What an amazing year!

Reflecting on 2012, I can still feel the excitement I felt the day that I finally knew without a doubt that I could do whatever I wanted with absolutely nothing to fear! I didn’t know at the time that a cross-country road trip was in my future, but I was ready for whatever the Universe was sending my way.

Michael Jackson, Gary, INI started entertaining the idea of relocating and decided that a road trip would be an excellent way to explore possibilities. I decided eventually that a cross-country road trip would not only be an incredible experience but a great photo opportunity as well. Little did I imagine, however, the impact it would have on me as I drove out of my sister’s driveway that January afternoon. I was anticipating the experience of a lifetime without a clue as to what lay ahead, and that was perfectly fine.

I made new friends and met old friends for the first time. I witnessed unspeakable beauty and tried tofu for the first time. I drove down narrow, winding mountain roads and crossed bridges that would’ve scared me a year earlier. I visited landmarks in the middle of nowhere and was often the only one there. I saw the homes of presidents and left well wishes at the home of a superstar. I dared to walk the Skywalk and in the steps of Wyatt Earp and Judge Roy Bean.

I visited Hatfield and McCoy country, Laura Ingalls’ Little House, the home of The Waltons’ Earl Hamner, and my first convent in Oldenburg, Indiana. I crossed the border into Mexico and spent the afternoon in Vancouver, BC. I roamed the back roads of America and drove Route 66. I enjoyed the country’s mountains, parks, lakes and oceans as well as its flowery meadows and covered bridges and caught the sunset on the Pacific Coast Highway.

This was the year, too, that I came out of the shadows and started blogging and sharing my trip on Facebook. I thank each and every one of you who followed my journey on Facebook, who read and commented on my blog, who called or texted me to find out where I was on any given day, and who prayed for my safety.

I thank each of you who inspired me by letting me know that my journey inspired you in some way; that because of it, you’re more aware of yours and are taking the time to “stop and smell the roses”.

My life is so much richer for having driven those 20,684 miles, and what a moment it was when my cousin referred to me as a celebrity upon my return! Priceless!

OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona

O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona

Skywalk, Grand Canyon West

The Skywalk at Grand Canyon West

Sisters of Saint Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana

Convent of the Sisters of Saint Francis in Oldenburg, Indiana

Round Barn on Route 66

Round Barn on Route 66

Home of President Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana

Home of President Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana

Sunset on the Pacific Coast Highway

Sunset on the Pacific Coast Highway

Judge Roy Bean, Langtry, Texas

Judge Roy Bean’s court in Langtry, Texas

Grays River Covered Bridge, Grays River, WA

Grays River Covered Bridge in Grays River, Washington

Hatfield-McCoy, Pike County, KY

Dancing to Anna Maria Island

Many thanks to Dianne Rosena Jones, my friend, sister, and author of ‘Tragic Treasures’ and ‘Dancing with the Universe’ for the opportunity to dance with the Universe a few days ago on Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Anna Maria Island City PierThe invitation came late Thursday and by Saturday afternoon, I was on the island. It felt good being on the road again, driving through towns I’d never visited, and seeing sights I’d never seen. I had no idea that olives grew in Georgia until I passed Georgia Olive Farms in Lakeland.

But it was during a chance encounter Sunday morning that I experienced firsthand the importance of being in the moment and open to dancing with the Universe. Dianne and I were out on the pier for the express purpose of capturing the sunrise. With the sun on the horizon, however, Geri, Bob and pup Maxmillian III approached and asked if I’d photograph them. Geri was so engaging that I was concerned I’d miss my shots. I clearly recall the moment, though, when I let go and became one with it. As a result, I captured an amazing sunrise and the added bonus of a most inspiring encounter.

Geri shared her “love at first sight” moment with the man she married ten years later and to whom she remained married for 54 years. Widowed just over a year ago, she was continuing the tradition they started over ten years ago: visiting Anna Maria Island every year. She was truly inspiring!

Later, we brunched with Marsha and Norman. It was our first time meeting them, but it felt more like being with old friends. They recently relocated to Florida after sixty plus years in Illinois without prior plans to do so. Having decided to dance, however, “things just fell into place” and they’re loving where the dance has led them.

At their suggestion, Dianne and I decided to view the manatees at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. The manatees must’ve been dancing elsewhere that afternoon because we didn’t see any. We then followed the dance to Tampa where we had dinner at Bella’s Italian in Hyde Park. It was there that we experienced the best ginger beer and ‘Pazzo Pazzo’ pizza ever!

We left the island Tuesday afternoon after breakfasting at Peach’s where they serve peach cobbler in mason jars. They were out of cobbler that morning, though. I visited family in Jacksonville and Savannah before heading home Thursday.

It was a fantastic six days but I can recall the time when I would’ve found an excuse not to accept such a spontaneous invitation. Thanks to the power of release, though, I can now embrace the dance and experience how grand life really is.

Sunset on Anna Maria Island

Sunset on Anna Maria Island

Sunrise on Anna Maria Island

Heron on Anna Maria Island

Pelican on Anna Maria Island City Pier