One Week Down…

“Families involved in commercial fishing are familiar with change. In fact, many fishing couples enjoy the changing nature of family life that accompanies the fishing cycle. Husbands enjoy their connections to the sea and a sense of self-sufficiency that comes with fishing. Wives enjoy a sense of accomplishment and independence by running their homes….”

(Adapting to Change–The Ebb and Flow of Fishing Family Life–Oregon Sea Grant)

 

I went shopping with Eva and Vincent yesterday. In addition to our other groceries, we bought a couple heads of purple cabbage and a few carrots. We got sweet potatoes and some chicken broth. When we arrived home I cleaned the carrots and sweet potatoes, cut them in quarters and put them in the crock pot. Next, I layered several pounds of sockeye salmon from Vis Seafoods. I poured chicken broth over the whole thing and set the crock pot to cook on high for four hours. By 4:30 p.m., the smell of a comforting dinner filled our home and it was time to lift the lid and begin scooping it out.

Does this sound like a wonderful dinner?

It was— but it wasn’t Eva, Vincent, or me who ate it.

Upon scooping the meal out of the pot, I filled our heavy-duty blender and ground it all up, and then poured it into storage containers for Toby. Toby, as you know, is our 4-year old pitbull who has cancer. Special meals like this are part of his treatment plan. At meal time twice a day, I go downstairs and fill his bowl with homemade food. Next, I add a scoop of powder here, a tablet there, a squirt of this, a dash of that. I mix it all up and set it on the ground, petting Toby as he eats. Mandy, our healthy border collie mix, gets a little of the food mixture so she doesn’t feel left out.

I also give the dogs vitamins twice a day and Mandy her thyroid pill.

Next on the list—and I really do keep a list—are Vincent’s daily meds for the terrible virus he caught. Antibiotic twice a day, inhaler four times a day. Flouride at night, vitamin drops in the morning. Eva gets iron and flouride at night, and a vitamin in the morning.

Mom gets…well, you know what I get. When 5:00 pm rolls around (four hours from now, but who’s counting?) I mix my own special meds. Not too much, because since George is in Alaska getting ready to set gear and get some fish on board, I’m on solo duty. I’m on point 24/7 and must keep my wits about me at all times.

When George leaves, I assume all of his duties in addition to my own. To accomplish all of this, I get up at 5:30 in the morning. The little ones and I are pretty well on our way by 8:00 a.m., when the construction crew arrives with five or six of the biggest trucks you’ve ever seen, 75-foot long steel beams, and tractors to work on our house project.

Now, I’m not the sort of mom who simply takes things as they come, one at a time, or stays especially calm. I get stressed out quickly. I depend on George far more than I should for mental and physical support when he is home, because I get anxiety attacks from just looking at a table that needs to be wiped down or a floor that needs to be vacuumed (and then mopped).

I mentioned to my parents last night that I have been in shock over what my days have been like, as well as the fact that I’ve been getting through them reasonably well. In addition to the rest, I finished writing two new stories and submitted them (cross your fingers!) and returned to Jazzercise for the first time since Vincent and I became so ill.

George made it to Alaska on Tuesday, but he still has about four more days of travel until he gets to the first halibut/blackcod fishing grounds. When he called from Sitka, I filled him in on the kids and our week, the way I always do. Only this time, when I finally stopped talking, he said something I rarely hear because George is a man of few words.

“I’m proud of you, hon,” he said.

Thanks. The feeling is mutual.

 


 

Late Night Blog Reading and Blessing Counting

I found something special last night while conducting my rounds of “favorite blog reading”.

On the Mommy Writes blog, I discovered a link to a very well written and moving essay that Mommy Writes wrote and had published over at Mothering Heights.  The essay is about how quickly the time we have to mother and enjoy our children while they are so small goes by.

I’ve read much on this particular topic before, but nothing quite as well done as this. The essay even brought a tear or two to my eye–a sign of solid writing, if I do say so myself. Link over to the essay and see what I’m talking about firsthand, if you’d like

Eva has started sleeping in her toddler bed at night, but she likes to get up three or four times and come find me before finally settling in for good. Her bedtime is 8 p.m. While I was reading the essay by Mommy Writes, I heard Eva’s door open and shut again, then little feet making their way down the hall. It was 10:00 p.m.

I turned on the light and found Eva sitting on the floor of the hallway, smiling up at me. She was dressed in her green-and-purple flowered blanket sleeper, headbands still on top of her pretty blonde head—three at once, the way she likes to wear them.  Instead of chasing her back to her bed with another warning, I picked Eva up and hugged her extra tightly as I carried her back to her room. She rested her head on my shoulder and we sat together quietly on her bed for a little while.

As I held Eva and gave her kisses, I reflected on the essay I’d just read.  I thought of my 2-year old angel and the way she loves for me to paint her nails bright pink, yet how she can also point to and say “tractor” whenever she sees one. How she says “Love you, nigh-nigh,” at bedtime, and the way she silently hands me one diaper for Vincent each morning.

I thought of Vincent, asleep in the next room, on antibiotics for an ear infection and using an infant mask and inhaler for his breathing because he caught the nightmarish virus I had, but it hit him even harder. I thought of the way he still greets me and everyone else with his signature bright smile and twinkly eyes in spite of his feeling so terrible.

Eva was asleep in seconds. I tucked her back in her little bed and felt like the luckiest mother in the world.

Alaska or Bust: Longline Season Departure Pictures

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Clockwise: Bryan (standing), Brett, George, Kelly

 

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Good Luck Longlining!

The boat got underway about 4:30 p.m. today, Alaska-bound for the halibut and blackcod season. Everyone was all smiles and seemed especially relaxed–everyone but me, that is.   

For the first time in eight years, I did not pass through all of my normal “George is Leaving” stages of grief. When I became aware of his impending departure a couple of weeks ago, I went into my “panic” phase, and then stayed there until today when I transitioned into just plain sad.

So, I will just leave it at that and post some pictures. I have to get to bed early as I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow…and of course, have several more weeks of long days to follow! Thank goodness for grandparents, aunties, uncles, friends, Jazzercise, books, writing groups, babies….

The very best of luck to George, Bryan, Brett, and Kelly. There couldn’t be a better Captain or Crew heading out to sea this evening, and I am so proud of them all. I’m also proud of all of us left behind–wives, mothers, girlfriends and children–we can do it!

Happy May Day.

Here’s George saying goodbye to Mandy and Toby.

 

 

Family Fun Day and Pre-Longline Boat Work

I never get sick.

I don’t work in an office (does my bedroom closet count as an office?), don’t fly on airplanes very often, or hang out in schools. I exercise a lot, eat well most of the time, and have taken prenatal vitamins for the past three years.

I carry Clorox wipes with me to clean off restaurant highchairs before placing Vincent in them. I carry hand sanitizer in my purse, shopping cart seat covers in both the car and truck, and usually bring my own bags inside the grocery store so I don’t have to touch the shopping baskets.

(I never used to be quite this bad. My sister, Stephanie, however, is this bad–worse, actually–and her ways have had an impact.)

Anyway, I’m sick now, and I know why.

I taught Jazzercise this week at a facility I’d never been to, as a favor to the regular instructor at that gym. Unfortunately, my own microphone did not work in their (in need of repair) sound system, and I was forced to use the “gym mic”. As a result, I now have swollen throat glands, an ear ache, congestion and small cough.

George has been busy on the boat, taking care of a few loose ends before the crew gets here and they start the real work necessary before leaving for Alaska to catch the halibut and blackcod quota. He spent the week working on the starter for the main engine, repairing the fuel pump for the main engine and generator, and replacing the hydraulic motor for the longline hauler. (The longline hauler is a piece of equipment, similar to a crab block, that brings in the hook-and-line longline gear.)

A friend remarked that it seemed George was leaving for this season earlier than usual. She’s right. The price of halibut is good, and he’d like to get up there and wrap it up before the price drops. The price of marine diesel is incentive enough to get up there and get it done. It will take about 6000 more gallons of diesel to top off the tanks, and at $4 a gallon…$24,000 right off the top is a good motivator to just get going.

I spent some time this week continuing to read and work through a little book I’ve found to be very useful. The chapter I worked on was called “Endurance.” One of the prompts asked me to list all of my daily activities and the goals they fulfill. If there were activities listed that didn’t line up with my goals, the suggestion was to eliminate them.

“This will be easy,” I said.

“My kids are so little that we aren’t a part of the soccer/softball/ballet/piano lesson circuit yet. We just hang out here at home. We don’t run all over town, trying to get here and there. I don’t have anything to eliminate.

“Hardly relevant to me,” I assured myself.

I began my list with “Breakfast for Kids.”  The goal: feeding and caring for my children.  Nothing wrong with that, I assume. Next up: “Make bed.” Hey, I’m making my living space clean and tidy. Next:  “Go to Jazzercise.” Exercise for Mommy, play for kids, socialization for all three of us.

So far, so good.

But then, “Clean kitchen” came up. “Vacuum floors” appeared. “Mop.” “Filing and bills.”  “Clean kitchen,” again. I even entered “Misc. household things,” as one of my activities.

It was obvious: I spend too much time cleaning and organizing my household and everyone in it. It’s where I lose my endurance. And that’s with George’s help! If I try to keep up this pace up while he’s gone, I may not have the endurance needed to make it successfully through each day.

Lesson noted.

In other news, we put Eva and Vincent in the sit-‘n-stand stroller and walked to a family festival in our town today. Eva found a hoola hoop and chased after some bubbles that a nice lady blew over  the community green. George kept his eye on Eva while I listened to a folk trio on stage and kept my eye on Vincent, who sat contentedly in the stoller.

The individual voices of the trio were decent enough, the harmonies almost pleasant.

Closer to Heaven everyday,” the trio sang to a crowd of mostly children and parents.

Not bad, I thought, when the song ended.

“That song wasn’t about Jesus,” one of the singers announced when it was over.

Oh?

“It was about beer!” she called into her microphone.

George looked over at me then.

“Isn’t this Family Fun Day?” he asked.

 

 

 

Fishing, Families, and…Free Speech?

Blog business is pretty interesting. Sometimes there’s so much I want to write for Highliners and Homecomings that I don’t know where to start. Other times, the well feels pretty dry and I panic a little. I’ve learned, however, that if I just relax, a subject always presents itself.

That’s what happened for this post. Yesterday was a full day that included attending a memorial service and spending an hour at the home of my parents baking a treat, because my own oven was busy roasting the turkey that George was making for dinner. Eva hung out with Grandma, Vincent hung out with Grandpa, and we all met up later on to eat George’s wonderful dinner, which he kept calling “Thanksgiving in April.”

I should have gone directly to bed after kitchen clean-up, but I didn’t.

Instead, I made the mistake of checking this blog one last time.

To my surprise and disappointment, I found that I’d received my first negative comment since starting Highliners and Homecomings. I’ve always sort of expected to receive one, but I assumed it would be from any number of people or groups opposed to commercial fishing. I never imagined it would be one accusing me of a free speech violation.

The comment read, “When you fail free speech, you lose me.”

I may be wrong, but I believe the writer was most likely referencing a comment that was posted and then deleted, or perhaps it was about a different comment that required some small editing. Each of these situations had technical blog-related explanations, which I’d have been happy to explain if given a chance.

Instead, I received the aforementioned comment that I now believe was uncalled for and even a touch snide.

“When you fail free speech, you lose me.” Any analytical reader can see how the words “you fail,” and “you lose,” tend to stand out in the sentence.

Those aren’t words I particularly like to read, especially about myself.

And anyway, I’ve never said this was a blog about free speech, because it isn’t. Most of the blogs that I visit also reserve the right to moderate and edit each comment that comes in. The topic isn’t one that I have the time, energy, or desire to debate.  There are lots of hypothetical comments I wouldn’t post: comments vicious in nature, that contain foul language, or that are elitist, offensive or insulting.

Highliners and Homecomings is a blog that celebrates the life of commercial fishing families. That includes a lot of different things, to be sure–same as in any other life.

Although I take the content and the message seriously, the blog is something I do for fun. When my 2-year old and my 8-month old are fed and sleeping, when my household is in order and I have a moment of peace, it’s something I enjoy working on.

It’s not something that exists to stir debate, create strain, or to offend. I don’t like confrontation or tension. I’m simply someone who’s proud of her multi-generational commercial fishing family, who loves to talk, laugh, tell fishing stories and stories about her family, and to write.

It’s that simple.

And now, I have a dishwasher that requires emptying, a baby who needs his jammies on, and a toddler who needs her dinner started—so this mommy has to get back to work.

 

Up Next: Halibut and Blackcod

About a week ago I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. It only took a moment to register the cause—my subconscious was alerting me that it is getting time for George to leave us and head to Alaska to catch the halibut and blackcod quota.

I didn’t mention anything about it out loud, though (if you don’t talk about something, it won’t happen, right?). Unfortunately, for all my wishful thinking, I overheard George tell my dad yesterday that he’d called the crew and given a start date for the longline gear work: April 28.

This is a hook-and-line fishery that uses lines several miles in length on the ocean floor to catch both halibut and blackcod. A captain and crew can be gone from just a few weeks to several long months, depending on how much quota a captain has to catch, or how long it takes him to catch it. Weather, gear trouble, and whale trouble can all add to the timeline.

When George knows he’ll be leaving soon, he makes an extra effort to help me out at home and show us all a good time outside of it. We had a pizza party on Friday evening (thanks, Grandpa Jack!) and on Saturday, we took Eva and Vincent in the sunshine and met our friends at a big farm outside of town. Eva had the thrill of her 2-year old life as she saw real ducks, geese, and bunnies up close and personal after “years” of just reading about them.

It was a wonderful weekend in spite of the fact I’ve already begun the first stage of grief, which in this type of situation–George’s impending departure–is always Panic.

Here’s how Panic works: “I’ll be all alone–every diaper will be mine to change! Each meal will be mine alone to prepare, serve, and clean up! Each bag of groceries will be mine to haul up the stairs and into the house. Each cry from our little ones will be mine to tend to and soothe. All of our young dog Toby’s special food, treatments and medications for his cancer will be mine to dispense. I won’t have anyone to talk to!”

Of course, Panic is rarely rational. The good news is that it only lasts about a week. After that, I’ll transition into the second of my customized five stages, Denial.

Now, I want to congratulate our good friends and crew, Brett and Danielle, on the birth of their beautiful baby girl. She just arrived yesterday. Great work, Danielle. I can’t wait to see you all soon and believe me, I feel for you on the timing of it all. Enjoy these first moments and days together as a family and rest, rest, rest.

 

100_2784 “Come on, Eva! Ducks!”

Drunken Fishermen: An Outdated Stereotype

There are some unofficial rules for bloggers. One of those rules, which I’ve mentioned before, is that one really shouldn’t work on her blog when she has other writing to do.

Another rule is that it’s a good idea to not state too many of your own opinions.

I’m ignoring both of those rules today because I recently came across a story that bugged me so much that I have to write and tell you why. 

Actually, it wasn’t even the story that bugged me. It was the opening paragraph, which I found so annoying that I didn’t read past it.

Some background: A few years ago I was in a writing group with some guys and gals whom I met while taking classes at the University of Washington. The group was a talented and intelligent bunch: writers, artists, filmmakers. We ranged in age from 26 to over 40 and got together once a week to do some practice writing and share publishing opportunities.

The other night, I thought it would be fun to google the name of one of the gals in the group and see where she’d been published since the group disbanded. She’d been an overseas government employee prior to having children later in her life, and her writing platform was based primarily on what it was like making the transition from big-time government job to stay-at-home mommy.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that my platform was, and still is, writing about commercial fishing and fishing families. 

I was happy to see in my search of my old friend that she had been published in a couple of magazines and even won a pretty nice award. I clicked on some of her work, and that’s when I found the annoying first paragraph.

I don’t want to get into any Internet copyright issues so I can’t quote it word for word, but the story was, in part, about a bar in King County that hosted a punk band to support a pro-choice fundraiser one night and to sell their c.d.

Certainly not my cup of tea, but let’s stay focused.

In the opening paragraph, my old friend writes that the crowd that showed up at the bar that particular night was different from the “usual clientele” of “drunken fishermen” and guys pulled in by the promise of “cheap beer” and a “loud band.”

Instead, she writes, that night the bar was packed with 30-and 40-year-old women and mothers guzzling their own beer, swaying, laughing, and shouting. 

Now, that really isn’t my cup of tea.

(And it begs the question: Are drunken 40-year-old mothers really a cut above drunken fishermen? It wouldn’t seem so.)

Here are my real questions, though: How does she know the bar is normally filled with drunken fishermen? Does she know them? Is she at the bar at the same time? My husband asked a good question: How does one decipher the fishermen from the non-fishermen? Further, what exactly are these drunken fishermen fishing for in the waters outside of Seattle when they aren’t drunk at the bar?  

Okay, I’m a little sensitive. (Okay, a lot sensitive). But I’ve associated with fishermen my entire life, from Dutch Harbor to Ketchikan to Bellingham to Westport. I’ve known and interviewed so many of them, from greenhorn crewmembers, to owners of multi-million dollar fishing companies, to captains who keep their crews alive in the Bering Sea season after season. 

I don’t like to see people from my community lumped into some old, used-up stereotype.  

I’m surprised at my friend, who must have forgotten an important rule of good writing: Avoid Cliches. They don’t lend one’s writing much credibility.

Most of the fishermen I know who enjoy a night out at the bar aren’t into cheap beer and loud bands, anyway.

They’re into microbrews and a game of pool.  

Writing Mothers: Deadline Extended!

I was making the round of my favorite sites the other night. That round includes, of course, The Writer Mama blog. I was pleased by one of The Writer Mama’s latest posts, as it contained great news for us writing mothers who didn’t quite make the April 1, 2008, deadline on the Cup of Comfort for New Mothers submission: 

The deadline has been extended to June 15, 2008!

That’s right: I said “us.” I didn’t make the original deadline, either.

The story was written in my mind, but…as will happen when you are the mother of a 2-year old, an 8-month old, have a husband home from sea, a young dog with cancer, and other deadlines to meet….the story got away from me.

(Did I already mention the excavator, the mini-excavator, the skid steer loader, and the dump truck in our driveway?  That’s right–the basement project has finally begun).

Let’s forget our guilt about missing the first deadline and give it another go on the extension. What do you say?

Here’s some extra information:

The bestselling Cup of Comfort book series is seeking submissions for the following volumes:

A Cup of Comfort for Military Families
Military Families submission deadline: April 15, 2008 (last call)

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers
New Mothers submission deadline: June 15, 2008 (last call)

A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families
Adoptive Families submission deadline: June 15, 2008

A Cup of Comfort for Fathers
Fathers submission deadline: August 1, 2008

A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Special Needs
Special Needs Children submission deadline: September 15, 2008

Second Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers
Dog Lovers 2 submission deadline: December 15, 2008

A Cup of Comfort for the Grieving Heart
Grieving Hearts submission deadline: February 1, 2009

More at: http://www.cupofcomfort.com/share.htm

Contest for Writing Mothers

The following is a contest announcement from the Mom Writers Literary Magazine (click on the link in my blog roll for more information):

“I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but my desires distracted me…”

MWLM Spring 2008
First-Line Writing Contest

Deadline: May 16, 2008
Entry Fee: $10.00

We are accepting submissions for our first-line writing contest starting March 31, 2008.  It may be creative non-fiction or fiction and should be between 700 – 1,200 words, and the first line must be “I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but my desires distracted me…” The work submitted will be judged by MWLM Editors, and we will choose one grand prize winner to receive $100!