Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Worth of Writing

My friends at Grammarly pulled together some interesting data and bundled it into this nifty infographic. They then asked if I'd let them guest post on my blog for a day. Well of course I would! And that was before they offered to bribe me. For real. In exchange for a simple blog post, Grammarly is donating cold, hard cash to Reading Is Fundamental. Because  literacy changes lives. This is how you spread the good.
 
This infographic brought to you by my friends over at Grammarly, a group of grammar nerds that have teamed up to create the best online grammar checker the world has ever seen.

So hey. What's writing worth?

 
 

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Thirty Degree, Guaranteed Cranky, Threshold

Barriers. I've talked about them before. These are the things that keep us from doing what we all know we're supposed to do. For some people (me) it's exercise. I know I should. And I want to - I really do. 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day staves off migraines in a big way. So, honest. I'm motivated.

And yet.

Something stands in my way. That's a barrier. The trick is figuring out what that barrier is. For some people, it's as simple as packing a workout bag and setting out exercise clothes so the morning is a no brainer. In my case, It's the cold. Once the outdoor temperatures drop below 30 degrees, I'm done. Guaranteed grump point. No. I will not go out on an interval training walk/run. My toes are already painfully frozen in my sneakers. There aren't enough clothes in the world to make it okay. Going out on a bike ride is out of the question, too. My fingers and toes ache. What I really want to do is go out into the frigid morn and slam my face into the wind chill that riding would entail. Ever frozen the snot in your nose? Trust me. Do not want.

Last night, it struck me that I've filled my life with ways to make life harder. Plenty of people don't have a dishwasher, so I can't complain about that. Much. I *do* when I'm washing my third sink full of dishes for the day. But you know, cooking. Just cooking is more difficult - I'm working with a two burner propane stove with an oven the size of a bread box. Not to mention a tiny refrigerator and no microwave. I can't pull something out of the freezer and put it on the dinner table an hour later. This has done unfortunate things to my culinary skills and to my diet. Heck. Just taking a shower means kitting up and walking the equivalent of a football field, in the freezing dark, so I can plug the marina shower with quarters in exchange for two minutes of hot water. Then there's the walk back. Managing electrical load - I cannot be warm and vacuum the floors at the same time. It will blow the circuit breaker. The heat has to be shut down, then I can tidy up. This is essential, because my other guaranteed grump point is having my floors crunch when I walk on them. I've tried to find a medication to treat that.

99% of my barriers come down to the cold. So many people are bothered by the lack of sunlight at this time of year. Not me. Couldn't care less. In fact, I'd be grateful for the return of the rain. It would be warmer and as a  boater, I have the gear for 40 degrees and rain slanting in sideways. Frost? Not so much. If it snows this year, I may snap, take an ax to the dock lines and aim for the south Pacific. I do still love my boat - even with the challenges and frustrations. And yes. I am well aware that makes me perverse. Hush up and help me find a place in Fiji or Tahiti where I can moor the boat.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tropical Seattle

You know that annoying part of the year where you have to put on long pants and a sweatshirt in the morning or freeze, but by noon, you're suffocating and longing for your shorts? It's back. The summer of unbelievably fine weather (for Seattle) and lovely sunsets draws to a close. Even though I'm still wearing flip-flops, the rain comes back tomorrow and the unseasonably warm temperatures start falling. I'd be sad about it if the piles of clothes we have stacked around to accommodate chilly mornings and frying afternoons weren't driving me nuts. (Fun fact about Marcella: Want to drive the writer insane? Won't take much of a push, admittedly, but the fastest route: Clutter. O_o This makes me officially Not Easy To Live With.)

Halloween decorations started showing up in the stores at the end of August, but none of us can contemplate pumpkin flavored anything when it's still 80 degrees. I keep seeing photos on Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest of all the fall themed baking other people are doing. I get inspired and determine I'm going to make some fun treat-like thing. Cake. Bread. Something. But the weather has been so consistently, uncharacteristically tropical that turning on the oven isn't an option. I've always wanted to live in Hawaii. This year, I got Hawaii's weather without having to leave Seattle. Added bonus: No centipedes in Seattle.

So while I lurch through my days having to change clothes a dozen times to keep from roasting or freezing, regale me. What fall goodies are you baking or making?

Note: I'll be sending out my first attempt at a newsletter in the next few days - once I figure out how to get along with the software. If you're interested in pointing and laughing at my nascent newsletter attempts, sign up here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Best Grass on the Dock

Two or three hundred feet up the dock from us, there's a dinghy. It's a sad, half-deflated rigid bottom inflatable tucked between the bow of its center cockpit sailboat and the dock. Until last fall, it hung on the dinghy davits off the back of the abandoned sailboat. A pair of seagulls had been using the dinghy as their nesting platform (and causing all kinds of havoc when anyone tried to pass by in the waterway behind the boat). The port finally called the owner and asked him to move the dinghy.

He did. He put it right there against the dock. Without cleaning out the accumulation of nesting material and guano.

As you can see, that dinghy grew a bumper crop of grass. How Hatshepsut found this so far from our boat is a mystery to me. And perhaps it's better that way. I have enough gray hair. Maybe she simply smelled the ripening odor of aging seagull poop and followed her nose. Whatever it was, we were outside on the docks one day and she led me down to this dinghy. She gingerly climbed inside and began eating the grass. This has gone on one each day it hasn't been raining. Mind you, I buy this cat grass from the local health food store. Wheat grass. Lush. Green. Fresh. She appreciates it. We go through a ritual when I come home with groceries. She sticks her nose in each of the bags looking while I sing "Hatshepsut, look! I brought you a treat!" I put down her container of live grass and she proceeds to mince up blades of grass and scatter them all over the white cockpit.

The grass in the dinghy is different. Sure, she pulls it out, too, but that grass she actually eats. Consumes it as if it nourishes her in some fashion that the wheat grass simply can't.
I know it's blurry, but your eyes do not deceive you. Those are bones. What this means is that my youngest feline prefers to eat only grass nourished by the corpses of dead baby seagulls.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Easter Drag

Saturday morning dawned bright, mostly clear, and without a breath of wind. We prepped the boat and cast off for a trip across Puget Sound to go visit my family for the weekend. I'd tell you it was for Easter, but really, it was for food. Mom was putting a ham in the oven and making baked beans. If my husband could have teleported to her house, he would have. The boat was the next best (though it must be noted - not the next fastest way) across the water.

We hadn't taken the boat out since Christmas. The cats had kinda forgotten that their house moves, but they were 100% clear that they DO NOT LIKE that their house moves. Despite a seasick cat making a mess in the master cabin, it was a perfect trip across. We made excellent time. A line of clouds lingered on the horizon, but the sun shone and it was warm. We consulted the tide tables because hubby really wanted to anchor out rather than pay for space at the city dock. I mentioned that the weather was supposed to turn. He squinted at the sky, shrugged and went back to calculating tides.

It's the time of year for big tidal run. On Saturday, when we got to Poulsbo, the tide was going out a long way - 11 feet in just a few hours. We were going from a high of 10 feet to a low of -1.5. He picked a spot and signaled. I dropped the anchor and 70 feet of chain to the mud bottom.

Maritime trials over. We shut down the engine and kicked back. The still air stirred, then began blowing in earnest. The clouds shuttered the blue sky and rain slanted in sideways.

KACHUNK

The boat trembled. I got up and glanced around.

"I think we just straightened out all 70 feet of our chain in one go," I said, running to check the depth sounder. "And we are super close to shore. Super, super close. 8 feet of water underneath us."

We didn't drag - which is when your anchor comes up out of whatever was holding it on the bottom. In the case of Liberty Bay, that 'whatever' is stinky, black mud. Our anchor held just fine. The problem was the rode.

Rode is what connects your anchor and your boat. It can be a line (rope) or chain. Most people use a combination. We have 70 feet of chain on the anchor end, and another two hundred feet of line. The theory behind using chain is that it's heavy enough to rest flat on the bottom, which keeps your anchor at the proper angle to the bottom to help it dig in so you don't drag. When we anchor in Liberty Bay, we drop the anchor and then let out all of our chain. We count out extra feet of line based on weather conditions and what kind of scope (the ratio of your boat length to length of rode you pay out) we think we'll need to stay safely anchored in one place.

Thing is, if you're a boater, you already know we missed a step in the anchoring process. We didn't set our anchor. That's when you drop the anchor overboard and then gently back up until the anchor catches and stops the boat. THEN you put out the rest of your rode. Not that it would have made any difference for us. We'd forgotten the cardinal rule of boating: The wind always wins.

Because the tide was going out, we imagined that we'd swing with the current. Instead, the wind blew us against the current, into shallower water. And when the wind REALLY kicked, all 70 feet of our chain went from piled up in the mud, to straightened out in the goo and we went from anchoring in 20 feet of water to 8 feet.

Hubby started the engine. I got on my rain gear and went on deck to haul up the anchor. We could have repositioned and set the anchor in deeper water, but it would have meant rowing the dinghy into the city dock in the wind and rain. Instead, we motored to an empty guest slip and tied up for the weekend. It made the cats happy when the sun came out on Sunday morning and they could get out of the boat to roll on the concrete dock.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Musical Spring

For your listening pleasure. Frog song in Western Washington. This was recorded at my parents' house which is in the midst of wetlands. I went out to the front porch to record. There's nothing to see in the video - the lights that appear briefly are a neighboring house.
 
I love the frogs and listening to them sing is one of the things I miss living on the boat. No frogs on salt water, alas. So every spring, I go spend a night at my folks' place. Just to get my hit.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Apologies May Be the Death of Me

I had to apologize to my mom today. I called her up to deliver my apology, so naturally, she answered on speaker phone. Fortunately, it was because she was on her hands-free set in the car. (Begin PSA: Cellphone use without a hands-free device of some kind will get you stopped and ticketed in Washington state! End PSA.)

Mom and my sister had some concerns about my health. I'd made light of them, but asked my doctor about their specific issue just the same. Why leave any base not covered, right? The doctor assured me there was nothing at all to worry about. Yay. But still. I'd realized that I maybe hadn't handled my family's concerns gracefully. Thus the phone call. I made my apology.

Mom said, "Eh, I didn't feel blown off. If I had I would have told you. We're family. We shouldn't have to worry about how you or I interprets what the other says."

I can see the point. But I think it's precisely because we are family - and I value both of my parents and the relationship I have with each of them - that it's vital to make apologies when I've been callous about their feelings. The death of any given relationship rarely comes from one major injury. It comes from a thousand tiny cuts that aren't bandaged with a simple 'I'm sorry'.

It's so easy to take family for grated and assume that apologies aren't necessary. It seems really twisted to me that it's often easier to apologize to a stranger than to a loved one. Or is that just me?

Maybe it's harder to apologize to someone I care about because I already feel small for having hurt whoever it was. If the person is REALLY mad or upset, I'll feel even worse. There are huge (possibly selfish) emotional stakes in procuring forgiveness. And what if you don't? What then? I totally get not approaching someone I care about to apologize. It feels so like I'm yanking the scab off of a wound that may make me bleed out. Yet if I don't, the fact that I've potentially been a jerk to someone I love spins round and round in my head, feeding the 'you're worthless' voices that occasionally pop up.

This is where being socially awkward is like the internet. On the internet, you don't feed the trolls. When you're socially awkward, you don't feed The Voices. They have enough fuel already, thanks.