Goodbye, G. Love and Miss You Still.

And just like that…he’s gone.

After what was supposed to be a decent amount of time off—and was caught unbelievably short by the problematic installation of a brand new $150K main engine and other projects—G is underway towards the 2013 Dungeness crab season.

We pulled off a fantastic grand finale: I managed to secure a babysitter, and G and I went out with Bryan, Brett, Johnny, and two additional family friends. We all shared some drinks, some laughs, a few stories, and a few insults before calling it a night.

If you know G and me, you know that this has been a more difficult time off than usual for us. But I tell you, these guys are all my family. When I get to spend time with my “family” I feel renewed, energized, and better able to handle what’s coming next.

My heart sank when I watched G leave tonight. My chest tightened, my throat constricted, and I waved him off quickly before the tears began to stream and the children noticed.

And then, he was gone.

Watching the boat glide out of the harbor on a cold and dark night is both sad and beautiful.

Watching the boat glide out of the harbor on a cold and dark night is at once sad and beautiful.

Where Are My Girls At? Thank You, Ladies!

I’ve put off the “Closet Organization Project” for five years.

In general, I’m pretty organized, due mostly in part to a “mild” case of OCD. My stomach clenches up and I have a little trouble breathing when I see “mess” in my house. Not your house, mind you: mine. Just mine.

About five years ago, G and I undertook a major house renovation that involved lifting our house up on a couple of 200-foot steel beams, digging into the earth, and creating an extra 1000 square feet in the form of a guest bedroom, kitchenette, office, and “man cave.”

At that time, I tossed things into bins and boxes and then into a closet we didn’t really need (except to throw miscellaneous crap into).

Five years and one additional child later (for a total of three children), we now need that closet. We’ve needed the space in that closet for the past year, but I haven’t had the time or energy to go through it.

Today, though, I’ve spent about three hours looking through the bins, drawers, and scrapbook caddies within that closet. I’ve found boxes of back-issues of Writer’s Digest magazine from the year 2000—on, and also copies of Journaling magazine (hey, who remembers that one?).

I’ve found ancient (2004) photo-editing programs, a Suze Orman will and testament program, empty and full scrapbooks, and even a stack of original magazines describing the events and aftermath of 9/11.

I love to collect quotes and pictures. While going through my scrapbook organizer today, I came across a few of each that touched me in some way. I set a couple of them aside before recycling and trashing the rest. There was one in particular that caught my attention and gave me pause. I read it and thought I might scan and email it to a few of my girlfriends in thanks for being the encouraging, smart, and loving women they are.

Then, I decided that I would scan and post it right here on my blog in thanks to all of you.

2012 ended up being a good year for me. After an emotionally and physically difficult pregnancy in 2011, I gave birth to baby Valerie Joy in January of 2012. Vincent finally had his hearing loss diagnosed and treated later in the spring. Our family got a summer membership to the neighborhood outdoor pool and spent every sunny day there in warmth and play.

For the first time in about ten years, G took the summer off from fishing and spent two months with us. We celebrated ten years of marriage, and I went to my 20th high school reunion.

Eva entered first grade, Vincent entered kindergarten, and Valerie turned out to be the sweetest baby ever.

Like all moms, I have many balls in the air and juggle a million different things all at once, all the time. I love my mom friends. I also love my writing friends. My Jazzercise friends. My commercial fishing wives and mom friends. My old friends. My new friends. My mother. My sisters. My daughters. My real life friends, and my online friends. Friends I was close to once but no more, and friends I’m close to now but didn’t know before.

When I found this quote, I had to share it with all my women friends who have helped out, shared their lives, and supported me with their offer of love and kindness, humor and understanding. Whether real or virtual, old or new, you have all been a friend to me in some capacity in 2012. I hope I have been the same to you!

Women's Friendships

At a Commercial Fishing Mother Crossroads

If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while, or you have read my e-book (also available in paperback) then you know that about five years ago, I came to a crossroads. George was fishing a lot and not readily available to the kids or me. Eva (two at the time) was sick with staph and pneumonia, and I also had baby Vincent to care for. Our young dog, Toby, had been diagnosed with cancer.

Ugh. It was a lot, and I was starting to falter under the pressure. I had to make arrangements to ease my load and get some relief, and I did.

Everything went a lot better after that. Now, I’m at another crossroads. I feel again like I’m faltering under the pressure of being a seasonally single mother of three. I am vacuuming, mopping, attending events, returning phone calls and making appointments, reading e-mails, attending meetings, buying and wrapping Christmas presents, sending Christmas cards, hosting parties, opening mail, and making meals. 80% on my own.

George may be “here” but he’s not “here.” He’s at the harbor for ten or so hours each day, installing a huge and expensive new main engine on the boat, and this extra work has cut into his “home time” by three months. When you are married to a fisherman, he may be gone several months a year, but when he’s home, he’s usually “home”. Home to play with kids and help with shopping or even just watch TV. When your fisherman has been gone and then returns, yet he’s still not home, this causes a lot of strain.

I’m starting to get short of patience. I’m annoyed. When will we relax and enjoy the holiday? How lucky for the crew (whom I love and appreciate dearly), who always get to go home and have time off with their families while G still goes down to the boat each and every day to work. I can’t believe some of my girlfriends, who whine about how sick they are or how they couldn’t possibly get through a sick day on the couch without their husbands’ help.

Seriously? I was throwing up all day yesterday. I still had to get up and scrub toilets from sickness left over from my children. And I’m also nursing a baby and mopping floors and trying to organize Christmas alone.

If I sound annoyed, it’s because I am.

Just as I was five years ago, I’m at a crossroads.

In the New Year, I plan to reassess the areas I need extra help (regular housecleaning, for one) and create a new schedule that includes that help.

Mind you, I know how hard George is working. He’s not down at the boat sipping cocktails and laughing with his buddies. He’s crouched down, greasy and cramped, in an engine room. He’s sore and tired and equally as annoyed as me. I know he would rather be home with us than on the boat 24/7.

This is our life, and this is our reality. We live it and for the most part, we love it. The commercial fishing life has its rewards, to be sure.

But when the rewards seem fewer and further between, it’s time to reassess and adjust accordingly.

I Ask You. Who and Where Will Be Next?

I haven’t watched the news in a few days.

I’ve read the news, but I haven’t watched it.

Normally, my big kids (7 and 5 years old) and I wake up early each morning and sit together in the oversized recliner in the family room. I drink coffee, watch the news, and snuggle with them  while we wait for baby Valerie to wake up. At that point, we start the official morning routine. Get dressed, eat breakfast, gather backpacks, choose toys for sharing day.

For the last few days, though, I’ve let them watch Disney Junior rather than put on the news.

I don’t want them to see what has been going on. That children their age, precious children just like them, have been gunned down by yet another madman. I don’t want them to see or hear it. I don’t want them scared and terrified of school and people and of life. Because you know what? Mommy is scared enough.

Whenever people say “It could never happen here!” or “I never would have expected this here!” I shake my head. I think by now we have all learned that it can happen anywhere. By anyone. At anytime.

I wonder. Will my children’s Sunday school class be shot up? Will someone enter church and fire rounds at everyone inside? Will someone come to our school or the gym and kill dozens inside? If we go to the mall, will we leave alive?

I can hardly read the news. My heart twists up in pain when I see the beautiful faces of the children and teachers and principals whose lives were cut tragically short. I feel angry. I can hardly even think. To be honest, I feel fearful. I don’t know who is going to strike next, or when, or where.

My children have not seen the news and they have no idea what has transpired. But when they each asked to sleep with me last night, I didn’t refuse. When I turned to my left, there was little Vincent sleeping soundly. When I turned to my right, there was Eva, reaching for my hand. I kept my ear out for baby Valerie. When I hadn’t heard from her in a while, I went to check. There she was, asleep in her crib.

I did not sleep, but I had my children with me, safe and warm.

I am so sick of this. I hate it. Things have to change, and they have to change now. It’s not just a matter of gun control or mental health. It’s all of that and so, so much more.

NO MORE.

National Fisherman Blogroll: Fishing Families Matter!

If you haven’t checked out the new blogroll at National Fisherman magazine lately, now’s a good time to do so. You’ll see a handful of newly added commercial fishing—industry blogs to check out, including Highliners and Homecomings.

As I considered the inclusion of my bio and photo for the NF blogroll, I felt a bit of panic. Although I’ve written professionally for over ten years, and Highliners and Homecomings has existed for over six years, I felt some personal pressure.

“I need to publish posts more often! All those drafts? Need to edit and publish more quickly!”

I saw the list of blogs also included. Active fishermen and women! Although I come from a multi–generation fishing family and fished several seasons alongside my sisters aboard the family fishing vessel, I don’t fish now.

Now, I’m a mom! A wife!

Do I still count?

Do we count?

I told myself that as soon as my daughter Eva’s birthday celebration was complete, and my son Vincent’s VIP week at school concluded, and baby Valerie recovered from the croup, I would start rolling out posts more quickly.

In a commercial fishing family, however, things rarely go according to plan.

The week of birthday, VIP, and even the croup will pass. But you know what? Other “things” will always come up.

We’ll say hello to the holiday season and goodbye to Dad for the crab season. Art, Jazzercise, choir, homework, writing, doctor appointments, PTA, and likewise will all come a’calling. And like you, my fellow commercial fishing wives and girlfriends, I’ll be tackling these things from shore, often alone.

That’s how I roll and exactly what I write about: Life, one fishing season at a time.

We may not be at sea, and we may not be fishing, but we still count.

Believe it.

Welcome!

Family, Friends, and Free Goldfish at Fish Expo 2012

Vincent looked around tonight at the dinner table. It seemed something (or someone) was missing.

“Where Dad is?” he asked.

“Westport,” I said. “Don’t worry. He’ll be home tomorrow.”

It’s 6:00 in the evening and G is at the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen Association’s annual meeting in Westport, Washington. The kids and I are at home; it didn’t work out for us to attend this year, although it is an event I do enjoy. Who doesn’t like dinner, drinks, and chances to win tons of of cool things any fishing family would appreciate, like pallets of free crab bait and hand-woven doormats made of crab line?

Meanwhile here at home, I’ve got baby Valerie asleep, all three children fed, and I’ve snuck away to my new Mac for about the next three minutes to write this blog post.

We had a great time at Pacific Marine Expo (Fish Expo) last week. I spoke at a fishing families keynote address along with Lori French and fellow fishing family blogger, Robin Blue. We each took a turn at the mic and distributed handouts, and then I spent the rest of the day walking up and down the convention aisles, running into tons of people I know and haven’t seen since last year’s Expo.

As always, I was blown away and overwhelmed—in a good way—by the event. I look forward to Fish Expo as much as I do to Thanksgiving. I often link the two events together, as they run side-by-side each year in November, and each event is filled with friends, family, love, fun, smiles, and genuine goodwill. All three of my children attended, as well as my dad (Grandpa Jack), George, and Brett.

Brett somehow secured Eva a “free” goldfish at Expo. She brought the “free” goldfish home in a rinsed out 7-Up bottle. Now, her “free” goldfish is enjoying a $120 starter aquarium with three additional fishy friends. Thanks, Brett!

I plan to have my Fish Expo handout from the fishing families forum available soon as a free download on this blog.

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I love this picture. Lori French, of the Faces of California Fishing, is at the podium. Robin Blue, of The Fishing Blues, and I wait on deck.

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David Hills, everyone’s favorite commercial fishing photographer, and me.

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Grandpa, Jack Karuza, with our newest Fish Expo attendee, Valerie Joy.

Thankful for Awesome Commercial Fishing Kids and a Great Crew!

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I’ll say that I’m very thankful for G and the crew, who work hard in scary ocean weather all over Washington and Alaska throughout the year to provide for their families.  I’m especially thankful to have had the same group of guys around the past five to twelve years. We get to hang out each pre-and-post season, celebrate marriages and the addition of children (there’s about a dozen kids among us all), sympathize during hard times, and continue strengthening bonds year after year. It’s not that common to have the same crew season after season, and we are fortunate.

I’m also thankful for my fishing kids, who never  complain or feel sorry for themselves that they have a father who must go to sea and be away from home. On the contrary, they are proud of their dad. They understand who he is, what he does, and they have pride in their family and heritage. They also love Brett, Bryan, and Johnny, and visiting the harbor to see the operation at work.

As a matter of fact, I am proud of all the little fishing kids I know in my community. These little ones range in age from ten months to seven years old and beyond, and they could not be a sweeter, more caring, smarter bunch of children. They come from  responsible and hardworking families, and their resilient spirits are a credit to their parents.

Vincent’s best friend in kindergarten is actually a little fellow whose father is also a fisherman. When I told Vincent that H’s father was also a crab captain, Vincent could not have been more thrilled.

“So we have the SAME DAD?!” he asked, beaming from ear to ear.

Uh, not exactly…lol!

A funny thing happened yesterday for which I’m also thankful; G sold his flatbed truck. He’s used that faithful Ford for years to tow thousands of pounds of Dungeness crab to various fresh markets, as well as stack it sky-high with crab pots and tow forklifts and everything else.

G recently bought a new truck for the same purpose, but hadn’t yet listed the original flatbed. It was on his “to do list” along with a million other things.

However, out of nowhere yesterday, a random man at an electric shop the same time as G leaned his head out of his own truck window asked if G was interested in selling his flatbed. Interested? Heck yeah! Two hours later, the truck had a happy new owner. No listing, fielding phone calls, or detailing necessary. Sweet!

Now, getting back to Dungeness crab gear work in the pre-season…

After buoy painting, George and the crew move into splicing lines and rigging crab pots.

For readers unfamiliar with the term “splicing,” it involves taking apart the end of a line (rope) and weaving the strands of the end back into itself to create an “eye.”

The guys go over and through each of the 500 crab pots, checking for holes, making repairs, putting on the new zincs, and getting them ready to load on the boat.

Here are a handful of pictures of George and the crew (Bryan, Brett, and John) overhauling pots five years ago:

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And here are the same fellas just yesterday (along with Eva and Valerie. Vincent was still at school).

Happy Thanksgiving, all! Time to take it down a notch, relax, and enjoy a day with the fam. :)

Dungeness Crab Gear Work Part One: Painting Buoys.

The Dungeness crab season begins each year with between three and four weeks of gear work before the boat is ready to go. The first part of gear work usually begins with buoy painting.

George has about 600 buoys to paint. Some buoys are new and need to be painted for the first time, while others are older and have peeling paint that needs to be touched up.

Buoys must be painted so that the gear of each boat is distinguished and recognized from that of the other 220-plus boats in our Dungeness crab fleet. If each boat did not have its own original buoy-paint scheme, the buoys would all look the same and nobody would know whose were whose. A picture is also taken of each boat’s uniquely painted buoy and sent to the State for filing.

It takes George and the crew about five full days to paint and tie (attaching the line that will secure the buoy to the crab pot) all of the buoys.

One year, George and I were taking an easy drive through Oysterville when, to George’s surprise, he spotted one of his crab buoys attached to the buoy-decorated fence surrounding the home of a coastal resident. Apparently, the buoy had broken free from its accompanying crab pot out on the open ocean and washed ashore. (About a month later, we got a phone call that one of his crab pots was sitting upon the dock in Ilwaco, just a little further south. Coincidence?)

Fishing wives and other family are not exempt from buoy painting.

I’ve painted buoys at the beginning of more than one season. My dad has helped at times, and so has George’s dad when he’s visited from Florida. It’s not an easy job: The weather is freezing and the work is long. It didn’t take long during my first year of buoy-painting before I marched down to the fisheries supply store and purchased a full Carhartt insulated suit to wear to keep out the chill.

I’m not painting much these days (at all, actually). Brett and I recently offered to trade places for a day (he’d take care of the kids for an afternoon, and I’d show up to the harbor in my painting gear) but G wasn’t having it. Hey—don’t say I never offered. :)

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Our dear, sweet Toby, who “helped” paint buoys for six years before he passed away from cancer. We miss you so much, Bo Bo’s.

Two months after our Toby passed away, I found out I was pregnant with Valerie. Here she is with Dad on her first buoy-painting experience.

Johnny and Bryan.

Brett, Johnny, and Bryan.

Facebook and Politics: Thumbs Down.

Many of my Facebook friends have taken on the challenge of posting what they are thankful and grateful for each day throughout the month of November.

I’m not participating, but I enjoy reading their status updates and give many of them the “thumbs up.”

I’m going to take a moment on my blog, however, and state with all the gratitude in the world that the election is finally, finally over. I’m also grateful that soon, 90% of the political postings on Facebook will end.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not opposed to people writing what they want on their own page, expressing their right to free speech, stating opinions or likewise. I’ve said that before. I’ve also said that while I am by no means a Democrat and I did not vote for Obama, most of my friends are left-leaning Democrats and I respect and admire most of them. I don’t care whether people agree with my views or not.

In fact, one of my dearest friends in real life and on Facebook describes herself as “left of liberal.” This friend is fun, she is a source of wisdom on many topics, and I enjoy the intelligent articles and opinions she shares on Facebook. This is not the sort of person I’m referring to.

I’m referring to those who have spent the past six hours to six months gloating and ridiculing people who do not believe as they do. Who have made blanket generalizations about opposite viewpoints. Almost every time I logged onto Facebook, I was greeted by a newsfeed of insults. No, they were not insults pointed at me, but they were insults nonetheless.

I know this happens on both sides of the political aisle. However, in my own virtual world, it has been one side doing most of the lambasting. I’m rather sick of reading it all. I know; I could have “hidden” these people from my news feed. I could have not logged on to Facebook. I could have even deactivated my account until election season was over.

Again: I respect the right of others to post whatever they want on their Facebook page. What I don’t respect, and what I won’t tolerate going forward, is bullying. It’s disgusting. We each have different life experiences, different families, different occupations, different everything. If Facebook friends can’t respect these differences, then that’s a problem.

I enjoy my friends in real life and in my online life and I hope to remain friends with each and every one of them. But—I detest intolerance, and I won’t put up with it. I hope everyone will chill out, take a breath, and move on. The election is over, and this will be the last time I write about election-related anything on this blog.

There’s so much coming up ahead in the next couple of months that are so much more rewarding and joy-filled than Facebook and politics.

Thankfully, it’s time to get back to non-partisan business.

And that is what I am grateful for today.

Guess What? Independents and Conservatives Do Care.

This week, a couple of odd things happened as I was going about my regular business. I pay attention to occurrences like these, because I assume there must be something I’m meant to learn or pay special attention to.

For example, when I’m totally annoyed and short of patience while driving, I take that as a message that my best bet is to get off the road, go home, and chill. Or, when I find myself in constant conflict with various individuals,that may be a sign that I might well be the source of conflict and I may need to re-evaluate what’s going on with my relationships.

Last weekend, as I got out of my car to head into Jazzercise, I was approached by a young woman.

“Hi!” she said. “Oh my gosh, I just ran out of gas. I don’t have my debit card. I’m a Western student and I’m on my way to work. I’m going to be late. The gas station won’t give me any gas until I have a $10 deposit. Can you help me?”

Well, I’m nobody’s fool. The old “ran out of gas” trick, eh? I paused for a moment.

But, something seemed different about this girl. She was dressed just like I might be on any given day, and she wore a bright  and earnest expression upon her face.

“Where do you work?” I asked.

“Cruisin’ Coffee,” she said with a smile.

“Hmm.” I said. I looked into my wallet. “I don’t have $10, but I have $3.” I handed her three one-dollar bills.

“Thank you!” she said. “I never carry cash!”

“Me either,” I said. “Just happened to have a little.”

She hustled back across the parking lot, and I entered the Jazzercise studio.

Yesterday morning, I met up with my sister on the sidewalk. She was leaving Jazzercise just as I was entering.

I heard someone approach behind me.

“Hi!” a female voice called out. “I just ran out of gas! I’m a Western student. I’m on my way to work. Can you help me?”

Seriously.

I looked at her.

“I just gave you some money a few days ago,” I said.

“Oh!” she said.

I looked at my sister.

“Wow,” I said.

This morning, I placed Valerie in her stroller and began walking across the same parking lot. A man crossed in front of me. He was determined upon his path and did not say anything, but I spent a moment observing him as he passed.

Although it was a cold and rainy morning, he wore shorts. Gold shorts. Tight gold shorts, adorned with sparkles and glitter. I noticed his bare legs, and then I saw the boots he wore. Black rubber boots, decorated in rainbow-colored hearts.

My first thought was that he must be cold in that outfit on such a rainy and dreary day. My second thought was, why is he wearing that outfit? What is his story?

Suddenly, I thought about his parents. Whose son is he? Where is his family? Where did he come from?

I thought back to the girl who’d asked me for money twice in a row. What was her story? Where was her family? Why was she asking for money? What went wrong?

What’s really going on?

I don’t know. I wish I did.

George and I don’t normally give money to folks on the street, because we give generously to organizations that help people on the street. In addition, we sponsor a family in town, and we also sponsor two children in Haiti. We give.

I don’t know if the girl asking for money was an addict, or if she was put up to her con by someone bigger and more threatening than her.

I don’t know if the man scurrying across the parking lot, wearing gold shorts and rainbow boots, was cast out of his home and family for being different, or if he was doing just fine.

I don’t know. But I wonder.

And more than that, I care.

In this political season, I read Facebook and Twitter posts every day centered on politics. About 95% of my friends and associates are liberals and/or democrats.  I am an Independent. Even somewhat a right-leaning Independent.

I read each day online about how heartless conservatives are. I scroll through my feeds, reading about the evils of Republicans. How they don’t care. Don’t give. How they judge. And condemn. And blame.

But you know what?

This is not any more true for the right than it is for the left. The hard left can also judge, condemn, assume, blame, and ridicule.

I do care.

I care about the young woman asking me for money, and I care about the young man in shorts hustling across the lot in the rain. I care about this country. I give money here and abroad. So does my husband. I’m tired of being told that because I’m not a liberal, I don’t care. Because I’m not a registered Democrat, I’m heartless.

We work hard and pay a ton of taxes. We donate. We give. We care. We care about our family, and we also care about yours.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere, but I’ve yet to determine exactly what it is.