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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


The first frost arrived and pup dog was wary of hopping off the boat. I still have to see whether the stern is close enough to the bulkhead to run her dog ramp so she doesn't have to brave the finger pier when the ice and snow arrive. Luckily, it has been an unseasonably warm December. Unfortunately, I have heard January is supposed to be our usual cold and February is supposed to be much worse than usual, with heavy snowfall. I try to keep telling myself that this is the last winter, at least for a while, and we simply have to hang in there and get through it.

Pup dog has been very spoiled having a guy who will throw the ball far enough and often enough to tire her out. He even bought her a Chuck-It. If only she would retrieve a little better--she has a habit of dropping the ball about 15 feet away. For years I have worked on getting her to bring the ball all the way to me, so she has this funny routine where she keeps nudging it with her nose to roll it toward me as I keep telling her "closer, closer." We took her along last weekend when we played disc golf and only about half way through the 18 holes she was slowing down and eventually "lost" (or more likely hid) the ball so she could rest.

School ended in early December for fall term and I was relieved to have made my "A"s in both Swedish Massage and Anatomy and Physiology. I also managed to avoid being massaged by the total creeper who was in the Swedish Massage class and who was incapable of being professional or appropriate. Many of us in the class were disappointed that the program didn't take any real action to remove him from the labs, instead giving him useless warnings. If by some miracle he passed and ends up in the Deep Tissue class in the spring, I'll refuse to work with him and either leave the program or the school can have a legal battle with me. I came to dread the massage class but feel I'm already committed to finishing since the time and money already invested are completely wasted without a license. So, we'll see what happens.

Not exactly news, but I have too much stuff. I’ve gotten rid of 95% of my worldly belongings, but still have too much. I know I’m only supposed to care about people, not things, but I am such a Cancer--my home is so important to me and some of my “things” are part of what makes it feel like home. Then there is the bigger, deeper issue that I feel I am unlikely to have the financial wherewithal to replace things or acquire new things. I’ve been living with piles of stuff everywhere and although it bothers me it wasn’t mission critical to deal with it since the boat isn’t ready to head anywhere yet. But now I have the surfer living aboard with me and I want him to have space to feel at home. I bought him a hanging shelf and added it to the main hanging locker so he would have a place for clothes and I got rid of the mini fridge to make more space and have a better spot for his guitar. I need to do a lot more organizing, cleaning, and paring down so he doesn’t feel like a houseguest and knows he has his own space. But somehow we are juggling the Rubix cube aboard and fitting two people, two cats, and pup dog on this little boat.

Although I gave up the mini fridge, my marine fridge is still not working. We’re sucking it up right now and using block ice; at least it’s cold out so it doesn’t melt nearly as fast as it did in the summer. But once I get the car paid off and tuition covered, repairing--or more likely replacing--the refrigeration system will be a priority. Although a new compressor will be pricey, I have a feeling it will be more cost effective than paying for hourly labor to troubleshoot whatever is wrong with a 20-year-old unit.

I’ve only been out running twice since I fell back in September and scraped my knee badly, but I have made it out ice skating a few times. A few years ago I was skating 4 or 5 days a week but the past two seasons I only made it out once or twice. This year I spoiled myself with a 30-skate pass, one of my Christmas presents to myself. I do love to skate and I’ll enjoy the pass, but I quickly remembered why I stopped skating at Quiet Waters regularly--rink rats and jerk parents who raise brats. I have to force myself to be on the ice right at 9AM if I want to get any time to skate before the a$$holes and their kids arrive. Sigh.  

My other Christmas present to myself was three discs for disc golf. I didn’t expect to enjoy playing stoner frisbee and initially just went along because the surfer really likes it and I wanted to spend time with him. But I’m not terrible and the surfer is a great coach, so we try to play as often as our schedules and weather permit. His discs are mostly better for someone bigger, stronger, and more experienced than me, so I picked out three different discs, a distance driver, a fairway driver, and a mid-range, better suited to my level and my backhand throw. One of my Christmas gifts from the surfer was a bag for my discs.

The holidays have been very stressful as usual. I never have much of any money and am always missing my father. This was the first Christmas in four years (since my father died) that I exchanged any gifts and while I enjoyed picking out some surprises for the surfer, the financial and emotional stress of the gift exchange process overwhelms me and fills me with dread. We did finally put some Christmas lights up the day after Christmas. I managed to get through the weekend and now just want to get past New Year's. I'd say "maybe 2016 will hold better things" but usually each year is worse than the last and hoping otherwise is likely to jinx me. But just maybe this coming year will be full of health, wealth, and love. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


I've seen a saying about how salt cures everything, whether from tears, the sea, or salt-rimmed Margaritas. We all need salt to survive, to make our neurons fire. I think the salt that cures the most for me goes in my body on my french fries and comes out as sweat while I run. If I sweat enough I figure there won't be anything left for tears.

Cut my hair again trying to give those curls some bounce.
I apologize for the lengthy lapse in posts. The juggle of school, work, and my heart has left me sleep-deprived and frantic most days. Gratefully, I finally got back out for a run after being sidelined for several weeks since the unpleasant incident between my knee and the sidewalk. Four little miles this past Saturday and I was sore for 36 hours. I hate having to start back over, but I know I can get back in my running groove if only I drag myself out of bed and head out there. The payoff in mental health and getting trim will be worth the pain; I just have to keep reminding myself that when my warm bed doesn't want me to go.

School. It's one of the very few things I happen to be good at. I agonize over every quiz and test, belly-ache that I haven't studied enough and will tank my grade, and more often than not still manage to get an A. Thus, the sympathy seems to run thin for my plight when I have procrastinated my studying and homework to the bitter end. I'm something of a test-taking machine, though I did do poorly on my second test in Anatomy & Physiology--a 79%. Ugh; I do not believe in getting Cs, in being "average." But it was a lesson learned that I needed to read more than one of the three chapters we were being tested on. I got one more lackluster B in A&P but have otherwise pulled off As for six of eight tests thus far. Why must I have an A in the class? No scholarships or graduation requirements turn on it. I just need passing grades in my 29 credits for the Massage Therapy certificate program and I can sit for the licensing exams. But over the years I have kept up a streak of straight-As in community college courses so now it's become a "thing" that I can't let go. So if I tank the last exam in A&P and get a--gasp!--B in the course, the sky will probably not fall and angels will probably not lose their wings, but somehow I will be a failure in my heart of hearts. When I am critical of others I really do feel awful; I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I try so hard to stop expecting perfection everywhere. Yet I keep expecting it, never finding it, never achieving it. I guess I need to cut myself a little slack, too, because I seem to klutzily fall off my own pedestal about a thousand times a day.

A big chunk of our exams is identifying parts on models.
Anatomy and Physiology is challenging. Academically, Swedish Massage is far easier. But the challenge in massage is learning the techniques and the mental grounding, more than in learning muscles and their actions. Ironically, the part of the massage classes that most people like best--giving and getting a massage each class in lab--is the part I dread. It has become rote at this point in the term but the bigger stressor for me and many girls in the class is the one creeper guy none of us wants to work with. My fingers are crossed that he finally dropped the class yesterday--the deadline to do so without a bad grade wrecking his GPA. I think after 12 weeks of class he could probably only identify one muscle: the gluteus maximus on which he seems quite focused. I had to work on him once, but at this point I will flat-out refuse to work with him again. He's failing the class, can't perform a professional health screen (asking girls if they've had any "recent pregnancies" rather than if they are currently pregnant and even asking one girl if she'd had any recent plastic surgeries). But beyond his simply dangerously not knowing what the hell he is doing and being incapable of acting professionally, he is one of those guys that just gives you the creeper vibe. No girl is going to talk to this guy at a bar much less pay him to massage her. The whole idea is preposterous but the school has no balls to give him the boot. I can't imagine he passes and makes it into Deep Tissue, but if he does, I will likely leave the program and transfer my credits elsewhere. This girl has a strong self-preservation instinct and is tired of letting schmuck creeps get a pass when they need to be called out and shamed. So, that's school. Not my favorite place to be these days, unfortunately.

Yep, this happened. I did the makeup. Note the little skull barrettes, so adorable.
I've been cooking and baking often now that I have someone to cook for. The surfer loves my cooking, or at least tells me so. He's not what I expected but probably exactly what I needed. He makes me laugh and smile, serenades me, and holds me tight. And perhaps what I need most of all, he lets me take care of him and he takes care of me. This past nine-and-a-half-weeks has had its challenges, but I think we came out the other side stronger than we started. I could dish all sorts of sweet nothings and challenges, but as I said before, I don't ever want him to feel he'll be dissected here, so I'll keep it sparse for the time being. But I'll leave you with this: Good cooks know that salt is a critical ingredient to bring out the flavor in a dish. It doesn't change the flavor, but it opens up your taste buds and lets the meal blossom. This guy, he's like just the right sprinkling of salt that brings out the best in me and makes life taste just that much more satisfying.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Sometimes the stars just align. Even for klutzy, crazy girls like me. After plenty of roller-coaster riding and hanging in there, the universe has cut me some slack or rewarded my resilience and sent some blessings my way. Normally, I might be worried that bad tidings are on the horizon with so much good feeling around me right now. But I'm too busy feeling energized, hopeful, and grounded to let worry harsh my mellow.

A friend convinced me to take a little cruise across the Bay to Kent Narrows to meet up with some friends for drinks and live music. It would be a 20 minute drive from Annapolis, but a five-hour sail. I hesitated to spend the bulk of the weekend in transit when I had studying to do, but with Labor Day weekend likely being the last opportunity to make such a trip with my friend before winter sets in, I decided to just go for it. 

We made good time, raised all the sails, and burned off stale diesel. It was my first time "cruising" Ambrosia away from her home dock overnight. A baby step, perhaps, but a start, a great shakedown sail, and the cats made it there and back with all their bodily fluids kept in check. 

Kent Narrows may not be an exotic location, and at about the same distance perhaps "We sailed to St. Michael's" sounds more sailor-y. But not long after docking we were at The Jetty and those rum runners went down so smoothly. The early band at The Jetty was fun, but we found out the later band would be hip-hop so rather than have to guard my tush from jerks grinding their junk on me without invitation, we decided to find another spot for the night's eats and drinks.

A group of us enjoyed the marina pool, jammed out a bit aboard over drinks, and then looked at our watches and realized it was getting late. Not having eaten, we now had to find a fun spot with a kitchen still open. I figured Ram's Head Shore House would have live music and a hopping scene, and the kitchen would at least be open until 11pm. We piled in a car and headed out, but when we arrived there were literally two people there other than the bartenders. Then they said the kitchen was only serving appetizers. I felt terrible having convinced the gang this was the spot where we wanted to be. But there was a pool table and my friend is a pool shark, so the games ensued. 

I needed another beer and headed over to the bar to order something. More people had arrived, but still there were only two or three people sitting at the bar at that point. I could choose any spot along the bar to find the bartender, but I "might" have picked a spot near a cute, floppy-haired surfer guy, just because. He quickly struck up a conversation that lasted until my friends came over and said they were heading back to the boat if I wanted a ride. My friend had been the consummate wingman and let me enjoy my chat uninterrupted. I said my goodbyes and gave the guy my card. Some twelve hours later he texted me that he wanted to continue our chat and the rest is history as they say. I could dish all kinds of wonderful things about him, but I don't ever want him to feel he'll be dissected here. Let's just say he's a great tipper, a Southern Gentleman, and makes me want to sing for him, bake for him, and take care of him.

Trying to keep up and build up my running, I headed out last Saturday for a six-miler. I was killing it for just shy of the first four miles until this happened. Gratefully, a cyclist and some drivers stopped to see if I was okay, and the kindness of strangers got me home alright.

I may be bruised and bloody, but I always bounce back. The scars just remind me that I'm out there, living life, seizing the day, and seeking out adventure. I would take a thousand scars over a day of the zombie-like life I escaped. 

Finally, among the blessings that have come to me of late, my friend sold me his old car. So after over a year without a vehicle, at last I have the freedom to get to work, school, the store, and fun when the whim strikes me. The car and I are tight; she wants to be driven fast and decisively and has plenty room for pup dog and a massage table. 

You never know where great friends will come from. Someone who was once among the "friends I haven't met yet" became a true friend in "real life" over time and only because of that friendship did these blessings find me, Ambrosia's first cruise, the freedom of a vehicle, and meeting a wonderful man in whose arms I've never felt so safe and at home. And so I am starry-eyed and so very grateful for the blessings that have fallen like shooting stars at this mermaid's feet.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


The past month has been marked by waves. Waves upon waves of sadness, but there have also been waves of joy. Water, life, they ebb and flow, bringing bad tidings and good, but ever changing. Knowing that a high tide will come and wash the tears, blood, muck, and hurt back out to sea makes the low tides of my days survivable. 

First things first, I owe you photographs of my beautiful new battery box. The wooden box was custom fabricated and epoxied. It holds my house bank of four 6V "golf cart" batteries and the black box in front is the group 31 dual purpose start battery. The bottom photograph shows the water pump relocated forward near the engine rather than laying loose atop the batteries as in the past.

I finally removed the stand-up portable air conditioner and returned it. It never condensed any water and just operated as a glorified fan. The boat is actually cooler without it! I have the window unit running over the forward hatch and it keeps the v-berth frosty and the rest of the boat comfortable enough. 

I had to finish sanding the brightwork. Here are snaps of the brightwork, before, during, after, and one of me after the final 8-hour day of sanding. I haven't finished the hatch, but can't currently afford the mural I want painted on it, so I figure it's better to leave what varnish is left as protection until I can tackle that project properly.

The new batteries and wiring didn't solve my engine problems, so the electrician removed the starter and took it up to Best Battery in Baltimore for testing. It failed the test so they did a rebuild. Before and after:

In the midst of all the repairs, the electrician had to disconnect and reconnect the water pump frequently to access the starter. Something must have jiggled loose at some point and the pump ran continuously, dumping half my water tank in the bilge. Below is the icky old automatic bilge pump that wasn't doing its job. Now there is a beautiful new automatic pump running well (donated by Doria, thanks!). It gives me peace of mind when I see the red light come on the electrical panel and the pump gurgle for a few seconds to clear the bilge (while my galley sink drains overboard, the head sink drains to the the bilge is always getting a fresh influx of water when I wash my face or brush my teeth, yuck.)

I received a lovely bottle of port from a reader. Thanks! (Also pictured a bottle of Italian red I haven't opened yet, a gift from a dockmate). 

The electrician installed the rebuilt starter and miracle of miracles, the engine started right up. Of course, I had 45 gallons of old diesel in the tank I was worried wouldn't cooperate, but I gave it a good dose of tank cleaner and haven't had a problem. (Knock on wood.) Friday the new starter went in and Sunday the boat was out of the slip for the first time since the end of February 2014. 

A friend came to help me on the adventure--a trip down to Thomas Point Light, anchoring out a few hours, and then the hardest part--docking! Coming out of the slip we had our first big surprise. I had the wheel hard a-port but the boat was heading hard to starboard. I freaked out, backed her back in the slip, and fretted a bit. My friend hopped off to look at the rudder and indeed, the steering had gotten reversed. Apparently when my old mechanic and I installed the new engine control cables a year ago and the chain slipped down into the binnacle, we lost the twist in the chain that is needed for the correct steering. We didn't let it stop us, though it made for stressful moments when dodging shoals, crab pots, other vessels, and when docking. 

We went almost to the lighthouse and then headed back north looking for a spot to anchor. Everything shallow enough to be feasible was a minefield of crab pots but we managed it. We anchored out for a few hours, had lunch, and enjoyed the sun and breeze. Enjoying some waves of joy getting my beloved Ambrosia away from the dock at last.

We took some decent waves right on the beam--unable to turn into them quickly enough due to crab pots-- which caused the mini-fridge to tip open and spill its contents everywhere. The fan on top of it tumbled to the floor, pulling the power strip and the computer monitor connected to it to the floor as well. Luckily, nothing was broken, but since every surface on the boat is cluttered, I have a lot of work ahead of me to clear all those surfaces and secure appliances and such with shock cord to prevent mishaps in choppy seas or when heeled over. This was, however, the first cruise when no cats puked. I put them together on a towel in a pop-up dog crate so they wouldn't be able to get sick in some remote locker unbeknownst to me, and so they would be safer from falling objects. It was a good plan that worked out well.

On the way back north we opened the jib and got an extra knot and a half. Naturally, the furling line got fouled beneath the drum rather than wrapping onto it, so I had to go forward and unwind it while carefully jumping back whenever there was slack since the sail would take the slack and fill, spinning off the furler with force. Yes, that is my lovely hatch A/C in the photo. It is too much of a hassle to remove it so we just let it be. And, yep, below you can see the ratty weathered bungee cords keeping my main halyard from slapping against the mast. Don't judge me.

Docking was a major challenge and I freaked out quite a bit. I really don't want to hit another boat so I get very trepidatious in close quarters maneuvering; this is a tight docking situation and a slip I'd never docked her in before. The reversed steering situation didn't help. Gratefully, the dock master was waiting on the pier to throw lines and give advice and we eventually made it in unscathed. But I think next time I will try backing all the way down the fairway and into the slip. I really need someone very experienced to come help me spend three hours going in and out of the slip over and over until it's in my muscle memory and my crocodile brain. But all in, a great trip, a huge relief to get out on the water, and some much needed waves of joy and relaxation.

Here's a nugget of truth to remember: bad tippers are bad lovers (and bad bosses, friends, ...). People who are stingy and selfish in one area of life, like money, are often also stingy in other areas of life--in bed, with their affection, and with their time. The same goes for people who cut in line, cut people off in traffic, and generally seem to have missed the message about the Golden Rule.

I've been running a fair amount, though not back up to my desired 30 miles per week. But I am trimming down, building muscle, and getting faster. Running is my meditation, my church. I listen to Matisyahu, take in nature, feel the connection of my body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by grief and have a panic attack and hyperventilate. But it happens less and less now. So many days I just want to stay in bed, don't want to head out on that run. But I always feel better that I did it, even if it was slower or shorter than my goal. I need to focus on taking better care of myself physically, emotionally, and financially. In a sense, my body is all I have and I have to make taking care of it, making it the best it can be, my priority. 

I started school this past Monday. It seems crazy to be going back to school yet again, but at least this path (massage therapy) feels like it has potential both as something I can do while traveling and that is actually in demand (which is not the case with law). And after many years of lawyering and hating it, it will be nice to do something that reduces the level of stress in the world rather than increases it. Law is just a soul-sucking endeavor and I feel like I need to do something with a far better karmic balance. And it turns out that colleges are full of cute, young that's not so bad, either. I am juggling only being able to get in 30 hours a week of legal work in DC, so that's a $1,000 a month less income when I need it most. So, I need to make a better push to find something local and lucrative that will accommodate the school schedule for this next year.

But more seriously, I am nervous about whether I will be any good at massage, because if I'm not great at it I won't succeed. But I am also nervous about getting through Anatomy and Physiology, which will be the toughest course in the program and I am taking right now along with Swedish Massage. I've been a professional student, had an amazing memory, was a test-taking machine. That's how I got through law school, an MBA, three bar exams, and into a couple Ph.D programs I abandoned along the way. But since all that I've had two serious concussions. My memory has never been the same. The effects of a traumatic brain injury are so cruel and unpredictable. There are times I look at close friends and for the life of me, I have no idea what their names are. So, more waves. Waves of sadness at the loss of a skill I was very good at, at the loss of memory, at the effects I may never shake, but waves of joy at the potential for a new life, at some new chance to find a purpose, meaning, bliss.

Friday, May 22, 2015

bowed, bent, broken

Once again, apologies for the delay in posting. Here's what's been going on, mostly in photographs.

My dockmate next door left so I moved into his slip to get a smidge more privacy. The engine still won't start, so I rounded up a slew of sailors more experienced than me and they moved me on the lines. I put the dodger back on, so the cats quickly gave their approval to the new napping spot.

The new view from the bow.

An obligatory selfie.

Pup dog was nervous about the finger pier.

Moving my cable TV and high-speed internet was a nightmare and left me 5 days "unplugged" from the interwebs. But--thanks to the old gods and the new--it was back up and running in time for Game of Thrones. The Comcast tech was a good sport having to get on the very tippy work float to repair the cable at the new slip.

Installing the portable air conditioning was a nightmare and it is no where strong enough to keep us cool. It's still hellish and 80 inside if it warms up outside at all. And naturally rain still gets in the port light despite all my creative efforts to stop it. I will probably have to get a window unit to help the other one (that cost my last $300) and just put it in the companionway. Meh. I can't leave the boat to work in DC and have the pets sweltering.

This set up was so-so. Then I tried venting to the engine room, which was a total fail. Back to the port light but with gobs and gobs of insulation foam stuff and duct tape. But it still doesn't freaking stay, keep the water out, or cool the boat enough. Can we just catch a break over here!?

I used a piece of plexi to make a rain shield but the problem is the water still settles in the sill and doesn't drain out. I've got a new plan for that to work on this weekend. But I did drill through the plexi successfully after earlier having an idiot guy try to show me a stupid way that would have cracked it. Now I feel I will be able to drill into my plexi temp hatch (that leaked buckets of water during a recent storm)... just takes patience and a brain, things that guy sorely lacked. There's a story to be told there, but quite frankly, he's not worth the effort so I won't.

Pup dog wasn't loving the new slip and boarding so I bought new mats for her since she's afraid to walk on bare decks. These still slip a bit, but are better, and very squishy (they are kitchen mats not door mats).

The smaller piece on the side deck kept sliding and apparently went overboard one day when the dog walker took pup out. C'est la vie. Pup is much more confident jumping to the finger pier since I nailed down some door mats, which were too slippery on the decks anyway.

Since I've become a dock queen against my will, I decided to embrace the suck and have a deck garden. I have a black thumb so the pink flowers already look sad compared to the photo. But I planted some zucchini seeds and have basil and mint.

The eisenglass on the bimini was cracked and yellowed, so I just cut it all out. Now it's just sort of a bizarre canvas skeleton.

I took a Mother's Day selfie with my fur-baby. I would've been a great mom; oh, well. I've got awesome pets so I'm blessed.

Basically everything on the boat is broken, and that now includes the fridge. So I had to put everything in a cooler. Now I'm trying to get by with block ice in the icebox but it melts so fast, is expensive, and probably doesn't keep things cold enough to be really safe. A guy has said he'd drop off a mini fridge but I've learned the hard way that there is only one person in the world I can rely on--moi

But, hey, my baby zucchinis are sprouting! Yay! I planted these seeds and now they are turning into real plants and I haven't killed them yet. Miracles happen!

The batteries are still not fully installed and the technician I hoped to have come work on that and some other projects doesn't respond to my emails (though I always paid him promptly and even offered cash). I'm trying to pay people and still they don't come through. I'm killing myself commuting to DC to work but it takes a week of work just to pay for the cost of the commute (bus fare + dog walking). Another week of work to pay for the slip. I can only get six hours of sleep a night with the commute/work schedule and no exercise, so I'm falling apart at the seams. Just impossible to make any headway. Somehow I have to get the boat in decent-enough shape to get out of here and get her somewhere more affordable and where there is potential to have a life.

I'm going to try to be better to myself. To go do some of the things I want to do and stop spending my little "free" time doing things I'm not excited about. So back to flying solo! Two bands I like are playing tomorrow night at two different spots downtown so I might just get all dolled-up and go out a bit if I can get enough done not to feel overly guilty. We'll see. 

Everything in my life seems to be broken, but somehow I manage to bend, and roll with it, and keep going without breaking. I'm not sure how, and sometimes I just get so tired. But every night I tell the boat how much we love her, how she has saved our lives literally and figuratively, how I am trying, how I am so sorry I haven't brought her back to her former glory. We just need her be resilient a little longer, to be patient a little longer, until we can breathe new life into her.