My Personal Top Memories & Moments From 2013

I thought it would be a fun project on New Year’s Eve to make up a list of some of my personal favorite happenings of 2013. In a year that has included a bit more disappointment than in years past, I knew there were still so many sweet and fun occasions to remember! Here are a few of my personal favorites from 2013:

Eva Making a Larrabee Bumblebee for Vincent.  

Vincent was surprised on his first day of kindergarten this year with a handmade Larrabee Bumblebee from Eva. Eva drew the bee at the end of last school year and gave it to our kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Wilson, to save over the summer and present to Vincent on his first day at Larrabee Elementary.

Vincent and I were both taken aback and grateful for the thoughtfulness of 7-year old Eva, who planned three months in advance for this surprise. I was also grateful for Mrs. Wilson, who kept Eva’s picture for months and remembered to present it to Vincent on his first day.

V & E Kinder Bee

The Larrabee Elementary Neighborhood and Community Coming Together.

We are all well aware at this point of the ridiculous, senseless, and offensive closure of our little elementary school, slammed shut by our school board and superintendent, without any conscience or regard whatsoever. However, our Larrabee Elementary community coming together in a valiant, energetic, ceaseless, honorable way to save our school and fight for what was right for our children and neighborhood earns a top spot in my favorites list of 2013.

Kitchen/Family Room Remodel.

George and I bought a house that was built in 1984. It is a solid house and plenty spacious for us all, but has obviously required a bit of updating. Over the last seven years we have replaced carpet with hardwoods, remodeled bathrooms, painted walls, improved outdoor railings and front steps, and even dug into the earth for a nine-month project that resulted in the creation of an entire lower level of living space (otherwise known as the man cave).

Finally, finally, I convinced G it was time to tackle the one last remaining project….the kitchen/family room. It will be the last project, the last big money spent on the house, the grande finale. I finally get to say goodbye to my yellow walk-in closet galley kitchen and say hello to a modern, open-concept kitchen and family room. I’m so excited. This won’t happen until after the crab season, but that’s fine. We have builders, we have the design. We’re ready. YES!

Joining The Gym.

I did not expect to retire from teaching Jazzercise this year, but that is in fact what I did. I have to say that while there are many aspects of teaching Jazzercise that I miss, I love the gym. I have enjoyed taking a variety of different classes, from Zumba to Step to Body Pump to Body Combat to SHRED. I have also enjoyed cycling and jogging to my own iPod music set to shuffle. I needed to start dropping some pounds (three children and nearing 40 is a tough nut to crack) and my body was no longer responding to my usual exercise. The going is slow, but I’ve managed to drop about eight pounds so far at the gym all while enjoying the classes, the staff, and gym community. I also have much more stress-free, quality time for my children and their needs without the distraction of learning routines and planning classes.

Pacific Marine Expo.

Otherwise known as “Fish Expo,” this is always a huge event and kick off to the holiday season for my family. Thousands upon thousands of commercial fishermen, thousands of vendors, hundreds of friends. Writers, poets, authors, captains, crew, families. My old and dear friends from National Fisherman magazine, my fishing friends from real life and my fishing friends online. All together under one downtown convention center roof in Seattle to meet, greet, and have a drink. I also got to speak with a group of commercial fishermen’s wives on our second-annual panel, called “On the Homefront.”

I have attended Fish Expo more years than I can remember; first as a child with my own family, then as a writer for National Fisherman, and now as the wife and mother of my own fishing family. My dad comes every year, my husband attends every year, our children come every year. Fish Expo is a family affair, as commercial fishing should be!

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Winter Trip.

After Christmas, we went east of the mountains to join some friends on a winter cabin trip. It was only three nights and three hours away, but it seemed like so much more. I slept with Valerie in a room in our lodge, cuddly and cozy. I did not have Facebook access, which was actually a pleasant suprise! Val slept through each night and for the first time in months, so did I. I didn’t wake up from 2:00 am to 4:00 am tossing and turning like I usually do. Eva and Vincent and George and I all slept on one level in our lodge while our friends, about four other families, all stayed at the lodge home of the inviting family. We played games, the children behaved, we had a few laughs, came up with a Boggle Champion, and created memories.

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Jason Aldean.

I had not been to a big concert since before I was pregnant with Eva (eight years). When my friend, Dawn Michelle, told me that Jason Aldean was coming near her home in Portland, OR, she didn’t have to ask twice!! Sign me up! When September came, my whole family piled into the car and down the road we went. I couldn’t bear to be without my children for three days, so they “had” to come along! As it turned out, George couldn’t attend the concert, so I brought my little cowgirl, Eva, with me.

At the concert, Dawn Michelle, her partner Jay, Eva, and I found a nice place to sit in the very back of the outdoor arena. I wrapped Eva up in a blanket and held her while Jason Aldean came out and sang for over two hours straight. I was in heaven. I have been Jason Aldean’s #1 fan for about a decade and was beyond myself with excitement and bliss! I couldn’t believe I was seeing him live after all these years of watching on TV. Now, I am normally not a groupie (I’m too old for that and a mother of three!). However, I had not been to a concert in SO LONG. And now I was seeing my FAVORITE! I’d been concerned about the “crowd” and the possibility of “language issues” in front of Eva, but none of that occurred and we had the best night ever.

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Whatcom Writes Anthology. 

Last but not least, I wrote an essay on the topic of “Journeys” and entered it into the Whatcom Writes call for anthology submissions this fall. The guidelines stated that all accepted writers would be notified during the month of December. I just commented to George this morning that I supposed my essay had not been chosen, because it was the last day of December and I hadn’t heard. However, I just did receive an e-mail notifying me that my essay has been accepted and I’ve been invited to participate in a public reading at our local independent bookstore in February. This is a real gift; I am beyond excited to have been included and to add this to my writing resume.

 

In spite of a few struggles this year, there were also many things that stood out for good and joy. These are just a few. Happy New Year and all the best in 2014!!

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Forging Gratefully Ahead into the New Year!

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

On the contrary, I choose to look back on the past year to determine what I did well and I did not do well. I spend time mulling it all over, determining which choices could have been different and which lessons I might glean from the year, for better or for worse.

After taking stock of the past year, I move forward, resolving to do better and hoping not make the same transgressions.

As for my family and me, we experienced a lot of change last year. Our commercial fisheries changed for the first time in thirteen years. Our fishing schedule changed, which meant George was home more than ever in our years together. That alone was enough change for one year, but it didn’t end there

One of our good friends met with an unfortunate situation, and we lost that relationship for a while. Our crew changed for the first time in ten years.

And while my son, Vincent, entered kindergarten after surgery that enabled him to hear and a year of speech therapy, my youngest daughter qualified for speech services.

Our beloved and small neighborhood elementary school, for which hundreds of us fought to save, could not be saved.

What else? After teaching Jazzercise for seven years and bringing three children up in the studio, I resigned.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t respond well to change. In fact, I spent a moment or two in tears the last year, lamenting all of this change. I wanted our school to stay open. I wanted our crew to return as a whole. I never anticipated leaving Jazzercise.

However, I’m able to look forward. I also know people who have experience much worse this year. I have discovered along this journey of change that there are nice, friendly, smart, and funny people everywhere where you go.

I may not be at Jazzercise where I’ve spent nearly the last decade, but I enjoy my new friends at the gym. I’m taking classes that I am not responsible for (and have even lost eight pounds since starting) and have discovered that you can be greeted with a friendly smile, engage with others, and get a great workout pretty much no matter where you go.

I miss my friend and our regular crew, along with the nights out and traditions we held for nearly a decade, but there are also other gatherings, new friends and acquaintances with whom to experience life.

George has been home longer this year than ever in the past. In the thirteen years we’ve been together and the eleven years we’ve been married, he’s regularly been away nine months a year. This year was the opposite. It has been a challenging experience to say the least, but we are both still here giving it the good effort just like we always do.

So, yes. It’s been a year of change. Too much change. Change I wasn’t sure I would be able to navigate. But…I did. We did. I hope for calmer waters and smoother sailing going forward, but whoever really knows?

Going into the New Year, I will choose my friends more wisely. I will draw tighter boundaries some places and loosen them in others. Some friendships have crossed lines and need to be reassessed. I will offer more grace and understanding to those directly involved in my life and keep forging ahead along with everyone else. I will remain forever grateful and joyful about my three kind, sweet, and precious children.

I wish all of you a blessed holiday, a happy New Year, and peaceful waters going forward into 2014!

 

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Word of Advice: Know ALL Of Your Home Security System Passwords & Codes!

I was on the fence about posting this incredibly embarrassing story, but in the interest of anyone who has a home security system, I decided to take the risk.

First of all, if you have a home security system, I implore you to make sure you know ALL of the codes, passwords, and number combinations. Not just the number you press on the touch screen when you accidentally set off your alarm, but ALL of them.

Somehow, that piece of the home security tutorial did not resonate with me, and I paid a very embarrassing price for it last night.

The evening started out innocently enough. I spent the day at the ice rink with my three children and a group of friends celebrating the 8th birthday of my friend’s daughter. We decided to have dinner at my house following the party. George flew out yesterday morning to Nashville where he is spending Thanksgiving and celebrating his dad’s 75th birthday, so I was on my own and company sounded great.

George and I installed a home security system after a creepy encyclopedia salesman seemed to form a weird attachment to my house and me, and also because I am on my own with the children many months a year. We have cameras for surveillance in and out of the house, plus a traditional alarm system.

The children and their friends like to use the cameras to make movies. One child will watch the camera screen, and the others will get in front of the cameras and make goofy faces and act up. It has all been pretty funny and fun for them…until last night.

Last night, one of the children accidentally pressed the PANIC button on the touch screen. The ear-piercing alarm went off. The child who pressed the button was frightened and jumped into his mothers arms, crying.

My phone rang. I answered it, knowing it was just the security company confirming all was well.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “It’s all fine. Sorry about that! My mistake.”

“I need your password,” she said.

“Password?” I asked. “I punched in my code and stopped the alarm already.”

“Right. But I need your password.”

“Um, I don’t know what you mean,” I said. “In fact, could you show me? I’ve been meaning to call about that because I’ve never understood what you mean by password.”

I walked over to the touch screen and she walked me through it. Cool! I hung up, reassured my friend’s son that all was fine, and poured myself a post-birthday party-and-scary-alarm cocktail.

Two minutes later, my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but something told me I should answer it.

“Hello?”

“This is 9-1-1. We have an officer outside your home. Please give me a description of what you are wearing.”

What? I just talked to the security people and told them all was fine! But, uh, I’m certainly not arguing with 9-1-1.

“Maroon sweater, blue jeans, white socks, brown strappy flats.”

“That’s a great description,” she said.

I decide it is not a good time to explain that I’m a writer and big on both details and description. And, wait! My friend is also wearing a maroon sweater. Maybe I should send her out instead.

“I need you to go outside and meet the officer,” she said.

Oh, no. My head spins. I ditch my cocktail down the drain and head for the door.

I step outside, but I don’t see anyone. Is this some kind of joke? Nobody is here. Visions of the fake cops that pull unsuspecting people over on the freeway visit my head. I stand on the top of my stairs, paralyzed. I decide to call George for advice and start to dial.

“Please come here,” a voice says.

I set my phone down and descend the stairs to the street and what is indeed a uniformed officer.

“Everything okay in there?” he asked.

“Yes!” I answer.

“Can I come inside?” he asked.

“Sure!” I say, heart racing.

Next thing I know, I have a 6’8” policeman standing in my doorway. Vincent walks over.

“Hey, Vincent!” I say with a fake and cheerful–and what I hope is reassuring– smile as I try to mask my panic. “Look! It’s a real, live policeman!”

“Are you SWAT?” Vincent asked.

“I am,” the officer replied.

“Wow, cool, right Vincent?”  Then I turn to the officer and for some reason decide to inquire on what the protocol is for police car ride-a-longs, thinking Vincent might like to take one.

“Well, you have to be 16,” he said.

“Ah,” I said. Maybe in ten years.

My friend and I went on to explain the alarm mistake and that we didn’t know the password. That we’d just had a birthday party and were having dinner and letting the kids play.  That all was well.

“I’m so embarrassed,” I said to the officer. “Did this go out on the scanner? Will anyone know you were here? I am so embarrassed. And I’m sorry for wasting tax payer money.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “Believe me. This is not embarrassing. It’s what I’m going to be responding to the rest of this night that is what’s embarrassing for people.”

“Thank you,” I said.

He gave some advice on managing and monitoring the alarm system. He was kind and patient. He explained that having me come outside was for my own safety in case something odd was going on inside. For some reason, in my nervous state, I decide that dropping a few names of the policemen I sort of know is a good idea.

“Do you know Ty? Brock? Or Jon? Jon was a year younger than me in school.”

The policeman was a nice guy. He showed my friend, me, and our children grace and kindness. And although there was nothing wrong at my house, I was grateful for the quick and thorough response in case there ever was an emergency.

After he left, I joined my friend in the kitchen. The whole situation left me in a minor state of shock.

And oh, no!

George! He was going to kill me!

George had been gone for less than twelve hours when I managed to let this situation occur. He might be angry…but on the other hand, he might not. I’d have to call and find out.

I call him at 10 p.m.

“Wow, so this is a pretty crazy story….” I begin.

“…and I am so embarrassed,” I finish.

“I’m sure you are,” he said.

“We need to get ALL the codes and passwords to the system,” I said.

“Yes, we do.” he replied.

What a way to cap off a tough and strange week. Can you guess what call I am making first thing Monday morning?

Surely Jesus Loves Fishermen, Part Two.

Two years ago, a fishing friend of mine, Monte, died suddenly. He was only in his late twenties and he died of a heart attack. He left behind a wife and an infant daughter. I was eight months pregnant with Valerie when I heard the news and I remember doubling over in my recliner, sobbing.

Last night, I received news that another fishing friend of mine has passed. I am so sad. Chris was just a little older than me and we went to different high schools. We formed a friendship later on in life and he ended up being a great support to me. He was fun, as well as supportive and excited about the Facebook group I helped start, Commercial Fishing Families & Friends. In fact, Chris was such an enthusiastic and active member that I asked if he would become an administrator of the group. He was not interested in that role, but he continued his enthusiastic support of the group and of me.

Chris would always come through with a “like” for my personal Facebook pictures and a “like” for the Facebook group pictures. He also posted the coolest boat pictures of anyone on Facebook. Like me, and so many of us, Chris grew up in a multi-generation commercial fishing family. He was a character. He posted the craziest status updates on Facebook, and you could always count on him for something that would make you smile or shake your head.

I loved that Chris had no fear. He said and did what he wanted.

Chris supported me in everything I’ve done on this blog, in the Facebook group, and otherwise for many years. I could always count on him for a friendly word or a little encouragement. Our last conversation centered around popcorn machines. We both agreed that the stovetop crank machine was the best. That style of popcorn machine was one my own family had on our boat for twenty years and that I now have in my own kitchen. I loved that Chris and I both knew it was the best, on or off the boat.

Chris loved boats, commercial fishing, and commercial fishing families. On a personal level, he was always so nice to me, so kind and encouraging.

I spent all of last night in tears, and I woke up every two hours, remembering the horrible news.

I am going to miss you, Chris. I already do. You came a from a fishing family like mine. From the same town as me. You invited me to be your friend and I will always be grateful for that. I’ll never forget your kindness, your unabashed way of being, and your sweetness.

We have lost Monte, Jeff, and Chris in the last three years. All too soon, all fishermen, all from families we know and care about.

God Bless all of you. I miss you.

 

Surely Jesus Loves Fishermen

Surely Jesus loves fishermen

for He chose them for His own,

To be with Him and learn from Him

and someday share His home.

It must have been their trust in God

and patience He found rare,

That keeps them very near His heart

and ever in His care.

-Anne Kujawa

 

We Did Not Win, But We Certainly Did Not Lose.

I knew before I went to sleep last night that two of the most important issues I campaigned for and voted for did not win in yesterday’s election. I woke up twice during the night and remembered the outcome with a slight sinking in my stomach.

But you know what? Although obviously disappointed and unsure about the future of particular issues, I did not feel angry or upset.

I felt good.

I woke up feeling energized and proud.

So many of us rallied together. We had meetings, we organized campaigns, went over strategies, and worked together as a non-partisan whole for what we believed, and still believe, was right for our children and our community. We did not win for our cause, but we won in so many other ways.

First of all, regarding the Smith vs Blethen Bellingham School Board campaign. The most recent numbers on the Whatcom County Auditor/ Election Division website shows that 17,983 votes were counted. Smith received 9,593 of those votes. Blethen received 8,390 of the votes. Only a difference of 1,203 votes gave Smith the win!

John Blethen may not have won, but he gave one heck of a race and I am so proud of him and everyone who campaigned and voted for him. A difference of 1203 votes is NOT a huge victory for Smith by any stretch. Good work, John Blethen, and thank you for standing up for what you and so many of us believe about the future of our schools!

As for the $160 million Bellingham School District Bond, there were a total of 20,115 votes. Of those votes, 12,775 people voted to approve the bond and 7,340 voted to reject it. That is a difference of 5,340 votes. The bond needed 60% of the vote to win and they ended up with 63%. Again, hardly a landslide victory!

Going up against the Bellingham School District is neither fun nor easy. We started with a small group. We grew to a larger group. Still others joined in. ALL of whom support Bellingham schools and children, and have some connection to the district but did (do) not like the direction the district is headed or the leadership under which it is headed. We wrote letters, published blog posts, distributed fliers, posted signs, went on Facebook, and talked to our friends and family.

We argued, through intelligent thought, well-researched fact, and experience from lawyers, former teachers, school families, district employees, and regular citizens, that much of what our school district has done the past year is fraudulent, from the so-called “Facilities Planning Task Force,” to the closing of Larrabee Elementary.

We did so with grace, dignity, intelligence, and respect.

We may not have won, but you know what? We did win.

Our children know that we care about them. We came together as a group of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. School teachers, attorneys, city planners,  and stay at home moms. People the age of 60 and people the age of 25. We showed our children by our actions that we care about their individual needs, our local communities, and the future of our neighborhood small schools.

And now we have the opportunity to show our children by example that we can accept defeat with grace and respect. We fought to save Larrabee Elementary, and we lost. We fought against the bond, and we lost. We fought to get Smith off the board, and we lost.

But we didn’t lose.

We came together, we tried our best and gave it our best effort, and now we continue on with strength and resolve.

It’s not the win we hoped for, but it’s still a win.

p.s.

Oh—and by the way. Still one little issue. Is our school district seriously going to close one small, functioning school (Larrabee) and shove our children into portables at a school that rated lower than ours (Happy Valley), and into a construction site, for the next three years while the new school is built? Why not leave our children where they are (at Larrabee) for the next three years until the new school is built? Anyone have a logical answer for that?!

The district can well afford to keep our kids in our school a couple of more years until the new school is built, and there shouldn’t be this urgency to tear them out of their school so far ahead of time.

$160 million ought to help cover the cost, and it’s the least they can do.

Go Ahead, Write Your Truth. You Are Safe.

A couple of weekends ago, I participated in a Fall Writer’s Marathon with instructor Dawn Groves and several other writers. It had been a long time since I’d connected with writers in person, and this seemed like a great opportunity to meet fellow writers in my community and get some writing done.

I didn’t know what to expect. The marathon would take place from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm. What would I write? Where would we write?

I was nervous and unsure. I hadn’t written with others in person in probably ten years. I knew George would be available to care for our children, though, and I felt a need to connect, so I signed up for the writing marathon and put it on the calendar.

At 7:45 am on the appointed date, I packed up my laptop, leather-bound journal (which I hadn’t used as a journal in years), a water bottle, a cheese stick, and headed out. 

“Where are you actually going for this?” asked G. 

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Are you taking a bus from place to place?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

I arrived to the session with my anxiety sky-high. I felt rather unfocused and a little worried.

Just prior to my participation in this workshop, I’d written a blog post about why I am voting no on the Bellingham School District bond. The hits and views and shares were coming in by the hundreds and even thousands. Although I stood by every word I wrote, I was not used to using my blog as a public platform, and I was not accustomed to this amount of publicity.  I didn’t know if the numbers reflected people who agreed with me or people who opposed me. I dreaded the possibly of negative feedback sure to come in.

In this light, I showed up to the marathon and met with Dawn, who instantly put me at ease.

“You are safe today,” she said. “Don’t let fear of what someone might say tomorrow, or worry over what somebody said yesterday, send you into chaos. You spoke your truth with strength and dignity. Respond to any feedback in the same way.”

That is how I began my writing marathon; with assurance of safety and validation. So I wrote in session one. And I wrote during session two. Then session three, and session four. And I connected with the other writers, and we shared our writing. Then we moved to the next location, and we wrote. Then we met up again at the next location and shared our writing. I listened to works-in-progress that included plays, fiction, and memoir.

As for me? I just wrote. Freehand. In my leather-bound journal. I ditched my laptop and the pressure to click “submit” or “send” or “publish” or “update.” Nope. I had my pen and book and just wrote.

I almost felt like I was hiding. It made me laugh. Nobody could find me! I moved from location to location in my corner of town and wrote in coffee bars, bookstores, hotel lobbies with fireplaces and book-lined shelves, and even stopped by a real bar.

I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I never stopped. And during the share times, I learned or was reminded of things, like: 

  • Amazing things will happen, but you have to show up and then grab them.
  • Ignoring a passion or a need is a mistake.
  • Cut open the vein and write through the pain and hurt.
  • Don’t devalue your efforts. Small steps.
  • Connect and gather with people who actually have goals and connect with them.

The writing marathon was a gift. Dawn Groves was a gift. My fellow writers were a gift. I entered the workshop in one state and left another. All the right people, all at the right time.

Speak your truth, no matter what it is and no matter where it may lead.

You are safe. And so am I.

 

First Halloween Party in Ten Years!

The crab crew has returned to town and today is the first day of gear work in preparation for the 2013-2014 Dungeness crab season. Eva is at school, Vincent and Valerie are home sick with me, and I just filled out and sent in my ballot for this year’s election. Yep, fall is officially here!

I did one thing different this fall from the falls of the last decade…I actually dressed up in a Halloween costume and attended a Halloween party. The last time I dressed up and went to a Halloween party, G and I lived in Ballard. We lived in a little yellow house, we had a young puppy named Toby, an older puppy named Mandy, and no children. Now, we no longer live in Ballard but have returned to my hometown, we lost dear Toby to cancer a couple of years ago, and we’ve added three children to the family!

High time to dress up and go out.

You all know that the last few months have been filled with transition for my family and me. Most all of it was unexpected and hard to come to terms with. All of a sudden, I felt like I wanted to go out! Let loose! Forget the stress and let my hair down! And, I was NOT going to drive home. Nope. I was going to kick up my heels and let go for one night.

Unfortunately, G could not attend the party with me because our babysitter canceled.

Fortunately, G was sweet enough to volunteer to watch our children and the children of my friend so I could still go to the party. I’d emerged from my bedroom in costume, hair and makeup done, but no party in which to go. G took pity on me and said he would stay home and watch all the children so I could still attend. The kind expression on his face and his willingness to give, so I could go out with friends for once, was touching and met with gratitude from me.

My friend dressed as an Ice Queen, I dressed as a Baroness (the wife of a 19th century British nobleman—I had to look it up for the exact description!) and off we went. The party was fantastic; the party hostess and her husband decorated their house to the hilt and had drinks and food for all. There was music and dancing, including a choreographed routine we got to practice and perform! Smiles, laughter, conversation, general light-heartedness all around…exactly what I needed.

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The kids were surprised to see Mommy dressed up!

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Ice Queen and the Baroness.

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Dinner on the boat with Dad.

Why I am Voting NO on the Bellingham School District Bond

What a great first few weeks of school it has been! We’ve been bowling with our school friends. Out to the pumpkin patch with our school friends. Camping with school friends. To dinner and impromptu dance parties with our school friends. We have dropped off and picked up and played on the playgrounds with our school friends.

Wow, too bad our school is closing!  So much fun, friendship, learning, attention, community, and accountability. All being thrown away like trash.

But who cares about that? Certainly not our own school board or district officials.

I’ve posted a few Facebook updates regarding my stance on the Bellingham School District’s bond proposal, which is coming up for a vote soon. Although I am a lifelong attendant and proponent of our public schools, I am voting NO on this particular bond. If you want some specifics about the bond and why many of us are opposed to it, please visit the Vote No on the Bellingham School District Bond Facebook page right here. You can also click here to read informed letters from citizens in the Whatcom Watch.

Otherwise, here are some of my personal thoughts.

This bond will create larger elementary schools, increased class sizes, more busing, higher administrative costs, and less community cohesion. The Bellingham School District plans to increase all neighborhood schools to 450 students, despite contrary input from community members, Bellingham’s comprehensive plan, and educational research.

Our city still owes $59 million from the 2007 bond; we’ve paid off less than 12% of this. Yet, the district wants another $160 million ($220 million with interest) for new buildings, including $10 million for a new central office, $5 million for football turf and $10 million for new administrative offices.

These are unaffordable luxuries that leave basic student needs unmet.

Just a few years ago, the school board approved a $1.5 million overhaul of Larrabee Elementary. Last May, the school board voted to close Larrabee Elementary. How is that $1.5 million going to benefit Bellingham students now? To be honest, I no longer trust our school board with my children or my money.

While several  of our schools and facilities could use improvement, our buildings are not falling apart, as evidenced by the District’s own facilities report. Renovating, instead of replacing existing structures, is a smarter choice economically and environmentally.

The current Bellingham public school leadership movement rejects the idea of small neighborhood schools. Our superintendent stated at the May 9, 2013 school board meeting that the new model for schools is 400 students and five acres. It totally rejects a model of smaller schools serving families within our existing neighborhoods.

Our school board, contrary to the appearance of 300 community members at a public meeting and 35 speakers held in high regard, all of whom were in favor of keeping Larrabee open, voted to close Larrabee.

“I don’t need any more information,” one board member said. “I got all the information I needed during lunch with the superintendent today.”

Really? WOW! What a surprise.

Another one of the board members, currently up for re-election, Smith, said he would “sleep well that night” following his vote to close Larrabee. He was cold and arrogant in response to questions by citizens.

I am not voting for Smith in the school board race.

Question….How does one vote to close a school before a new school has even been built to accommodate the students of the school being closed? And how do you close a school that rates higher than the school you’re allowing to remain open? And is it okay with our school board for our students to be shoved into portables for the next five years while a “new” school is or is not being built? What was wrong with leaving our children comfortably and happily where they were until all of this bureaucratic mess was worked out? And how can one man do whatever he wants with our schools without any accountability to the communities he hurts in the process?

Here are a few of the District’s arguments for closing our smallest and most historical public school in spite of valid community protest:

“Three schools within a mile of each other don’t make sense.”

Really? Why don’t small schools to which families can safely walk and actually know each other make sense?

“We can’t afford to keep Larrabee Elementary open.”

Seriously? But spending 60% of a $160 million bond on a new school in one neighborhood for an extra 200 students makes sense? Wow. And where is the hard proof that keeping a tiny elementary school open is not affordable?

“Furthermore, if rebuilding Happy Valley is approved as part of of bond this November, the new school can be be built next to the old building….and for Larrabee students and families to be part of the design and new school visioning process.”

Oh, right. Just like how the first and only public hearing regarding closure of Larrabee on May 8, 2013, when 300 community members attended, and 100% of all speakers spoke in favor of saving Larrabee, made zero impact on our school board. Hmm.

The speakers involved at the public meeting regarding Larrabee included current and retired teachers from the Bellingham School District, professors from WWU, Happy Valley Neighborhood Association members, attorneys, City Council members, and otherwise. Too bad they were all ignored in favor of a “Facilities Planning Task Force” that included district employees and family of district employees as its members. Larrabee and Southside families were all but ignored throughout the entire “closing” process…if in fact, “process” is what you want to call it. I call it bulldozing and bullying.

Less than 24 hours after the public meeting about Larrabee, the school board met and voted to close Larrabee Elementary without any thought, discussion, or consideration of the meeting the night before. As stated earlier in this post, one board member remarked that she had no questions or need for clarification; all of her “questions” were answered by our superintendent during lunch that very afternoon.

Going forward, why would this group of officials ask for or value any input from  families regarding the future of any new Southside school? They’ve already shown they could not care less about what Southside families think.

“Larrabee students who currently walk to school will be able to continue to walk to Happy Valley and Lowell.”

Really? We can safely walk on these roads without sidewalks, among heavy city bus traffic, college shuttles, apartment congestion, mobile home traffic, school buses, and SUV school traffic jams? Awesome. When you figure out how we can safely walk to these schools, let us know.

“The process that began in the fall of 2012 to consider retiring Larrabee lead to a recommendation from the Facilities Planning Task Force. During this process, a Think Tank met to evaluate different timing scenarios.”

Oh, yes. The same “Task Force” that included district employees and spouses of district employees? Interesting. And I know people who were on the “Think Tank.” They were not listened to nor validated. Again, nothing but a facade.

A NO vote on the bond simply sends our school district members back to the drawing board to write a better bond. It is NOT an anti-public school vote, as some would have you believe. There are reasonable and valid parts of this bond. However, the reasonable portions are being overshadowed by the greediness of the bulk of the bond. For specifics click here.

A bond that looks less like a Santa Claus wish list, and more like a bond appropriate for our students and community, is what we need.

I’m voting NO on this specific bond to encourage the district leadership to write a more reasonable bond without unnecessary frills.

When community Democrats, Republicans, Independents, PTA board members, teachers, and parents join together peacefully for a non-partisan cause, you know it’s serious. Please, pay attention. We are not opposed to a smart, focused, right-sized bond. Unfortunately, this bond fails to meet those standards. We need a bond proposal that tells us exactly what we will gain from its expenditures in terms of improving student learning rather than just a bunch of new buildings.

If you want to retain small classes and respect for community and teachers, keep neighborhood schools alive, and send a message to our superintendent and school board members, vote NO on the bond.

We can do a lot better.

For more reading from citizens against this bond and further insights into the “Facilities Planning Task Force,” please click here to read informed letters in the Whatcom Watch.

 

Our children and parents deserve one another. Save our small schools!

Our children, teachers, parents, and community need and appreciate one another. Save our small schools!

 

 

 

Rolling With The Punches & A Commercial Fishing Show Casting Call

I know; it has been quite a while since my last post on Commercial Fishing Mom! We have been busy getting our school routine going and as always, adjusting to change. You know that I do not do well with change and lately there has just been too much of it.

“If you could just roll with the punches you’d be a lot better off,” G said to me.

That’s true. If only I could just roll with the punches! But when the punches seem ceaseless; crew change, fishery change, school change, exercise change…the bottom line is I just prefer no change, or perhaps only one small change at a time.

We are headed out of town this weekend. I am going to the Jason Aldean concert with my cowgirl daughter Eva and my cowgirl friend Dawn Michelle. I convinced G to come with me because I didn’t want to be without Vincent and Valerie for two nights, and also because it’s our eleventh wedding anniversary weekend. Who can’t use a change of scenery and a few laughs with friends we only see once a year?

Bags are being packed and stationed by the door as I write, but I wanted to post this before we left because I also have a couple of reminders for you.

The first is that my fellow anthology producer, Amanda, and I want to encourage and remind you to send us your stories for the commercial fishing families anthology! You absolutely do not have to consider yourself a “writer” to submit. We want all stories pertaining to the commercial fishing family lifestyle. They do not have to be perfect. For more information on story ideas and submitting your work, please click here.

In addition, I recently received word that a new commercial fishing TV show is currently being cast. This sounds like a great opportunity for one of you; they are looking for a family that has a son or daughter that is on the boat learning how to be a commercial fisherman. My children are too little so my family isn’t a good fit, but maybe your family is a great fit for the show! If you would like more information on this opportunity, please contact me through the contact form or visit my Facebook group, Commercial Fishing Families & Friends.

My son, Vincent, lost his third tooth this week. He was eating dinner when he tasted “a piece of metal” so he spit it out. Turns out, it was his tooth! This little guy is too funny. He doesn’t even know where the first tooth he lost went; we noticed he had a gap in his teeth but he had no idea where the tooth was or when it disappeared. He literally “lost” it. Another tooth came out on the way to his own birthday party.

Anyway, we are soldiering on, and G is starting to prepare for the crew to come up and start gear work on the upcoming Dungeness crab season. Oh! One more thing. Don’t forget to check out the Commercial Fishing Wives presentation at Fish Expo in November. Details are being finalized, and I will keep you posted.

Jason Aldean, here we come!

When Are You Supposed to Let Go? Ever?

Happy Labor Day to you all.

“It’s Dad’s day,” said my son, Vincent.

“What?” I said. “No. Father’s Day was two months ago.”

“I mean it’s Dad’s day because he is the one who works,” said my little guy.

“Oh, no,” I said. “It’s Labor Day. This is a day to celebrate all who work.”

“Isn’t Dad the only one who works?”

“No.”

I went on to explain that no matter what work one does, it’s all work and it counts. In home, out of home, for money, or no money. It’s work.

“What if I worked at the dump?” asked Vincent.

“Well, there is nothing wrong with that,” I explained. “There is no shame in any job. As long as you are working and doing your best and earning your pay, there is no shame.”

This photo doesn't even require a caption.

This graphic doesn’t even require a caption.

Ah, Vincent. My only son and a little guy with enough questions to keep one busy a lifetime. This one is starting kindergarten this year. For those of you who know us or have followed this blog, you know that Vincent also attended kindergarten last year. You also probably know that Vincent was diagnosed with childhood hearing loss last year and had surgery to correct a variety of problems. He went on to attend private kindergarten and speech therapy throughout the last school year.

This year, Vincent is going to public school and will be at the same school as his sister, Eva.

This last couple of weeks has been a time of reflection for me. I remember a year ago when Vincent had surgery and the drive we took home from the hospital following. He heard his father and I talking in the car.

“Mommy?” Vincent asked meekly from the back seat. He looked confused and nervous. “Why are you talking so funny?”

“Oh, sweetheart,” I said, choking back tears. “I’m not talking funny. You are just hearing me correctly for the first time!”

He came home to recover and we set up camp for him on the fold-out couch for two weeks. He rested there and snuggled into his dad for comfort whenever new sounds became scary and unfamiliar. One night, Vincent asked me to put him in my bed with a pair of earplugs and the rain machine turned on. He wanted the safety and security of familiar sounds, not new noises he could neither decipher nor understand.

Okay, there is a part of me that feels like this.

Okay, there is a part of me that feels like this.

Snuggling with Dad. Sounds are new and scary.

Snuggling with Dad after corrective surgery last year. New sounds are unfamiliar and scary.

After requesting earplugs and a rain machine for comfort, my boy fell asleep holding my hands.

After requesting earplugs and a rain machine for comfort, my boy fell asleep holding my hand.

Best big brother

Best big brother helping his baby sister down the stairs.

I spent five years being overprotective of Vincent. I raced to explain to all who wondered why when they spoke, Vincent may not have understood what they were saying. Conversely, I often rushed to explain what Vincent meant when he spoke. From the time he was born, I just knew Vincent needed me in a special way.

But he’s now had a year of hearing, kindergarten, and speech therapy. I dropped him off and picked him up at school last year with the best teacher he could have had: Mr. Ron, who before the operation, would bend down and rest his hand gently on Vincent’s shoulder to get his attention, and then speak clearly into his left ear, which was the better of Vincent’s two ears. To this day, Vincent pulls out the “Get Well” card Mr. Ron and friends made for him and asks me to read it with him.

Now, I have to let my boy move onto the next phase in his journey as he goes to his next school. I still want to reach out in warning and offense.

“Vincent might not understand!” “He’s just learning to communicate!” “Please call me if you don’t understand!” “Don’t hurt his feelings!”

I want to step in and hold Vincent’s hand and coddle for every step of his journey. My heart tells me that’s fine; my mind tells me it’s not. I know what’s right. I just think it’s going to take me some more time to get there.