Pancakes

breakfast

I’ve never told you that sometimes I’m a bad mom.

I don’t always remember to read with my daughter every night.  I didn’t do a single in-kind activity with her during her last semester of preschool.  Some nights, I forego the bath, because we were out so late having fun.  And she’s often the one who reminds me that her teeth need brushing.

I am the parent who forgets to sign the forms for school, and needs frequent e-mail reminders.  Some nights, when we’re at the boat, we pick up a Happy Meal for her to enjoy.  Bedtime involves her watching Cinderella, until she’s ready to go to bed (which, surprisingly, always happens at a reasonable hour).  In spite of my resolve to be “natural” and “countercultural,” she knows all of the Disney princesses by name, owns numerous electronic toys, and loves playing Mario Kart with Rob and me.

Our life is one of squalor.  While we once aspired to have the elegant label of “minimalists,” we now live in a way that transcends labels.  My bicycle, with my helmet slung off of the handlebars, is the focal point of our living room.  Beanie’s tricycle stands next to it; there is no point in putting it away, because she rides it nearly everyday.  At times, her toy train runs through the entire apartment, acting as a means of transporting her toys from one room to another.  Boxes are strewn about, with boat and moped parts ordered from around the world.  Behind our table, a tiller handle is propped up against the wall (oddly enough, we don’t have sails stashed anywhere in our apartment.  That might be a first).  The once-empty master bedroom is now completely full.  The plastic kitchen that we pulled out of the dumpster has become a Doc McStuffins hospital, with a few teacups hanging amidst the stuffed animals.  In the middle of the floor, Beanie’s bicycle and scooter stand ready for action.  Her cardboard playhouse occupies the wall opposite the kitchen, and that is where she enjoys her movies.  The closet is filled with toys removed from the toybox, and her Pikachu and pirate costumes are strewn about on the floor.

It was in this squalor that my morning began, today.  I had made my way through our kitchen, filled with the remnants from last night’s cooking experiment (I have yet to have success with perogies, but I won’t stop trying!), and created some coffee for Rob and me.  After coffee and conversation, followed by a shower and my morning routine, I made my current favorite breakfast, one fried egg with pepper jack cheese. So far, I’ve loved 10 pounds off of my body, by eating simply and mindfully.

While fully enjoying the soft yolk and crispy whites, I heard some chattering just before the master bedroom door opened with a cracking sound.  Beanie emerges, with her hair disheveled, wearing the sundress she fell asleep in, with temporary princess tattoos covering her arms.  With a sleepy smile, she climbs onto my lap and leans against me, her ear over my heart.

A year ago, she could not speak in sentences.  Today, she proclaims, “I love you, Mommy!”

She draws her head back, grins at me, and relives our spring break adventures.  “I go to Kemah boardwalk,” she begins.  “I ride Jungle Bounce.  It is so high!  I go to music park (the park near our marina slip has an area where you can stomp the ground and hear a great drum beat.  At the end of this post is a video of Beanie dancing to it).  I go to Houston Children’s Museum.  I want to be a doctor.  Or an ambulance.”

I know she means “paramedic.”  I smile at her.  The world is your oyster, Beanie.

I’ve finished my egg, and it’s time for her to eat something.  Breakfast and lunch are when Beanie eats the most, and she’s still pretty twiggy, so I’m always eager to get her lots of healthy calories.  I consider making her a PBJ, but today seems to require something special.

I’m not a good cook.  But I have a friend who is, so I used his pancake recipe.  I poured too much batter into my cast iron pan, and it spread to completely cover the surface.  Thus, Beanie was treated to a “gigantic pancake,” which she excitedly took, once I had placed it on a plate.

“I want a Pacman pancake!” she announced.  I asked her if she wanted me to make it into a Pacman.  “No, I make a Pacman pancake,” she insisted.

So Jelly Bean joyfully ate her creation, then caught me trying to make more giant pancakes for the rest of the week.  She danced in front of the container in which I was placing them, until I gave her one more.

Later today, she will head over to Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment, where she will spend the night.  On Monday, she will accompany me to the gym, for my yoga class, and she looks forward to playing with the kids in the nursery.

I’m not supermom.  But who is?  Within the squalor of our life is something very real, very pure, and very deep.

This is love.

 

Still Waters and Sunshine

It is springtime here.  We have made it through yet another winter.

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Spring came slowly and gently, like awakening from a long slumber.  One day, it was too warm to wear my winter coat on my ride home, so I left it in the back seat of my car.  It remained there for a week, before being returned to the closet.

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I started wearing my jeans less, my sundresses more.

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We began to ride our bicycles more often.

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As we walk through the courtyard, we’re greeted by the hum of air conditioners.

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The gray skies have cleared, allowing sunshine to fill the world.

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As the skies have cleared outside, so have they within my soul.

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Relaxing and glimpsing the lovely world of reality–the reality that exists beyond my previous situation–I’ve found the path I’d lost, with my students.  I am able to connect with them, just as I had in the beginning of my career, before so many things led me to lose my way.  I am able to love, and to understand, more deeply than I ever realized was possible.

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I search for meaning less, realizing that my search for meaning was nothing more than a search for safety, validation, and approval.  The most beautiful things in life don’t have a meaning that can be put into words.

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It is a time of understanding, and accepting.  It’s accepting the hills and valleys, and realizing that experiencing a valley is not the same as backsliding.

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It is a time of living life, rather than experiencing it from a computer screen.  It is a movement toward the physical, the concrete.  And it is a movement that is just happening, rather than being forced.

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Yesterday, when I was walking from my car, with my arms full of school supplies for my students, I realized I was smiling.  Smiling, spontaneously, with nobody around to see.  And that’s when peace took my hand, like an old friend I hadn’t seen in years.

I thought about cropping the gas can and sail cover from the picture, but decided that they belong there!

I thought about cropping the gas can and sail cover from the picture, but decided that they belong there!

Sailing on tthe cheap: Playing a rich man’s game with pennies.

Hello, Aces!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a post, but I’ve been coerced into decided to lend a hand, with this project! So for my first post, I would like to introduce our readers to our ‘new’ sailboat: Kiwi! Image

Alright, alright, let me explain…

Yes, it is, quite derelict. Nobody at the marina has any recollection of it ever leaving its slip, or the mast being raised. I’m also told that the poor thing weathered Hurricane Ike in that slip! She’s a tough little boat! This little boat came into our possession, via eBay. Quite simply, we were the only bidder, so it sold for the opening bid. Buying a boat without being able to inspect it before hand is a risky proposition. There are a great many things that really can’t be seen in pictures, however, this often keeps the bidding low. After the auction ended, we sent our payment, and a week later received documents and the location of our prize. It was a cold, rainy day as we walked down the maze of piers and at the second to last dock, was without a doubt, the scrubby little boat from the auction. It looked just like the pictures. I clambered aboard and pushed open the companion way hatch and found: A TREASURE CHEST!!

 

That is, if you consider dry-rot and mold to be treasures… So it was every bit as ugly on the inside as it was on the outside.

 

so gross… Note the filthy open compartment. It had a through-hull fitting that was removed years ago letting it flood and it was full of barnacles.

All, in all, this doesn’t seem like a very promising prospect in the least, BUT, it was floating and had a decent set of sails!

Now the thing that makes any old derelict worth buying at all, is the ability to fix things yourself. Luckily, the vast majority of marine repairs involve these four actions: Scrubbing, Sanding, Scraping, and Painting.

 

A quick Tutorial:

1. Open your dominant hand

2. Place it on a flat surface

3. Slide your hand 3 to 6 inches away from your body

4. slide your hand back to it’s position as described in step 2

5. repeat steps 3 and 4 for an indeterminate (long) time.

Congratulations! You can now do 90% of marine maintenance

(later you can practice this with a piece of newspaper on the floor)

Using the described methods above, for about 4 days, resulted in this!

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The paint needs a little touch-up, and the toe-rail needs some screws replaced on the port-side, but other than that, She’s looking nice!

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Interior is coming along, nicely, but obviously still needs some work. (the gross water on the floor was my fault.)

A little bit about what, exactly Kiwi, is:

Kiwi, is a Chrysler 22 Sandpiper (yeah, that Chrysler). They were built in Plano, TX, the hull was designed by Herreschoff. She has sleeping accommodations for five, a small slide-away kitchen, and a place for a portable toilet. It’s got a heavy iron keel for ballast, and a hull-mounted rudder. The intent was to make a small, trailerable sailboat with the stability and handling of a much larger boat. At a hefty 3000lbs, she is probably the heaviest of all 22′ sailboats. Though this may sound like a bad thing, the extra weight can help it carry more sail in heavy wind, and improve stability in heavy seas. The best feature of all, is the unusually large v-berth. It will sleep two people very comfortably. Over all, they are a fine little boat, but their resale value suffers from her unorthodox lines, and quirky engineering.

On buying a derelict boat:

If you’re handy, then by all means, go for it! Most of what you do is what I had mentioned above. Cleaning, scraping, sanding. etc… There are boats all over the place just waiting, and often even for free. The trick is to make sure it has a mast, good sails, and no major structural defects. Everything else is pretty manageable. At the very least, you can end up with a nice floating cottage to enjoy your weekends on!

 

Oh, one last thing… The winning bid: $200.

Cha-cha-cha-changes!

There was a warm breeze today, and I decided to leave my balcony door open, so that the fresh smell of the outdoors could fill my home.

 I sit out on the balcony tonight, with a pot of chili cooking inside, sipping my wine and watching life unfold around me.

There’s life in the lily plant, that we had rescued from the discount rack at Wal Mart, only to have it wither, encased in ice after Friday’s freak storm (and subsequent day off of work); it is slowly bouncing back once again. Life is tough like that.

There’s life in the children, riding their bikes in the parking lot. There’s life in the wind, in the sunshine, in the clouds. I sit, quietly observing—playing a passive role in the moment but a part of it all nonetheless.

I took some time away from blogging, so that I could look for answers. What was I supposed to do next? Why did I still struggle at times? Why did I still experience fear? Why couldn’t I let go of last winter? Why were so many people by my side, without asking anything in return? Why? Why? Why?

I spent some time examining these questions, and looking deeply within. I began to understand myself better, and I found that, rather than answering the questions, I began to gradually let go of them. Life isn’t a big drama, and it really all is okay. Things don’t need to be picked apart and dissected—they just need to be experienced.

I began this blog to tell my story, and I have done that. You were there as I began questioning “the script,” as I fell in love with the sea, and as I emerged from the storms of last winter, realizing that true reality was much more beautiful than the world I had been seeing and living in. I’ve shared with you the lessons that I’ve learned along the way—both my questions and my answers.

The telling of my story is over. It concludes as I awaken to the beauty within me, and the beauty that surrounds me. It concludes as I understand that imperfection is okay, and that backsliding is actually fake anyway.

I know that it is time to move on, when it is time to move on—that clinging is not helpful in the least. And I have a number of friends—dear friends who would be welcome at my table any day—who have either formally ended their blogs or taken extended breaks from them. And I know it would be better to stop writing, than to continue with the minimalism or personal development genres. I have no more to say in either area.

But, this evening, I look across the room at that goofy young (to my eyes, at least!) man, with the handlebar mustache. He’s become quite a figure in Clear Lake, riding his tall bike. We’ve spent a lot of time apart, as I’ve been working on myself and growing in my own way. It’s fine; it needed to be that way. We were relying on each other to meet our needs, and that really isn’t what love is.

Love can be shared more easily when you both become strong. And that’s where we are now. Our life has taken some exciting turns. While away for Christmas, we won a 22 foot sailboat for $200 on ebay, and that has gotten us involved with marina life once again. Being back on the water, we’ve become very eager to establish a permanent residence in that community. We’ve begun the process of finding a boat to live on permanently. It is time to move on.

So, I am changing the name of this blog, in order to reflect my new direction—our new direction. I am done telling my story, so it is now time to tell our story. You will be reading posts by both of us, detailing our new adventures (and anything else we want to talk about!).  Expect a lighter tone, more slices of our life, and one important element that my life has been missing, after such a difficult period–good, old-fashioned fun!

We hope you will join us on Our journey to Ithaca. We’re glad to have you on board.

cups

Stop Looking Online

brosselit:

A post on my other blog, explaining some choices I’ve made.

Originally posted on Piercing the Bubble:

Today, I’ve taken some time off of my digital break to take care of a few matters.

I needed to login to Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and gmail.

Normally, when I logged into these places, it was with the intention of escaping from reality. I’ve used blogging and social media to:

–create a world where I am “important”

–feel like I’m giving back, without going through the hard work of actually interacting with people

–find “like minded” people, rather than seeing how we’re not so different from the rest of humanity

–escape the challenges that I face in real life

–connect to a constant stream of positive feedback and validation

In spite of the negative connotations that all of these things have, I don’t believe any of them to be “bad.” We all need attention. We all need to contribute to something larger than ourselves. We all need to connect. And…

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Falling in Love All Over Again

The past week, I have been visiting family in Michigan.  We had some great times, and it was nice to see everybody again.  As always, it was quite the party!

It was strange being back, however.  We found our way around our old hometown easily, because we know it like the back of our hands.  It seemed strangely small and quaint.  While we loved seeing our families, we found that we didn’t have the urge to visit all of the places we used to love.  Maybe it’s just too soon after our move for us to feel nostalgic, but up north just didn’t feel like home anymore.

So where is home?

I pondered this question as we drove through the endless (and–I’ll admit it–mindnumbingly boring) farm fields of the Grand Prairie.  I thought about it as we treated ourselves to a night at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock, after the 14 hours of driving that first day (I was so delighted to see the lights of downtown at night, as opposed to…grass…).  I thought about it as I made my descent down highway 59 in Texas–the only two-lane road I’ve ever seen, with a speed limit of 75 (I had to dodge a cow, which was a little scary).  And then, in the sixth hour of driving that second day, highway 59 went from two lanes to eight, and I got my answer.

This is home.

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Seeing downtown at night, as we returned, I knew that this wonderful city is where I belong right now.  We’re privileged to be here, with the lights and palm trees and water. 

With that in mind, I am going to be taking a blogging sabbatical for the month of January.  I knew already that it was time to find focus and establish some routines in my life.  I am January’s only fan–I love it because it begins a long period of stability, after the craziness of the holidays.  There is a reason we make New Year’s resolutions; it is during the post-Christmas winter that we have the time to be consistent and to work on them.

But now I also know that I need to take this time off to focus on the life that is in front of me.  I’ve been living here for four months, and I haven’t even adequately explored my own neighborhood, much less the entire city.  This is the new life that I yearned for so desperately last winter, and I am not going to spend it inside, in front of the computer.  So this break is a time for me to re-focus and to re-center my life on reality, not on the computer screen.  Surely my writing, and my online relationships have a place here.  I’ve discussed this shift so much in my blogging, but I am not walking the talk.

I will continue with my Simple Abundance group, but I am taking a break from all other online activities during the month of January.  Tomorrow, I will add some pictures from our Christmas adventures, at the end of this post.

I invite you, also, to use this time of stability to establish some positive routines, look deeply at yourself and your life, and to spend some time enjoying the world around you.  It’s all real, and it’s all there for the taking!

 

Top 10 Posts of 2013

Yes, folks, it’s that time of the year again!  Here are my top 10 posts from 2011 and 2012

And these are this year’s top 10 posts, based on the number of views:

10.  $1 a Month Challenge for August: Team Maryn
Baby Maryn was born with a heart defect and spent the first few months of her life in the hospital. Since the fundraiser, she has been able to do home and continues to make progress.

9.  The Joy of Being Wrong
I looked back and found posts I had written that I no longer agree with anymore!

8.  Thoughts from the Land of (Extreme) Minimalism
If extreme minimalism is a destination, then we have “arrived,” althought that wasn’t our goal. I reflect on our new lifestyle.

7.  Where do You Fit it In?
One of many posts on writing, and where I should go next.

6.  Life Lessons from Difficult Times: Jenny’s Story
An interview with one of my readers, who shares some lessons that she has learned from going through some challenges in her life.

5.  Blossom
My “coming out” post about moving to Houston. Definitely my most-commented post so far!

4.  Why I Don’t Dye my Hair
I reveal my new haircut, that helped me to feel confident in my job-hunting. This post was more judgmental sounding than I would have liked it to be, but that’s where I was at the time.

3.  Unwritten
After some soul-searching over spring break, I realized that my life was a blank page, waiting to be written.

2.  Help a Minimalist Family (and a HUGE Give-away)
A give-away to help Gracyn, who was burned on Easter. Gracyn is doing well, by the way, and making great strides in her recovery.

1.  A Confession, Regarding Decluttering
I confess that I have a lot of negative emotions tied to decluttering, as I emptied out our house to prepare for our move.

Thank you for sharing my journey in 2013, and I look forward to sharing many adventures next year!

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