“They need to go!”

I’ve decided that the summers I spent working on the crew of our family fishing boat in SE Alaska were some of the best training I could have gotten for my future gig as Wife and Mother.

Due to ongoing home-improvement projects, this week has been a tough one at the Schile house. Today is Sunday, and I have only just returned home after being gone all week.

You just can’t get major house projects done with a Mommy, a baby, and a young toddler in the house. And a Mommy can’t get her stuff done with all sorts of workmen in the house. On Tuesday, the beginnings of a migraine landed me on the couch for a brief moment, which was just never going to do.

I was stressed. I’d gotten up the night before and realized I was literally walking down the hallway on dirt. Eva had been sleeping in her own room (which had been reduced to a plywood box with only her crib inside), until her crib was finally dismantled and she was moved into Vince’s crib in our room. Vince got moved out to the living room and slept in George’s arms all night. My last free space was taken when the dogs were moved into the living room and gated in.

So, I finally made what I like to call a Mommy Decision: The kids and I would have to go. George, his crew, and the work crew would be able to move more quickly and really knock this stuff out if we weren’t in the way. My decision was validated a day later when I overheard the Contractor inquire of George “what the family situation was,” which I knew was code for, “They need to go!”

This week, I drew from the life lessons I learned while fishing with my family and the crew when I was a deckhand on our boat. Here are only a few:

  • Even without sleep, you still have to be able to function.
  • You can’t yell at people even if/when you want to.
  • In a small space, you have to be mindful of others and keep your ship tight.
  • Expect the unexpected because things rarely go as planned.
  • Learn to adjust.
  • You can do more than you think you can.
  • The crew may be tired and worn out,  but the Captain must set the example and forge ahead—as pleasantly as possible.
  • You must find your hidden strength when you think you can’t do one more thing.
  • Don’t take anything personally.
  • When you are done, you can feel proud. Strong. Accomplished. You did your job and you did it well. Your energy is renewed and you will finally be able to rest.

A captain and crew all work together, as quickly and as hard as possible, to reach a common goal. Whether that is a hatch full of fish or the creation of a beautiful home in which to live, one must keep the goal in mind at all times and find the joy that’s there along the way. There’s plenty of it to be found if you remember to look.

On a commercial fishing boat, joy might be found in a secret or a joke shared with your sisters on the deck. Or in the smile and apologetic shrug you offer to the skiffman after you drop the line that he threw to you back into the ocean. In the way you stand and eat an ice-cream sandwich on the tender while keeping record of the fish that your fellow crewmembers sort in the freezing cold. In waking up the morning after the opening and seeing the box of donuts bought and placed on the galley table by Dad, who got up extra early to treat everyone. In adding up the figures after the delivery and realizing your hard work just bought your tickets to Hawaii.

In your gig as Wife and Mommy During a Construction Project, joy is found in the offer of your parents with a place to stay and immeasurable help with your kids. In Dad helping your husband with the construction clean-up. In your boat crew generously helping with your projects when they certainly don’t have to. In Mom making a family dinner for everyone, and in your sister calling with an offer of a bacon burger and a place to hang out. In returning home and seeing the beautiful results of your husband’s hard work and that of everyone else’s.

The work and the joy are endless.


  1. I’m glad you made it home and found so many positives to glean from this last week. Just goes to show you never know where one will be able to apply all the lessons learned along the way.

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