Go Sarah!

To say that my household was excited about Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention the other night would be an understatement.

George and I were in the middle of preparing and feeding dinner to the kids when Palin’s speech began. After unsuccesfully straining to peer out of the dining room into the family room to watch it as we fed Eva and Vincent, we finally gave up and recorded it on the DVR. After the kids went to sleep and the dogs were fed, George and I sat down and watched Palin’s speech. 


To hear the words “commercial fisherman” spoken by the Governor of Alaska on national television during a speech in which she accepted her historical nomination for the Republican Vice Presidential candidate….incredible.

“Doesn’t this seem surreal to you?” I asked George.

“It does,” he agreed.

To see Palin’s beautiful daughters, her handsome sons, soon to be son-in-law, and her commercial fisherman husband smiling in the crowd as she introduced them one by one, was a real treat. Listening to her speak with pride and joy in her family (as well as in the State of Alaska) was an amazing experience. 

I will never forget how it felt to sit here in my family room and watch a beautiful, intelligent, and proud commercial fishing family from Alaska take center stage in the national spotlight.

Following her speech, Palin’s family joined her on stage. I was moved by the look in her eyes as she walked toward them and the way she reached out her arms to take and hold her precious four-month-old baby boy to her heart. In fact, I watched it a couple of times.

Go ahead, call me a sap.

I’ve never enjoyed a speech quite this much, nor have I ever been proud of a woman or a family that I don’t even know!

I am glad that George and I took the time to sit down together to watch history being made.

It is a Shock!

All of my regular readers know that although Highliners and Homecomings is a blog about commercial fishing and commercial fishing families, it isn’t a blog about politics, debate, controversy, or insult. Highliners and Homecomings doesn’t exist to debate this or that, call names, or otherwise make anyone (especially me!) feel bad.

I’ve thought for quite a while on whether to even introduce the issue of Alaska’s Republican governor and current United States Vice Presidential nod Sarah Palin to my blog. Did I want to risk “starting something,” stir debate, or offend anyone with the mere mention?

An e-mail I received the other day from a woman I know who lives across the country (and has nothing to do with commercial fishing) helped confirm my decision to bring up Alaska’s governor. My friend wrote,

“Yes—I thought of you, too, Jen, when I listened to Sarah Palin.  What a fascinating time for politics (no matter what your beliefs)!”

I’ve been all over the political chart in the last few days. 

I had a friend over last Thursday, the night before McCain’s VP pick was announced. When I asked for whom my friend was voting, she looked straight at me with a look of concern and confusion before stating matter-of-factly, “Obama.”

I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me.  When I inquired as to the reason behind her look, my good friend laughed and assured me that my question wasn’t the cause–she’d simply been distracted by something else when she answered it! Hmm. 

When I awoke the next morning and turned on the TV, I was shocked to see that Alaska’s governor Sarah Palin had been chosen as John McCain’s running mate.

I knew exactly who Palin was, although I didn’t know much about her.

My dad, a fourth-generation commercial fisherman, has been pointing out Sarah Palin’s picture from her color ad in National Fisherman magazine to my husband and me for at least the last couple of years.

I knew Sarah Palin as the attractive, middle-aged lady who beamed at me from the pages of National Fisherman .  You know the one: It’s the ad in which she–smiling–holds a salmon up for the camera from the deck of an Alaska fishing boat. She appears to be dressed in authentic commercial fishing woman gear: torn gray sweatshirt, bibs, glasses, hair in ponytail.

Upon closer inspection, however, one sees that the stratigically torn sweatshirt is perfectly clean. The hands holding the salmon are not only without orange rubber gloves, they are perfectly manicured. The smiling face doesn’t have one bit of jellyfish or fish slime attached to it.

No matter. I know a photo-op when I see one, and the staged photo never bothered me.

When I saw on the news that she’d been picked for the VP nod, I was surprised and excited. Many of my friends and family couldn’t stop talking about the selection. We went about the day as if in a daze.

As to the debate over which team running for the office of President and Vice President will or should win, well, that isn’t a debate for this particular blog. Even my own family is divided down the line as for whom they will vote.

But—are we excited that a woman from Alaska, a commercial fisherwoman, the wife of a commercial fisherman, and the mother of five children, has been chosen as the running mate for a Presidential candidate for the United States of America?


For the Writing Mothers…and Others

Hello, writing mothers! In case you may have forgotten, the deadline for your Chicken Soup for the Soul Stay at Home Mom/Power Mom submission is September 1, 2008.

In other words, that’s next Monday!

Last May, I let the deadline for the A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers call for submissions slip by without submitting anything and regretted it. Although I was happy for my friend, Mommy Writes, who had her story accepted into the anthology, I was disappointed in myself who did not, for reasons I don’t even remember, submit a story.

I promised myself I’d sit down and make this next deadline. Although the Chicken Soup for the Soul series receives over 3000 submissions for each anthology they publish and one’s chances for acceptance are slim, I believe that the most important thing about writing is simply the act of writing. One has already succeeded if she has taken the time to sit down and write a story. Anything after that is a bonus. 

In other writing news, things are really heating up over at The Writer Mama blog! Christina Katz, author of The Writer Mama, is gearing up for the October release of her second book, Get Known Before the Book Deal.

From September 1st – September 30th, The Writer Mama will be giving away a book or writer gift every day. She already has over 30 books on tap to give away, including several from her publisher, Writer’s Digest.

Go over to The Writer Mama blog and scroll down the list to see what’s in store for lucky readers and writers. (And no, the books aren’t just for writer mamas. They are of interest to all writers!)

I know I’ll be heading over each day in September. See you there!

Is it August…or November?

Well, I’d never believe it was August 24 if I didn’t have my Mom’s Plan It engagement calendar right here next to me for proof. I spoke with my own mother via telephone today and we agreed that today’s weather–along with that of most the summer–has been rather pitiful.

To be perfectly clear: It feels like fall!

The rain never quit today. The sky’s gray without the barest hint of light, and there’s even a little wind. To top it off, I seem to have caught the rather fall-like virus that a good percentage of people I know have been getting. Hello cough, sore throat, and earache.

Seriously! It’s still August. Not November!

We had a dinner party here Saturday night.  Our honored guests were Brett, Danielle, and their sweet baby, Mila. Even the party was somewhat fall-like, as the arrival of our guests almost had me thinking we were already up against the start of the Dungeness crab season.

I half expect that upon waking tomorrow, George will head immediately down to the harbor and start painting crab buoys with Brett!

The calendar says we have at least two months before all of that starts…but at this point, I’m not entirely sure.

I’m posting a few pictures of our evening. Danielle is the most trim and beautiful new mother I’ve seen–almost serene. She does not appear to be the new mother of a four-month old. I felt like I was the postpartum mother, and Vincent just turned one!

In any event, we had a perfect evening and shared many laughs. Even my sister and brother-in-law came by for dinner and ended up tucking my daughter, Eva, into her toddler bed.

Dinner 1

Steph, Danielle, Brett, and George. (A copper Dungeness crab sculpture on the wall, of course!)

Dinner 2 

Mila 1

The second and sixth generations of commercial fishermen?

Astoria’s Commercial Fisherman Expo and Highliner Competition

Earlier this week, my friend Liz brought Astoria’s Commercial Fisherman Expo and Hotdog Highliners Competition to my attention. Then, while making my rounds of blog-snooping, I went over to NW Limited and found even more information on the event.

The festival will be hosted by the Astoria Sunday Market on September 7, and it’s obvious that plenty of fun is in store for both participants and observers.

Besides the Hotdog Highliners Competition, here are a few additional events that caught my eye: the Dover Sole Relay Race (in which I think my sister, Cassandra, should participate), and the Fork Lift Coin Flip (a good opportunity for my my dad, Jack, or my husband, George, to show off their stuff). 

There are also a series of challenges such as Stacking Crab Pots (again, a good event for George or Dad, not to mention Brett, Bryan, or Kelly), Getting Into a Survival Suit (my sister, Steph, or I could try this one) and Tying a Bowline (a chance for everyone to win!)

In addition to the awesome competitions, the Commercial Fisherman Expo will include demonstrations of crab pot and net mending, maritime entertainment (including a sampling of the Fisher Poets), and various guest vendors offering seafood-related products.

Sponsors of the Commercial Fisherman Expo include, among several others, Bornstein Seafood (go Kyle!), Englund Marine, and the Port of Astoria.

If your schedule permits, make the trip over to commercial-fishing friendly Astoria and support the industry!

Happy Birthday, Leos!

August is a busy month of celebrations and birthdays in my family.

After Vincent’s (1st) birthday on July 31, we transition into George’s birthday on August 3. Ten days later, on August 13th, we have my birthday (today). Both of our dogs were also born in August: this year, Mandy turns six, and Toby turns five.

With the exception of our December baby, Eva, we are a household full of Leos.

In addition, sandwiched in between the birthdays of George and Vincent, we have the (ninth) wedding anniversary of my sister, Steph, and her husband, Ryan.

I’ve been reflecting a bit lately on the subject of “age,” most likely due to the arrival of my birthday. I’m not the only one who seems to be pondering the subject, however. I spent a busy weekend enjoying dinners out and attending both a wedding and a birthday party. At each place I went, people were discussing the subject.

Of the people I know in the 30-45 age group, they seem to be falling into two categories:

  • The people who are adamant they’re in their prime and at their peak, and who passionately feel (as well as announce) that this is their moment! Furthermore, they’ve got at least a good fifteen years ahead of them to really make it happen, if they haven’t done so already.
  • The people who feel a bit on the old side. A little more tired than usual, a little less fit, a little less energetic about the future. Who wonder (rather than confidently announce) whether they will be able to fit in what they haven’t yet done or wish to do. Who may, perhaps, even feel that their best years are behind them.

I had occasion in the past month to ponder the following:

Write down three things you didn’t do because you were afraid. What could have changed in your life if you had done them?

I’ve thought at length about the subject and can honestly only come up with a couple of things I didn’t do (or should have done), in spite of the fact that I took an unnecessarily complicated path to where I now happily find myself.

Earlier this summer, I sat at my dining room table talking with my sister, Steph. During the course of our discussion, I stated that each choice one made in his or her past led one to where she finds herself now. Therefore, if one is happy where she is now, there isn’t much call for regret, regardless of the quality of those choices.

“Plus,” I said, “I read something recently which made the point that going back and changing things wouldn’t necessarily guarantee a different outcome, anyway.”

“I don’t believe anyone who feels that way,” she said in response to the theory.

Here’s to all the Leos I know, including the ones in my household, the gals in my writing group, and my friend, Apryl.

Happy Birthday!

Goodbye Boat Propeller, Hello Pool Toys!

A few days ago, I dropped George off at the harbor so he could get the boat ready for the trip north of town to the shipyard, where it would be hauled out for maintenance. As George climbed out of the car and headed for the dock ramp, I imagined how the trip would go. I thought about how the boat would glide, unhurried, upon the bay of blue, making its way underneath summer’s sparkling sun. I thought how nice it would be to hop on board and go along for the cruise.  

I was, however, in no way prepared to take any sort of trip like that, and put the thought out of my mind as quickly as it entered. I lacked food, toys, and life jackets for the little ones, as well as any other possible thing we might need to keep everyone happy and occupied on the trip. 

Yesterday morning, as I was getting ready to leave for Jazzercise, I received an e-mail from my sister, who wondered if we wanted to go out to our other sister’s condo to enjoy a day of sun, snacks, and swimming. I quickly decided it was an offer I couldn’t refuse and said the kids and I would be there after lunch.

I knew George wouldn’t be able to go because he’d already told me how he had to drive the flatbed into the big city to drop off a boat propeller and pick up the bottom paint, as well as pick up some zincs (for controlling electrolysis on the boat). Upon his return, he planned to varnish the wood for the new deck at our house.

So, as I washed the faces of Eva and Vincent, I glanced into the doorway where George stood preparing to say goodbye and told him about our plans for the day.

George shocked us by deciding a day at the condo was an offer he, too, couldn’t refuse. So, instead of tying down and securing a propeller on the Ford flatbed and spending the day driving in 90-degree heat, he tossed a couple of pool toys, a small ice chest, and a baby bag into the back of the Ford pickup. We buckled in the kids, I climbed in last, and off we went down the highway.

Days like these are precisely why I choose to remain a stay-at-home mom in my commercial fishing family. Whenever possible, I don’t want to have to tell George or my little ones that Mommy can’t go to the beach, or the park, or enjoy a treat in the sunshine. When you are married to a fisherman whose stress and boat work does not end with the fishing season, these kind of opportunities for spontaneous fun don’t come along very often.

It’s important to me to be available when they do.


This is a picture of the Vis hauled out in the shipyard.


Happy First Birthday, Vincent. And—Thanks!

I’m starting to think that coming home from vacation is not a good idea for our family. On the day we plan to leave the beach, what we should actually do is stay an extra three days and then come home.

Shortly after we returned from our last vacation, we were devastated to learn that (following emergency surgery to have his eye removed) our good dog, Toby, had cancer.

Except for being especially exhausted (that’s vacation with a 1-and 2-year old, right?) I thought we were bouncing back nicely from our recent trip. That is, until Monday night. 

At 9:00 p.m. on Monday, George and I were talking. No biggie. Vincent, three days from his first birthday, was on the floor, playing with the telephone.  The way he always does. No biggie. No biggie, that is, until I heard “Hello? Hello?” on the other line. I jumped up and reached down to calmly take the phone from Vincent. I brought the phone to my ear, listened briefly, and….hung it up.

I had a feeling just who he’d “called.”

Sure enough, two minutes later, the phone rings. 

“Hello?” I ask, as innocently as I can.

“Did someone call 9-1-1-?” the operator asks.

“Yes,” I said. “I think my one-year-old may have accidentally dialed the number.”

“Is there anyone else in the house with you?” 

“Yes,” I answer, agreeably. “My husband, George.”

“Can I speak with him?”

“Yes,” I say, and toss the phone to George as quickly as I can. Hey, if I’m going down, he’s going down right with me.

I sit on the couch and listen.

“Yes,” he says. “Yes. Fine. Just talking. My one-year-old, Vincent. Yes. Mmm hmmm. Bye bye.”

He hangs up the phone and we sit for a second.

“You know they’re on their way, right?” I finally ask.

“Probably so,” says George.

We wait. Embarassed. Horrified! It is only 9:30 and still light out. Our neighbors will see! I hope it isn’t one of few officers I know on the force.

Within five minutes, he pulls up. A uniformed officer in an actual squad car, parked across the street, walking across to our home, up the front stairs, ringing the doorbell. I hold Eva in my left arm, Vincent in my right. George answers the door, and we all stand together in the doorway.

Officer Kolby peers inside and wants to know if everything is okay. Is anyone being hit, or hurt? When they receive a call like that, they have to check it out, you see.

“Yes, yes,” we agree, nodding our heads. “Absolutely. Yes. We understand.”

Officer Kolby writes down our names and birth dates before making his departure.

Happy First Birthday, Vincent! And….thanks!!



Back from the Beach

“Husbands, wives, and children experience a variety of thoughts and feelings regarding family life as a result of the comings and goings of fishermen.”

Understanding the Ebb and Flow of Fishing Families

Adapting to Change /Oregon Sea Grant


The only thing that’s for sure in this business of commercial fishing is that nothing is for sure.

The uncertainty starts in November with Dungeness crab season gear work. Who on the crew will be back? Will there be a spot that needs to be filled? When will the crab season actually start? Will there be a strike, will the crab be ready, will the weather cooperate?

After that, it’s on to the Alaska halibut and blackcod longline season. When will the boat depart? When will it come back home? Will the quota be caught quickly, or will there be mechanical trouble, whale trouble, or weather trouble?

You’d hope the uncertainty would end at last with the homecoming of the boat and the start of summer, but no. And it seems like this year, there are more questions than usual.

Will the price of fuel come down enough to make a summer fishery worth doing? Will George have the boat hauled out (at a cost equivalent to one very nice new car) and have the bottom painted?

I have my own questions, too. Should I plan to go to the writer’s conference this year? Will George be home or willing to babysit? Should I have Steph get me a ticket to the Toby Keith concert? Will George be home for Vincent’s first birthday? Can I teach that Jazzercise class that doesn’t have childcare if he isn’t home?

There are so many unknowns in this lifestyle that one never knows from one day to the next what the latest will be.

For example, I was under the impression that George’s final decision was to forego a summer fishery and spend the rest of the summer on boat maintenance, and that he was still undecided regarding hauling the boat out.

So, imagine my surprise when, after exiting a bookstore with Vincent on our recent vacation, I found George sitting on top of a picnic table with Eva by his side, talking on his cell to Brett about not only the schedule to haul the boat out, but about how the price of marine diesel has come down enough to make a summer fishery a good possibility!

I can’t help it; I’m laughing to myself even as I write this.

I’m including a picture of our dog, Toby, that was taken on our vacation. I’m hoping it isn’t the case, but he does seem to be slowing down a bit due to his cancer. His “tired” seems a little more tired, his rest a bit deeper. He didn’t seem as excited as usual to be at the beach, which broke our hearts. He is eating well and his weight is still up, however, and he’s even gained another pound. Still, we’re all a bit worried, so keep sending your thoughts, prayers, and positive energy over to a good, good boy.



A Time to Work, A Time to Rest

You know what I love about the picture that I’m including with this post?

The trucks.

In the foreground we have a white Ford F-350 flatbed that belongs to my husband, George. In the background, we have my dad’s black Ford F-350, a diesel “dually” ( for its dual tires) with “Tim’s Trailer” and a Kubota tractor on the back. That truck even has a name: Thunder.

I appreciate both of these trucks and the personality, character, and history of hard work and reward they represent.



George and I are getting ready to leave tomorrow for our family vacation. I’m looking forward to it more than usual, if that’s possible.  I’m not normally one to overload myself with obligations and deadlines,  but I agree with George that this time around, I may currently have a few too many plates spinning and a few too many irons in the fire….if you will.

George has been busy as well. He has not taken more than two days off since returning from Alaska after completing the halibut and blackcod longlining season. He has been at the boat most every day using a grinder to sand over one hundred rust spots on the boat, painting primer coats, and then painting them (Vis) green. He also painted black deck coating on the steel aft deck.

In addition, George recently hauled out his mountain bike and helmet and began cycling down to the harbor to do this work each day.

On our upcoming trip, we’re going to let the Internet, cell phones, and boat work go for a while. We’re going to hide and relax.

We’re looking forward to spending this time in the company of our little, little children and two big dogs (one of whom we did not expect to live to see another vacation with the family).

In our family, one must work hard. It’s our foundation. And if one works hard, one must rest.

That’s what we’re going to go do now.

See you in about ten days!