merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

December 13, 2013

anchors away...

    So tomorrow is the big day.  After 10 years, Beady and I are heading out for a more southern adventure.  The house has been sold, the boxes packed, and the tears are just starting to flow, AAAUUURRRGGHHHH!  I'm a hideous crier! 
So farewell for now Portsmouth,'s been a wonderful 10 years, I couldn't have asked for a better time. 
SeaPearl in port, one of many that moved through each year.

North Church, downtown Portsmouth.  You can always see it from the bridge as you cross into Maine from New Hampshire.

My most favorite sight in the spring after a harsh and long New England winter.

Where it all began, Stranger Danger at the dreaded bus station!

Our favorite watering hole, Martingale Wharf.  We made lots and lots of plans here with a beautiful view of the water.

Always great shopping!

And even better food! 

The sight I will most remember Portsmouth for.  Those beautiful tugs...

So we will head out tomorrow and even though I know I'll be a little sad and even more sentimental, I'll try to remember this one little thought ---->

It will undoubtedly make the journey so much sweeter and at the same time, most importantly, make it just a teensy bit easier to move away from the deliciousness of a quaint and cozy city on the water to a bright and busy explosion of life with my tiny family beside me.  I'll let you know when we get there!

Copyright Callie's Mariner 2013


December 06, 2013

birthdays, christmas, and swag...oh $%*#

I have what one would call a tight family.  Besides hubby, there's just my mother and father now, and I lovingly refer to them as port-a-parents as if I could put this tiny family into my pants pocket and take them wherever I want to.  (In all actuality that's a pretty big stretch considering I can't put anything in my pockets once my jeans are on)
     Beady on the other hand has an extended family that would put The Duggars to shame.  His parents, couple of sisters, a gazillion aunts and uncles, couple of grandmothers, and cousins up the ying-yang, I mean up the ying-yang.  It's gotten so I just assume everyone new I meet in Maine or northern New Hampshire is somehow related to my husband.  And my mother-in-law (Sweater Girl) has this crazy sixth sense in that she can "sniff" out a relative in a crowd, even if she's never met them before...but maybe it's not such a superpower considering the odds are clearly in her favor.  Even at our wedding, the contrast in size of family was so marked I had to ask if some of them would sit on my side so I didn't look like Little Orphan Annie.
     Do you get the picture?  Then you can imagine that holidays and special days with Beady's family are...I can't really find the right word me out...oh, I'll just use stimulating.  Growing up as an only child, I had always longed for the noise and love of a big family, but the first couple of times I visited with them, I felt like a cat that had been petted way too long and was about to bite and scratch its way out of the house.
     Beady and I started dating in the summer, he left for about four months and came back just in time for Christmas.  Over that span of six months, I got to know his family a little better through the occasional visit when he was home and when he went back to sea.  As the holidays approached, I suddenly realized that Christmas shopping was going to be a little more challenging as I would not only have to buy for my family this year, but that Beady and I would be getting things for his family as well.  So my list went from three people I knew intimately to shop for, to 20 or so I had a strictly superficial knowledge of.  And I certainly wanted to impress these people so Beady would keep me around, but was already beginning with a strike against me as Beady's last girlfriend had carved his heart out with a spoon, followed shortly by its consumption in front of everyone.  She was a woman, I was a woman, didn't matter that I was about a foot taller than her and probably could've stored the waif in my left thigh, I was a suitable stand in, especially for Callie

     Keeping this in mind, I struggled daily with what to get them and went back and forth with ideas that varied from Yankee Candles to brand new cars.  Seriously, I was desperate.  But what about Beady, you ask?  It was his family, wouldn't he be the logical person to go to in this time of great need?  Wouldn't he have the answer as to what gifts his family members, people he's known for thirty years, would like?  You're right, Dear Reader, and that's exactly who I went to, or rather wrote to, for the holiday advice I so craved.

     You know those moments in your life, the really definitive ones?  The ones you mark and even remember what you were wearing, the smell of a certain flower, the time of day?  Well, when Beady finally wrote back with his answer, the answer sure to unlock all holiday mysteries of the Clan Beady, there was a beautiful fire going in the fireplace, a steaming cup of coffee sitting next to my computer mouse, and I was cozy, cozy, cozy in an oversized sweater, toasty warm socks, and an irritatingly happy grin on my face because the sun was just too gorgeous and the leaves on the trees couldn't have been richer in their fall colors.  So as I opened his e mail, spirits high, anticipating a huge wave of relief as I just knew he'd have the answer, I couldn't have been more disappointed when I read "Sorry, Honey, I don't know what to get them, I'll think about it some more."  (He never got back to me with an answer.)  Really?  You can't think of even one gift to get just one of them?  Not even your mother?  These were the questions screaming through my brain, I just couldn't imagine he was so clueless about his family, his own gigantic family!  
      You might say I should've just left it to him, and believe me, I thought about that, too, but only for a split second.  Why?  Come on!  Who would've been blamed for his shoddy gift giving?  Me, and you know it.  Besides, there's no way I could've shown up with him knowing he'd shopped at Sunoco the night before for their presents.  And what would he even find for the kids there? 

Consequently, the day was burned into my memory because that became the moment when I realized loving Beady meant his family birthdays, weddings, Christmas, and whatever hell else you can think of celebrations would be my responsibility from now on...
especially when he was out to sea. 
     So I ran through that list and bought gifts for each and every person based on what little I knew about them, all the while cursing the man I loved, but simultaneously forgiving him as I was really, really, really in love.  AAAUUUGGGHHHH!!!!  I even endured "the show" as Beady swooped in minutes before the Christmas celebration and was smothered with oohs and aahs at his gift selecting capabilities that year.  (Remember I said I'd do anything to get in their good graces?  Well, keeping my mouth shut was the biggest gift!) 
      I wish I could tell you what I bought for them all, but I can't, although I'm guessing it went okay because Beady and I are still together.  And I'm also guessing it's still going okay because I've picked out the majority of their gifts ever since.  Certainly, on occasion, especially if I'm really struggling with an idea for a specific person, I get more than a little irritated with my mariner that he's left it to me, once again, with little to no assistance in the matter.  And though I know what his answer will be, I keep asking Beady for help and he keeps telling me, "I don't know, I'll think about it some more."  But that's okay because I'm pretty okay with it now remembering that if given a choice, Beady would always wish to be here helping me shop for gifts instead of being away so much of the time.  Besides, when I hand over the gifts and Beady's not home, I tell the recipient, "This is from me because I care about you way more.  If Beady really loved you, he would be home right now with a gift for you on your special day."  Sweater Girl loves it when I say that, Callie not so much.    

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner  

October 23, 2013

putting on my big girl panties

   Another Guest Blog, but this time from a northern friend upta Maine!  Since Callie's Mariner began, I have loved, loved, loved comments and e mails from this funny lady, so I asked her to share something with all of you and just as I suspected, it was right on the money.  Thanks so much, Liz!  This was something I'm certainly going to read over and over in the coming years to get me through tough times...I'm so glad to know you're out there!

Photography Elizabeth Meadows
I like to think of myself as a modern independent woman.  I was taught that I could do anything I set my mind to--that being a woman should never be a reason to not accomplish or get what I wanted or needed.  Girl Power and the like, ya know?  Tough as nails.  Oh, and I’m a Maine Girl, which means I exemplify the word rugged.

   I’ve always had my mom as the most amazing role model.  The woman refuses to accept, even in her late 60’s, that she has limitations.  For example, I stopped in to visit a while back and found her standing on top of her kitchen cabinets! (She is only 4’11” so her head didn’t even touch the ceiling!)  When I asked her what she thought she was doing, standing on the counter, with her cell all the way across the house, living alone and having had a hip replacement a few years back, she simply replied that she was cleaning the top of the cupboards - no big deal!!!  Two additional questions immediately came to mind; Who the hell cleans the tops of their cupboards? And, what would possess her to do it herself when she knew I was on my way?  The answer to both questions was instantly clear – My mother has NO LIMITATIONS.  Or, if she does, not only have I not discovered them, but she simply ignores the possibility that they exist.  So, you can see where I got the impression that as a woman, I am supposed to be rugged, tough as nails, and riding the line of being a full-blown women’s libber – pretty much invincible.  Right?  Well, not so much really…

    The truth of the matter is, my husband and I got together when I was 19, and maybe that made it easy for the two of us to presume that it was perfectly fine if we chose to be children forever.  I mean, who was going to tell us we had to grow up?  We don’t want children of our own.   

Please don’t go on a rant about how we’ll change our minds when we get older, or how my clock is going to start ticking, or how selfish it is of us not to want children.  We’ve heard it all before.  And to these I say this; 1) We don’t want to grow up 2) I’ve buried that clock and took out the springs – in my mind anyway 3)  We know we’re selfish – see 1!!

   Now, where was I? Oh, right – listing the reasons we haven’t HAD to grow up… We don’t own a house or have a mortgage, we don’t carry a loan on a vehicle, and we don’t feel obligated to live anywhere in particular ie: close to our families.  So, for the past 13 years we’ve been free birds.  We’ve lived in a bunch of different states, we’ve had some amazing adventures, some crazy jobs, and through it all, we really, really like each other.  Just two crazy kids exploring this great big world - TOGETHER.

     So, that word, TOGETHER, is what brings me back to my definition of myself as a strong, independent, modern woman.  You see, that word, TOGETHER, turns all of that into lies.  I’m not independent – I’m one half of a couple and have been for most of my adult life.  I’m not modern – I might as well be from the fifties, marrying my high school sweetheart right after graduation.  And, I’m not all that strong – I haven’t had to do anything on my own, pretty much since we met.  But, you see, I was forced to turn the spotlight on all of these things the day my husband decided to go back to college to become a Merchant Mariner.  Well, maybe not that exact day, perhaps it was more the day he first shipped out to complete his co-op project freshmen year.  It was that day that it hit me.  Smack up-side the head.  $#%&! Being a mariner’s wife was going to suck!

        I was suddenly in charge of the entire life we had built together. I was in charge of getting the bills paid. I was in charge of making sure the cars were running properly. I was in charge of giving our diabetic dog his insulin shots.  I was in charge of renewing our lease.  I was in charge of taking out the trash, doing the dishes, laundry, and vacuuming. And, that was just the “regular” stuff.  I didn’t realize until later that my life would now include the really crappy, unforeseen things.  I would have to figure out the steps to take after I got into my very first car accident.  I had to deal with having bought $150 worth of groceries only to come home to the ‘fridge not working.  I would have to protect myself and the dog when a black bear stole the trash can, and kept coming back to check for more.  I would have to change the flat tire on the truck.  I would have to prepare for one of the largest hurricanes in decades and try to keep myself calm and reasonable when all I wanted to do was camp out under my covers with the dog.  And, to top it all off, I was expected to do all of this while not becoming a raging alcoholic, laying on the couch for days in a deep depression or eating my way to 400lbs!!!  THIS WAS SO UNFAIR!!  How did I get tricked into growing up?  How did I get tricked into becoming an actual, real, live WOMAN – an adult even!!  AND, why didn’t my other half have to grow up too?!

   Well, I didn’t have to be jealous of him for long, because, it turns out he was having some growing pains during my trials and tribulations as well.  It tore him apart when I informed him hurricane Sandy was coming and we weren’t able to communicate for three days (don’t you just love ship communications?), and he was left feeling completely helpless.  He felt like a horse's ass when he asked if I had paid the bills or changed the oil, since it made us both feel like I was being checked up on, and couldn’t be trusted to get things done.  And of course, let’s not forget that he had just started a new job in a new field, where he felt like the new guy that couldn’t seem to do anything right, thousands of miles away from home, with very limited lines of communication to the people he loved.  And, to top it all off, he would have to have absolute, complete trust in the faithfulness and ability of his new bride (we were together for 10 of those 13 years before we actually got married) to keep the life we’d built TOGETHER running smoothly.

   These are the things I think about when someone says that sentence to me that sets my teeth on edge; “Well, you KNEW what you were getting into when he chose to become a Mariner.”  Why is it, they always say it in such a condescending way?  Why is it that they seem to have it in their mind that we deserve the hardships that come with this life?  Why is it that a day that I’m feeling lonely and missing my best friend, my partner in crime of the past 13 years, or I’m just feeling sad, that they think they have to right to utter those words?

   All those years before he became a mariner, we rarely spent a night apart.  There were multiple jobs we had working together.  There was a time when we lived in a teeny tiny studio apartment, thousands of miles away from our families, no computer, in a new town with no friends, just each other.  We’ve been through a lot TOGETHER.  The truth is, it never occurred to us that this career would require us to continue to work on US, our life together, our relationship, our struggles, our successes, our goals, all TOGETHER but completely separated from each other.  So, when someone suggests that we “knew what we were getting into” they’re wrong.  I don’t think any of us KNOWS what we’re getting into with this life.  I don’t think any of the mariner wives I’ve met on-line or in person truly KNEW what they were signing up for.  There are things you just don’t foresee.

    You don’t realize that you’ll go through separation anxiety where, just before he leaves, you feel overwhelmingly clingy, or just the opposite, where every little thing he does drives you up the wall.  No one tells you that there is a phenomena that occurs when he leaves – really bad stuff happens and YOU have to deal with it, all by yourself!  No one mentions that there will be things that you shouldn’t tell him, because YOUR daily drama is not something that he can help you with.  Or that giving him things to worry about might put him and his crew in jeopardy if he’s concerned about you and doesn’t have his mind on his job.  You have no clue until you’re in it, that there may be a time on the first day he leaves that you will dread going home because you know the house will be empty.  Or that you’ll find yourself carefully selecting the perfect pair of underwear or outfit to wear to pick him up at the airport.  And that the truth is he probably won’t even notice that you have clothes on – you could wear dirty sweatpants and he wouldn’t take heed because he’s just happy to see your face and be back on solid ground!

    These are the types of things we have no idea about when we “choose” this life.  But, it is also these things that we find a way to handle, deal with and manage.  He and I are truly just the new kids on the block due to the relatively short time we’ve been a part of this industry, but in that short time I’ve learned some very important things about my relationship with my husband.  We’re solid.  We can get through just about anything.  We honestly love each other.  And, we’ll make it through TOGETHER, for however long we CHOOSE to be in this industry.

     As for me, well, I’ve discovered something undeniably important about myself.  I AM that strong, independent, modern woman that I pretended to be all those years.  That image of myself that I felt was a farce, was actually, honest-to-God, true.  I really AM rugged, tough, smart, and strong.  There is still a good chance I may never entirely grow up – well, at least that’s my goal!  There are definitely days when I just don’t feel like putting on my big girl panties, so I DON’T!!!  

     I listen to the community of Mariner Wives that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of, and I realize a lot of them are just like me.  Some of us got a serious kick in the pants the first couple of times our mariner shipped out.  But, we stepped up and we make it through.  And some of them do it with such finesse that it makes my head spin!  Seriously, I have the impression that some of them had their big girl panties tattooed on!  I mean I changed the truck tire and all, but I imagine they could have done it in 3” heels in a blizzard – so I’ve got that to aspire to!!  
                                        Best of luck ladies!   Liz

Photography Elizabeth Meadows

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner

October 02, 2013

the trouble with tape...

   It's my turn, yup, that's right, my turn to experience one of the bigger life changes while Beady's at sea.  Which one, you ask?  Selling a house and all of the joys that come with said endeavor.  Now before I get too far ahead of myself, please know that Beady worked his little butt off before he left, doing as much as he absolutely could just so I wouldn't be straddled with unnecessary troubles in the midst of a closing.  He was like the Energizer Bunny, after a long day of moving gigantic boxes and heavier furniture, he'd come home and pack some more, so anxious about leaving me in the midst of a move.  It was endearing, however the constant pressure he put on himself to 'get it done' made me sad and I tried, unsuccessfully, to reassure him that the amount of stuff left to do was certainly manageable and he didn't have to worry.   

My "office" during the move.  Salty is still with me!

  Now that he's finally left, of course it's been tough, it would be that way for anyone selling their house and moving to a new place, never mind someone who has a partner out to sea, but I'm finding the silver lining is a lot more material for Callie's Mariner!!  Case in point...  

  I'm pretty sure I've spoken to Beady's underlying OCD?  Resetting all the clocks when he comes home, lashing sessions that take hours, etc, if you missed it, you can read about it here.  Again, is it a Chief Mate thing or is it just the way he's programmed?  I don't know and can't say that I'll ever find the answer to that particular question though I love him anyway!  Well, his latest one reared its ugly head for others to witness in the form of tape.  And frankly, I'm not even sure what kind of tape it was.  Even the plumber had a hard time identifying it.

   It started innocently enough, part of almost any home sale is the inspection, of which we came out of excitedly unscathed as the items the buyer asked us to address were minor.  Minor with a side of irritation as is everything that leads back to the Chief Mate.  Now I'm willing to bet that most of you involved with a merchant mariner got a handyman of sorts in the bargain.  The same was true of me, something for which I'm very grateful as it's saved us quite a bit of money over the years.  But in this case, my luck ran out when I received the 'Purchase and Sales Agreement' that requested I "...professionally repair the drain and supply lines in the two bathroom sinks and kitchen to be completed by a plumber currently licensed in the state of New Hampshire."  What?  Didn't Beady install all of those particular units and haven't they looked and functioned superbly for the last 7 years?  

   Okay, so you know how they say your body can't tell the difference between good stress and bad stress?  Stress is stress, right?  And my current stress involved the excitement of moving to a new place, a new home, as well as seeing a bunch of friends I hadn't for the last 15 years.  Exciting, right?  My body didn't think so, you see, by the time the plumbing incident popped up I'd literally just gotten over a sore throat that had lasted for about 2 weeks.  Before that, I experienced an over-sized zit (no, I'm not being dramatic) that probably should've been removed in a day surgery procedure instead of running its course for 9 days.  And throughout everything, even up to this day, my hair started falling out in clumps despite a trip to the hairdresser which usually resolved the situation.  Too much?  Well, I'm trying to illustrate the way my body dealt with all of the positive stress I've been feeling about the move over the last month and a half so that you'd understand my sheer terror at the thought of just how my body was going to react to the plumbing issue with Beady gone.  Measles, vision loss, rabies?  What was next?!!  With more than a little fear, and simultaneously hoping I wouldn't have to sleep with the plumber to cover his costs, I eventually called to schedule an appointment and prayed for the best.

   When he arrived later in the week, I showed him the request, as well as the report from the home inspector that detailed all Beady had potentially done wrong in his quest to make our home a nice one.  The plumber, Kevin was his name, nodded and proceeded to look around and under the kitchen sink, as well as the two bathroom sinks.  Here is an example of what he saw in EVERY space he looked into...

His first question, as he scratched his head and crinkled up his brow line, caught me totally off guard as I assumed he must already know the answer.

Kevin:  What kind of tape is that?

Me:  (Shrugging.) I don't know.  Isn't it electrical tape?

Kevin:  No.  It looks like it...but no.

Me:  Oh...well what kind of tape are you supposed to use?

Kevin:  You're not.

Me:  Oh. (Awkward silence.)

Kevin:  You say your husband did this?

Me:  Yup.  ( It was all I could say even though I wanted to lie and tell him we let a kindergarten class come in and experiment with their mysterious brand of tape.)

Kevin:  Well, everything else looks right...I'm not sure what the home inspector thought was wrong.  Maybe he thought the tape was hiding a more serious problem?  I'll get it off and fix it back up, okay?

   And he did, although Kevin had to replace some of the components once he pulled it apart as the glue from the tape had ruined them.  Fuming, I began to compose an e mail in my head to Beady about his costly misstep.  WHY THE TAPE!!  WHY EVERYWHERE IN THE PLUMBING THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE!  Oh boy, was he gonna get it!  He was going to get an "eye-full" on his computer tomorrow morning in my most articulate and audacious e mail to date!  I had learned to live with his mariner quirks over the last 10 years, but this was going absolutely too far.  He'd cost us more money because he couldn't control his tape fetish, a fetish, mind you, I hadn't even been aware of!
   Suddenly, Kevin came into the living room, perhaps he could feel the steam rising from my body, and asked had we had a leak at some point.  I nodded yes and explained to him that it was more of the pipes not being attached correctly in one of the upstairs sinks, not my husband's doing and something which he remedied immediately.  Unfortunately, it wasn't in time to avert a little damage, however Beady fixed that as well.  Kevin went on to explain that he could see why Beady had taped all of those spaces, even though it was completely unnecessary.  "I've had leaks before, ones that caused a whole bunch of damage.  It's not fun and once you've had one, you'd do anything to prevent another one from happening."  He chuckled, adding, "Although, I'm still not sure what kind of tape that is."
    Almost immediately, my body relaxed and adjusted to a normal running temperature.  I even felt the hair on my head secure itself a little more firmly back into place.  Of course!  He was only trying, as always, to prevent potential future threats from occurring, and inevitably, to protect me and give me a safe and comfortable home to live in.  He had always tried to make life a little easier and a little less stressful for me, why should pipes under sinks be any different?  So I shrugged my shoulders, smiled a tiny bit, and thought how much I loved my merchant mariner, my handyman, my Chief Mate.  These quirks were just a part of that adventure and would always be, no getting around it.  Consequently, it wasn't so hard to write a check out for 'The World's Most Expensive Mystery Tape Removal.'  

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner 

September 10, 2013

a lesson in humility...

Have you ever had one of those monumentally humbling moments?  You know, the kind where you're usually feeling pretty good about yourself, the way you're life is going, more specifically the way you're handling the way your life is going, and then all of a sudden you get a snowplow to the face?  Yup, that happened to me this summer when Beady turned my way and said, "Hey, Denise asked if we wanted to hike Gulf Hagas with her this week, what do you think?"  

A must read, loved it!!
Now hiking isn't something I do a lot of, however I really, really like it and since we were up in that neck of the woods (Northern Maine) I figured why not take advantage of the beauty absolutely everywhere?  It wouldn't be too difficult, I mean, it's not as if we're climbing a mountain, and it certainly wouldn't be Cheryl Strayed, Wild difficult, so I was pretty confident the day would be fairly safe.

Okay, this is where the humbling begins.  Sometimes, being the wife of a merchant mariner gives me an inflated sense of self.  I often think  how incredibly strong and independent I am having to manage the house, the bills, multiple crises, our family life, and my own world when Beady's gone.  Yes, it helps me get through the tough times and I'll never stop doing it, but it also, occasionally, sets me up for massive nose dives that hurt like hell when I finally get back up off the ground.  And so it began as we headed out on a gorgeous Tuesday morning to meet up with Denise.

Fun times!
A little background here...Denise is one of the perks that came with marrying Beady.  A friend of the family, she and her husband Jim have given me so many incredible moments of 'pee in your pants' laughter over the years, I almost always have to buy new unmentionables when I travel to Bangor.  (I'm really not kidding.)  Case in point, here's a pic (taken by Jim) of Denise and I manning the grills at my sister in laws wedding last month during, what felt like, some sort of Ft Lauderdale wet t-shirt contest gone horribly wrong when hurricane strength wind meets monsoon season moved in.  So you can imagine the prospect of spending an entire day with her was exciting to me.  Yes, I was a little nervous about hiking for 8 miles, but Merchant Mariner Wife took over and stuffed those feelings down, writing them off as sissified and childish.  Oh dear...

 It began as it should, I guess, Denise picking us up in her Professional Hiking Vehicle.  You know the one, you've seen it on the highway a million times and thought, 'Those people must be on their way to a terrific hiking adventure and then they'll probably come back and have some really great coffee at a secluded, out of the way coffeehouse with other fabulous hiking people.'  Yup, that vehicle.  When she alighted (love that word, not used nearly enough in this day and age) from said car, my smile dropped and I began to feel as if I was significantly under-prepared for the day's upcoming events.  Denise was the epitome of hiking chic in the best way possible...without even trying.  From the tips of her well worn hiking boots to the refined dignity of her pixie cut, 'no mess no fuss' hair, she struck a chord of fear in my heart as I realized my Sears brand capris and super on-sale, discounted at least 3 times sneakers from Kohl's probably weren't going to cut it in the great outdoors.  As she opened the trunk of her car, my fear swelled to even greater heights when I noticed her appropriately sized pack and  mentally compared it to the one we brought.  Yup...that's right...we brought one for the two of us.  And not just any old backpack, but one whose size was fit for a pre-schooler.  You see, we found it at the Salvation Army the day before for $3, with enough room to carry a few bottles of small water, some lunch, and bug spray because that's all we rationalized two grown adults would need on an 8 mile hike.  As I unsuccessfully tried to self-soothe, my eyes also wandered over to the walking poles she brought for safety.  'Walking poles?  Walking poles?  Why didn't we think of that?!  There weren't any of those at the Salvation Army store!  We're gonna die!'  I smiled more than a little idiotically at Beady, then at Denise, then back at Beady and ran frantically for the toilet inside.  At least I wouldn't be caught on the trail with my Sears capris full of poop!

As soon as my bowels recovered, we were off and it wasn't too long until the beautiful Maine countryside began to ease the nervous tension throughout my body, allowing room for a thimble-full of self-confidence to return, after all, I'm Merchant Mariner Wife, I can do anything!  So I finally started to relax, laughing at Denise's stories, anticipating a truly pleasant day with a funny lady and my man.  About 45 minutes in, we stopped at a gas station to wait for the rest of her friends to arrive, get a quick snack and use the restroom if needed.  Having purchased a few items, Beady headed back to the car mentioning he needed a quick change into more comfortable clothing as we were nearing Gulf Hagas.  Barely listening, I nodded my head and continued to look around admiring the fact that all a person really needs to get by in life was scattered throughout the tiny store.  After using the restroom, a mere precaution, I stepped back outside and looked around the small parking lot, feeling peaceful and more than a little bit grateful for the wondrous summer morning, when my eye spotted an attractive couple off to the left.  The man was tall, good size, and in the process of shedding breakaway pants and a light sweatshirt to reveal hiking shorts and one of those breathable t shirts which had a flattering, masculine fit.  He was laughing casually at his partner as she talked animatedly in between sips from her water bottle.  She was stunning in a very natural way, no makeup, petite build, pixie hair cut...wait a friggin' minute!  It was Beady and Denise!  Where in the hell did he get those clothes?!!  We've been away from our home for a month now and had brought the bare essentials, as far as clothes went, on vacation with us.  Why does he look like a model from an L.L. Bean catalog who just arrived on set to begin the photo shoot with his counterpart for the Hiking/Camping section?  (In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have been surprised at the Chief Mate, always prepared, I'm guessing he had scuba gear in our adolescent back pack, just in case.)  My capris suddenly began to feel tighter and I wanted to run and hide so no one would see the Disney t-shirt I had on underneath my windbreaker.  I reluctantly headed towards them, feeling not only that they made a great looking couple, but that somehow, Mickey Mouse and I were intruding on the hike/photo shoot, whatever.

Money Shot
Action Shot

By the time I reached the photo shoot car, Denise's friends had shown up and were ready, just itching to get started on the hike, so we packed back into the vehicles and made our way to the entrance of Gulf Hagas in a matter of minutes.  At the check-in, Denise handed over all of our pertinent information, in case one or all of us didn't make it back, to a lovely, older woman who finished up by asking for Denise's plate numbers.  I settled into the office, expecting to have to wait for her to return to the car and retrieve the necessary info, but no...Denise rattled off the digits as if they were the obsessively studied phone number of a high school crush.  'What?' I thought, 'How does she know that by heart?'  'Where did she come from?'  and, 'I want to be just like her!' raced through my mind as I recounted the embarassing number of times I'd had to step out of a hotel lobby and walk the shameful steps to my jeep to get my own license plate number.  By the way, here's what I was transfixed with, actually considering the color crayons I'd use to complete my masterpiece, while Denise was arranging our little expedition with the caretaker.

Okay, look...I'm not going to bore you further with the details as there were many more little stories like this that occurred for the rest of the day.  Denise saves the day...Me color.  I think you get the picture, right?  DENISE IS AMAZING.  Yes, she had the requisite compass, GPS device, camel pack for water, snacks to feed the masses crammed into two tiny bags and the added bonus of mace that Jim had recently bestowed upon her for the solitary hiking she frequented.  Denise was the picture of safety, responsibility and preparedness and it was surprisingly disarming to me.  She was the real deal, the girl they send in to rescue chics like me who don completely inappropriate attire and bring two small water bottles for what turned out to be a 6 hour hike.  She was the kind of woman I aspire to be in many ways, if that even makes any sense.  Yes, I think I'm amazing at times, yes, I think there are lots of people out there who couldn't live as a merchant mariner spouse, but yes (and even more importantly) there are lots of people who could do what I do and Denise is definitely one of them.  In fact, I know she'd be a lot better at it than I am...ouch, that hurts.   

Oh...if you're curious, it was a beautiful day and I made it (barely) through the entire Gulf Hagas Trail, mostly from shame as we had an 11 year old along for the hike with us, but that was okay because I was with Denise and there's more than enough room for two amazing women in this world.     

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner

August 20, 2013

a cautionary tale...

    Interview time!  I decided on a little twist this go round and met with a new friend, Jess, who actually never became a merchant mariner wife.  Oh, she's with her merchant mariner alright, but he's left the profession and is currently finishing up a degree in the fine art of litigation so he can become a maritime lawyer.  And here's the rub...I christen this 'A Cautionary Tale' for those of you currently involved with mariners and maybe toying with the thought that you might get them to leave their jobs.  Why?  No, it's not because I'm a meanie, and it's not because I'm feeling particularly salty today.  It's because Jess' story (and she'll be the first one to tell you this) is the exception.  As she so eloquently put it, "...the stars aligned, everything was absolutely perfect and right for Andrew to leave just never hear about that, it never happens."  

CM:  So tell me a little about you and Andrew.

Jess:  Well...we've been together for about 3 years, we're married, and have a wonderful dog named Betty.

CM:  When did you meet?

Jess:  Andrew had been shipping for about 6 or 7 years...yeah, I think he was in his seventh year of shipping when I met him.  He had to actually explain to me what a merchant mariner does, I'd never heard of the profession.

CM:  Did he have to rush right back to work after you met him?

Jess:  No...about a week after we met he had shoulder surgery that laid him up for 6 months, so we really got to know each other.  I'd say at the 3 month mark is when we both knew we'd be together forever.  And I never really thought twice about or actually considered what he did for a living, it wasn't something we had to deal with because it never came up, that is until his recovery time had ended and he was called back to work. 

CM:  And what was that like?

Jess:  Well, he called me on a Thursday or Friday and told me he'd be leaving that Sunday.  That's when it hit me and I lost it, I just lost it.  I remember I was at work and I left crying, I couldn't understand that he would be leaving just like that, you know?

CM:  Did you talk it over later that night?
Jess:  Kind of.  He showed up later that night, but I actually went out with some of his friends and got wasted, just trashed.  And I remember being so angry, yelling stuff like 'this is the stupidest profession in the world!'  But it didn't make a difference because he left anyway.  It was really rough.  

CM:  How did you cope?

Jess:  Not well.  I took on a new job for one, which had lots of stress, and that kept me occupied.   I also tried to get down as often as I could to meet his ship, which wasn't very often, but I still became very depressed. 

CM:  And Andrew?
Jess:  I think it hit him pretty hard, too.  I mean, we'd spent so much time together, getting to know each other, and he had experienced this everyday life with me, with us.  I know he started to feel as if the ship had become a prison.  

CM:  Obviously you were in love with him, so what were you thinking about this kind of lifestyle and fitting into it?

Jess:  I just knew I couldn't live this life and be apart from someone I loved so much for such long periods of time.  When I honestly asked myself if I could be the wife of a merchant mariner, I found the answer was an adamant 'no.'  It was scary and certainly risky to talk to him about it, but from a self-preservation point of view, I knew I had no choice.  Of course, I wasn't going to ask him to leave his job, that wouldn't have been fair.  And my mom, who's always been a great influence on me, had given me some wonderful advice.  She said, "Jess, you can't ever demand things of Andrew."  So I kept that in the back of my mind as I thought about what I would say.

CM:  So what happened?

Jess:  Ah, it was Easter and I was planning for everyone to be together for the weekend, Andrew included.  We were all together finally, it was absolutely wonderful and then he got the call that the ship would be leaving port early, I mean really early, like he rushed to meet the ship as soon as the phone call ended! 

CM:  So that was the final straw?

Jess:  Yes, I'd say that was the case.  Things just never got better and I think that's when Andrew broke, too.  
CM:  And then the talking, right?

Jess:  Yes, and I was very honest.  Not only did I tell him that I couldn't do this anymore, I told him I wouldn't be doing it anymore.  It was just too hard.  But the stars were aligned, our circumstances were far too perfect because in those 6 months that Andrew had been laid up from his shoulder surgery he'd taken the LSATs and had applied to several law schools.  He had a nice nest egg saved up from shipping and although he was still concerned about the financial aspect of this decision, I had the perfect situation in that I could support us while he went to school.  On top of that, Andrew had lost his good feelings about shipping and wanted to be home.  Absolutely every star in the sky aligned.   

CM:  And now things are just as they should be, yes?

Jess:  Yup.  Just right, just the two of us!

CM:  So from your unique perspective, what kind of advice would you give mariners, something that would prevent them from accidentally getting involved with someone who wasn't suited to this life?
Jess:  Um...well, they need to understand what the person they leave behind goes through and feels like for one.  Your significant other doesn't think this lifestyle is normal and may never feel that way.  Also, they should really spend more time with the relationship, I mean developing it.  They really need to be able to take that time, it's so important in determining a positive outcome.  I also think it would be extremely helpful, and have perhaps a better chance of working if the other person had some knowledge of Merchant Mariner Land.  

CM:  And what about their significant others?  What if one of them came to you with the same kind of anxiety, frustrations you had been dealing with?

Jess: I'd tell them that they have to be very open and honest with their feelings, especially in that lifestyle.  Bottling feelings up will definitely not help the situation.  It always leads to resentment and eats at you.  And to be honest, I know if I had continued on in our relationship with him away all the time...I would've cheated on him eventually.  That's why I think it's so important to talk to your mariner about what you're feeling, but in an open and rational way because they don't know what we're thinking.  They really don't.  

CM:  God, I love your honesty!  

Jess:  Oh yeah?  Well, here's my last, and most important bit of advice for them.  Don't think your mariner is going to leave shipping because it's not going to happen.

CM:  Oh, really?

Jess:  Yes.  My situation was really the exception and I know just how lucky we were.  The stars aligned, everything was absolutely perfect and right for Andrew to leave just never hear about that, it never happens.  As my mother said, you can't demand things of them, it's not fair or right.

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner

July 09, 2013

sweater girl

   So in order to read this story, you have to know that my real name is Jennifer, not Callie, but you can click here afterwards to find out who the real Callie is.  Promise you won't be disappointed! 

  It began as it should, I guess, the eventual meeting between Beady and I.  It was December of 2002, I had just moved to Portland, Maine, having completed my stint in the military, and was starting a new job there.  I had also just ended a 2 1/2 year relationship with a man I thought was the love of my life, but you know how that goes, right?  Needless to say, I was in a very fragile state of mind having set into motion three huge life changers, experiences you're only supposed to have one at a time if at all possible.  Moving, working in the civilian world for the first time in 11 years, and breaking up with a fiance.  I live for danger!  Not... 
  About a month into the job, I started to settle in and was getting to know everyone pretty well while they were getting to know me with one exception--I made no mention of my ex as I was extremely concerned about appearing flaky, perhaps someone who would leave the job just as quickly as she came because California (that's how I refer to him) came-a-calling.  I didn't even think of the position this omission would put me in, a single girl in her twenties working with a lot of women who had sons and brothers they felt sure would be just right for me.  The last thing I wanted to think about was another man.  I had a man hangover, like drinking way too much tequila in one setting, just shy of alcohol poisoning, and finding it'll take a good amount of time before you can even go into the Mexican aisle at the grocery store for fear of getting a whiff of the golden libation even though I'm pretty sure they don't put tequila in refried beans.
    So I rebuffed a lot of the ladies and put them off with excuses that included wanting to focus on work and studying for my ultrasound boards, promising that I'd eventually be done with all of that and would have the time to date again.  Looking back, I think it worked out really well for them as they were probably quite pleased with dodging the bullet of adding me into their family permanently.  Because as you may have noticed, dear Reader, it takes a special kind of people to bring my kind of crazy into their lives. 
    Life went on in this way for a short while and I found myself speaking with a co-worker one day about my father having been a merchant mariner.  Unbenounced to me, another co-worker, Sweater Girl, had just rounded the corner and overheard a good portion of the conversation.  Okay, I'll break for explanation...

Sweater Girl worked in the office with me, a pleasant woman who seemed to look like this every day.  I mean, I'm heterosexual and found it distracting, so much so that when she'd walk up to my counter to say good morning, ask a question, or just stop by for a quick conversation I'd usually tell her to get those out of my face as I was trying to work. She always laughed.  She had a lot to be happy about.  Back to the story... 

   So as Sweater Girl processed the last bit of our conversation, her face took on a look of extreme excitement and she immediately blurted out, "OH MY GOD!  YOU HAVE TO MEET MY SON!  HE'S A MERCHANT MARINER, TOO!  HE HAS SO MUCH TROUBLE WITH WOMEN!"

   'He has so much trouble with women' seemed to hang in the air for eternity and I watched her face fade quickly from delight as she began to realize just what had come out of her mouth.  "Gee, Sweater Girl (yup, I really called her that to her face) that sounds like a ringing endorsement, you catch many single ladies for your son that way?"  And though I guessed what she meant by trouble, I feigned confusion simply to mess with her as long as I could. 

"By trouble you mean, he's a pervert?"
"What's he look like, ugly right?  He's ugly?"
"Is he serial killer material?  I mean, I know you'd still love him and all, but that's kind of a turn off for women."
"What's he smell like?  Pretty bad, huh?  No wonder he has so much trouble..."

    "None of those things, Jennifer!" Sweater Girl cut me off and started laughing.  "You know what I mean...the girlfriends he's had in the past just don't understand his-"
    "-proclivity to wear a cumberbund with jeans?"  
    "No," she smiled, "his schedule...they can't seem to get used to his schedule and the kind of work he does."  
    "Gotcha," I said having truly understood what she was saying.  I felt for the guy, too, thinking of Big Daddy Mitchell and how hard it must have been for him until he finally met my mother.  But I wasn't going to get involved in that kind of a mess, after all I'd just gotten out of a huge one and wasn't thinking about dating a normal guy, never mind one that would only be available for short bursts at a time. 
    "Sweater Girl...much as I'd like to make you as happy as you've made me with each and every one of your magical sweaters, I'll have to decline.  Since Daddy was a mariner, I'm just not interested in going down that road with another man, I'm sorry."  And I really was, and she really got it, but it didn't stop her from trying again.  Five weeks later, she asked if I'd like to go out with her and her family.  They were going out to a couple of bars, probably playing darts at some point, and having dinner.  She mentioned her son would be there, but no pressure, he didn't even know she was asking me.  I begged off, happy that I actually had another engagement so I wouldn't hurt her feelings and told her perhaps another time when he came back, which I knew wouldn't be for about 5 or 6 months.  Enough time to reveal my darker side which would surely discourage her from match-making in the future.  

 But something really strange happened... Sweater Girl and I became great friends and hung out at least once a week after work and even on the weekends.  We talked about everything girlfriends do, I even shared 'The California Incident' with her and I think she finally saw where I was coming from.  She certainly spoke of her son often, but only as much as she did the rest of her family.  She didn't push him on me, in fact she never mentioned the two of us getting together again, and I never had any second thoughts about sharing my tiny, I mean really tiny, like one guy, dating life with her.  Consequently, I spent a lot of time with her husband, got to meet one of her daughters, as well as a nephew.  Each of them I instantly liked and was so happy to have found a small group of people to have fun with.  
     Eventually, after having heard so many stories about her son and having had a good amount of time pass, I asked Sweater Girl if I might write to him as that seemed safe, a perfect way to get to know someone without any obligations.  The worst that could come out of it was a friendship with another one of her family members.  So she said she'd write to him and ask, then get back to me.  He replied in the positive, so I sent off my first e-mail having labored and worried over it for about two days, getting it just right, and a sigh of relief came over me when I read his response...
       "Hello Jennifer,
        Is it Jennifer, Jenne, Jenny, Jenni, J, Jay, Jen, Jennie, Ralph or something completely different?  I started with Jennifer because that's what you signed out your e mail with, but if you prefer to be called Bob or Frank, I can deal with that, too."

     Jackpot!  A man with my sense of humor!  And I knew then it was going to be okay no matter how this turned out.  We wrote for the next two months to each other nearly every day, it was not dating, just two people getting to know each other without the pressure of looks, sex, or the distracting games couples sometimes play in the battle of love.  There was none of that because we were not a "we" and it was just what I needed.  And then it was time for Sweater Girl's son, Beady, to finally came home, where we met for the first time (another ridiculous story), and have been together ever since.  Having gone against all my instincts to stay away from merchant mariners, I quickly fell in love with this wonderful man.  And I found that despite his "limitations", the very thing that turned away other women, he gave freely to me, more than any other man had, everything I needed in a relationship even though he was only home for less than half of the year.  Pretty heavy stuff, right?  Yeah, it totally messed with my mind for a while, too. 
     Happy, sure of each other, but not so sure of the future, we moved steadily toward that day of days, when two become one and join their lives together forever as they say in Hollywood.  Yes, it was THE most important day of my life...June 19th, 2005...the day Sweater Girl became my mother-in-law.          

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Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner