How Much Do You Weigh?

I brought my luggage here, to this very scale at Publix, before leaving on an international journey several years ago. The in-country flights were said to be very strict in terms of what each piece of luggage may weigh, and since I always overpack I knew I’d be pushing it to the absolute limit.

I took my bags to this large, freight/animal-like scale Publix at least a couple of times so I would be certain that I had everything I could possibly want without incurring over-the-limit fees. Yes, it’s true, I only used one-quarter of the stuff I hauled on six flights where I did have to manage my own luggage in addition to one highly resistant child, but that’s not what this post is about.

Every time I come into the store now, I remember those days fondly. It was such fun, planning for that trip. These days, my kids elbow each other aside to be first onto the scale, checking their body weight along with all the old people doing the same thing. For all the world to see.

I never see a woman like me getting onto the LARGE and PUBLIC scale to check her weight for the fun of it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a public weigh-in. Who am I to dissuade you?

But the day I get on that thing is the day you’ll know it’s time to take me in for a mental status examination. I prefer to do my weigh-ins in the privacy of my own bathroom, or under duress, at the doctor’s office. Imagine: once I declined to get on the scale and the aide wrote refused on my chart. It made me sound so…obstinate. I was very polite. I clearly remember saying ‘no, thank you.’

No matter how charming iPhone’s new Best Camera app makes this scale appear. No matter how charming.

The Yellow Backpack

This backpack is twelve years old. While it’s not exactly my fashion style it’s been incredibly useful. It’s been with me to Korea twice, touring up and down the peninsula. From Beijing to Hong Kong and parts in between; on several trips to California, Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, and even Las Vegas. For car trips around Florida when an overnight is involved. It’s been an extension of my purse on all these trips, hauling books, magazines, makeup, snacks, changes of clothes and toothbrushes, iPods, medicines. Anything and everything I could think of to get me through if something happened to delay a journey, whether by plane or car, has been crammed into the yellow backpack.
It’s never been an academic backpack, but always a backpack for traveling adventures. All travel is an adventure.
It washes up so well in the washing machine that it still looks fresh considering where it’s been. Its construction is sturdy with enough interior space and smaller, zippered compartments to jam it full while maintaining some semblance of organization.
Today, however, it served as my actual purse. I took it to the Regal Cinema and from now on, in it goes with me, filled with “outside food and beverage” so I can actually pretend that I can afford seeing a movie at the theatre anymore.
When ticket prices finally hit $10 around these parts, I hit the wall. Who can afford to take their family to a movie when tickets alone are $10 each? We all know what popcorn and soda and candy cost once you’re there, let’s face it, that’s part of the fun for the kids so who am I to deny them?
But since when did the matinee show times end at 3:00pm? Last I heard all shows before 6:00 were considered matinees. But, nooo, like everything else in this recessonista, portions have shrunk and prices increased.
So when I was asked to fork over $10/adult and $6/kid for the 4:00pm screening (and informed of the new, earlier matinee times) of Julie and Julia I was not sorry that I’d done this, packing it into two generous-sized brown paper bags

and dousing each with my special popcorn salt (plus pepper for me!), shaking them up good and placing them into the yellow backpack. (Excellent popcorn, Orville Redenbacher, popped with oil in my old school corn popper. For me, this is better than the popcorn you buy at the theatre which is never quite as good as it smells, when you’re standing in line to pay another $18 or so for eats.) I added a cold bottle of diet Pepsi for me and a cold can of creme soda for her, and then a quick stop at the Dollar Tree for a box of Sugar Babies (cost at the theatre for same candy = $3.50). We enjoyed the film, ate our snacks, and came home.
Thank you yellow backpack, for being my purse today. I look forward to many more outings to the theatre together.
If this sometimes-still-backward-town ever gets The September Issue, we’ll be heading out again soon. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting in my drawer for my next travel journey, whenever that may be.

Gettin’ Naked at Naked Spring

That’s exactly what I’m going to do the next time I go to Blue Springs. I’ll need my husband along (hey, maybe this is what’ll entice the guy to come happily on a springs trip) to stand lookout but swimming naked in this tiny spring called Naked Spring is on my things-to-do-in-the-near-future list. No bucket list for me; I don’t care to think of it in those terms. I rather like the idea of a personal manifesto; swimming without a bathing suit in this spring is definitely on mine.

I may just do it before the end of this year.

Let me explain.

I knew there were two other springs, lesser ones, on the grounds at Blue Springs park. I’ve been so enamored of Blue Springs, though, that I hadn’t wandered about in search of them. Last Saturday I did. And oh! What a jewel I stumbled upon.

Naked Spring is off the beaten path, set further back in the woods and is perfectly secluded so shedding a swimsuit (and hurriedly donning it if need be) shouldn’t be a problem. A lookout will be able to alert me to any encroachers before they arrive at the floating dock.

(just playing with tones in photoshop)
The spring is small, and it’s marvelously enclosed by trees and other flora, creating a sense of real solitude. It has an absolutely lovely clear blue pool with a fairly deep cave (or vent) to float over and watch the goings-on beneath the surface.

(Neither of those girls is me. But this is a great way to take in the view below. Notice the clear water and reflection of the trees surrounding the spring! We were ecstatic when we found this out-of-the-way surprise spring.)

You share the seclusion with only the lovely woods and wildlife.
If ever a place entices me to skinny dip, this is it. And it seems like a perfectly natural thing to do there. Could there be any other reason why they called it Naked Spring? I wonder.

Their Blue Springs

Thank goodness there’s consensus in the family: it’s Blue Springs for everyone. Some family members are more…excitable about springs than others, with a fifth member who shall go unnamed flatly disinterested. He drove the springs-obsessed matriarch and children to various springs in the Ocala National Forest regions a few weeks ago. He carried the cooler, chairs, and towels. He sat, unimpressed by the emerald-colored waters and waited while they frolicked in one spring after the other. He was positively dour about not being anywhere near a televsion when Notre Dame was scheduled to kick off its inaugural game of the 2009 college football season. But wait! He didn’t have to miss that game after all because, yes, indeed, there’s an app for that. Notre Dame paired with NBC and created an app for iPhone that shows their 8 home games in real time. Crisis averted at Rainbow Springs on Labor Day Weekend.

Lately, only the true enthusiasts among us have been stretching our summer fun into these September weekends, and our destination is unanimous: it’s Blue Springs for everyone. A couple of days ago we learned that flag football had a rare Saturday off its schedule, so do you want to guess where most of us will be?

I’ve already described my Blue Springs experience, so I’ll leave you with images of theirs.

My Blue Springs

Like a skier soaring down a favorite mountain, euphoric, so it is for me when I swim in my favorite places. Lately, the waters of Blue Springs in Gilchrist County, Florida have been exactly where I want to go. When I snap on my fins, adjust my mask and underwater snorkel and set off through the headspring and down the spring run, I am wild and free.

I am swimming in nature: taken by gentle current through aquatic springs life. The water’s not too deep along the run and it’s teeming with plants: some, streamer-like, undulating as the water moves across, others bushier. The spring run has a sort of path that’s clear to its sandy bottom; in parts it’s more profuse with vegetation so I swim overtop. I swim past fish of various types; they like plant life. The springs run is deeper in some spots, quite shallow in others. I can stand up and look around…and see that I really am in the middle of the woods. I don’t think about things like alligators or snakes. Why let fear creep in? The water is always moving, in a gentle current toward the point where Blue Springs run meets the Santa Fe River.

Blue Springs beckons me in a place that I feel more than hear. “Come,” it whispers, “My waters are for people like you. I am your natural resource, and I have nourished the earth for hundreds of years. I am yours to delight in, to swim, or kayak or canoe…come.”

When I am near special waters I feel this call. I can indulge it at Blue Springs. I can swim all the way to the Sante Fe, or I can go part way and swim back to the large headspring and park.

The return is like swimming upstream, and even with my fins and two strong arms it’s an invigorating experience. Unlike other springs I’ve visited recently, Blue Springs doesn’t cordon off its swimming area, leaving me hanging by the rope, only to gaze at the very river or stream that I long to explore. The entire park is maintained as naturally as possible, and I love it all the more for its natural state.

There are two smaller springs within walking distance, and a quarter-mile wooden walkway that’s set above and alongside the spring run that ends at the Santa Fe River. Many people enjoy the walk and love to fish the river. Tent campers stoke aromatic fires whose wood smoke wafts through the park all day long. It’s a low-key, rustic environment that truly evokes a yesteryear mood.

After a lifetime of being a girl without a sport, that’s all changed. I can be a snorkeler without living in a tropical locale! I can be a springs snorkeler and enjoy the visceral, and spiritual exhilaration of good, clean, clear and chilly water, bubbling up from its very source in the aquifer. With an underwater snorkel, I can dive down without it taking on water making for a deeper experience than merely floating along the surface. I yearn to be one with the water. As completely schmaltzy as that sounds it’s really how I’ve always felt when I’ve been in good waters: certain lakes, parts of the ocean, and now, the springs. I suppose this is how it feels when one has a favorite sport. And now, after all these years, I can finally claim my sport too. See? It’s never too late to grow into your true nature.

Romancing the Springs

Blue Springs, Gilchrist County, Florida
I’ve been trying to think of a clever and amusing way to write about my summer romance, but the weeks go by and the words don’t come. So I decided I’d just give it to you straight, because I do want to post while I’m still in the throes of my newfound crush: the Florida springs.
I’d been to the Ichetucknee River several times. Everyone knows of Ichetucknee and a summer tube run down the Ichetucknee River is on many people’s summer agenda. We went twice, this summer, actually. Not everyone, however, visits the headspring at Ichetucknee but for us, no Ichetucknee trip is complete without a swim in the headspring. Cold, clear and marvelously refreshing, I’ve got to dive right in and keep swimming, but once I do it’s near euphoria.
Our first trip to the Ichetucknee River and springs this summer prompted another visit to a nearby springs, and then another. Soon, I was Googling Florida springs and obsessing over which springs would be best for swimming and snorkeling. I was like a girl in love. I talked springs springs springs, driving my water-neutral husband a bit batty.
I’d been happy as can be to enjoy my little corner of world, and while I do go into the ocean…it just doesn’t affect the part of my spirit that craves a freshwater frolic on a hot summer day.
I’ve missed swimming in those freshwater lakes so rife in Michigan. I’ve missed the biggest and best of them all: my Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan, July 2009
stated temperature: 58 degrees
There’s nothing more euphoric, for me, than plunging underwater in clear, cool Lake Michigan on a hot summer day.

Lake Michigan, cool and clear.
But during annual summer visits to Michigan my opportunities to grab a block of time to just be, at the beach, swimming, have been frustratingly limited. However, this past July afforded me not one but two perfect summer afternoons on the Lake Michigan shore.
What a girl wants for a day on the beach.
So, when I discovered the other Florida this summer, the luscious springs, I fell hard for them. In this water, I can swim. In this water, I can snorkel, see fish and plant life. It’s crystal clear. It’s utterly refreshing. The springs bubble at their point of origin. The water is generally blue-green, like tropical waters. It is 72 degrees year round. And when you come from the north where summer lake temps range from the mid-50s to about ‘springs temps’ on a good day…you can handle springs water temperature just fine. It’s an invigorating change from late summer ocean temps of well into the mid 80s.
Manatee Springs
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures, and more to come about springs. I’m in love, I tell you!
Silver Glen Springs
Blue Springs

Rainbow Springs (below)

Fear of Sharpies

Now that my kids are a little older, I notice that Sharpies are making their way into their possession. I find Sharpies lying on tables, spilling out of backpacks, scattered about the floor next to shoes.
When they were little, I owned perhaps two Sharpie markers, both of which were hidden in the garage, for my occasional use. I had visions of the Sharpie being found by preschool hands and used in unintended ways: doodling on the wall…or on the furniture. A visit to my preschooler’s friend’s home revealed wall scribbling, albeit with pencil, running the length of a hallway. I gasped, inwardly. How would a small child distinguish between a pencil and a Sharpie? There was my proof, thankfully, though, on another mother’s wall and not my own. It was decided: all Sharpies would remain hidden until further notice.
Lately I’ve been keeping the Sharpies concealed behind some of my things; stamps, craft scissors, an extra set of house keys, in an upper desk cupboard and not in the pens and pencil desk drawer. (I’m not kidding myself that they don’t know how to find the Sharpies if needed.) Although the kids are past the age where they’d be tempted to do wall art, I’m still jittery about the use of Sharpies in the house. If they can reach for another writing instrument, I’d prefer it. Accidents with Sharpies do happen: I recently read on a blog that a Sharpie marker got all over a mom’s new, microfiber couch. Desperate, she wrote in for help. I felt sick for her. Perhaps you can remove Sharpie markings from solid surfaces with nail polish remover, but it had better be the right surface, not porous and certainly not fabric.
School supply lists have requested a few Sharpies which I dutifully bought. But where have all these other Sharpies been coming from? It’s like they’re multiplying. I know I didn’t get ten of them, but there they are: black ones, red ones, blue ones, lying about my house. I can’t hide them all!
I guess it’s a letting go process for me. We talk about trusting our kids, giving them more responsibility…I suppose this means allowing them to own Sharpies – and to use them. Fear still nips at me when I see my middle school girl, seated at the (wooden) kitchen table vigorously shading in the subject name in her own design on a school binder with a black Sharpie marker. Making the word larger, darker, bolder. I didn’t say anything, willing my anxiety down, displaying Trust (although she was oblivious to it all) in her judgement to keep the marker on the binder only.
Until she was finished, and I saw the outcome of her hard work:

I guess we’ll see if that nail polish remover trick really works.