Category Archives: Big Ideas

Truly Heartfelt Ideas for Valentine’s Day

My grandmother, Florence, loved Valentine’s Day. I’ve learned to love it, too. Always have.

I don’t really care that it’s a manufactured holiday and I don’t really think of it as romantic. It’s just sweet. Nana saw it as an opportunity to just pour love out on anyone who walks by, and especially as an opportunity to pour love out to people who really need it, and that’s my view too. Here’s the package my parents sent me this year, as of course, we’re away in Georgia and they’re in New Hampshire. They got a lot of these treats at the farmer’s market!

Care package from home!!

Here are a few ideas, sea-themed and big hearted, for valentines that happen to support small businesses and charities.

Help build a pelican sanctuary. Pelicans could be your valentine!


Sidewalk Pelican!

Real hearts instead of paper hearts: Petey the dog needs heart surgery, and you can pitch in.

Make the ocean your valentine at Save Our Shores.

Detail from Photograph of a Mural in Downtown Brunswick, GA


You can send milk, picture books, and soccer balls as Valentine’s gifts. Your valentine gets a card all about the gift and really, truly- Unicef sends the supplies to the places in the world where they’re needed most.

Give your valentine a gift subscription to Off Center Harbor. They’re a small group of hard-working boat builders, experts, and old salts with a penchant for storytelling via video. The content is top-notch.

If you were really thinking jewelry and going all gooey romantic, why not buy something from a talented craftsperson with a small business? Lofted Designs donates a portion of their profits every year to very deserving charities.

Whatever it is you decide to rain on your friends and loved ones and bartender and librarian and postal worker for the sheer purpose of making them feel special, I’ll give this one piece of advice. Make it with your hands or at least buy it with your heart.

It's so awesome to catch up with @pluckythirteenxxx xoxo! #mailbag #mademyday

Valentine I received in the mail the other day from a dear friend in NH!



Consider this question: “What do I desire?”

I was supremely moved by a very simple post on Liz Clark‘s Facebook page the other day- this video.

I feel as though I’ve finally come closer than ever to finding what I’d really like to do but only after choosing a bunch of very traditional paths like full time jobs, rent payments, car payments, and college loans. I’m not so sure I could have gotten it right the first time, as like most people, I was asked so very early in life what I’d like to be doing. When I was asked, I never thought about it in terms like this very sage person in the video does. The question of what I wanted to do was quite clearly delivered in a way that indicated that I should be picking a job, not necessarily envisioning a suitable lifestyle.

We get one go-around, folks. You didn’t pick to be here, but here you are. Eat the everlivin’ bejeezus out of life.

The paths we choose in life are often dictated by patterns, and to choose a life on a boat ups the entropy in life to a degree that ripples out. It actually becomes unsettling to others that your life has an odd schedule, that you don’t have the same address from week to week, or that you don’t report to a job on time. They start wondering, though it’s not really any of their business and not a bad thing, whether you’ve got a trust fund somewhere. If you did, maybe that’d make them feel better.

And so to live on a boat, at times, demands a bit of courage on the part of the voyager because you’ll be challenged, emotionally, by your peers and by your own upbringing. The world is set up to reward sitting still and behaving, but the rewards you get are rewards you’ve been taught to look forward to.

There are other rewards to be had, and you don’t necessarily need to sail to get to them, but you do need to divert to the path less taken to enjoy them: freedom from debt, freedom from schedule, the joy that comes from seeing the world, and an understanding of the world that will eventually come from meeting people of so many walks of life because you left the well-worn path.

I’d love to hear about your dreams. What sparked them? How will you get closer? Can I help?

Voting Day After Sandy

Today I’ve been working in the mariner’s lounge at Liberty Landing Marina, which has no power. We never stay at marinas, and so even when I learned that there wasn’t any hot water yet, I didn’t really care. I’m in a room with heat, and that took a lot of effort on the part of the staff here.

When we arrived I threw the bowline to a guy on the dock who said, “Welcome to the only place in Jersey City that’s not wrecked.”

There’s a woman here working in the lounge. She’s been diligently cleaning the bathrooms, the windows, the floors… all by lights that are on thanks to a generator. I was worried that she wouldn’t get a chance to vote with work demands and such.

“So how’s your day?” I asked, “Think you’ll get a chance to get out and vote?”

“Ohhh,” Bernie said, “I already went ta vote.” She did a little hip dip and winked and said, “I do my ting early in da mornin’.”

I said I was glad she was able to go, and she said, “It’s so important, this is our LIVES for the next four years. I go vote and now I come here to earn my daily bread.”

She said she’s from the islands, which I had already guessed as her accent is MUSIC to me, and that she’s been here for 23 years. I wish I had my voice recorder running to catch exactly what she said, but we were talking about the storm for a minute, because I’m so worried about the fact that it was all rushing to get Manhattan their power, and that the people of Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Hoboken, and most of NJ for that matter have had to wait for theirs. The people there have so much to worry about, I hope they get to vote.

My new friend here, scrubbing away and working hard… I wish she had a megaphone and I wish I could get her on the back of a truck going through all those neighborhoods to say to them what she said to me. They’ll all get power in the next few days, but you can only vote today, and it’s your life we’re talking about here.

“Maybe we needed this,” she said, when I said that people have probably met their neighbors for the first time ever because of the shakeup with the hurricane. “I’m from the islands, we have lots of hurricanes there. I’ve been through this before.”

I told her my story about going to Parham and about buying ice from a local teacher lady. I told her I loved her hometown of St John’s, Antigua for its markets and that I really liked taking the crowded buses. She said she’s made money selling ice and popsicles to the sailor types, just like the lady in Parham did. I said I had my best times in the islands when I strayed from where all the white people were. “Good,” she said. “That’s how you know you come to love the islands. The REAL islands.”

I’m so glad she voted.


We’ll See

The last shot of Mimi Rose as we rowed away.

I was a worrisome child. I’ve not shared that with many people, and I seem like a pretty happy go lucky person to most, and I’m glad I appear that way, but it’s a practice of choosing action over worry.

The truth of the matter is that I had constant nightmares about very serious things that you’d not imagine an 8 or 9 year old kid thinking about. Nuclear war. Landfills filled, trash in the streets, and everyone drinking dirty water. People with skin covered in boils because the ozone is gone. Kids with guns, going to war. Kids fending for themselves, all the parents and adults just… gone.

And I worried when I was awake, too. I felt terrible when I made a misstep, thinking for months and months about some things that I had done. The concept of penance sat a little deeper than perhaps even the Catholic Church itself would prefer. I threw a rock once at the beach, just chasing and diving for it, and an errant throw cut a neighbor kid’s eyelid open. He needed stitches. I still think about it. I’m 33.

But after the pretty tumultuous decade that was my 20s (job loss! debt! deaths in the family! no health insurance! breakups! debt!), I’ve learned that the worrying that made me physically ill did no work to make my life better, but was indeed hard work in itself. Worry, hoping, and to be frank, praying… those things aren’t real work and they can distract you from what’s important which is living HERE, NOW.

Getting ready for Hurricane Sandy took days and we were thinking and watching long before we knew she was even going to make landfall on the east coast of the US. It took a lot of reading and looking at charts and reading constantly-changing forecasts. Colin made chafe protection and extra lines to the mooring we’re on, and we ran an extra anchor based on the forecast and should the mooring break. Observation and decision-making, then a two hour serious discussion about the most important thing: should we stay with Mimi Rose, our home, and protect her should we get the chance, or should we go ashore and seek shelter. We’re ashore as we would not want to put anyone else in harm’s way to come get us if something did go wrong.

When I say “We’ll see,” it’s not with Devil-may-care attitude. It’s with intent. I can’t see now what will happen, but I will see. And when I do there will be more work to do.

We pulled the dinghy.

So many boats pulled, they're putting the little ones in the tennis court.

Even yesterday, as we rowed away from Mimi Rose and pulled our dinghy up on land (which a shipyard took and stored in a tennis court, and they even gave us a trailer to put it on, not a word about charging us money), there we were, just two bags and a dog in tow. We didn’t know where we were going, and I wasn’t worried at all. There would be shelters and friends of friends. There would be a place for us. I worked hard to find that… Colin and I both did. Two people on foot with a dog? A ride to a safe place and a lady who loves dogs… CHECK.

So I don’t worry. We’ll see. I hope for things but I keep that quiet. I’m a hopeful creature all in all but I think it’s because of my extensive network of good people, dear friends and new friends and huge family, that I’ve always survived very well. I also have some street smarts and an awareness that in the end, I am the pilot of my life. I alone can use my abilities and my knowledge to navigate well and come out ahead.

I’ve recently been in contact with Colin’s mom’s friend Mike who said these very sage things about our situation in Port Washington, NY. She had mentioned her worry, and he had this to say:

        The last briefing I received was Friday about noon, Central
Daylight Time from several aerodynamicists and thermodynamicists at St.
Cloud U.  Yes, I know them and I trust their perspective.

        I’ve been following Sandy, too, though without the personal
interest you have.  Currently the Navy sites and the National Weather
Service Hurricane Center have consistent forecasts.  The storm is
likely to come ashore at about the Baltimore region and the rain
chances there are for the heaviest precipitation.  The Port Washington,
NY location is not in the heaviest rain area.

        Hurricanes have their storm surge areas on the coast on the
north side of the storm.  This places the Port Washington, NY area in
the prime region for storm surge.  On the other hand, Sandy is NOT a
terribly strong storm, that is, the maximum sustained wind is just
barely above hurricane force (about 75 mph).  This minimizes the storm

        The other good news is that the Port Washington, NY location is
VERY well protected since is lies on the lee side of the Long Island
landmass in a very protected small bay.  It’s a traditionally safe
harbor and it’s fairly far away from New York Harbor.  So, although I
prefer to be in Pittsburgh or Chicago, they are in a safe harbor.  I
think you can relax a great deal.  They’re not out in the Atlantic

        Even if the storm track changes (and they do that), this is not
the “Perfect Storm” that reminds everyone of the movies.  It’s not the
“Perfect Storm” that television news likes to prattle on about, and TV
“news” loves to put broadcasters on the beach, for some dramatic
reasons only an advertiser could love.

        So, they sound as if they are in a very good location indeed.

 By the way, Facebook is a lousy way to gain news of
anything beyond the latest pictures of “the baby” or “the birthday
party.”  For one thing, people write something then forget about it or
the anxiety anyone else might have.

        And secondly, Facebook is not very emotive: it’s a “cold
medium” as Marshall McLuhan wrote.  That is, Facebook’s emphasis on
short, pithy phrases, images, the banal in life robs it of emotional
communication ability.

        It’s a little like investigating medical topics on “The
Internet”: woefully inadequate and full of promotional dreck.

I told him I appreciated his thoughts, and then he said, very eloquently:

And it’s the emotional capacity of humans that gives life meaning.
That same emotional content also makes all the science (even math)
possible.  We’ve all had instructors or professors who lectured or
presented without passion: deadly.  Curiosity is spurred by that
feeling level wedded to thinking.

Thanks for writing something.  I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon,
since I used computers and networks constantly.  There are limits,

All the best to all the people on boats and on land. Be smart. Safety will follow.