Batman and….ROB!

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Although this last Sunday was not a spectacular day to go sailing, we decided in these last days of Fall to go anyways. The winds were light but the day was sunny and fairly warm as we cast off from the dock and headed out. A few other boats were on the water and we managed after awhile to spot some wind on the other side of the lake and motor sailed over there to make the best of the day. It was a good day to introduce the kids to the discipline of sailing because they could man the helm without any serious repercussions to themselves or the boat and take turns trimming the sails and working the winch. Once we were underway everyone found something to do while we sailed along. For Sawyer, that was getting out his Batman toy figures and playing with them in the cockpit. Sawyer has no problems with imagining and playing. Even if he lacks formal toys he will break out his fingers and make up a story involving guns and explosions and bad guys. On this sunny day on the boat, I am not sure what story was being played out but while Batman was perched on the safety of the cockpit table and Joker was tucked in the curled up jib sheet Robin took it upon himself to jump up to the rail on the back of the boat. I did not see it happen, but I imagine Robin was standing chest to the wind, cape fluttering behind him about to pounce on the Joker when an unusually strong puff of wind hit him square in the face and pushed him backwards into the icy deep. Sawyer burst into tears and yelled “Robin fell in the water!”. Looking behind me I realized what had just happened and that his beloved toy was indeed gone. He was so upset he started to choke and cough. I sat down next to him to try to comfort him but all he could say through his tears was that I was sitting on the Joker, which indeed I was. I apologized and moved him over to mom. He sat in Priscilla’s lap and went through the process of grieving the loss of his loved one; the sadness, the anger, and the longing that life could be different. “I want him back…” is what he said over and over until we calmed him down with the thought that we would stop on the way home and look for a new one. Maya tried to contribute by handing him the rest of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Batman and Robin were indeed a dynamic duo. They fought crime as a way to contribute to the betterment of society, but I cant help think there wasn’t also a glimmer of excitement at the adventure and drama of it all. The fights, the cars, and all of the different characters they encountered added to the sense that life was for living and living was for adventure. We have found our adventure too. And soon, via Ebay, the dynamic pair will once again fight on, side by side.

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Clinging to Our Chair

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Cassiopeia was cast into the heavens as a punishment for boasting that her daughter Andromeda was more beautiful than the sea nymphs. She sits on her throne forever rotating around the north star so that she spends half of the year clinging to her chair. Our first night on the boat she was high in the sky beginning the season for which she must hold on for dear life. We, by contrast, were snuggled together in the warmth of a heated cabin holding on to our dreams for adventure. And yes, we too were at times clinging to those dreams.

Our 3 Little Birds is a 1997 Beneteau Oceanis 381. We bought the three cabin version so that we could give everyone a similar sleeping arrangement as our house; Maya in one room, the boys in another, and us in the forward berth. It also gives everyone a designated place to put their stuff leaving the main table area and galley free of the additional attachments that children require such as special blankets or stuffed bunnies. Having taken everything that the previous owner left in the boat off, we had quite a lot to move in on this first night. Cooking utensils, bedding, food, and activities were all huffed down the dock. But once everything was aboard and stowed, the kids quickly discovered the small pass through between their two aft cabins and set about turning all the lights out so that they could crawl to the others side and tell scary stories. I set about making dinner as Priscilla broke out a book.

This sail boat was made for exactly this; it is a place to live with many of the creature comforts of home, but on a smaller scale. As the wind blew outside and the temperature dropped into the low forties, we were shut inside in our pajamas and bear feet. The warm glow of the cabin lights on the cherry wood, the smell of a hot fall dinner, and the laughter of kids are the memories we had hoped to create and were now, in these moments, creating them.

Of course, as I expressed in my last post, in the midst of this brand new experience we were also our old selves. Our children, like most other siblings I know, provoke, tease, and fight each other. And in contained spaces, like cars and boats, the fighting can reach some disparaging heights. On our first night on the sail boat we laughed and danced (yes, literally) as well as yelled and cried (no, not all of us). We were at times clinging to our dream. But in those moments, the point in life is to cling to our dreams lest we fall off our proverbial throne as we rotate around the experiences we are pursuing.

As Priscilla and I retired to our cabin, we looked up through the hatch to see Cassiopeia shining bright in the clear Fall night. She has always had a special place in our relationship. For over twenty years we have looked up to the sky together to gain inspiration from Cassiopeia; is she in a season of ease or is she trying desperately to hold on to the thing she values. We knew, when we saw her on that night, that we were in the right place. We, like Cassiopeia, continue to try and we also, as a side note, think our daughter is more beautiful than the sea nymphs.

Viva la Revolucion!

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The beginning of a revolution is filled with promise and excitement, at least for those wanting the change. Old ways are going to be cast aside for a completely new way bringing peace and order. Or so every revolutionary assumes. The sailboat in certain corners of our mind represents a revolution for our family. The bringing in of a new order, a new way to be as a family. But we, like revolutionaries of the past, quickly found out that it is impossible to leave your past behind. You take you wherever you go. Every new order has some vestige of the old one in it and although we were on a completely new adventure, we were still bringing ourselves with us.

On our first day to the sailboat as a family, the first day my wife had ever seen the boat, and the first time we would sail it together, we started the revolution. And while we had all the dreams of a new order, the old one came with us on our journey. We are a family. I’m not sure I need to say anything more than that concerning the inherent difficulties and patterns developed within a family. Dickens could have been describing a family when he wrote about the French Revolution being the best of times and the worst of times. Our revolutionaries brought along their penchant for the unexpected and disruptive along with their love of the excitement of creating something new.

It was a cold fall day in October when we finally packed everyone, except our oldest boy, into the van. Beck had a friends birthday party to attend and we allowed him to go knowing we will have innumerable days together on the sailboat in the future. We packed everything we could possibly think of which including dressing Sawyer in multiple layers for the day. As every parent knows, but we forgot, you do not layer up a child and then stick them in a hot car for an hour and a half. Forty five minutes into our adventure we had vomit. It was then that we realized, although we didn’t fully realize the implications, that we did not have any extra clothes. Salvaging what we could of the multiple layers and using Kleenex to wipe up the floor mats we repacked everyone in the car and continued on our way.

The night before, we allowed our daughter a sleep over with two other friends. While she has a great time we have come to understand that there will be a sleepover hangover. Similar in its effects in adults, the sleepover hangover renders her fairly useless when it comes to peaceable social actions. She was not in a good mood to say the least. She watched passively and slightly annoyed as we tried in vain to get Sawyer out of the van before he threw up. She continued to spread her annoyance with us throughout the trip to the lake and onto the sailboat. It was like she was wearing dark sunglasses to lessen the headache only it was her general disposition that needed the shades. She continued in this disposition the rest of the day.

Arriving at the sailboat we attempted to recompose ourselves for the big moment when Priscilla would see the physical expression of our ten year old dream. After fighting about who would get to pull the cart full of our stuff and what electronic devices we were not going to allow on the boat we finally walked down the dock. The moment of seeing 3 Little Birds for the first time was overwhelming for me and I believe it was also for Priscilla. Seeing it you realize the incredible learning curve we are about the experience and the light headedness that such gravity induces. We all climbed aboard and let her look around and familiarize herself before we set off.

I started the engine and we looked around the dock lines and came up with a strategy to cast off. We untied the boat and hopped aboard and set it into gear. As we pulled away the excitement of finally having our own boat was coupled with the stress of knowing we also had to get it back into the slip at some point. For now though, that point was a couple hours away so we concentrated on raising the sails.

We knew when we bought the sailboat that the sails were old and in need of replacement. Because of that the mainsail would not deploy. Instead we got the jib deployed and in a good breeze were on our way. Our daughter, however, was not on the way with us. She continued to carry the cloud around with her which at this point had developed into a thunderstorm. After a few confrontational words she threw herself into the v-berth and slammed the door crying. Here we were sailing for the first time as a family. We were sailing. We were a family. Those two things were happening simultaneously. They just weren’t happening together. After a few moments I went below to coax her out of the cave. I told her we would slow the boat down to a crawl so she could go fishing. She agreed and we let out the sail as she prepared her pole. She cast here and there trying to find a good spot. Nothing was biting so she crawled onto the swim back to troll for something. Not a minute into that attempt I looked back to see her role off the back and into the 50 degree water. Girl Overboard! I threw my wallet and phone into the cockpit and prepared to dive in when I saw that she could swim to our boat easily. I pulled her out of the water by the shoulder straps of her lifejacket and Priscilla took her below. It was at this point we realized that the lack of extra clothes was a critical mistake. Not only did we lack dry clothing but we had no towels or blankets. We stripped her out of her wet clothes, dried her off with a scarf, and put one of Priscilla’s jackets around her. She was at least warm for the time being. When we got back to the van we dressed her in the only dry thing we had; her Halloween vampire costume.

We returned to the dock and successfully backed the boat into the slip; a major success in our eyes. We tied her up and headed off. Our first day of sailing had been the best of times and the worst of times meaning for us, it had been revolutionary. Viva la Revolucion!

Three little birds on 3 Little Birds

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Saturday was the first outing to introduce all three of our children to our new sail boat. Since Priscilla was out of town, it was not the full family yet but it was most of us, and for the boys, this was their first glimpse and chance to explore the dream we have been talking about for all these years. As an adult, the culmination of years of dreaming, planning, and finally acquiring a boat brings with it energy and excitement. For children, especially those eight and under, it does not seem come with excitement as much as it comes with a readiness, an acknowledgment that this is what is next for us, and an assessment of how many outlets we have to plug things in.

When Maya and I went to look at the sail boat in Texas, it was clear that although all the major systems worked, this boat had had very little use in the last few years. The condition of the boat, as assessed by the surveyor, was that overall the boat was in good condition but that it would have received higher marks had it not been so dirty. That was music to my ears because, as someone who finds meaning and purpose as a human being in cleaning things, I knew I would love to do it myself. Having this visceral excitement about putting our new boat in order, but coupled (or is it tripled?) with three children on this beautiful Saturday, I reigned in my expectations of how much I would be free to scrub and polish and brought the fishing poles and a medium amount of patience.

Lately Sawyer has been concerned with long term and even eternal things. He has been asking a lot of question about who will die first in our family (meaning who is the oldest), does he have to move out someday or can he live with us forever (his current preference), and if Jesus rose from the dead then that means he’s a zombie. So, when he finally saw our boat for the first time he wanted to know if we were going to have to give it back or was it ours forever. Explaining that we paid money for this boat so the boat is now ours helped him a little, but it wasn’t until I assured him we will keep it until we die did he finally put the issue to rest.

Aside from the eternal questions concerning 3 Little Birds, the day was great. Being now the Fall, they did not get to experience the joy of diving off the sailboat on a hot summer day or waking up on the water from a night at anchor. But, they began to understand what it is we are about to do as a family. They understand a little bit more that life is better when there is adventure, that dreams are possible to attain, and that the toilets in our house are a beautiful invention.

There’s No Place Like Home

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Kansas is a strange place to dream of sailing away on an adventure.

Our dream did not start in Kansas. I grew up sailing with my dad on small sunfish sailboats on a fresh water lake in Southern California. He had grown up sailing similarly small boats in the local harbors as a child. Passing on that skill to me was one of the ways he showed his love and attention to me as a boy. I still remember the day when, after many months of us sailing together on the same small boat, he let me have my own sailboat, free to go where I pleased on the lake for as long as I wanted. That kind of freedom in our crowded Southern California life was unknown to me in any other place in my life. To hop in the sailboat, take the lines in hand, trim the mainsheet, and feel the boat heel gently as I left the dock was in those moments pure joy. No where else, save the ocean, was a ten year old boy allowed to be so free in such a crowded place. I was taken by it.

The ocean was my other place of freedom. Alone in the waves body boarding and body surfing were moments of independence and unhindered choice. I had to assess conditions like rip tides, current, and force. I was responsible for my own safety and well being. I was also responsible if I misjudged a risk. Being caught in the white water of a breaking wave being continually pulled under by the undertow is a lesson not soon forgotten. But, what else is not forgotten is the smell, taste, power, and allure of the ocean. It calls to me, even from Kansas.

We ended up in Kansas by way of the search for community. In California we had been part of a dynamic church community that forever ruined us. No longer could we live solitary, lonely suburban lives devoid of the vibrancy and connection of a community of people. Our friend and pastor had moved to Kansas to pastor a church so that he could raise his children in a more affordable and rural setting. When it was time for us to start a family, we followed him to the small town of Galena, Kansas. Three children later we find ourselves dreaming of some of the possibilities we left behind, but without wanting to leave the home we have found. That answer for us, for now, is learning to sail on a lake.

Raising Children, Chasing Dreams, and the Art of the Ebb and Flow.

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Chasing your dreams is like raising your children; at every stage there is something to lose and something to gain. Children go through stages and mature losing the cute and cuddly side. Sawyer will only say “the other day” as “the udder day” for so long and then that will be lost. But, he will gain in awareness and his general ability to communicate which will allow me greater access to who he is and who we can be together. In the same way in order to see my dreams mature, other dreams must be let go. I cannot pursue every exciting idea, every opportunity for adventure, or every new experience all simultaneously. As our dream of sailing matures, other dreams will be lost. This ebb and flow of losing the things you still adore in order to find the things you know to be good is part of the tides of life. To fight the tide is to set myself up against the nature of pursuing my dreams and raising my children. I want my children to be vibrant adults and friends to me when they grow up. I want to sail on the open ocean as a way to live out adventure. If I do not recognize what is coming next in my children, how they are becoming the adults I hope them to be someday, then I will only mourn the loss of who they were and not love who they are becoming. If I hold onto all of my dreams fearing that I may lose some of them and not allow those dreams closest to my heart to mature into realities, then I risk losing the call of the open ocean and all of the possibilities that dream brings to me.

The Importance of Sitting on a Curb

I met my wife sitting next to me on a curb at a coffee shop in southern California. Within in minutes we were talking about a road trip I planned to make that weekend to Colorado. I had limited time, but wanted to see a friend. By the end of the conversation she was “in” and up for the adventure of driving 24 hours, visiting 24 hours and driving back in 24 hours. We have not stopped having adventures since. That was 20 years ago.