns too. Having no means of transportation, I wouldn’t be able to access everything (and everyone) I had come to love so easily anymore. The way I saw it, though, I had spent a lot of time in Key West (including past stays), and I knew there was something different to experience awaiting me “up the Keys”. As a general rule, I’ve come to believe that we’re here to have as many experiences in life as we can, so this would just be another chance to do exactly that! How would I ever really know the Keys if I spent all of my time in Key West?

IMG_6253 2
When the ocean and your shades match, you take a selfie! 😉  What can I say?  This “Country Conch” livin’ isn’t all that bad!

Well, to my great delight, I can tell you that there are just as many benefits to the “country” Conch living as there are to the “city”. The peacefulness that surrounds you among the mangroves and incredible open, ever-changing shades of turquoise waters are the traditional Keys I think of when I see those beautiful pictures from above and of the places I want to cross off of my bucket list here. There is a different kind of magic where the night skies shine brightly with stars that twinkle like tiny diamonds above the ocean and secret beaches are discovered at the end of dead-end streets. There is a sense of community at the local restaurants you drive to (well, hitch a ride to—thank goodness for great roomies!) and the parks where children play. The first time you hear a lawnmower, there’s a reassuring sense of home as well. The space around you, between homes and neighborhoods, also opens the space in your heart and mind, and really does bring a sense of calm to your being.

All of the Keys are so very unique, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see them all “behind the scenes” during my time with Island Jane Magazine, but one thing remains the same—there is something for everyone and it is, indeed, the best of both worlds should you have the opportunity to experience life in the Florida Keys as a “City Conch” or a “Country Conch”. What I do know for myself, is that I am grateful for the opportunity to know and fall in love, just a little bit more, with a place my soul calls home.

My Backcountry Backyard