merchant mariner families

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

February 27, 2013

absence of the merchant mariner
Mom, my first hero
 I've been independent since the ripe old age of birth! Hee, hee...  My mother was the absolute best role model a young girl could have.  Not only did she instill in me a sense of confidence about the great, big world I was headed toward, but she gave me a true appreciation of the enjoyment one can have in this life alone.  So I did just that, rather all of that, lots of adventures, many wonderful friends, I honestly never considered there was anything I couldn't do.  Yet, through all of this, I also maintained an overwhelming affinity for solitude.  So between that and having had a merchant mariner father, I was definitely primed for the life of a mariner's spouse...or so I thought.       

About 9 years ago, during the last part of winter, Callie's Mariner began to take shape in my mind.  It had been a tough one, lots of snow, little sunlight, and extremely long weeks.  I was going to school full time, working part time, and Beady was out to sea.  I found myself unable to sleep much of the time, resulting in two or three hours of rest, and not good rest, before starting another long day.  I started skipping classes, which by itself was idiotic as I was taking heavier semester loads in order to graduate sooner.  Instead of going to class, I would lay on the couch for hours watching TV, feeling extremely flat.  I didn't even miss Beady, I felt nothing about his absence.  I procured most of my food from McDonald's or Wendy's, cried at the drop of a hat, drank a bit more than usual, and stopped returning friend's phone calls.

At some point during this time, I was invited to lunch by my mother-in-law.  (Looking back, I can't even believe I accepted.). We met her daughter in Portsmouth at one of my favorite places, got a table, ordered, and started talking.  A bit into the conversation, my sister-in-law asked me how things were going. I burst into tears, had absolutely no control over the waterworks and it both scared and disgusted me.  Then the rest just started coming out--the insomnia, the fatigue, the isolation, chest palpitations, skipping classes, the absolute nothingness I felt much of the time--it seemed like I went on forever.  They were patient with me, listening with concern and sympathy, then began plying me with affection and validation.  It didn't fix me, but it helped and it was a beginning.
Four big components of my support system
Over the course of the next month I slowly began to come out of it, so to speak, with the help of my mother, other family members, and close friends--friends who were ripped that I hadn't reached out to them, but how can you when you simply don't care?  I learned quite a bit about myself as well, it was a real wake-up call.  For instance, I never realized just how much someone could screw up their mind and body with consistent lack of sleep.  And I knew the food and booze weren't great, but I hadn't understood how they had contributed to the funk.  However, one of the more important lessons I learned is that being independent, relying upon one's self, can not mean one has to isolate themselves from the world.  Just because I knowingly married a man who is absent for half the year doesn't mean I have to live this life without the help of family and friends.  I never signed a contract stating I'd love this way of living all the time, that I'd do it really well, or that I'd never complain about it. 

That concept in particular, was a difficult notion to acknowledge and I continue to struggle with it from time to time as I chose this man, this marriage, this way of living, no one forced me into it.  Rationally, I knew he wouldn't be here for half of the year, but it's not so easy to persuade your heart toward logic.  I married to be and to have a partner in this life, it's extremely difficult to override that sentiment every time he goes back to work.  However, in spite of all that, I try to remember that I married Beady not because I'm 100% on board with this lifestyle, but because I love him.  So this is what I finally did...

      I gave myself permission to be disturbed, upset, depressed, whatever about his absence sometimes, even though I knew he was leaving, even though I like being alone, even though my life is very full.

 Missing my husband, feeling crummy when he was gone, didn't make me any less of a woman, it didn't mean I needed a man to make my life complete.  All it meant was that I loved him, that's it.  This, more than anything else, freed me like nothing else had.  It was okay for me to suck at being a mariner wife sometimes and, more importantly, to let others see that.  Maybe they'd feel sorry for Beady having a wife like me, maybe they'd feel sorry for me, who cares?  I certainly couldn't anymore, it wasn't good for me, and the guilt hadn't made me a better person or wife over the last twelve years.   Enough.

In the middle of this mess, I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for other mariner spouses, thinking, they more than anyone would understand what I was feeling and might have some much appreciated words of wisdom.  But I was shocked to find absolutely nothing.  So when I finally emerged from my melancholy, I decided then and there that I should do something about it.  I kept thinking if I was having such a difficult time, how are the spouses who have to take care of children managing when this sort of thing hits them?  What about the ones who have aging parents to look after or the husbands and wives who might be dealing with medical issues?  So I wanted to create a place where merchant mariner folk could commiserate, whether positive or negative, and Callie's Mariner began to take shape.  Yes, it took a very long time (the turtle is my totem) but it's finally done and I really hope it helps.
This is a part of "all that loveliness", thank God! 
You know, this life is so odd, but it's my life and I really wouldn't have it any other way.  Beady loves his job, I love mine, and we absolutely love the life we have together.  If his being gone for half the year is the sacrifice for all of that loveliness, so be it.                        

     Did you like this?  Well, then subscribe or like me on Facebook to get post updates.  Thanks!

                                                   Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner



February 22, 2013

pirates and the merchant mariner

   johnny depp...what?

   It was a few years into my relationship with Beady that I first heard about pirates.  I was reading the paper and noted a small article about them off the coast of Singapore where Beady's ship often moved through.  I laughed instantly and handed him the paper thinking he would smile, give it back to me, and continue watching the football game.  But he didn't.  Instead he turned the TV off, folded the paper up nice and tight, and looked at me with his serious face.  Now anyone who knows Beady understands this kind of face only makes an appearance once every seven years, and it has to be something pretty incredible to alter his mood so dramatically.  Add to that his turning off of the TV during a football game and my insides began to churn.  "What?" I asked and continued laughing, though a little maniacally at this point.  In my defense, Pirates of the Caribbean seemed to be everywhere and all I could imagine was a group of lunatics dressed like Orlando Bloom or Johnny Depp, roaming off the shores of Singapore, threatening bodily harm with plastic, duct taped swords and eye patches.  Beady tipped his head in a most canine manner, but instead of appearing cute and loveable, he seemed disgusted and impatient with my ignorance.
      "What," I asked again, "have you actually seen any of those they really wear puffy white shirts?"  His job seemed suddenly more interesting to me and I wondered how I could get on the ship for a tour.  I'm just as nimble as Keira Knightley.  Aren't I?  As I mentally reviewed one of her action scenes from the film, Beady cleared his throat and began to educate me on the very real world of pirates in Merchant Mariner Land.
       "It's not a joke, I'm sorry to say."  Could it be?  My father had never mentioned pirates, and he'd been all over the world as a mariner.  And neither one of them had ever brought the subject up in the time I'd been dating Beady.  Great, something else to worry about while he's out to sea.  Wonderful...
        My husband spent the next hour explaining the institution of piracy, not just in Singapore, but in places like the peaceful Mediterranean, or off the coast of Africa in the Gulf of Aden, and in the Arabian Sea--essentially places his ship was frequently contracted to.  He told me about the maneuvers and stalling tactics mariners learn in order to evade pirates, how armed men board unarmed ships, and how he, my Mariner, had been taught to give them whatever they want.  "The company will pay," he said calmly, then answered all of my questions as I frantically rattled them off, one after the other.  I became agitated, then downright scared and started to see him, my father, their collective mariner friends in a very different light.    
        When I asked why this kind of information wasn't plastered all over the news, he patiently explained that because an American ship hadn't been taken yet, the media in the states most likely found it irrelevant even though thousands of American mariners dealt with this threat every single day.  He added that there were attacks nearly every week and that many mariners were still being held hostage and had been for months now.     
         It took me a few days to calm down and accept what I could not change.  Beady would never leave his job because he loved it, and I would never ask him to for the same reason.  I couldn't go back on that now just because the world became a little bit more dangerous to me.  He had already been living with this reality, had adjusted, and did the best he could, along with his crew, to make sure pirates never boarded their ship.  How would my new awareness change any of that? 
       So it's a thought, one that remained until he found a new position on a ship that sails strictly from San Diego to the islands of Hawaii, where I think if any pirates would board, they would definitely look like Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom.  I still have my list of what ifs that move to the front of my brain when I drop him off at the airport, but pirates are not among them anymoreI'm very lucky in that respect, and counted each and every one of my blessings when Andrea Phillips became a household name.  I can't imagine what she went through, I can't imagine what her children went through, and selfishly, don't ever want to understand.

   Note:  Pirates are still "working" around the globe, though much less off the coast of Somalia where Andrea's husband was taken hostage.  Security patrols and the decision many ships made to carry armed guards for deterrence purposes have led to the decrease of incidents in that areaSadly though, piracy has begun to pick up in Nigeria and continues on in many waters throughout the world.  Debate continues about arming merchant mariners and a few organizations have begun work in Africa to try and treat the causes of piracy there.        

Do you like what you're reading?  Subscribe or Like Me on Facebook to get notifications of Callie's next posting!  Thanks!

                                             Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner

February 21, 2013

things that would make my life easier...

Please note that no where on this list will you find
'If my merchant mariner got a land job.'
Having Beady home 365 days a year would be a hindrance, in no way would my life be easier.  
His mother concurs. 

12.  Garanimals clothing for adults so I don't have to worry about putting an outfit together.  Remember, Tiger pants go with Tiger shirt?  They can forgo Hippo & Elephant for the grown up version.

11.  A dryer with an "I'm gonna make these jeans/shirt/panties a little looser for you" setting.

10.  The option to purchase vodka, tequila, or rum gum.  Sometimes I feel like chewing my liquor.  Rum Gum sounds more marketable.

9. A vacuum cleaner for people over 5'9".

8.  Lucky Charms drops the cereal facade and sticks solely to marshmallow production.

7.  Dorito flavored vitamins.

6.  A car horn with three to five settings (I haven't worked out exactly what each of them will do, but there's definitely room for customization) that alerts drivers around me as to how I'm feeling about their driving decisions.  Some will be pre-recorded messages from me, mostly obscenities, and at least one has an option to speak live.      

5.  20 pairs of panties that have some sort of micro-chip in them with the recorded voice of Liam Neeson, and every morning when I put them on, he'd say things like, "Bit roomy, losin' weight?" or "Nice bottom, Lass!"  I figure if Hallmark can make greeting cards like that, why can't we use the technology for something a little more practical?

 4.  A doctor's office where I get conscious sedation and my annual pap-smear and teeth cleaning are performed at the same time. 

3.  A wife.

2.  A valium salt-lick installation in my living room.  Actually, I don't know why I always say valium when I prefer xanax, so a xanax salt-lick installation in my living room.  And maybe a Ring-Pop version for when I leave the house?

1.  Two days out of every month Victoria's Secret bans teenage girls (and their teenage boyfriends) from the store so I, and other like-minded ladies, can shop for bras and panties in peace.

                                 Did you like this or any of the other posts?
  Well then, subscribe to my site and get Callie in your inbox!  Thanks!

                                                 Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner

February 13, 2013

stranger danger

          February 14th, 2013 

This just in!  Guess I'll definitely have to hug him this time home...  

Merchant Mariner Wife--Stranger Danger 
Secret Mariner Admirer from the Pacific
This romantic gesture will probably make 
the following cringeworthy.  Sorry

     Yup, it's that time again!  Beady will be home within the week and I find myself prepping for the same rituals; shaving about three months worth of hair from my armpits and legs (Cookie Monster hair, but not blue), bathing the dogs and brushing their teeth, brushing my teeth, and stocking the fridge with food instead of baking soda and vodka.  I also put into effect my No-Fail 7-Day System for deep cleaning the house; a sweet spreadsheet, along with post-its and highlighted notes, dividing the rooms up so they'll be cleaned on certain days instead of trying to get it done all at once.  It's a great plan, worthy of a small business start-up, but I never finish it, I'm only mentally ambitious.  Yet for some strange reason this time, I'm feeling like I'll make it to day four...
        Admittedly, it's an odd time for me when he comes home.  I know, I know, you'd think I'd be elated because Beady's Law will let up on me for a little while.  You're right, I am, I'm definitely excited about that aspect of his return, as well as getting my best friend back, but it's always a little weird when he first arrives.
        I've seen so many movies over the years, read so many books about lovers separated for various reasons--wars, kidnappings, jobs, and most of the time, just plain bad communication.  When they come back together, whether running through a field or stepping off a train, they always fall into each others arms and start making out as if no time had passed.  Let me tell you, that's the last thing on my mind when I see Beady at the three month marker.  It just doesn't work out that way-I can't even give him a hug.  I know, bad wife.
Hudson      Photographer Jennifer Beadnell
        I generally pick him up at the bus station when he comes home and take one of the dogs with me to greet him...there's three reasons for bringing a pup.  One, the dog always greets Beady the way I can't bring myself to, with real, over-the-top, bursting excitement.  Second, I know the dog will sense if Beady isn't Beady when he gets into the Jeep, just in case he's been replaced by a body snatcher or something more sinister while out to sea. Dogs are incredibly perceptive, you know. And three, the dog sets up a physical barrier, ensuring no contact will take place until I'm good and ready.  Beady has gotten so used to it over the last 10 years, he usually gets in the car and says, "Your stranger's home!"  If he's feeling especially mischievous, he fakes a lunge at me just to see the look of terror on my face as I scramble to get out of the car.
The Chief Mate
     Home is much the same, some strange man drinking out of my wine glasses, using my bathroom, taking his shoes off and stretching out on my couch.  Canines turn traitor and jump all over him, then finally come to a rest on various parts of his body, smug in the bliss of their master's return...but that can't be, who is this man? He seems to know where the silverware is kept, how I fold the towels, the correct amount of milk to put in my coffee, but I just can't adjust.  Logically, I know he's my husband, but that doesn't settle me down when we eventually share the bed, my bed, and I lay awake, eyes wide open wondering who is this stranger beside me sleeping and why is he breathing so loudly?
    Beady and I were dating for about two months when he first went back to sea.  At that point, I was head over heels and really quite devastated that he was leaving.  However, I put on my Big Girl Panties, as they would say, and carried on as usual for the next four months, after all I knew he was coming back and we would pick right up where we left off.  We wrote regularly to each other, some really lovely sentiments, and the time finally came for his arrival; I was like a kid at the circus, minus the clowns please.  I couldn't wait to pick him up, there was so much to do, so much to say to each other, and our first Christmas together was right around the corner.  I didn't sleep the night before, was up at 4am, even though he wasn't arriving until 1pm, and went rigorously through my toilette as if I were meeting Ben Affleck for our date...
at the Oscars...
where we would be married...
Jolie would be my maid of honor...
she would look hideous.
     I must have prepared for 3 hours, anxious, giddy, excited just doesn't cover the range of emotions I went through that morning, but eventually I managed to get in the car, and nervously headed over to pick him up.
       It was a disaster, to say the least, as I instantly panicked upon seeing him for the first time.  He got into the car, all smiles, I clammed up and drove dangerously fast back to his place so I could get him out of the car and drive off.  For the entirety of the ride I could only think, 'Who the hell is this guy?  This can't be the same person who left four months ago.  What was I thinking?'  No...he hadn't changed a bit; he wasn't taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, or balder, however he did smell like he'd been dipped in a barrel full of oil.  (A common occurrence for mariners after a long trip, "easily" remedied with a Silkwood shower.)  Despite his relative simularity in manner and appearance as when he left for work, by the time I brought the car to a stop, 'YOU'VE MADE A CRITICAL ERROR!' was screaming through my brain.  I looked helplessly at him, he smiled again, but sheepishly this time, and I sensed I was putting off that 'wide-eyed feral cat trapped in a corner by beastly, pint-sized, English schoolboys brandishing firecrackers' vibe.  However, I snapped on Auto-Pilot, who, by the way, is so much better at the whole decent human being thing than I am, and followed Beady into the house instead of fleeing the scene.  Auto-Pilot felt it was the right thing to do
      Inside the house the saga continued, me feeling extremely agitated with this "stranger" and Beady picking up on my discomfort.  A microscopic part of me felt bad for him, maybe that was Auto-Pilot, but this monstrous, deafening voice inside of my head was trying to figure out how to get my things, break up with him in a nice way, and hightail it out of there, all the while making polite conversation with him.  
      Well, as you may have guessed, I didn't leave.  He eventually hit me over the head with a shovel, medicated me, and I've been with him ever since, but such is love...  
      Actually, later on that very day, I suddenly realized, remembered to be more accurate, how very much in love I had been before he left and spent the next two weeks reminding myself of that fact and trusting my judgement from months back.  Ever patient, Beady never abandoned me, gave me time to adjust, and that's just one of the many reasons why I love him so much.   
       He continues to be patient with me when he returns, and after ten years, I've finally managed to whittle it down to about three days for really "recognizing" him and reconciling the man in front of me with the man I am in love with.  There's definitely a piece of me, miniscule but loud, that ALWAYS sees this as an epic failure in the wife department, but there's a steadier, more rational voice who wins out in the end by seeing this adjustment as an okay place to be given the circumstances of an unconventional lifestyle.  As my wise and all-knowing mother has frequently noted, "'s not something you can simply switch on when he returns, nor is it something you can turn off when he leaves...ease up on yourself, would you?" Yes, mother
         So the giddiness begins, and the drive to the bus stop will be endured once again.  But this time?  In the spirit of growth, I'm going to try something a little different; I'll be leaving the dogs behind and I plan on getting out of the car when I see him.  I'm also going to try really hard not to run down the street screaming, but instead, give him a big welcome home hug in that parking lot for the very first time everI promise to let you know how it goes.  
Feral Cat vs Auto Pilot 
(insert John Williams compostion here)

March 14th, 2013

Way overdue, I know...but I did it.  I left the dogs at home, got out of the Jeep, and hugged my mariner.  I had to catch him first though as he couldn't understand what I was doing!  

Want to keep up with me?
Subscribe (over to the right) it's so easy!

                                                Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner