Monthly Archives: August 2010

A Star Party

Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night with your children? I mean, on purpose, when no one was barfing or crying or peeing the bed? To go stare at the sky, say, at one in the morning? That’s not a requirement, as far as I know, for being a good parent (though there may be some minor statute regarding homeschooling parents). But it is a delight, and not to be missed.

The first time I woke my children, it was just Eli and Aaron and they were very young. I coaxed them out of bed on a chilly winter’s night with the promise of meteors and hot cocoa in a thermos bottle. We tried to find a dark patch of sky under which to place our tarp and heavy blankets, but the lights of Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg made for abysmal star viewing. We saw (maybe) one meteor, and that one was a long shot. There was just too much light. It was disappointing, though the fun of getting up in the middle of the night to drink hot cocoa makes for a good memory anyway. We always talk about that as the meteor shower that wasn’t.

This time, I planned ahead and came prepared. Every summer, the Earth’s orbit takes her through a field of debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, and even sand-size particles can produce fireballs with long, streaking tails. I read up on the shower, studied the star chart so I would be able to easily find the constellation Perseus, for whom the shower is named. The meteors can be seen all over the sky, but if you trace their origins, they appear to be coming from the region Perseus inhabits. It’s well worth it, by the way, to find some illustrated Greek myths for children and read the story of Perseus defeating Medusa, the birth of Pegasus, and that celestial family including the easy-to-find Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Andromeda.

There is very little light to compete with the stars and planets here in Marathon, so I spent some time a few nights in a row, watching for meteors, to make sure we would have success. On the night they peaked (early a.m. August 13th), I woke everyone up at one, as planned, and we brought pillows and cushions to the top of our main cabin and stared at the sky. At two o’clock, we took a snack break, and went back to bed around three.

In that time, we saw, on average, a meteor a minute, or “shooting star” as Sam likes to say. Sam saw, on average, two each hour, but that is because he was so excitable and chatty that he didn’t actually lie still and look at the sky. Sarah would exclaim, “I just saw a fireball!” and Sam would reply dejectedly, “I didn’t see it!” We would then chant, in unison, “You have to look at the sky to see it.” It was more like a meteor trickle, to be more accurate with our metaphors, but it was marvelous all the same. In addition, we observed the Pleiades in all their beauty, up close, and Jupiter and his moons through the awesome binoculars Jay got me for my birthday last year. And we laughed about everything, because, evidently, everything is funny at two in the morning. Especially farts.

It was so successful that I got multiple requests to try again tonight, but I am too tired!  We decided to make it an annual tradition instead, and bake star-shaped cookies in preparation for the midnight snack and star party. Even if you don’t live where you can see the Milky Way on a nightly basis, it would be worth it to go out on a clear night and throw your own star party. I know I’m not the only one who gets these hair-brained ideas, but I am often handsomely rewarded for following through with them. Happy sky watching!

A Timely Friend

I know I have to get used to it, but I don’t have to like it. The hard part about being nomadic is making new friends and then so quickly saying goodbye. Sometimes it is I who do the leaving, but sometimes a new friend sails off and leaves me feeling grateful, but forlorn. We have recently befriended another sailing family with whom we discovered common values—Davina is a fellow mom who has courageously left the dirt and submersed herself in the sailing world. But it is time for them to move on, and I’m so grateful for even that short time we shared. I’m hoping we’ll see them “out there” before too long. If I’ve learned anything about the sailing community, it is that their world is small and they keep bumping into each other at opportune moments.

In looking back over my life, I see how the right girlfriend has always been there at the right time, and so this is my humble tribute to those women who have helped make my life full and satisfying.

I don’t even know when it started. I have always had a friend—and I don’t take that for granted, because the world doesn’t promise that you’ll always have a companion for the journey. But I’m still friends with the girl who walked with me to school when we were six. I consider this a blessing.

I moved a lot as a kid, but everywhere we went, I made a friend. Of course, I’ve lost touch with many of them, but they all made the transitions to new places easier. There was Amanda in Texas, Jeni and Aubrey in Florida, Susan and Rebecca in high school, Heather during my college years in Vermont, and Kim and Amy in Paris. The same has been true in my adult life; Ellen, Kim, and Rhianna were there when I was a newlywed, figuring out what it means to be a good wife. Jen, Debbie, Angela and Sharon helped me as a beginning teacher. There were fellow moms like Becca and Annie to help me adjust to motherhood. Nicole helped me through a tough year when we moved back to Florida and I felt so lonely. And my neighbor, Tarin, went out of her way to make me feel welcome in Clearwater, and became like a sister during our time there. There were the homeschooling moms who met me when I was just getting started. Joan, Tina, Tracy, and Mindy had older kids that helped me see that the investment was worth it, and Kim, Mary and Margo were—and are—in the trenches with me. There were others who mentored me, or prayed with me, or just took me under their wing, people like Kim, Mary, Linda, Janice, Jan, Anne and Betty. And countless others. It’s starting to sound like an Academy Award acceptance speech. And how could I forget my sister, Sascha, sisters-in-law, Tennille and Robin, my cousin Gretchen, my mom, and my two mothers-in-law? Maybe I do take them for granted, but how fortunate I am to have that luxury…I know they love me no matter what, and they are never farther than a phone call away.

With this fruitful history, I shouldn’t be surprised that the transition to living on our boat came with the introduction of new girlfriends, but somehow it is always amazing when I find a kindred spirit. I am surrounded by the five people I love the most in this world, but I still get lonely sometimes for a good girlfriend. And just when I am missing the old ones the most, a new one turns up.

Learning to sail brought Josie, a teacher who became a friend, and Lupe and Leighia helped me figure out how sailing families adjust to living aboard. I met Kristin when our family was divesting itself of our worldly goods—including a vast children’s library and teaching supplies. I know that stuff will not go to waste, and how lucky I was to share the time in Bradenton with her and her precious family. When I was feeling lonely and isolated, a family with four boys sailed into our marina last winter and I found instant fellowship with Vicki.

It was Vicki’s advice, and example, to pray for a friend when I come to a new place, that I will take to heart. I don’t consider it an accident that my life has been interwoven with others’ so seamlessly. And whether we get to travel together for a few days or a few years, I will be grateful for the time we’ve got. I can just say, like that rambling award winner—Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Happy Anniversary

Today marks several anniversaries for our family. Jay and I were married 13 years ago today (my brother and his wife were married 12 years yesterday—happy anniversary T&T!). They have been, quite honestly, blissful years for which I am very grateful.

Our cats, Sugar and Spice, also turn 13, as they were acquired as 8-week-old kittens about 2 months after we were married. I am not sure if their years have been blissful, but they have been eventful. Every time we brought home a new addition, they seemed to roll their bright green eyes and retreat further under the bed. They have, since we moved aboard, become much more outgoing, and our kids seem to have calmed down enough to even befriend the cats. Or maybe the cats can’t avoid interaction in such a small space; who knows?

Last, but not least, today marks the one-year anniversary of our having moved aboard Take Two. In this year, we have learned what difficulties we can live with and what luxuries we can live without, how to coexist in a small, moving space, and how to laugh together more often. We have definitely become more flexible, and as time goes by, we care less about making a plan happen and more willing to let the plan happen to us. We have transitioned from being dirt-dwellers to live-aboard cruisers, which is no small feat for a family of six in the span of a year.

I propose a toast—to the two people who made this family what it is, and who, despite their fears, followed a dream. And to two intrepid sailing cats, who miraculously “made the cut” and seem to be thriving. And, of course, to Take Two and her adventurous crew. Happy anniversary!