Archive for Commercial Fishing Kids

All Good Ahead!

Someone pointed out to me lately that you either love me…or you hate me. Black or white. Hot or cold. For some reason, where I happen to be concerned, there is no middle ground.

I can see that. I feel the same way towards the people in my life. I didn’t ask for that crazy filter, but there it is. You’re in or you’re out.

I’ve recently had cause to think about that “situation”, along with the fact that I have a birthday coming up.

I am not making a big deal about my birthday, because too much yuck has happened since the last one, and I don’t want to publicize how old I actually am.

When I think about the last year, though, I have a few thoughts.

First of all, treat yourself and everyone else with dignity. Whether they were wrong or you were wrong. Everyone is doing the best they can, and they are doing what they know based on what they’ve learned from their own (equally dysfunctional) families.


Our children are everything. They didn’t ask to be born. They were conceived and birthed and brought into the world and deserve every shot of happiness, health, and love the world has to offer. And the “world” doesn’t have too much to offer, so it’s up to the parents and the community of family and friends to help make it happen.

What else?

If people you thought were your friends desert you, no matter. They were good friends for a time, and now that time is over. Don’t dwell upon what happened or ask why. It isn’t worth it. There are always more friends around the bend.

The world is filled with awesome, smart, funny people. Open yourself up to them and allow yourself to trust and laugh and talk.

If something truly tragic happens, don’t lose hope. My sister lost her husband in a fishing accident 18 years ago. She got remarried three years ago.

I have spent much of the past year feeling sad and confused, but I also feel so hopeful, happy, and excited. I am honestly excited for my birthday coming up and for the year ahead. I love everyone who came before and I love those yet to come.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; surround yourself with good people. And if nobody’s around, try and be your own good person.


It’s Going, and It’s Good.

I miss you all, and I miss posting on this blog! Never, in the eight years since I started this blog, has this much time passed without me posting something. You all know by now that our family has been in crisis for the past ten months. Still, I want you to know that my children are doing well, G is doing well, and I am doing well.

I was thinking this afternoon that in spite of the grief, I have never in my life felt less alone. I am so grateful to have friends and family around the country, state, in my own city, and online that have offered nothing but love and support for all of us, without judgment. It’s not constant, but it’s consistent. It’s exactly what I, and what we, all need to get through this.

The past two months have been good for all. The children finished school after participating in end-of-year drama performances and art shows, and toddler graduations from play group. Vincent was more excited than anyone to see school come to an end (except perhaps, me). We were all so excited to say goodbye to early mornings, homework, permission slips, drop offs and pick ups for the the next eight weeks! Hello to late, lazy mornings, afternoons at the pool, picnics with friends at the river and playing in the lake with neighbors.

I’ve experienced a lot of personal growth. I took a little trip out of town to see a dear friend in May and discovered that I was able to book a flight (and take it), rent a car (and drive it), reserve a hotel (and find it). All by myself. I’ve never done that before. I’ve made a lot of new friends, maintained contact with old friends, and have learned what it feels like to live in relative peace and freedom.

As I said to one of my friends today, I don’t like to tread water. I like to swim. I continue to swim  forward with strength and resolve. We all have. It feels pretty good, to be honest. In spite of the grief that’s to be expected, I sleep well at night and awake happy and hopeful in the morning.


My sister and I at our other sister’s anniversary cruise.


Eva as the Queen in the “Stinky Cheese Man” production.


Valerie sitting next to her BFF, James, during play group graduation.


My dad with Eva, Vincent, and Val during a trip to Winthrop. G and the kids, and my parents, happened to all be there at the same time!





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!!


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!!









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.


I’m Happy, But Not a Happy Camper

“Jen” and “camping” are not two things that mix very well. I do enjoy being outdoors, when the weather is decent. I  always love hanging out and socializing in and out of town, day and night. I love watching my kids run and play, free and wild and safe. I don’t even mind sleeping in a tent for one night.

But I  don’t enjoy camping in general. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s not having a private bathroom immediately at my disposal in which to brush my teeth or wash my face. I have tried to figure out these last two years just what it is I don’t like about camping, while so many others enjoy it.

I’m not a wimp; I commercial fished in Alaska for years and paid for my college education that way.  Actually, commercial fishing was perfect for me! I could be in the rugged nature of Alaska, explore remote islands, bounce and roll with the ocean, and embrace the solitude and peace.

But on the boat, I could also shower. Alone. Brush my teeth. Shave. I had the best of both worlds; I was in the midst of nature most people don’t experience, but also with a few regular comforts.

There are a group of families from Larrabee Elementary that gather to camp a few times a year. While George, a fishing captain and Eagle Scout, eagerly gathers our two oldest children and gear for the adventures, I have never gone. I’ve always had my baby, Valerie. I’ve also always had my reservations about camping.

This last Memorial Day weekend camping trip with all the families to Lake Wenatchee outside of Leavenworth, Washington, though, had me curious. What will they do? Where will they go? What will I miss if I don’t go?

I made reservations at a cabin nearby. I wasn’t going to camp, but Val and I would be close. We could come hang with the gang during the day and early evening, and then retire to our cabin a few miles up the road, to our bed and shower….or so I thought. As it turned out, the cabin did not work out. After several unexplainable hints, I realized that something beyond me was telling me to leave the cabin, and to leave now. So I did.

It was not just the remoteness of the cabin that had me rattled, but an additional feeling telling me to go. So, even though I’d already paid nearly $300 for the lodging and received the key, I buckled Valerie back up in her car seat and headed to the camp site where George and the whole group were set up. I felt confused, sad, and out of my element. And tired, after a three-hour drive.

George took one look at me and said to forget the cabin.

“Why don’t you try and call the lodge we stayed at last winter?” he suggested.

“I doubt they have any rooms left,” I replied. I called the Beaver Valley Lodge, anyway. I liked the lodge, and it was nearby the campground. When we joined several families for a winter trip in Leavenworth/Plain last winter, we stayed there. I felt safe and cozy there.

As it turned out, someone had JUST cancelled their single room at the lode just before I called, so Valerie and I were able to get in. And, for a price much less than the cabin.

One of my friends (who was camping) drove with me back to my original cabin to get my things out of it and return the key. I had to pay the cost of the cabin in full before receiving the key, so she was also going to try and help me get some of my money back for not staying there after all. Unfortunately, it did not work out and I was out $300.

I high-tailed it to the Beaver Valley Lodge. I’d felt rattled, shaken, tired, and generally off most of the day. By the time I arrived at the Beaver Valley Lodge, I felt calm. Happy. Relieved. I don’t think it was a coincidence that a room perfect for Valerie and me happened to open up just when I needed it. And our front desk helper was fantastic. She was kind, helpful, and even walked us to our room.

I knew then the camping trip was going to work out after all. I fell asleep peacefully each night and woke up to a view of pastures, barns, farm houses, and mountains. Val and I visited the Lake Wenatchee camp site and all the friends, and then returned to our room. When my Eva got sick one night and threw up in the tent shared by her father and brother, she came and stayed with me at the lodge.

I read a book, blew bubbles with Val on the lodge porch, visited the General Store and Hardware Store for food and treats, and also used the laundromat. I did not get to enjoy the camping trip the same way as all the others, but I certainly enjoyed the weekend. I got to watch my two girls nap side-by-side. I visited the campsite, enjoyed visitors at the lodge, read, rest, and slept.

While I didn’t officially camp, and still don’t have a full understanding of what exactly these Larrabee family camping trips entail, I left the weekend feeling happy, satisfied, and grateful for the weekend I did have.

Please enjoy some pictures from the Beaver Valley Lodge and Lake Wenatchee. Thank you Norene and Leanne for allowing me to borrow some of these images!



“Do Not Tell The Boys”: Archiving Another Year of a Family.

I first started keeping a journal when I was seven years old and in second grade. It was a yellow Care Bears journal, complete with lock and key. I don’t think the lock worked too well, because the last time I looked through its pages, I’m pretty sure I saw what could be identified as my oldest sister’s teasing writing within. Regardless, it is the first journal I kept.

I kept journals all through high school and each summer commercial fishing in Alaska. Working as the leads-and-web-gal on our crew in Southeast Alaska, I’d write page after page on our way out to sea, on our way to  the next opening. The crew would even tease me as I sat hunched over the galley table, writing furiously.

“Dear Diary…” they’d say as they walked by.

No matter. I wrote and wrote about the last fishing opening, pounds caught, money made. I’d describe in detail about our days and nights in Ketchikan. The pizza dinners, bowling nights, and nights sneaking into the bars to play pool and shoot darts before the wise waitress kicked us out for being 17 20 years old, not 21.

George and I are getting ready for the last major remodel of our home. This has required that I address stacks of photographs and miscellaneous items I’ve put off dealing with. Today, I skipped the gym. After I dropped Eva and Vincent off at school, Val and I came home and got right on it.

New photo album empty and ready to receive, I looked at and sorted pictures of George and me in Dutch Harbor. George and I hosting parties in our Ballard beach front apartment. Later, in our Ballard house. I found pictures of our now deceased pup, Toby. My car pre-children, an Infiniti sedan. Our nine-month long basement project of seven years ago, which involved digging into the earth, under the house, to create a man cave and an additional one-thousand square feet of living space.

I don’t write in a traditional journal these days, but I am still the family archivist. This blog, my scrapbooks, and photo books all help capture our family history.

In years past, I would use embellishments, dye cuts, and fancy stickers to decorate my scrapbooks and albums. These days, as a mother of three young children, I’ve found that their own creations serve as both decoration and content.

What I especially love are the notes my children leave around the house. I smiled more than once this morning as I glued their special notes in the book. Here are a few:

“Hi Dad. Come bak. I love you. From Vincent.”

“Happy Jen. Are you Jen? Mom Day.” (Vincent)

“Happy Mom Day. From Big V.”

“I love you so mush!” (Eva)

“Pleas don’t take my tooth. Thank you! Tooth Fairy!” (Eva)

“Jen Rocks.” (Vincent)

“I love Mom. XOXOXOXO.” (Vincent)

“Please don’t take my tooth. Thank you.” (Again, Eva)

“To Eva, From Vincent. I howp you well be fiyn at the E.R. It is going to be betre soon.”

“I love Mom. Love Vince.”

Last but DEFINITELY not least, from a little girl in Eva’s class:

“Dear Eva, come to my party in the Girl’s bathroom. DO NOT tell the boys. It will be after lunch.”

I may not be able to sit hunched over a galley table or comfortably reclined on a couch in my living room to write page after page in journals these days, but try as I might, I will capture these blessed days of children and family.






More Than Just a Pink Suede Coat

I have been dealing with sleep disturbances for quite some time now. I can pretty much count on waking up from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. every early morning. I’ll start thinking about my children, my marriage, our school, whatever transpired the day before, and what is coming up, for good or not-so-good.

The other night, though, I suddenly burst awake, startled by something different. My coat! My pink, suede, leather coat with lamb’s wool. Where on earth did that coat go?

Ugh! I totally forgot to clean it up from the dry cleaners…four years ago! I remember the day I dropped it off. It was not at my regular dry cleaners, but it was close to where my then-four-year-old Eva took ballet. While Eva was at ballet, I walked with three-year-old Vincent down a block and dropped off my coat at the cleaners.

I have been known to leave things behind, but I usually figure out what’s missing within a week or two. But four years?

I called the dry cleaners this afternoon. I began with “This is the craziest phone call you’ll likely receive today, but…” and went on to explain.

“Hold on,” the woman said. I heard voices in the background. I didn’t hold my breath; for one thing, it had been four years. For another, the coat is not one I would wear around town today, and it wouldn’t even fit if I wanted to wear it. I guessed it really didn’t matter whether they still had it or not.

“Yes!” she said. “We have it!”

“Are you serious?” I said. “No way.”

“Yes,” she replied. “I won’t charge you. There is some sun damage to one of the sleeves from being in the window so long.”

“Oh,” I said. “No, of course I will pay you. That is not your fault. I left the coat there for four years. I will come and get it!”

I smiled in disbelief as I hung up the phone. You know what? It’s true that the coat will not fit me now. And it’s true I would likely not wear it around ever again.

I began to reflect. When I was 28 and desperate for a baby, this is the coat I wore when I traveled from Ballard to Renton to take line dancing lessons with my sister at a wonderful big old barn. Having just had surgery and diagnosed infertile, after years of trying to become pregnant, this is the coat I wore when I cried each week alone along that drive from Ballard to Renton.

I wore this coat and my gold-tipped cowgirl boots along the drive to the line dancing lessons each week, tearful, regretful, mourning the children I would never have, blaming myself, and hopeless about my future as a would-be mother.

I mourned that whole winter following surgery and my diagnosis. The one thing that made me feel better was meeting my sister and line dancing. I remember smiling and laughing together as we learned dances to Suds in the Bucket by Sara Evans and Christmas Cookies by George Strait. After class, I would get in my car and drive alone home to Ballard, where I would resume blaming and regretting and mourning.

Thank God  for doctors who can at times work past infertility with hope and a prayer. Thank God for my first miracle baby, Eva, who arrived the following year. And my second miracle, Vincent. And years and years later, little Valerie.

My pink suede coat does not fit any longer. I wouldn’t wear it even if it did. But it is there waiting for me to pick up, and I am going to go get it.

Always Looking And Learning Along The Journey

I like to stay alert to what is going on in the world directly around me, remaining on the lookout for messages I need to pay special attention to and heeding lessons I’m meant to learn.

I wrote a lot last year about all of the (mostly unpleasant) changes that kept being thrown my way. I won’t rehash them all again, because at this point I am just grateful that things are starting to calm down and 2014 is getting off to a much smoother start. Yes, I’ve faced difficulty and discouragement before, but never in such a relentless manner. Needless to say, I learned a lot of lessons I won’t soon forget.

On Facebook recently, two messages came through my feed that struck a chord with me. They weren’t directed at me specifically, but I took special note.

The first was from my friend, Katie, who posted a picture of a beach at sunset with the caption “Relax. Nothing is under control.”

The second was from my friend, Molly, who wrote “An amazing part of having faith in the Divine is the reassurance and peace that comes from knowing that everything will work out for good.”

As I move into this New Year, I am also forming my writing plan. Each year, I set publication goals,  jot down essay ideas, and see what I can realistically accomplish as a busy seasonally-single stay-at-home-mother of three young children. I had a telephone conference with my writing mentor, Christina Katz, who has been indispensable to me these last many years as I have transitioned my writing career from that of a gal with nothing but time to travel and write, to that of a wife and mother.

We discussed many things over the hour, and I took five pages of notes. Christina helped me see that some of my goals were simply not realistic and would take me in too many new directions, which would only create more chaos. She showed me where I could simplify and streamline. We also talked about steering clear of toxic people and negative situations that would also pull me in directions away from what I want for my family, my writing, and me. Here is some of what she said:

“Draw a circle around your family and let the rest go. You are the orchestrator of your life and you decide where your energy goes. Don’t be thrown off track or taken out of your process. Don’t fall into all of the potholes you come across; run around them, jump over them, do any and everything to avoid them. Don’t let the world toss you around like a ship at sea.”

Thank you so much, Christina!

Yesterday, I got to read at our local bookstore from the most recent anthology in which I have an essay. The anthology is called “Journeys.” Although my essay was  about an event from over a decade ago, in which I suddenly changed course and decided to go down a different road from the one I was on, I think the title “Journeys” is relevant to each year of our lives.

George is at sea, so he was unable to attend the reading. My parents came and I also brought my two oldest children with me. In fact, my eight-year-old, Eva, stood right next to me as I read into the microphone. I held her close as I read, hoping she would always remember her mommy this way.

Not her mommy who is so often torn in many different directions, but her mommy who likes to write stories. Her mommy who likes to read books. Who especially likes to read from her own stories in books, with family and good friends in the audience and her firstborn girl by her side.


Bon Voyage, G and Happy Birthday, Valerie!

These weeks are flying by. Even my 8-year old, Eva, said as much last night. I don’t know where the time is going but I wish it would slow down for a minute!

George and the crew steamed out of the harbor a week ago, Westport-bound for the January 12, 2014 dungeness crab pot “Dump Day.” G had a couple of days to spare after arriving in Westport, so he drove home for one day to attend an important meeting regarding boundaries for the schools our children will attend following the closure of our own dear school. I was glad G came home for that. He even went and blew up a map of the proposed boundaries, put it on poster board, and glued a printout on the back that explained why we were (are) contesting the proposed boundaries.

But he went away the next day, and it has been just the children and me since then. Back to business as usual! Of course we miss G very much and think about him all the time, but this is what we are used to!  I am accustomed to being on my own.

George is out in the Pacific Ocean dumping 500 crab pots, picking them back up, running back to town, running back out to sea, and trying to catch a couple of hours of sleep in between. In fact, I just heard from George and he said to not expect to hear from him for a week or more, as he will be well out of cell service. G and I are sort of old school; we don’t Skype, Facetime, or even simply call much when he’s at sea. He is busy working on the boat, and I am busy working at home. He always calls when it is a good time for him, though, and I always answer. This is the best system for us and the one we’ve used  the past fourteen years!

Our youngest daughter, Valerie (aka Bunny), turns 2 on Sunday. I am celebrating her birthday this evening with my  family and some cake. I just love this little doll, Valerie Joy. We all do! She was such a surprise, such a wonderful blessing.  We laugh at the way she runs down the hallway and adore the way she is starting to talk and give kisses. Even after two years, we still can’t believe we have somebody as young as Bunny in the house! We love dressing her up and giving her baths, and picking her up for hugs and kisses out of her crib every morning. Little Valerie is just too precious, as are her brother and sister. I don’t know what I would do without any of them.


G and the Dungeness crab crew, 2014.




Happy 2nd Birthday, Bunny!