10 Surprises About Marina Life

It been 53 days since we moved onto Breaking Tradition full time.  This isn’t the longest amount of time that we’ve lived aboard (that would be 91 days), but it’s the longest we’ve lived aboard while living a daily life that consisted of more than vacationing.  Every morning, I get up and take my turn in the shower, then greet the two other professional women who live on the East Pier, as we head off to work.  After I get home each day, Beanie and I do her homework at the dinette, read her take-home reader, then practice her piano lesson on her battery-powered keyboard, which fits perfectly on the kitchen table.  After that, we either play Wii or head out to the grassy area (our “back yard”) so that Beanie can run around and kick her ball.

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Unlike our cruising days, we have consistent electricity and water, and our stove is dual-powered, so cooking fuel is not an issue.  Breaking Tradition is 6 feet longer than Moonraker (although it has the same beam), so we are living in more than 100 square feet, although definitely not more than 200.  We have about the same fridge space, and slightly less storage area in the galley.  Also, we don’t have a working head in the boat at this time, and we won’t be using the boat’s bathroom for more than emergencies, until we have a working engine and can make it to the pump-out area.  Fortunately, our slip is right next to the restrooms.

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Here are some other surprises that we have found, from marina life:

1.  Daily life is surprisingly “normal.”  When I go to work, it’s like it always has been.  Sure, everyone was initially fascinated by our new lifestyle, but now my focus is on my students, their progress, and the daily reality of teaching seventh grade.  The same is true for Beanie, at her school.  Her school is in Clear Lake Shores, and there are more golf carts than cars picking kids up, but when she’s there, it’s down-to-business.

2.  It’s kind of like living in a floating commune.  Most of the slip-tenants in the marina don’t live there full time.  But those of us who do, have a shared world all of our own.  We don’t own property, we don’t have houses or apartments, and we don’t even have patios of our own. And so we pool our resources and share.  Then men in the marina have gone in together and rented a large storage unit that they have converted into a workshop.  Everything there is for everybody to use!  There is a large vanity in the ladies’ room, and I have claimed a drawer.  I leave my blow dryer out, and everybody uses (and appreciates!) it.  Somebody else has contributed an iron.  There is also a communal grill, as well as lots of coolers.  We often brainstorm ways to create an outdoor eating area on our pier.

3.  Beanie gets her village.  There are only two full-time live-aboard kids in the marina, and only one on the East Pier, so Beanie is well-known.  She’ll talk to our neighbor while she’s on the deck playing under the tarp (her “tent”).  Sometimes, she will hang out by the vending machine, hoping to bum a soda off of one of the live-aboards.  Everybody knows her, and everybody looks out for her.  As a result, I’m able to give her more freedom.

4.  Weird things sometimes happen.  This morning, our dock was blocked by two photographers and two models, shooting photos for something.  Two of my neighbors, one of them in his bathrobe and the other in her pajamas, waited awkwardly by my slip, wondering how to get past them, to the restroom.  Wearing the dress I’d worn the day before, with my hair disheveled, I led the way past them, commenting that I’ve never had anyone have a photo shoot in my front yard.

5.  Having a shared bathroom is worth the inconvenience.  During the week, 5 ladies share the restroom on the East Pier.  Somehow, we all shower at different times.  It gets cleaned once a day.  And I don’t have to do it.  That’s right.  I now have to clean zero toilets.

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6.  Living in a smaller space is not much of an adjustment.  Breaking Tradition is 6 feet longer than Moonraker, so instead of living in 100 square feet, we’re probably just under 200.  And that hasn’t changed our life much at all.  If we’re inside, we’re probably reading, using the Internet, or playing video games.  Otherwise, we’re not inside.

7.  I spend a lot less time online.  And I’m more intentional with the time I do spend online.  I’ve unfollowed a lot of people on Facebook, and just check in with them periodically.  And I hide all forwarded posts.  If doing something online doesn’t enrich my life, I don’t do it.  Instead, I’ve done a lot more reading and writing, and I’ve spent a lot more time with my family.

8.  I’ve simplified our meals.  I also spend less time cooking.  Our kitchen is tiny, and getting our any large appliances is a pain.  So we eat a lot of wraps and salad.  If I do cook, it’s something that requires very little clean-up, such as  quesadillas or pasta.

9.  I’ve overindulged my addiction to take-out.  Since we’re currently not paying any rent, and we pay almost nothing for electricity, I have money to spend at restaurants.  We’ve theorized that there are enough restaurants in Clear Lake Shores for all 1000 residents to eat out at once, with nobody waiting for a table!  At least once a week, I pick up take-out and enjoy a lovely dinner on the boat, without having to cook at all.  So far, we haven’t gotten food from the same restaurant twice.

10.  I have the best morning routine ever.  I shower at night, then wake up at 5:30.  I get dressed, enjoy 15 minutes of coffee and conversation with Rob, then drive over to the island.  From 6:00 to 6:30, I treat myself to a walk around the perimeter, along with all of the islanders.  Not since I moved out of my childhood home (in a very safe, 1950’s style neighborhood, complete with a milk man!), have I lived in a place where I would feel safe talking a mile+ walk before sunrise.  But here, everyone is out and friendly, and all dogs are trained and on leashes.  My walk is the perfect way to start my day!

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I have to say that we have enjoyed our new life, and we love all of the surprises.  I’m sure, as we approach our 92th day living here, we will only discover more!

The Cat Came Back

The time has come for me to tell you a little about our boat kitty, Popcorn.

Rob and I got our first cat, Espresso, right before we got married, and we were happy to be a one-cat family.  Espresso was happy living in the trailer park with us, and adapted well to our move into the house.  She eagerly greeted us when we returned home from the hospital with a newborn Beanie in tow.

We lived in a small town in the woods, and once a week we drove 40 minutes away to the nearest non-tourist grocery store (the the farmer’s market and the food co-op!).  It was on our way home from this town that we noticed a dead cat in the middle of a rather busy road through farm country.  Rob slammed on the brakes, drove the car onto the shoulder, and threw it into reverse.  When we got to the cat, he darted out the door.

Before I could ask what was going on, he returned to the car and handed me a tiny grey tabby kitten.  Apparently, this kitten had been sitting next to her dead mother in the road.  She squeaked, and I set her in the back seat, next to a beaming two-year-old Beanie.

Some Internet research indicated that the kitty was 4 weeks old, and may or may not survive away from her mother.  We bought some cans of meat baby food and poured her some of Beanie’s Amish whole milk, which she happily gobbled up.  Within a couple days, she was eating canned cat food.

We ran ads in the paper and on Craig’s List, but nobody was missing the little barn kitten.  After two weeks, we had bonded with our little buddy and took the ads down.

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Popcorn was much wilder than Espresso, and she escaped from our house for a few days one time, which resulted in our finding an Amish veterinarian to “fix” her cheaply.

Due to her wild disposition, Popcorn spent the summer of 2012 living with my parents, while Espresso joined us on Moonraker.

Espresso didn’t live long enough to join us on the move to Texas, but Popcorn and her litter box piled into the back of the Volvo.  In our apartment, she put our pet deposit to good use as she tore up the carpet, only escaping once for a few days.

In contrast, the life on the boat seemed to mellow Popcorn.  She could often be found curled up on a dinette seat, or sunning herself on the deck.  After falling off of the boat once–and swimming to the dock and climbing up underneath, so that we had to remove a board to free her!–she seemed to have no desire to travel to the land.

Then her food dish started to get empty.

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She was outside when we went to bed, but we thought nothing of it.  She did that often, then either scratched at the door or let herself in when she was ready.  But, the next morning, I awoke, realizing that I had not heard Popcorn come inside.  We looked around and figured she must be hiding somewhere.

But, after two weeks, it became clear that Popcorn had ventured off the boat.

After that long, we figured that she was not coming back, and talked about getting rid of the dishes and litter box.  We pondered new uses for the quarter berth.

Then, we heard rumors of a tabby cat on the island in the marina, mooching food off of the boaters.  Rob spent some time looking for her there, to no avail.

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We kept an eye out, until Friday, when Rob received an interesting call from the marina office.  There are almost no stray cats in Clear Lake Shores, so the owner of a local antique shop thought it was interesting when a cute little tabby with a collar (someone else she met on her adventures gave her the collar!) showed up, hungry.  While she lived there, the owner heard from the Boater’s Resale shop above that a family in our marina was missing a cat.  So they called the office, and Rob took little Popcorn home.

Enjoying her time in the antique shop, Popcorn was reluctant to leave.  But after filling her stomach and taking a LONG nap, she’s settled back into the routine on Breaking Tradition.  And she still likes to wear her new collar.

Lesson #12: The Big Picture

Note:  This is one of my 35 Lessons in 35 Years.

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I used to be someone who easily became defensive.  I could often amass the courage to “stand up for myself,” and I felt good when I did.  In many of my interactions, especially when they involved differing viewpoints, there was something I needed to defend, to protect.

But what was it that I needed to defend?  What needed protecting?

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I’ve learned that I can have great Friends Who Have Lots of Stuff, and the way I live is in no way being threatened.  Most of my friends even live in *gasp* houses!  And here I am, on Breaking Tradition, as happy as a clam, not threatened at all.

Most of my friends vote differently than I do, and yet my views are not being threatened.

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If someone has different views spiritually or religiously, that is in no way a threat to what I think to be true.

When we feel defensive, we need to realize that there is nothing there to defend.  Our freedom to explore the world and live our lives is not being threatened.

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In fact, think about it.  We love by default.  We like each other, until there is “reason” not to.

But what is that “reason”?  Often, it is nothing more than fear and misunderstanding.  Deep down, we all want to love each other.

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Our stories are similar.  We all have faced fear, we all have misunderstood, and we all are doing the best we can, with the tools we have.

We might be living in a way that differs from the norm, but that doesn’t make us any less a part of it all.  There is no way to not be a part of humanity.  We teach each other, whether we realize it or not.  We impact and are impacted by everyone we encounter.

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I used to worry that I didn’t “matter.”  I used to feel like I had to find something to do, to earn my place amongst humanity.  A lot of us feel that way.

But the truth is, we don’t need to try and do something grand in order to earn our place.  We have a place, and we all belong.  We are all a part of something larger than ourselves, just by being here and teaching the lessons that we have to teach, through sharing our joys and struggles, offering a shoulder, and inviting those around us to see us without our masks and facades.

Life.  It’s amazing, it’s larger than all of us, and we are all a part of it.

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In Praise of my Mischievous Child

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I keep a secret from my daughter.  There is something I don’t tell her, when I’m giving her a time-out or discussing the reason for the bad report from her teacher.

I am secretly happy that she gets into trouble.

Beanie isn’t angry.  She doesn’t get in trouble for deliberately harming anyone.

What Beanie does is test limits.  She conducts social experiments.  She’ll put her hand on the fire alarm to observe her teachers’ reactions.  She’ll say a bad word, to see what happens. She hits her friends, because she thinks it’s funny.

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Of course, we show her what happens when she crosses a line.  We don’t encourage her to “misbehave.”

But I still like that she does it.  I like that she believes enough in her own worth to be unafraid of making mistakes. She’s not afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and learn.

Can we say the same for ourselves?

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I know that I have always been a people-pleaser.  I have always been terrified of doing anything that might offend, or lead someone to “not like me.”  Being socially shunned has always been my fear.

And because of this fear, I have been afraid to try. Better not to rock the boat, than to do something “wrong.”  And when I inevitably made mistakes anyway, it led to a ridiculous drama in my head.  I admonished myself for being so stupid, and spent more time regretting the fact that I tried something that didn’t work, rather than learning from it.

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Beanie is not a people-pleaser.  She doesn’t feel the need to do anything or be a certain way in order to be loved.  Yet she also has no desire to hurt anyone’s feelings.  She realizes that her experiments won’t hurt anyone’ feelings, at least not in a way that a hug and an “I’m sorry” won’t fix.

Beanie doesn’t freak out when she makes a mistake.  She thinks no less of herself.  She merely  learns from it, and, if not, she repeats the “lesson.”  

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And the most amazing part of it all?  While staying true to herself, Beanie DOES have a lot of friends.  In the three schools she has attended, she has been quite popular in all of them.  She is very successful, socially, even after being the “new kid” twice.

I think we all might have something to learn from that kid.

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The Phone Call

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Tuesday night, I worked late.  It was our open house, and I didn’t get home until 9:00.

Excitedly, I burst through the companionway, announcing, “Hi!  I’m here!”

The music of Beanie’s video game, Pokemon Ranch, played in the background, but the cabin was empty.

Thinking that they might be in the restroom, I sat down at the dinette for a moment, before deciding that the counter needed cleaning.

On the counter was a scribbled out note that appeared to be written in Beanie’s handwriting.  “Kiwi sucks!” it seemed to say, then other stuff was written underneath it.  I laughed, because Beanie had been getting in trouble for using “bad words” lately.

Then, I saw that the writing underneath it was something about the Wharf, the marina where Kiwi is slipped.

So this was definitely not Beanie’s writing.

Kiwi sucks?  Was there a billing issue with the Wharf or something?  I turned the note right side-up and took a closer look.

It actually said, “Kiwi sunk!!!  I’m at the Wharf seeing if ins will cover the fuel clean-up.”

Uh-oh.

I didn’t think Kiwi was capable of sinking.  As far as I knew, it had positive buoyancy, meaning that it is stuffed with Styrofoam.  It has an outboard motor, so there aren’t a lot of through-hulls anyway.  And it has no bilge.

But, shoot.  Apparently it had.  I wondered if the recent storms had swamped it, when water leaked through the windows.

So, off the the Wharf I drove.  I practiced deep breathing, so that I would be calm and collected when I arrived.

I saw my dad’s SUV in the parking lot, so I quickly walked down the dock.  I was greeted by a cheerful Beanie (in her life jacket) running down the dock, nowhere near our slip.  I couldn’t see Kiwi from where I was, and a smiling Rob greeted me.

“Do you want to see our boat?” he asked, grinning.

I figured it was a laugh-or-cry kind of situation.  And we were nowhere near our slip, so the boat must have drifted.

He and Dad laughed and pointed to a rather large sailboat.  At first I wondered if this had been a set-up, so that they could show me a very nice boat that Dad had bought.

But, no, this large boat was partially submerged.

As I stood, baffled, Rob pointed to the number on the dock post.  “We’re not the only slip 14,” he said.

Apparently, when this boat sunk, the harbor master looked into the records and found the owner of slip 14, which was the owner of our slip.  He called him, so the slip owner called Rob, without seeing which boat had sunk.  The slip owner was surprised, because he didn’t think Kiwi could sink.

The slip owner called Sea Tow, so they called Rob and let him know they were on the way.  He talked to them, as he made his way down the dock.  Kiwi’s mast was still upright, so he considered that to be a good sign.  He chatted as he made his way to Kiwi.

It was floating.

“My boat is still floating,” he told Sea Tow.  They didn’t believe him, and had him check to see if it was swamped.  It wasn’t.

He looked at the boats next to it, and did quite a bit of looking around, before he found the other slip 14, nowhere near Kiwi.

So, while our night was very late, it was better than the morning for the owner of the other slip 14.

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How We’re Really Missing Out

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A few months ago, I made the decision to rejoin Facebook.

I loved reconnecting with my friends and family up north, as well as sharing ideas in a less in-depth venue, with the many blogging buddies I met during my time away from FB.  I had found the muse once again with blogging, and I found the three blogging groups I joined to be very helpful in my efforts to increase exposure.

It was great.  And then it slowly began to take  over.

First, I found myself playing catch-up after days when I didn’t log in.  I had to read everything in my newsfeed, and one day off could lead to a lot of time spent making up for it.  Because what if I missed big news from someone?

I (mostly) stayed true to my commitment not to discuss politics at all, but I clicked on everyone’s links, even when the articles they led me to were anything but uplifting.

I made sure to visit everyone’s blogs in my blogging groups, so that I could comment on their posts before it was “too late.”  I was spending a great deal of time reading about everyone’s adventures.

And of course I had to login on a daily basis, to be there for my online friends who were going through challenging times.

And then there was the drama.  Facebook has been a hotbed for that lately.  And watching it has been like watching a train wreck.

A couple of days ago, I caught myself rushing home to start up my computer and check in on the latest drama.  And I finally had to ask myself, what am I doing?  What am I getting out of this?  Aren’t there things I would rather be doing?

This moment of clarity really led me to think about the time I spend online and to rethink my use and perception of this tool.  I had fallen prey to Fear of Missing Out.  And in doing so, I was missing out on opportunities for joy and happiness that were right in front of my face.

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Here are a few of the lessons that I learned:

  • We don’t always need to be around “like-minded” people.  There is something wonderful about connecting with people who share ideas and are living in the same counter-cultural way that we are.  Before we moved to the marina, I knew very few “minimalists” in real life.  It was through my conversations with other bloggers that I learned how to live as simply as we do, and gained the courage to take the plunge and do it!  However, there is a danger in viewing ourselves as “separate.”  We are a part of humanity, not just a small subgroup.  Having friends who are different from ourselves adds some color to our day and allows us the chance to learn from each other and grow.
  • It’s okay to miss out on the details of someone’s life.  It is okay to not get caught up on your newsfeed.  It is fine to miss someone’s blog post.  If somebody has big news, they will contact you personally, if they need to!  There is no need to miss out on the world around us, because we are busy getting caught up on everyone else’s world.  And I won’t hate you if miss a post here–nobody else will, if you miss one of their posts, either!
  • Online “friendships” need to be kept in perspective.  It’s true that you never know everything about someone else, but we see a very limited picture of those we interact with online.  Even when we try to keep it “real,” it is a very censored version of ourselves that others see.  It is valuable to share ideas and gain support from people we meet online.  But these are not the same as friendships and relationships in “real life.”
  • There is no persona that we need to protect.  We become involved in drama, because we feel the need to defend the person that everyone online thinks we are.  The drama we see online is much more intense and prevalent than the drama we encounter in “real life.”  This could be because everyone works so hard to create a “face” for themselves online, and we feel the need to protect the way we appear.  There is nothing to defend though.  If a total stranger, on the other side of the globe, “judges” us, so what?  In the grand scheme of things, does that matter at all?

Keeping these lessons in mind, I am finding it much easier to be intentional with my time spent using social media, and my online time in general.  With a little practice, we can learn to use this tool to enrich our lives, rather than having it use us.

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First Day Excitement!

The first day of school has always been exciting for Beanie!  Even though she’s done it four times now.

Onto the bus for Head Start when she was 4…

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In Grand Haven the weekend before she boarded the Head Start bus once again when she was 5…

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Getting ready to ride a bigger bus to kindergarten, when we lived in our apartment in Clear Lake…

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This year, however, there were some changes!  Beanie would not be riding the bus through Clear Lake Shores

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Somebody’s excited!

 

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Don't worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Don’t worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

 

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It’s only a couple blocks (less than a mile) from our marina to the school, and we thought bicycling would be easier and quicker than riding the bus or dropping her off by car.  When we get a dinghy, there is a canal that ends across the street from the school, so she will probably arrive by boat then.

Beanie had an excellent first day.  This year, she is in a co-taught class, like she was in preschool.  In kindergarten, she was in a general education class, with an aide who came to work with her for 30 minutes each day.  Her teacher and case manager recommended inclusion for her this year, so that a special education teacher or aide would always be in the room, though not specifically to work with Beanie.  That way, Beanie could get the one-on-one time she required, without being stuck with a certain time period where she got the extra support.  So she is in a general education classroom, with the same expectations as the other kids, but there is also a special education teacher in the room.  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I spend the majority of my day co-teaching as a special education teacher at the intermediate level).  She will also continue to get OT and speech.  I think this will be perfect for her!

As for Beanie’s opinion?   I think her joyful rendition of the school song spoke volumes.