Only Good Times Ahead. Cheer For Larrabee Elementary in the Parade!

I am so excited; it’s supposed to be 79 degrees on Thursday.

I was shocked when I saw that forecast on my weather app.

“How can this be?” I asked George. “How can it go from 54 degrees and rainy, to 79 degrees and sunny in just a few days?”

I was looking for both a literal and figurative answer. But in the end, who cares? It’s going to be in the high 70 degrees on Thursday, and I can’t wait. Too bad the pool doesn’t open until May 12!

We are gearing up for the end of the school year. For us at Larrabee Elementary, it’s not just the end of another school year, but the end of our school.

I have been hard at work with PTA officers to get our Larrabee Elementary parade entry lined up. George will be driving our flatbed truck, in which many of our Larrabee children, parents, and staff will safely stand and cheer within guardrails along the parade route. In addition, we have designed and ordered three dynamic yellow-and-black banners; one banner that several children will hold and walk with in front of the truck, and two smaller banners that will attach to either side of the truck.

We will have balloons, noise, cheer, singing, and fun all along the parade route.

I am so excited! Look and cheer for all of our entire Larrabee Elementary family in what is formally known as the “Junior Ski-t0-Sea-Parade” but what is commonly known as the “Kiddie Parade.”

We will be singing the Larrabee song:

“We are Larrabee;

Busy, busy, busy, as a Bumble Bee;

Learning, growing, being all that we can be;

‘Cause I’m at Larrabee, and you’re at Larrabee;

We are Larrabee;

Bzzzzzz!”

This is going to be so cute; if you’re local, you won’t want to miss it. Come on down to the parade and watch these adorable, resilient children march on down the street. These are all children who are leaving their dear, familiar school and heading for new schools next year.

If you are a past or present Larrabee student, please ride or walk with us and celebrate a gracious and celebratory end to our 124-year old neighborhood and community school.

In addition to this fun, I’m just excited for the rest of spring and all of summer. We have a camping trip coming up. A boat trip. The pool opens in mid-May. My birthday cruise is at the end of August. Nothing but sunshine and smiles, friends and family ahead, God willing.

See you at the kiddie parade, if not sooner!

Commercial Fishing Deaths: Fate, or Something Else?

One of my favorite things about writing this blog the past seven years continues to be reviewing feedback. Whether that feedback appears in the form of comments on the blog, questions submitted through the contact form, or comments and likes left via Facebook, I read and analyze it all. I study the search terms that lead people here. What are people looking for? Searching for?

I received a unique inquiry recently. Honestly, this was one of the most thought-provoking requests for insight into the commercial fishing life I have received in a long time. It comes from British journalist and author Richard Benson, who is based in London and the author of The Farm: The Story of One Family and the English Countryside.

Here is the inquiry:

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I am a British journalist and author based in London, and I am looking for someone who might be willing to tell me a little about the commercial fishing life you write about. It is research for a story I am hoping to write for one of our newspapers over here. I write quite a bit about people who do dangerous or challenging physical work. 
My most recent book, for example, is about one side of my family who worked in coal mining. The men in the family suffered several serious accidents underground, one of them fatal. When these accidents happened, people who might have been on the scene, but had by chance avoided it, often talked about fate, and say they believed that your life was all planned out for you, and when it was your time to go, you would go, etc.  It was basically superstition, but I think deep down a lot of people did believe in it, and had ideas about how and when fate really worked. 
I have come across similar ideas in soldiers and shipbuilders. I am trying to write something about this idea of fate, and how it seems to quietly crop up among people doing extremely dangerous work. I am interested in whether it affects people in countries outside Europe, and so have been trying to look up writing about Alaskan fishermen, as I know the job is incredibly dangerous. I wondered if you had any sort of experience or insight of fishing people thinking or talking about this sort of thing? Not necessarily in a big, dramatic way – it could just be a short observation. Or is it something that actually never occurs to people? That in itself would be interesting, too. I do hope this makes some sort of sense! I would be fascinated to know what you think.

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I am currently in the process of sorting through my myriad of thoughts on this topic. I invite you all to weigh in. I don’t think you need to be an Alaska fisherman; I think the subject applies to all commercial fishermen and fishing families. It especially applies to all fishermen and fishing families who have lost a friend or family member to the sea in a terrible fishing accident.

What do you think? Fate? Not fate? What are your thoughts? Please share them here or weigh in on the Commercial Fishing Families & Friends Facebook page, where I plan to post the question. Let’s help Richard by sharing our commercial fishing insight.

A Pleasant Spring Break After All

A couple of weeks ago, G asked if I was up for a spring break trip to Florida. Ten years ago, I would have been like, “YES! YES! Let’s GO!”

But now, I had multiple things to consider before hopping on a plane. For starters, three days’ warning is not enough time to get ready. Eva and Vincent would miss an additional week of school, on top of the week they already missed when we were at the Great Wolf Lodge. Valerie, 2, is only just beginning to communicate with words. How would she do on a plane across country for six hours? And me. I’m not thin enough for Florida! I need a few more months years at the gym!

It was an agonizing decision. I went back and forth. We weren’t ready to go. On the other hand, who on earth would turn down a trip to Florida?

Well, I did.

I asked if we could go twice. Maybe George could go now by himself, and the rest of the family could go in June on a second trip after school was out.

Fortunately, G agreed. The intent of this spring trip was to check out a boat. If G liked the boat, he would buy it and then later, bring it around the Panama Canal on a six-week boat ride. And then, once school was out, we could go back as a family and stay on our favorite island. Plan made. Done.

One day into the childrens’ spring break, though, I regretted my choice. It was pouring down rain. Cold. Gray. Awful. What idiot would have said no to a sunny, Gulf of Mexico vacation for typical cold, windy, rainy Pacific NW yuck? Well, we know exactly who.

Two days into it, though, the weather began to clear. We attended a bowling party for the 8-year-old daughter of good friends. Eva got to join Buddy Week at karate with Vincent. We went to dinner with other good friends and played “Would You Rather” into late in the evening. I got a massage, and rode bikes with the children to the park. George took the big kids for a car ride south of town, and I played in our backyard with the youngest.

It turned out to be a nice and relaxing spring break. G is currently in Florida. I talked with him briefly today, and word is he didn’t care too much for the boat he flew across the country to look at.

But he will get to visit with his dad next, the sun is shining on both coasts, and all is well.

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Beginning the Small School Transition…

At 8:30 one morning last week, I got a call from the lovely Larrabee Elementary “lunch lady.”

“Hello?” I asked when I answered my cell phone. I was actually parked just outside the school, having just dropped off Eva and Vincent.

“Hi,” she replied. “I’ve sent a note home with Eva for a few days regarding her overdue lunch balance.”

“Oh!” I said. “Ugh! Sorry about that! I didn’t see the note! I will run a check in today.”

“I’ve let the children charge lunches even with an outstanding balance,”she said.

“But I have to tell you,” she continued, “That I’ve spoiled all of our children. I refuse to serve them the “alternative lunch” when their balance is overdue. But this won’t happen at their new school. They will have to keep on top of their balance. I’ve spoiled our children here. But I just wanted to let you know.”

“Oh, goodness!” I said. “Yes, of course. For one thing, I will put more money on Eva’s account. I will also talk to her again about being responsible for her account. Thank you!”

I felt sort of sad when I hung up the phone. I also felt grateful for our lunch lady, who has so patiently waited and helped over the years as thousands of kindergarteners learned lunch numbers. Who has given a pass to those whose balance was overdrawn. Who recently, and  so sweetly, passed my two-year-old, Valerie, a cup of cereal when we joined Eva and Vincent for breakfast before school one morning.

When Valerie was first born, I would call our school school each day. “We will be late!” I’d say. Or, “I told Eva I’d pick her up, but now she needs to ride the bus home! Val is still sleeping!”

“No problem,” our secretary would reply. “I’ll let Mrs. Wilson know. Thank you for calling, and take care.”

I recently called our school to find out if enrichment activities were still on this week, the week before spring break.

“Didn’t you get the schedule?” someone asked me. “It’s on the schedule. Didn’t you get it?”

“Uh…yes…I’m sure it’s here somewhere, but I’m not sure where…so I thought I’d just call…” I said.

We got it sorted out. However,  I missed the person who sat at the desk before our school was slated for closure. Who would have told me with enthusiasm, “Yes! All activities are on this week. Any other questions I can answer?”

As I hung up, it just reminded me this is something I must get used to. So many of us in our current environment are used to life in a small, loving, close-knit public school. We are used to being “spoiled.”

We must now begin to transition…children and parents alike.

Celebrating Those Who Have Returned From Sea, Mourning Those Who Will Not.

George and the crew have returned from the 2014 Dungeness crab season. I have not yet gone down to the harbor to snap pictures of the post-season gear work that consists of getting 500 pots off the boat, stacking them in lockers at the harbor, and a variety of other tasks. This year’s crab season was not great, as there were very few crab around.

The upside is that George said there were many “recruits.” Recruits are all the female and young crab the guys throw back into the ocean. These crab indicate a potentially boom season in the next couple of years. Fishing seasons run in cycles, and we don’t get too upset about a slow season, knowing it will come back around as it always does.

The important thing is that everyone arrived home safe and alive. You never know, when you wave the boat off at the start of a season, if that will be the last time you see one of the guys you are waving to. Without fail, I go to the harbor and wave and hug and send the boat off  at the start of every single season, because you just never know.

Tragically, the Oregon commercial fishing community will not receive one of their fishermen home this year. Just last week, our sister fishing community lost one of their own to the Bering Sea. Eric Eder, who by accounts from every single person in the Oregon fishing family was an upstanding, awesome, fun, friendly, wonderful man, leaves behind a beautiful wife and young family. You can read more here.

This hurts everyone. Personally, news like this always causes me to reflect back to 1997, when my own brother-in-law, Danny, was lost to the sea during the Alaska crab season. Married just a few months, my sister’s vibrant and exuberant husband was never found. I’ve written a bit about Danny here. I have never shared much about the grief of our families on my blog or otherwise, because the grief is so private and painful.

However, I will never forget going about my regular morning all those years ago. Then, the phone call. The panic. The confusion. The denial. The hope that it was all a mistake. The realization. The horror.

The fact that another family is experiencing this right now leaves us all with a heavy heart. We welcome and celebrate the fishermen who have returned safe to the harbor, but mourn the ones who will never return. We cry for  their wives, their children, their families, their friends.

And please, don’t forget the Lady Cecelia. Just two years ago, in March of 2012, I wrote about my thoughts concerning the tragedy of this Oregon trawler that disappeared into the sea in a matter of seconds off the Washington Coast, taking all four crew members with her. You can read that post here.

If you are able, I encourage you to take a moment and give to the family of Eric Eder. Donations can be made here.

Imagine if you were a fishing wife one moment and a fishing widow the very next. If financial giving is not an option, please pray for Eric Eder and his family. I can tell you that time does not do much to ease the excruciating pain of a fisherman lost, but every little bit of kindness, love, and support does help.

God Bless, Eric Eder.

God Bless, Eric Eder.

 

Great Wolf Lodge and Smooth 70′s iTunes Radio

Each week, I begin doing laundry on Sunday mornings. By Monday afternoon, I’ve finished washing and drying laundry for four (not including George). I toss all of the fresh and clean laundry into baskets in the hallway. I like to walk by and observe the baskets of clean clothes until Wednesday morning, when I fold and pile it all on my bed. At bedtime on Wednesday night, I move the piles neatly to the floor. I admire my floor piles for a couple of days until Friday, when at last, I finally put all the folded laundry away in various dressers and drawers throughout the house.

That’s basically my laundry routine. Yes, I stretch it out. There’s just so much! Eva’s outfits are many and layered.  Vincent insists on wearing a new pair of pajamas each night. I have two set of clothes each day; workout and regular. And let’s not even mention two-year-old Bunny and what she goes through each week!

This week, though, I’m hustling more than usual. I’m trying to get the laundry done, folded, and put away by tomorrow morning because come tomorrow, we are leaving town! I’m so excited. We are making our annual trek to the Great Wolf Lodge. We go every year about this time. The holidays are long over, spring has yet to arrive, and it’s just time to get out of town. G takes a break from the crab season and we go. Some years I have met him at the Lodge and some years he travels with the kids and me.

I got a text message from G last night telling me he’d be home to travel with us this year, which takes some pressure off of me as far as preparations go. I just love going to the Great Wolf Lodge. I am not one to go on the slides or have the giant bucket of water dump on my head (for one thing, I have Valerie to care for, and for another, I have a shoulder that dislocates. Also, I don’t like buckets of water dumped on my head). Still, I love going. We park the car in the lot and never look at it again for three or four days. Meals are taken care of. Housekeeping is taken care of. Kids’ entertainment is taken care of.

We walk around the grounds in sweats and flip flops, adult sippy cups in hand, watching the kids have a great time and having a great time ourselves. Some of my extended family is coming this year, too, as they’ve done in years past. I can’t wait to get there!

After I got home from the gym this morning, I began folding this week’s laundry. As I fold, I like to listen to the Smooth 70s station on iTunes Radio. Don’t laugh! It’s calming. A little James Taylor, Don McLean, and Van Morrison can do a girl some good. Anyway, as I was folding laundry today, G was home and nearby. When the song “Brandy” by Looking Glass (1972) began to play, I sang along. “Brandy” has long been a favorite of mine.

“I love this song,” I said.

“I always have, too,” G replied, surprising me.

All of these years, and I didn’t know we both liked the same song.

See you in a few! Great Wolf, here we come.

Brandy

There’s a port on a western bay
And it serves a hundred ships a day.
Lonely sailors pass the time away
And talk about their homes.

And there’s a girl in this harbor town
And she works layin’ whiskey down.
They say “Brandy, fetch another round,”
She serves them whiskey and wine.

The sailors say “Brandy, you’re a fine girl; 
What a good wife you would be.
Yeah, your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea.”

Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the North of Spain
A locket that bears the name
Of the man that Brandy loves.

He came on a summer’s day,
Bringin’ gifts from far away.
But he made it clear he couldn’t stay;
No harbor was his home.

The sailor said “Brandy, you’re a fine girl;
What a good wife you would be.
But my life, my lover, my lady, is the sea.”

Yeah, Brandy used to watch his eyes
When he told his sailor stories.
She could feel the ocean foam and rise;
She saw its rage and glory.

But he had always told the truth; Lord, he was an honest man.
And Brandy does her best to understand.

At night when the bars close down,
Brandy walks through a silent town
And loves a man who’s not around.
She still can hear him say:

She hears him say “Brandy, you’re a fine girl;
What a good wife you would be.
But my life, my lover, my lady, is the sea.”

“Brandy, you’re a fine girl;

What a good wife you would be.

But my life, my lover, my lady, is the sea.”

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.

 

Website Malfunction

Hello! A quick note to let you know that some of the links and images have disappeared on the pages of this blog. I am currently trying to get this fixed. Thank you for your patience and I apologize for the inconvenience!

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.

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G and the Dungeness crab crew, 2014.

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Happy 2nd Birthday, Bunny!

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