Marlinspike Seamanship as Art

What does my merchant seaman captain husband do when he’s gone besides working pretty much 24/7? He watches a lot of DVDs on his computer; he likes Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, and Justified-an eclectic choice. Sometimes there is TV, but not always.  He has devised his own work out regimen to stay in shape, and he does beautiful marlinspike seamanship, or ropework. It takes an unbelievable amount of patience and time to complete these works of art. He taught himself, and by reading the definitive work on the subject, The Ashley Book of Knots, but his long assignments away from home is what has really perfected his skills. It’s a beautiful expression of fiber art. This black bottle is one he recently completed.

  He makes beautiful bracelets, too. I help out with the faux pearls and embedded semi-precious stones. We have been selling a lot of them and I’m working on an Etsy site but it’s not quite ready.

Part Two: Homecoming, Hello and Goodbye

Writing a blog that is  auto or semi-autobiographical with personal experiences is all in the deets but I’ve discovered that it’s a high wire act writing about family and friends, ‘cos if we’re honest, we all want a peek into someone elses life to contrast and compare, admittedly even with prurient curiosity at times, right? I mean, that’s why reality shows are so successful, Snooki for example. We like the dirt, we are voyeurs far removed and anonymous. So, I had to have a discussion with my mariner husband to make sure that I only share what he feels is OK and appropriate and not too much TMI.  So, he just got home and we walked in the door and he’s super happy to see the welcome home signs and gifts. Yes, that IS a gift-wrapped shovel!

Before he left in April, he broke a shovel, and I thought it would be a useful gift as I have lots of digging for him to do in the garden, and it’s a lifetime guaranteed Craftsman shovel from Sears, made in the USA. Hey, I didn’t have much notice he was coming home! The first thing he did was take a long shower, a luxury after months of what he calls “sea showers”.  Apparently, it’s a shower where you wet yourself down, turn the water off, use soap, shampoo, whatever, and turn the water back on to rinse off.  Tanks of fresh water need to be conserved for obvious reasons. I’m bugging him for my presents, since I am a spoiled princess-type-and proud of it. I mean, when I was little, my dad would “give” me his birthday, so I’d get presents on his birthday as well as my own, and also had a party on my half-birthday with a half cake and small prezzies. (I do that for my son, too) We celebrated Christmas and Hannukah, much to the consternation of many of our relatives, especially since my grandfather was a rabbi, but my mom thought no child should be deprived of Santa, so we had a tree and a menorah! Bottom line, it’s not my fault. I was conditioned to receive and I am a very good receiver of gifts because I love them so much! This time he brought caviar and vodka from Russia, silk dresses and dressing gowns from Singapore, silk scarves, and the most exquisite handmade mother-of-pearl inlaid box and mirror compact from Korea.  We went out on the deck and popped the cork on a bottle of champs and toasted his homecoming with the caviar and also delicious kimchi from Korea. I have no idea how anything that smells so awful can be so delicious. I guess it is totes apparent that his presents are a thousand times better than that dumb shovel, right? He even went into the Chanel in Singapore, but the prices scared him off. They are outrageously more expensive than here in the States, and it just wasn’t gonna happen.

This is where it gets a little tricky. Do I leave it to the reader’s imagination to figure out what comes next or do I need to spell it out for you in graphic detail? I mean, what do you think is on his mind (and mine) after more than three months of celibacy??? This is NOT material for another Fifty Shades of Gray. Just a happy time for two people who missed each other very much.  A reunion does have its perks.

I been warned that something like this might happen one day; that he’d come home after being gone for a long time, and have to go right back out on another assignment, but I still wasn’t prepared for him to only be home for seven days before he left again, this time until October. Hopefully after that, he will be home for a really long time. The way it’s supposed to work is an equal amount of time home as is gone, like two months home for two months away.  He was gone much too soon!

Homecoming, Hello and Goodbye

A little G and T, light on the G, (made with diet tonic of course), Netflix tuned to the first season of Gossip Girl, and I can finally take a breath and write about the homecoming. Oh yes, and the departure, too,  all within a week’s time. So…I was all prepared; freshly made granola, check, oatmeal cookies, check, brownies, check, French bread, check, guacamole and spicy flax seed chips from Traders, check, all the faves that are the usual things he misses. (Remember when your mom said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? So true, so true) Who does not love Blair Waldorf, I ask you, and Chuck Bass, well, I guess I really have never grown up, as many have said snarkily, and you know who you are. Off to the airport with a picnic basket of some guac and chips, my famous smoothie, a couple of cookies, and a crisp apple from our tree.  A last spritz of Chance and I’m out the door.Now if you think I am a subservient Dr. Laura kind of wife, you are dead wrong.  In my never-to-be-humble opinion, what I am is a great role model for today’s new wives. (Honestly, Chuck Bass is the stuff dreams are made of, and I know you are not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but this time it works.) Back to the subject at hand. I mean, why do we get married anyway, if not to treat each other with love and respect and to make the other feel special and pampered? Not just so that they won’t search for it elsewhere, although that is a consideration, but because it only makes sense. I am not always so wonderful, I have a spoiled and bitchy side for sure, but if there is one time when you need to pull out all the stops and bring on the banners and welcome home signs, slinky nightgowns, and smooth skin, it is when your man has been away for months. I also proudly admit to getting a syringe of magic elixir– yeah for Botox! I am not ashamed to say that I love it; I love the smooth wrinkle-less forehead and no frowny lines. Getting older is no fun, that’s no joke. A few sticks with a needle does the trick and lasts for months. I have yet to try fillers, but that’s next on my to-do list. There was some godawful bad traffic on the way to the airport; what normally should take about thirty-five minutes stretched out to about an hour for some reason or another. I was freaking out, ‘cos  I like to be early.  As it was, he was waiting out in front. His 3-day journey to get home was over, it was time for some fun! Our ride home was punctuated with intermittent hand-feedings of snacks and the obligatory surf check.  I know he is happy to see me, but if there’s a SW swell happening—once a surfer, always a surfer. See what I mean? That’s him stretching and some small-ish waves.

Now I’m watching the episode entitled New Haven Can Wait. Time to freshen my cocktail…Stay Tuned for Part Two of Homecoming, Hello and Goodbye

Being a mom is forever

The horrific tragedy in Colorado got me thinking about being a mother.

Before I even had my son, which was more than thirty years ago, a friend told me that after having children, “your life is not your own”. Ever again. And that is so true.

You are forever changed. Your job isn’t completed at the arbitrary age of eighteen or twenty-one, or even thirty-one.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my baby boy, what he’s doing at that exact moment, if he’s OK, and I wonder if there’s anything I should be worrying about.

Right now he’s in Berlin, teaching a summer immersion course in German. (Have I mentioned that he has a Ph.D. from Yale? Yeah, I’m an obnoxiously proud mom.)

I wonder about the young man’s mother, did they think that as long as he was in a Ph.D. program that they could now be finished with parental duties, breathe a sigh of relief, feel their work was done?

Having a child is a never-ending process.

Maybe this is a call to action for more attachment parenting, more involvement–not less. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I was probably a helicopter mom, probably still am, and now I feel even more certain about the rightness of my own parenting theories. Validated. My reward is hoping that if my son ever did have a psychotic break like this poor boy so obviously is suffering from, that I would have been aware of it, I would have felt it—somehow.

That’s not too far off.

I remember a few years ago I awoke from a bad dream where my son had broken his glasses and was wandering around, scared because he couldn’t see where he was. (He’s got pretty bad vision, thanks to me as it’s a cross-genetic recessive gene). He was on vacation in the UK at the time, and I emailed him as soon as I woke up, “…are you OK, had a bad dream, etc.”

When he called, he told me that same day he had fallen and broken his glasses and they were taped up, and he wished he had listened to me and brought an extra pair of glasses in case something like this happened.

The rest of the scenario is that his girlfriend’s (now wife’s) sister had taken him pub crawling and he was not a very experienced drinker and had more than he should have (I’m still upset about that!!)

Regardless, I knew he was in trouble and if I had not spoken with him, I would not have let it go, I would have made calls, not given up, and there is a real possibility that I would have even gotten on a plane.

I’m not kidding. I think my motto as a mom is to be “ever vigilant”.

This was not a one–time telepathic experience. I have these “feelings” every so often, and I’ve learned to not ignore them.

I don’t think I’m all that special, I think I just pay attention to things that a lot of people dismiss.

Anyway, I’m not diminishing the ghastly violent crime and the pain he caused so many families, not to mention the whole gun ownership debate, but I think there is a very sad explanation, and the young man who did it needs help.

He was once his mommy’s little boy and something went horribly, terribly wrong.


Seashells and Toilets

I’ve been asked what I use to perfume my sheets with, and I’ve used lavender linen spray, but this time I sprayed orange blossom while ironing, and misted Chance by Chanel on his pillow, my favorite fragrance.

I was thinking about posting this picture on Pinterest.


I hate hate hate the little plastic things that conceal toilet bolts; I can’t explain it, but they really bug me, and one day I took the plastic off while I was cleaning, and came up with the brilliant idea of replacing it with a seashell, which fit perfectly, and I think it’s a great improvement! I daubed a bit of Museum Putty on the underside to hold it in place. I use QuakeHold or Museum Putty to secure lots of things that I don’t want to glue or hot glue. It works great and doesn’t leave a mark.

Coming Home

OK, this is really crazy. I just read an email letting me know that the plans have changed once again– not only is there not the delay he had warned me about, but he is coming home in 2 days!! What? Are you kidding me? I have so much to do in no time at all.  I have to finish cleaning the house, do some very necessary spa treatments, and worst of all, I need to do something about my roots. I have an appointment next week, which is way too late considering I am a few weeks overdue for a visit anyway. After a dozen or so texts, there is just no way my stylist is going to be able to fit me in. I think I need to get a back-up just for this scenario.  Now I am not a stepford or anything remotely like that, but I have a confession (this is Confessions of a TCW after all).  I perfume and iron 600 thread count sheets for his first night back. Ya know, I bet it gets extremely unpleasant sleeping on rough sheets in a small bunk-type bed, so I think it merits special pampering. One of my many former careers was in marketing for an event and wedding planning business and I am very detail-oriented. Very. I plan everything, including what outfit to wear to the airport.  Another area of my past includes some acting in plays, a walk-on in a TV show (blink and I’m gone), and a couple films, and while I never made it to the Oscars, I have a dramatic flair that erupts at times like this. The first time he left for a long assignment, I went full-on Hollywood and greeted him at the airport in a blue sequined evening gown with a plunging back.  Thereafter, I  decided to choose a different theme for each arrival. This time, because his flight arrives at 4pm, I think the white skinny jeans will be perfect with a slightly nautical blue/white stripy top, blue blazer, and these TDF Chinese Laundry shoes that were a divine birthday gift from my fashionista daughter-in-law (and son) a couple years ago. If only I didn’t have that skunky white stripe of roots showing!! That’s what hats are for, for sure.  Now I have to do something fast about his truck. It is a total mess. I rarely drive it, so it mostly just  gets dirty. It’s covered with sticky yellow spots. I called a mobile detailer because I don’t have time to wait around at a car wash. They said the spots were  bee pollen, so I just went ahead and had them detail it because I thought that would be a nice surprise, and not something I have ever done before.  There’s not much time to shop for his welcome home gifts, so it’s going to be baked goods. Check out this awesome French baguette. I bake/cook from scratch ‘cos that’s how I was taught.  I think it’s important to let them know that you are very happy they came home, so I always bake a cake or brownies or his favorite oatmeal cookies, and definitely guacamole. Here’s a recipe he likes:

Oatmeal Cookies with Yogurt
1 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ c. fat-free vanilla or plain yogurt
2 T. canola or corn oil
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/3 c. uncooked old fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
1 c. raisins, nuts, etc.
Heat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients. Combine sugar, yogurt, oil egg and vanilla in large bowl. Add dry to wet and mix. Stir in oats and raisins. Drop onto cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 min. Makes 40.
Back to dusting and polishing the furniture. I am distracted by watching the first season of Downton Abbey, which at this rate is causing me to take twice as long to finish the job. I need a staff like DA for this drudgery so I can dress for dinner and have someone do all these menial tasks.  Where is my personal valet and my cook?  Two days-I have two days to complete three weeks of chores. This is going to get ugly.

Day 75

Here’s what I did today: went to the gym; tough class, Core Central, lots of weights, lunges, squats, planks, and sit ups. It’s really just a race against time, isn’t it? I’m not addicted to it, but I have always exercised or taken ballet, and it’s super essential to me and my MM. When he is out to sea, he makes time to work out as much as he can. A lot of guys are sedentary and eat too much, but we are very health conscious.  After the gym, I went across the parking lot to Jo-Ann Fabrics and picked up some iron-on rhinestone letters. More on that later. From there, I went to Trader’s for coffee, yogurt, bread, salmon, and juices for my smoothies. I drove to Bed Bath & Beyond for some Debbie Meyer Green Bags. The advertisements say they keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer. I’m pretty skeptical, but since I have a huge apple harvest and all the garden veggies are starting to ripen, I thought I’d take a chance (despite mixed reviews) and try them. My MM doesn’t always get enough fresh fruits and vegetables on a long trip, and that’s what he craves when he comes home.  Not quite finished with errands and shopping, I went to the Joe’s Jeans outlet store and found the white skinny jeans I had been looking for. I got the Visionaire Skinny High Waist. Not cheap at $99 but better than the department store $160 or more.
5pm-Just got an unexpected quick three-minute call from my MM. Just like I thought, he is going to be delayed. It’s a good thing I didn’t start planning for his big Welcome Home spectacular.
Here’s what I did with the rhinestone letters; I have a cute plain black cotton t-shirt, and I cut out “CHANEL” and ironed it on! I had seen the same exact thing online and thought I’d just DIY. It came out perfect. I think it will look cute with my white skinny jeans and a pair of heels.

There seems to be a pattern to the way I survive the lengthy absences. The first couple of weeks he is gone is pretty hard; I have to readjust from being a couple to being single. It takes a couple of weeks to re-establish my own routine. The majority of the separation runs fairly smoothly; I have learned to manage my days just fine. Toward the end (like now) I go through a phase of hating the situation, hating him, hating life, and I’m just plain tired of being alone and doing everything alone. Girlfriends are nice, but def not the same.  I know he misses me and wishes he was home, and I understand military wives have support groups to help them with the long absences, but Merchant Marines don’t have that kind of assistance—we don’t have any help at all.  This was one of the reasons why I wanted to start a blog. I’m hoping other MM wives will want to chat and share their experiences. When I was at the craft store, the clerk asked if I was “military” so I would be eligible for the military discount, and I said that my husband was a Merchant Marine, but not considered military and she had absolutely no idea what a merchant marine was or did, and had never actually heard the term.  This happens all the time; I think it is a perfect opportunity for a major PR campaign to explain what an important role the merchant marine plays in commerce and in support of our country’s infrastructure.

What helps me is to keep busy. I’ve started spring cleaning, well, summer cleaning—moving furniture, washing windows, laundering, ironing, and re-hanging curtains—that kind of thing. I create other projects for myself; check out the light switches and seashell encrusted mirror. And yes, those are shells I hot glued all the way around my upstairs bathroom wall.

Fire Drill

pier-1-scented-seashell-candlesI love candles. I have candles covering virtually every surface in every room of our home.

I don’t light candles while my tugboat man is gone.

Not anymore.

There’s a very good reason for this.

I almost burned our house down and my husband’s firefighting training is the only thing that averted disaster.

One very tranquil evening last spring after dinner, I lit every candle in the bathroom adjoining our bedroom and proceeded to take a leisurely shower. There were candles on the countertop, candles on the bamboo shelf above the toilet, and candles on another floor shelf unit.

Normally I extinguish them when I’m finished, but this time I didn’t because the room looked and smelled so lovely.

Wearing a black silk kimono and feeling quite frisky (if you know what I mean) I went out to the family room and snuggled up on the sofa to watch the Daily Show with a glass of merlot and hubs.

After a bit, he took the remote and muted the sound.

He cocked his head like he was listening for something (he looked very puppy-like and cute LOL) and said,

“Do you hear that?”

Me: “Hear what?”

Him: “I think I hear something in the bedroom, or wait, did you leave the water on?”

Me: “No, I didn’t. What do you hear?”

Him: “Do you smell anything?”

Me: “Nooo….not really, what—”

Suddenly, he takes off running toward the bathroom and I stand up and I swear, I’m totally paralyzed, I can’t move a muscle to follow him or anything.  I’m not a real take charge kind of girl in any emergency. I’m the one whose limbs turn to stone. I don’t react. Don’t count on me.

So…the next thing I hear is a lot of yelling and things crashing, and for a split second I think someone broke in and they’re fighting. It was soooo crazy.

I’m still standing two rooms away and my feet are like in cement; I mean I know I should DO something, but I just can’t. I can’t even move to the phone to call 911 or anything.

Then I hear the shower being turned on and a sizzling sound, and I was finally able to triumph over my fears, and tiptoed toward the bathroom.


What I saw was a disaster. The bathroom was filled with smoke; smoke was beginning to fill the house (later we figured out that the smoke alarm’s battery had died.)

My personal fireman hero was soaking wet — apparently the noise I heard were his huge biceps ripping the bamboo shelf off the wall as it was engulfed in flames. What a hero! He had the presence of mind, not to mention the strength, to prevent a major tragedy.

As you might imagine, fires on boats are a potential catastrophe, and professional mariners constantly train and drill in the event of a fire in the engine room or anywhere else on board. I know that my mariner takes it very seriously, and I am SO glad.

Watching him in action was very reassuring (and VERY sexy).

Here’s what happened.

One of the candles was on the bottom shelf of the bamboo unit above the toilet and next to the shower. The heat from the flame ignited the shelf right above it, which also had a candle going, and that in turn ignited the shelf above that and finally the whole thing was ablaze with foot-high flames, searing the ceiling, coating it in a horrible black smoky sooty mess. The ceiling stayed too hot to touch for hours, and it was just plain luck that the attic didn’t explode in flames; it was that hot.

The burning bamboo set off little flaming arrows of fire all over the bathroom, burning the floor, the rug, and everything it touched. Cleaning the bathroom was a nightmare. There was congealed candle wax covering every surface, including the shower and the countertop, the sink, the mirror, and even the ceiling. It took forever to scrape it off.

The burnt bamboo shelf

burned shelf

This wasn’t my first brush with a candle-related disaster, however.

We have an entertainment unit in the family room that has beautiful glass shelves.

entertainment unit

I lit a candle on the bottom shelf (déjà vu, right?) and left the room (déjà vu again, right?) and we heard a sound like an explosion, ran in, and found shattered glass everywhere. The shelf must have heated up and cracked. Wow.  Everything on the shelf crashed and broke, too.

The replacement shelf had to be custom-made, and the expensive lesson learned that time was not to light any candles under glass shelves.

But I guess I didn’t learn the ENTIRE lesson or I surely wouldn’t have walked away from a roomful of candles!

I am ever so grateful that hubs did not bring up the previous incident as I felt bad enough without being reminded of my carelessness.

So…it’s no surprise that I avoid any candle lighting until my personal fireman is here.

Before he leaves to go out to sea, he forces me to perform –fire drills. (Head out of the gutter, people!) I think it’s more to make him feel better about leaving and hoping that I have the tools and knowledge to act appropriately  in an emergency.

Well, that’s probably not going to happen.

The fire extinguisher is in the garage, and I know he’s shown me a zillion times how to make it work, but I don’t remember a single thing he says. Considering my response time isn’t so good, the darn thing is heavy and unwieldy and it’ll be next to impossible to react at all when my feet are pinned to the floor, unable to move — I guess I’ll have to be content with a picture of a candle until he comes home.