Scuba Zen

Over the July 4th holiday, my husband and I visited one of our favorite places on earth: St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most travelers go to  St. Thomas instead, and maybe take a day trip or two to St. John by ferry. The views on those two islands are breathtakingly gorgeous, but St. Croix is quieter and less touristy. It feels more like…home.

Usually, we scuba dive on the North Shore of the island, where the seas are choppier, and you’re likely to see this:

Caribbean reef shark swimming against the background of the reef

©2012 David P. Nyffenegger. All Rights Reserved.


Reef sharks are less common in the calmer waters off the island’s West Side, where we dove this trip. Although we didn’t see any sharks, we did spot some dolphins at the surface, including a mother and calf. We also saw lots of stingrays, eels, and turtles, including a hawksbill.

But cataloging the sea life doesn’t really capture why scuba diving is such an amazing experience.

Writers like me live in our heads. We’re continually pondering and plotting while driving our cars, standing in line at the grocery store, even mingling at parties.

Scuba diving forces you to live in the moment.

You have to be aware of your position in three-dimensional space—not just to the right and left, to the front and back, but also up and down. Otherwise, you can plow into another diver or worse, a wall of coral (which, besides being painful, also damages the reef).

You have to watch your gauges—depth, nitrogen level, air supply. You have to control your breathing, because that controls your depth. You have to keep an eye on your buddy, to make sure he’s okay.

For veteran divers like me, all this becomes second-nature, much like driving a car. But unlike driving a car, you never go on auto-pilot. With so much sensory stimulation, you’re constantly aware of your surroundings. Enjoying the pretty tropical fish. Maneuvering around the barrel sponges. Scanning for cool stuff.

Queen Angelfish and Sea Plumes

©2012 David P. Nyffenegger. All Rights Reserved.

When you become immersed in the underwater world—not just physically, but mentally as well—you experience a feeling I call scuba zen. You become one with the reef. You’re not just an outsider visiting,  but a marine mammal in its natural habitat. With a flick of a fin and an inhale of breath, you work your way along the reef, checking crannies for lobsters, searching the broad expanse of sand for garden eels. You glide weightlessly through the water. The crackle of coral and the gurgle of bubbles fill your ears.

For that hour or so of bottom time, the reef is your whole world. There are no deadlines, no worries, no responsibilities (well, okay, you have to make sure your equipment doesn’t fail and your buddy doesn’t drown, but usually that’s not a problem). You have no choice but to experience the world in all its color. To come face to face with wild creatures on their terms. You’re acutely aware of how small and vulnerable you are in that vast sea—but that’s okay, because you’re part of the sea. And if you’re lucky, that feeling stays with you once you’re back on land.

Humans don’t own the earth. We’re of the earth. We owe it to future generations to be good stewards. We also owe it to ourselves to be aware of the beauty of this planet God gave us. It’s magnificent. Among all the deadlines and worries and responsibilities, we should take a little time each day to experience that zen with the world around us. To live in the moment. To notice the little things. To be aware of our breath as the sweet air of life enters and leaves our bodies.

In this always connected world of ours, it’s good to disconnect from our devices once in a while so we can reconnect with nature. It soothes our minds and nourishes our souls. We all need some of that in our lives.

What do you do to relax? Do you have a favorite hobby that helps you lose yourself and forget your troubles? 

The long, hard road

I had lunch yesterday with a friend, one I met a million years ago when he hired me for a position at an Atlanta nonprofit. He moved on from the job and I soon followed, but our friendship remained. We’ve met for lunch or cocktails a few times a year ever since.

About six years ago, during one of our get-togethers, he told me about a screen play he’d just written. Apparently, it was a long-time dream of his to see one of his stories on the big screen, and he’d reached a now-or-never age and place in his life, so he took a million classes, read a million books, and went for it. This was around the time I was coming out of the closet about my own writing habit, so we bonded about our struggles and insecurities and the long, hard road we had both just embarked on.

He was one of the first people I told when I signed my contract with Harlequin MIRA, and now it looks likely there will be a film premier in his near future. Our bi-annual luncheon turned into an impromptu celebration.

More than six years it took us to get here, which unless you’re on the receiving end of a six-year-long string of rejections may not seem like a long time, but as the recipient of that six-year-long string of rejections let me tell you, it is. A really, really, REALLY long time.

Every writer gets rejections, and we console ourselves by saying that every rejection brings us one step closer to a ‘yes’. Just because it’s true and logical doesn’t make it any easier to hear when you’re buried under six years’ worth of rejection letters, but if I’d had any inkling that my friend and I would end up here, at a lunchtime table toasting to book launch parties and red carpets appearances, I would have been a lot less devastated whenever one of those rejections popped into my inbox.

But yeah, six years later and we’re finally legit. We’ve finally reached the end of the long, hard road.

But as I told my friend at lunch, this is really only the beginning.

A New Place to Call My Own

I picked it out myself. Arranged and rearranged. Hung the drapes. Fluffed the pillows. I’ve scented it with lavender (see if you can tell). Coffee’s stocked. Everything is situated just so. It’s pretty comfy and it suits me well.

Won’t you swing by my new personal blog? I love having guests!

Click here to visit WOMAN, DETERMINED.

What Does “Unplugged” Mean To You?

When contemplating what to post today I thought about the name of this blog – Women Unplugged. I don’t recall who thought of the title but I like it. It’s unique and appropriate. Why?

I notice that there are few, if any, men who read our posts. I don’t wonder why since it’s obviously a blog for women who want to read posts that are, well, unplugged – out of the norm, different, not what you’d expect, et al.

I enjoy reading what’s written here because I never know what to expect. Every woman’s post is uniquely different than any others that have been written before. No posts “fit” into any particular category or theme. That’s what makes them all “unplugged”.

I see the posts in my inbox and, just as Forest Gump would say, “you never know what you’re gonna get”.

So I’m taking my “day” for posting on the Women Unplugged site to say “thank you” to those women who are not only writing the posts but reading them as well.

What does “unplugged” mean to you?


He Said, She Said: The Temperature Wars

Have you ever had a disagreement with your significant other over the temperature in the house? Whether you’re female or male, the answer is probably yes.

For years, my husband has been after me to install air-conditioning in the house. For years, I’ve resisted because I love to open the windows in the summer and let the natural breeze cool the house.

But last month, I finally gave in, and we now have a monstrosity of a unit outside our back door. And that’s when the temperature wars began…

He Said, She Said

He Said: (comes home from work, sweaty and hot) “It’s roasting in here. Why isn’t the air-conditioning on?”

She Said: (wearing t-shirt and sweats, and after a day inside, non-sweaty and cool) “It is. Give it a little while and you’ll adjust.”

He Said: (checking the temperature on the thermostat) “What’s the point of having air-conditioning if you’re going to keep it this hot? What a waste of money.”

She Said: (trying to be understanding) “If it’s set any lower, it’s too cold downstairs.”

He Said: “The temperature down there is only 20C (68F). How can that be too cold?”

She Said: (just the tiniest annoyed) “Trust me, it is.”

Ten minutes later, there’s a significant temperature change in the house. Upon checking the thermostat, she discovers the temperature has been lowered.

She Said: (pulling on a sweatshirt) “22 (71F) is too cold.”

He Said: “How can it be too cold? In the winter 22 is warm.”


One hour later, she’s sitting in the downstairs family room reading, covered with a blanket. It’s so cold, she has to get a tissue because her nose is running. She heads upstairs to the dining room where he’s playing Solitaire on his PC…

She Said: (grumpy as all get out) “It’s freezing down there. It’s freezing up here, too. The air-conditioner has been running for a solid hour without stopping.”

He Said: (bundled up in a warm sweater) “How do you know? You can’t hear it inside the house.”

She Said: (seething) “The furnace room is right across from me. I can hear it run and it’s not clicking off.”

He Said: “Not possible.”

She Said: (stomping away, heading back downstairs to the good book she’s reading) “I’m not stupid, you know. Go sit in the family room for a while and you’ll see what I mean. It’s so cold, I’m ready to haul out my winter jacket.”

He Said: (actually, he just ignores her, which pisses her off to no end, and makes her regret installing the stupid air-conditioner)

Finally, she goes outside to warm up, but because it’s still hot enough to fry eggs on the pavement, she’s soon all sweaty. She gives up and heads inside, grabs a second blanket and hauls it downstairs…

Two hours later, he comes down to the family room…

He Said: (hands in pockets, looking smug and righteously right) “It’s nice down here.”

Then he goes back upstairs.

At bedtime, the air-conditioner gets turned off. The windows upstairs stay closed because, you know, you’re not supposed to open the windows when you have air-conditioning.

The residual heat from the day is trapped inside the house and the temperature in the bedroom climbs. Despite the fan above the bed, it keeps getting hotter, until she finally heads outside to cool off…or maybe just cool down.

She Said: “Stupid air-conditioner. Stupid men. One of them has to go.”

Do you have He Said, She Said moments in your household, too? If so, I’d love to hear about them!


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