Wednesday, April 22, 2015

6 ways to get out of a rut (none of which involve a tow truck)

It's mud season in my home state of Vermont, and the term getting out of rut is taken pretty literally right now. Especially after this winter.

image courtesy of
 To most people, however, that rut isn't a muddy dirt road, it's the feeling we get when life gets boring. "Same ol', same ol'," "Daily grind," etc. It happens to the best of us. (Well I can't speak for the whole world, but I'd say it happens to all of us.) How do we get out of the rut? What do we do when life is boring? When it's the same thing day in and day out?

  1. Start a gratitude journal. Or, if that is too touchy-feely for you, every night before you turn the light out, jot down on a scrap of paper three good things that happened. The idea is to make an effort to recognize the good things that are happening in life, even if life doesn't feel so great.
  2. Take one thing that you do every day and do it differently, perhaps even better. The easiest way for me to make my day a little better is through food. I cook a special dinner, bake a loaf of bread, or make a dessert. It makes a regular Tuesday a little more interesting.
  3. Get some loving. From a simple hug to something a little more x-rated. Get some love into your life. Human touch has proven health benefits like releasing oxytocin and dopamine.
  4. Move! But make it fun. If you love the gym and it makes you happy, go there. But if "working out" is a chore, do something different. Put on some music and dance. Go for a bike ride. Find a kid and play tag. Find a dog and toss the frisbee with it. A little bit of exercise and movement and, most importantly, play will lift spirits.
    I don't know what this "sport" is called, but these adults were having a blast playing on a Saturday afternoon.
  5. Be spontaneous. Instead of driving straight home from work or from picking the kids up at school, go somewhere. Go out for pizza. Stop at the deli and pick up sandwiches and have an impromptu picnic dinner. Call a friend you haven't seen for weeks, or days, and meet for a drink or a walk.
    An impromptu trip to a beachside hotel let this boat kid jump on the bed. Something she's only had the chance to do a few times in her life and which she thoroughly loved. The joy that resulted from our spontaneity!
  6. Think of a more sustaining way to keep from slipping into "same ol', same ol'." Brainstorm a list of things you like to do, or things you wish you could do more often and make an effort to do them. (Practical things. I love snorkeling over coral reefs, but since I don't live near any crystal clear, tropical water, that's not possible. I'll keep that off the list.) 
I feel like getting stuck in a rut is such an easy thing to do. We go through the daily motions of life - doing what is necessary (eating, working, cleaning, sleeping) and what is easy (Facebook, TV) and we forget to take a break from the necessary and the easy to do what we like. There is a little effort involved, but by acknowledging that the rut exists, and that, yes, life can be boring sometimes, will help you get out of that rut, wipe the mud off, and start making daily and weekly life more interesting, more fun, and more inspiring.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

small living challenges

Years and years ago, before I even considered living on a boat, I read about Jay Shafer's Tumbleweed Houses. His houses are extreme. The initial concept used a flatbed trailer as their foundation and built up from there - a tiny living room, kitchen, with a loft sleeping area. The toilet was of the composting variety and they look more like elaborate RVs than permanent homes. But the market was there and since I first started checking out Tumbleweed Homes, the movement has exploded.

Then I moved onto a 27' sailboat - a closet compared to a "tiny house."

And now we've moved up in the world, onto a 36' powerboat with an aft cabin. Two bedrooms! Two bathrooms! A back deck! We're living large!'s still tiny for 2 adults and 2 growing children. When we first moved to our current marina we thought we'd put the boat up for sale and buy or rent a house. But, nearly one year later, we're still here. Floating through life. There are so many compelling reasons to keep us living aboard in our tiny space. But there are also so many challenges.

What makes it hard?
  • We constantly struggle with too much stuff. Too much stuff for us extra throw pillow or blanket on the couch. A new toy. A stack of magazines. In a house these extra things could just get pushed aside into a hidden corner, but on the boat everything is front and center. We have to be conscious all the time of what we buy or are given - we only bring things onto the boat that we have thoughtfully considered and already found a place for. Which means no yard sales or flea markets or thrift stores.
  • Tidiness. For peace of mind, it is imperative that we keep the boat tidy. The space is just too small to have cluttered shelves or piles of things on the floor. Since we use all our floor space, and every shelf space is visible, everything needs to be put away, or at least relatively tidy. So picking up, tidying, putting away happens a lot. And this is a foreign concept to me. I've always been VERY messy.
  • Everything is micro. The sink. The bathtub. The closet. We can't take a bath in the "bathtub" because it is just too small. It's perfect for the girls, but no dice for us. And try washing dishes in a toy-sized sink. It's a challenge. 
    me and a regular sized mug, to try to show the relative size of the sink
  • The lack of privacy. I do not exaggerate when I say that the only place I can get any privacy is in the bathroom. I'm sure that's true for most parents, but the bathroom is the only place I can shut the door and be alone. It's about 2' x 3'. And I can still hear every single noise on the boat while I'm having some alone time.
  • Sound carries. When the girls nap, all activity on the boat stops. They are very good sleepers, but their v-berth bedroom is only separated from the main cabin by a thin door. They're not upstairs or down the hall. I can't vacuum, wash dishes, or clean the outside of the boat while they're sleeping. Darn. I have to nap or read a book.
  • Food storage. This is a hard one. Our fridge is an apartment-sized fridge which is fine in the cooler months, but in the summer when it is HOT outside and in, I have to keep everything in the fridge. All fruit, veggies, bread, etc. And since we eat all our meals at home and we eat a lot of whole foods and produce, we have to go shopping a couple times a week. A gallon of milk takes up a large portion of the fridge and we go through one every 3-4 days. 
    that's the fridge on the left. This is an old picture...on the right we now have a 4 burner propane stove top and a small convection oven (which landlubbers would call a toaster oven!) above that.
  • Laundry. Yeah. That's up at the marina. Which means I can't do laundry when the girls are napping or after they've gone to bed at night because I can't leave them alone on the boat. I can't throw a load of laundry in the wash and switch it to the dryer when I get around to it, because it's basically a laundromat. I'm sharing with my neighbors so I need to be punctual.
  • Temperature control. We basically live in a greenhouse. That's fantastic in the winter, but it gets very hot in the summer. We don't have any big shade trees covering the boat so we live under full sun every day. We do, on the other hand, get great breezes off the water, so that helps. But in the dead of the summer when the a/c is jacked up, it's still 80-85 degrees inside. 
So, with all these challenges, why do we stay aboard? Here are a few reasons:

  • the other day at the park, Freja (age 4) correctly pointed out barnacles to her friend who had no idea what she was talking about. 
  • Freja doesn't know her left from her right, but she's getting consistently better at identifying port and starboard
  • we have a couple crab pots hanging off our dock and we get a few crabs a week. not enough for a meal, but a tasty appetizer.
  • We're outdoors almost more often than we're inside.
  • We have great neighbors that we see and socialize with on a near daily basis
  • We own our boat. The marina pays for water, trash, recycling, internet, laundry. Our bills are low.
  • We don't have a lot of stuff.
  • We've lived on this boat for almost 6 years...(knock on wood) almost everything works and *currently* our maintenance is low. When Hans has a day off, we can do something fun. No grass to mow, no hedges to prune, no walls to paint.
And this:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Island Time video

Here's a fun promo video I made for my book:


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Basking in the sun

A blustery day at the beach.

There was a flurry of activity and then it stopped. I haven't been writing recently and I've stopped obsessively checking my book sale stats on Amazon and Create Space. I guess I'm following my own advice. I'm starting to live more in the here and now, in the actual real present. Instead of writing about what I'm doing and researching things to do on Pinterest, I'm just doing stuff. It helps that the weather is awesome and I'm outside for hours every day. When it's in the upper 70s and low 80s every day and not too humid, it's hard to stay inside and sit in front of the computer.

We took a day trip to Savannah, GA and enjoyed the gorgeous spring flowers.
Instead I'm working on boat projects like renewing the varnish, brainstorming a massive canvas job, and scrubbing the pollen off the decks. We're going to the playground and the pool; and the girls are learning to ride their balance bikes. Best of all, our dock neighbors are doing the same and our end of the marina has become quite a social place.

I've let go of my need (assumed or real) to write every day and I'm enjoying the spring weather and my time with my girls. I have 101 different things to write about but, for now, my writing is seasonal in nature. I'm sure that I'm just out of practice and I'd truly enjoy sitting down every day and typing at my computer, but, honestly, it's pretty nice to read a book on the back deck or do something productive on the boat. It's just too nice outside! I've gotten my book off my computer and out into the real world, I've assessed my options for my life (work full-time in an office or stay at home with the girls) and I've realized that the status quo is rather good.

So for now I'm giving myself a sabbatical from writing and I'm enjoying each day as it comes. This is entirely new for me as I'm always looking toward the horizon and the next harbor, so we'll see how long it lasts.