Gratitude – noun, the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Thanksgiving is always a time to remember what makes life worth living. November 22, 2018 is no exception. This has been a particularly blessed year for myself and NatureCoaster.com. We were voted as the best local/events blog by the Florida blogging convention, FLBlogCon, its members, yourselves and many others in September. I simply cannot express what a thrill that is for me.
I love Florida’s Nature Coast. To be able to share the beauty of this area – naturally, culturally and personally is an honor for me.
This is a place where I fit. Maybe you do too?
Where NatureCoaster.com Came From
This journey began a long time before NatureCoaster.com was started in 2014. In fact, I used to publish a printed magazine about what was happening in the area that was distributed in hotel rooms throughout Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Levy Counties. We printed quarterly, and I wrote the articles, sold the ads, created the ads, sent the bills, laid out the pages, ordered the printing, picked up the books, delivered them to the hotel rooms, and did collections when necessary. It was a popular magazine with the hotels, but I ended up having to close in 2010, after the Gulf oil spill.
I met so many good people when I was publishing the magazine: small business owners, tourism development professionals, nature lovers, nonprofit executives, local government officials who all loved the area and wanted to work together to celebrate its wonder. Many became friends. For that I am grateful.
Along with the devastation of losing a business I had developed for seven years, I acquired my first horse – the accumulation of a lifelong dream. I felt like God had given me the fulfillment of my dream to help balance the pain of losing another one. For that I am grateful. I never want to lose my faith.
Losing to Win
It was very time difficult for me. I had lost my confidence and did not know how we were going to make ends meet in our household with three teenagers and several pets. We had moved to Brooksville in 2005 and the community welcomed our family. I reached out in a local meeting and an attorney offered me a job in his office. For that I am grateful.
After the attorney’s regular receptionist returned from her maternity leave, I was looking again. The man who I got the horse from offered me a position helping to start a safari ranch attraction in Lakeland. Again, after a lot of self-examination, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime: working to develop a 200-acre attraction featuring rare and endangered animals from Africa and Asia in large herds, where visitors could enjoy a safari experience without leaving the Sunshine State. I pet a rhinoceros, fed lemurs and named babies.
For the amazing experiences I have been privy to, I am grateful. No one can take away memories.
After three months, the experience ended.
No permanent position again.
“What is wrong with me?” I kept thinking.
My work is part of me; I am not part of my work
During this time, I was forced to depend on God for my daily needs. It was reinforced over and over that I was not my work. My work did not define me. It was a major shift in thinking for me. I had always felt work was a defining part of who I was. Still, with my pride regularly stripped away, I had to change my thinking. It was painful, but it was for the best and I am grateful for the shift in focus.
I did some freelance work for some of the advertisers and friends I had made along my journey in the Nature Coast, but still hadn’t found my “place.”
In August of 2013, I nearly lost my life. After months in the hospital, then rehab where I learned to walk and write again, I went home in December. Another surgery and I was designated to a chair for recovery at home. Nurses came three times a week and I got stronger. My head cleared. Now what?
I decided to take the magazine online. I still loved Florida’s Nature Coast. The people are friendly. The pace is slow. The nature abounds, both sea and forest.
I taught myself to use WordPress and went about creating a site. I needed a name, a logo, something to take my mind off the terrible trouble of the past year.
It’s a Magazine, It’s a Directory, It’s a Project
So, in April 2014, I started NatureCoaster.com from my living room, where I am typing this today. I met a lady who had a very successful blog called Authentic Florida and she mentored me. She suggested that I attend the 2016 FLBlogCon, and I learned a lot there, went back in 2017, and in 2018 NatureCoaster.com won a coveted Sunshine Blog award from them.
She also suggested that I join the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, and after accumulating enough paid writing gigs to qualify, I promptly won two Excellence in Craft awards at the 2017 annual convention in Ocala.
I worked with the Pasco Tourism office to develop a brochure for them. I worked with the Citrus County Tourism office to write for their annual Visitors Guide for the past few years. I wrote the most popular blog post on their website.
I gained confidence in my writing ability and am comfortable saying, “I am a professional writer.” I was published in the Times twice!
For that I am grateful.
NatureCoaster.com Wins Awards and so do I
So, in 2018, I committed to only work on NatureCoaster.com. With the guidance of a mentor from SCORE, it became obvious that the only way to make NatureCoaster really work was to work it with conviction.
I hired an agency to redesign the logo, the website, and now to improve the website monthly and increase the SEO. Another growing pain: delegating work.
Today, we reach 10,000 unique viewers monthly, have over 2,500 e-zine subscribers, and many partners and advertisers who believe in what we do.
Our mission to unite people with the awesomeness that is Florida’s Nature Coast is being realized, and YOU are a part of it.
One becomes Two
My horse died unexpectedly in February. I did not know how much that could hurt. It still hurts.
In April, I became aware of a group of feral horses who had been rescued in the Gainesville area via Facebook. I began following the group without too much involvement. The story was heartening. I saw a very pregnant mare who had the most adorable filly…
I watched. I healed. I asked if anyone had spoken up for them and was told I should come and meet them. Now I have two horses: Mae Belle and Genesis. It was a lot to take on, but I have felt the blessing of knowing that I am helping creatures heal while they are healing me.
For that I am thankful.
Gratitude makes life Great
During all of this turmoil, my family has been loving, supportive and giving. The teenagers have turned into adults. They have found their way. One is married, two more are working and one of them has returned to the area after a stint in another state. We will be having a small family dinner (small number of people but lots of dinner) where I am able to spoil my child with a home-cooked Thanksgiving feast and for that I am grateful.
I could go on and on because gratitude is an attitude and it makes life wonderful.
May you be richly blessed in the holiday season and may you be a blessing to others as you journey on your path.
Feel free to add your stories to the comments for this holiday.