On Friday, I attended an ’80s dance party at our neighborhood school, where Eva is in first grade and next year, Vincent will be in kindergarten. We had a great time. Eva dressed up as an ’80s aerobics instructor. She wore one of my old gymnastics leotards (circa 1988), tights, a headband, and fluorescent pink shoes. For the special occasion, I let her wear blue eye shadow and hot pink lip gloss.
For my own ’80s look, I did my best to create “big hair” but had trouble achieving it. Even my husband, George, who’s a nice guy and graduated from high school in 1985 (when I was in fifth grade, ahem) told me I hadn’t quite captured the look I wanted. I made a part in my hair, tossed it over, and showed him. “You’ve got it now,” he said.
My two older children and I went to the party. It was a blast. We danced, the kids won cakes during the cake walk, and we chatted outside with parents until we had to go home. There was even a photo booth at the event! Here is one of the picture slides I took with Eva. The photo booth company provided props for the pictures.
This is what I love about our school! “The little school on the hill” is what one of our parents calls it. We create events, show up, have a few laughs, and go home.
Unfortunately, our “little school on the hill” appears to be doomed. Yep, the powers that be want to close our school down. We are the smallest school in the district. Isn’t it usually the smallest that are the easiest to target and bully? Who knows. What I do know is that we may be small, but we are not weak.
The Coalition to Save Larrabee Elementary, of which I am a part, does not want our dear school closed and we do not agree with the so-called reasons for the proposed closure.
Here are some of our reasons why Larrabee should remain open:
- At Larrabee, we maintain an environment of student and family “belonging” versus alienation.
- We notice (and care) whether a student shows up and/or where that student is supposed to be after school.
- We are sensitive to Larrabee’s diverse family/economic/social/academic needs.
- We have superior parent and community involvement.
- We immediately address and put a stop to inappropriate behavior.
- We have a historic, cultural, and community attachment to our school.
- Our pleasant neighborhood includes the ability to walk to school or to park easily nearby.
- Informal discussions and check-ins are a regular part of the day between parents, teachers, and staff at Larrabee.
- Larrabee is a village where all children are known, recognized, and validated.
- Children are not lost and/or alone at little Larrabee. They cannot hide.
- The parent community is friendly and welcoming, not exclusive.
- Stewardship and care. We nurture our building and each other. Small classrooms mean that children learn flexibility, creativity, boundaries, and respect for one another’s space.
- Larrabee embraces and builds a community that understands economic and other forms of diversity.
- Our classrooms are enriched beyond the building because of neighborhood support.
- We model sustainability and efficiency because we can walk and bike to school.
- Our Larrabee Elementary, the smallest school in the district, has the most robust after-school enrichment program. Larrabee is an economically diverse population. With daily opportunities until 4 p.m., our enrichment program helps cover childcare gaps while offering classes in chess, math, basketball, woodworking, choir, art, strings, theater, and field games. Larrabee has become a model for other schools in this regard.
- Larrabee encourages regular communication among its students, teachers, and parents both inside and outside the school.
- Discussions regarding events, progress, behavior, and celebrations are not limited to formal, rigid, and scheduled check-ins.
- Children and parents are known to an uncommon degree.
In addition to the above, here’s why I love Larrabee:
Last fall, our principal celebrated her own birthday by hosting an evening school-wide pajama and movie party in the gym! How excited the children were to show up with their blankets, pillows, jammies, as well as with their sisters, brothers and parents for a movie and popcorn. And how kind and generous of our principal to host such an event for her families. What fun to gather as a school in our little gym and enjoy a movie and popcorn together.
As a mother, there is nothing I love more than waiting with the neighborhood parents for my child at the bottom of the Larrabee stairs at the end of the school day. When the bell rings, I look with anticipation for Eva’s teacher to open the door and for my little girl to emerge with her big smile. Eva scans the small gathering of grown ups until she sees me, and then waves as she waits for permission from her teacher to descend the stairs to my open arms. When the sun is out, the children play on the playground after school until their parents insist it is time to go home.
I can’t even imagine what it would be like to wait with parents at non-neighborhood schools who have only a long line of buses, cars, SUVs, congestion and exhaust fume to look forward to during after-school pick-ups!
Last year, after I gave birth to my sweet baby, Valerie, everyone at Larrabee, from the lunchroom attendant to the teachers to the students were (and remain) excited and supportive toward my children and me. And, as a mother who is often a “seasonally single parent” because my husband is a commercial fishing captain and often away from home, the staff at Larrabee is unfailingly kind and understanding about our unique situation.
I love Larrabee. I love the size of the school, the community, the families, and the students. It saddens—and yes, even sickens—me to think of retiring this lovely school and losing all of the above.
We have a historical and unique school full of character. And this school works. Many of us moved to and live in this area because we wanted our children in the existing elementary schools. And now, our reasons are being dismissed, disregarded, and decimated.
A neighborhood school that is quaint and safe and friendly is what is ideal for my children. It is why we moved here. It is why so many of us moved here. I am not interested in having my children attend a mega-school on mega-property surrounded by buses and apartment buildings and traffic.
Preserving, renovating, modernizing, and keeping our historic Larrabee open should be an option. On May 8, we have a chance to convince the School Board of our thoughts and opinions. Will they care?
I don’t know.
But they should.
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.
This is a difficult post to write, but one of of our fellow commercial fishing friends, Amanda, is having a terrible time. Her commercial fishing boyfriend of two years, Ian Wood, is missing.
Ian Wood lives in Seaview, Washington. He is a crew member of the F/V Willapa Maid and the boyfriend of Amanda Hoefer Duke.
Ian’s boss saw him Monday, but no one has seen or heard from him since. He left with no phone. If anyone has seen or heard from Ian, please let Amanda know. She is worried sick about him. Amanda needs to know he is okay and wants him to come back home safe. He is a fisherman and could have been seen at nearby ports.
Ian is driving a 96 Volvo 850 turbo wagon. The car is navy blue in color with Washington state plates AAU5832 and has commercial fishing stickers on the back.
Ian was last seen on Monday, April 8, 2013 in Warrenton, Oregon. He has lived previously in Yelm, WA.
If you know Ian is safe or have seen this vehicle, please call Amanda Hoefer Duke at 360-451-4465 or law enforcement.
Keep your eyes out and your thoughts with our commercial fishing sister, Amanda.
Amanda, keep your head up as best you can, and know we are all with you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?