December 22, 2014

Love & Loss

A wise 5th-grader recently informed us that our blog is out of date. We've been slow in writing posts and our header "isn't right anymore." Well...yeah. The kid makes great points.

We don't know what's going to happen with the blog in the following months (we're non-committal like that), but we can tell you that we've got at least a few posts in the pipeline that we're happy to share with whoever is still interested in reading about our land-based life. It may not be full of freshly caught fish and shark sightings (*sigh*) but it will undoubtedly continue to be great fun.

So, back to our 5th-grade critic...

Beyond the obvious lack of a dragon in our lives, he takes issue with the description of our crew. That's because we no longer have one cat. This little guy has entered the scene!

We'll pause for a moment while you ponder his adorableness.




The kitten in our home is named Grasker 2.0. His sister Gemsi has an Icelandic name, and so we thought it would be nice to pay tribute to her as queen-of-everything by also giving her new little brother an Icelandic name. 'Grasker' means 'pumpkin' and his fluffy orange coat couldn't be any sweeter.

The reason his name contains '2.0' is a truly sad story, but one that touched our lives in a way that we didn't realize was possible from a tiny, furry creature...

It all started when Angela visited her dad Joel and step-mom Daisey in a small Texas town a couple of months ago. Seconds after Angela entered through the front door, Dad catered to her love of felines by announcing that there was a litter of stray kittens behind the house. Kittens!! They scampered away before they could be seen, but were caught in the act of inhaling kibble on the next day. Well, most of the kittens were inhaling kibble. One too-tiny kitten sat nearby in dirt and leaves, but would not approach the bowl. When Dad and Daisey remarked that they'd not seen that particular kitten receive any attention from the other cats, or ever approach kibble that had been left on the back porch, Angela couldn't help but investigate the situation. She slowly walked to the kitten with food bowl in-hand. The kitten never moved until the bowl was within a few inches of his face, at which point he lunged face-first into the bowl.

The kitten was clearly malnourished, covered in fleas, and had eyes that were grotesquely grey and glossed over from some sort of infection. This little guy could not have made it much longer outside alone.

A trip to the nearby vet confirmed that the kitten was all or mostly blind, but that given medication and proper nourishment, he had a real shot at survival. So Angela did the only thing you can do in that situation. She bundled the little guy up, started him on medication for his eyes and fleas, and cuddled him during the 11-hour drive back to Amarillo, TX. By the time the kitten arrived to meet his new male human guardian, he'd already been named Grasker for his Fall arrival and pumpkin-colored fur.

Grasker 1.0
We shared just a few days with Grasker 1.0, but in that time, laid out a future of good health and endless play for him. We talked about how quickly we'd grown accustomed to his gross eyes, and about how excited we were about the possibility of him regaining sight with ongoing treatment. He would be pals with Gemsi. He would never be hungry or cold again. He would grow strong. He would be part of our family.

But all of that wasn't meant to be. On our fourth day with Grasker, he very suddenly exhibited horrible and painful physical symptoms that indicated he had one among a variety of incurable feline diseases. The vet at an animal hospital gave him a less than 10% chance of survival beyond the next couple of hours, and was certain that if he did make it through that time frame, he would have a life of extreme discomfort and long hospital stays. Worse than that, he could infect Gemsi and would therefore need to be cared for by someone else. There aren't any places in the Amarillo area that care for cats with life-threatening diseases, and so we chose to have him euthanized to avoid further suffering. It was the most difficult decision we've ever made.

The first vet that looked at Grasker had warned us that he was still young and so could have a disease lying dormant in his system. We had been keeping him — and everything he came into contact with — separate from Gemsi. So the good news is that Gemsi remains feisty and well.

Gemsi's only hardship in life is dealing with the new little brother that we adopted from an animal shelter: Grasker 2.0...

Grasker 2.0 is a very healthy and active 3.5-month old kitten. We wear kitten scratches all over our bodies with pride, and enjoy giving him the life that we dreamed of for the original Grasker.

after getting a clean bill of health
(and a blood test) from the vet!

adopting Grasker 2.0 from the Amarillo-Panhandle Humane Society
the first of many baths
the foundation of Gemsi & Grasker's new super-duper raw food diet
nap time sliding between cushions
gearing up for a scuffle with Gemsi
more nap time
practicing batting skills
We wish we could show you a photo of our kids cats cuddling, but Gemsi still growls at Grasker 2.0 on a daily basis. Sibling love is a complicated thing, so we're hopeful that time brings them together and that they become the best of friends. Or at the very least, we hope that Gemsi learns to just share a bit of her space.

9.5-lb Gemsi claims a King-sized bed
 P.S. Thanks goes out to our super smart, spelling-bee-dominating, 5th-grade cousin for the nudging!

November 12, 2014

No Rudder

Dragonstar sails away from the dock with new captain and crew
So much has happened in the past month since we last posted! On our return road trip from South Dakota to Florida we received a purchase offer on our boat, and never made it back to Florida. It was an offer that we accepted after weeks of negotiation.

We listed Dragonstar for sale a few months ago since our self-imposed two year hiatus is nearing its end and selling a boat can take a while. To be fair though, selling Dragonstar was never part of the plan when we abandoned the shore. There never really was a fully developed plan. From the onset of our sailing adventure, we reasoned that we might live on the boat forever and become island-hopping gypsies, or that we might return to land doing something...somewhere.

After much, much, much deliberation, we concluded that life on the water, while immensely fun and fulfilling, is not what we want to sustain in the years to come. (Side note, we don't know what we want to do in the years to come, but surely it will be awesome.) The decision to sell Dragonstar was not easy, and we over-thought it — just like we do every other big life decision. The decision ultimately came down to wanting to be closer to family and friends, and perhaps a bit of laziness. Or maybe it's just a lack of focus and us being interested in lots of random things that don't always pertain to boats. We came to realize that owning a boat is a lot like having a child. (Well, what other people tell us about having a child.) You focus on keeping it fueled, keeping it strong, kissing its boo boo's, and basically giving it all of your money and self with the hopes that it won't wreck catastrophically someday. (These are not our words; it's what others tell us!) While most parents that tell us these things about their children follow it up with "but it's worth it! heehee!" we didn't find ourselves thinking that about the boat. Don't get us wrong, we don't mean to come across as ungrateful and whiny. We are immensely grateful about the amazing days of sun and fun that we had aboard Dragonstar. We're grateful, too, for the lessons we learned. Cody has earned the title of an engine-lovin' grease monkey! Angela can reef a main on her own in serious wind! We crossed the Gulf Stream! We caught and prepared our own food! We sailed a freakin' boat through the Bahamas! We did it all without killing ourselves, Gemsi, or the dragon!!

We will forever look back on our time living aboard with fondness. We'll think of sunlight shimmering on the water, dolphins swimming next to the bow, and the thrill of feeling the wind pick up so that Dragonstar can stretch her wings and send us flying over cerulean blue waters.

Life on the boat was about adventure and learning new things — and fish, lots of yummy fish — and we know that we can still have an adventure and learn new things without our dragon. If you must know, we shed a few tears over saying goodbye to Dragonstar. However, we take comfort in knowing that she is already back on the water with her new owners. And of course, when we want to get out on the water and ride the wind, we hope to crew on other peoples' boats or charter in lieu. We are definitely not done sailing!

For the next few months we intend to remain in Amarillo, TX to spend the holidays with our families. It's something we haven't done since we left for university at age 18. The sale of our boat is a bittersweet change; it's a change that we embrace with positivity as we embark on the next voyage, whatever that may be. Come. What. May.

October 13, 2014

Road Trip Part 3: Carpathian Kitten Loss

While in South Dakota, we saw two monuments carved directly into the sides of mountains. Crazy Horse Memorial was the more intriguing and colossal of the two endeavors. "To protect and preserve the culture, tradition, and living heritage of Native American Indians," the Crazy Horse Memorial, once finished, will be the largest mountain carving in the world. It is a daunting undertaking that will, at current resource levels, require another 60 years of work. Work began in 1948! The first 60 years were relatively slow going because the mountain scaling, dynamite blasting, and granite rock sculpting were primarily being done by a single man. We hope we live to see this memorial completed.

look closely to see a faint outline of where
the 219' high horse head will someday be sculpted
Terry and Sandi
in front of the 87.5' tall head!
1/34 scale model of the final design
to be blasted and carved into the mountain
Apparently no one really knows what the Lakota leader Crazy Horse looked like, and so the memorial is the sculptor's interpretation and a dedication to Crazy Horse's spirit. We couldn't help but notice a resemblance to the ancient portrait of a certain, much less revered, Carpathian...

Vigo, baby!

We made sure to keep Gemsi close and not let her out of our sight just in case Murray was right...
17 miles away, Mt. Rushmore stands with watchful eyes.

Mt. Rushmore is technically incomplete.
This is the original design intent.
Cody & Grandma
a look at the amazing task of carving a
mountain within the Mt. Rushmore exhibit

Our mind is still blown by the skill and perseverance of all sculptors and laborers associated with both memorials...skill and perseverance of a magnitude only eclipsed by the natural beauty of the surrounding hills, forest, mountains, and wildlife.

yep, that's a chipmunk!
stopping along a scenic nature trail at
The Outdoor West near the monuments in Rapid City, SD
love birds
hungry bird
view of the Black Hills from the car
a special thanks goes out to the many, many, many
bugs that dedicated their lives on our windshield during the trip

October 9, 2014

Road Trip Part 2: Bear Hug!

Have we ever explained where our bear photographing obsession comes from?

somewhere in Tennessee, 2013
Beijing, China 2005
Flagstaff, NM 2013
NYC farmers' market honey stand, 2009
(with beekeeper extraordinaire, Andrew C.)
We're pretty sure it began with adorable childhood nicknames. Cody grew up as Cody Bear and CoCo Bear, and Angela has and always will be her parents' Sugarbear. (Cody was also called Hollywood, Dougie, Douglas, and a long list of other names for which the origins are completely mysterious.)

We don't know why bears came into the picture for either of us, but we do know that when we stumble upon a massive grizzly statue of fur and strength — anywhere — we cannot resist the urge to pull out the camera and give it the proper reaction it deserves. For Angela, that reaction is admiration and hugs. For Cody, it's fear. Untempered raw fear.

actual Grizzly Bear paw in Rapid City, SD 2014
same somewhere-in-Tennessee bear
Nashville, TN 2013
Amarillo, TX 2013
Colorado, 2014
(as seen in our last post...who wouldn't love seeing this shot twice??)
Colorado Springs, CO 2014
The intrigue of nicknaming children after bears may stem from the ridiculous cuteness of bear cubs. Check out these adorable fur balls that we saw at Bear Country, USA while on the road with Grandma, Terry, and Sandi.

Bear Country, USA is a wildlife park in South Dakota. It is home to a couple of massive grizzly bears and over 100 black bears! You drive your vehicle along a winding road to get up-close views of creatures in a natural-ish environment. The animals we saw were truly amazing.

Rocky Mountain Elk
Bighorn Sheep and Dall Sheep
Mountain Lion
Black Bears

Grizzly Bear
Canadian Lynx
Timber Wolf Pup
Buffalo and Pronghorn

Of course, our favorite furry mammal is Gemsi. But after visiting so many adorable baby bears we were left to ponder: which is cuter?

Life presents so many complicated decisions!