Wednesday, August 22, 2012


so today the piano went. man! two years with kids will take it's toll on a sherman & clay upright. still i'm finding massive hair balls eeking their way into daylight though the dog went on hiatus to grampas' two weeks ago. still piling things into pseudo categories which seem to be ever subordinating. give/street, give/good, give/friends, give/family, and don't even get me started on the sell pile. believe it or not there's a multitude of trash categories as well. who knew? you single guys out there would treat it all as the give/sell/trade/trash/burn pile. believe me, sometimes a sprinkling of fluid and a match seem a very attractive alternative. still we soldier on. to keep or to store? i'm reminded of george carlins' line; "think about it, an entire industry built on keeping an eye on your stuff". it's the greatest scam ever concocted. i'll rent you my garage and when you forget about your crap i'll sell it. money money money. 

-returning to ch 16

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recent Rob

so this morning i'm wandering around our sellable-stuff strewn house wondering what else i can organize into some pile. punctuated by moments of fear, that we're making a huge mistake, my time is spent packing, entertaining kids, and attempting to understand what life will be like. then i catch myself hyper ventilating and realize that we're not re-inventing the wheel or moving into a cave on an Amish farm, we're just downsizing. i think it's the fact that this has been a conscious choice and that if it were being thrust upon us by an external source, such as a large corporation going through a round of lay-offs, we'd have the luxury of being able to blame something. i sound like a spoiled jack-ass don't i? thousands of people have been forced to go through this without the payoff of feeling superior for creating less waste, using less energy, or consuming less product. who are we to be afraid? still......., we are. 

i very much look forward to our family becoming a more cohesive and loving bunch who are learning that what really turns us on is each other and the world around us. learning to make friends in foreign ports, providing a helping hand, and being a resource for positivity and transformation are all goals shannon and i share and i THINK we both realize that, as newly self-minted "global individuals", this will all take lots of practice and rigor to achieve. it's overly easy to sit at this keyboard and arm-chair prospect about our future. but each day we take a step towards our designed life and that is what's counting right now. 

-returning to ch.16

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why? Part 1: Alzheimer's Disease


There are a lot of reasons for one to set off on a  voyage like this - to escape the grind, to relax and check out, to have a great adventure, to see the world. We want to do all of those things, but there are a few other reasons that are even more important to us than those. 

My reasons began in the year 2000, when my mom began showing signs of early onset Alzheimer's. I remember noticing her first signs when she was under 50, so my parents were still quite young. My Dad had spent nearly 30 years working so hard to save up a nice secure nest egg so that one day they could retire early at age 55, take off on the Harley, and have a grand adventure. 

That never happened. Instead they spent nearly $1,000,000 over the next 10 years for my mom's care, without the benefit of Social Security, Long Term Care Insurance, Medi-Cal or any other support network other than my parent's life savings.

A lot of sailors plan to cruise when they retire. I feel like waiting until that 'someday' comes is a true gamble. All we have is now. There are no guarantees, even if you don't have early onset Alzheimer's in your family, or cancer, or .... We will never have enough money, enough time, enough stability in our careers, and we will never feel 100% ready to leave behind our beloved friends and family, for any period of time.

When my Mom was diagnosed, my whole idea of how life was going to go was shattered. At the time, I felt helpless, sad, scared, angry and alone. No one I knew had an ill parent, and finding my way through all of that pain was a tough journey. 

My mom had always said that everything happens for a reason, and I searched for that reason. and I found a few. 

1. As a family, we fight!
Alongside my father, my sister, Rob and my community, we dedicated ourselves to fighting for future generations, and raising funds to combat this disease, and support caregivers. 

We are stronger for it, and the difference we make is concrete. We have power, in the face of tragedy, and we put our energy into this fight, rather than into our own sorrow.

Our family has raised nearly $200,000 in the past 10 years, through the Memory Walk and our annual Chili Cook Off (today), through the Memories in the Making event, and the Reason to Hope event. My father and sister have gone to Washington to advocate for increased funding for research, and these efforts have made a difference.

My sister works for the association, and runs a support group for other families dealing with early onset Alzheimer's disease. 

If you would like to support our cause, and Help Me Raise Funds to End Alzheimer's Disease, any and all support is greatly appreciated.

2. I learned young that Your life is NOW!

In the famous words of the worlds greatest rock star, Jon Bon Jovi, 

It's My Life
It's Now or Never
I Ain't Gonna Live Forever
I Just Want To Live While I'm alive
It's My Life

This deep understanding of the importance of being true to myself, of
living a life I love, and of making a difference on this planet while I am here, has guiding so many choices in my life.

I married who I loved, despite the fact that many people had pretty grave concerns about the artist I chose.

I quit plenty of good paying jobs, without a clear next steps, when the atmosphere became toxic or unsatisfying.

We adopted children some considered at risk, and focused on their talents, not their past or the unknown consequences of that past that may show up some day in the future.

And we are going to go cruise Latin America and the Caribbean in our 40's, with our kids, volunteering our time, talents and our hearts to making a difference, and being present to the miracle of community, life, our planet, nature, and humanity.

These are the profound motivators for my decision to pursue this dream with all of my attention, NOW.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fears and Hopes

These past few days have been very tumultuous. The kids are on edge, Rob is overwhelmed, and I am out of the house all day, and not much help. The last big moves for both of the kids were when they joined our family  - January 12, 2008 for R, and January 12, 2010 for A. And those were not exactly stress free moves. Lots of loss, and that time too, they both left their prior homes with only what they could carry. A especially is just a ball of tears - crying at the drop of a hat, and sad sad sad.

Me and A on charter in SW Florida, July 2012
Amazing to believe that less than 5 years ago at age 3, R had 1 pair of PJ's, one jacket, 1 hat, 3 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 5 pair socks, 3 books, and one stuffed animal, some spiderman christmas lights, and a few power ranger action figures, and 3 movies. And now, we are asking him to have just about that much on the boat. And A did not even have that. She came with one sweatsuit, the clothes on her back, and some little boy PJ's, and a ratty old coat. And now, the toy bins, closets, drawers and garage are filled to overflowing with books, toys, clothes, equipment, mementos, treasures...stuff.
R on one of our first visits

I have been asking the family about hopes and fears, and thought I would document a few.

R is most excited about living on the boat and playing wii, playing with the guys, and being close to Mommy. And, he says "it is going to be a snap for me to clean up my room." While snapping.

A is most excited about spending time with Mommy, and sleeping in the v-berth. It's like a cave.

Daddy Rob is most excited about it being easy to clean. He is looking forward to the sounds of nature, watching the sunset every night, and getting projects done on the boat.

I am most excited about the process of eliminating stuff from our lives, living and cooking and eating on such a small scale, and living more of an outdoor life, with bikes, kayaks, and walking.

R is most nervous about being too close to A. I share this fear.

A is most nervous about giving away some of her toys. I think this will dissolve quickly she really plays with her brother, and books, and dolls, and not much else.

Rob is most nervous about the kids tormenting him MORE because they are bored. I am worried about that too.

I am nervous about us deciding that this is not the boat we want..and that what we do want is going to be too expensive. I am most nervous about Rob hating the grind of dishes, laundry and repairs, and feeling like there is more to do, not less, as we move aboard, and being GRUMPY because of it. Andof my clothes and towel smelling moldy (will someone tell me if I don't notice, please?) I am nervous that A will stay sad.

And, I am excited about the new dialogs that will open up, and the resolution on the other side of all of the conflicts. How we will grow closer and sort it out through our love for one another, and our commitment to this vision for our family.

Wish us luck, and thanks for reading.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Our Journey Begins, with so many questions!

Shannon and Rob, the kids, R & A, and Charlie the Cat, have begun our grand family adventure.

We are moving from our 1400 sq ft house in Oakland onto our 1974 40 ft Challenger, a sloop rigged sailing vessel, Amazing Grace, in preparation for our grand

S/V Amazing Grace
Rob and I will both be posting to this blog, as this is without a doubt the strangest thing we have ever done, and our minds are reeling!

Many years ago, before becoming parents, Rob and I took time to sit down with a bottle of wine, near a river, and we designed our life. We created a mission statement for our life, deciding then that we wanted our life to be about Living a Life of Adventure, and Making a Difference.

This declaration has pointed the way through many decisions- our choice to adopt children through foster care when we were ready to become parents, many job changes for me, new hobbies, volunteer work, and some incredible adventures along the way. In almost all cases, the choices have been exciting, and somewhat scary. But this will prove to be our greatest adventure yet. And, it is wrought with the most questions!

What will it take to have 2 probably spoiled children and 2 definitely spoiled parents shed all of our cherished belongings save 1 relatively small box of personal affects each, and move aboard our boat while continuing to work and go to school here in Alameda, CA? What will we learn about ourselves, our society, our kids? and what truly makes us happy? How much whining will we have to endure before the kids settle in to the new routine? How much will they endure from us?

What will it take to save our funds, and live a simple life, in preparation for a 3 year voyage to Latin America and the Caribbean as a volunteering family? How will it be for my children to go without, when they are used to having so much? and for me and Rob too? My Son R, age 7, said " I don't want to move onto the boat - I won't be like everyone else!" This is so true, and he is so astute. Is it fair to ask him to be so different? How will he adjust? How will this experience shape and define him and his sister A, age 4? How will I maintain my work life,   in a professional environment, with my clothes in the trunk of my car? When our family feuds, will every single person at the Marina hear us and be horrified? and, last but not least, where will the cat poop?

And while this is still a few years off, once we throw off the dock lines, how will we be tested? What dangers and adventures lie ahead? While technology enables us to stay in touch, how will our community change and evolve while we are living aboard in foreign lands? Will they be 'here' when we get back?

How will we take care of our children's educational needs? healthcare needs?Our financial needs? Our needs for our friends and family? How will we find reputable NGO's in Mexico, Costa Rica, Galapagos, Haiti or elsewhere that are looking for a family of 4 to come volunteer? How will we ever leave these communities where we hope to become like family, and truly connected to those we serve.

How will we ever reintroduce ourselves into the normal day to day of life in the Bay Area upon our return?

I know we will have many adventures, and many funny stories. I know we will be tested, and scared, and on many occasions we will want to give up and come home, call it a day! Come back to a life of 9-5, big backyards, plentiful organic produce and fresh meats, freeways, A/C, dishwashers and washing machines, 401K's and retirement funds, and all that comes with the comforts of western, middle class life.

This blog will the place where we document our inquiry, and begin to answer these questions, and questions that we have not yet asked. It will serve as our family record, the place where we share this journey, and perhaps a place that inspires others to live their life's mission, to be their full selves, and to be different.

We invite you to join us in the journey, and share our observations, and insights, as well as resources you think might help us as we raise the main, and start this latest adventure.

With excitement and a considerable amount of anxiety,