Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year: The Joy is in The Journey

I wish I had the time for a really well thought out blog post. I wish I could post an awesome "Year in Review" video like I did last year, or come up with some great way to share a solid re-cap of all the stuff that went on this past year.  But I am showing up here with nothing prepared. I just put all the kids down for a nap and realized that it's New Year's Eve and I don't think I should let 2014 go down without a few words. It was, after all, one of the most life-altering years of my life.

Then again, aren't they all? At least in one way or another?

The truth is, this year went by in a blur. A total fog of newborn twin-ness. I always joke that if I set up a GoPro camera in our home and played it back on high-speed, you would see me bouncing back and forth all over the place like a ping-pong ball. Picking up babies, chasing babies, feeding babies, playing with babies, cleaning up after babies and basically running a veritable marathon between the halls of this house. It's been busy, and we all know that when we are busy, time just flies on by. Whoosh.

This year has taught me so much. SO much. I don't have the time to adequately ruminate on the countless ways this year - and primarily the twins - have rocked me to my core, but they have, and in the most profound ways. Haven and Mira are proving to be my greatest teachers. First of all, they have taught me that the heart does in fact grow bigger, even though no parent can ever imagine loving subsequent children as much as their first. They have taught me the beauty of genetics and how two people can create three incredibly different and distinct individuals. They have taught me that, no matter how hard I try to control things, sometimes I have to go with the flow even though this can be very hard for me to do. "If you don't bend, you break," Scott gently reminded me one morning when I was starting to get agitated that things weren't going *precisely* to plan. As much as I hate to admit it, "going with the flow" goes against my nature. I can play the part for a while, but ultimately I like to be in the driver's seat of my life and - well - the twins have taught me that sometimes, we're not in the driver's seat, we're just along for the ride.

And what a ride it has been.

"The joy is in the journey." This phrase hangs dead center in Mira and Haven's room and it's a mantra I have found myself repeating in a "serenity now" sort of way.

I have not been the best "me" this year. Unrivaled sleep deprivation, plus a colicky infant, twins and a very willful two year old, mixed in with a hefty dose of uncertainty about life has, at times, brought out my ugliest side. I learned a lot of not so great truths about myself when push came to shove and I discovered that I have some serious mental housekeeping to do. My patience was put to the test on a daily basis and many times I did not rise to the occasion. On multiple occasions I failed as a daughter, friend, sister, wife and mother and I do not cope well with failure.

But, like everything in life, there is a yin to this yang, and that "yin" is the people who surround me. I am beyond blessed with an incredible network of people who counterbalanced my failures and irascibility with an incredible amount of love and support. My amazing parents, my beautiful friends and my incredible husband were all so instrumental to me (and my sanity) this year, I cannot even begin to tell you. They were strong when I was weak, kind when I was cruel, giving when I was selfish and each of them let my roller coaster of emotions and twin-induced hormones run their course. They laughed with me, cried with me and picked me up over and over. They had my back in a million ways, large and small, and I cannot thank them enough for it. To have people like that in your corner...well, that's when you have won a sort of lottery in life, I think.

And then there are the babies. Our amazing, incredible, beautiful, awesome babies. There are not enough words to describe how blessed and thankful I am that we have three happy, healthy children - they are seriously joy personified and I have no idea how we got so lucky. As challenging as this year was, it has also brought me more happiness than I could have ever imagined. Funny how life has a way of calibrating like that. Sometimes I lay awake at night just thanking the Universe over and over and over for what we have been given. Even though I don't know how I could possibly be more grateful, it never, ever feels like enough.

2014 has been a year of big changes but mostly, this year has been about love. Life-changing, course-altering, soul-shaking, heart-bursting LOVE. I can only hope that 2015 - and every year after - follows suit. I am beyond grateful. Asante sana, Universe.

Thank you all so very much for following along on this crazy, crazy ride. Happy New Year to you all.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Land Yachting

While Scott and I have taken countless "leaps of faith" in our life together, baby steps is the name of our game. When we brought Isla on our boat, we started out nice and slow, cruising the Bahamas and then beyond. When we found out we were pregnant with twins, we decided to come home during my third trimester and adjust to life with multiples on land. When we decided we would, in fact, be returning to our boat - we decided to do a little test cruise with the babies on Lake Michigan to get a glimpse of what we were in for. When the prospect of a seven-plus hour drive with three small children in a rather compact SUV made us want to jump off a bridge, we decided to rent an RV instead.


Yep. We're "land yachting" for the holidays (thank you, Rorke, for the phrase!) Look out, Uncle Eddie.

While the decision was made primarily with our sanity in mind, there was some rhyme to our reason and a secondary bonus to making this call: driving in an RV will be yet another little glimpse of what life on a boat will resemble. Another "baby step" toward what we are in for in less than a month. Say what you will about motorhomes and trailers, but the fact of the matter is that "cruising" in a vehicle and "cruising" on a boat bear some very striking resemblances.

Scott and I had talked about renting an RV to drive up to his mom's in Northern Michigan before. It never happened because it was really, really expensive. After three solid weeks of having all kids sick with pretty much everything but Ebola (no joke: pink eye, influenza, stomach bug, respiratory infections, colds, crazy fevers and more) he got nervous about such a long car ride with very fussy, uncomfortable kids and brought up the RV rental again. Of course I was game (duh!) and I suggested he get a few quotes. Being that this is "low season" for the RV-renting set, we got ourselves a killer deal on twenty-five feet of a rollin' home that will be our 'tenement on wheels' for the week of Christmas. Scott has been doing seasonal work for UPS to top up the cruising kitty, so the prospect of taking to the highway in a twenty-five footer isn't *as* intimidating since he's been driving a big brown truck ten hours a day. File all this under the hashtag "winning."

So there you have it, our little adventure before our big adventure. Packing up three small children and all associated accouterments for a week in a cold, snowy climate - over Christmas no less - is no small feat (another bonus for the tropics: less clothes!!!) even for us who try to be minimalistic with toys and gear, so, of course, I am making lists and checking them twice. It's a heck of a lot to organize but again, it will be good preparation and pruning for the big "pack up" back to the boat. Neither of us have ever done the RV thing before so it should be an adventure. Needless to say, we'll keep you posted (check in with us on Facebook for more frequent updates). We "ship out" on Tuesday morning! Yee-haw!
Clark: So, when did you get the tenement on wheels?
Eddie: Oh, that uh, that there's an RV. Yeah, yeah, I borrowed it off a buddy of mine. He took my house, I took the RV. It's a good looking vehicle, ain't it?
Clark: Yeah, it looks so nice parked in the driveway.
[Raises glass to his mouth]
Eddie: Yeah, it sure does. But, don't you go falling in love with it now, because, we're taking it with us when we leave here next month.
[Clark nearly chokes on his drink]
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 

Friday, December 19, 2014


I am a wuss. I know that might come as a surprise to some of you, but it's true. Prior to any passage longer than twelve hours my belly swarms with butterflies and my mind wells up like a balloon with millions of "what if's." As we haul anchor and set sail, my worry manifests itself into fidgety hands, darting eyes and nervous questions like, "Are we sure this weather window was a good one?" "Do these waves seem bigger than predicted?" "Does the engine sound funny?" and "Wait a it Friday? (Gasp) We can't leave on a FRIDAY!"

Scott just looks at me and shakes his head.  I should know better, he says. I'm not like other girls, he reminds me. Scott is a pragmatist and, for better or worse, he treats me like an absolute equal on the boat. He doesn't coddle me or placate my worry, he simply tells me to suck it up and either a) take the helm or b) get some rest (depending on who takes the first watch). Scott spends no time hemming and hawing, he doesn't believe in unnecessary worry, nor does he pay any mind to sailing superstitions. If the perfect weather window opens on Friday, then we leave on Friday. Mother nature > superstition. Simple as that.

Truth be told, if it were up to me we'd never go anywhere, my worry can - at times - be paralyzing. I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone. Sometimes even dragged kicking and screaming. But once I am out, I love it. I am better for it. Which is just another reason why I love the cruising lifestyle so much - the constant growth into new territories. But that first step? It's a doozie for me.

Being something of a control freak (one of my least favorable traits and the one I do battle with daily), means I have to constantly suppress my need to know *exactly* what will happen and when. This obviously doesn't bode well for the cruising lifestyle (or life in general, really) where control is hugely limited and we must, quite literally, go with the flow. The sea, weather and boat form the trifecta of dominion in our lives - not us - and those three things provide lots and lots of surprises. "Plan" is just another dirty four letter word.

I think this is precisely why many sailors cling to myths. A quick Google search of "marine superstitions" will keep you busy for hours. In fact, I even wrote a post about them years ago, before we set sail. Clearly I am not the only one who finds this loss of control slightly unnerving. We as cruisers are constantly at the mercy of mother nature and live a lifestyle where the feeling of "control" is replaced with that of "adventure." If not bringing bananas aboard your vessel or refusing to look back after you've left port puts your mind at ease and helps you to take that first step, well then, I say to each his own.

Despite this, there are very few superstitions that hold any credibility to me (I already told you Scott's take on the matter). Turns out, most nautical superstitions were born from biblical times and many of them have either been debunked or are simply irrelevant these days. Women are bad luck on a boat? If that was true there'd be a lot more of those awkward single handers I mentioned earlier. We can't all be that bad (Right?) **** crickets****

In place of superstitions, Scott and I are pretty meticulous and methodical about how we care for and maintain our boat. We watch weather closely and sail very conservatively. That's not to say we haven't been bitch slapped here and there, because we have. But no amount of nautical juju is going to keep your engine purring if you don't change it's oil regularly. That said, I do say a little "prayer" to the Universe before we leave and I am always "thankful in advance" for our safe journey. I breathe a little easier if there's a red sky the night before a long passage and I take dolphins swimming at our bow as a very auspicious omen. I think we all have our little beliefs and rituals that we cling to when at sea. After all, the ocean is a constant reminder that we are not in charge, an ever present measuring stick that shows us precisely how tiny and insignificant we are.

So if you do happen to sail with us, please don't whistle. Ever. No need to summon a gale. Thanks.

When you believe in things that you don't understand then you suffer. Superstition ain't the way.- Stevie Wonder

So what about you? Do you have any rituals or superstitions you observe? LOOK Insurance are doing a study and would love to know if you are superstitious on your boat. Take thirty seconds and fill out their very simple three question survey (no need to fill out email address or anything so it's very painless!) and help them out!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Awesome Sailing People: KatieandJessieOnaBoat

I don't really know how to properly introduce these beautiful women other than to tell you that very few blogs keep my attention these days (one word: babies) and their blog is one of them. It's a cut above the rest. I can't really put my finger on why it's so, but it is. It's obvious that Jessie is a gifted writer and stellar photographer, and Katie's quirks and incredible sense of humor make for some great stories - but it's more than those things...What can I say? The blog and the women behind it just have that special je ne sais quoi.

Meet Katie and Jessie, two best friends in their mid-twenties who decided, more or less on a whim, to take on "The Great Loop" in a small sailboat together. Some of you might know of, the blog chronicling their trip, but on the off chance you don't - do yourself a favor and take a look. "Refreshing" doesn't even begin to describe it. It's honest, genuine and - most importantly- it's really good. Jessie is one of my favorite writers on the internet these days and even though 'envy' is an emotion I don't often entertain, when I read her I find it hard not to turn a shade of green.

Yes. I have a total "girl crush".

I am beyond inspired and excited by them. After emailing back and forth I'm certain we are kindred spirits and I am thrilled that we share a Great Lake (and midwestern roots) which means the likelihood of our meeting each other one day is high. Katie and Jessie are going places. They might not know when or where, but believe me, this is not the last you'll hear of them.

These two are the full package: beauty, brains, brawn...and, as if that wasn't enough, they have pretty fantastic sense of humors to boot. Read 'em and weep:

1. Give our readers the cliff's notes of your journey. The why, where, and how...

WHY? I spent a lot of time looking for jobs on boats when I was 22. After turning down a job opportunity on a 100 foot yacht with a crazy Spanish man, my Dad encouraged me to buy my own boat and sail to the Bahamas myself - but not just me - Katie too. We were all in my truck together and the conversation went something like this;

"Why don't you girls buy a boat and sail the Bahamas? Take your own boat trip" - Dad

"I wouldn't suggest that too seriously if I were you" - me

"Why don't you do 'the loop'? " - Dad

"Okay. We will. Katie? Sound good?" -me

"Sounds good to me." - Katie

"Okay we will leave in one year. Deal? " - me

"Deal" - Katie

We left one year later.

WHERE? We spent two years traveling in a very large circle, beginning and ending in Lake Michigan. Heading south towards Chicago we entered the Illinois river... and continued onto the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Tombigbee waterways reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Skirting the coast over to Florida and crossing through middle of the state via Lake Okechobee. Sailed to the Bahamas, and spent three months island hopping. The intracoastal waterway brought us all the way up the East coast to New York City. The Hudson River, Erie Canal, and Trent-Severn waterway in Canada eventually dumped us back into the Great Lakes. Thats a lot to take in - I know. And no, we never knew where we were going until the day of.

HOW? Found "Louise"online. Quit our jobs. Moved back home to Michigan. Left our boyfriends. Drained our bank accounts. Spent a summer tearing apart our new home and making her seaworthy with help from our knowledgeable fathers. Left for our journey September 4th, 2012, completely unprepared and full of unanswered questions.

2. How did you two meet? Describe your friendship.

Jessie: Katie and I met when we were babies. Our dad's were high school friends. It wasn't until we were in 7th grade when we realized that we were both on a different planet. My first memory of our friendship is her and I sleeping in drawers that you could pull out from underneath a bed. Sleeping in a normal bed was boring. In high school - we were bad. Always getting into trouble together. Driving around in our parents cars after they fell asleep, before we even had drivers license's. In college we independently roamed California, but always ended up in the same place, talking about where we would go next.

Katie: We have known each other our whole lives, our dads are best friends, from what I hear it all started when Jessie's dad Jimmy was in Grand Haven for summer school, and was out on the lake in a sailing dinghy when it started to sink, a friend of my dad's helped him out and introduced the two of them. 

3. You both come from sailing 
families, how did this effect your lives?

I didn't cared about Sailing as a kid, and never thought twice about how a sailboat worked. I always wanted to be in the water, or running around on land. Every year my family went on a week long sailing trip, it was just what we did. I took it for granted, I assumed everyone went on sailing trips. At 22 when my dad presented this idea, it seemed feasible. How hard could be it be sail? If I hadn't grown up around sailboats, I certainly would not have taken a sailboat on the Great Loop haha. But it is certainly in my blood, I just didn't appreciate it until I grew up.

4. What's so "great" about the Great Loop?

Jessie: I could write a novel about this (stay tuned) The answers are endless. But to sum it up - the people. Not just the people themselves but the situations, and reasons you end up meeting each of them. 

Katie: Traveling through our beautiful country at 5-10mph is what makes the Great Loop so great, slowing down and smelling the roses, meeting so many people along the way.

5. Each crew member on a sailboat has strengths and weaknesses. What was one strength and one weakness both of you brought aboard Louise?

Jessie: I am a hot mess when it comes to throwing lines, tying knots, and using the boat hook. I don't like to follow rules and enjoy taking chances. I can be naive. I often take the easy way out. There were multiple instances I didn't trust Katie when I should have. I am a bitch when it's too hot outside.

My strengths were being at the helm for countless hours every day. Making friends. Documenting. Bleeding diesel engines. Changing oil. Plumbing.

I don't know what Katie's weakness was. She talks a lot when she get anxious, eats too many cookies, and can't function without Reggie (her dog).

Katie is incredibly Intuitive. If you ask her she will say she's psychic, which I translate to "intuitive". She took care of every day logistics. She submersed herself in guide books, and kept detailed records of all statistics. She is a good judge of character, and kept me in line with who I was making friends with.

Katie: I'd have to say Jessie’s biggest strength would be, well being able to do just about anything well, I’m not kidding, you name it this girl can get it done, with the exception of throwing anything, and lefty-loosy righty-tighty… she can stay calm in just about any situation, which balances out my tendency to totally freak out ;)

As a pair the only thing we can’t handle is the heat, I’d like to think we could at least survive anything that could be thrown at us, until it gets too hot, that’s when the bad attitudes come out… or the Budweisers.

We both have our fair share of flaws we have just been lucky that we don’t have too many of the same, I mentioned before Jessie’s issue with righty-righty lefty-loosy, well I just plain don’t know left from right… there was this time in Tennessee… we were trying to loosen the oil drain bolt for maybe an hour, prying it with everything we had, kicking it, using different loosening solutions, until we finally came to realization that we had just been tightening the damn thing… with a change in direction, and a little elbow grease to counter everything we had done before it came right off… would have saved us a bit of time, to know left from right, but also starved us a couple laughs at least we weren’t strong enough to do any damage…

6. If money were no object, what would be your next adventure (does not have to be sailing related)?

Jessie: I would build a tree house ... Swiss Family Robinson style. Or ride a donkey across the country. One or the other.

Katie: Donkey wagon train across the northern part of the country.

7. Describe a low point in your trip.

Jessie: I questioned myself a lot. Compared my life to others. The grass was always greener. There were moments when this kind of thought process repeated itself over and over again ;

"I am 25, single, and unemployed. I look like shit and if you saw me in the street you would assume I just got out of work at Jiffy Lube. There were ants in my breakfast, my lunch was moldy, and I don't even care to heat up my soup anymore. It's pouring rain and every thing I own is soaking wet. Over it."

More specifically the time when Katie had sea urchin spines piercing through her fingers, Reggie was covered in hot wax from a candle spilling and I got a black eye from my canon 40D flying off the shelf in the middle of the night. We were alone in the Bahamas, out of ibuprofen, and out contact. The weather was horrible, the anchorage was horrible. I was worried about Katie, I was worried about bashing into nearby rocks, I was worried about getting struck by lightning, I was worried my nose was broken. I wanted to go home. 

Katie: There are a few times where we just wanted to be home, mostly due to weather, being our boat, is basically camping, if its hot and buggy it can be miserable, if its cold and raining it can be miserable, if it goes on for too long it wears on you, makes you wanna go home.

8. Trips like these have the power to alter one's course significantly. How has this journey changed you?

Jessie: Also the kind of answer I could write a novel about. It has taught me to slow down. I eat slower. I speak slower. I take time making decisions, and think very deeply about everything I do. I am even typing slower. It has changed my priorities, what is important, and what is not important. I know myself, I know my body, and I know my mind. I have been given the time to think about every decision I have made in my life, every scenario, why I made particular choices, and why I've ended up in each situation. I literally spent two years thinking. 

Katie: Well besides totally and completely changing who I am… I know what I am capable of and what I am not willing to settle for.

9. If you could give me advice on how to raise three bad ass girls like yourselves, what would it be?

Jessie: Set them free. Let them make mistakes. Be confident in them, no matter what. 

Katie: It has been so important in my life that whatever crazy idea I come up with my parents have always been supportive, it might help that my sister is a straight A student in college and really succeeding at doing the “normal” thing ;) that they can handle having one wild one.

10. So you've ticked a pretty impressive line item off your bucket list...what is another bucket list "to do" you want to accomplish before you turn (let's just throw a number out there...) 30?

Jessie: You know, I turn 26 in February. For years I have told myself... "when I have to pay health insurance, I will become an adult. I will have things figured out" Well, that is a bunch of crap. I am an adult. I do not have things figured out what-so-ever. All I want to do is run around the world, take pictures, and find good conversation.

I want to turn this adventure into a book. I want to inspire people. I want to introduce "The Great Loop" to younger generations. Oh and I would like to make one million dollars after winning "The Amazing Race".

Katie: At this point “fresh off the boat” I really just want to want to stay put, but I'm already getting over that ;)

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