This Model is Unsupported, by Charlotte Kaufman

Charlotte and Cora Kaufman. Sailing across the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit. December 2013.

Charlotte and Cora Kaufman. Sailing across the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit. December 2013.

This Model is Unsupported, by Charlotte Kaufman

I plugged the Kindle into my laptop today and it didn’t register as a device on my computer. There were my Documents, my Downloads, my Pictures, the Google Drive back up, but no Kindle.

I restarted my laptop. I unplugged the Kindle. Turned it on, then off. Tried again.

No Kindle.

I could feel the hurt welling up. A pebble transforming into a lump and then a stone. An inability to swallow down the pain of loss and my first thought was WRITE. Write about the little Kindle that could. Don’t cry until you’re writing, I told myself. That’s the best way for you to let tears fall freely. Like when you wrote about saying goodbye to Rebel Heart. To the feeling of the Sunbrella stretched taut on the dodger under your hands. Her tall, white mast, your family’s haven, your daughters’ only home since birth. Of the terrifying feeling of jumping from ships and the height of those waves. Certain death a fraction of an inch away. Wrong jump? Guess incorrectly? A cracked ribcage between two hulls.

Everything rushing in those moments of rescue. The Pararescuemen calling for me.  Good men with good intentions. Of my refusing to rush. (I wouldn’t have refused if I had been any younger. A younger Charlotte would have obeyed). But I refused. I stopped and said thank you to Rebel Heart. I sent all my love and support to her before she embarked on her next and final journey into the deeps. Underwater to live. The whole of her consumed by barnacles, and crabs, and slithering creatures of the deep. And she kept us safe and we were sinking her.

Amazon said that the Kindle was over 10-years-old and that they no longer provide updates or backups for my model. “Would you like to take this credit towards a new version? This one will be unsupported moving forward.”

Unsupported.

Unsupported like me when I left my parents’ home at 16.

Unsupported like parenting in America.

I chose the unsupported model.

The Kindle still worked. I could read each page except for the top right sentence. A relic of when Cora had dropped it, shattering the pixels on that portion of the screen. The pink, rubber cover, forever coated in a fine dusting of Baja sand that I could never get clean again. The scratches on the bottom left corner from … what? Who knew? Were they from surviving the rescue? From being tossed from one ship to another ship with the bag that held our Kindles, our laptops, and our passports? From being hoisted into the air along the side of a battleship, the great ship listing in the swell and buffeted by the wind of the approaching squall, my knuckles white in terror as the tiny RHIB bucked forward and sent us toppling against the rubber sides.

I knew it would die one day. An unsupported model. I just thought it wouldn’t be today. Not today. Not any day. Please, not ever. We have so little that survived. Give me one thing that survived. One tiny memento. The Kindle I rested on my pregnant belly, while I lay in bed miserable, sick, and sometimes suicidal during my first pregnancy. The Kindle where I uploaded and read an early draft of my friend’s first book. The Kindle I slipped under the pillows and out of the way when Eric and I made love in the V-berth.

‘At least the four of you survived.’

‘That’s what really matters.’

Of course it is.

But I can hold both truths at the same time. The gratitude that my family is whole after a rescue at sea, and the grieving of a truncated dream. Of the impossibility of ever saying goodbye with ritual, with respect. There was only the one moment of rushing, when I disobeyed, (thank god for growing older and growing more defiant). For that one tiny moment when the world grew quiet and I told her thank you before she sank below the surface, unsupported.

#TheThingAboutThings #RebelHeartBook #RebelHeart #KidsOnBoats #WomenWhoSail #CharlotteKaufman #IAlreadyMissMyKindle #AmazonKindle #ItsTheLittleThings

 ::::::::::::::::::::: T H E   S T O R Y :::::::::::::::::::::

If this is the first time you are reading my writing or learning about the rescue at sea that happened to us, here’s the backstory. In March 2014, we set sail from Puerto Vallarta with our two young daughters on our sailboat, Rebel Heart. During the passage, our 13 month old fell ill. A cascading series of events resulted in our calling for help. Activating our rescue beacon meant saving our baby and also losing our boat (and only home). We hit the button and survived a dramatic at-sea rescue but returned to international media criticism about our parenting. While the world debated our child rearing choices, I wrestled with the trauma of the rescue, the loss of our dream, and whether or not my relationship was strong enough to survive.

You can read my recent article in HuffPost about the events and my thoughts here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rebel-heart-mom-charlotte-kaufman_n_5cf13c36e4b0e346ce7d123e

 ::::::::::::::::::::: T H E   B O O K :::::::::::::::::::::

I have recently completed my manuscript about the events described above and am represented by Aemilia Phillips and David Patterson at Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. For updates on my upcoming memoir, you can follow me on social media and sign up for my email newsletter.


More on Instagram

The Seven Day Full-Color Photo Challenge

A recent trend on Facebook has been to nominate friends to the seven day Black and White Photo Challenge. If you’re nominated, you post a black and white photo a day that has no people and contains no explanation. When my friend, Staci, nominated me, I chose to rebel. I’ve been reading and resonating with Lidia Yuknavitch’s book, The Misfit’s Manifesto, so this rebelling fit in perfectly. I’ve compiled my posts from Facebook in one blog post here.

I give you my Full-color Photo Challenge responses with plenty of people and tons of description.

If you are so moved, tag a friend for their own full-color challenge. #FullColorPhotoChallenge

Day 1

Here's Day 1 of 7 of my full-color life. Plenty of people and tons of description.

Full Color Photo Challenge Charlotte Kaufman (1).jpg

In Young Women (the Sunday school for female teenagers in a Mormon church) I raised my hand again and asked, "Why can't women hold the priesthood?" I had been asking this Sunday after Sunday and no one had given me a reply that made a lick of sense.

"Women are already spiritual enough. They don't need that blessing."

"But men do?"

"That's right, it's a blessing and a gift to them and then we can follow their spiritual leadership."

"So we're already so spiritual that we don't need the Priesthood, but the guys who have to have it bestowed on them are leading? Why aren't women the leaders in the first place? I mean, if we're so spiritual?"

"That's not how the Lord set things up."

"So we're already good to go, spiritually, and we need to listen to those who are just now getting the 'spiritual-ness' given to them. Do I have that right?"

"Charlotte I think it's time for you to step outside for awhile. Please leave the room."

I was 14. I gathered my things with my cheeks burning. Not with shame, but with fury. 'Sure,' I thought, I'll leave the room and enter the rest of my life.'

Photo info: Acting in a variety show with my father (at left). Me (at right), after my father had abused me, but still being silent about it under the erroneous belief that my silence would save my siblings. I'm standing in the full knowledge that everything I'd been taught about the world was a lie.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 2

Day 2 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

Full Color Photo Challenge Charlotte Kaufman (2).jpg

I learned how to ride my bike when I was 5 or 6. I still remember duck-waddling my feet and doing that fast enough until I could push off and start coasting. First my feet trailed, skimming across the concrete, because I didn't trust the mechanics of the motion. Then the sudden thrill of realizing how the bike worked, how it stayed up even if my feet rested on the pedals, just as long as I kept it moving. I had done it! I'd discovered a truth about the world that had been hidden from me until that moment. What else, I wondered would I discover that day? I was filled with possibilities.

Over the next few weeks I kept riding. I learned how to catch myself to one side or the other as the bike slowed down. I figured out how I only needed to push a tiny bit and start pedaling to gain the miraculous ability that is balancing and moving on two wheels.

I became so confident that I started to venture further away from my house. First just down the street, then I'd cross over and ride the other side of the street; I could always see where I lived. After enough of those rotations, I branched out, cruising down a side street, then coming back to the intersection where, if I craned my neck, my house was still in sight.

Finally, I started to fly down other streets, doing big loops, first one block away, then two, then three. One day I tore around a corner of a new street and into a patch of gravel. I'd never ridden on gravel before and my rear tire skidded out throwing me down. My right knee and both my hands landed hard as I was dragged across the ground. When I finally came to a stop, I started howling. It hurt so badly. Tiny pieces of gravel were embedded in my palms along with long scratches on my knee that bled. After several moments of wailing like a wounded animal I cleared my head enough to look around. I'd been waiting for an adult to run up and help me. Surely, someone would hear me crying and come to my aide; that's what adults did. Or maybe a neighborhood kid would see me and then go get their mom. I continued sobbing and glancing in disbelief at my bleeding palms and my torn up knee. There were chunks of gravel dug into the skin of my leg.

I looked around again, still crying. Cars drove by but no one stopped. The houses looked still and no kids were outside. A flash of realization hit me: no one was coming to help. No one knew where I was. I was going to have to get back home on my own. I couldn't believe it.

Digging the gravel out of the skin was excruciating, but it's what was hurting me the most. Tears plopped down on my skinny legs as I plucked each piece out. Shaking, I stood up, picked up my bike, and lifted my leg over it. I pushed off, crying, and the motion of pedaling seemed to tear the skin on my knee more and more. My palms left blood on the handles, but I rode that bike home.

I dreamed of the reception I'd receive once I got home, the hugs, the 'oh-my-goodnesses,' the 'I'm so sorry you were all alone!' After biking through the pain for two blocks I knew I was close to my own street but as I neared my yard a new feeling was welling up inside of me: pride. I was so proud of myself for figuring that moment out. I had gotten home on my own, even in great pain. There had been no one there for me, but I hadn't needed anyone after all; I had only needed me.

I'd discovered a truth about the world that had been hidden from me until that moment: I was enough. What else, I wondered would I discover that day? I was filled with possibilities.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 3

Day 3 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my hero because she was the first Jewish, female, Supreme Court justice and even as a girl, she cared about equality." ~ Cora, age 7

Originally appeared on Facebook here

Day 4

Day 4 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

"Mama, thanks for getting the candy from the scary clown for me."

"Sure thing, baby, but what about that giant cat? That didn't scare you too?"

"Oh no, that kitty was my friend."

Lyra, age 4, dressed as Baby Jaguar from Go, Diego, Go.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 5

Day 5 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

I recently did genetic testing with 23andMe and one of the traits they reported on said I was 'more likely to consume caffeine than the average person.' I present this photo as early photographic evidence of my need for the drink.

Originally posted on Facebook here.

Day 6

Day 6 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

We bought Rebel Heart in 2005, just 10 months into dating each other. We moved aboard her full-time in June of 2007. Until we lost her in the spring of 2014, we lived the glorious minimalist lifestyle that comes with residing in 36' feet of sailboat.

People would ask me how I could do it, how I could live with so few possessions and I always answered honestly, I loved it. There were a few things I missed about land life. I missed having a couch. A really comfortable couch. The kind you can lie next to your partner on, snuggle up and watch a movie together. 

I missed Le Creuset cookware. I missed house plants, in particular, succulents (cue all the sailors who are going to say, 'I have plants onboard!' If you have a catamaran, don't even go there you multi-huller, you. And if you are a mono-huller with houseplants, then you are wayyyy coooler than we were.) 

I envied very little about landlubber's amenities, save for their comfy couches and for their ability to store away beautiful things, like cake stands. I secretly lusted after cake stands while living aboard a sailboat. I wanted a magic drawer in my galley that held all the pretty accoutrements that land people could pull out to dazzle and entertain guests with. 

For the first two years after losing her, we thought we'd probably buy another boat, so we didn't acquire land-based life things, like an 8.5" Turquoise Glass Pedestal Cake Stand with Knob Handle Domes. And for the past year living in the mountains I haven't bought pretty things quite yet. Partly because minimalism gets into your bones. But it's really that I've had a hard time allowing myself to fall in love with another home. What if we lost her again? Could I love another home the way I loved Rebel Heart? A year of Sierra sunlight has finally convinced me. I think I can love again, and I'm ready to buy a cake stand.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 7

Day 7 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

I went to Tucson to visit my grandparents when I was 25. Their son (my dad) was the first in their family to complete college (I was the first on my mom's side.) My grandfather, we called him Papa, was a recovering alcoholic who always smelled like coffee and kept little bowls of dinner mints around the house.

He was sitting out on the porch one afternoon. A man of few words, he didn't say anything when I first sat down but he eventually turned to me and asked, "Charlotte, do you like men?"

I furrowed my eyebrows not understanding but then I rolled with it. "Sometimes I do. Men do awful things, ya know? The good ones I like."

"But you're attracted to them?"

I wasn't sure I understood what he was asking.

"Yes?"

"You're not a lesbian?"

"Hahaha, why do you ask? Does it matter?"

"How old are you now?" He seemed so serious.

"I'm 25."

"Don't you want to get married? Have kids?"

"Really, Papa? Because I'm 25 and I'm not married, I might be a lesbian?"

"Tell me then."

"I'm not a lesbian, but I assume it would be okay with you if I were." I glanced at him. He looked out at the yard.

"I like men. I'll get married one day, if I want. I'll have kids one day, if I want. Women are waiting longer to have kids nowadays, especially if they get an education. And lesbians can have kids."

He nodded and that was the end of it.

I started dating Eric a few months later. We got married when I was 29 and had our first kid when I was 30. I married him and had kids because I wanted to, not because Papa thought I might be a lesbian or that I was already an 'old maid.'

I tell both of our daughters that they can date men or women, or men AND women, or no one at all. That they can have kids, or not. And the best part is that now I can tell my kids they can marry who they want, if they are straight or lesbian, or somewhere in between.

#BeWhoYouWant #LoveWhoYouWant#MyFavoriteThingAboutPapaWasThoseDinnerMints

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

If you are so moved, tag a friend for their own full-color challenge. #FullColorPhotoChallenge

To Eric on his 39th Birthday

I keep choosing Eric and he keeps choosing me. That’s something new in my life. Before when relationships with men got weird or hard or boring, I’d just leave. Sayonara, I’d say. It’s over! It’s been swell. Sometimes, actually, not swell at all. For that it would be, ‘you suck, sucker’.

I’ve broken up with men on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, on their birthdays, once on New Year’s and TWICE on Valentine’s. When I’m done, I’m done. I have friends who have waited days, months, even years to find the ‘right time’ to break up with someone.

What?! I’ll gasp in my head. The right time is RIGHT NOW, sister. But hey, they gotta do them, and I had to break up with jerk faces when the mood struck.

Not with Eric.

Instead, we fought. In the beginning of our relationship we fought so hard. Eric and I both don’t give a fucking inch. And he’s incredibly intelligent, and just a little bit full of himself, and let’s be honest, I’m sort of exactly like him in this regard. We’d draw a line in the sand over something stupid that we had decided was important and we’d fight. We’d go Meta about it, or get down in the nitty gritty, usually both. It would go on for hours sometimes, neither of us wanting to concede, to admit the other was right, or that maybe we were the ones who had fucked up.

This was all new. I had never spent so much emotional energy on one man. I just knew, somewhere deep down, that he was worth it. Finally, I suggested we go to couples' therapy. We’d been together for about a year. I expected him to say no, just flat out. But he said yes immediately. And he googled around for someone and he made the appointment and all of that told me, he thinks I’m worth it too.

Sally saved us. She taught us how to fight nicer and how to fight better. She gave us the grown up tools that neither of us had received from our parents. These tools, how to respectfully disagree with someone you loved, were never modeled by our own parents, but Sally showed us how. Technically her title was therapist but really, she was the wise, loving, fair older family member that didn’t exist in either of our lives, the one who should have been showing us this stuff as we grew.

Eric and I are not perfect, neither as individuals, nor as a couple, but man, when I think about the type of home my daughters are being raised in, compared to the homes that Eric and I sprung from, I feel happy on a deep, deep inner level. I think, what will these children be able to accomplish in life growing up with humans who love them? Who respect them? And parents who love each other? Who show them that it is okay to disagree with, and be angry at each other, but who still work it out, and at the end of the day, or the end of the fight, come together in love. They are growing up watching people who say, ‘I fucked up, I’m sorry’, and, I forgive you, and I love you.’

I hope I live long enough to see the seeds of love we planted with our children and watch how they bloom.