Remaining Forever Grateful

I feel like each time I write a post these days, it’s all about how grateful I am for the friends and family in my life who continue to rally during this difficult time. Even when we are all upset, confused, or nursing hurt feelings, we continue to come around again. And again.

Our fishing crew, my sisters, my parents, my National Fisherman family, my friends online and in real life continue to get on board during this difficult ride.

They don’t have to. Who wants to be involved in a messy situation? Who doesn’t have their own problems, their own struggles, their own stuff to deal with?

There is never a right answer, a right response, a right way to react or act in a bad situation. But still, these people stay put. And I remain grateful for the community who surrounds me and who stick around whether I deserve it or not, no matter what is going on. That’s unconditional love.

Eighteen years ago this month, my brother-in-law was lost at sea during the Alaska Snow crab season. It is a tragedy that remains as fresh today as it did then. You don’t get over something like that. What I remember, in addition to the pain and loss and grief, is all of the people who rallied around my family. Our crew. Lifelong friends. New friends. Family.

They cooked us meals, braided the hair of my sisters and me, and made us smile. I remember falling asleep next to my sister each night in my old bedroom, listening to her sob for her husband.

My husband has not died (thank God) but in my own time of sorrow, I have been surrounded by the same love, outreach, and understanding as occurred back then. I feel the same gratitude and appreciation for these people and their support as I did back then. The community is different, the situation is different, but I still feel the love and I am still in awe.

Surround yourself with good people, friends.

XO

George coming home from the crab season.

George coming home from the crab season two weeks ago.

Apparently, the Learning Never Ends.

It has been a good morning. In fact, it has been a good couple of weeks. Before 9 a.m. today, I had Vincent’s laundry folded and put away. He only wants to wear long-sleeved shirts, so now he has a clean drawer-full of them. I cleaned my childrens’ bedrooms, put dishes away, sorted garbage and recycling.

There’s about 45 minutes before Valerie’s naptime, and I have a bit of downtime to think and come here to write.

The first thought that comes to mind is how grateful I am for the community of friends and family I have surrounded myself with. I think about these people all the time. Everyone knows that this has not been an easy five months for my family or me. When I think of the emails, texts, cards, and support that has come our way, I feel really good.

People whom I thought were not my friends have reached out. The friends I hoped would reach out, have. People who have loved me but whom I pushed away for years have continued to reach out. Some of whom I thought were friends have disappeared. I’ve met new friends, seen old friends, laughed, and have continued to take everything one step at a time.

The kids and I had a great weekend; we laughed and laughed. My children think I am funny and I always gauge how funny I actually am by how hard they laugh. I can always count on Eva to be a good sport and for Vincent to be the first to dissolve into giggles. We listen to songs and make up dances. We make jokes. Even little Valerie is catching on. “It’s  my favorite song!” she calls out whenever the rest of us start singing, no matter what the song is.

George will be home this weekend on a break from the Washington Coast Dungeness crab season, and we are going to head to my brother-in-law’s house for round two of the Superbowl. None of us can wait. Valerie will be sporting a Sherman jersey, Vincent will be sporting Lynch, and Eva is boasting Wilson.

I thought some parts of my season of learning were over once I got married and had all of my children. I’ve had a lifetime of learning. Turns out, my journey is not yet finished.

No matter. As long as honesty and forgiveness reign, friends and family surround, and I can make my children laugh, we will make it.

Go Hawks!!

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Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Note: This post has received many views which are not showing up in the “like” box below, due to a technical problem. Thank you all for reading and liking this post, and for caring about my parents and our whole family!

 

One thing I love about life is that life just keeps marching on. Regardless of
hurts and casualties along the way, life keeps going.

Looking back on these past few months, the above sentiment rings more and more true. Life marches on.

George left for the crab season, and I was left happily behind with three fish in a bowl, two kittens, one senior dog, and three blessed children to care for and love, the same way I’ve been doing the past 14 years.

We had a great holiday season. Santa came to two houses, surprising everyone with new bed comforters, books, games, and even a Wii game.

Eva had her birthday party, in which she requested her guests bring toys for Toys For Tots. We delivered the toys to the organization and the children were met gratitude and appreciation.

The children and I attended church, karate, organized new toys, and helped take care of our baby, Valerie. Even though Valerie is about to turn three later this month, she remains “our baby and little friend.”

Last night, the children and I met up with my extended family to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my mom and dad. When I told some people recently that my parents had been married for 50 years, they couldn’t believe it.

“Are they happy?” they asked.

“Well, there have been some up and downs through the years, but yes, they are happy,” I replied.

Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Last night, Eva said  ”Grandpa and Grandma are like the King and Queen of our family.”

Mom and Dad, some things turned out the way you and we hoped. Some turned out better than we hoped. Some fell far short of what we hoped.

I don’t know what any of us would do without either one of you! We love you!!

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Happy Birthday, Christmas Eva!

Today is our first born girl’s birthday. My Eva is nine.

The cool thing is that today is a teacher’s workday, so there is no school. Therefore, we get to celebrate Eva’s birthday all day long! She started out her day with a big birthday breakfast from Dad. That was followed by a mother-daughter mani/pedi and lunch. Next, a play date. After that, presents and cake with family, followed by dinner and a movie with Dad before Dad unties the lines and takes the boat and 500 Dungeness crab pots south to the open ocean.

As I drove Eva to her afternoon playdate, she told me this was the “best day ever!” That made me feel especially good, because Eva has had a lot on her plate this year and there is nothing I want more than for her to enjoy her special day. Between starting a new school after our own school was closed, and the difficulties at home, it’s more than any third-grader should have to endure.

G and I chose “Eva Grace” as the name of our first child for a reason; after years of infertility, we were blessed at last. Eva means “life.” I chose Grace because I wanted Eva’s life to be filled with grace–or at the very least, for my daughter to learn grace and how to respond to life with grace.

Eva definitely has. She is a smart, sunshine-filled girl whose heart is filled with love for her family, friends, school, and God. She is sharp as a tack, observant, and misses nothing. As the first born, Eva takes the weight of the world on her shoulders; so much so that the adults surrounding her must be continuously aware and vigilant about taking that weight from her.

She is like a little Border Collie pup, herding all of us. “Vincent, no. That wasn’t nice. You shouldn’t do that.” “Valerie, no. Come here and let me help.” “Mom, don’t forget we are supposed to do this.” “Dad, remember I need this or that.”

Happy Birthday, sweet girl. You fill all of our lives with joy, purpose, beauty, fun, and grace.

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Not “Just” a Mom and Housewife

I gathered with a group of people last night. In answer to a question from the group leader, I replied “Well…I am just a mom…and housewife.”

My reply has bothered me since I made it.

“Just” a mom and housewife? That’s not what I meant when I answered. This morning, as I tracked down lost lunch boxes for my oldest children, as I cleaned and vacuumed their rooms, as I fed my very youngest lunch, my reply of being “just a mom and housewife” continued to bother me.

There is nothing I love more than being a mom and housewife. I do have a Bachelor’s degree in English. I have worked in law offices, at my family’s seafood store, and as a West Coast correspondent for National Fisherman magazine and as a Jazzercise instructor. As it turned out, I was terrible at working in offices. I did well at teaching Jazzercise and continue to enjoy freelance writing.

But most of all, being a mom has been the most natural gig for me. I enjoy making the kids’ beds in the morning and vacuuming their floors, knowing they will have a clean, organized and cozy room to come home to and go to sleep in. I love having my little Valerie with me as I run errands. I like folding the kids’ laundry and putting it in their drawers and on their shelves, knowing they will have clean clothes to wear.

I like getting new things for the children and placing them on their beds so they will be surprised when they get home from school. I eagerly await their emergence from the schoolhouse doors or the school bus doors, depending on the day.

The Dungeness crab crew is here getting ready for the winter crab season, and G is preparing to head out for a good portion of the winter. The thought of a husband and father leaving for a stint might strike some wives as frightening or cause for panic. Not me. This is what my mother did, as well as my grandmother and great-grandmother. It’s our time to be of special value and comfort to our children and ourselves.

I can’t wait to jump back into my natural role.

And that’s what I am thinking about today. Children, mothers, and homes. As long as I have my children, my job as mother, and a cozy home, I am beyond content and happy.

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Always Grateful, Always Thankful.

In spite of trouble, I am thankful for many things this holiday season. I am thankful for loyal family. Fun friends. Fun and loyal family and friends. Confusion and sorrow may be in the midst, but they cannot possibly win against forgiveness, joy, hope, and redemption. I couldn’t think of how to incorporate all of this into a regular post, so here is my list of things for which I am thankful this season.

  • Vincent’s surgery. Vincent underwent a second surgery to restore his hearing and speech. I was blessed to spend each day of Vincent’s recovery with him, lying by his side, cuddling and reassuring my only son. All I ever wanted to be was a stay-at-home mom so I could be there for all of my children, no matter what.
  • My children. 8-year old Eva, 7-year old Vincent, 2-year old Valerie. They have always made life worth living and then some. Their jokes, hugs, kisses, and snuggles are beyond compare.
  • My family. My family is comprised of some of the most funny, honest, loyal, and giving people I know. They don’t give free passes, but they do communicate, understand, and move forward.
  • My house. I love my house. It is a space I have created that represents healing, joy, love, and security. My children spent all of yesterday cuddled on my bed, watching Christmas movies, happy and content. It was the best day ever.
  • My friends. My friends offer words of support, insight, hope, and laughter. They offer love and understanding, a movie, an open ear, a cup of coffee.
  • Friends I’ve made along the way. I have met so many smart, funny, and honest people in the past three months. They make me smile and help give me the courage to keep marching forward.

This Thanksgiving has been strange. I know, however, that I am by far not the only one for whom this Thanksgiving was strange and different. I am grateful for the community of friends and family that help keep all of our ships afloat, when otherwise we feel we might sink.

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God is Within Her; She Will Not Fall

I have just entered my eighth year writing this blog. My blog has taken a lot of different turns over the years, all of which are recorded here in the blog archives. There have been children born, pets who have passed away, celebrations and goodbyes with crew, consistent and inconsistent fisheries, departures and homecomings, parties and sorrow. And always, family.

The past two months, however, have passed without a word from me online and hardly anywhere else. I know people have been checking the blog and my Facebook page, wondering where I’ve gone and what is going on. I have not been able to come up with words for where I’ve been and what’s been going on, save that my immediate family has been rocked by shock and grief. For the first time in my life, I have been unable to do much of anything but sit and then put one foot in front of the other, and only when I have to.

I don’t want to go into details, but I want you all to know things are getting better. As time passes, I feel better. The hurt decreases a bit and the pain lessens. Some days I feel betrayed and angry, and some days I feel happy and hopeful. Other days I feel filled with apology and regret, and then those are replaced by relief and optimism.  Some days there are tears, and some days there is laughter.

Through it all, my community of family, friends, church, and professional support has carried me through. It is never good to be alone, and all of these people have made sure that I am not alone, my children are cared for and loved and secure, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ll be back with a more lighthearted post later; one that describes how wonderfully my children have settled into their new elementary school since our previous school was closed, and the way they were both honored with the Leadership Award at a school assembly.

The way both Eva and Vincent trained and successfully tested for their next level of karate belts. The way Valerie “graduated” from speech therapy after a year of regular sessions.

I’ll write about how George and I noticed Vincent’s speech seemed to revert to some of its previous characteristics (loud and somewhat garbled) and how it turned out his hearing has decreased since having surgery to restore it two years ago. He’ll be having surgery again on November 10.

For now, I leave you with some verses that have sustained me the past two months. The entire book of Psalms has lifted me up and carried me through on days I felt hopeless and helpless. Here are a few of my favorites:

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalms 31:24

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

“Be merciful to me, oh Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.” Psalms 30:9

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:5

The Summer of Friends and Family

I wasn’t sure how this summer was going to go. The only thing I could see ahead of me for two months was home construction chaos. My entire house has, in fact, been in an upheaval due to the kitchen, dining, and family room remodel I’ve wanted and waited eight years for. And while I’m grateful for progress, it’s true that my house has been in a total upheaval since the remodel started.

My family room is in my living room. I still can’t file my childrens’ schoolwork from the last school year because my filing cabinets are buried in boxes of dishes and surrounded by end tables and large framed pictures and art. Our pantry was minimized and rendered down to three industrial shelves in the basement. For anyone who has anxiety and OCD (like me), you can only imagine what this has been like to live with the past two months.

However…I do always try to look at the positives, and as far as this summer goes, there have been many. More than ever, actually. For one thing, because there was nothing to clean in my house, I didn’t have to clean. This made me feel free to take off and leave town whenever we had the chance. We went to Florida, to Long Beach, and even down the road to Whidbey Island. The kids took karate, swimming, and diving lessons. Vincent, George, and I all had birthdays.

Something that we didn’t exactly plan for, but happened anyway, was meeting up with family and friends the entire summer! In Florida, we met up with family from George’s clan as well as mine. Back in Bellingham, we got together with more Karuza cousins. In Whidbey Island, we met up for a day of singing and play with family on my mom’s side. We helped celebrate the birthdays of friends–adults and little ones alike–all summer long. We checked out the water slides, the fair, the go karts, went on morning bike rides, and enjoyed lazy afternoons at the pool.

When I look back at this summer, I feel frustrated about my physical house. However, I feel satisfied and happy about my house of friends and family. I feel lucky to be part of a community that is fun and loving and considerate. I’m not looking forward to the start of school, in which alarm clocks must again be set and schedules must be adhered to, but knowing we are all doing it together makes it so much better.

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Some Schile and Karuza fam in Florida.

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Schile Fam in Florida.

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Karuza Cousins in Birch Bay.

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Some Karuzas at an undisclosed location ;)

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George and me at my 40th birthday cruise.

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George family (mom’s side, not my G) camping on Whidbey Island.

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Music, family, and more music.

Forty, Yo. Is It Really So?

I’ve been thinking off and on for the past few months about how I would open this particular post regarding my 40th birthday. I just didn’t know. For once, I was actually stumped for something to say write.

As it turns out, the best lead came to me the other week when I wasn’t even looking.

I was at a party store, purchasing a few token 40th birthday items for my upcoming mini birthday boat cruise down the hill in Bellingham Bay. The teenage girl at the counter asked, “Are you excited about your party, or do you just feel old?”

Wow. Old. First of all, I’d hoped the clerk would think I was purchasing these 40th birthday items for someone else.  Someone else turning 40. Someone else who looked and appeared far older than me.

The fact that the clerk assumed right away that the 40th-themed party plates, beaded necklace, and tablecloth were for me caught me off guard.

My mind raced. I considered possible replies.

“Well, I have three children, including a TWO-year old, at home who really keep me young.”

“I work out at the gym every day. I taught dance aerobics for seven years.”

“I have friends of all ages. In fact, my own husband is seven years older than me.”

“Haven’t my thousands of dollars into Lancome, Estee Lauder, and Clinique the past twenty years kept me looking young? I guess not.”

I didn’t say any of those things.

“I’m indifferent,” I finally said.

It was the best answer I could offer. I’m not especially excited about this milestone, yet, I don’t feel old. I don’t feel much of anything as it pertains to turning 40.

Actually, that’s not true. I do feel something.

As I have officially reached middle age, I have discovered many things. First of all, it’s much harder to lose weight than gain it. It took me nine months to lose seven pounds last year and three weeks to gain it all back.

I’m more tired and go to bed long before the sun sets right alongside my 8, 7, and 2-year olds.

Now that I am 40, I can’t tease my husband, who reached this decade a while ago, while I stayed blissfully back in my 30s.

However, there’s more. I feel proud turning 40. I actually made it to middle age. If you were there to witness a large part of my life a decade or two before, you’d be as surprised as me that I made it this far.

In spite of some dangerous choices, silly decisions, and roads taken that could have ruined my entire life, I came out the other side.

I’ve always been open with my children about my feelings and my experiences (as long as they were age-appropriate). Before I had children, I always told myself that if I was lucky enough to become a mother, I would be honest and open with my children. I wanted them to feel safe coming to me, no matter what it was they were coming to me about.

Whether those concerns were 8-year old squabbles or 18-year old problems or 28-year old issues, I wanted them to feel safe sharing with me. I wanted to share with them from my own experience. Maybe it would help, maybe it wouldn’t. Time would tell.

As a professional writer of articles, essays, and interviews the past fifteen years, I’ve always found the personal essay to be my favorite and most rewarding genre. Along those lines, on my 40th birthday, I’ve decided to introduce a new writing project. Some of it will take form as a new blog series.  I’d like to share a bit of what I have learned along my twisting and turning road in the form of short essays for my children.  I hope the forth-coming collection of snippets about what I have learned along the way—the good and bad—will be of use to my children as they grow.

I hope that one day my children will read my words and benefit. I also know that if they are anything like their mother, they will go their own way and learn what they need in their own time and in their own way.

And that’s okay. I made it this far, and they will, too.

Time to celebrate.

I’ve Never Had Much Patience…Delayed Home Remodels Don’t Help.

Well, we came home from our Florida vacation and I saw immediately that we were still a LONG WAYS OUT on this kitchen/family room remodel. I  went directly to the kitchen calendar. Only, since we don’t have a kitchen, it’s now the bedroom calendar. I spotted a week in which nothing was going on for anyone in the family.

“Let’s leave again!” I suggested. Actually, “suggestion” is too kind. “Firmly decided” and “not taking no for an answer” is more like it.

I’d made up my mind. It was a great idea. We don’t have an oven, a dishwasher, family room, kitchen, or otherwise. The remodel, which should have taken just a little over one month to complete is still going on…and on…and on.

As has become my mantra for this summer: Get me out of here!

So, down the road we went to my parent’s beach house in Long Beach, Washington. I looked forward to spending a pleasant week in a sweet little house that actually had an oven, dishwasher, and rooms without piles of junk and chaos. I have been going to my family’s beach house for breaks and fun for over twenty years. I’ve traveled there with my own family,  with friends in college, and while on assignment for National Fisherman magazine.  G and I even spent part of our honeymoon there twelve years ago, crashed out on couches recovering from all things wedding.

I remember traveling to Long Beach for spring break in college one year. My girlfriends and I met up with other friends also there for the break. We were not planning a town-wide party, but for some reason, word got out in the small coastal town that a party was going on. We watched cars and trucks travel down the road to our house until I finally sent my cousin out to redirect traffic back the other way and assure everyone there was not, in fact, a party happening.

Anyway, I am so glad my parents still have the house. As always, it was awesome to visit the coast and fly kites, ride bikes, eat ice cream, and take a spin on the go carts. It was especially nice this year to stay in a little house with everything a house should have, including peace. Clean bedrooms. A kitchen. Dunes. The wide open expanse of beach and roar of the Pacific Ocean. We even celebrated Vincent’s 7th birthday while we were there.

We are back home again, and things are still not progressing very quickly. I’m annoyed and concerned. Honestly, though, my annoyance has mostly to do with our own choices.  We knew from the outset there was going to be a few weeks’ delay due to reasons beyond our control, and we didn’t spend enough time making a thoughtful decision about how that delay would impact the family.  The work that has been done so far is fantastic and all that we wanted. Even though we are still at least another month out, I need to stay calm and patient. I know it will be worth it in the end….

 

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Riding along the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail in Long Beach, WA.

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Hey, we don’t need the fake baby for this doll bed. We have our own baby!

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Most likely our good old girl Mandy’s last trip to the beach.

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Happy 7th Birthday, my little buddy.

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Don’t worry, it’s root beer.

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Heading home along the trail.