Harder to Kill: 1st Quarter Update

Three months of 2016 are vaporized, and i am holding myself accountable out here on my annual pilgrimage into the wilds of self-improvement. Time for an update on my quest to Prepare to Die while Becoming Harder to Kill.

Harder to Kill: i got off to a fabulous start with my health and strength goals! January found me doing another round of eating clean for three weeks! It is energizing and cathartic to do this – after a week of going without sugar, alcohol, dairy and caffeine, it became clear that i CAN do this.  My third session of unprocessed foods, it was noticeably easier this time.

Combining the aggressive control of my food and beverage intake with a jacked up workout routine, and i managed to drop 12 pounds through the end of January! A fine start to the quarter!

Then the travel started… i was on the road virtually all of February. A dive trip to the Caribbean, followed by a pile of business trips. On the bright side, i kept up the exercise routine, doing strength training in hotel fitness centers. On the down side, i added back in sugar and snacks and alcohol and… whatever the hell i felt like eating.

Boom. Almost 10 pounds right back IMG_20160406_191715where they started.  It could have
been worse. Course corrected, despite continued travel, i’ve
managed to get back on track. i need to do MUCH better with consistency, even if i focus on eating real food during the week, and allowing myself just one or two indulgences on the weekends.

Goal for the 2nd quarter? More push ups, more core strength and another 10 pounds vaporized. i love my trainer, and am ready for bicycling season to begin in earnest…

Preparing to Die: Partial win and partial fail here… i managed to do some office excavations, but it was mostly annual maintenance, rather than getting my personal paperwork in order. Clearing out “stuff” went fairly well, due in part to a new volunteer job i’ve taken on…

Being angered by the anti-refugee sentiment – now fueled by a certain orange businessman who has become the pied piper of ignorant bigots – i now volunteer with the non-profit responsible for refugee resettlement in my small town. A good group, they are short handed, and have limited resources. They need housewares, and i have extra housewares, so that’s worked out. A great outlet for re-homing things i don’t need. That, plus a carload of items taken to the local thrift, and i did make some progress on this one…

The real progress may have come from an unexpected source. As i sort through end-of-life issues for my ancient dog, and discuss this with my adult children, a lot of turf has been covered. Hospice care vs heroic measures. Disposition of the remains. Legacies. Memories. Saying goodbye…

i have alIMG_20160128_170450ways believed one of the benefits of raising children in a home with pets is that this is a healthy way to learn to deal with death. Burying guinea pigs in the side yard prepared my children for the loss of their beloved dogs, and later, it gave them a reasonable foundation for losing the first grandparent.

Turns out, the conversations we are having regarding my Elder Mutt are continuing to teach those lessons. As they prepare to say a final goodbye to him, they are in training for when i die.

Took this picture as i brought him home from the vet, stitches removed from a 7″ incision on his hip, resulting from the removal of a fist-sized cancerous tumor. Normally, i wouldn’t have had surgery done on a dog almost 15 years old, but had it been the really bad kind of cancer, it would have ruptured and he would have bled out. Not a good way to die. Had to do it, and he bounded back… Congestive heart failure is what will likely get him. It’s all about palliative care now. And enjoying every single moment with this old boy…

Squashin’ the bugs…

A funny story from the road…

Traveling this week. Conferencing, to be specific. That means a seemingly endless number of side meetings, while attempting to get my science on. i was invited to a lunch meeting on the top floor of the conference hotel, in Monterey, California.

It was me, with six men… i work in Sausage Land, also known as the Technology Sector, and am often the sole female at the table. With amazing views from the balcony, i suggested we lunch on the patio – but one of the men, James, (vice president of some sort) said “I need to avoid the sun”, so i went out to move the large, stone-topped table so there would be sufficient shade.

the motherfucking view

Mark (CEO of an organization i work with, and James’ boss) said “Hey, we’ve got menfolk. Don’t hurt yourself” as i went to lift it. Dan (another attendee) and i, kept going. Others joined to help. i lifted my end of the table, but they thought the table was bolted to the patio and gave up. Dan and i kept going, and within another minute, un-wedged the table and got it moved to provide shade.

i walked back into the suite and told the others we fixed the table, and could lunch outside, while taking in the incredible view. James thanked me and i said “Mark means well, bless his heart…. but i can probably bench press more than he can!” which got a HUGE laugh! i told James “Be sure to tell Mark i said that…” and we proceeded to have lunch.

squash all the bugs

There’s more than one way to squash a well-intentioned, yet patriarchal bug…

What i’m doing in 2016… Isn’t everyone?

With my son sharing tales of his Drill Sergeant’s philosophy  during basic training in 2013, I got started with my annual list of priorities. A means to keep the important self-improvement issues on the front burner. Resolutions? In a way. But that has such negative connotations – who actually keeps resolutions?

These are goals – which require some degree of metrics, and accountability. By posting my annual goals, and then holding myself accountable to report out how I’m doing every quarter, it’s been helpful to keep me on track, working on the things I most need to work on.

For 2014, i focused on unfucking myself a bit. My possibly broken finger (and easy one to start with), my space (cluttered, heavy with stuff), and my body (fat, weak). Some progress in all three areas, but I wasn’t done at the end of the year with two of those…

For 2015, i focused on repairing important relationships that i’d blown up, continuing to get rid of the stuff that weighs me down, and keep working on being healthier and less fat. Some progress in all, but clearly not done with all of that.

What is common for the past two years? My health and fitness – this will likely be a lifetime pursuit. Well, it’s not exactly something i’ll need to worry about after i’m dead. i also need to get rid of ‘things’, organize what remains, and be ready to die.

What does this mean? i must optimize for life AND death.

The fitness habits forged over the past two years is entrenched. Three days a week, Studley and i do cardio on our lunch hours at a nearby fitness center. i am still riding a horse every week – and my instructor is fond of ‘calorie burner’ lessons. Balancing in the stirrups at a solid trot is a bit of work… Weather permitting, i’m on a bicycle at least 2-3 times a week.

Adding two high intensity interval training classes to my week this year, i’ve started lifting weights – and i love it! Muscles? Hello there! It’s been awhile! And my ass no longer brushes the back of my thigh in the shower! i look forward to these classes! One of my gym buddies uses the phrase “Harder to Kill”, and that really captures what i want – stronger, faster, more resilient…

Preparing to die is a bit harder. What are my goals for being dead? Not being a pain in the ass to my children. This has a few elements involved – minimizing my physical footprint (ie: purging stuff), financial planning and organization, taking care of unfinished personal business… i’ve been working on this, but it remains seriously undone.

This year i’m going with two goals – things that have really been at the core of what i’ve done for the past two years. i shall Prepare to Die while simultaneously making myself Harder to Kill.

harder to kill

 

No Regrets – Year End Wrap Up

Time to close out old business, and tackle the blank sheet of paper that is 2016. A year ago, i launched a plan to keep myself focused on three areas of my life that might lead to regrets if i don’t pay attention:

Bridges – getting broken relationships in order…

Ducks – getting my affairs in order…

Vessel – getting my body in order…

Posting quarterly updates here has helpful in keeping me on track. After a solid start in the first quarter, i stumbled and splattered a bit in the second quarter. Fearing disaster, i regrouped in the third quarter.  As i hit the homestretch, i was able to maintain focus, despite eating like a garbage disposal, and drinking without restraint for the past three weeks.

Here’s my summary regarding “No Regrets” for the quarter, as well as thoughts on the year.

Bridges: Watching Mom die, i realized that one of the things keeping her from a peaceful departure were several unresolved issues in important relationships in her life – my brother being at the top of the list. Unlike my father, who told me from his deathbed that he had no unfinished business…

i had good luck reconnecting with some of the wonderful people who have wandered off, or i’ve lost touch with through the years. That part wasn’t hard – just jumping on an opportunity presented, or tackling someone in the aisle of a grocery store. Follow up, phone calls, e-mails, and lunch dates…

But there were bigger, smellier demons here. i have slammed a few doors in my time. Unresolved issues, discarded, buried and burned. People who would crowd my thoughts when drifting off to sleep. Over the course of the year, i was able to reconnect with one of them. Conversations have happened… i even sent him here and explained that he was one of my demons! i count this as a win…

There was another demon. i started off with an e-mailed birthday wish in January, after a couple of years of silence. Polite, surprised, response. Follow up e-mails… short, polite, discussion of our shared passion for things with engines and wheels… Each volley would end on his side of the court.

i was working on that bridge, one or two boards at a time. He was on the other side of the chasm, methodically disassembling the refreshed structure. Sometimes? The person on the other side of the fractured relationship needs to maintain the divide. Whatever narrative he’s crafted, whatever means of processing what happened between us? It’s important to him to let it be over.

And so i shall leave him be… and accept that this demon is probably coming with me…

Ducks: My office is still a disaster area, cluttered with shrapnel from Mom’s estate, as well as my own crap. We got through most of the large stuff in the rented storage locker with the rest of Mom’s belongings. My niece had a yard sale, and liquidated it all – anything unsold went to charity. Photos, memorabilia remains, and we’re planning another work day to get through that…

Did NOT update my will, but have a plan for what will be done, and discussed it with my children. Had a call from my favorite attorney, Ken (Mom’s lawyer) and we’re planning to go out to dinner soon. i will likely retain him as my own attorney, and have him work estate details for me. There’s still lots to do here… but i made some progress in the first three quarters, so there’s that.

The unexpected win in this category? A new project, launched with the assistance of a young man recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The son of a friend, he was looking for ideas for a home-based business. i mentioned that i would love to find someone to scan in the stacks of family photos cluttering up my basement. So i hired him, offering myself as a test customer, allowing him as much time as needed to tackle the project, develop strategies and methods, and get up to speed…

For Christmas this year, i was able to deliver two flash memory drives with several years worth of photos to both of my children. i gave them their childhood… or at least part of it. Gave one to my ex-husband, too. The project continues, and may eventually expand to some of the family history photos we excavate from Mom’s archives. Starting this project is an important, non-financial part of getting my ducks in a row, and i’m happy with how the year ended.

Vessel: Fuck, this is hard! Continued progress, stepped up workouts, and location of muscles i’d forgotten i had! i am stronger at the end of this 12 months than i was when the year started. i am 25 pounds lighter, and my heart is healthier. Perhaps most importantly, i have worked fitness into my daily routine, and maintained the habit. Now, if i could stop bashing the sweets and bread and cheese and chocolate and…

beads

Here’s to a clean slate, a new year, and a fresh start! Wishing you health, peace and clarity of mind as you tackle your own demons. i’ve got a plan for 2016, and will get my thoughts organized on that over the next week or two. And one item on that list? Catch up on my reader! i miss you guys!

 

Soldier on…

i couldn’t sleep…on a night when i really needed to be sleeping. Thinking about a woman named Doris. A woman i’d never met. Somewhere out there, she was also not sleeping when she should be sleeping.

Making plans for a trip that she didn’t want to take. A trip to a hospital in California… to see her brain-dead son before the machines keeping his body alive were disconnected, one by one…

When The Boy joined the Army, i also joined an ancient club – Mothers of Soldiers*. Since humans organized to fight, we’ve shared that feeling of pride and terror in our militarized progeny. Proud that they are willing to fight and die, at the behest of chieftains who don’t know their name… for causes that they may not believe in… But simultaneously terrified at the thought of outliving a child… Staring directly at The Very Real Risk of Horrible, Painful, Bloody Death.

They train as they fight. Not quite as dangerous as Real War, but… shit happens. When he shipped out to field training earlier this year, i knew he’d be off-grid for about a month. i also know enough about his line of work that my blood pressure jumped a few points thinking about possibilities.

A few weeks after they were packed up, i was working a volunteer gig at a local festival. i got a call from an unrecognized number. Excusing myself from my booth-mate, i took the call…

Caller: Hi, this is Ashley, from mumble, mumble, grrrble, ramblefloxen…. Are you The Boy Fae’s next of kin?

daisyfae [wide the fuck awake]: Yes! What? What happened?!?!

Ashley: He’s fine! Oh, god, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you…

daisyfae [not. fucking. breathing.]: Holy shit, child… Give me a second…

Ashley: I’m SO sorry! I’m with the family support network, and now that your soldier is without his phone, we are supposed to call everyone to check in. I guess I should have started with that…

daisyfae [air returning to lungs]: Yeah… So, i’m your first call? OK… what’s up?

It was just a courtesy call to give us a point of contact for non-emergency communications. The family support network has to train as well. Turns out, Ashley is a good friend of The Boy – married to one of his platoon-mates, and is a lovely young woman. Before hanging up, i schooled her with a suggestion on how to handle such calls more effectively…

daisyfae: Next call? How about you start with “I’m Ashley with the family support network at Ft. Courage, and your soldier is FINE!” Let that sink in for a few seconds before saying another word…

My heart rate and blood pressure eventually returned to something approximating normal, but as long as The Boy was training, i was edgy. Two weeks later, around the time they were to be packing up and heading back to Ft. Courage, i had a voicemail after returning from a bike ride.

VM: This is Faith, part of the family support network at Ft. Courage. Your soldier was not involved, but there was a serious incident in his platoon during training. If you’d like more information, call me back at…

Immediately returning the call, Faith read a prepared statement from the commanding officer. There had been a vehicle accident, and a platoon sergeant was critically wounded – he would not survive. We were asked to “Please keep his mother, Doris, and his children, in your thoughts and prayers through this difficult time…”

No shit.

i still can’t get Doris and those kids out of my thoughts…

CPL Fae

The Boy will pin on his first Non-Commissioned Officer stripes soon. Corporal Fae. The bottom rung NCO, but i’m still incredibly proud… and still incredibly terrified.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

* It could be “Parents of Soldiers”… not really any difference in the way a mother or a father feels about this…

Holiday Bag Check

For the past several years, i’ve hosted an open house on the fourth Thursday of November – known to many as “Thanksgiving”, i just call it “Thursday”.

In the U.S., this day traditionally marks the start of the holiday season – a season fraught with emotional peril, along with joy and celebration. Pinned to the holidays are memories – good and bad. As adults, each year adds another layer of memories, and sometimes the holidays can be a dark and swirly place emotionally.

When my children were young, this is the one holiday of the year we claimed as our own – NO TRAVEL! Asking my ex-husband how he wanted to spend the day? “Pizza and football”. Asking the kids, i got “Let’s make our own pizza!” For me? It was a simple “stay home in my damn pajamas with my family.” Combining these elements, we began the pizza tradition.

Through the years, i invited others – the single folks from work unable to get home for the holiday. Those who had family in town, but wanted an excuse to stay away. Or those with nowhere else to go. When i moved into my new place eight years ago, this continued… and grew.

It’s non-traditional, for sure. A make-your-own pizza buffet. Yes, i DO invite people over and make them fix their own food! Part of the process of reclaiming the holiday, i suppose. The practical side is that it accommodates the drop-in nature of the party, and accounts for those who already ate a large meal, and just want to snack and drink.

Pizza Buffet

This year, around 30-35 people came and went over the course of the evening. i’ve got a trained collection of Thursday Veterans who know to bring people – and i have met some wonderful human beings at my own party as a result.

Mary came this year, and brought her dog, because dogs are also welcome here. She retired a year ago, and lost her mother shortly afterwards. This is the first year without her Mom and she was dreading being home alone. Her friend, Rachel – a “Thursday” veteran – invited her, explaining “I think I know exactly what you need! Come with us!”

i added something new this year – the “Holiday Baggage Check” stand at the door. Inviting attendees to drop a claim check in the can – and feel free to leave it behind. “I don’t really like my family…”, “I was never good enough for my father…”, “Despise green bean casserole!”…

Baggage Check

For me? The baggage has evolved over time. “I don’t want to go to a restaurant on Thanksgiving!” – when Mom finally gave up the traditional meal. “It would be really nice to stay home on a holiday!” during the years before my family time-shifted the meal to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Looking through the few bits of baggage left this year… “The ex…”, “Overwhelmed with work – added family stress” and “I miss my mother…”

Pretty sure i’ll keep this as part of the Christmas Eve party. What’s your baggage?

 

Knee-dful things…

Considering he had both legs sawed in half, Studley is doing great! After suffering with bone-on-bone pain for the last several years, he had bilateral knee replacement last week.

He was in for surgery at noon, sawed apart, given bionic metal parts, and released from the hospital about 26 hours later. Getting him in the car, and driving 20 minutes, reminded me of the sheer terror i felt when my ex-husband and i were driving home from the hospital with our first newborn kidlet.  “i have no idea what the fuck i’m doing, but here we go!”

no licking

The physical therapy regimen is challenging, but if followed to the letter, the results will be worth it. Rest, ice, compression and elevation – 24 hours a day for the first two weeks! Unless he is doing physical therapy, or using the toilet, he is to be on his back, toes-above-nose, wearing compression gear, and ice packs.

misery

Following the advice of the physical therapist, i froze several dozen bottles of water, and have been keeping them in rotation. They keep the coolers chilled for about 3-4 hours at a time. The schedule? Every four hours, round the clock, i swap the ice – including a visit at 2:45am. i live 10 minutes from Studley, and have gotten into a rhythm…

But sleep deprivation happens… i looked at my sleep tracker on my FitBit after a few days, and realized i needed help. Our friends came to the rescue – with one couple providing dinner so i could hit my fitness class, and another friend doing the 10:30pm stop, allowing me one night with six hours of glorious sleep!

sleepless

Studley has a high threshold of pain, but this is some hurtful stuff. Especially during and after PT, he is really wrung out. He’s staying on top of it with a pharmaceutical arsenal. Hallucinations? A few… He noted that i seemed to be ‘phase shifting’ one day. As he was dozing, he yelled out “Save the Bocce Balls!”  My favorite so far?

Studley: The cat is in the bed.

daisyfae: Ummm… You don’t have a cat.

Studley: That’s why I thought I should mention it…

Because he was tripping, and i’ve had to come and go due to the pesky day job and caring for my pets, i was a little worried about him sleep walking. He’s got beautiful, plush carpet, so i could easily spot tracks left by his walker when he got up while i was gone. If he wandered to the kitchen, i could tell.

i let him know i was tracking his movements – for his safety! As he regains mobility, he likes to get up and go to the kitchen occasionally, or to adjust the thermostat. i was a bit surprised one night to see the walker tracks go from his bedroom to the liquor cabinet. Sticking my head in his bedroom, i found him grinning… Last night? i found ‘crop circles’ in the dining room.

Friends and family have been supportive, with the best gift arriving yesterday from my niece, DQ! “Hope this is helpful! It was out of print, so I had to get a used one. Hope the pages aren’t stuck together!”

sexy time

daisyfae: That’s funny!  [flipping through pages] Hey, this is a real book!

Studley: Why yes… yes it is!

Many years ago, when Studley and i first met, we agreed on something very important – we NEVER wanted to burden our adult children. Unfortunately, being single and over 50 means you need someone to drive you to get a damn colonoscopy! So we made a pact – no matter what happened with ‘us’, we would remain “Colonoscopy Buddies”, assisting each other with routine, and not so routine, medical support.

We’ve done that…and done our best to keep it light and fluffy! He has been so appreciative of what i’m doing to help out with this one…

Studley: I can’t even begin to thank you…

daisyfae: You’ll have your chance. We just don’t know what it will be, or when it will happen… But you’ll do the same for me one of these days.

i’ve known he was pretty amazing from the first day i met him, but seeing him maintain humor through pain… Watching him push himself harder with each PT set… Seeing the frustration because he wants to do more…. His determination to succeed…

i’m looking forward to dancing, and hiking, and diving, and living hard with my bionic buddy for many years to come… He’s earned a new middle name*: Studley Bionic McRocklegs! Long may you run, baby!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Had to dig through the archives to find the origins of his blog callsign. Somewhere about here it happened…

No Regrets – Third Quarter Scores and Highlights

Hey… How you doin’?

i’m really having a hard time getting my butt in a chair lately. If you’ve been playing along at home, at the turn of the year i repeated my ‘three focus’ charter. To maintain accountability, i’m doing quarterly updates on progress.

Steady going through the end of the first quarter, with a bit of a mixed scorecard by end of the second quarter, getting stuck in a few spots. i’ve managed to get myself unstuck as i roll into autumn, so i’m not displeased with the report for the third quarter of 2015!

The categories:

Bridges – repairing relationships that have mattered to me.

Ducks – getting things in shape to assure the least hassle to my children after i die.

Vessel – assuring that my body can carry me through the adventures i desire.

My scorecard for the third quarter:

Bridges: Although there are still a few rocks i haven’t picked up yet – rocks that sit upon regretful closures – i’ve enjoyed reconnecting with a few old friends. Two notable cases popped up within the last week!  Denise, had a day of training nearby, and pinged me to see if i’d be around on a Friday night to get together for dinner and drinks. Timing was perfect, and on short notice we were able to arrange a slumber party – dinner, shopping (egad!) and a long night spent catching up. We’d been besties in 7th grade, and lost touch until Facebook brought us back together in 2009. Since then, we’d become occasional running buddies, but hadn’t had a chance to sit and yak for two years! Some darkness, some light, and a lot of turf covered.

On my way home from my evening fitness class tonight, stopped by the grocery to pick up some odds and ends. As i doubled back, lost, looking for the fucking marshmallows, i almost ran over an older gentleman pushing a cart. “FRANK?!?!? Oh my God! It’s been five years! How the hell are you?”  We had worked together 20 years ago, developing an innovative training program for our organization. Retired a few years back, he spent his time running a fruit farm, and spending winters in Florida. He used to send the occasional e-mail, or Christmas card, but we’d lost contact. After a quick synopsis of ‘what’s up?’ in the coffee aisle, we swapped updated e-mail addresses, and will likely get together soon. An unexpected ‘win’ for this category on the last day of the quarter!

Ducks: Mom’s estate is officially settled. Met with her attorney in July, signed a ton of paperwork, cut some checks, and closed it all out. There are still many non-estate financial dealings i need to work, but the legal bits are done. With a large storage locker still holding a ton of her personal items, and a monthly bill of $250 to pay for said locker, my goal for THIS quarter is to get that thing cleared out and off the books. Work day scheduled with my sister on Saturday.

Regarding my own estate ‘ducks’, a little bit of progress, but not nearly enough. Late this month i finally dug out all beneficiary forms for life insurance, retirement savings, and the like, and managed to change those to my kids, rather than my ex-husband. For this quarter, i must update the “doomsday” file – where i keep important information for whomever has to clean up after me when i’m dead. Likely to do another will before the year is out, too… i’ve learned a lot processing Mom’s estate, and need to put some things into practice for my own.\

ducking around

Just ducking around at a local festival…

Vessel: During the second quarter i spent four weeks in Europe, and indulged in far too much food and booze, Studley and i doubled down, and started another ‘cleanse’ at the beginning of September. i’d regained all of the weight i’d lost in the first half of the year, and refused to continue on that path! So far, i’ve managed to lose 10 pounds by going back to a ‘clean eating’ focus – no sugar, alcohol, refined grains, processed food, dairy or caffeine. Once again, i’ve missed cheese most of all – but am slowly adding back one serving per day… because cheese! Also upped the exercise substantially – which is part of the reason i’m not home in the evenings to write (or read blogs!).

There it is… Time flies… i’m happy, getting healthier, and loving life – even though i’ve had some darkness chewing at me along the way. Working 40 hours per week, member of two non-profit boards, and recently appointed by my local municipality to serve on an advisory commission, i don’t have a lot of discretionary time! Here’s to the home stretch of 2015! Hope you’re all doing well with whatever goals you set for the year…

Wings (A Wedding, Part 2)

With the Islamic Marriage Ceremony and the Henna Party, two important Turkish wedding traditions had been celebrated. The wedding, as planned by The Girl and Metin, was to be a blend of cultures and traditions.

A traditional Turkish wedding can have as many as 1,000 guests – and is often a simple “Cake and Cola” event held in a salon for an afternoon. They wanted a beach wedding – and wanted to be quick with the formalities, and then on with dinner and dancing!

While she was home in July, we went shopping for a wedding dress. She had been absolutely terrified of getting a dress in Turkey, as the more modern Turkish brides are apparently fond of bejeweled bodices, massive piles of lace and tulle, and all manner of extreme glamour*. “I don’t want to look like a fucking cupcake!”

The dress found her. At a discount bridal shop, the third dress pulled from the rack fit nearly perfectly, and was beyond stunning on her. We had invited her father’s wife, Fahima, to join us for the dress shopping day.  Perhaps the main reason my ex and i have been able to connect well enough to strongly support our kid? This woman has a huge heart, and bubbly personality – and both of my kids adore her! Deciding that the term “Step Mother” has too many harsh implications, she’s been christened their “Bonus Mom”… a bit more appropriate in this case!

The minor alterations were completed just under the wire, and The Girl was able to get everything she needed packed up and headed home. Invariably, the luggage was lost for a few days – “If that dress is lost and I have to go out and buy another one here? AAAAAAAAARGH!” – but arrived intact a few days later.

We also learned that “RSVP” is sort of an alien concept regarding Turkish weddings. They had planned for about 150 people, but the final count was closer to 200. Since it is still somewhat unusual to have a formal sit down dinner at a wedding, i guess it doesn’t seem to be a big deal… i’d have been ripping my hair out, but The Girl and Metin seemed to roll with it…

Metin’s family comes from central Turkey, and over two dozen family members made the trek – at least 20 hours by bus – to get to Izmir for the wedding! He arranged for two tour buses to transport his family, and neighbors, from the city to the beach.

During the reception, Mehmet (Metin’s father) went to find a translator. He returned to our table with The Girl’s friend, Beth, and was enthusiastically asking her to translate something to us. Mehmet let us know that it is Turkish tradition for the parents of the bride and the parents of the groom to personally welcome each guest at the wedding – and he was inviting us to join them in this tradition.  With Beth’s help, my ex-husband EJ and i were schooled in the proper pronunciation of “Hoşgeldiniz!”

greeting

We agreed, despite being absolutely terrified of screwing this up! Trying not to look as mortified as we felt, we joined Mehmet and Haava and began greeting guests – and i can personally attest to the fact that there were at least 190 people in attendance! It seemed to take forever, but Studley assures me it only took about 30 minutes for us to make the circuit.

dancing

And then we danced. We danced and laughed and danced some more! The newlyweds had pulled together a playlist of both Turkish and English dance tunes. Balancing cultures, they had arranged for each guest to have two drinks – either beer or wine – during dinner. i wanted to be respectful to his family, so it wasn’t until those two tour buses headed back to the city around midnight that i felt comfortable enough to grab a drink…  and have a proper toast with the newlyweds!somewhat staged

i thought we’d danced ourselves out BEFORE midnight, but i was wrong! The DJ kept going, and so did we! Much relief for all that the formalities were over, and we threw it down hard! Many of their friends had booked rooms at the beach resort, so we didn’t clear that beach until somewhere around 4am. Vague memories of dancing salsa with a pretty Colombian ex-pat, and lying in the grass making friends with a stray dog are also in the mix…

It was a great party… And a beautiful wedding… Celebrating my kid and her husband! Merging two families and two cultures – across the old and new generations – as we cheer them onward! i am delighted that she has put down roots. She has a bigger family! And so do i…

new family

* Some examples can be found here… She made a good call!

Wings (A Wedding, Part 1)

They got married, then engaged, and then had a wedding – schedule flexibility was required to accommodate the bride’s family coming from the United States.

When The Girl left for Turkey back in 2011, none of us really knew what to expect – other than that she was embarking on a tremendous, brave and life changing personal adventure. She built a network, found her tribe. She grew professionally. She found love… and a partner… and now a husband.

Studley accompanied me, and my ex-husband EJ was joined by his wife, Fahima and her daughter Alexandra. We traveled and worked as a cohesive team, supporting the couple, and sharing expenses along the way. If you had asked me after the divorce if this would be possible, i’d have put it in the realm of “plausible, but unlikely”. But it worked…

i’d met Metin, my daughter’s fiancé, several times – and have shared many silly moments with him on Skype. We didn’t meet his family until we arrived for the marriage, performed at their home by the Imam. Still a bit jet-lagged, I managed to hoark up a few words in Turkish*“Oğlunuz çok iyi bir adam!” (Your son is a very good man!) and “Çok memnun oldum!” (Nice to meet you!)

His parents were warm and welcoming, and as soon as the Imam arrived, the service began. It was fast, and in Arabic, and just like that, they were married. Happy tears and smiles… and then it was time forthe engagement party.

The engagement – Henna Night (Kına Gecesi) – is traditionally hosted by the bride’s family. Under the circumstances, Metin’s family stepped up and handled all arrangements! A glorious meal, served to the families and a few friends on their terrace as the sun set. My daughter had placed several of her bilingual friends strategically around the table to serve as translators.

Metin’s mother, Haava, sat across from me – and most of our communication took place via smiles and pantomime. She is all of four feet tall and spends a lot of her time hugging and kissing everyone within reach! She assured me that The Girl would be loved and cared for as their own daughter. i thanked her for loving my daughter as her own.

When the engagement ceremony started, i got a bit of a surprise. As dictated by tradition, the groom’s father asked my ex-husband if he consented to give his daughter to their family. Feeling the hairs on my neck stand up, i smiled and shot a glance at my daughter. She smiled and shrugged and whispered “whatever…” and the celebration rolled onward as her father said “Evet!” (Yes!)

The women disappeared to the other side of the terrace, lighting candles and sparklers, and The Girl was given a black lace robe and a red veil. She and Metin were seated in the center of the terrace. Music started, and the girls danced in a circle, singing along… The words passed down through centuries.

These are songs signifying the bride leaving her family for a new family. Ages old, going back to the tradition of arranged marriages, these songs are designed to make the bride cry. İ might have shed a few tears myself that night…

YÜKSEK YÜKSEK TEPELERE – HIGH HIGH MOUNTAIN TOPS

Yüksek yüksek tepelere ev kurmasınlar – They shouldn’t build homes high up on the mountain tops

Aşrı aşrı memlekete kız vermesinler – They shouldn’t give girls to faraway lands

Annesinin bir tanesini hor görmesinler – They shouldn’t neglect the mother’s one and only

Babamın bir atı olsa binse de gelse – If my father had a horse, he could jump on it and come

Annemin yelkeni olsa açsa da gelse – If my mother had a sail, she could open it and come

Kardeşlerim yollarımı bilse de gelse – If my siblings knew the way, they could come

Uçan da kuşlara malum olsun – May the birds carry the message

Ben annemi özledim – I miss my mother

Hem annemi hem babamı – Both my mother and father

Ben köyümü özledim – I miss my village

Henna

*As any traveler trying to get by, i have managed to learn a few words and phrases in Turkish – but mostly related to food and beverage. For this trip? It was absolutely necessary to move beyond ordering beer!