the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

trying to beat the odds

I'm not going to sugar-coat it for all the dreamers: winter aboard really does suck. Low tides. Precarious climbing on and off the boat. The poor dog trying to get on and off without falling in or breaking a leg. I don't mind the cold as far as comfort goes. I can always bundle up and I manage to keep it between 55 and 65 degrees inside with the space heaters. But the water line froze up between the tank and the pump. I had bought some foam for insulating the line but hadn't managed to climb down into the engine room to do it before it froze. So I had to wait for it to thaw. (And fill bottles of water in the bathhouse in the interim.) I aimed a 60 watt halogen bulb as far aft toward the line as I could; yes, I duct-taped a work light to a pink and black umbrella, don't laugh too hard. I've been running a space heater part-time aimed into the engine room. It finally thawed... and then froze again. Between freezes I did manage to climb down and put foam on the line but realized once I was down there that the line I was seeing was actually the one from the pump to the sinks, which wasn't frozen. I insulated that line, which I could reach, and then traced my way to find the culprit section. Naturally that segment is smushed between the batteries and the hull and I could barely reach any portion of it. I wrapped as much as I could, which was not much, but when the old batteries come out for replacement I will have to use that opportunity to squiggle down there and fully insulate that hose.  

Anyway, spring is easy. Anyone can live on a boat in the spring or the fall. It's the heat of summer and frigid, windy winters that test us. Most liveaboards don't last much past the first year, so I've already beat those odds. I know I'm in for the long haul and can handle whatever life throws at me, but if you're someone who heats their house to 75 degrees in the winter, you better head south if you ever live on a boat because winter aboard is cold, inconvenient, and frustrating. If you don't already curse like a sailor, it will inspire you to. But it's a good excuse for hot buttered rum or some peppermint schnapps in your cocoa. 

Hunter had his ear surgery six days ago. (Before and after photos that might bother the particularly squeamish are tucked away at the very bottom of this post, so don't scroll too far if you are feint of heart or having dinner. I'll put a warning before they appear).

A huge thanks to Annapolis Cat Hospital for fitting Hunter in a week early and taking such good care of my little guy even though he was apparently a terror to them. It was a pretty rough surgery and because the wound was oozing and bleeding, they had him stay overnight. When I picked him up the following day, I had to take him out of the cage because the tech didn't think Hunter would let him pick him up. Of course he let me pick him up and put him in his carrier and hasn't even fussed much when I'm putting on or taking off his Elizabethan collar. But he's a mama's kitty. It's really messy if he tries to eat with the collar on, so I've taken pity on him and given him some breaks from it when I can keep an eye on him to make sure he's not scratching at his ear or pulling any of the stitches. I kept him pretty well stoned on morphine for the first few days home. Gratefully I just had to shoot a small amount of the liquid into his mouth and it absorbs through his gums. Pup dog went to a friend's for the week since it would be almost impossible to put the litter box somewhere the cat can get to it with his e-collar on but that the dog couldn't get to it to raid it. It's sad/funny to watch Hunter trying to walk around with the e-collar on because it bumps into everything and he sometimes has fits where he bucks like a bronco trying to shake the thing off his head. Oh, the humiliation.

The bad news, though not unexpected, came today. The tumor was a malignant soft tissue sarcoma. Many such sarcomas in cats are related to vaccinations and appear at the injection site. Since this one is not vaccine-induced, it makes it difficult to sort out information online in trying to research it. The vet spoke with both the pathologist who analyzed the biopsy and with an oncologist. The good news is that we had a clean margin around the tumor. Unfortunately, that margin is only 2mm instead of the preferred 2cm. The location of the tumor at base of his ear made it impossible to obtain large margins around the tumor. Also unfortunate is that sarcomas tend to send out "tendrils," so any tendrils that went out are likely still there and the tumor has a substantial likelihood of recurring in a few months. More radical surgery is not much of an option because his eye and brain are right there. Radiation is the preferred next step, but I would have to drive quite a ways to Gaithersburg for such treatments and he would have to be under general anethesia. And, of course, radiation therapy would easily be several thousand dollars. Even if I had the money, however, I think the physical and mental stress that treatment would put on Hunter may do more harm than good. I wish he would live forever. He's one of my best friends and kept me going through very dark days. But I will not torture him with medical treatments, or prolong his suffering, just to delay my grief. I made that clear to the vet and I know that I'll likely have to have a discussion with her about palliative care if the tumor returns and he's in pain. Through it all he has been incredibly brave and his favorite place to be is still right on my lap, purring away. And with hope he will beat the odds.

Of course, I've been out of work since December 17. The total cost for the cat's surgery came to $981.50 (plus another $15 for the collar) and $775 for the dog's. I definitely don't have the money right now to pay for the vet to remove the cat's stitches, so they'll either take a few months to dissolve or I may have to figure out how to remove them myself. They let me leave a post-dated check for the 29th for the $401.75 balance for the cat's surgery, but that leaves me with just $60 to my name after paying the rest of the bills due this month, and in the hole $133 for paying the bills due on the 1st. (If anyone wants to donate towards Hunter's vet bill, feel free to call Annapolis Cat Hospital at 410-268-2287, no amount is too small, any amount is deeply appreciated, and you can remain anonymous to me if you so desire.)  

If I can get everything out of my storage unit I could save $57 a month so I'll probably have to figure out a way to make that happen in the next two weeks. I've been applying online for jobs as well as hoofing it around trying to find restaurant work. The challenge there is that if you show up any time other than between 2:00PM and 4:00PM Monday through Wednesday or Thursday, the odds are good they will just toss your résumé for not coming at the deadest time; I get it, but it adds an extra logistical challenge. And of course it is winter, so many of the restaurants are slow and people are fighting for shifts, so not many spots are in hiring mode at all. Fingers crossed something shakes out very, very soon. But, hey, I need to go on a radical diet to lose that last 15 pounds anyway!

As I think most of my readers know by now, I'm not about sugar-coating my life or the liveaboard lifestyle. It is the right thing for me, but it's not all palm trees and fruity rum drinks and it is especially challenging with pets. Having pets aboard is something I had to do in my particular circumstances. I made a commitment to my pets for their lifetimes and I have sacrificed many opportunities so that I can keep them and keep them all together. The opportunity for me to buy a boat came along and because of my very challenging and unstable financial situation, I had to seize that opportunity and move aboard and have a home of my own. It was the right thing for me, but my pack didn't get a vote in the matter and it probably wasn't the best thing for them. I know there are readers who will be miffed at my saying this, but, honestly, I truly don't recommend having pets aboard. I'm not casting judgment or trying to make anyone feel guilty, but unless you absolutely cannot put off moving aboard until your pets have passed on, it simply adds an extra layer of strain to a lifestyle that isn't exactly easy for human, canine, or feline. I admit that perhaps down the line I will have a boat cat again to take care of rodents and provide a little companionship, but I would get a kitten who never knows anything but boat life and has sea legs from the beginning.

Pup dog hates the boat. Or at least hates getting on and off and getting inside and out. I think she was equally bored hanging out in a house all day as she is hanging out on a boat all day, and her preference would be if I could stay home and play with her, go swimming, go hiking, and just be together all the time. (As one friend told me "Having a dog is like having a three-year-old that never, ever grows up.") Unfortunately, the kibble doesn't just magically appear and I have to work. We haven't even tackled the utter hell that will be trying to get her in and out of a dinghy to go ashore for potty breaks when I head south or if I end up living on a mooring ball or on the hook since I probably can't afford marinas anymore. That will take our shared misery to a whole new level. As much as it would break my heart to let her go, if I had a friend with a farm where pup would be loved in abundance and could run around all day and then snuggle up by a fireplace, I would probably let her move ashore because it would be a happier life for her.

I think my cats do love being in the boat while docked since it is full of interesting little napping spaces. And they enjoy sunning on the decks, smelling smells, and hunting marina mice. And since cats hate change, when we move, all their stuff goes with them and stays in the same place, so that puts less stress on them than moving from house to house did. But they hate the boat in motion. Max lays down and just has the most pathetic queasy, terrified expression. Hunter pukes exorcist-style even for a mild motoring trip from one creek to another around the Eastport peninsula, and for longer, bouncier rides he really loses it.

When you have pets aboard is that really what is best for them, or just what is best for their human? I hate to say it, but I think it's the latter. I know a lot of people have pets aboard, and I don't doubt that they are loved and better off than in a shelter, but it definitely makes cruising more difficult and costly. Many islands are rabies-free and simply no-go zones without very lengthy quarantines. Even in countries where pets are allowed to enter, there are often complicated hoops of paperwork and veterinary certifications and fees to jump through. If you have a purse dog it is certainly easier than if you have a breed than isn't easily carried aboard. And other than the sizable footprint a litter box takes up, cats are simpler and don't ever actually need to leave the boat for anything other than vet visits. 

As with most things, folks tend to remember the easy parts and get amnesia about the hard stuff. Anyone can live on a boat in April. Springtime is a cake walk. But in a place like Annapolis, the cold of winter and sweltering heat of summer last a lot longer than the mild, easy days of spring and fall. Sure, if you have a dog that weighs less than 30 pounds you can just lift it on and off by hand. If you have a younger dog who can jump on and off, it all may seem simple. Until the dog gets old and arthritic or has an injury and isn't allowed to run, or jump, or climb stairs. Then, getting a 60-pound dog three feet from point A to point B may take hours, and tears, and risk life and limb. (It took all of those last week and I think pup and I were both at our wits' end.) No one wants to think about or tell anyone about those days. So that's why I'm saying it. Just go in with your eyes open. And if you're doing a better job of having pets aboard than I am, I envy and applaud you, because it is not easy.

OK, here's a photo of my beautiful boy Hunter with big green eyes and enormous scooper ears. If you keep going past that forewarned. I don't think the photos are overly gross but if you can't handle seeing stitches and such, you may want to stop here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

pulling teeth

The holidays are almost over now. Then comes a big sigh of relief. Followed by panic over "what next?"

Life has been pulling teeth of late, literally and figuratively. Pup dog had fractured a major crushing molar that should have been pulled a year ago and it had become rotten. The vet said it really needed to come out. Once she got in there it turned out the same tooth on the other side was also fractured and infected. So, poor girl had her two biggest teeth pulled two weeks ago. The vet left me a very nice voicemail saying she was such a sweet and brave dog and with all the aftercare instructions. Before I had had a chance to listen to the voicemail I was at the vet's office with Hunter, whom I thought had a bad ear infection. A vet tech came out with a box and told the girl at the front desk "Here; she still needs to take care of the balance." I half-joked, "Um, the doctor left me a message but I haven't listened to it yet. That isn't Buttercup in that box is it?" and broke into somewhat hysterical laughter.

Being cat furniture on the settee.
The hysteria was in part because Hunter did not have an ear infection. A tumor I found in his ear back in June had ruptured and the tumor was just a disgusting, rotting, infected mess in his ear. I'm feeling terribly guilty because when I dropped the dog off in the morning for surgery and mentioned the cat's ear looked and smelled very bad, the vet had suggested that perhaps the dog should wait and the cat should come in for surgery that day. That is absolutely what should have happened. But with no car, turning around and running home to get the cat seemed unrealistic. And that sloppy decision may have cut my sweet Hunter's life short. The tumor has a broad base rather than a stalk. That increases the likelihood it is malignant. That it ruptured, full of blood, also tends to indicate it is malignant. We will have to take his entire right ear off to increase the chances of getting it all and giving him more time. They will send the whole thing for biopsy, and then I will know more, but his odds are better if we are aggressive right away. The wait-and-see approach we took in June didn't turn out well. As you can see from the photo above, Hunter has licked off his fur on a big patch of his back. The vet said it is all stress-related, likely because he is so sick.

I guess I just heard so many people talk about their cats making it to 20, and in my eyes my guys are forever kittens, that I hadn't processed that they might leave me earlier. Tomorrow, New Year's Eve, will be their 13th birthday. So, I guess they are elder-cats. But I'm not ready to let them go. And Hunter and I have a special bond; no one else understands him like I do. He and the dog are also very close. I will be devastated to lose him and I am already grieving. Despite my pinning him down and shooting antibiotics down his throat for several days, he is being especially affectionate lately, as if he knows his time to snuggle his pack is limited. In case this Christmas was his last with us, the cats got plenty of shrimp for dinner. I will try to do something special for them for their birthday tomorrow. But, of course, humans are uniquely plagued with a fixation on dates and anniversaries, a most unhealthy trait from which it is so hard to break free.

Holiday garland with ornaments.
The pet medical situation has been, naturally, particularly stressful due to financial circumstances. My last project ended a couple weeks ago and there is never any telling when another one might come up. The dog's tooth extraction (about $800) and the cat's ear removal (estimated to be about $700) will be just about what I've got and mean that the new batteries and solar panels I need to be able to get the boat running and leave have to be put off. With any luck, the next $1200 I have "laying around" (as if that ever happens) will fund that project.

Mast a/k/a Festivus pole all decorated.
I should have been running the 50K the weekend before Christmas, but I didn't. I could have suffered through it, but simply didn't have the money for hotel, rental car, or gas to even get there. And with two sick/recovering pets needing medication daily, I couldn't leave town. Before my trip to the South Pacific, I was in great shape, training well, enjoying my running and getting very fit. And then instead of running for me, for my strength, for my mental health, to be thinner and sexier and fit, I had to run for a date on a calendar. That took the joy and fulfillment out of it somehow. I just don't like races. I only want to run for me, not for a date on a calendar. So, while I am disappointed not to have been in great shape, beat my prior time, and enjoying a weekend getaway, I am glad that I was honest with myself about why I run and what makes it a pleasure instead of a chore.

One thing I know for sure is that I need to leave. There is nothing holding me here in Annapolis. A few good friends, but I know I will see them again. But I have nothing to go to either. But just the act of going somewhere is better than staying, treading water, going no where.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

(happy?) holidays

If you don't have a perfect Pottery Barn house and a centerpiece Martha Stewart would be proud of then, well, let's be frank: you're a bad wife, a bad mother, a bad woman, a bad American. Spend, spend, spend! Buy, buy, buy! These are the modern carols of the holidays. Our American (Western?) society is founded upon buying cheap plastic crap from (inhumane, animal-testing, slavers) China and then promptly throwing it in US landfills so we can buy more cheap plastic crap from China. Since this is the only way to fuel our economy now, (because American ingenuity and support of local small businesses is effectively dead), this incessant, addiction-riddled, consumerism has somehow become Patriotic. Yes, it makes me want to vomit.

Society puts ridiculous pressure on us all to buy gifts (I haven't in maybe 5 years) and to put on a perfect holiday. I remember being so poor growing up that we had an enormous box under the tree. Elaborabately decorated. And empty. The note said the box wasn't empty; it was filled with love. Most of the gifts under the tree today aren't filled with love. They are filled with guilt, obligation, and fawning attempts to buy affection.

Despite this rant, I actually love Christmastime. The smell of Douglas Firs, the sparkling lights, decorating the tree, drinking cocoa, hoping for a white Christmas. I still watch classic Rudolph, Grinch, and Charlie Brown Christmas shows if I manage to catch them. But as with most things in life now, I am concerned with the substance, not the appearance. I would rather have fewer friends who are top-notch, focus on quality not quantity in my meals, relationships, and how I spend my time. Things break. Things generate clutter, mentally and physically. Experiences and adventures provide a lifetime of memories. 

On the subject of materialism, but colliding with the soap opera of my life, I headed to the pub for my Thursday night chicken tostados the Thursday before Thanksgiving. I noticed "Dimples" was sitting at the bar and tried to stroll past but he'd spotted me and I got roped into sitting there with him. I don't know what I saw in him other than the dimples but there I was getting lectured for two hours. I'm sure you all know just how much I relish unsolicited advice. (Sigh.) He went on and on about how with all my education I should be on a nice, new 60' sailboat. That I need to go back to a real job and make real money, that even if I only made $150,000 I could at least be paying my bills, my student loans, and get rid of my boat. Although a life in the law is not much of a life worth living in my opinion, I explained it isn't exactly easy to find a legal job these days, and that until you're post-menopausal law firms don't want to hire women because they think you'll immediately go on maternity leave. He looked at me and said I obviously don't have to worry about that anymore. Excuse me? I'm still quite fertile and only a hot 35-year-old who wants a lovechild away from being a mom. 

So, the idiot basically tells me I'm lazy, old, and that my boat is a dilapidated wreck. Not exactly the way to my heart, that's for sure. But gee, Prince Charming said he would help me with "exactly two" things: borrowing his diesel mechanic to look at my starter and getting my boat to a marina for a haul-out. Those two things, he repeated, he would help me with and for those two things I could call him. I was puzzled insofar as I never asked for his help and I'm sure not going to take it from some schmuck making me feel like a charity case. I politely smiled and nodded. He kissed me on the cheek and told me he'd see me later. I walked out the door and deleted every last trace of him from my phone and iPad. I didn't even want to risk sending a drunken text rant or anything. He's a rich guy who only cares about and values shiny new things. Me, my life, my boat, we sparkle from within, but he can't see that. His loss. I texted friends in town to smack me upside the head if I start getting all gooey over Dimples again. I deserve so very much better than the likes of him. Gratefully, one of my best friends in town has been at the pub with me the last few times I saw Dimples there and I simply ignored him and he's ignored me (other than feeling my ass when he walked by on Saturday night, ugh). It sucks to have that awkward feeling at my local watering hole, one that he is new to. But I'll just have to suck it up and not make that mistake again. 

What do I need in a guy? One like this! (Please watch the beautiful documentary; it's only 8 minutes long and a feast for the eyes and soul.) Floppy hair, check. Jim Morrison curls, check. Young and adventurous. While you're blinded by that chiseled bod, don't forget to notice the great smile. Loves his boat from the bottom of his heart. And has the right ideas about life, money, and what it means to be rich. Yep, my dream guy. Unfortunately for me, that guy has a lovely girlfriend and she's one of those rare white girls who can carry off dreadlocks, so no competing against that. But if he's got a doppelganger, I sure need to meet him and sail off into the sunset. (A big thanks to my friend Chuck who sent me the video; I needed to see that there really are guys like that out there somewhere!)

How did I sell myself so short in life and love? It's hard to explain how demoralizing it is to have literally applied for thousands upon thousands of jobs in the past decade and have had interviews I can count on my fingers and toes. Probably just my fingers. It really tells me I don't have anything to offer that this society wants or values. Admittedly, I don't really like, respect, or value this society. So I guess the feeling is mutual. But I am so underutilized and we all want to feel useful, purposeful. And we all have to eat. I don't need a fancy life. But my pets, who have kept me going through it all, get a fraction of the medical care they should. And their medical care exceeds mine by at least double. I haven't seen a dentist since 2008. It just wears me down sometimes. But I keep on keeping on, because that's what one has to do. If I am anything, it's resilient. But when people ask "How are you?" I want to stop saying "hanging in there," and instead wholeheartedly say "the world is my oyster!"

So, in other news, my engine won't start. I was all ready to head out for a little day cruise, but the starter just buzzes and the engine doesn't even try to cough or strain or anything. My diesel guy came and listened to it and said it's likely the battery is kaput and just not enough juice getting to the starter to even spin it. I protested that my battery monitor says 13.2 volts. He said that is probably only because I'm on the battery charger, hooked to shore power, and if I disconnected the shore power I'd likely see the voltage plummet. Now that I think about it, the voltage has stayed constantly at 13.2 for a while, whereas it used to drain down to 12.4 and then recharge up to 13.4. I still need him to come back and help finish the diagnosis so I can plan accordingly. I have been planning to pull out the two 4Ds (200 pounds each) and replace them with as many (75 pound) golf cart batteries as I can fit, and also replace the starter battery. One problem I won't repeat: prior owners connected the house and start banks, which should be separate. Naturally, I don't have several hundred dollars laying around to buy the new batteries, or the solar panels I wanted to install at the same time so it would all be in sync and happy. OK, I know I just ranted about not wanting things, but I admit batteries are the kind of things I need cluttering up my life. They are things that will help me move forward rather than things that hold me down. There, see how I rationalized that and made it sound very beautiful and philosophical? 

In other boat news, I had a diver out. Sean from Open Water Diving called me back within two hours of my initial call, made it out in less than a week, was very professional, and fairly priced. He also does search and recovery so if you lose a phone overboard in Annapolis, now you know who to call. I will admit that I got his card back when I was working on the fishing charter. He had been cleaning a boat in that marina and was changing out of his wetsuit into street clothes. I walked by and said "whoa, no need to rush putting on that t-shirt." What can I say, we all like youth and beauty. Most guys take their shirt off and you'd beg them to put it back on, so when a guy has a nice physique, it's nice to enjoy the view. I got his card and of course I waited until winter to call him, so alas, no show for me. But trust me, he's more than a pretty face. Very professional and did a great job. In the cold and rain he came out the day before Thanksgiving and cleaned the hull and installed a new zinc. The hull was very dirty, but he said the bottom paint is in good shape and I should be good until July for another cleaning. Bad news was the old zinc was totally gone. But a new one is there now so I'll sleep a little easier. 

Someone on one of the boating forums has a signature line that says "rust never sleeps" and it sure is true. The corrosion is a battle I feel I just can't get ahead of. It just gets overwhelming. All the projects. Not having the money to repair things I know need attention. I love my boat so much and I frequently tell her I'm sorry I haven't done more, done better. She saved my life and I have to return the favor.

Friday, November 14, 2014

be at peace

Three days after my 14-miler I ramped up to 16. Just shy of a week later I was planning to run 18 but the weather was gorgeous and somehow my legs talked me into just going ahead and knocking out 20. This photo is right after I finished. It was a long, grueling run, and I was pretty damn sore for two days afterwards, but very glad I got it done. This weekend I'll run shorter and then hit another 20 next weekend. The 50K may not be a personal record time as hoped, but I will be able to get through it 5 weeks from now. Then my focus will go back to a solid 30 miles per week and losing weight. I gained back 3 pounds on my trip but another 5 since my return. It's just enough that I can't fit my smaller, sexier clothes and I feel squishy instead of hot. My goal at the end of last year was to lose 25 pounds. I lost 18 but gained back 8 so the setback is very frustrating and it's always that last 10-15 that are the hardest to lose and the easiest to gain back.

I've been trying to get the boat organized and cleaned up. I'm still a long way from the finish line, though not sure that's one I will ever really cross. But living in a jumbled hoarder-esque disaster zone wears on me and scares off any guys who see my boat (not always a bad thing, I guess). But a few days ago I did actually locate a countertop underneath all the dishes, condiments, and liquor bottles in the galley.  The fridge is back on the fritz, either running like crazy and freezing everything or off. I'm running it a few hours and then turning it off the rest of the day to try to avoid losing any more delicate veggies.
Since I'm carless, I've repurposed a couple of nets that are meant to be car trunk organizers. I mounted this one in the galley to hold various random items. It also somewhat obscures the window so I can still get some natural sunlight in and see the weather but pretend I have a little privacy. Now that it's in the 30s and 40s outside, however, the condensation around port lights is bad so this evening I put the Reflectix insulation back in that one. I'm in the process of mounting various other small net bags for organizing things, but I think the fundamental reality to getting organized will be getting rid of stuff. I've already gotten rid of probably 90% of my worldly possessions but I still can't fit on this boat, so more will have to go. The decisions are difficult and I am, admittedly, a hoarder. I think a lot of it springs from being perpetually broke my whole life and never knowing if I'll have the money to replace whatever I throw out or give away.

In the process of cleaning and organizing, naturally I encountered more mold than I cared to. Although it is less than in the past, it is still an ongoing battle. I wipe surfaces down with a tea tree oil solution, but need to be doing it weekly if I'm going to stay on top of it. I think the best solution is the tea tree gel pots but they are soooo expensive. But I have to admit the price may be worth saving myself the aggravation and allergies.

Winter aboard is truly upon us here in Annapolis. The cats wanted to get outside today but it was very cold and windy so I put their cuddle cups on deck and Hunter happily climbed into one as you can see. Yesterday the winter water was set up and I expect the dock water to be turned off shortly, so I topped off my water tank yesterday afternoon. That should last almost two weeks. Tomorrow I will need to set up some lights in the engine room to keep the engine and water pump from freezing. A few days ago, when it was still warmish out, I tried to start the engine. The starter sort of buzzed but the engine made no attempt to turn over. I've actually never had that problem before. So, I've been stranded in my slip for 9 months when I had planned to be out at least twice a month. I hate being a dock queen. Even if sailing itself doesn't excite me, I want to get the boat out, exercise the systems, practice my docking, anchoring, and general boat-handling skills. It's just depressing. I'm so sick of this marina and want the boat ready to leave when my contract is up at the end of March. 
I don't know exactly when I'll leave or where I'll go. With no real job and no guy here in Annapolis, there is nothing to keep me here. But there is nothing to go to anywhere else, either. But I don't want to just sit here while life passes me by. Even if I go "south" and turn around and come back, I feel I at least have to leave Annapolis sooner than later.

When I was on my trip, everything upended, uncertain, nonetheless I felt centered, balanced, at peace (though never content). Lately I feel off my game, frustrated and anxious. I need to get back to that place where I am centered regardless of what is swirling around me. I know I have it inside me, and just need to clear away all the other noise to get there again. If I have to choose just one word to describe myself it is resilient. That isn't necessarily the quality that would be my first choice, but I am grateful to have the resilience that I do. I just have to use it to help me get back to my center, to be at peace and perceive a deeper love.

Monday, November 3, 2014

all souls' day

I was tempted to get done up again yesterday on the actual Day of the Dead, a/k/a All Souls' Day. I'm not Catholic, but came very close, and it never hurts to take a day to remember our loved ones who are gone. I told pup dog the story about the last time she saw my father. He had measured out individual ziploc bags of dog food for all her meals on a crazy road trip of me and pup driving alone across the country. On the larger bag he had put all the small ones in he had written a note: "For Buttercup, hand-packed with love by Grampa."

Here is a photo of my Halloween Sugar Skull Bride. Random strangers were coming up and taking photographs. The makeup took three hours and three glasses of wine, (twice I had to scrap it and start over because the white hadn't gone on as smoothly as I wanted), and I only had it on for three hours. The night was pretty much a bust and I never got where I was headed. C'est la vie.

I was trying to get to my local pub, where I probably could have won the costume contest. It should have been easy to make it there by 7pm, I only planned to stop for a quick, cheap, happy hour beer and pizza at Boatyard at 6pm. A friend and her new beau met me there and then my drinking crew got there, two guys I've only known three years but seems like we've known each other forever. Time started slipping away, but I figured we would get out of there soon. Then someone else ordered food and an acquaintance hijacked me on the pretense of introducing me to a friend who is a local attorney. I only left my friends thinking it'd be a quick intro and since I'm always looking for work I just wanted to make the connection. But instead they were trying to fix me up with some guy I wouldn't even be able to recognize if he walked past me right now. Zero chemistry, completely not my type. And I just hate people trying to fix me up. If they knew me at all they would know that. If I'm interested in a guy he'll know it. So I was wishing my friends would come grab me and rescue me from the hijacking but they headed outside to smoke. 

It seemed like they'd been gone forever and I worried they'd already headed to the next spot and a busser started clearing all their stuff away. I asked the bartender for my tab, and totally freaked out when I saw it was $60. After paying bills, I only have $50 until my next pay day around the 11th. So my Halloween drinking budget was $30, which was still more than I hoped to spend. A couple beers at the pub is all I really wanted to have since I wanted to get up early to run and didn't want to feel like hell. And since my cheap beer at the pub is $3 a pop, I could pretty easily have a $20 night out. My tab at Boatyard should have been a whopping $8 plus tax, so when I saw this huge tab I started freaking out. The first things I saw were a bunch of beers and one of my friend's margaritas, so I thought the bartender had put my friend's boyfriend's tab on mine. I told the bartender I don't even know the guy. He said it was my friend I had lunch with the other day and he put his stuff on my tab, we're friends, so he put it there. I looked farther down the tab and saw a pizza and shots he'd ordered. The extra beers were likely his, too. I guess they were right outside smoking but when I texted I didn't hear right back from him because he was on the phone with someone. The bartender just kind of shrugged rather than splitting off my stuff and I headed into the head to take a deep breath and get away from everyone. One of the people trying to fix me up came in and over my objection just snatched the tab out of my hand and someone in that group paid it. I didn't want to be some charity case, I just didn't want to be stuck with anyone else's tab since I'm so broke and literally couldn't have paid the whole tab. I always hate having my tab mixed with someone else's. I just want to be able to pay what I owe, not have to hassle with anyone over who owes what, and be able to leave when I want. After putting all that stuff on my tab without my permission and then just shrugging about it, hell will pretty much have to freeze over before I set foot in Boatyard again. I was frantic to get away from the acquaintaces trying to fix me up and wanted to get out of there right then. I should've just waitied, gone to find my friends so they could take care of their portion. But I was all flustered and just freaked out, needlessly. I guess being stuck in this noisy, crowded bar, trying to get away from these people, and then not being able to, being so broke, it just all wound me up into a panic attack. I washed all my makeup off there in the bathroom and rolled straight home to bed. So, Halloween fail. 

To make matters worse the acquaintance gave my phone number to the guy he was trying to fix me up with and showed him my boat, so the guy was banging on the hull when I was trying to sleep and came on the boat to drop a note with his number. High on my list of pet peeves is people just "dropping by" my boat. Just text me if you're in the neighborhood. If I'm up for company, I'll respond. I like my privacy aboard. I would never just show up at someone's house banging on the door. Even if I'm home that doesn't mean I want to see anyone. I might be sleeping, taking a shower, on the phone, screwing someone, or just not in the mood for company. I keep odd hours, so one night I might be up until 2am and another night I may go to bed at 8pm. I sound totally anti-social; maybe I am. I just think I have a right to be social on my terms, when and where I feel like it. 

The winds howled all night Saturday. I stood on the deck pulling a stern line, leaning back with all my weight, trying to get another inch or two off the dock. I forgot to take my sleeping pills so the wind and banging and rocking kept me coming in and out of sleep. But I worry about being too deeply asleep during a gale. I had a bad feeling the tides would be very, very low from the north winds, but it's only the beginning of November, it wouldn't be too bad, right? Then I accidentally caught a glimpse out a port light in the morning and saw how far below the dock we were. 

No way I could get off the boat without getting soaked climbing up to the wet dock, so donned my snow pants and foulie jacket. I thought I would have to untie the dog ramp from the deck and run it from the cabin top to the dock for pup dog to make it ashore, but she looked at the dock and looked at me and while I was adjusting lines she just jumped on up. I had to climb up on hands and knees. When we returned from our walk I figured I would have to get the dog ramp because jumping down is definitely scarier than jumping up. But pup looked at it and then looked back at me and then jumped right down. She turned back and gave me a look: "Mom, I got this!" I told her what a good pup she is, so brave. Then she kept climbing back to the side deck as if to help me. I had to sit on the dock, reach my feet down to the toe rail, and then launch myself over. But this was nothing compared to how low it will get and doing it in daylight without snow makes it much easier. Ah, living the dream.

The schlepp into DC for this project is a major drag, very hard on pup, and completely wrecks my running schedule. Gratefully, I managed to knock out 4 miles on Friday, 6 on Saturday, and 14 long, slow, cold, windy miles yesterday. I should have ran that 14-miler two months ago, so I am under major pressure to get my mileage up quickly without getting injured so I can make it through the 50K right before Christmas. I'm really good at procrastinating, but I'm also a machine when I'm down to the wire and something simply must get done. So, we'll be ramping up to 16 and 18, umm, immediately. The good news: I'm not even sore from the 14 yesterday. Everything else may be falling apart, literally and figuratively, but these legs are rock solid!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

sleep away camp

The past few weeks have been hectic. I was gifted a pass one day for the boat show, so I headed to the show to renew my unlimited towing policy with TowBoatUS. Renewing at the show got me a 10% discount, not much perhaps, but every little bit helps these days. I didn't look at boats at the show, and rarely do. Just doesn't interest me. I'm really only there to see the vendor tents. One interesting product I saw was SoftSand, rubber particles for mixing with paint for non-skid decks. The pup doesn't like walking on the decks so I've condsidered doing non-skid paint, but it is often done with sand, which holds heat and can make decks uncomfortably hot if you like to go barefoot. The rubber particles won't have that same effect, so I think they will be a great option. Other than that, the boat show was the same old thing and once you've seen one, you've sort of seen them all. I did buy a whopping two $2 sail ties to add to my small collection.

The following weekend the pup dog went to "sleep away camp," or really, went camping with a friend and his daughter, who had been missing the pup dog after having puppy-sat during my trip. I wasn't able to get away to go camping with them, but I packed Buttercup an overnight bag with bowls, toys, food, treats, leashes, a towel, and a snuggle blanket. Yep, I'm a smother-mother. I've been battling a sinus infection or cold off and on since that weekend, so I'm glad pup got to go have fun rather than just hang around with me sick in bed that whole weekend.

My professional face paint for my halloween makeup arrived. I ordered it from Mehron, which appears to be cruelty free. I'm running short of time to practice, so need to do another practice run tonight, but my first practice run with the face paint went well. I picked up a smaller brush to make the lines across my face for teeth finer, and it should also work well for small dots and other little details. I also have glitter and glue-on rhinestones, which I haven't experimented with yet. I had really hoped to go out in costume tonight to see John Brown's body, one of my fav bands, up in Baltimore. But with no car and little cash, it looks like that isn't happening.

When I did the practice run it was a Friday night and the face paint had arrived that afternoon. I decided to just stay in for the night with a bottle of wine and practice the make-up. I had finished it and was just hanging out on the boat when Max came zooming in and out. He was acting oddly and when I got a closer look I saw he had a mouse in his mouth. While he was on the deck with it I scurried out and closed the hatch so he couldn't take it back inside. While Hunter is a hella mouser, this was Max's first. My baby cat is all grown up!

While I was out on deck with a glass of wine and my face all painted some folks visiting town for the boat show walked by. We started chatting and they asked if I'd be willing to take them out for a day sail that Sunday or knew anyone who would. Apparently all the charters around town were already booked; there are surprisingly few out there, too. I explained that I really couldn't do it (my boat's too much of a wreck right now and I don't have a captain's license to be able to do it legally). But I suggested they wander down to Davis' and ask around. They convinced me to head there with them for a drink; thanks and cheers Mark and Kim! I guess they'll have a good boat show story about some goofy girl in her Halloween make-up, or maybe everyone will just think they had too many Painkillers!

So I rolled on over to the pub in my wild sugar skull make-up. People didn't even recognize me until they saw my insanely long hair. I tried to round up someone to take Mark and Kim sailing, but no luck. After they headed out I chatted for a long time with a guy with the most adorable dimples you've ever seen. No floppy hair and a good 10-15 years older than my usual, but he was fun to talk with and wasn't fazed by my ghoulish appearance. But one minute he was showing me photos of his daughters and the next he just disappeared.  

That left me sitting at the bar next to a creepy guy trying to pick me up. He asked me what I was doing later. I looked at the clock: 1:30AM; it is later I explained, and I would be heading home to get a good night's sleep. Then he just straight out propositioned me and said he'd "make love to my dead face." Eeeks. Check please! Drunk as he was I guess he felt that might have been awkward (ya think?) but I politely thanked him for the offer, and said no thanks, I'd pass. Everyone wants to be wanted. It's flattering. But there comes a point when it is pretty tiring to feel like all anyone, everyone, wants is to get in your pants. But I have to admit, that make-up is pretty sexy, right? Sigh.

It had been a year since I had had a haircut and I needed to find a new stylist since my beloved one recently passed away. I did lots of research about DevaCurl and found a stylist for a special curl-friendly DevaCut. Dawn at Morgan Gerard Salon in Annapolis was great. Before and after photos below. My hair feels so much healthier with all that old growth gone. I love the DevaCurl products, but will have to wait until next month for the cash to buy them. So, making due for now, and very happy with the cut.

Although I loved having really long hair it was too much. The ends were dry and frazzled from having been colored (currently it is totally natural), blown dry, and flat-ironed for years. It would get caught on the Velcro on my foulies (probably still will, but not quite as much). My arms would get tired doing my beautiful french braids. It was time to let go. I liked the long mermaid hair, but the length and weight were weighing the curls down and I was finally ready to embrace them!

Out being silly. Raawwrr!
I was out with a friend Saturday night, after having gotten up early to tend bar at an event all day. I was exhausted and figured it'd be an early night so I could get up in the morning and knock out a needed long run. But just when my friend was heading out, I ended up running into the guy with the cute dimples. Let's just remember that my life has been a series of tragically bad decisions, generally about men and career. Thus, I have no guy and no career. (But more importantly, I have me, my pack, and my freedom.) 

Not that this was a bad decision on that level. But I really have to remember that no guy, absolutely no guy, is worth missing a long run for or being a bad mom to my furry kids over. But I left the hatch open and the cats running loose for around 11 hours because I didn't get back to my boat until almost 5:00AM. Which is when I needed to be waking up to knock out a 14 mile run that has been pushed back and pushed back on my schedule to the point of being seriously behind on my training for a 50K that is just over 7 weeks away.  I really consider my body a VIP room and not just everyone gets in, but every once in a while curiosity gets the better of me and I can't help myself. I knew at the time that I should have headed home, but we all have moments of weakness and it was nice to hang out with a smart guy for a change. (The boy toy who fell overboard was painfully dumb.) But if it's going to be meaningless, then I'd rather they were young and dumb. Maybe it won't end up having been totally meaningless, I enjoyed his smile and his company, but I'm not holding my breath.

I make a point of not getting involved with anyone I meet at my local pub because it's my place that I just want to feel at ease. I did meet the floppy-haired sailor there two years ago, but he was the only one, and I knew from the outset that he was just passing through and wouldn't be a fixture there. I should have followed my own advice because running into the guy with the dimples at the pub was exactly that uncomfortable situation I wanted to avoid in my local watering hole. Instead of picking up where we left off after a long night and a beautiful dinghy ride under the stars at 4:30AM, there was that awkward distance that seems to nullify and debase the intimacy and closeness I felt, reveals that they were just an illusion in a passing moment of passion. That feeling is also so sad, knowing that I sell myself short. Any Homeland fans out there? Saul has a great line telling Carrie "You're the smartest and the dumbest person I know." Yep, that's me. 

I deserve someone who is crazy about me. I definitely don't want a guy whose world revolves around me; I've been there, done that, and can't handle the pressure to be responsible for someone else's happiness. But I do deserve someone whose eyes light up when he sees me. Someone who appreciates that I am bat-shit crazy, because it may be a wild ride, but it will never be dull. Someone who doesn't need me to lift him up, and who doesn't pull me down. Two whole, independent people who are just better together. Someday I will find that. 

A special shout out to fellow mermaid, Julia. Thanks for reading and thanks for your kind words. Don't let them get you down!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

winter is coming

Yes, I'm missing Game of Thrones. When I grow up I want to be Khalesi. Fierce, fearless, and all about freedom. But even if you're not a Game of Thrones fan and the reference is meaningless to you, winter really is coming here in Annapolis.

This will be my third winter aboard, so I've figured out tricks for getting through it and know to brace myself for low tides and slippery docks. One of the suckiest things is the water from the tap being so cold your fingers hurt to the bone when doing dishes. This winter I may try putting dirty dishes in a bucket and taking them daily to the bathhouse to wash with the piping hot water there, like several other folks in the marina do. The past couple of days have been lovely and kissing the 70s again, but a couple of nights before required sleeping in flannel pajamas. I officially declared it "winter aboard" when it was only 55 degrees inside when I got up and cold enough out that I walked the dog wearing my flannels. The other sure sign it's winter aboard: the cats are all about snuggling up with me on the bed. Yep, they think of me as their space heater just like I joke that they are mine. 

All of a sudden I'm having to think about when dock water will be turned off. I'll need to link hoses to reach the winter water line that is sunk in the mud so it doesn't freeze. The day before yesterday I had a massive laundry day, and when I was making the bed I realized it was probably time to put the heated mattress pad back on the v-berth mattress. Yesterday I went to my storage unit and got my oil-filled radiator just to be ready, as well as a down puffer coat. I can't find my three pairs of winter boots, so that has me a little freaked out. I'll end up finding them shoved far behind and under something and coated in mold, no doubt.

The other thing I haven't been able to find since my return from New Zealand: my fav purple Prada sunglasses I wore throughout the trip. I didn't have room for them in my carry-on so I popped them in the middle of my checked bag. Someone seems to have stolen them from the duffel somewhere between Auckland International and Baltimore-Washington International. Rats. I keep hoping to find them among the craziness aboard, but I think they really were swiped. [Update: I was putting away my favorite lavender Keens and there was something stuck in one. Huh? Oh, joy! Oh, lucky day! Yes, I stuffed my beautiful sunglasses inside one of the Keens for protection! No thieves, after all. Faith in humanity not as diminished as had been thought. Yay!]

Boat show starts tomorrow (OK, today now that it's past midnight) but I'm too broke to go. Just the admission cost would be half the cash I have left and I won't be able to even buy a sail tie at the show (I only bought some sail ties at the show last year and at the Spring show I didn't buy a thing). I couldn't care less about looking at boats there, honestly, it makes no sense to me other than to make fun of how ridiculous and un-boatlike the interiors usually are. I only go to the show to walk the tents and see all the gadgets, ask vendors questions. But the reality is the "boat show deals" are rarely much of a deal and for most gear you are better off just buying from Defender. I guess the boat show made sense before the Internet, but now, it's really just spending $20 to walk around and buy $12 Painkillers. I have orange juice, cream of coconut, and rum aboard, so perhaps I'll just make my own painkillers and watch the show from the cockpit...I'm right across the creek from the insanity of it all. (A really strong Painkiller #4 is 4 oz rum, 4 oz pineapple juice, 1 oz OJ, and 1 oz cream of coconut. Oh, and a whopping 487 calories, which won't hurt quite as bad as the hangover all that sweet stuff will give you.)

I'm really stressing about having fallen behind on my running. I had kept it up very well until my last hectic week in New Zealand and since I got back it has been hard getting back in the groove, especially the two weeks that I schlepped into DC. Now I'm under the gun to get my mileage up in time for the 50K in December. Gratefully, I had an awesome base before I left on my trip, but I didn't want to have to claw my way back to it or be trying to lose weight while actually training for the race, but I need to get down at least 10 pounds to really run it well. So, we'll see. I just have to get back to my mental state where I knew down to my core that getting in my run was the single most important thing I do any day and it can't be set aside. That can be hard, even for someone like me who can really put her head down and tough it out. Sometimes, lately too often, I give in to the temptation to sleep in, have an extra beer or glass of wine, and let myself eat too much junk. So I have to buckle down and get back in my groove before I lose any more ground. I knocked out 5 miles today, but I wish I'd have gotten up at dawn and run 10. But the 5 matters, and I do feel better having gone out for a good run.

I'm often thinking I'm going very slow, worried about the pace, but look at my watch and see I'm running a minute per mile faster than I thought. So my body has adjusted to a quicker pace. (Still not fast for most runners, but I'm usually running about a 10:15 average, i.e., 10 minutes and 15 seconds per mile. But in New Zealand I was running around a 9:30 consistently, so something about the air or whatever there really gave me an amazing boost.) Most of my runs in the past few months are somewhere between a 9:45 and 10:30 average per mile, (usually closer to 10:00), which is just fine for me. My personal record for a marathon is an average pace of 10:17 per mile. I'd love to run one at a 10 minute mile, but we'll see. Right now I'm focused on my 50K, which at just five more miles is a different animal. It's always good at any race to have three finish times to target: something you can live with, something you will be happy with, and the out-of-the-ballpark time. I definitely want to beat my last time of 6:40 (6 hours and 40 minutes) overall, so I can live with anything at or under that time. I'd be really happy with anything between 6 and 6.5 hours. And the out-of-the-ballpark would be a 5:30 finish, but I think that's a stretch. But stretching, pushing your limits, that's what it's all about, right? Always looking for that place, that line in the sand, "oh, this is my limit." But if you're one to just "embrace the suck" and find the adventure in every challenge, it's hard to find that thing that breaks you, that line you can't make it across. I guess that's why I keep looking for it, and I only hope I never, ever find it.

Just keep running (sailing) (cruising) (living) (smiling) (singing) (laughing) (living). and leave the naysayers in your dust (wake).