We bought Take Two in Fort Lauderdale twelve years ago this week. We had gone to look at her in December of 2007. These are photos from the time of purchase compared to now…we made our floating house a home! I’m feeling incredibly grateful for twelve years of memories, for the way living on a boat has changed us, and for our family of adventurous kids.
What does it mean to be a homemaker? Can you be one if you
have a 9-5 outside the home? Can you be one if you have no training, if your
mother wasn’t a Donna Reed or June Cleaver type? Have you found yourself
suddenly surrounded by children and/or a spouse with needs you are struggling
to meet? Are you trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing at home
during an extended quarantine, when all the things on which you depend are
Even we on the homeschool front, the ones who chose this
lifestyle, are challenged right now. Just because we homeschool does not mean
we were at home 24-7. In fact, usually, we find it hard to juggle curriculum
and academics with all the other aspects of life: activities and sports, household
chores and meal preparation, family obligations, social engagements, and making
But here we are, as a nation, as a species, brought to our
knees by something as small as a virus and as large as our worst fear. We are in
our houses, but are we at home? What’s the difference?
I suggest that a house is a dwelling where people share
space, while a home is a safe and productive environment created by people who
love each other. My husband and I chose to live unconventionally—to homeschool
our five kids on a sailboat—and we prepared for it by changing the way we lived
over a long period of time. We learned how to live off-grid, how to work from
home (wherever the home traveled), how to cook creatively and how to teach our
kids what they need to know (sometimes with limited internet access), how
entertain ourselves when we are isolated or bored, and how to resolve conflict
Perhaps you are beginning to make some of the same adjustments—but
you may be doing it suddenly and involuntarily, without the necessary mental, emotional,
and financial preparation. Stocking up on toilet paper does not prepare you for
being at home all the time with your family. The learning curve is steep, but it’s
sink-or-swim, so you’d better start doggie-paddling. Here are ten ideas for
making your house a home:
Accept the situation. We may have to accept
that this is going to last a while (not a storm cloud that is going to “blow
over”), which means hunkering down and toughening up. You might have to accept an
old-fashioned view of family (think Little House on the Prairie) because
it’s what will help everyone make it through this tough time. Or you may have
to do something unconventional that takes both parents out of their comfort zones.
Accept that some sacrifices will be necessary: that’s what love costs.
Ask for help. I start my day with
prayer and a devotional reading…and coffee, lots of coffee. I do this because
otherwise I am the Wicked Witch of the West. I call a friend when I’m in over
my head, and I answer the cry for help when a friend needs me. I have homeschool
heroes—moms who have done this before—that help me figure things out. I read
books. And, of course, I use the internet, but I often find it overwhelming, so
I’m choosy about my searches—I usually go looking for something specific.
Develop a routine. Not necessarily a
rigid schedule, but an order of operations. It provides stability for the whole
family and sanity for you. It should include regular mealtimes, chores, school
subjects, free time, exercise, and work. Try to do the same things in the same
order, accepting disruptions, but always going back to the next thing on the list.
Get the family involved. Make a plan. Write it down. Tape it to the wall. And stick
Focus on one thing each day. This is
something I learned while living aboard my boat. Trying to do too much results
in doing nothing well. So, Monday I do the shopping. Tuesday I do laundry. Wednesday
I have an early morning Bible Study (now on Zoom). Thursday is music practice.
Friday is cleaning day. You get the idea. Of course, this “one thing” is in
addition to the daily routines of homeschool, work, and chores.
Make a meal plan/menu for the week. It
helps with shopping, meal preparation, and managing expectations. Get everyone
to make suggestions, learn recipes, and take turns with cooking and cleaning.
My eight-year-old can make homemade tortillas by herself. Our kids are
capable of so much more than we usually ask of them.
Create an orderly space. If your kids
are home all the time, they are like tornadoes leaving messes in their wakes.
Try to create a zone of peace in at least one room, a place where order exists
within the chaos. Maybe it’s your private retreat, maybe it’s the living room
sofa. Clean something—it will make you feel better. At the end of the day,
enforce a 20-minute tidy-up. Many hands make light work.
Enjoy time with your kids. This is a
special time—stressful, yes—but also amazing. Someone pushed the PAUSE button
and we have a moment to enjoy all the things we’ve been working for. Go outside.
Play a board game. Play cars. Play Barbies. Read aloud. One of the reasons we
homeschooled in the beginning is because we wanted to enjoy the kids we made. Yes,
being at home all the time together is hard, but it is also fun and rewarding.
Be creative. Weave art into your daily
life: music, dance, drawing, cooking, poetry, home décor—whatever floats your boat.
See if you can spruce up the academic curriculum your kids are using with
kitchen chemistry, musical parodies, or homemade games.
Establish discipline. Without some
semblance of order and mutual respect, all this advice is pointless. Your home
will be in chaos. You and your spouse will be pitted against each other. Your
kids will fight constantly. Making a house a home requires fortitude and
teamwork. We just use good-old-fashioned rules, complete with rewards and consequences.
Offer grace. To yourself, to your
spouse, to your kids. I don’t know your specific situation or challenges, but we
all have this in common: we need to forgive ourselves and others for mistakes
and failures, pick ourselves up, and try again.
I had a strange dream about ten days ago. Now, I am not a
mystic or a prophet, but I am a believer in the miraculous, the existence of a
loving God, and the meaning of life (and the answer is not 42!). I am
occasionally (when I am paying attention), offered a word of comfort or advice,
either through something I read, a song I hear, a conversation with a friend, a
circumstance, or, in this case, a dream. It was so significant, and clear, that
I got up at 4 in the morning to write it in my journal. Here it is, as best as
I can tell it from memory and bad handwriting:
I am trapped in a burning building, somewhere near the top floor, six or seven stories up. Rachel is there with me (my 8-year-old daughter) and a group of strangers of all ages. I smell smoke, see the glow of flames, and look for an exit—blocked by fire. I feel the immediate sense of panic and doom: we are going to die in this burning building. But then I stop and pray out loud, “Lord, help us find a way out.” Despite my fear, I suddenly feel a sense of calm determination. I go out a door and find myself on a balcony, which is still wrapped in sheet plastic from recent construction. I walk to the end of the balcony and find some wooden scaffolding, descending like a spiral staircase—a way out! I know what I have to do.
I go back in the building, where people are beginning to
panic, each in his or her own way. Some are screaming, someone is calling
9-1-1, some older ladies are sitting in the middle of the room, frozen in terror.
I announce to the room that the building is on fire, that the main exit is
blocked, but that I found a way out on the balcony. I tell someone to get
everyone out on the balcony, and then I go to the people who aren’t moving, one
by one, and speak to them individually: “What’s your name? Doris? Get up,
Doris! There’s a fire! Get out of your chair and walk to that door! Go out on
the balcony!” I do this for everyone left in the room, and then I go out on the
balcony. I wake up as the first of the children, including my own daughter, are
climbing down the scaffolding and to safety.
It took me a few days to process the dream and its images.
What has stayed with me is the sense of calm-despite-fear. We are living in
fearful times, trapped, if you will, in our own kind of burning building. The
threat is real—of illness and death, economic disaster, societal breakdown. As
a culture, we’ve watched too many horror movies and our imaginations are running
But we do not have to let our emotions run our lives. We can
tell them who’s boss and we can tell ourselves the truth. It’s okay to feel
fear, but not always helpful to act on fearful feelings. In a dark
alley, panic and adrenaline can save your life, but in a protracted emergency, keeping
your cool may be a better survival strategy.
If you can calm your mind, breathe deeply, and slow your racing heart, then remember where your help comes from (the encouraging word of a friend, your family, a comforting sacred text, prayer, meditation, yoga, maybe God Himself!), you will be ready for whatever comes next. Perhaps you will be able to offer help instead of feeling helpless. All around you are people feeling panic in their own ways: who can you reach out to individually? Who is in your sphere of influence that might need a pep talk? It’s a good time to reach out by phone, by video chat, or even over the backyard fence, sidewalk, porch, or balcony (as long as the neighbor is 6 feet away!). If you’ve received comfort or encouragement in these tough times, don’t hoard it like toilet paper…pass it on!
*Advice from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
People are beginning to freak out here in Florida. Spring break was rudely interrupted by a global pandemic and vacationers have gone home in droves, leaving things here empty…including the shelves in the toilet-paper aisle. Unless they are facing a hurricane, people here are unaccustomed to seeing empty shelves at the grocery store, and the fear of want becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m hoping we look back at this and laugh at what we thought were emergency provisions, but it’s still too early to tell.
We were not always comfortable and complacent, fragile and fearful. All of us have immigrants in our ancestry—our forebears came to America with little more than the shirts on their backs. Our ancestors were used to discomfort, disease, and death. Faith in God, hard work, and community sustained them and helped them survive—not just the physical hardships of their lives, but the social and emotional ones, too. During many hard times in the last few centuries, people have relied on each other for survival, neighbor helping neighbor—sometimes in the form of churches and charities, but often person-to-person.
I am thinking a lot these days of
those who are feeling isolated at home during this time of “social distancing”
and quarantines. Aside from the economic repercussions of businesses closing,
the cascading effect on families with thousands of children suddenly without
the structure of school and extracurricular activities staggers the mind.
I am a homeschool mom of five,
living on a sailboat. We make our own power, we desalinate water for drinking.
I grind my own grain, I bake my own bread. We have an unusual kind of
self-sufficiency in the modern world. I have a unique perspective on what it
means to get cabin fever—and I feel sympathetic to all the parents out there
who suddenly find themselves in my shoes—at home all day with stir-crazy kids.
I chose the hard life of teaching my own children to read and do long-division,
of cooking from scratch, of being in a small space with my family. Many of you
have been thrust unprepared into this social situation. But you can do it. You
can rise to the occasion. You can help your family survive this hard time. And
you might even come out better and stronger.
I’m writing a series of pep talks, which you will find here. When you need a reminder to hang in there, or a word of sympathy, because I’ve been where you are (or will be)—crying and calling a friend from behind the closed bathroom door—I’ll be here. When life gives you lemons, it’s okay to pucker up initially, but eventually you’re going to have to sweeten the sour in order to drink it down.
Delicious with yogurt and fruit, this is a simple granola
recipe I have used for years. It makes a lot and stores well in mason jars or a
large airtight cereal container.
Prep Time: 4 hours
Makes: 13+ cups
8 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or shreds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup pumpkin seeds (raw or roasted)
1 cup sunflower seeds (raw or roasted)
1 cup pecans, broken or chopped into small pieces
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup raw honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup orange juice or 1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate + 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place oats, nuts, and seeds in a large bowl. Stir in salt and cinnamon.
In a small pot, warm honey, coconut oil, orange juice and vanilla, stirring
with a whisk to combine. Pour warm liquid over oat mixture and spread evenly
onto 2 baking sheets. Place in oven on lowest temperature setting and slowly
bake/dehydrate, turning granola with a spatula every 30 minutes. Bake 2-3 hours
or until granola is golden-brown and beginning to crisp. Turn oven off and
allow granola to cool in oven. When granola is completely cool, it should be
dry and crispy. In an airtight container, it will store well for about a month
(assuming it hasn’t been devoured by then). Helpful tip: If you don’t have
hours to bake, you can turn up the heat to 300° and stir every 15 minutes and
it should be done in about an hour.
Note: I’ve written about this before, but prompted by friends who are participating in Plastic Free February, I’m making some practical suggestions for reducing our use of plastic, especially the single-use variety.
Living on the ocean, we see firsthand the accumulation of
plastic waste. Shorelines on windward sides of islands can be completely buried
under a confetti of plastic bottles, toys, fishing gear, shoes, forks,
packaging and other waste. We have always tried to do our part, but it is hard
to live without compromise. So often, our choices are limited by what’s
available, by our budget, and by the time and energy we possess to do things
the old-fashioned way.
For example, when the kids were younger, I used to bake
everything my family consumed from scratch, from wheat berries that I ground
myself. They came in five-gallon pails that were re-purposed after they were
empty. So we had bread without plastic packaging. But right now we’re on a
demanding school-work-activity schedule with four teenagers and an 8-year-old on
the boat, which is moored in the Florida Keys. I am unable to keep up with the
consumption—teenage boys eat a lot and I am not home long enough between
drop-offs and pick-ups to prepare everything from scratch. So store-bought
bread in a plastic bag has replaced home-made bread. We used to be in a veggie
co-op in the Tampa Bay area, where we got a box of produce each week. But now
we live on an island where the choices are limited. Even though I bring my
washable mesh bags to the store to buy produce, a lot of our food—even the
organic varieties—is packed in plastic.
I taught my children never to walk by a piece of trash, but to pick it up and dispose of it properly, as part of a bigger philosophy: leave the world better than you found it. But what can we do when it accumulates faster than we can clean it up? How can we prevent its ending up in the environment in the first place?
We must be savvy about our storage and waste because we live
on a boat, but a lot of our tips and tricks could be tried anywhere! Here are some
ideas that we have implemented:
We drink tea or fresh juices made in a washable pitcher instead of buying soft drinks. We never use straws. We carry our own water in stainless steel bottles. We vote with our dollars and send the message to bottlers that we are not interested in their products.
We purchase a single, natural, multi-purpose cleaning product in a gallon-size container (ECO-Orange is a good one) and dilute it in our own re-usable spray bottles. I have even experimented with making my own laundry soap. Cleaners are often made mostly of water and use a lot of packaging, in addition to being toxic.
We carry cloth bags to the store and use washable mesh bags for produce (Purifyou).
We store food in washable silicone bags instead of single-use plastic bags (Rezip and Sungwoo).
All our babies wore cloth diapers. Because I was a stay-at-home-mom, I had the time and energy to wash and hang them. I’ve used the Bummis and the Indisposables brands.
We don’t use disposable razors.
We wear sun-protective clothing instead of buying sunscreen.
We don’t shop at dollar stores. Almost everything in there will end up in a landfill.
We store food in washable glass jars (which can be vacuum-sealed with the Foodsaver jar attachment) and Pyrex Snap-ware containers.
We use washable shop towels instead of paper towels as much as possible. That saves paper use as well as plastic packaging.
We buy bulk when it’s available. I buy eggs in biodegradable packaging instead of in plastic.
We take our own dishes and cutlery to picnics and potlucks.
When our kids were little, they played with wooden blocks, trains, and dolls with magnetic clothes instead of plastic toys. We try to use things made from natural materials/renewable resources as much as possible.
We make as much of our food from scratch as we can. Convenience foods=plastic packaging.
As much as possible, we try to collect verbs instead of nouns—spending money to make memories instead of buying stuff.
I’m dusting off the blog after a short leave of absence. Let’s just say that I’ve been learning how to stay busy without becoming frenzied…and I haven’t figured it out yet! The first semester of community college classes just ended and we’re trying to catch our collective breath. We’ve never been on a schedule like this before, and I’m realizing what a blessing that was. If I try to explain to a landlubber how crazy I feel running around like a chicken with its head cut off, they don’t understand. I feel foolish seeking sympathy for the normal pace after homeschooling in our swimsuits while anchored off a palm-fringed beach. I’m realizing how lucky we were to have had that time as a family to explore life and learning at our own pace.
But the new adventures are good, too, if a little dizzying.
Three mornings a week, I’ve been getting up early, taking the three oldest kids
to school (or, technically, they take turns taking me as I act as driving coach),
then stopping at the grocery store or coffee shop for a writer’s meeting or
taking a yoga class before heading back to the boat to do an hour or two of
school with Rachel and check in on Sam, who’s doing most of his work
independently. I then go back out to pick the kids up. After lunch, it’s more
school, another trip ashore to go to the park, do laundry, take kids to youth
group, music practice, or basketball practice, and then home for dinner and
bed. On Tuesdays, I teach a high school U.S. Government class at the library
before homeschool P.E. and then basketball practice in the evening. The kids
all have friends ashore, too, so there are random drop-offs and pick-ups which add
busyness. Aaron has a job but gets himself there and back on his bike. Eli has
a job lined up for the spring and is about to get his driver’s license. He test-drove
affordable used cars at CarMax with his grandma during Thanksgiving break; a second
driver and vehicle will hopefully reduce my taxi-driving.
We’ve also had a visit from our South African friend, Deon, a boat kid we met in the Rio Dulce last year. He came for the last week of November, and we tried to give him the whole American Experience. We took him out for BBQ on the way home from Ft. Lauderdale airport, drove to Key West for the Conch Train Tour…
and sunset at Mallory Square (where he was pulled out of the audience to help in the final act of a street acrobat’s performance!)…
and did a road trip to Everglades National Park…
and on to Clearwater for Thanksgiving with the grandparents. It was a fun week, and he seemed to fit right into our family.
The other reason I’ve taken a break from blogging is that I’m completing a manuscript for a book, a project I’ve been slowly working on for the last couple of years. I started partnering with my friend, Summer Delaine, who is also writing a book, and we meet once a week to set goals, discuss our work, read and edit each other’s work, and keep each other accountable. I had set a deadline to finish the manuscript by the end of 2019, and I am three weeks and one chapter from meeting it. So the combination of kids’ schedules, normal household routines, and writing means that the blog gets relegated to the back-burner. And I’m not apologizing for that.
I write for the joy of writing, because I can’t help it. I write for my family, so we will have a record of our adventures. I write for our extended family and distant friends, so they’ll know what’s going on with us. And I write for anyone else who might benefit from a vicarious sailing journey. We don’t keep track of our readers, we don’t read comments, and we don’t advertise our blog in any way. We don’t use Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram. We’re hopelessly old-fashioned. If you are reading this right now, you are probably related to us, received a boat card and were curious enough to look up this blog, or accidentally found us using a google search. But thank you for being there, anyway, whoever-you-are. It means a lot when you email and tell me that you appreciated something one of us wrote. When I finish the book, I hope you’ll read it. I’ll be posting a sneak-peek soon…
I am sitting in the airport in Guatemala City. It’s 3:30 in the morning and the McDonald’s in the food court is beginning to show signs of life, though it may be hours before the & Café opens (“bring home the sabor de Guatemala!”)and I can get a cup of locally-grown coffee. I have never been so early for a flight, but in order to get an extra day with friends in Rio Dulce and avoid the bus-hotel-taxi hassle in the city, I opted to hire a bus privado for a middle-of-the-night ride to the airport. During the day, with traffic or construction delays added in, it can take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. Tonight, it took less than 5, though I don’t remember any of it, since I was asleep, sprawled out across a row of seats in the back. My flight doesn’t depart for another 8 hours but waiting to drive a few hours later would have meant a risk of missing the plane.
I just opened my friend Hagit’s kind parting gift, which made me cry, of course. It was a beautiful purse made from typical Guatemalan fabric, and inside, a folio of photographs—memories to take with me back to Florida.
Over the course of the last two weeks, she has folded me into her family, and I have become something more than the friend I was when I arrived. I came to help her with the birth of her fourth child, her first son, to stand in the place of her mother and sister who could not come from Israel. My last evening was spent celebrating Rosh Hoshana over apple crisp with the family and cruising friends while I held a sleeping newborn. It was a wonderful way to end the visit.
Planning a trip around the arrival of a baby, leaving my family for two weeks, and traveling from the Florida Keys to Rio Dulce, Guatemala: all these things are difficult. Without Jay’s willingness to take over school schedules and meal prep and drive me to and from Ft. Lauderdale, it would have been impossible. I arrived on the due date and then waited a week until little Cayo decided to join us. In between helping cook and clean, going to the doctor’s, and taking care of my sisterly duties (including being there for the birth), I was able to catch up with Wendel (and his sister Vivian), from my English class…
Go to Anna’s ukulele class—she is a Brazilian sailor who used to be in my ukulele class…
Shop in town and play dominoes with Darelle, my South African friend…
Go visit Jerry and Griselda and the 10 kids at Casa Agua Azul…
And hang out with Rudolph and Elisa of S/V Tulum III, cruising friends we met in Colombia a couple years ago. We also celebrated the 16th birthday of Hagit’s oldest daughter, Naomi, two days before her baby brother was born.
We went to the clinic in Morales a week after the due date. We took a colectivo, an inexpensive 45-minute ride on a mini-bus crammed full of people and air-conditioned by the wind. On the way, we noticed a slow-down as we passed through a village. Bystanders crowded both sides of the road, police were directing traffic, and there was a body lying on the sidewalk, half-covered by a sheet. We thought maybe there had been an accident. We proceeded to the clinic, where Doctora Ana Ruth checked the baby’s heartbeat, used the ultrasound to check amniotic fluid levels, and talked to Hagit about things she could do to speed the process along. I was there, in part, to translate. Dra. Ruth had good news: Hagit was dilated 5cm already, and the baby could arrive at any moment. She said she expected to see us again very soon, and we left. After lunch and cool drinks, we hopped back on a colectivo headed toward Rio Dulce.
Immediately, I knew this was going to be an adventure. Hagit
and I squished into the front seat, where there was room for her belly, but the
passenger door wouldn’t stay closed. Actually, I don’t think any door on that
ancient Toyota van closed properly. Hagit took one look at the driver and
whispered that she thought he had a crazy look in his eyes. And then I
overheard the chatter between driver and money-collector. The road was closed
because of a shooting (remember the dead guy?) and the bus was running
off-schedule because they had to take the long-way-round. He began to make a
series of rapid, jerky turns around sharp corners, bouncing over tumulos
(speed bumps), and passing cars in narrow lanes. We implored him in Spanish to
slow down—unless he wanted a baby born on his bus! When that didn’t help, we
asked to be let off at the next esquina. Not wanting to lose the fare,
he promised that we were almost out of the city and the ride would be smoother.
Against our better judgment, we stayed on.
I have been on a lot of beat-up buses in the Caribbean with
a lot of crazy drivers, but until that day, I had never really thought I might
die on one. I was praying like crazy, trying to do yoga breathing to stay calm,
and holding onto Hagit, who had a death-grip on the bar above the passenger
seat. I suddenly found the situation comical and started to laugh
hysterically—how did we get here, an American woman and her pregnant Israeli
friend, hurtling down a pot-holed road past cattle trucks in Guatemala? Hagit
joined me in my hysteria. And then something went clunk and fell onto
the road behind us. The driver was forced to slow down. The chatter changed
from how late they would be to la cruce (the turn to Rio) to how they
were going to get the passengers onto other buses, and where they should stop.
I breathed a prayer of thanks as the bus slowed dramatically. Thankfully, the
driver chose a place to stop where we could sit in the shade. We clambered out
of the front seat and waited for Peter to get out of the back. He had to climb
out over a guy who had slept through the whole thing.
And, in the end, we did not die in a mini-bus on the road to Rio Dulce, and I did not have to help deliver a baby on said bus, or on the side of the road either (with nothing but hand sanitizer, a bottle of water, a clean shirt, and a pocket knife). We had time to make it home on another passing colectivo, take a shower, have something to eat, and pack a bag before heading back to the clinic that night. Perhaps that nerve-wracking ride was the straw that broke the camel’s back— a healthy 8-lb boy named Cayo was born at 2:30 in the morning after a 3-hour natural labor.
Having done it myself a few times, I can say with authority that Hagit is a childbirth champion. I accompanied the nurse when the tiny new human got his first bath and had the privilege of handing him to his happy mama. It was all well worth the wait.
The sky is beginning to pale behind the volcano, the coffee shop is opening, and in a few hours I will be returning to my home and family, heartful and happy.
“It was nearly dark, for the dull November twilight had
fallen around Green Gables, and the only light came from the dancing red flames
in the stove. Anne was curled up Turk-fashion on the hearthrug, gazing into that
joyous glow where the sunshine of a hundred summers was being distilled from
the maple cordwood.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
As we have traveled and discovered what the world has to offer, sometimes literally eating and drinking our experiences up, we have become a bit spoiled. For example, after swimming in the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Bahamas and enjoying pristine powdered-sugar beaches (often on an island we didn’t have to share with anyone else), coming back to Florida feels a bit disappointing. God forbid we express these sentiments—looking down our noses—to someone who just moved here from Wisconsin, for instance, who thinks the waters of Boot Key Harbor are mesmerizing. What boorish snobs!
How do we come back from experiences like we’ve had—a three-and-a-half-year Caribbean odyssey, for example—where the brilliance of our memories makes daily routines look dull and humdrum? How do we integrate the unforgettable moments from our journey into our daily lives and talk about them (when they come up in conversation) without sounding boastful? (“I swam with whale sharks…”) Rather than using comparison, which makes the day-to-day look dim, we must allow memory to enrich and inform new sensory input. And we can express gratitude for a cool experience instead of bragging.
Let me explain: I can’t taste a cup of coffee without thinking of the elixir that bears that name which I drank in the Panamanian cloud forest. But instead of bemoaning the poor imitation in my cup, I can taste that morning brew and glow for a moment in the light of my memory, like enjoying the firelight that offers the warmth of a hundred summers. I can relive that time-and-place, that taste of Geisha coffee beans—grown, dried, roasted, ground, and brewed on the side of that volcano in that forest where I hiked with my family and first saw howler monkeys up-close and witnessed a dozen varieties of hummingbird in a single afternoon. Heaven knows I won’t be trying to actually recapture the experience by brewing a cup of Geisha here and now—even if I went to Amazon.com and ordered the 6.7-oz. box of beans for $80, ground, and brewed them at home! Better to drink a cheap cup of coffee with cream and sugar and add a dash of memory. And savor it quietly, without needing to talk about it. Or, alternately, talk about it: maybe everyone has a favorite-cup-of-coffee memory, and that could be a springboard for a great conversation.
And, maybe, that is a good reason to travel: to “collect verbs instead of nouns” (thank you for that quote, Davina, wherever you are). We do it, not just to say we’ve been there and done that, but because we want to enrich our lives now and broaden our horizons here. Every sunset for me now contains the sunset from the top of a Mayan pyramid, and is consequently made more beautiful by it.
We are so fortunate to have these memories. We had a few short years while our kids were still at home to make them, and now they will keep us warm for years to come, long after all the small people have grown up and moved on to their own adventures.
It’s summer in Florida, and that means heat and humidity. Most (normal) people survive by turning on their air conditioners and hiding from the great outdoors. I don’t blame them…it is HOT! But here on a boat in a mooring field in the Florida Keys, we are intentionally living a little more simply, a little less expensively, and a little more closely to Nature.
In the summer of 2010, we spent our first season in Marathon, and didn’t have the boat set up to handle the heat. Boot Key Harbor is notoriously murkey, warm, and full of moving dinghies and fishing boats, making it unswimmable. Afternoon thunderstorms meant that we couldn’t always have the boat open, so it would get downright steamy inside. That summer was particularly bad for mosquitoes as well. We quickly developed some coping strategies.
We had a large blue canvas rectangle, which we tied tent-style over the trampolines, ice, and a blender. I would make frozen lemonade every afternoon, take a good read-aloud selection, corral the kids, and we would have a siesta out under the tent until the heat abated. Every night, we’d give the kids a cool-down shower in the cockpit and send them to bed wet, with a fan over each bed. We would seek cool places, like local restaurants with pools, the beach for a swim, or the air-conditioned library. Jay made some Velcro-on bug screens, and we bought wind-scoops and better fans. By the next season we spent in the Keys, we had shade awnings for the decks and cockpit.
The summer of 2015, before leaving for the Caribbean, we got really smart: we stayed at Marathon Marina and plugged in and turned on the new air conditioners Jay had installed. We were there between May and November, the hottest part of the year, but that was expensive, and we felt a little trapped, both inside the boat, and tied to a dock.
This summer, in addition to all those stay-cool strategies, I made a list of menu items that don’t involve heating up the galley of Take Two. We’re also testing a single-burner induction plate that works with our cast-iron skillets, Oxo teakettle, and Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker. It takes electric power, but doesn’t create as much heat as cooking over gas. And because it’s portable, we can cook in the breezy cockpit.
Even with these coping mechanisms, we sweat. If there’s a breeze, it’s more comfortable. But when the wind dies, the perceived temperature goes up and we find it hard to concentrate on school and work. Sleep is disrupted and tempers flare. Unless we decide to head to a marina, our only option is to start up the generator and run the air conditioner. This is a real luxury, as many boats have neither. On hot, still evenings, we can close up, run the air full-bore, then turn everything off just before bed. If we wake up hot, we open the hatches above the beds and usually it’s cooled down outside. The exception, of course, is when it’s raining. Not much we can do about that, but I guess that’s what it means to live closer to Nature!
Seven strategies for staying cool
Shade awnings: Phoenix Square Sun Shade, from Amazon