Seven Years Later, Baby Gymnastics Again.

I had the strangest experience this morning when I went to watch my sweet two-year-old niece, Autumn, at gymnastics. Autumn’s mother is my youngest sister. I’d given my sister a couple of gift certificates to this particular center because my eldest children, Eva and Vincent, attended gymnastics and preschool there for the first six years of their lives and it was a positive experience for all of us.

During the years my children and I participated in the center we got to know many local parents, reconnected with friends I’d known before, and enjoyed all of the staff. When Vincent went to kindergarten and Eva to first grade, I felt sad that our time there was finished.

This morning, it felt surreal to go and watch my little niece, Autumn, at this same place. I had flashbacks of Eva as a 13–month old in her little gymnastics suit, and I recalled vivid memories of Vincent just last year as a four-year-old in preschool, performing an obstacle course and receiving a ribbon at the end.

What special memories I have of this center and the children who attended with us the past several years. I don’t know where most of the parents are now, I don’t know which elementary schools the children attend, and I haven’t seen most of them since last June. Everyone has grown older and moved on to the next phase in their lives.

Except—wait. Um, Valerie. My little surprise blessing, my baby, my little bunny, is fifteen months old. I was told this morning that she can attend mini-gymmies each Monday. Before I even realized what was going on, I’d signed Valerie up for gymnastics at the same place her sister and brother and so many friends have attended.

You’d think after fifteen months that I’d be used to having a baby around here, but this little one still blows my mind. She is so sweet. She is so little. She doesn’t walk, and she doesn’t talk (except to say “Hi…”). She is loving, little, and precious. Neither George nor I can still believe we have a little one crawling around the house, brightening up our days with her innocent and excited dimpled grin.

Skill–wise, little Valerie is not where her siblings were at this age. And to be honest, her parents are not where they were when Val’s siblings were this age. We are getting older. Daddy must get glasses, and Mommy is asleep by 9 p.m. each night. Daddy came home from the crab season with a chipped front tooth that had to be repaired.

Valerie has her own mission and her own gifts. She is a bright star in all of our lives and the apple of all of our eyes. Next Monday, I will indeed take my littlest girl to mini–gymmies. I will likely be the oldest parent there, but that’s okay.

Having a little one like this keeps you young. Two days ago, somebody said they thought I was 32–years old.

I was thrilled.

Onward and Upward. Thank You, G.

What a day, what a day.

Healing, liberation, restoration, and renewal are just a few of the words that describe it.

For starters, I wrapped up a brand new essay and submitted it three weeks early. That alone would have been cause to celebrate.

But…this morning, G asked if I had plans for today.

I didn’t.

He wanted to know if I was “ready” to go through the garage. Oh, yes, I replied. I’m ready.

I’ve waited over a decade to clear out a particular corner of the garage. I always imagined that my sister would ignite a bonfire in her park-like backyard, and I would bring my past up to her house in the form of three bins and dump it all into the blaze. However, the years passed by, and that never happened.

Today, G said he would build a fire right in our driveway, and I could have at it.

So he did.

And I did.

I looked at ten years’ worth of letters from another time. Cards. Documents. Pictures. Scrapbooks. And then, I respectfully set them each into the blaze. A long time ago, a wise and wonderful woman I know told me that releasing something into fire brings healing and a special kind of energy. Today, fifteen years after she gave me that bit of wisdom, I did just that.

I am not done; as it turns out, you can’t burn a decade of one’s life in one afternoon. But the process has started. Don’t misunderstand; I am a keeper of history. But this bit of history needed to be set free.

Why do I have a smile on my face?

George gave me a kiss tonight and said “Good work, hon.”

This is the same guy who helped me pack up and move out of my past life in the middle of the night over ten years ago. He has been through it all with me. He’s helped me in every way imaginable. And he’s still here. I don’t see him a lot, and we’ve missed a lot together, but he’s still here. For me.

As always…onward and upward. Love you, G. And thank you.

 

One Step At a Time

I was surprised last week when I came home to find our flatbed and a trailer full of Dungeness crab pots parked outside the house.

I was also excited!

The arrival of G’s flatbed and trailer and a few of his 500 pots means that our 2013 crab season has come to an end.

Our family hasn’t spent much time together since August. I’m glad that G is home. It’s nice to have him around, even if tax preparation, longline quota, and boat work still occupies his time for now.

Things remain a little goofy in my world, but I am committed to taking it all one step at a time. It would be easier if I could just convince everyone to do what I think is best or even rewind the clock a few months, but that is not going to happen.

It will all get better. The sun is shining more frequently and the rain has eased. We made it to April and to spring.

On a lighter note, Happy Birthday today to my dad, a fourth-generation commercial fishing captain, and to my mom, an amazing fishing wife and mother. Each of them has taught me all I need know about what it takes to survive in this lifestyle.

I love you,  Mom and Dad. I couldn’t do what I do now without each of your lifelong examples of strength and grace. 

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And….done and done.

Let It Flow

What can I say? I haven’t written on my dear blog for over two weeks, which I believe is the longest I’ve gone without posting in seven years.

However, my left eye has twitched for a month. (Is that truly a sign of anxiety or just an old wive’s tale?) My stomach is in knots. My sleep is spent tossing and turning, and I wake up drenched in sweat several times each night.

This is not a good time for me, because it is a time of change and transition.

You may know that I hate change. I don’t do well with transition. I rely upon routine and familiarity, and all of this is changing.

From our beloved crew, to the elementary school my children attend, to the fisheries we participate in, to the car I drive, to the friends I have, to even this blog…it’s all in a state of transition.

This is a storm, but it’s got to roll on by. It will pass. Surely, I just need to sit here, soak up the rain, and let it roll on by. I know first hand it could certainly be worse. I also know the sun will shine again.

I recently heard a song from 1996 I used to like, from Toni Braxton. Here are some of the lyrics:

Just let go

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow.

Everything’s gonna work out right, you know.

Let go, and let it flow, let it flow, let it flow.

Just let it go

Just let it go.

What “Fishing Family” Means To Me

The part about a “fishing family” operation I like the most is the part about “family.”

I don’t just mean my father and mother, my sisters, my aunt and uncle, my grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and second cousins, husband and children.

I also mean crew.

If you’re lucky like we have been, from the time my dad owned and operated our boat until the time my husband has owned and operated our boat, our crew has been more than crew. They are family. The crew has been made up of different men, but no matter who they were and when, they’ve been like family and operated like a family does in times of joy and crisis.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog the past seven years, you know how much our present crew means to me personally. Not one of these guys is new. I met Bryan the same day I met George, thirteen years ago at Fred Wahl Marine Construction. Bryan’s best friend, Brett, came on board when my seven-year-old Eva was only nine months old. Bryan’s brother, Johnny, has been with us at least four years.

We are connected by years, friendship, family, love, laughs, and loyalty. How many dinners, pizza parties, Fish Expos, weddings, births, departures, homecomings, and nights out have we celebrated together?  Countless.

We aren’t a big fishing operation in which thirty men work processing fish for months on end and nobody knows or cares much about anybody. On the contrary, we know and care much about each other and our families. When someone is expecting a baby, we rejoice. When someone’s marriage is rocky, we see it through with love and encouragement. When someone hurts, we all hurt. When someone’s demons wreak havoc, we cross fingers and hope for the best.

At the beginning of this latest crab season, as I watched the boat glide out of the harbor, I wrote that I shed tears because one just never knows whether everyone on board will return. People can die, people can quit, people can be fired. Anything can happen. Today, I shed tears because not each member of our “family” will return from this crab season. (Note: nobody has died, been fired or injured, and that is the most important thing.)

This is my family, our family. Our fishing family. And when one member hurts, we all hurt. Bad.

But like you’d expect and hope from family, we rally. We rally with love, and support, and encouragement, and hope….for all in the family.

This is, in part, what “fishing family” means to me.

Launching the Sea & Shore Bookstore!

I love to read. However, I don’t like clutter! I like to keep things moving. I read a book and pass it along. As a mother of three young children, I barely have time to read one book, much less read it two or three times.

All of a sudden, it occurred to me that I should open an online bookstore and sell my books (and music) via amazon.com.

Guess what? I now have an online shop called Sea & Shore Bookstore. I have listed many of my books (and some from my husband and sister) for sale. Soon to come is music in the form of CDs. I’m adding to the Sea & Shore Bookstore inventory daily.

I was excited to sell five books this weekend! Check out our inventory and see what you think. It’s an eclectic collection and there’s more to come, but I think this is a good start.

I’ve been a voracious reader and writer since I was young and I’ve always thought it would be fun to own a bookstore.

A traditional bookstore is not in the cards. But an online bookstore—fun!

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Four of the books I sold this weekend!

A Valentine’s Day Giveaway on CommercialFishingMom.com!

Is your commercial fisherman home for Valentine’s Day? No? Well, don’t worry; you aren’t alone. Neither is mine!

George is rarely home for Valentine’s Day. Way back in the day, he would plan ahead and have a dozen roses sent to me. Twelve years ago, ten years ago…I could always count on those flowers! In fact, I looked forward on Valentine’s Day to vacuuming, dusting, and making everything clean and beautiful in our home in preparation for those roses.

It’s been a while since then, though. Clean and sanitize the house? Light a special candle? Make room for roses? Yeah, right! I’ll be lucky if I get to the dishes or put folded laundry for three children (and me) put away in drawers and closets.

But, hey! I’m not complaining. I don’t get hung up on Valentine’s Day. And I know that you don’t, either, because we are tough and that’s how we roll.

In honor of all commercial fishing wives, girlfriends, and mothers on this day, I’m offering a special Valentine’s Day Giveaway.

Yes! I am giving away three free copies of my book, Captain of Her Crew: The Commercial Fishing Mom’s Guide to Navigating Life at Home. All you have to do is leave a comment, send a message through my blog’s contact form, or connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

You will have the option of receiving a free PDF or a paperback copy of the book. If you already own a copy or have made contact with me before, you are still more than welcome to participate! I know we all have friends and acquaintances who would enjoy the book.

I’m getting a late start on the day, so the Valentine’s Day Giveaway will stay open to entries until tomorrow (February 15) at 4:00 p.m.!

I look forward to hearing from you and I wish each of you a Happy Valentine’s Day. I will be sharing a heart-shaped pizza from Papa Murphy’s and presents with the little ones, followed by books in bed (Ramona the Pest and Runaway Ralph).

By the way…while I did not receive roses this year, G did plan ahead and sent cards to all of the children and me. Each card included a $1 bill….even mine!

Love to you all!

Captain of Her Crew

Another Night of Nightmares and Restless Sleep

Do any of you ever have boat nightmares? I can’t be the only one. I have boat nightmares about five times a year.  (You can read about a creepy boat nightmare I had a couple of years ago here.) Usually, my nightmares involve our boat rolling over. In this dream, I’m always watching from a distance as the boat leans port and then starboard in a regular manner until she begins to lean too far to port.

“Noooo….” I think in my dream. It never matters; the boat always leans too far until it rolls completely over.

It’s a ridiculous dream, because we have a very solid boat and G is safety-conscious. Our boat has never come close to rolling over. As disturbing as this boat-rolling-over nightmare is, it’s recurring and I’m pretty used to it.

Every once in a while, though, I have a boat nightmare that’s unique and disturbing. I had one of those last night.

In the dream, I was standing on a street. In fact, the street upon which this dream took place is a street that has meaning for me. Anyway, I watched our boat float on down the street. No lines, no captain, no crew, no nothing. Just our big green steel boat, untethered, moving along. My two sisters were with me.

“Look at our boat!” I said. “Someone untied the lines! What will Dad say?”

My sisters and I contacted Dad. “Get on the boat and put it in gear,” he said.

So, in the dream, my sisters and I followed the boat down the street of water. We could hardly move (in dreams, you can always barely move) and a few times, we almost caught up to it.

Then, before our eyes, the boat listed to port and rolled all the way over. It stayed on its side in the water for a while before it righted itself and continued on down the same street. My sisters and I almost caught up to it several more times, but it kept floating beyond our reach. Finally, we got close enough that one of us could jump on board.

We had it! We could rescue our boat, put it in gear, return it to the dock, and tie it back up.

But of course, in dreams, that’s never the way it ends. This dream was no exception. Just as we were going to jump for it, our boat reached a cliff. It was a gigantic waterfall. The boat glided just out of our reach right to the edge of the waterfall, went over the edge, and plummeted into the abyss.

“Valerie!” I said. “Valerie!”

I woke up and remembered Valerie was safe in the next room. So were Eva and Vincent. I assumed G and the boat were safe at sea.

Hmmm. Any dream interpreters out there?

The Epic Launch of the F/V Northern Leader

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This past weekend, I experienced one of the coolest events ever—the launch of the brand new, $25 million F/V Northern Leader. Of course, the boat is astonishing. At 184-feet long, it will be the largest vessel in the Bering Sea freezer–longliner fleet. It will also be the most technologically advanced and eco-friendly fishing vessel ever built in the United States, and the largest built in the Pacific Northwest in 25 years.

When Nick Delaney, the project manager for the Northern Leader and a founding member and director of Alaskan Leader Fisheries, LLC, called to invite my family and me to the launch, I felt honored and excited.

I’d love to go! But could I? George was (and is) crabbing and I hadn’t even heard from him in over a week. He obviously couldn’t come (which was a shame, because George has known Nick for two decades and has been involved in other boats owned by Alaskan Leader Fisheries. He’d have loved to see this!)  I had the three little ones I’d need to bring, including baby Valerie. I’d have to drive, find the hotel, and get to the shipyard, all on my own. Oh, and the launch would coordinate with the tide, so the party would begin at 4:00 a.m. Yikes!

Nick, being the kind and generous fellow that he is, offered to cover the hotel and provide care for my children at the launch. Nick has always been a great friend to George and me. He’s known George for about twenty years in both professional and personal capacities, and me for about thirteen years, when I met them both during the building of the F/V Shemya. Nick and his lovely wife, Sally, were great friends of ours while we lived in Ballard, and they attended our wedding. Here’s how cool Nick is; when I first started dating George, he flew me up to Dutch Harbor twice to visit George because he thought I seemed sad and lonely.

As far as the launch of this newest fishing vessel, Nick calmly suggested I think about it. After mulling it over, it occurred to both of us that my dad would probably love to attend the launch as well. Dad launched our own family fishing vessel, the F/V Vis, in 1990, and was also present at the Shemya christening in 2001. He also adores his grandchildren. Dad might love to go!

Fortunately, Dad did decide to attend. It was important to me that my dad and my kids come with. Sure, two of my three little ones could have stayed home with my parents, but I wanted them to see this event. You don’t see the launch of a brand–new, innovative commercial fishing vessel every day. My own family’s fishing and fisheries is much different, but nevertheless, this was an important and history-making part of our culture, and I wanted my children to witness the occasion.

Plus, I know that when Nick has his hand in something, you want to be a part of it. So off we went down the road—and boy, was it worth it.

Talk about cheer, joy, energy, excitement, pride, respect, hope, and optimism! That was the vibe going on at the Martinac shipyard at 4:00 a.m. on January 26, 2013. A huge food cart was provided by Martinac inside the yard, with all kinds of food available free of charge to launch attendees. There was also coffee, boxes and boxes of donuts, hot chocolate, and champagne. The Bailey’s, Smirnoff and Crown on hand made my mouth water. Had the launch just been at 4:00 p.m. rather than 4:00 a.m….ha ha!

Joe Martinac, the president of Martinac Shipbuilding, served as Master of Ceremonies and spoke about the number of local jobs the building of the Northern Leader produced (well over 100 new, full-time jobs). An Irish priest prayed over and blessed the vessel. Governor Jay Inslee gave an authentic and energetic speech (and paused from the podium to compliment my three children who were sitting in the front row—consider me a converted and lifelong Inslee fan!). There was a flag ceremony and playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

And then—the tide literally turned—and it all happened so quickly!

Nick’s wife, Sally, shattered the champagne bottle on the bow. A call sounded. Before I even realized what was going on, the Northern Leader was off! She glided out of the building leaving shouts of joy, clapping, and celebratory ribbons spilling behind her!

For some reason, I assumed the massive vessel would inch bit-by-bit out of the building. Man, was I wrong! She flew out of that building into the bay, where a tug waited to catch her. (I’ve provided a link to my launch videos at the end of this post.)

Within 50 seconds, and accompanied by cheers, celebration, hoots, and hollering, the  F/V Northern Leader left the building.

Fun Facts about F/V Northern Leader and Alaskan Leader Fisheries, LLC:

  • The 184-foot Northern Leader is owned by Alaskan Leader Fisheries, LLC.
  • Alaskan Leader Fisheries was established in 1990 in Kodiak, Alaska by seven commercial fishing families. Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation and the original founding families have an equal 50%-50% ownership interest in the company.
  • The company owns four freezer-longliners, including the 150-foot Alaskan Leader, the 167-foot Bristol Leader, and the 124-foot Bering Leader.
  • At 184′ x 42′ x 18.75′, the new Northern Leader is one of the largest commercial fishing vessels in the country and the largest fishing boat built in the Pacific Northwest in over twenty years.
  • Until the Northern Leader was built, the Bristol Leader was the largest vessel in the freezer-longliner fleet.
  • Construction cost was $25 million.
  • The freezer-longliner will fish primarily for Pacific cod in the Alaska longline fisheries of the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands. It’s homeport will be Kodiak, Alaska and the primary port of operation will be Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
  • The Northern Leader can fish up to 76,000 hooks and will process and freeze 1.9 million pounds of frozen seafood. The second-largest boat in the fleet, the Bristol Leader, carries 1.1 million pounds.
  • The Northern Leader is one of the most technologically advanced and innovative commercial fishing vessels ever built. It will use the latest in diesel-electric technology to power its refrigeration, lighting, and a highly-flexible propulsion system.
  • The vessel will process much of what is normally considered waste; cod livers will be processed for oil and fish heads will be ground up for meal.
  • Jensen Maritime Consultants, the prominent Seattle naval architecture firm, designed all four of the Leader boats.
  • For its design of the Northern Leader, Jensen was awarded the New Wave Award by National Fisherman and Workboat at Pacific Marine Expo 2012. The award honors the environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient design of the Northern Leader’s diesel-electric propulsion, as well as use of the first ever Z-Drive on a Bering Sea longliner.
  • The building of the vessel created over 100 new, full-time jobs jobs at Martinac Shipbuilding Corporation in Tacoma, Washington. Martinac Shipbuiding was founded in 1924 and is one of the oldest shipyards on the U.S. West Coast.

You can click here to watch a few of the videos I took of the launch! My amateur iPhone movies include the blessing of the boat, the Star Spangled Banner, and two of the actual launch (one of which was taken by my dad).

For further reading on the F/V Northern Leader and to view pictures of the interior, please see the post A Day of Celebration: The Christening and Open House of the F/V Northern Leader.

My Sweet Little Bunny, Valerie Joy, Turns One!

It’s hard to imagine that a year ago today, I met Valerie for the first time. On that day, our town was enveloped in snow and ice, but I was warm inside the recovery room, holding my precious gift. What a tiny thing she was, too, just over six pounds. She was so tiny that her exquisite little earlobes weren’t even fully developed; they were fragile, paper-thin lobes that I couldn’t stop marveling at and caressing.

You may remember that dear Valerie was quite a surprise for her father and me! You may also remember that the pregnancy was difficult from start to finish. Literally. I was sick every day and it just got worse as the pregnancy progressed. I had a terrible time with my doctors and nurses and even switched offices halfway through the pregnancy.

I felt nervous giving birth for the third time and nervous at the idea of being in charge of three children! How would I ever be able to do it? Especially with George’s fishing schedule? You may remember that while George made it for the birth, he left two days afterwards and only saw Valerie a couple of times in the following five months. This is not something he felt in any way happy about, but that’s the way it was.

There is a specific reason I chose “Joy” as Valerie’s middle name. I wanted to immediately turn the tide from a difficult pregnancy, and set an optimistic and positive path going forward. I’m here to tell you, a year later, that the name Joy perfectly captures the essence of who Valerie is and what our year together has been like.

I do not have any idea what I’d do without my baby girl. She slept with me every night for her first six months of life, because I couldn’t let her go. I wanted her with me, to stare at her and give her kisses and feel her breath. She sleeps in her own crib now, but I still carry her everywhere in the house and outside of it, giving her kisses. She brings me so much joy with her ready smile, her cute little laugh, and how easy she is to pacify. She is such a pleasant baby, full of love and cheer.

She’s also the light of her siblings’ lives; you’ll see in this photo gallery how very much they love her, packing her around and playing all day long.

George and I were truly blessed by little Valerie Joy’s arrival. I know it’s a cliché, but we truly were and are blessed. She is a baby who clearly wanted to be born, who wanted so much to join our family and enjoy life as the youngest little angel in each of our lives.

I love you, Valerie Joy! Happy First Birthday!

Precious, tiny Valerie Joy.

Precious, tiny Valerie a year ago.


Precious, little Valerie Joy today.

Precious, little Valerie today.