We’re captive on the carousel of time…

Seven years ago, The Boy and i hopped a plane for Istanbul to spend Christmas with The Girl. She’d accepted a job in Izmir the previous summer, and at the age of 25, moved here in July, 2011.

We spent Christmas Eve in a hotel, building the most beautiful Christmas Tree from beer bottles collected from the executive lounge. This year, my own tree is once again nestled in a box in my garage, five thousand miles away. That is perhaps the only similarity between that holiday and today.

2011: She knew no one when she moved here. She had made a few friends, was sharing an apartment with another English teacher at her school, and had a 45 minute commute to work via public bus.

2018: Her collective of friends is glorious, many couples including Turks and ex-pats. They surround her with love and support. She met and married a good man, bought a home, and continues to thrive as an English teacher in a private school.

2011: She’d studied Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at university. Not Turkish. Giving herself a crash course in the language during her first few months in country, she’d become conversant, and was able to take care of her personal business, connect with her students, and serve as an able tour guide.

2018: Fluent in the language, she can generally do rapid fire translation for me in real time. She has no trouble conversing with her in-laws, and has built friendships with vendors at the local shops. Unlike Europe, the vast majority of Turks speak no English, so she learned this by necessity.

2011: The Boy was 23, still attending university full time, and fighting The Demons that led me to believe he might not live to see 25. We were close, but i lived in constant fear of That Phone Call.

2018: He is married, with two children. After a stint in the Army, he’s made a home in the great plains, surrounded by extended family. A good government job, a fierce and gorgeous wife who has managed to tame the wild beast… When he and i were here seven years ago, this was an unimaginable future.

2011: i learned enough Turkish to order food and beer. To find a toilet. Navigate an airport or two. It wasn’t pretty, but i could generally pantomime my way through a transaction.

2018: After several visits, and over a year of online studies, i probably have the conversational skills of a small child – animals, colors, numbers, food. No problem with food/beverage, or shopping. i’ve even managed to have a few short conversations with my son-in-law’s family! They are probably more surprised than impressed, but are very supportive.

Christmas 2011

2011: The tree that year was beautiful. All that mattered was that we were together. The Boy and i were outside our comfort zone, traveling for a holiday in order to spend time with The Girl as she charted a new course for her life.

GammaRay with Bebek

2018: The tree this year? Pretty gorgeous. Seven years ago, this was also an unimaginable future. A gentle reminder from the universe that we really don’t know where we’re going…

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

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

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Poof!

For the past five years, i’ve had a spreadsheet (compliments of the ever-enterprising Excel-pert, Studley). A spreadsheet that can be poked, prodded and tweaked in all sorts of ways, playing with expenses and income. It was my retirement planning tool.

Through a combination of planning, luck, early breeding and conservative financial management, i was surprised to find myself in a position to comfortably retire with a pension, after working for the same entity from the age of 19. i just had to wait until my 55th birthday to pull the chain.

i didn’t believe it. i worked and re-worked those numbers. Studley included important expense categories such as “entertainment” and “booze”* and most importantly travel. Even throwing in a ridiculous budget for such luxuries, it was still manageable.

i turned 55 in early June. i cleaned out my office and walked out the door and have no intention of ever working again.

Poof.

Just like that, i was no longer employed.  From the age of 16, i’ve always had a job with income. Self-sufficiency required that, and i worked my way through university through a combination of a co-operative engineering job, and admin/teaching assistant positions. i have always worked – driven by the need to be self-sufficient.

And now that comes without the need to work.

Turns out, this is a pretty serious transition – even though i absolutely recognize the privilege that comes with this particular transition. Unlike divorce, a cancer diagnosis or becoming an empty-nester, this one is without question a GOOD TRANSITION. Not only that, i had ample time to prepare for this one.

i’ve been asking retired people the same question for the past few years – “what was your biggest surprise after retirement?” The answers were all over the map… “How expensive health care costs are” to “How busy I am! How did I ever manage to do all this with a full time job?” One response that stuck with me was “How important the calendar becomes.”

i’ve always been pretty tight with my work calendar. It also had personal appointments and extracurricular activities on it, but the work day was the foundation. When every day feels like Saturday how do you know what day it is? How do you know that the Tuesday night patio party at your favorite venue is happening if you don’t realize it’s Tuesday?

Only two months in, here are a few other observations –

Getting dressed? Different. i don’t put on make up in the morning. Morning lingers longer than it used to. One day i had a volunteer meeting at 0800. The dog even glared at me as i walked him at 0700 – “what is this shit? why are we out of bed? why are you dressed?” Clothes off of a hangar, not out of the laundry bin after a sniff. Hair brushed, and not stuffed under a baseball cap…

Speaking of hair…

i’ve been having mine painted for 20 years. Thanks to genetics, my hair would have turned shock white by the time i was forty without chemical intervention. A couple of years ago, i started playing with that white – i let a chunk underneath go white, then hit it with some funky color. It’s been blue for about a year, and while i like it, i don’t like the maintenance. So i’m working through a process to let my hair revert to its natural color.

Brain function? A bit befuddled – more forgetful than usual, not able to find words, and carrying a general fog every now and then. Still carrying five different volunteer jobs, i have responsibilities that require thought. We are continuing to push the envelope on life skills and experiences, in part to keep the brains working…

But those are details for a future post… i’ve exceeded my word count for today! Time to go pack a suitcase!

huey suitcase

* i like to throw parties. My friends appreciate good food and good booze, as do i. That shit ain’t cheap…

The Unspoiled Queen*

Where have i been?  On a very strange rock in the Atlantic Ocean for the past week.  After an arrival at the homestead in the very wee hours of the morning, i’ve been in the throes of post-travel excavations.

Some short, random neural firings:

– The retirement countdown clock ticks loudly. Even the most intrepid, hard-working employees are simply cogs in a giant bureaucratic corporate monkey-spank.  We try to do a good job, and earn the paycheck, but in the end, it just doesn’t matter…

– It has become apparent that my lack of fitness is getting in the way of living the life i want to lead.  This simply won’t do…

– Adventure travel can be exhausting.  Especially when one is out of shape.  (see previous random neural firing).

– Adventurous people will press on through exhaustion.  Naps are for cupcakes!

– “Bravery” takes many forms.  It can appear as a soldier rushing to aid his fallen comrade despite obvious peril.  It can manifest itself as the same soldier fighting back from near-mortal wounds.  Or it can take the form of a woman who walks away from a comfortable life behind a desk to follow her heart to a small rock in the ocean.

That’s all i’ve got for now.  i’m off to de-skunk my SCUBA gear.  It’s been stowed in my closet for almost a year.  i’m pretty sure i don’t want to let it get that lonely again…

i’ve been short on time to read blogs – will try to catch up over the next few days. Between naps, of course…

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* What is the meaning of the title of this post?  That is left as an exercise for the reader…

Letter to my 16-year-old self…

Although i have no fucking idea why, i am often sought as a mentor at work – usually people early in their careers who are sorting out what’s next. i’ve had a run of these sessions lately – and it reminded me of this old post.

As i’m listening to these young men and women sort out not just career – but life balance – i am reminded that i REALLY need to write that letter to my 30-year-old self…

Trailer Park Refugee

Not that i would have actually listened, mind you… but a stumble into dearme triggered the thought exercise.  Exactly what would i have told myself at 16 that might possibly have made a difference?  Who knows…  here’s my best guess after a couple glasses of bourbon.

Dear 16-year-old daisyfae,

Christ.  Where do i start?  First off, lose the flannel shirts and owl glasses, ok?  You bear a frightening resemblance to Neil Young.  While you take some solace in this, and it may feed the deeply buried socialist songwriter hiding underneath that case of Oreos you snarfed down in your bedroom last night?  It’s not particularly attractive.

Off the top of my head:

– You are an athlete and a dancer, despite the fact that the mirror tells you otherwise.  Somewhere in your 30’s you’re going to figure this out, but it will be a tad late to start formal training.  Join the…

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horse d’oeuvres

It started with a coupon – buy one lesson, get two free.  Studley jumped on the offer to take a few horseback riding lessons in November, 2011.  It was something we had discussed, and put on the “one of these days” list.  With the winter chill looming, and a good bargain, we went to the stable for the first time.

We had no idea where it would lead.  It has brought tremendous joy.

If someone had told me that i’d learn to assemble gear on a horse?  That i’d be comfortable grooming a 1,200 pound animal on my own?  That i’d have no hesitation in grabbing a horse by the ankle and confidently picking manure out of his hooves?

That i’d be riding in my first horse show at the age of 50?

Inconceivable!

But last weekend, that is just what happened!  It was a “Fun Show” held by our stable, to raise money for Saddlebred Rescue.*  Not a competitive event, it is used by the instructor to help the newer riders train for more serious competition.

Last year, Studley and i had been riding for a few short months – so we just sponsored a few classes and went to watch.  Sitting in the arena on a chilly spring morning, we watched the youngsters, and some older riders, get their horse game on…

daisyfae:  Do you think we’ll ever be able to ride like that?

Studley:  Probably not, but it’s fun to think about!

This year?  We decided to take a run at it. Well, a “walk-trot” at it.

The kids would have their parents, and grandparents, in the barn… Encouraging.  Cheering.  Proudly saying “That’s my kid!”

Receiving a random signal from the trailer park planet, i hatched a plot to get MY mommy there, too!  With serious support from Studley, she was in the arena with us that Sunday morning.

She encouraged.  She cheered.  Her advice to me as i headed out to mount up – “I’ll be proud of you if you just stay on the horse!”  When my name was called for a second place ribbon?  She hooted and hollered and said “That’s my kid!”

Studley and i also rode in a pairs event — similar to the “Pas de Deux” in Dressage, our instructor modified it to make it more accessible to novice riders.  Instead of the team riding side-by-side while riding a pattern, we rode “mirror” patterns – with the goal of staying synchronized and not running into each other when crossing paths!  We referred to it as the “Faux Pas de Deux” event.

We got second in that event… out of two teams!

That night, we decided to figure out what those ribbons cost.  A year and a half of weekly lessons, riding gear (helmets, boots), entry fees…  Right around $1,300 EACH.  And worth every penny…

Roller Derby, Hard Hat, Pith Helmet, Paintball Mask, Ski Helmet, Motorcycle Helmet, Horseback Riding Helmet, Bicycle Helmet, plus assorted shooting gear

The Helmet Shelf in my garage

* WARNING – adorable animal alert!  You might end up with a four-legged friend in your guest house if you look at these lovelies…

** We had to ride with the adults – it wasn’t proper to let us ride in the “Youth” class.  Probably because those 12 year olds would have kicked our asses!  i placed 2nd out of three riders!  And Studley just missed knocking me out of second place by a few thousandths of a point!