Drumroll please…WE ARE GOING TO VIRGINIA! My head is spinning as we try to figure out all the logistics over the next two weeks. Conor is transitioning out of active duty, we have to prepare the boat for a 12-day journey, and, hardest of all, we have to say goodbye to everyone we love in North Carolina.
We will take the ICW up to Virginia Beach. Without kids, it would take about 6 days. With kids, we plan on doubling our timeframe. To complicate things further, the marina we initially picked out is undergoing extensive construction (read: no dock house or laundry available) so we are scrambling trying to find another marina up there. If you have any insights or can offer any help, please reach out to me on the contact page. I’m so excited for this scenic journey with our little family, but a bit terrified at the same time. I plan on posting lots of pics and updates during the move, so stay tuned!
Right now, we are trying to check a million things off our to-do list, so I’m going to keep this short. Also, it is election day, so I hope some of you are reading this while in line at the polls!
I have emerged from my endless cycle of feeding/changing/rocking/sleeping and donned my ‘mom jeans’ in order to bring you this important update—we have no idea which direction we are going.
Maybe we should just flip a coin.
It is now October. How can that be? Conor has less than 60 days left as an active duty Marine. Now that the end is in sight, everyone has been asking, “What are you going to do next?”
Pre-Covid, this was a no-brainer. We planned to go down to the USVI. The timing was great—terminal pay to fund the trip down there, post-hurricane season weather, and a winter spent on gorgeous beaches.
With the pandemic still raging and a newborn baby, we have decided to push our cruising plans back. There have been so many horror stories of stranded cruisers and closed ports down in the Caribbean, and with two small kids we cannot risk being one of them.
We have come up with two choices:
Go down to Florida with our bestest boat family, Zach and Corri. Reasons:
Boat tribe sticks together
Only 90 miles to the Bahamas
We can sail in the winter
We have already reserved a slip at a great marina in Fort Pierce
Go to Virginia so Conor can take a civilian JTAC position. Reasons:
With a full-time job, we can finish paying off the boat and fill the cruising kitty
Conor gets to do cool JTAC things while we wait
We can sail on the Chesapeake in the spring
There are a lot of liveaboard marina options
My heart is being pulled in so many different directions it hurts to think about. I can’t believe we are leaving the Gottschalk family and our North Carolina friends so soon. At the same time, I feel SO READY for this next adventure. If only we could decide what it will be! Maybe I should start a poll and let you all vote.
We have achieved a milestone on STORY TIME. After two and a half years of planning departures and returns around nap time or bedtime, we returned to our slip while W was awake and in the cockpit.
I was a nervous wreck as we approached the dock. We spent the night on another incredible anchor out, and our return time didn’t match up with nap time. While Conor and I have docked the boat with our daughter awake before, it has always been with an extra crew member or two to wrangle her and keep her occupied while we worked. This time, it was just the two of us.
With all that can go wrong during docking, it was always the easiest choice to have her asleep and out of the way in the past. I didn’t want to think about her grabbing the wheel while Conor was backing up, or tripping on deck while I tried to catch a line, or especially going overboard so close to the dock. All of this flashed through my mind and Conor had to remind me that she wasn’t a baby anymore.
This was the natural next step. W knows how to behave on a boat. She knows what she is and is not allowed to do, ingrained from her earliest memories. She knows where her safe spot is to sit and, most importantly, STAY when Mommy and Daddy are busy.
We talked it up the whole trip back to the marina—expectations, what was going to happen, and what we needed her to do. I am also not above bribery and set her up with a lollipop to entertain her while she watched the action.
As parents we cannot let our personal fears interfere with our children’s opportunities to rise to occasions. They often prove to us that they are ready before we think they are, and when given the chance, can blow us away. We chose to live aboard to provide growth and development opportunities that are unmatched in a traditional home. When faced with such a choice this time, I had to take a deep breath and trust her.
And guess what? W did AMAZING. She didn’t move, or demand attention, or grab anything. She sat quietly and watched, a feat I assumed to be nearly impossible for a child under three. I think that within the next two years, she will graduate to throwing and catching lines! She is well on her way to becoming a productive crew member in her own right. This comes just in time to start all over again with baby brother in a few months! At least he will have W to show him the ropes.
We spent the weekend away from the docks and anchored out overnight with Minoh. 12 mph winds, clear skies, and 75 degrees—it felt like a dream! We anchored across from a private beach and made good use of our dinghy.
In the past, Conor has usually been so busy with work in the spring that we don’t start getting into our sailing groove until Memorial Day weekend. Thanks to the quarantine and his recent work-from-home schedule, we were able to get Story Time into shape much faster this year and get out onto the water by April. It has been an absolute joy to take advantage of the warmer weather before the humidity hits. Good thing too because our sailing window is also going to end much earlier this summer. We are adding another crew member! Baby #2 is arriving in August.
Here’s what you guys have missed—W and I were up in Seattle for the month of March. I know right now you’re thinking, WTF why would they go to the center of a pandemic? But keep in mind, when we left during the first week of March, there were only 5 known Covid cases in Washington state. Nothing had been shut down and we had no idea how bad things were going to get. Conor was slated as an augment instructor in Yuma until the end of April. It seemed like the perfect time to visit family, who we hadn’t seen since last spring.
Then shit hit the fan.
Suffice to say, it was not the vacation we had planned. We quarantined in my parents’ house and at my in-law’s farm for the duration of the visit. Lots of great time with grandparents, but each day that ticked by left me wondering if we were going to be stuck in the northwest indefinitely. When Conor’s assignment ended early, it felt like a “now or never” situation to try to get back home. I also needed to be back here in April for a very important medical appointment. After rescheduling flights five times, W and I flew back together to meet up with Conor in NC. It was a hard decision to make, but military orders changing last-minute qualified as “necessary travel”. I’ve never seen the airports so eerily empty.
We are currently in the middle of a 14-day self-imposed quarantine on our boat. We all feel great (no fevers or cough!) so fingers crossed it stays that way. It is just a precaution to make sure we don’t accidentally spread the virus if we are asymptomatic carriers. We report to the duty corpsman every morning with a temperature/symptom check and even have our own separate bathroom at the marina.
We aren’t going stir-crazy yet and are using this time to get Story Time ready for the sailing season! Right now, we are replacing the lifeline netting and doing brightwork. It felt good to strip that nasty old net off, but now the boat looks so naked!
While there is not much to report on the sailing front since my last post, I do have some exciting stories about my writing life to share! I was honored to be a part of the Officer Spouse’s Club “A Galentine’s Date with the Authors” event this past week.
Six military wives made up the author panel—two children’s book writers, a contemporary romance writer, a regency romance writer, an illustrator, and ME! Your favorite fantasy romance author! Thanks to the TOUR OF HOMES in December, I was able to get the word out about my books and connect with other writers, who invited me to be a part of the Galentine’s date. This was my first author panel and I had no idea what to expect, so I brought bookmarks, business cards, nerdy swag pins (those were a hit!) and copies of Cloaked and Sonder Village to sell.
Over 30 people attended the event. Ladies came up to chat with the writers one-on-one, ask questions about their books, and collect some prizes. I’m happy to say that there were a few aspiring authors in the crowd, and I hope to see them up there next year.
After the meet and greet, the Q&A kicked off. A lot of people were interested in the business aspect of publishing, which surprised me. We discussed the pros and cons of self-pubbing vs. traditional publishing (I was the sole trad pub voice here), series vs. standalone novels, and how to appeal to our readers.
By the end of the night, I had sold all my copies of Cloaked but only a few of Sonder Village. I don’t know if it was just my audience that night or not, but this tells me that I need to get better at pitching Sonder Village! Hopefully the readers who bought Cloaked and enjoyed it will give my other book a chance, too.
It was just so inspiring to see other women who have carved an identity out from the chaotic and sometimes all-consuming military life. I was proud to sit alongside these creative, passionate, and hard-working women and talk about my favorite subject (besides sailing) all night.
In the spirit of keeping this promo momentum going, I was also interviewed this week on The Magic Book Corner book review site. You can read the full interview HERE!
Yep, you read the title right. 130 people. I have no idea what possessed me to say yes to this crazy plan, but I’m so glad we did! Story Time volunteered to be one of the stops for the Camp Lejeune Officer Spouses Club “Tour of Homes” this holiday season.
First, I had to learn what a “Tour of Homes” actually was—I guess it isn’t a big thing where we’re from on the west coast? It happens around Christmastime and people buy tickets to walk through houses and look at all the festive decorations. In this case, everyone who offered to be a stop on the OSC tour also planned a particular theme, signature appetizer, and alcoholic drink. The 2019 tour this past weekend included a total of six homes scattered around base plus one surprise—US!
The other homes looked incredible. I was blown away at the attention to detail and unique looks with the Nightmare Before Christmas house, a mid-century modern vibe (think Mad Men!), and a Harry Potter wonderland. Amid such creativity, I was so nervous that people would be let down with our “Caribbean Christmas” theme and wayyyyyy fewer decorations than our counterparts. I was also watching the weather obsessively and praying that high winds and rain would stay away because we planned an indoor/outdoor event.
Here is the little blurb I wrote up for the brochure to introduce our lifestyle:
Permission to come aboard Story Time, our 38-foot Catalina sailboat! She has been home to our family of three (+dog) since early 2017. In order to become full-time liveaboards, we embraced a minimalist mindset and downsized 95% of our belongings. Everything we own now has a place and a purpose, which can make decorating for the holidays a bit challenging. Even with space limitations, our boat is still cozy and festive when all dressed up!
We decided on a Caribbean Christmas theme to represent our cruising dreams. This time next year, we will cast off and head south to island-hop for the foreseeable future. For now, we want everyone to relax during the flurry of the holiday season and remind you that “every little thing is gonna be all right”.
So, kick off your shoes, let down your hair, and drink some rum. For us, the Christmas spirit is about being surrounded by people you love. The USMC holds a special place in our hearts, and we hope yours opens to our way of life!
I hoped it set the tone for the evening to come, but I was freaking out at the thought of hosting 130 people on board over the course of 3 hours. Thankfully, they arrived in groups of about 20 and stayed for 20 min before moving on to the next house. It was enough time to send everyone down for a look belowdecks with my amazing docent and fellow liveaboard, Corri. Conor was also a great sport and cooked 40 lbs of jerk chicken to make the chilled jerk chicken and pineapple skewers while keeping everyone boozed up with a delicious rum punch.
The Gottschalk Marina family was supportive throughout the event and didn’t mind one bit that 130 strangers marched through their backyard. I had so many helpers lend us decorations, tables, tents, lights, serving trays, custom crafts, and recipes. We begged, borrowed, and stole 😉 our way through the event and in true minimalist fashion, only really spent money on food and drink. It would not have been possible without them! True boater love.
I think we were a hit. Dozens of people were intrigued by our tiny living, travel capabilities, and close-knit lifestyle. Many walked away with my business card directing them to this blog to answer further questions, so if you’re new here and learned about us from the tour, welcome! If you’re looking for downsizing tips, check out this link. If you’re looking for information on how to buy a boat and live aboard, check out this post!
Here’s a look at our tour setup:
During the season of consumerism, it was a great way to show how much you can do with so little!
It’s National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. For those of you who don’t know our history, you can read this post and this post to catch up. I feel like I need to acknowledge this day with a post again, because even though we can’t celebrate a birthday we can at least dedicate a candle to them.
To be honest, I really didn’t want to write today. I am just…tired. Tired of imagining alternate timelines. Tired of the due-dates-that-never-were swirling around in my brain, impossible to forget. I am tired of the anxiety surrounding all things pregnancy related. Tired of no answers. Tired of tests and research that went nowhere. Tired of people feeling sad for us. Tired of being sad. Tired of hoping only to be let down again.
I’ve been pregnant 5 times. 5 times of symptom spotting, peeing on every stick in sight, and finally getting those two lines, only to break my heart in all but one instance.
I am thankful every day for my little girl. Still, though, I feel like I was robbed of enjoyment with her. I lived 9 months terrified that something would go wrong. I wish I could have been one of those happy, glowing pregnant women filled with excitement and celebrating the whole time, doing the pregnancy reveal and gender party. I can’t even imagine getting a positive test and automatically assuming that it leads to a baby.
So, where does this leave us? I don’t know. Each loss has changed us in a different way. My recent loss with twins in June felt like a different blow. Not only did it affect me and Conor, but W as well. Moving forward we need to consider what is best for her, too, and how long we are willing to leave this door of possibility open for. For my health, sanity, and well being of our family, at some point we will have to close it and be thankful for what we have.
If you know someone who has suffered a loss, reach out today. Let moms and dads know you’re thinking about them. It goes a long way.
Stroller. Life jacket. Sailing harness. Elephant leash. Lillebaby backpack.
W does not leave the boat without one of these devices. People make jokes when they see my toddler on a leash but Scout running free on the docks. My response? “I trust my dog more than I trust my kid not to fall into the water.” Also, Scout can swim. Little kids are complete egoists with no semblance of self-preservation. Their curiosity knows no bounds. They also like to do the exact opposite of what you tell them.
I encourage W to test her limits daily. She climbs, falls, runs, swings, and plays harder than any kid I’ve met. She makes mistakes and learns from them. Part of this ‘run wild, my child’ mindset is fostering a way and an environment where she can do that independently—but not around water just yet. That’s why I signed W up for ISR.
ISR is a swim program that teaches survival swimming to infants and toddlers. It is an intensive course that runs Monday through Friday for 6-8 weeks straight. Lessons are only 10 minutes per day, but at the end of this program W will be able to fall face-first and fully clothed into the pool, flip herself over, and float on her back. She will learn how to save herself. Here is a link to the website for more information. Be aware, some of the stories are tear-jerkers!
Of course, ISR training is NOT a substitute for child supervision around water. It will just add extra piece of mind in case, God forbid, she ends up in the river. As scary as it is to consider this happening, I need to give my child all the tools I can to support her, especially considering our lifestyle.
We’ve got one full week under our belts. I say ‘we’ because the time and money commitment to this as parents is no joke. W is also understanding that sometimes we must be comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to learn new skills. I just know that it will all be worth it in the end, and she will be SO PROUD of herself for learning to swim.
A quick update for everyone—we are safe, we are back, docks are still standing, boats are still floating. Thank you to everyone who kept Story Time and all of Gottschalk Marina in their thoughts during Hurricane Dorian. We know how lucky we were to just get a small taste of Dorian before he headed out to the ocean. Hopefully this will be the only evacuation this season (knock on wood).
So happy to be back to normal life, and I can’t wait for this part of the year to be over.