Monday, January 30, 2012

Back to Form

We did it. We got out of the marina. We actually took the boat. We started the motors. We dropped off the lines, and we motored around the corner.


I was beginning to think we might never go out again. After arriving in New Zealand and settling into slip F3 in Bayswater, we started to grow roots… both figuratively and literally. While other boats celebrated summer -- the summer that never was down here where the weather has been absolutely miserable since we arrived, Don Quixote sat on the dock. When the sun actually decided to make an appearance after months of avoiding Auckland, we sat on the dock. We even sat through holiday weekends as the entire country took off three weeks for Christmas and New Years.

Our neighbors were astonished, and I mean that in the most negative way possible. You have this lovely boat all prepared for cruising, yet you don't want to go out for the week? Why ever not? But six months of living on the hook somehow made going out the most unappealing prospect possible. When the weekends came, it felt good to just sit here. At night, we could sleep even when the wind started to howl. The girls could get off and go both other people's parents. The cat prowled every night. We took showers whenever we felt like it… and the water was HOT.

Until last week. Jaime asked us to take her friends out on a harbor cruise to celebrate her sixteenth birthday. Honestly? I was a bit surprised. There are times when it feels like Jaime would do positively anything to distance herself from her family, her history, her boatiness. So I greeted this somewhat out of character enthusiasm for the boat as a positive sign of maturity and reattachment to family matters. I know. I can read an entire, heartrending story of family reunion into a simple request to get drunk on a boat with friends. You'll just have to trust me that it worked for both of us.

The evening was neither perfect nor glorious, but it was fun. Don Quixote -- laden with all our worldly goods, full tanks of water, gas, and beer, as well as a dozen teenagers, my client and his wife, and a partridge in a pear tree -- was about as fun to drive as a stoned hippopotamus. Instead of dancing gracefully over the waves, she slammed into them with indomitable will and an almost barge-like competence. At the end of the evening, it took the rugby team of teenagers, a dock hand and both engines to wedge ourselves back into our slip looking somewhat like a fat lady rolling on the couch while squeezing herself into a 10-year old pair of jeans. Parts of us kept squirting out sideways until we nailed her down with a spider web of lines. It was a complete farce and had me red-faced on the potty run for the next few days, afraid of chance encounters with witnesses on my way to the shore showers.

What the evening did accomplish, however, was remind the entire family why we live on this boat. It is not too much of a stretch to say it reminded us of who we are. It is true that we are the loud, funky American family with the loud funky and very silly tortoise shell cat who lives on dock F. We are also That Family, the definition of which is ever so much more interesting and ever so much more family-like than the fractured, busy, almost normal group of people who have been sharing these hulls for the past few months.

So That Family went on a real sail this weekend. We took off for the islands. There really is no point in my describing the details. If you've read my blog for any length of time, there will not be one single thing about the experience that is any way unique or interesting. Waves, boats, wind, islands, anchors, dinghies, little towns to explore and fishing boats to dodge, shops to drift around in, beaches on which to hunt shells, sail drives to service, zincs to check, thru hulls to clean. It was all so very normal.

Just a family together, sharing dinner and a card game and a movie, on a boat, at anchor, off shore of a pretty island surrounded in water and wind and birds and ocean.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Take Time to Express Yourself

You get the government you work for. Congress is starting to listen on the issue of SOPA and PIPA. If you have not yet taken time to educate yourself, there is still a chance to make your voice heard, your concerns understood. Today, this blog is brought to you because there is no government who can tell me not to publish and no efficient technical mechanism to prevent its distribution. If SOPA and PIPA passes, that might not always be the case. Freedom, like happiness, requires maintenance.

Learn more: Stop American Censorship and let President Obama know your sentiments as well: Petition the President

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Opportunity Costs

I am sitting in the orthodontist's office as the kind, competent staff install hardware in my eldest daughter's mouth which will cost us roughly the same as a new main sail. We do not sail the high seas any longer. In fact, it may be six months before we even consider taking the boat out for a harbor cruise. Nevertheless, I would really prefer a new main sail.

I suspect Jaime would also prefer a new main sail. Idly I ask, "Jaime. If you had $7,000 to spend on the boat, what would you buy?"

"A car."

I blink. Even the dentist blinks. He looks at me, so I say it again, "On the boat?"

"Oh. Ahh boh…" There are now hands in her mouth. She thinks for awhile. "Uh caw."

Okay, still the car. "The Boat."

Fine. Jaime grimaces. It could be something the dentist did. Alternatively, it could be my persistence. The hands leave her mouth long enough for her to blurt out, "New galley. Top to bottom."

She has a bit of a lisp at the moment, but I can understand. Yes, if I had a lot of money, the galley would probably come before the sail. It would definitely come before a car. An oven that works without using elastic and a knife to jam the solenoid would be lovely. A stove that actually browns meat would be even better. I nod in agreement, "Good thinking, Jaime."

"Whai?" The mouth is wide open, ablaze with light, and looking rather sparkly with the new bits getting glued to the upper jaw.

"That's how much this is costing us."

We both sit grimly, silently, as the dentist installs our new countertop and sink. As he finishes, we both sigh at the lost opportunity. I try to look on the bright side, "With those blue elastic bands, you match the boat."

Her tongue probes the edges of her new mouth, "Huh." She doesn't sound mollified. "It hurts."

Thinking of the coming winter sans galley upgrade, new sails, or a functioning heater since we now can't afford to replace that either, I hug her quietly. "Priorities, my love. Priorities. We can do this." Her unexpected return squeeze and quiet, "You'll be okay, Mom," cements the deal.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Elephantine Musings

The Girls Contemplate Our New Home
The Girls Contemplate Our New Home
Uploaded by toastfloats
At times I am convinced that the Fates are determined to prevent me from successfully reentering the work force full time. I swear it is not merely an elaborate form of laziness which over the years has pulled me out of the employment market. Homeschooling, cruising, extended stays in foreign countries, all these are arguably my fault but I OWN them. I fully admit that life distracted me. I did it on purpose with a purpose.

Now, however, I want to work. Okay, world? I want to work. I work hard. I'm good at what I do. Let me work.

Except not for the last two months while I sorted our immigration paperwork, got DrC all spiffied up and off to work himself, and scrapped nearly 8 months of indescribably icky goo off our bodies and out of the boat.

And not this month while my Mommy is in town.

And apparently not next month while I have a good chunk of my face reassembled.

It turns out that the little bump on my nose which initially appeared like the world's most persistent and slow forming zit is actually not a zit at all. It's a zebra case of a tumor which is going to just keep growing until I either cut it off or I can't see past it and run my car off a cliff. The medical definition of a zebra is a disease or condition that is so uncommon that a doctor only learns of it because medical schools engage in a form institutionalized hazing which in any other context would be declared a felony. Any given zebra only shows up in the average medical practice once or twice in a doctor's entire career, if that. Such cases are shared with colleagues over a slice at lunch or at the annual Christmas party after a few drinks. Professors make presentations about zebras, others make a living doing research on them and publishing the results in esoteric journals.

This zebra tumor has -- as is usual in such cases -- an unpronounceable, unspellable name which I promptly forgot but which DrC rattles off with √©lan whenever the topic arises. It apparently has been there for years and years… maybe even since childhood! … just waiting till the perfect moment when lack of ready cash, a high deductible insurance plan, and extraordinarily pent up demand to get back to work combine to make this the worst possible moment to erupt into sight. Now that it's growing, however, the thing is on a roll. Depending on my mood, the girls either refer to me as The Two Nosed Witch or Rudolph, the Double-Nosed Reindeer. It just gets bigger from here. Fortunately, there is just about zero chance it means death to Toast unless I am foolish enough to allow it to grow so large as to block my ability to eat.

Unfortunately, getting rid of it is fraught with all sorts of horribleness. It'll be expensive. It'll leave a really nasty scar. And, I am not shitting you, I am going to spend three weeks with an "elephant trunk made out of skin" stuck gobsmack in the middle of my face. Explaining how this works may require a diagram. The idea is the plastics doc cuts a strip of my forehead, backs it with a chunk of belly fat, then without detaching it, twists it over and down and attaches it to my nose where the dermatologist has left a great gaping hole after cutting out the tumor. Then we let the thing sit there for nearly a month while the skin grafts together after which we "trim the tusk off". You're damn right you are going to trim that off.

Climbing Out
Climbing Out
Uploaded by toastfloats
On the upside, I told you I didn't need all those 'get rid of belly fat' Facebook adverts. I have my own creative ways to reduce that flab. On the downside, I'm not entirely clear how I'm supposed to go on a job interview with a skin trunk curling up from my nose. I'm going to look like a Star Trek character, and I don't mean that in a good way. I know I should be happy that I'm not cast as a Red Shirt in this drama, but I just keep thinking that no one really ever thought the Ferengi were doable, no matter how lovable Quark got towards the end.

Tonight, I'm glib about this, able to tell jokes and contemplate the whole thing with some degree of distance and equanimity. I have to be honest, however. After leaving the plastics consult, I just sat down for awhile and cried. I don't want to do this. It's expensive, painful, and scary. I have no real hope I'll look like Nicole Kidman after my surgery is complete. I'll probably look like someone who has been through a far worse experience like a car crash or the collapse of a building in an earthquake. It'll take a long time to heal and might require several additional surgeries before I don't look like someone grafted a piece of my ass on to my face. I had a real zit on the other side of my nose this morning which almost sent me into hysterics. I want to be brave and strong and reasonable, but my inner me appears to just want to scream and jump up and down and bitch about the unfairness of it all. Fairness, of course, has nothing to do with it. Our own troubles touch us more profoundly than the most terrible trials of others, because they are our own. That doesn't make my trouble less to me, the thought does help me with the reasonableness of it all. It's a benign tumor. While I can't see how it could possibly make me stronger, it isn't going to kill me. I am not a great beauty to begin with and this isn't going to make me less so.

Getting down to brass tacks, what I really need is some work to do for the month of February that does not involve seeing people. Reasonable or not, I don't think I can shake hands with a client and keep a straight face when my face isn't.