Monday, October 3, 2016


taking a moment to appreciate the gorgeous trees all around our city

I've devoted 95% of my brain space, time, and energy for the past 5 1/2 years to my kids. Add to that the past 2+ years where I've devoted the remaining 5% to houseboat-hold and family management, I really should not be surprised that I sit here wondering what my identity is.

There's tons of "identity" talk in mom circles. Work-life-family-self balance. Girls' nights out. Date nights. Spa weekends (ha!). Yoga classes. In this privileged, intentional circle I live in - one in which I choose to stay at home full-time with my kids, forfeiting a paid career for myself, but only b/c my partner can provide enough income for all of us - we're living in the realm of #firstworldproblems.

But here I am. And they're my problems. For the past 5 1/2 years I honestly thought I had it all figured out. Of course I did. That's my personality. I like my life to be ordered, with purpose, with short and long term goals, all neat and pat in one package.  On the side I've had years of grumblings, this nagging feeling of needing to "be productive." Hence blogging, book writing, and endless organizing projects on the boat. I resisted any talk that I was trying to etch out my identity among the dirty diapers and storytimes. I'm a proud person and I also hold myself to the mantra of "you lie in the bed you made," so I have embraced my kids-home life to the fullest. And, yes, I've been loving the past 5 1/2 years.

But hello world. Boy have I had my blinders on. All that identity talk that I scoffed aside - smugly sipping my lukewarm coffee and yelling at the kids to "be quiet for a minute I'm on the phone" - it's hitting home now. The girls are in school now, full-time, and suddenly I find myself with 30 hours a week of time all to myself. Glorious, uninterrupted, alone, quiet, free time. It is AMAZING,


"fishing" with Hans. He fishes, I bring a book. It was a really, really HOT day.

For the first couple weeks I wrote lists of things I want to do and Hans and I spent so much time together, alone. It was fantastic. Then he went back to work in a full time plus kind of way and my list looked a little hollow. This nagging voice in my head is starting to, what are you going to do now? What do you want to do now?

(On a sidenote, it's amazing how completely inefficient I am with my time. I could have gotten so much done in terms of boat work, personal health, volunteering, etc. by now, but most mornings I'm still drinking coffee at 11. Am I suffering some kind of PTSD for going for so long without that free time? Or have I completely forgotten how to be a functioning adult without two kids screaming at me?)

So this identity thing is no joke. Yes, it is something that lives in the world of privilege. Yes, it is a #firstworldproblem. But after devoting all your waking (and sleeping) energy in one direction, it's hard to bounce off that tangent and do something different. I feel like I'm staring at my future and it's, mostly, a wide open book. The kids are older, they're less needy, I have more time. And my time is my own. So what do I do?

I have ideas, plans, goals. Some days it's exciting, other days it's daunting, other days I find myself considering homeschooling because the alternative (figuring out who the heck I am now) is a lot more challenging. It's humbling. Feeling like I've known myself for so many years and now realizing that I have a lot of questions and a lot of options and no specific path.

Overall it's very exciting and positive, but, wow. I never expected at 37 years of age I'd be asking myself these questions and contemplating this kind of stuff. At least at 37 I'm much better equipped to tackle this "problem" than I was as a 22 year old new college graduate.

How I'm spending my time so far
  • gym membership with a personal trainer
  • yoga on the dock
  • GED tutoring every wednesday
  • Spanish conversation every wednesday
  • cleaning, organizing the boat (ha!)
  • thinking of boat projects but not doing them
  • coffee with friends
  • solo beach time! 
  • cleaning and organizing. Freja's own space on the boat to create.
  • and sometimes a boat project. Taking down the changing table!!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Solo parenting on a holiday

  With my big girl at the end of the day. (Matilda, knowing that I really wanted a picture of the three of us, refused to be in the photo.)

I can finally say, after nearly two years into residency, I have figured out how to enjoy a holiday even when I'm (temporarily) solo parenting. Mother's Day 2016 = success!

Let's get a few basics out of the way: 1) it's not easy. 2) other solo parents have to deal with more difficult situations. 3) I'm lucky, no matter which way you look at it, but my troubles are real to me, even if they're #firstworldproblems.

I've spent a lot of holidays over the past couple years without Hans, and I know I'll be spending many many more without him as well. It's a fact of his job and we choose to live far away from family. So I've been experimenting with, shall we say, coping strategies.

Coping strategy #1, the easiest: ignore it. Just pretend that the third Thursday in November is just like any other Thursday and, "come on girls, let's go to the park." Except...the park is filled with happy, extended families getting some exercise in before they tuck in to the big meal. And I feel like the biggest loser.

Coping strategy #2, avoid social media. Oh believe me, I've logged on to facebook on Christmas morning and seen lots of photos of kids dressed in cute Christmas pjs, digging into their stockings while adult family members coddle a cup of coffee and oversize cinnamon bun. Cue the tears. Avoiding social media seems like a no-brainer. But facebook is one of my communities. It's a major way I connect with friends and family around the world and I belong to groups that provide support and humor on a daily basis. Call me addicted, but I need my social media.

Coping strategy #3, pretend that Hans isn't working. Continue going through all the motions of the holiday - the decorations, the festivity, the food - and my other half will be around for about 10% of it. At the end of the day(s) I'm exhausted and don't feel festive but just annoyed that I did a lot of holiday work and no one was around to appreciate it.

Three strategies, three backfires. Yesterday, however, I did it right. Woohoo!

*****Coping strategy #4, make it my own. *******
Typical Mother's Day stuff that I've done, by myself with kids, that have felt hollow and lonely: church, brunch, mimosas. This year I planned in advance, talked with Hans about what I wanted, and connected with my local community. I had such a great day. Freja was thrilled that it was mother's day. The girls love holidays and special events and were excited that it wasn't just a regular day, but it was "mamma's special day." Hans and I put out a special breakfast for the girls the night before so I didn't have to jump out of bed to make them breakfast; I put out some art supplies for Freja because she wanted to decorate before I got out of bed; Freja let me go first when we played games together; Matilda kept hugging and kissing me and saying "Happy mother's day." They were as sweet as ever, even though Matilda did push my buttons from time to time. (She is only 3, after all.)

Morning dance party (Taylor Swift, Adele, Meghan Trainer, Shut up and Dance, Frozen - of course) while I drank coffee and read a book on the back deck.

A week beforehand I checked the calendar and realized I'd be alone all day, so I checked in with some friends. Sure enough, there were a couple others whose husbands were working all day so we made plans. A friend came over with her boy for pool time and lunch. It was fun and relaxing. Later in the day another friend found a "free meal for moms" deal at a Mexican restaurant so we met up with the kiddos and had a fun meal where someone else cooked and did the dishes. Please and thank you! And Hans, knowing that I do love mother's day, even though it can be viewed as a Hallmark holiday, came home with flowers, chocolates, and a bottle of champagne.

Three goofballs eating hamburger buns with forks.

 I was surrounded by so much love from that I truly felt lucky and happy and didn't want to be anywhere else. A spa day would have been nice (duh), but on mother's day I was so happy to be with my girls and be a mom.
It's Monday morning and we're back in the usual routine - kids at school, I'm doing laundry, and Hans is fishing before work. Now that I finally have figured out how to do holidays right, I can enjoy them for what they are: a break in the monotony to take a minute to appreciate what we have, relax, and have fun for a day. No responsibilities, just living. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fishing, waterways, boating, nature

I love the natural beauty of the coastal southeast. It's the main reason we wanted to move "down south" to the land of humidity, hurricanes, and cockroaches. Heat and violent storms and bugs - how very inspiring. Nope, it's not a forgiving environment in the summer months, and while we don't have to worry about frozen pipes or hypothermia, we basically have two choices: sit inside hugging the air conditioner or fan (or both) or full submersion in water - pool or beach variety. Outdoor activity is a literal hot, sweaty mess this time of year. But I'd rather sweat than freeze and we have enough months of phenomenal weather to make up for the four months of outdoor sauna.

We're just turning the corner into summer. Thunderstorms are popping up, cold fronts aren't in the weather pattern anymore, and I'm sweating more often than not. But the natural beauty is still here and we're finally getting the chance to enjoy it more. How? Longer beach days and Blue Seas.

I'm a huge beach bum and am beyond thrilled that our beach days are lasting much more than two hours this year. Last year we had a two hour limit before an inevitable meltdown, but the past two times I've taken the girls to the beach we've stayed for over five hours. Of course I can't bring my page-turner and cooler of beer like in the good old pre-kid days (I do have two small children to watch, after all), but I can relax in my beach chair, do some yoga, build sandcastles, and swim for hours. It's the perfect way to enjoy this coastline and to get the kids outdoors in nature with no complaints. We have our choice of beaches - from the developed Jax Beach with its pier and bars, to St. Augustine with a splash pad and playground, to Little Talbot Island which has a parking lot, showers, and sand dunes.

(yes, my friends, I made them pose for this picture. This is not natural!!)

Hans loves fishing, and, much to my initial disgruntlement, he bought a little 12' aluminum fishing boat for inshore waters. You may rightfully ask, do we really  need four boats? I asked the same question. Well, we may have a boat habit. Do we really need two cars? Do we really need that sundowner on a summer evening? Need want need want. I, too, was skeptical, until I went out fishing for a few hours. Just 30 minutes from downtown there is absolute stillness and tranquility in the marshes. Nothing to see but water, marsh, and sky. Nothing to hear but birds and the marsh grass rustling in the wind. And we saw dolphins. The little fishing boat, which our eldest quickly named Blue Seas, opened up a whole new part of the region for exploration. (Oh and my skepticism also dissipated after Hans caught his first fish. Yum!)

A redfish caught off the dock!

We've traveled up and down the east coast of the US via boat three times and this region has always been my favorite. I've spent the first almost two years of our time here being frustrated that I can't get out to the marsh lands and feeling disconnected from a life on the water. (Yes. I know. We live on our boat. My home is floating on the water. How in the world can I feel disconnected?!) But I was wanting and needing an active life on the water. I want to be doing stuff on the water, not simply floating on it.

swimming off the back deck of m/v Rhumb Line at anchor.

playing pirates...
"Cock a doodle doo, Peter Pan we need you!"

When people ask what we're doing these days my answer is pretty simple: pool, beach, boat.

Goofball Matilda pretending to be cold after a recent swim.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Squeezed in

our floating seemed so big when we first bought it..when there was only two of us!
Some days it just feels like the boat is positively bursting at its seams. Not so much in terms of "too much stuff," but in terms of "too many people." When we first moved aboard it was just the two of us. We had tons of space. A guest bedroom and bathroom even! Then we had our first daughter and it was no big deal. Babies take up very little room and we didn't have very much stuff for her, she slept with us for the first six months of her life..we still had space. Then our second came along and we squeezed in a little more. The vee-berth is 100% kid land now (pink and blue - their favorite colors - little clothes, artwork tacked on the walls, stuffed animals, books - typical kid bedroom stuff). But of course they never want to hang out in their bedroom so they take over the main cabin - the living room. Suddenly our long, tall, and wide boat doesn't have enough space. They are loud (something which I don't discourage...they're kids, I'm loud, we're loud), our toddler demands the entire couch then the older one demands the entire floor and vice versa. Hans and I are relegated to the galley, but we can barely hear each other talk because they girls are so busy singing and playing their loud game of pirates or mermaids or fairies or Frozen. Calm doesn't descend until bedtime. And then it is blissfully quiet.

We could make changes. We could ask for inside voices, we could not have Disney songs blasting from Spotify, we could encourage them to play a quiet game or puzzles or legos. We could (and often do) let them watch some TV in the evening, pre-dinner when we're trying to talk about our days and relax. But, normally, we don't. Just like I encourage creativity by providing art supplies and blank white paper, I can't stifle their creativity by asking them to ease up on their imaginative play. "Captain Hook is coming! Quick! Hide the treasure!" Of course that's loud, and it should be!

When there aren't enough seats for everyone, or a desk to check your email, you improvise.
Chasing down a leak. This is our bed platform all taken apart and Hans is troubleshooting the hot water heater. Note that he's still in his scrubs. Welcome home. Glad you saved some lives...but seems like we have a leak... no rest for the weary! 

But there are times, when we're in the middle of a fairy rescue and the dragon is about to breathe fire, when I dream of a bigger space...a house. A house with a playroom that is not also the living room open onto the kitchen. A house where we can't all touch each other just by reaching out our arms. Maybe even a house where there's a backyard for the kids to be outside, and out of earshot, for an hour or so. Yes, I'd love a little more space. I think we all would. The girls get sick of each other and start fighting or complaining. This morning we had one kid at school and the other one at home, and the one at home was SO happy to have the whole place to herself. No sharing! I hear you little one.
It's impossible to line up all your matchbox cars on the couch if you have to share the space! Lucky Matilda got the boat to herself this morning.
I'll always be tied to boats and to the water. I'll be living aboard and various times throughout my life, but when the kids are little, and loud, some more space would surely be welcome.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adventurer + parent: making the combination happen

...on sailing and fear and parental responsibility

One of my favorite things about sailing is the space it gives me to think, or not think. I find it so meditative to be out on the water with only the sound of wind and water lapping against the hull. Yes, sailing is romantic. It can also be meditative when the wind is up and we're heeled over, sometimes burying the rain, scrambling to shorten sail - that's the time when 100% of my attention is on the action at hand. My mind is certainly not drifting to my daily stressors. There's no room for them on board. That's a different kind of meditation.

I've always done some of my best thinking and dreaming out on the water. It's one of the only places that I can let go of the daily grind and just be. The kids feel it too. I'll often hear them singing or humming when they're on deck - caught up in the moment.

Last week I went sailing with a friend who is a newbie and she started asking questions about making long passages. She wanted to know if I was scared when we were out on the ocean, out of sight of land, back in the days when we were cruising in the Caribbean. My answer: no, not really, and for a few reasons: 1) I was 100% confident in our boat and I have enough boat and sailing knowledge that I knew how the boat would react to big waves or big winds, 2) we were prepared for worst-case scenarios, we knew what would happen and how we would deal with man overboard or sinking, 3) we only made short passages so, with the exception of squalls, we were never surprised by the weather, and 4) I was in my 20s, pre-kids. What, exactly, are single, 20-year-old kids scared of?

So now, ten years later with two kids and a little sailboat, I admitted that I do get nervous when it gets windy on the river, or when the boat heels (tips) uncomfortably, or when a gust of wind pushes us. I haven't felt that kind of trepidation since we first started sailing, when I didn't really know what I was doing, and even then it wasn't the kind of "oh shit gut-wrenching fear" that I get sometimes when the kids are aboard.

We have dreams of taking our kids on long sailing trips. I dream of showing them places in the world that are only accessible by boat. I dream of long passages. My friend, similarly, dreams of going on adventures with her family - living in different places, exploring the world, not falling into the easy trap of suburbia. How, then, can these dreams become reality if, as a mother, I now feel a type of protective mama bear fear that I've never felt before? The stakes are infinitely higher when you are responsible for little people. Their lives, literally, are in my hands. (I can see why people choose to stay snugly in suburbia.) The stakes are a little higher, to say the least. With these high stakes and with the fear and with the socially-accepted, easy option of suburbia, how can I be both an adventurer and a parent?

We bought a little sailboat last summer because we like sailing. I missed sailing and needed to be out on the water (in an active sense, not sitting on a boat at the dock like I do with 80% of my time). By taking the kids sailing on a regular basis, we're teaching them how to sail and, hopefully, instilling a love of sailing at a young age. (At least we're teaching them that we love sailing and they just have to grin and bear it.) Generally speaking, kids don't like change. By incorporating sailing into their lives at a young age, hopefully it won't be too shocking when we move onto a sailboat, cut the docklines, and sail to the horizon. Here's hoping, at least.

Get the right gear that will keep you and your kids safe. This is a big deal. I'd be scared shitless if I were driving down the highway and the kids weren't strapped in carseats. Likewise, I want a boat (my chosen method of adventuring) that has tough enough rigging for strong winds, that has heavy ballast to right itself, and has a sturdy rudder that will stay firmly attached to the boat. I want appropriately-sized ground tackle (anchor and chain) to keep us in one place all night. Hans recently rebuilt the v-berth on our current sailboat so the girls will be more secure when we're underway. Sailing with kids is more relaxing now b/c I don't have to worry about them falling through the gap between the cushions.

Having a strong base of knowledge to fall back on can keep you confident and rational. Knowledge has always been a big thing for me. Before I actually stepped on a boat, I read about sailing. A lot. I practiced knots in the living room. I learned the vocabulary. When, at long last, I finally did start sailing, I wasn't (too) scared of capsizing, I knew how to cleat off the line, and I knew that ropes are called lines. I wasn't always comfortable and I was certainly scared at times, but I knew the reason for everything and I could logically talk myself out of fear.

Have a good plan in place for the trip or adventure - a plan that considers the basics of sleep and food to more abstract preferences such as personal interests of each person on the trip. Basically, don't get hungry, don't get cold, don't get tired, and make sure everyone is having a good time. Scale back. When we go sailing now with the kids, we go for an hour or two. Enough time to get the wind in the sails, but not really enough time for the kids to get bored and whiney. Change the adventure to accommodate shorter attention spans, hungry bellies, and the need to be with other kids and running around doing kid things.

Find your community of adventurers and embrace it. Make friends - local and long-distance - and get support and encouragement from like-minded people. Choosing adventure over a more traditional lifestyle of house-school-job is challenging. It's hard to go off the beaten track, but having a group of people to bounce ideas off of and get inspiration from is invaluable. Likewise, involve and educate your everyday community (your friends and family) so you can get support and encouragement from those that already love you and your kids.

Go with the idea that plans can and will change, but choosing adventure means being open to the adventure, no matter how that adventure may evolve.

Be confident and clear in your dreams and aspirations. Naysayers abound and successful adventuring depends in a large part on remaining steadfast to your own personal commitment. Know why you want to do something different - the short-term benefits and the long-term benefits. There are so many reasons that I want to take my kids on an extended sailing trip (aka cruising), but many of them revolve around the reasons why I feel it is important to travel with kids. I'd like to take them out of their comfort zone to know that with risk comes reward. Sure, traveling by sailboat is often akin to camping, but then you get to an island unpopulated by humans. You see a night sky untouched by light pollution. You hear the earth uninterrupted by human noise. You can sail to an iceberg.

We're still a number of years away from going on a big adventure with our kids, but I'm determined that the adventure will happen. I'm working on making it happen now. We go on small adventures - we go sailing, we go camping, we go on road trips and the kids can easily handle a six hour car ride (thank you DVD player). A stationary life has never been the life for me. I love my community and I love making local connections, but I yearn to see what's around the next corner and what people a few hundred miles away are eating for dinner. With some planning, knowledge, and preparation, I'm confident that I won't let fear or the ease of a more traditional life get in the way of taking off. The promise of adventure is just too great for that.

our monkeys aren't afraid of much
I think they have the adventurer spirit built in to their DNA.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Living Authentically

 A fellow blogger over on Goodie Goodie Gumdrop posed a question in a recent article that challenged me: Tell me how you are living authentically?

Jessica defines living authentically as striving toward a life that makes you happy without fear or naysayers dictating what you choose to do.

Am I living authentically? Yes. In the sense that I am trying my hardest to make life good for myself and my family, while at the same time acknowledging the long view. Is my life 100% perfect and exactly how I want to live? Nope. There are things I want to do now but can't because of my commitment to my family. I've absolutely put a lot of my own aspirations on hold for my family. I have dreams of where I'll be in ten years, and it's not here. Not on this boat at a dock with my husband working and me being the housewife and having my days arranged around playdates and naps. It's great right now because that's where we are in life. I've said it before, right now works, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. It's not perfect and it's not my ideal, but it's authentic. Yes. I am being true to myself and my dreams.

As a family, our authentic life is defined by: a certain amount of self-determination, a certain amount of compromise, and concrete limits (Hans's training and our finances). How do I find the sweet spot of living authentically (read: happily, fulfilled, challenged) within the constraints of regular life? How do I make my current life satisfying and happy when I know it's not my ultimate dream?

Embrace the now
Embracing the now is probably the most crucial component of living authentically. It's impossible to be happy today if I'm only thinking about my ideal life. Embracing the now means doing things that make me happy and also challenge me. Sailing is huge. We have a little sailboat and my happiest moments are spent out on the water. You can call it a hobby or a past time, but, regardless, in order to embrace the now it's important to find an activity where you can just relax and be happy. Running, sewing, playing a team sport, cooking - there are lots of options. I gravitate to being active and outdoors.

Challenge yourself
I struggle with finding challenge in my daily life. Don't get me wrong, I am not a supermom. But, at this point, dealing with tantrums, cleaning up the constant mess, providing space and activities for my kids to be engaged - this is all pretty routine and, while dealing with a tantrum is most definitely challenging in the moment, I'm talking about finding personal challenge for myself that engages a different part of my brain than making pb&j and drawing with sidewalk chalk.

These monkeys keep me on my toes!

After years of dipping in and out of yoga practice, I'm fully one of those yoga people now. Like a friend said: I drank the yoga Kool-Aid. I aim to do at least three videos a week and, in turn, those videos make me feel strong, a tiny bit more flexible, and my bad shoulder is FINALLY starting to feel better.

I would like to start volunteering and I've found an organization that would be a perfect fit for both my schedule and my interests, but it seems like my initial challenge is simply finding a time to meet with the volunteer coordinator. Between her schedule, mine, and my kids being sick, the initial meeting has yet to happen.

I talk about community a lot. It is extremely important to me. (Case in point: two neighbors came rushing over to help yesterday evening when I was home alone and Freja vomited all over the main cabin. LOVE my marina neighbors.)

One of my job titles is stay-at-home-mom, and, like all other professionals, I need colleagues. I have a number of mom friends, near and far, that I rely on for play dates, internet humor, and nap time phone calls of support. I recently started going to a weekly mom's group (childcare provided!), and the support and community offered there is strong.

Eyes on the prize
While I am currently living authentically by focusing on the here and now, I can do so because we have concrete goals for the future. We have a rough time line, we have a plan, we have a clear vision. We know what we want to do and we feel confident that we will get there. It is vital to have a game plan, otherwise we'd swing from branch to branch, looking for the perfect place to land, but taking ten years to get there, as opposed to five if we had a good plan. I keep the plan in my back pocket, so if I'm feeling stuck or having a bad day, I know that it's all part of the bigger picture.

Cutting myself a break
Striving to live authentically can be exhausting. I certainly don't spend every day thinking about how I can make it the best day ever, nor do I want to fall into the trap of just letting the days go by unnoticed and unremarkable. But some days I just chill out. I let the girls watch TV. I read a book on the back deck at nap time. I nap at nap time. I drive the girls to school instead of bike. We order pizza for dinner.

Living authentically means being happy today and dreaming for tomorrow. I try to strike a good balance between the two; I recognize my weakness and try to actively work toward personal challenge; I try to sit back and enjoy the here and now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Finding your passion

I've never found one grand passion, I've never felt a calling, I've never felt the need to devote most of my energies to a singular cause. I'm passionate about a lot of things: my kids, my husband, travel, sunshine, warmth, sailing, the beach, food; and I can get passionate about a lot of other things: politics, social justice, America's role in the world, gun control, child care and family leave, work-life balance, immigrant rights, and much, much more. Just give me a chance to hop on my soap box and I'll start preaching.

That said, I do not have a specific, career-worthy passion. In our society where people like to know "so, what do you do?" and where caregiving is a devalued occupation, I find it hard to determine how to live my life in a way that makes me happy. Since I've become a mother I've struggled to define my new identity and and settle into that role. I am uncomfortable with that fact that merely having the room to think about my identity is a luxury when many moms are struggling to feed their kids and provide them with a safe place to live. But life is all relative and my "struggle" is real--to me at least.

But in the past six months I've settled into and embraced my identity as a full-time, stay-at-home mom more than ever. I'm Susy Homemaker at times and I'm drinking white wine in the sun on the back deck at 3 in the afternoon at other times. The kids are happy and thriving and I'm (finally) learning to just kick back and enjoy what I have instead of trying to define it.

I see lots of "life is too short" quotes on the internet. Similar to this:

Which lead me to think, life is too short, I should do what I want and do what makes me happy. ....

Thanks for the pic !!

Yet, there's a reason we quit cruising back in 2009. (Well, yes, we were indeed running out of money, but it was a little more thoughtful than that.) We knew we wanted to do more than be boat bums. We knew we couldn't just kick around the Caribbean indefinitely waiting for plans to develop. (My only plan was to fill a cooler with beer, drag it to a beach that didn't have a beach bar and sell them for $2 a pop. A profitable idea but not much room for upward movement.)

These quotes about living the life you want have always clashed with my desire to actually do something. Can I reconcile doing what I want with being a productive member of society? Can I reconcile the two without having a "passion?"

Yes. Yes! As the girls get older and I have a little more time to breath and think beyond snack and nap schedules and playdates, I'm brainstorming what I can do to make myself happy. Can I have my cake and eat it too? Yes!

Being happy isn't just relaxing on white sand beaches. I do need warmth and sunshine and water and sailboats to be happy, but I also need a little more. I need connection with my community. I need to feel like I am contributing to my community. And while that sounds like work, (and how can work be fun if I don't have a passion?), one of my passions is being with people and engaging with people (people that are bigger than 3 feet tall).

Not sure what or how yet, but I'm tossing around ideas and researching different organizations, and finding ways to get involved and expand my horizons. I'm finding balance in my life and, maybe, just maybe, I'll find a new passion as well.