the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats. adjusting to life aboard, running ultramarathons, figuring out how to cook and bake in an itsy bitsy galley...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

we definitely haven't come a long way, baby

The daily grind, on the commuter bus stuck in DC traffic. The days are long with a four-hour round-trip commute. The work is mind-numbingly dull and soul-sapping. I try to just keep my eye on the prize: fixing up the boat, sailing away somewhere, escape, freedom.

Once upon a time I had a job. On my second day my boss said my tank top was making it hard for him to keep his hands to himself. I was shocked and creeped out at the comment, both because it was so patently inappropriate and because he was easily old enough to be my grandfather. Being caught off-guard by the comment and in dire need of the work, I basically ignored the comment and never wore that top to work again. But looking good is a major factor in good tips--if anyone thinks good service alone cuts it they are kidding themselves. Beauty is rewarded in our society and I have to use my assets as best I can. But that means look, don't touch, and if you have to be told that then you need to be smacked upside the head, or worse.

There are respectful ways to appreciate beauty and there are creepy, inappropriate, and illegal ways. There is a great New Man Podcast episode on how to appreciate women without being a creeper. Really, a must-listen for men and women. Looking someone over approvingly with a smile is very different than leering or catcalls. So, yes, I do think it is OK to look, to compliment respectfully, but not to leer and definitely not to touch. Us girls check guys out all the time (uh, you think girls watch football for the game...sorry to disappoint you, but the tight uniforms don't hurt...) but we sure don't smack waiters' asses or catcall guys walking down the street. I confess I expressed my disappointment to a scuba diver who was out of his wetsuit but putting on his t-shirt too quickly... it was a nice show; and I confess I'll probably hire him to clean the boat bottom because he was a hottie. But I didn't get "handsy" with him. It wouldn't even occur to me to invade someone's personal space that way.

Despite banning that tank top from my work wardrobe, things just got creepier. He gave me this pathetic nonsense about his girlfriend having died and being alone and really needing a hug. So I was cajoled into hugging him every day at work. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Figured he's just a grandfatherly old man. But it was very creepy. And when you really need the job, you can't say "No, I think I'll pass on the hugging nonsense." (And, gee, that's why there are lots of seminars and lawsuits and such related to this topic.) Then I got guilt-tripped into having dinner at his house on the (likely bullshit) pretense of teaching me how to make the fishing lures. When I was sitting in a chair and couldn't get away he leaned over and tried to kiss me. Thankfully, I'm pretty skilled at turning quickly enough to make sure it just hits my cheek. But seriously?! What insanity has to be going through a guy's head to do that to a woman half his age who works for him. I mean, it's not like I'm flirting him up or something. Jesus. I feel like it's rude to just tell every guy I meet "Dude, you know you're in the Friend Zone, right? You know I will never, ever sleep with you, right? Because if you didn't know that, you know it now." That just seems rude to me. Guys should just assume that is the case unless I explicitly tell them, "Hey, wanna fuck?" Ugh. But being ever-too-forgiving I tried to just brush it all off and keep at the work of fishing. Then one day when I was forced into another hug his hand was firmly planted on my ass. I was, truly, just stunned that someone would do that. It's so beyond the limits of what is acceptable in our society that I honestly didn't know how to react. It's like I was outside my body looking down, saying, wow, is his hand actually on my ass? No. Fucking. Way. My skin crawls just thinking about it. I think I worked three more times. I would show up as late as I possibly could to avoid spending any time around him alone and similarly race off as soon as I could. Just so incredibly creepy, disgusting, disappointing. As if I needed my lack of faith in humanity renewed.

But, wait, it gets worse...

I happened to mention the "handsiness" to my mother. Well, apparently I'm really out of touch with reality because I "learned" that she had weeks ago seen this coming because...and I quote...I send out all kinds of sex pheromones so of course this would happen. And I shouldn't be burning any bridges. I should just politely say "I'm sorry, but this can't happen" and not hurt his feelings. As if it was some forbidden mutual attraction. Wow. Yes, I'm actually choking back vomit. Pray you never get her on your jury if you're a rape or sexual harassment victim because, ladies, it's your fault. And this from a woman who wants to dump all her unwelcome emotional baggage on me instead of her children she is actually close with or, more appropriately, a professional therapist. The scariest thing: that is not the most horrible thing she's said to me. Just, wow.

Here's a mother who will protect her babies. Does it get any cuter than ducklings? Make way! (Unfortunately, just about every day there is one fewer duckling in the parade... it's a dangerous life for those little ones.)


I'm trying to be a better mom to pup dog. I just finished reading Inside of a Dog and really appreciated her insights from both a scientific and dog-owner perspective. I need to focus less on "training" and "obedience" and more on the richness of our relationship, how I can afford her more opportunities to smell the world around her, bond with me, play, and enjoy the all-too-brief time we have together. I tell her I'm going to work harder to be a good mom and to understand her perspective on the world, to try to understand her umwelt. All these years we've been out walking with her dilly-dallying behind sniffing things and eating goddamn berries, and I've been yelling at her and tugging the leash: "We're on a WALK, dammit! We're not on a SNIFF!"

Well, it turns out that all this time we were on a sniff.

She was too kind to tell me how silly all this rushing around walking is when all we have to do is shove our noses in the grass and smell the world around us. Well, and swim; that dog just isn't any happier than when she's swimming back to shore with a nice, big stick. Because I've been getting up at 4:30am or earlier, last week we snuck in a couple of walks off leash, since few others are out walking at 5:00am.

I'm really itching to go have some adventures. I want my freedom so very badly. That's the only reason to have money, the freedom it buys. You just have to make sure you don't need the money; otherwise you're just a slave to the stuff it buys and the constant bills. I only wish I didn't have so much hanging over my head. And, of course, the biggest snag to my adventuring is the pets. I could easily circumnavigate as crew on others' boats, just hop-scotching my way around the globe, if I didn't have the pets. But I made a commitment to them for their lifetimes and I can't reneg on that. They have stuck with me through all kinds of craziness, moving all over Miami, moving all over the country, moving aboard. They kept me going when my father died and I just lost it completely. In so many ways I owe my life to them, so although it holds me back, I have to keep my commitment to them. And I don't resent them, they're my pack--that's for whom you make sacrifices.

But right now I'm so grateful it's just me and the beasts. We are our pack, all for one and one for all. Conversations with others can be such a drain, a drag. Everyone has some judgment to pass on my life or unwelcome suggestions to "fix" it, usually involving getting a cushy government lawyer job--the odds of which are longer than winning the lottery. It just gets so tiring, having people try their damnest to make me fit into their ticky-tacky-house world. But I can't do it. Won't do it. I refuse to live some sheltered, prepackaged life, all safe and risk-averse. Instead, I go to crappy neighborhoods (I recall some friends thinking I was seriously nuts looking at an apartment in Dru Hill in Baltimore--and they were right on that one!). I go to travel-warning countries. I ride the local bus. I eat street food. And, yes, I got dengue fever. But I'll take that any day over a white picket fence in suburbia or a [insert whatever brand] cruise ship vacation. So I'm going to keep tempting fate and taking risks. Sailing barefoot. Eating street food. Living.

I don't have all my ducks in a row yet. I still have to make various arrangements for the pets. Still need to work my ass off and make some moolah. But last night I bought a plane ticket to the edge of the world and a month from now I'm going sailing well beyond the Bay.

Monday, June 30, 2014

love thy self

For the past six months I've been running faithfully and tracking every morsel of food I consume via My Fitness Pal. I stopped drinking diet soda, which I think has been a huge improvement both for losing weight and reducing health risks. I haven't been one to drink sugared soda for years. I had hoped to be down 25 pounds at this point but 19 is a great accomplishment and my goal is within sight. While I wish I had the cash to buy a couple new bikinis I covet from Carve Designs for my birthday, the best gift I can give myself is to keep taking better care of myself, not settle, and be the lioness, not the gazelle. But those bikinis will be a belated birthday gift to myself once I have the spare cash. Even lionesses have to stay cool in the heat.

Not long ago a reader commented on my post april showers: "Wow. Your 2nd to last paragraph got me. It sounds so simple, but to me, is so complicated. But how does one change to loving themselves if they haven't been? How do I fix this problem? You don't know me well...but I have learned recently that I don't know me well either. How does one (me) build up self value and self confidence? That's what you need to blog about or write about or something." 

I confess I make it sound easier than it is. I spent far too much of my life with guys who were addicts. It took a long time for me to realize that they could never truly love me because they didn't even love themselves, only the object of their addiction. But then I had to face the harder truth that if I truly loved myself I wouldn't have been with men like that. I wanted to feel needed and birds with broken wings need someone to nurse them. So while I am (I think rightly) critical of those addicts taking advantage of my giving nature, I was co-dependent; on some level I wanted to be with guys who needed me to "fix" them. That's been the case even if they weren't addicts...I somehow always pick the sad-puppy-at-the-pound guy, the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of guys, ones I feel sorry for or think no one else will repair. That is a tendency I still have to consciously battle, but at least now I can see it and realize that I deserve so much better than what I settled for in the past. No more fixer-uppers! That doesn't mean they'll be perfect, none of us are. I'm just not fixing any more broken wings.

How did I learn to love myself? Honestly, I'm not sure. I starting running and somewhere along the trail I realized that I was strong, and beautiful, and smart, and deserved so much more in life and love than I had ever demanded. I decided to stop carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and just take care of me. (Well, and my pets). Distance running is, as the joke goes, a mental sport (and we are all insane). Once your legs are trained to do it, getting to the finish is all about being right with it in your head. And that means believing in yourself even when you are more tired, thirsty, hungry, and in pain than you could've imagined. It's that deep belief in yourself that gets you there. So, maybe I learned to love myself through running, but, obviously, not everyone is a runner. I think it takes finding something that you do just for yourself. Many days I head out on a run and I'm tired, it's hot and humid, I just don't "feel" it. I say to myself, "maybe I'll just run four instead of six today." Then I stop myself, and either way I do tell myself this every time I run, usually several times during my run: "This is the single most important thing you will do today." And it is the single most important thing I do any day I run because it is putting myself first, taking care of myself, body, mind, and spirit. Only by truly valuing myself and that investment in myself can I be my best self for me and anyone else (e.g., my beloved pets or some floppy-haired sailor down the line).

There was a point, perhaps even before I began running, when I realized that I had given up everything that was me for my ex. I didn't get to listen to the music I liked anymore. I didn't get to sing anymore. I didn't get stay up all night on art projects. I had to get rid of my books and my art and my records and my oddball stuff. Every day was a challenge to find an outfit to hide my tattoos because I worked horrible jobs in boring offices full of self-impressed corporate robots. Somehow this scared but willful little hippy chick had been sanitized and dulled down and just became a zombie going through the motions of what purported to be life. I became an addict, too. Like many, many women these days I had a shopping problem. The magazines and television and movies really make it seem like that perfect pair of shoes, that perfect handbag, or that perfect eyeshadow will suddenly transform your miserable existence and make you fabulous. Now, I still like nice things. I kept a few nice things. But a sparkly doesn't make me sparkle. That comes from within. From realizing that, flaws and all, (and I have plenty), I'm actually pretty awesome.

I think we've all heard the old adage that someone who cuts others down is just insecure and small himself. Along the same lines, a long time ago someone told me that you can only give honest compliments when you are confident in yourself. I'm sure everyone knows someone who is always fishing for compliments, but never gives them out. I feel sorry for those people. The compliments they strong arm others into probably aren't genuine and will never salve the insecurity inside. Here's a little test: when you see someone wearing a great outfit do you think to yourself how you'd look better in it, or how much you want it? Or do you just blurt out "I dig your shoes." or "You look great in those shoes."? Acknowledging someone else's beauty or success doesn't make you less and doesn't make them more. It's honest and generous and that actually does make you a bigger person. It puts more happy in the world instead of more negativity. Someone told me my natural hair color looked great, but quickly went on about how much better it was than the dye job I had had. So the compliment was entirely undermined and then some by the passive-aggressive dig, which was the real point, to cut me down. Every day when we walk out the door we have the choice to put more happy in the world, or more bitterness. Despite the folks who don't say hello back or scowl at my cheerful dog, I choose to keep putting more happy in the world than anger or rudeness. When I see a girl with purple Birkenstocks I covet I don't sigh and wish they were mine. I tell her, "wow, those are awesome shoes!" Just give it a try. It doesn't hurt, I promise. And when someone gives you a compliment, don't feel awkward or obligated to compliment them back. Just graciously say thank you and smile.

So, yes, I think that loving oneself is absolutely necessary to being able to truly love another and be loved by another. If you don't see the value in yourself, why would or should anyone else? And why would you want to be with someone who doesn't treasure you? Although I twice did it for quite some time, I cannot understand staying with someone just because you know (or fear) they will be heartbroken without you. If you don't love them, you aren't doing them a favor by staying. You're actually robbing them of the chance to find their true love; and they are doing the same to you. We all deserve to be googly-eyed in love with the person we're with. Yes, love goes through its ups and downs, it changes and has challenges, but we shouldn't settle for less than googly-eyed love. Staying with someone out of obligation is especially damaging when there are children involved. Is that the lesson you want to teach your son or daughter? To pass up on their life and love out of some misguided sense of obligation fueled by guilt? That was the world fifty years ago; don't wish that on your child.

The heart wants what it wants. That I'm not attracted to someone or don't love him doesn't mean he's not a good person or that he's unworthy of love. But chemistry and passionate love are there or they aren't. I'm not responsible for anyone else's happiness. You can guilt someone into marrying you or staying with you, but you can't guilt them into actually loving you. If someone leaves you, don't take it quite so personally. They may deeply care about you, but you just aren't their true love. And that's OK. It's much better to be alone than with the wrong person. Scary, perhaps, but in the long run, much better.

I guess learning to love yourself is about embracing your identity and not trying to change it for anyone else. Your hobbies, passions, beliefs, and values are what they are. Trying to be a chameleon, changing politics, religion, hobbies, attire for another will ultimately leave you empty. You may not be "alone" but whoever you are with isn't really with you, because there isn't any real "you" to love at all. You can only find yourself inside yourself, not in another person, not in a religion. It's about having faith in yourself. When you have that, you won't need anyone else, and that is the most attractive quality you could have.

Friday, June 27, 2014

good riddance

This Tuesday I was once again running my errands (i.e. picking up groceries at The Fresh Market to take advantage of the $2.99 per pound sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts). But if I'm out running errands with that car, then the car is on the fritz. The dealership had said the battery, alternator, and charging system are fine and that they could not replicate the problem I had had when the windshield wipers just stopped mid-swipe in a downpour after the "battery not charging" light had kept coming on. The day I picked up the car the battery indicator light didn't come on. But the next time I drove her, running my Tuesday errands, the light was back on, which means the battery isn't charging. I went ahead and grabbed a few groceries and figured I'd swing by the dealership on my way back to show them the light was back on and see if they could look at it right then. But about four blocks before the dealership, stuck in gridlock, sweltering in the car with no A/C, I heard awful loud growling and metal scraping noises. At first I thought it was someone else's car, but whenever I took my foot off the gas the ruckus stopped. My heart sank. I managed to pull into a strip mall and called AAA yet again. I sat in the car with windows down, driver door open, sunroof open, and got sunburned waiting. Basically the whole exhaust system had just fallen off under the car. It took almost two hours for the tow and as I waited I tried to line up a ride home. It'd be a long walk in the sun with my groceries. Luckily the tow truck driver offered to drop me home and I got to ride in his truck with frosty A/C.

If it weren't for this car I'd have been sailing my boat for the past three months, but since the car cost me all my boat repair fund on top of the money from the Buick I sold, I can't even move my boat from the slip. I made a mistake, did something that really hurt my karma, and this car has been the punishment dragging me down. But I'm done with it. I didn't deserve to be financially destroyed for my sins. Rather than throw good money after bad, I'll take the meager amount I can and live without wheels, as I did for many years. So now instead of moving everything out of my storage unit and just having the car/dockbox, stuff from the car had to be cleaned out and brought to the boat, other than the space heaters and a huge printer/scanner/fax machine I'm just holding onto so I can scan photos before I get rid of it. Hopefully a small storage locker at my marina will open up and I can just stash a few things there and get rid of the storage unit all together. The goal is to be completely self-contained to the boat, get the boat fixed up and in shape to live on the hook. It's just not an easy process getting there.

At least now I won't have a car tying me to this place; one less thing to get rid of when I sail away. Trying to see the bright side. Less than four months, $2,700 in the hole, five trips to the shop, four tows, and I'm getting a whopping $350 for the car. Frankly, that's probably a gift. Hopefully the piece of shit guys who sold me the car and talked me into it will enjoy some radically bad karma for awhile. And hopefully the one who talked me into it will lose my number. I have to keep reminding myself that guys who say they know a lot about something, usually don't know shit about anything. Just like guys who say they are great in bed; always duds. So good riddance to false friends, self-impressed guys, and that total lemon of a car.

On a lighter, brighter note, here are some pix from taking pup dog swimming at our little neighborhood beach. Lots of seaweed everywhere! And yes, the prehistoric horseshoe crabs are one of the reasons you don't find me wading into the waves with the pup. Here's to loyal companions, sand between one's toes, and better days to come.


Monday, June 23, 2014

through my fingers

Thanks to the Grog Knots app (very worth the $4.99) and the related free website (www.animatedknots.com) I can finally tie a bowline! The bunny rabbit comes out the hole, runs behind the tree, and then back down the hole. Voilá! I really want to learn how to tie the Ashley Stopper Knot but I'm still befuddled. I cut this nifty 3-foot piece of line to carry around and practice knots. Much better way to waste time than Facebook.


In other good news, I've been special ordering Full Sail Session Lager from my local liquor store. A great Oregon craft beer and the groovy little bottles fit perfectly in a koozie. And it turns out I am very good at grilling. I know, hard to believe she's single, right? Bahaha!

I worked a full-day charter, up before dawn, waiting out quite a thunderstorm but with rain gear at the ready. Planer boards were replaced by six rods with buck tail lures with pork rind. I baited the hooks, sent out the lines, and brought lines in now and then to clean off the lures. This time the fish were really biting, and we caught several fish, five of which were keepers. I was glad to see the guy having a birthday actually land the biggest one. It's nice to see people happy about their catch.  Slippery little fish kept fighting to get through my fingers, flopping on the deck as I tried to get a hold of them and measure them. I got skewered right through my heavy gardening gloves a couple times by dorsal fin spines, and tried to remove hooks quickly and humanely. I've learned the hard way that any run-ins with dorsal spines or hooks have to be treated quickly with peroxide and alcohol because the germs in the bay infect quickly and aggressively. I still can't really understand torturing and/or killing nature for fun and continue to be surprised at how many people find it entertaining. Nonetheless, because I truly want to do the best job I can, I was actually looking forward to the opportunity to filet those five fish and get practice. But that, too, slipped through my fingers.

One woman complained to the captain that she didn't like how I was fileting the fish, so I got demoted to the helm and the captain had to clean the fish, which he doesn't like to do. I understand wanting it done well and I certainly want to maximize the amount of meat on the filets. I'd only fileted half a fish before and just needed a chance to figure it out. Having several people watching doesn't exactly make it easier. But guys are always more kind, give tips here and there but usually let you learn. Women are mostly awful to other women, hypercritical and always looking for a chance to cut each other down. I tried to just put on my game face and suck it up at the helm.
 
I spent a couple of days really soul-searching, worrying I couldn't cut it for this job because I went from a tip over 22% on my first charter to 12%. I've got a lot to learn but know more than most folks and have good sea legs. It seemed like a good athletic outdoor job, getting out on the water and making use of my ability to make small talk. It's a sacrifice since I had sworn I'd never piss in a cup for a job and don't think government or employers should be monitoring my personal life. As long as I'm sober on the job what I do in my free time shouldn't matter. But any way the government can weasel into our lives nowadays it will. (This also resulted in an argument at motor vehicles about not having a street address if I decide to anchor out... they insist they must have a land-based address in case the police need to contact me in an emergency... I call BS... they just don't want to do their legwork to serve warrants.)

Anyway, a couple days later I had two half-day charters. Now of course I was really nervous about the fileting. The first charter was a group of young residents from Hopkins. They each wanted to filet a fish, dissected them, and passed around organs. The surgeon was also a fisherman from Florida so he was very sweet and patiently stood by and walked me through it with tips from a surgeon's perspective. But what a riot to have a group tip me very well and want to do the ickiest part themselves! At least now I was better prepared for the pressure of fileting up the afternoon catch. But one of those guys was a chef in Florida for 12 years and wanted to try one himself! So he gave me tips on where to cut to find a little more meat behind the head, etc. I did three, he did one, and another guy tried one. I think especially because most charters never let guests do anything but crank they really like getting to learn how to do things.

Well, I hadn't done as many as I planned, but I had gotten good tips from both surgeon and chef perspectives. Now I'd be ready to impress Monday's charter... But they said "We're Chinese; you know we take the fish home whole!" Ha! Well, I'm not going to complain about not getting the practice on those ones since he tipped me very well and before we were even back to the dock. The next trip out I finally had a group with no desire to do it themselves. I was too nervous to do it underway, but knocked out all five at the dock. I went with Riverboat Bob's style where the skin is never cut clear through at the tail, which gives me a bigger "handle" when skinning and wastes less meat. They were happy with their filets and pleased to leave that task to me.

The next day I did all three while we were underway. They were clearly impressed to see me setting up my cleaning station while we were still trolling (something only charters are allowed to do). I did the first one and the guy watching commented about what a nice job I was doing and was telling the other guys to watch. I thought maybe he was joking but they were just impressed. I laughed and told him I fileted my first fish just two weeks before! No way they'd have ever guessed I hadn't been doing it for years. So from now on maybe I'll tell them I've been doing it since I was a kid.

One Sunday I had a group of six and we limited out, plus since it was now June, we kept a boat fish, too. My first time having four lines with fish on at once! I fileted all 13 while underway. I was kind of traumatized that one of them wasn't quite dead as I fileted him, so I really need to learn exactly where to put an icepick in their brains to pith them humanely. Here's a video of me fileting a fish under way.


Tips have usually been 20% or more, and guests seem to be pleased with the service, despite initial surprise to see a girly-girl as their mate. I'm not paid by the boat at all, so my tips are all I make; that is the standard arrangement for a mate. I scrub the deck, set up all the rods, land the fish, filet them up, risk getting stabbed, hooked, and cut, play tour guide, take out the trash, et cetera. I've studied oceanography and marine biology and share a lot of marine knowledge with guests who want it. I don't have health insurance or paid vacation or the ability to collect unemployment when work dries up. On Father's Day I did get majorly screwed on my tip. As soon as I saw the group coming I knew I was F'd, but every time I hold out hope that the stereotype won't be true and I give them 110%...but in all my time waiting tables and bartending, only twice have these folks tipped appropriately despite being ridiculously high-maintenance. $20. Yep, $3 an hour to get up at 4:30AM, catch these guys the biggest fish they'd seen in their lives, and have to clean a couple in a more complicated way than our usual fileting. Next time the tip will be in my hand before I leave the dock or I just head home and sleep in. If you aren't prepared to tip 20%, just don't go out. Don't go sportfishing, don't go to bars, don't go to restaurants. Keep your incredibly bad karma and spare the rest of us who are working to make a living. (OK, rant over. But never to be forgotten; I've been screwed one too many times.)

Now that the hot weather is here, the stingrays are out in the bay. Although a lot of captains call them skates, they are actually cow-nosed rays, a type of eagle ray. (Rays and skates are not the same; skates tend to be rounder and have wider tails and do not have a stinging barb.) We've hooked four while I've been aboard. I got one up to the transom to cut the line but gratefully he flipped the hook out. The others managed to break the leader...the last one was a big guy when we saw him come to the surface about 40 feet behind the boat. The rays often swim at the surface and their wingtips will break the water. We had seen a few and some charter guests were pointing to what they thought was one but when I turned to look it was a dolphin surfacing, and another dorsal fin was right beside it. Dolphin are sometimes spotted as far north as Baltimore Harbor, but it is definitely rare to see them north of the Bay Bridge as we did a few days ago. Very cool.

I've gotten much better at grabbing fish by the lip, which does just miraculously seem to paralyze them, and at getting hooks out, though I've had a couple tough ones with the hooks. Now whether I can learn how to do this with Florida fish... that weigh as much or more than me and have scary teeth... not sure, but that'd be nice. Florida charter rates are about double those here and I'd enjoy going south for the winter to do that. Even though I'm allergic to seafood and sort of a hippy chick who doesn't want to hurt nature, fishing is the first job in my life I really like. And I actually seem to be really good at it. I just have to show up on any new boat with my K-Bar strapped to my thigh the first day and make it clear that I don't fire warning shots...the first time the captain's hand touches my ass is when I start cutting off extremities. It really sucks that this is the kind of world we still live in.

Now that I've gotten pretty good at the job, charters have slowed down for me. The captain gives a couple charters a week to someone else and there aren't enough leftovers for me to survive on. One charter for me this week and one scheduled for the next. So I'm going back to the dark side and taking a project in DC doing low-end legal muckwork. The project is slated to last three weeks, but they easily end early, so there's really no predicting. I can't even afford the $21 per day it would cost to drive, park, and metro in, so I'm going to try walking to the commuter bus that would be $8.50 round trip, but has limited hours it runs. The car is a piece of shit full of grelims, so I'd be nervous to rely on it for a 40 mile daily round trip to the nearest metro station anyway. The days become long, because an 8-hour workday can easily become 12 with the commute time. That will be tough on the dog in the hot boat with temperamental air conditioning, but I'll try to find a dockmate to give her a quick break midday and check that the A/C hasn't frozen up. She handled even longer days when I used to commute to Georgetown from Annapolis, but did have a whole house to roam (she actually just sleeps all day with the cats) and reliable A/C to keep her cool. Fingers crossed it works out and enough projects arise for me to cover my bills and start getting the boat repaired so I can actually take her out. One thing I've definitely learned the hard way, with the exception of a few close friends, any guy who wants to help me on my boat has an ulterior motive. From now on things I can't tackle all by myself will simply have to wait until I can pay a professional to help me. No more "favors" because those guys all seem to be angling for "favors" in return.

361 days ago was the denaming ceremony for the boat. It was also the day that Max learned how to swim. This evening as I was heading to take pup dog for a quick piddle before bed, Max wanted to follow us. He was getting ready to jump under the life lines and I told him that wasn't a good idea. The boat was far from the dock and the angle wouldn't be good. I was grabbing pup's leash and heard a splash. I guess you knew where this story was going... a dockmate saw it happen and yelled "cat overboard!" as I scrambled to get the fishing net. But before I could even get the net he was already on the dock. Amazingly enough that cat swam to the piling at the bulkhead and climbed right out. He stood on the dock for a while looking sort of confused and then ran inside. I grabbed a towel and dried him off a bit. Always an adventure with pets aboard.

Hunter has now very deliberately peed outside the box three times in the last month. Today it was on the settee. Now I'm very worried about him. The last time he was so pointed about it he was going through puberty and although no one believed me (because he'd been snipped as a kitten), I knew he was telling me something was wrong and I could see him getting the tomcat characteristics. It turned out that my instincts were spot on; one testicle hadn't dropped and was hidden inside behind his intestines. Now he has a growth (the vet said tumor and then tried to revert to "growth" so I wouldn't freak out) on one ear. There isn't any fluid inside, which is a bad sign. Tumors, or uh, growths, on cats are much more likely to be malignant than ones on dogs. I couldn't afford to send the cells for analysis. I couldn't afford the heartworm prevention for the cats and dog. I'll have to save up and see about sending him for surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, but it's a difficult location and I imagine they could say he'll lose the ear. My beautiful, loyal, regal King Great Jaguar Paw.

I'm definitely regretting staying in Annapolis. Only three months into an annual slip contract and I'm kicking myself. If I stay until November then the rate would end up being about the same as if I'd been a monthly transient. If I'm not doing yacht brokerage or mediation or something else lucrative that requires establishing oneself, then there's not much reason for me to be here. There's nothing for me here, nothing tying me here, no sense that I belong here. But there isn't any other place I'd be going to either. There just isn't anyplace where I have roots, feel "home." I guess I probably won't ever have that feeling. I definitely wish I had a dinghy and skill at ferrying the dog ashore because getting away from the noise and activity at the marina would be a blessing. I just wish I could've gone on a secluded mooring somewhere. I need some peace and quiet. What a waste to spend so much money on an annual slip contract... all that money and I'd have solar panels, a new battery bank, all my basic repairs and simple upgrades done, a great dink, and be able to live on the hook or on a ball. I need to get my butt in gear and get the boat in shape to at least go on some short three or four day trips around the Bay, get comfortable anchoring, and just get prepared to go... somewhere, anywhere. I just need to go. Before the chance slips through my fingers, again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

welcome to the circus

The other day I was doing dishes and pup dog was in the cockpit relaxing in the sun. I saw her tail begin wagging wildly and thought my friends might be arriving for our little cookout. When I peeked out there was a girl crouched down on my dock as close to the boat as she could get with her mother in the background trying to frame a good photo of the girl with pup dog behind her. Sigh. I wanted to say, "Hey, we're not a circus! This is my house! I don't come take photos of you sitting on your porch or in your backyard." I know, I'm a curmudgeon. It's just that there are times when you're in the mood to be friendly and satisfy the tourists' desire to see some "local color," and there are times you just want to be able to enjoy a glass of wine on deck without being bothered. I'm considering making signs for the boat that say "The Circus is Closed" and "The Circus is Open; Pet Photos $5 each." (It's tempting to at least monetize the annoyance, but then I'd be a commercial enterprise in violation of marina rules.) I had hoped to move to a slip on one of the docks that has a gate and a sign noting the pier is private. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like any slips over there will be available until the fall.

You can see that the pets are very stressed out living aboard. Clearly, they handle the pressures a little better than their mom does.


I'm not sure if it was the serious rocking and rolling from high winds or that the litter box was due to be cleaned, but one of the cats mutinied and at 5:00AM Friday morning I was unceremoniously awoken by a giant puddle of cat pee on me and my blankets. It was a surprise since it had been well over a year since we'd had any out-of-box peeing. But oh, yay; laundry time! (A four-part attack of detergent, Oxy Clean, Borax, and Nature's Miracle due to the particular noxiousness of cat pee.) Washing the boat bedding is a serious pain because the mattress protectors, sheets, and heated mattress pad are all made for traditional rectangular beds but mine is a huge triangle that is also very difficult to access, so making the bed is sort of a project in itself. Naturally, one washer and one dryer stole coins from me and wouldn't run. The other dryer has been out of commission for several weeks. I ended up having to schlep my wet laundry to the icky laundromat nearby to use the dryers. Why can't marina laundry just work and be simple? If college dorms can figure it out why can't marinas?

I knew that the condensation from the winter would be bad so I had to brace myself for whatever ick and mold might be along the sides and beneath the mattress. The mattress itself did not appear to have any mold and was completely dry underneath, to my great surprise. The condensation did lead to mold on the teak, which I wiped down with a solution of tea tree oil and water, and the laminate appears to be nearing its useful life but I don't have the budget for gutting the entire interior of the boat anytime soon. I took the opportunity to prop the mattress up on various items so that it had full air circulation around it, sprayed it down with the tea tree oil solution and with Febreeze, cracked the hatch, and aimed a couple of fans on it. I spent two nights on the settee, for which my back definitely did not thank me, and then put the v-berth back together, leaving off the heated mattress pad until next fall. There is still a ton of mold from the winter to battle, but I'm just going to keep working my way aft through the boat until I've got it all under control.

So many projects... so little time... I have this bottomless list of projects aboard, some of which I need mechanical assistance with, some of which I just need to buckle down and make happen, and some of which I won't be able to tackle anytime soon since all the funds saved up have been bled into the worthless car. Yet it's all I can do to stay on top of basic laundry and dishes. Honestly, I'm not doing a good job staying on top of those and feel overwhelmed by them most days. But I am running my ass off, which is important. I've worked up to a base of 30 miles per week, which will be my routine until late August when I begin increasing mileage in preparation for my 50K trail race right before Christmas. The running is keeping me sane and slimming me down, so even though I'm in hopeless debt and broke as can be, I'm feeling and looking good. Let the world keep throwing shit at me; they haven't brought me down yet.

I went out on another fishing charter but again no fish. I'm starting to feel like bad luck. But on three of the four times I was out with friends trying to catch something I did, and I reeled in four fish among those three trips. Although it's obviously less "work" on the charter when you don't catch anything, I need to learn to fillet the darn things and I need to impress the customers so they'll throw more cash my way. But at least I'm getting out on the water. 

Sadly, the more time I spend on the water, the less I like sailboats, or probably more accurately, sail boaters. It cracks me up how so many sailors say that it's the power boaters who don't know and don't follow the rules of the road. My experience has been the polar opposite. And I hear from so many sailors who when they do have the right of way feel the need to press it, won't alter their course a few degrees, when it could make a huge difference for the give way vessel. Just because you technically have right of way over a fishing charter boat with lines out trolling doesn't mean you should revel in the opportunity to cut across their lines and cost them hundreds or thousands of dollars in gear, ruin someone's charter trip, and increase the animosity between the power and sail camps. When fishing lines are out, and especially with planer boards, that power boat is going maybe two knots, has limited maneuverability, and needs to make turns very gradually. The fundamental concept behind the rules of the road is to have boats with greater maneuverability give way to those with less maneuverability. It would be so much nicer out on the water if folks would consider that and show each other some courtesy and patience, rather than acting like spoiled children stomping their feet that it was their turn. And of course all the sail boaters who hate powerboats pipe down when they need a tow or someone to throw them a wake to get off a shoal...  Sigh.  A little more application of the Golden Rule would definitely make being on the water more pleasant and safer.

I actually dread going out on the water on days there will be lots of sailboats. They commandeer large sections of the water for their races precisely where others need to transit. Because I can't read their minds I'm in a constant state of panic that they will tack or gibe nearby and force me to alter my course on short notice. I want to be out on the water with not another boat in sight. I love to be out on the water, but I can take or leave the sailing part. We all have different reasons for being on boats and would be well served to learn to respect those differences. A sailboat made sense for me because they are set up more logically to live on, I could buy more boat for the money, and it opened up the possibility of destinations I could not afford the fuel to reach. But the boat is a method of reaching destinations, its value to me is not in sailing for sailing's sake; its value is in where it can take me, what it lets me see and do, the adventures that become possible.

Dockbox update: I was two weeks without the car. The ECU, (i.e. the "computer"), needs replacing but is an elusive part. I can't trust one from eBay because it has to be exactly the year and model of my car or it won't work. I have a friend keeping an eye out if one comes available through the junkyard network. For now, I have to avoid using the car on rainy days and try to keep it parked where it will stay dry. I can't just hop in and start the car. It will just freak out and make horrific noises and not start. Instead I have to get in, put the key on the second ignition position, and... wait. Sometimes after about 30-60 seconds the check engine light will turn off and I will hear the fuel pump kick on. Then I can start the car. If after a minute that hasn't happened, I have to remove the key, wait a bit, and try the routine again. I've never had a totally unreliable car before, or one that was treated like a trash bin, or held together by duct tape. I feel like I'm trying to rehabilitate a dog that was chronically mistreated by its prior owner. My life has been a series of poor decisions but this is the first truly piece-of-shit car I've ever had dragging me down. I admit I have some bad karma but I didn't deserve this. The self-impressed guy who talked me into buying the car has been texting and emailing, but I'm going with the Thumper Rule: I don't have anything nice to say, so I won't say anything at all. What I want to say is unless you are contacting me to buy this junk heap for the $2,700 I'm into it, please lose my number. Ugh.

On the subject of idiot guys texting me, the former boytoy who fell overboard texted me twice on Saturday. Midafternoon I got a message asking if I was home and then again a little before 10:00PM. I figured maybe he wants to beg for a sympathetic witness at his trial or perhaps he's 12-stepping for a plea deal and has to make amends. But the second text asking "hey you home tonite?" makes me think he's actually so stupid that he thinks he can come by for a booty call after all his nonsense. I guess he could be that stupid. Again I went with the Thumper Rule and did not respond at all. But I was a little nervous he might drop by uninvited, so I made sure I had phone, flashlight, and hunting knife within arm's reach.

Being single in Annapolis can be a drag because it's such a small town and I've pretty much seen everything on the market. I also won't just sleep around because everyone here knows everyone else and it's a gossipy little town. I tend to think I have to wait for new guys to move to the area or just plan to be single until I move on to a new locale. I can count on one hand (or more like a couple fingers) the guys here I haven't already friend-zoned. I know what I really want but it'd be so one-in-a-million to find it that I figure it's an impossibility. But at the very least I have to be firm about not settling. If there isn't that immediate chemistry, if a guy doesn't have the chutzpa to seize the moment with me, then it's not worth my time. I'd rather be alone than with someone with no passion. And if someone isn't willing to get messy, get complicated, get their heart broken, forget it. Doing dangerous or adventurous things is easy; risking broken bones or even your life is easy. Risking your heart takes real guts.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

fish on!

39-incher caught on my first charter
Last Friday I got up en la madrugada (i.e. at o-dark-thirty) and worked my first fishing charter. The night before, I packed my lunch and my backpack (layers, sunblock, knife, gloves, et cetera). In the morning I made a thermos of coffee to take along. It was a rush to get ready, feed the pets, walk the dog, and get out the door.  At least the commute is only 3 blocks.

Next time I may have to get up at 4:00AM, or perhaps at--gasp--3:00AM so I can get a run in first. Since I often wake at 3:00AM anyway and struggle to get back to sleep, maybe that isn't as crazy an idea as it sounds. There is no way I would be able to get in a run after working a charter, and I don't want to slide backwards on the pace and mileage I've built up. 

We had four guys on the charter; three friends and the son of one. They were a really nice group and forgiving of it being my first day. The captain showed me how he sets up his trolling lines and I helped put everything out. Things were slow, so we added a couple of dummy lines, which have lead sinkers and lures, but no reels. We had a couple of knockdowns where a fish hit the bait hard enough to pull the line off the planer board line, but we weren't hooking anything. The guys were getting pretty disappointed. I checked some lines to see if they had jellyfish on them, (it makes the lure unattractive to the rockfish), but no jellies. For whatever reason, the fish just weren't biting.

When we needed to start pulling in the lines I started with the dummy lines. I got one in and was going to finish putting it away before moving on to the next. The guy who seemed most disappointed that we hadn't caught anything yelled to me that he thought we had a fish on. I laughed it off thinking he was just pulling my leg since I was trying to get the port dummy line put away. He insisted he thought there was a fish on. We all looked at the lines but none were down and no reels were clicking. Then he said, "No; on this line!" pointing at the starboard dummy line. When we started pulling it, a fish popped along the surface and the panic ensued! (I don't know to whom to attribute the quote, but folks say something along the lines of "fishing is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer panic.") Since the line has no reel, you simply have to pull the line in by hand. Gratefully, I was wearing grippy gardening gloves that work well for that task and helped the guy pull it in. He was thrilled to have finally caught something and bringing it in by hand made for a special story.

Once we were back at the dock I watched while the captain filleted the fish. If there had been more I might have tried, but I certainly didn't want to do any damage to the only fish we'd caught on the trip. So, learning how to remove the hook safely when landing the fish and how to fillet it up properly are still priorities. I washed down the rods and lures, brushed the hair on the lures, put away the gear, and scrubbed down the deck and the fish box. It was a long day but I've got no doubt I'd rather be out there on the water, getting some exercise, being in the outdoors, than stuck in some office or slinging drinks. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be one of the most interesting jobs I've had.

I figured I'd go out that Friday night, since I finally had more than $3 to my name. I laid down at 7:30PM for a quick nap. I woke up around midnight, and again around 2:00AM. I finally got up at 8:30AM. I guess after a week without sleeping pills and a long, hard day on the water I was pretty tired!

I must not have done too awful a job since the captain had me back for another charter the next afternoon. The group of seven young guys doing a bachelor-party weekend looked a little confused walking down the dock and seeing me there readying things. I think most mates have hairier legs and less curves than I do. The guys were suffering a bit from the previous night's festivities, and some of them napped while we kept searching for fish. Rain and thunderstorms had been predicted and kept most boats in port that afternoon. Thankfully, the storms passed north of us. But we only got one fish hooked and he ended up getting away. The guys were disappointed but some seemed pleased to have a video ribbing the groom for losing the fish. 

My big mistake that day was not keeping the planer board line taut enough when sending the board out. I was trying to hold it and pull it back, but the line whipped right through my bare hands and pulled behind the boat. I knew that was a serious problem since it could easily foul the prop. Although it hadn't caught the prop, it was tangled around the rudder. The captain tried to free it with a boat hook but we ended up having to pull the board out and cut the line to be able to pull it free of the rudder. It was only a few minutes, but pretty frantic. Once the line was clear the captain tied it back on the board and I sent it out... very slowly, and with my grippy gloves on! A serious mistake that could have ended much worse; but lesson learned, and a mistake I won't make again.

Yesterday I headed back out on my friend Captain Chris' boat for a day of fishing. I was hoping we'd limit out so I could get some good practice on cleaning the fish. For some reason both days I've gone out on this boat this season have been cold and foggy. All that sunblock I put on was definitely wasted, and I was glad I threw on an extra sweater. The first fish we caught was only 24" and had to be released. We had a couple of knockdowns. The only keeper was a 32" rockfish I reeled in. My arms are still sore from cranking the reel and bracing the rod. Afterwards I learned how to put on the fighting belt properly to make it easier next time. It was good to get another day of training and practice without the pressure of charter customers to impress. I can't thank Captain Chris and Riverboat Bob enough for teaching me, and I'm grateful for a chance to make some cash at it.

[From left to right in the first photo below: Tim, yours truly, and Riverboat Bob]


The only fish we kept wasn't going to fillet itself, so it was time to learn. The fish was laying there in the well with the ice. I stepped down to get it but kept asking the guys if he was really dead. I assured them that if I grabbed his lip and he started flopping I would start screaming! Even though it was staring me down with its mouth wide open, it didn't wiggle a bit and I managed to hoist it for the photos and then into the dock cart to head for the cleaning station. It measured in at 32 inches. The mate, Riverboat Bob, began the process and explained what he was doing. He finished one side, flipped the fish over, and then it was my turn. I had Bob shoot the little video below. I didn't do the most elegant job, but I got it done without puking or crying, so I consider it a success.



Yes, a living creature was harmed in the making of this video. I don't find it "fun" to kill nature; every little thing just wants to live. I recognize the hypocrisy that I am not a vegetarian, and stay blissfully ignorant of the lives and deaths of the beef, pork, and poultry that I eat. At least with fishing one does face the vitality and mortality of one's dinner eye to eye. I hope that when out fishing I can always be humane, respectful of wildlife, and show gratitude for the resource, and guide others to do the same.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

april showers

A week ago Monday I had an opportunity to go out fishing. Although I'm allergic to seafood and don't really want to hurt or kill nature for entertainment, I hate to pass up an opportunity to get out on the water and I want to develop skills to serve as a mate on fishing charters. Those mates can make some good tips on a half- or full-day charter, and if I can do the job looking cuter than the usual old salts, well, I figure my tips would be even better. I've found that "soft skills" aren't much rewarded financially and are easily outsourced offshore, so I'm on a mission to stockpile some "real" skills like fishing, sewing, and fixing mechanical things. On my few trips out rockfishing I've learned how to put out the planer boards, clip in and send out the trolling lines, keep an eye out for knockdowns, bring in the lines, tidy up the reels for storage, and clean the lures. I've brought in a few fish, but I still need to learn how to safely net the fish, remove the hook, and filet it up. Although I learned a lot on this past trip (thanks Cap'n Chris and Mate Bob!) and we had 14 lines out, we didn't get so much as a nibble. It didn't look like other boats were having much more luck, though, so I don't feel too bad. The fishing gods must have sensed me typing this and in walked the captain of a local charter boat asking if I could work a charter this Friday. Fingers crossed I do well, make some good money, and get invited back for more work. I should be able to make as much in tips as if waiting tables, but with the potential for more. And it's time on the water, getting some exercise, and developing a skill I can take with me anywhere.

As you may recall, one Tuesday the car died and the following Tuesday I learned the A/C in the car doesn't work and I lost all my important keys (other than car keys). Perhaps the most important of the lost keys was the only key to the lock on my storage unit. So last Tuesday I started my errands with heading to the storage unit to pay the bill and see if they would cut the lock for me. The manager said of course they could cut the lock...for a fee. My heart sank; I'm painfully broke and whatever it cost was coming straight out of the small grocery budget. Then he smiled and said "Just kidding! Of course we'll cut it for free." I just had to sign a liability waiver saying I'm me and won't be upset they cut the lock, et cetera. Annapolis Self Storage rocks! Sparks flew, it smelled like melting metal, and voila! The 5'x5' unit is not even waist high with stuff, much of which just needs sorting, tossing, or donating.


Items I like to keep in the car were at the top in the storage unit, e.g. a trunk organizer, jumper cables, beach chair, hockey skates, emergency overnight bag, and my portable backgammon case. It was a rainy gloomy day so I hit up a fellow liveaboard and suggested I drop by after picking up my groceries and we could play some backgammon and hide out from the rain. He's very competitive, a racer. I'm not. I wanted him to have an edge since he was new to backgammon so I let him pick the black dice, which I suspect to roll doubles on a higher-than-average basis. Although he did roll doubles often, apparently I just have a gift for rolling more of them. Even when I didn't need them my double sixes kept coming up. After just three games he said he never wanted to hear me say "box cars!" again. I guess there's a hidden competitive streak in me, after all. So I promised to let him win at chess.

Having totally lost track of time hiding from the rain, it was about 1:00AM as I was finally heading home. But if it's Tuesday the universe has it in for me, and the car was dead again. I got a ride home only to find that the gasket in one of the port lights had come out of its track and what seemed like buckets of water had rained onto the settee and pillows. There's really no fixing it when wet, so I had to pile towels and a basin below the port to try to catch the rain. A couple days later I managed to get the gasket back in, though it still leaks a bit (I seriously hate the design of these port lights), but I'm still without a car. Every time it freaks out and fails it's been raining. The dealer is thinking it may need a new computer, but the part is elusive and I think they need to figure out how water is intruding and shorting it out so I'm not continually replacing an expensive and hard-to-get part. In the two months I've had the car it has run less often than it's been broken down. At this point whenever I'm about to cry I just start laughing kind of hysterically, like I'm on the verge of a psychotic break. At least I can look at the situation and laugh!

The rain, south winds, and high tides converged to flood the parking garage at the marina with a good 5 inches of water. Water didn't come over the docks but it was close and the boat was high above the pier. I wore my foulies all day Wednesday and had to sit on the deck to jump down.


After what seemed like endless rains, we got some sunny, warmish weather and the dock water was turned on. I borrowed a pressure washer from a dockmate and spent Sunday giving Ambrosia a bikini boat wash. I spent four hours going over the decks with the pressure washer. The boat went from gray to white. One guy said he always found it cathartic to clean the boat like that, and I have to agree. She was just caked with grime and it definitely gives a sense of accomplishment to blast it away. By the time I reached the cockpit I was feeling rushed because the temperature was dropping and winds were kicking up. I didn't want to be caught out in a thunderstorm. Gratefully it passed us by. I spent another hour working on spots by hand and still have more to do to clean up the topsides, but she looks so much cleaner and brighter now.

Come Sunday evening I had a bunch of chicken to cook up but no one was up for coming over for dinner and drinks so I was on my own. I've always left grilling to men. Everyone needs their own "turf," their own things they are good at, skills they get to "own." Since I'm a pretty decent cook and baker, I like to be in charge of my galley. So I've always left the "killing beast over fire" Neanderthal thing to guys. I let them own that primal manly task. But being a single gal and (perhaps overly, painfully, stridently) independent, I have to do for myself these days. For a while I've been using a little George Foreman grill, which I actually quite like. However, it only fits a couple chicken breasts or burgers and if I'm cooking in larger quantities (as is often the case), it takes a long time and there is a lot of clean up. So, this past Sunday I got a fellow dockmate to show me how to light the communal grill by the dinghy dock and lo-and-behold, I grilled up my first batch of chicken by myself. Folks walking by ooh-ed and aah-ed; one family said they wouldn't have gone to Boatyard for dinner if I'd been grilling when they walked by, another guy said it smelled delicious and could smell it a block away. I'd say the real skill in it was marinating the chicken for a few days in a Ziploc bag with olive oil, garlic, fresh ground pepper, and kosher salt, but I guess my grilling abilities aren't too shabby, either.

I had been planning on moving slips but don't like the slip open on the main pier. I'd be stuck between two power boats (which cuts off breezes and could make me feel boxed in) and the view would be of a shabby boat at the marina next door. I'm going to pass. I was mostly resigned to staying put, which pup dog would probably like and would avoid drama dealing with Comcast, but the parking garage noise and being right next to another liveaboard really do bother me. There is another slip possibly opening up on a pier with a gate (so less risk of strangers walking up to the boat) and the docking situation would likely be relatively simple, but that slip would cost almost $1,000 more per year than where I'm at...money I obviously don't have right now. So, we'll see. I think I would have more privacy and peace and quiet there. It's an adjustment being in a more urban/commercial marina with all the noise and foot traffic, but I think what is harder for me is all the liveaboards, gossip, and unsolicited advice. I've got to get the boat fixed up so I can take off on some mini-cruises and get away.

Although it'd be nice to fall in love or at least find a good guy and have a playmate this spring and summer, I'm so thankful that I am not trapped in a stale or bad relationship. I'm saddened when I see someone encoupled with the wrong person, staying by default because inaction is easier than action. There is an enormous opportunity cost to doing that because the love of your life might walk right past you but not see you because you were on another's arm. I keep telling myself (and want to yell at my friends): Don't settle! You deserve better. The person you're with deserves better. No one should ever be pressured to get married or have children, nor pressure anyone else to do so. Marriage is hard. Marriage is a partnership and a sacrifice. If you don't wake up every morning wanting to be there, you are shortchanging yourself and your "partner." If you wouldn't stay if there weren't a legal bond between you, you sure as hell shouldn't be together. Too many people marry for all the wrong reasons, under all the wrong pressures. Too many women marry because they want a wedding, because all their friends are doing it, or because they think they can't have a kid on their own. If a guy truly loves me he won't need legal papers, or a name change, or a joint checking account. He'll show he loves me by being there in my bed every morning and not fucking anyone else. By being his own person, independent, self-fulfilled, seizing and sharing his dreams.

One thing I think we often forget is that we are not responsible for anyone else's happiness. We are each responsible for our own happiness and only when we love ourselves, are independent and complete in ourselves, can we truly love someone  else, seek only to lift them up, not pull them down or revolve around them. I don't want to be the center of anyone's universe (well, other than pup dog's). It's too much pressure. And it isn't love, it's obsession or dependence; there's a very big difference between those things and love. Jealous people, like drunks and addicts, don't truly love. They lack the self-value and self-confidence to do so.

I consider having some fun here and there, but I know I won't be satisfied with that. Even if it's just a physical thing, and especially if it's just a physical thing, I don't want to be with anyone that there isn't just this immediate, gut, pheromonal desire to rip each others' clothes off. I deserve that kind of passion. Anything less than that is selling myself short. So I have to stick with my mantras: Don't settle. Just keep running. Be the lioness, not the gazelle.