Thursday, December 31, 2009

The signs of change

Thinking back over 2009, there were a series of things that happened that lead up to my decision to change my life in 2010.

First, in August I was invited to attend Premier Cruise Lines (The Big Red Boat) 25th Anniversary. This is the cruise line that first brought the industry to Cocoa Beach. It has been out of business for several years, but a reunion was planned for so many employees that had worked together. My friend Scotty had worked on the Ships for 5 years. I had taken 5 cruises with them starting with talking my way on board alone after a bad breakup, and ending with organizing 12 single girlfriends, in our 20-something years, to go. The reunion was fabulous and I was honored to be there. For 2 days I heard story after story of their adventures at sea. It left my heart restless.

Next, after several friends suggestion, I read the book "Eat, Pray, Love" it left my heart more restless.

Then, amidst my decision, I went to a series of meetings at my favorite church; Beachside, for business people to encourage them during tough times. During one session, the speaker was talking but my mind kept wandering off and I continued to question myself with, "What should I do, what should I do? Should I sail or should I keep trying here." Then suddenly I paid attention to what was in front of me, and to the left, and to the right...Huge banners declaring the name of the series: NAVIGATE. I laughed out loud.

I think this is when I truly locked in my decision to go.

After this I reread the book TIME OUT, by Bonnie Miller Rubin, a book about how to take a sabbatical. Then I reread the book HALFTIME, by Bob Burford, a book about changing your profession to take on more meaning and fulfillment. Then, a women in my running group heard my news and handed me the book THE EMBARRASSMENT OF MANGOES, by Ann Vanderhoof, a book about a Canadian couple who dreamed of sailing the Caribbean and made it happen. And finally, I paged back through a favorite book: A MAIDEN VOYAGE, by Tania Aebi, a book about her circumnavigating the world at 18, alone with her cat and in a 26' Sailboat.

All this input was working on my heart to justify and to satisfy. God does work in mysterious ways.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dad, I'm going away.

My father is 86. He re-married 5 years after my mother’s death in 1998. But after a heart attack and a stroke he lives in a Retirement Home outside of Fresno, California. After his stroke his speaking is nearly impossible to understand over the phone. In person it is easier. But his mind has been clear. His new wife visits often and communicates his health and messages to me.

I knew that an important action before leaving was to make a trip to California. It is within reason to understand that something may happen when I am at sea, I might not be able to get home and he might not be around when I return. So I am going to say goodbye just in case.
I was looking forward to some heart to hearts but when I arrived he was very ill. An infection had affected his brain and all he did was quote Bible verses and pray out loud. I tried not to let my disappointment show and for 3 days I spent most of my time at the Home. Finally on the last day, right before my flight he had improved a bit.

“Dad, do you know I am going away?” I said scooting as close as I could to his wheel chair.
He nodded yes.
“I will be sailing for a long time and might not be able to see you again, do you understand what I’m saying?” I continued.
“Yes,” he said. “You be careful.”
“I will. The captain is very good, very safe,” I answered.
“I love you very much,” he finished and hung his head down.

I had heard I love you many times that weekend, and if I could have had just ONE when I was in high school, it may have changed a lot. But now my 6 foot, ultra conservative, hardy, eccentric father is a frail old man confined to a wheel chair. However, out of the entire weekend, it was the moment I had hoped for. I knew he understood and we had said our goodbyes.

There is goodbye and there is see you later. I’m afraid this was goodbye.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Living a Lie

Email from a client:
Edee, What’s up? I was wondering if I, or someone from my business, did something to offend you or your staff? If so, I apologize for anything we may have done and wonder why it has affected the relationship between you and I. The last few times I have seen or talked with you, you seem upset or bothered and I am not sure why. Most recently at the Greek Festival, you barely wanted to speak with me or look at me. I hope I can fix whatever I did so we can move on and get back to a good business and friend relationship.

November 27, 2009
Email from me in return;
No, no, no, no, no, no. I AM having a really hard time in my life right now. That’s it. ME. Sometimes good friends can pick that up so it’s easier to avoid it. In time, all things will be make clear. It is not, not, not you or your business. We are not in the same personal social circle but I do consider you of my good friends. Edee

I hate this. I have made a decision to leave but can only tell a few friends and family. I have to make a plan for the Company. I have to save my employee’s job. I have to wait to tell them. Yet I have to continue to work with co-workers at the Company and sell to Clients like I’ll always be here, knowing full well I will not be the person to facilitate it. It feels like living a lie.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Emails from Italy

Dear Captain, I had a terrible day at the company. Tomorrow is poised to be worse. Tell me it’s real out there. Tell me that I will escape all this with something to look towards. I KNOW it will be hard work at times…sailing always is. I know it will be a huge adjustment to live in 4 feet of personal space but I cannot take it here much longer. I think I might jump off a cliff. Edee

November 19, 2009
Dear Edee,
Hang in there! I promise it will get better. In the past six months we’ve seen the green flash, whales breaching, an active volcano spouting steam, the ruins of Pompeii…I could go on.
There’s a whole world out here, Edee, bigger and better than the little ones we have to live in most of the time. Soon enough, you’ll be out here in it. Okay? So stay tough, and let me know how you’re doing. The Captain

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Attraction or Distraction?

...Until January 21, 2010.

Living in a Beach Town comes with its own set of dating challenges. Being single comes with its own set of questions that start with “Why aren’t you married?”
No, No, No, Yes, No or Yes are the answers!
Have you been married? Are you gay? Have kids? Been engaged? Have a boyfriend?
So at this point in changing my life, leaving my job and moving overseas, the LAST thing I need is for the guy...the incredible, athletic, handsome, perfect, amazing guy, I’ve known for a year, to become close to me.
Did I mention he was incredible?
“You’re not going to be on a boat pining away for some guy are you?” my friend Rebecca asked over lunch.
“No, no. We’re just hanging out. He knows I’m leaving.” I say.
Did I mention he was incredible?
Whoever knows when it really happens? When you start to fall…
But nothing is that perfect, or should I say incredible.

NOTE TO SELF: A Wine, Beer and Food Festival is NOT a good place to unknowingly go with an alcoholic on a first date.
A secret life exposed itself. I was to tell no one. Alcohol was just one issue in a life of excuses. One by one the pain of the truth came up to bat, just in time for me to find justifications to spend more time worrying about his life than the mounting “to do” list of my own.

Between his lies and my denial, I was over my head and had never seen the ugly, up-close truth of alcoholism. To me, growing up in a non-drinking Mennonite family, having drinks now were fun and games and nothing more. Ignoring the signs, I thought that occasionally drinking too much meant drinking out of my shoe, holding bad dancing contests, or doing the moon walk: all which I have participated in.

But it’s an evil decease and I stared at it head-on like a surgeon at a cancer. His passing out and laying on a soaked mattress or pool of urine on the floor should have been a wake up call for anyone in love or lust. Although I cared deeply, I did know that I couldn’t help or change a thing for him.

The time together was very short yet would leave a deep cut in my heart and a lasting new impression of alcohol. Mr. Incredible would disappear, then reappear and then would become a regular, then infrequent text. Finally, after recently getting a text that screamed “I am not guilty of doing wrong...” I wrote back:
(Final Text to Mr. not-so-Incredible;)
Amazing to me that I am protecting a guy who lied to me and then chose to treat me like shit. Deals off. Girls change our minds. I fly to Italy soon. Sail to Greek Islands then thru the Med. Canary Islands, Cape Verde and Caribbean. Got prospect to work for Government after sailing since I have no criminal record nor have ever been exposed to someone like u; So afraid to live OUT LOUD. Take ur secrets and spread ur poison all the time thinking uv done nothing wrong. Shame on you for taking so much promise of ur life and screwing the world. Shame on me for believing u were real.

The next night, entirely by coincidence, I watched the TV show “Intervention” about families seeking an intervention for an alcoholic loved one. I felt a sad pity for him and my anger changed to disgust towards the decease. Sadly, I doubt he will beat it. I’m afraid he will continue to use his good looks and charisma as his ticket thru life until it’s too late. I pray I'm wrong.

Was it attraction? If my friends knew the truth, they would drag me to counseling. If my family knew the truth, they would pray. So, I brushed myself clean and realized I had been caught up in a huge distraction. A distraction that was hiding the pain of separating from my friends. A distraction that was overshadowing the fear of my unknown future. A distraction that was making me look away from the process of my life in Daytona coming to a close.
photo: Seriously?! ...after it was over, I found that alcohol that I had had for years had been emptied. Even a bottle of Cooking Marsala Wine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

SY Juno; the maiden voyage ie: Voyage of the dammed

In 2008 the Captain emailed to say they had decided on a boat purchase and do I want to help crew it from Virginia to Florida? I thought it would be a good experience for me to travel both the Intracoastal and the open ocean off the coast of the Carolina's.

Except, it was November.

Being a warm water girl, I had not experienced cold sailing. I flew to Virginia and got to the marina late. Even in the dark, I loved SS Juno, a 44" Alden Cutter. Three of us left Virginia the next morning...the weather was in the 40's.

The Intracoastal was a pure joy. Our only worries were finding anchorage before dark and the optical illusions that the bridges give you going under them. (Oh yeah, and somehow ending up backwards in the Lock...was it MY fault the guy couldn't catch a line?!)

Little did I know it would be the Voyage of the dammed.

Researching a boat to buy is different than really knowing her. Being an unfamiliar boat to the Captain, he spent days prepping best he could and knew that the European past owner had done ocean crossings. But once we hit open ocean, everything that could go wrong did.

Starting with the other crew member spending the next 48 hours pucking.

NOAA had called for 3 to 6 feet with perfect winds. God had other plans. The waves turned 8 to 10 with a 10 foot swell that first night. The wind turned to be worse case scenario and 50 knot winds gusted for added excitement. First to go was the Weather Vain, an automatic pilot device for heavy weather. This meant taking 100 percent of the helm and the weight of every wave. I was too ramped to sleep so I took the first rotation: Midnight to 3am. I refused to look behind me again after seeing the moonlight light up a wave looming overhead. Even though I had 5 layers of clothing on top and 4 on bottom including my foul weather gear, by 3am I was absolutely freezing and exhausted. Finally, after singing every camp song I could remember from childhood at the top of my lungs, I just started to sob. Seasick crew mate Mathew awoke with courage enough to run thru the galley and to the fore cabin and wake the Captain. Once we changed shifts, safe in the galley, I peeled off my cloths and realized the real culprit. My brand new foul weather gear had failed; I was soaked to the bone with the freezing water.

When I returned, I had to make a list just to process all that had happened. Here it is:

Leave Virginia in the 40's
Shower breaks
Weather Vane breaks
Takes on water, bilge every hour
Drop lock nut in water---that was me
End up backwards in the Lock---blamed on me
Dingy motors (2) do not work.
Brown water comes out of facets
Complete fog off Charleston
Found out LATER we were reading the radar wrong
Tanker anchored 25 miles out
Motor Stops; help change fuel filter, bleed lines, get diesel only to discover we really just ran out of gas on the port side. (didn't I suggest that?)
Winds N/W. Our direction: N/W= bad combination for making progress
Rouge wave hits Shirish on watch; rips canvas and swamps deck.
Engine Blower Breaks
Propane emergency alarm keeps going off to read: Exposives! Danger!
Wind Generators not ready to be used
Storm hits nearing destination---can't see Chanel markers.
Marina cancelled our reservation
Moored the boat in a gale with a rapid current
My car is in sight with warm clean cloths but I can't get to it until morning.
Arrive in Florida to freak weather: Temperature in the 40's!

A year later, Juno is a tip top sailing machine already in Italy. But for anyone who thinks sailing is only a vacation, you have not been on a passage. I thought long and hard about the maiden voyage before I made my decision to join them. Skyping from Italy one day, The Captain assured me the NOTHING like what happened to us on that first trip had happened again. I'll take my chances.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Emails from Italy

Dear Edee,
My wife has told me a little of shutting down  your Daytona life, but not all. You are absolutely welcome here, and we’re looking forward to having you. You are great crew, and a dear friend. We will have memorable adventures.
We are here in Italy for the winter, through at least mid-March possibly early April. Then it’s across to Greece, around to the Greek isles until about mid-June, and then slowly start working our way back west: Sicily, Lipari Islands, Sardinia, Balearic Islands (you will LOVE these), then go to the Cape Verde Islands. From there, the crossing to Barbados should be about 12 days. We will spend that winter in the Caribbean, and then Spring in the Bahamas as we work our way back toward the States…by early summer 2011. …the Captain

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sailing 101: from Hobie Cats to SY Sounion

Prior to living in Daytona, I had one experience with sailing during Summer Camp on a Sunfish sailboat in a mud pond in Kansas. Still this memory was the amazing feeling of the wind speeding us along. It felt like flying.

When I moved to Daytona I was talked into buying a used Hobie Cat. Later I joined Fleet 80 and had some great memories sailing mostly with Dave Vaughn, a local obstetrician. My favorite story was when a Mana Ray got caught up in the Buoy ropes and headed out to sea during a Hobie Regatta. All of us unknowing sailors headed towards that buoy and continued to sail and sail and sail without the buoy getting closer. Finally the committee boat whizzed past us to cut the creature free and call off the race.

The Captain I will sail with was hired as a new reporter for the Company in the late 80's. His experience was sailing boats at his Alma mater: Stanford. We started sailing the Hobie and taking friends out. Our biggest drama was getting caught in a massive squall off the coast. Too far out, we tried to make it to shore, the wind screamed as we had the boat on one hull with both of us leaning back in the trapeze harnesses. Lightning was striking all around us. But then, about 1/4 mile from Snack Jack's Restaurant on the ocean, the storm ended as quickly as it had hit, only to give us a dead calm. Stiff with fear from our ordeal, we had to swim the boat in!

He is one of the most goal oriented individuals I have ever met. During these Hobie-days, a plan formed in his mind and he set out to get his Captain's licence, giving him the knowledge and the ability to rent "real" Sail Boats and go off shore. With the Captain's lead, a group of 20- somethings would rent 36 to 42 foot boats out of Ft. Lauderdale or Miami and head to the Keys. Then we started doing Golf Stream crossings to Bimini and Walker Cay. After that they rented in the Virgin Islands. During this time, a plan started to form in his mind.

One of my best friends met him. I did not set them up but I am responsible for the mini skirt and putting them in the same room! They fell in-love and the plan developed; They would buy a boat, take sabbaticals, sell everything and take a year to sail the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Friends would join to sail legs of the voyages and long passages. I was one of those friends.

I met them in the Azores Islands, 800 miles off the coast of Portugal. I was there to help crew to Gibraltar on their 36' Southern Cross named "Sounion". Cape Sounion, 43 miles from Athens, Greece, is noted as the site of ruins of the ancient Greek temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea in classical mythology. This Sounion, had left Cocoa Beach, sailed to Bermuda, then the Azores.

One thing about the Captain is his demand for safety and preparedness. We used to joke that there were so many spare parts on board that it would be easier just to pull an extra boat behind us! Before I left, I was to obtain an 8 foot extra tiller from a storage unit in Cocoa and bring it with me. Have you ever tried to pack an 8 foot tiller? ...once I got there I found out this was the back up to the back up tiller!

The passage took us 10 days. With 4 people, the shifts at the helm were decent. My favorite shift was the 3am to 6am. I saw the most amazing Moon rising followed by the Sun rising in the same shift. After days and days of no signs of human life, arriving in the Strait of Gibraltar was amazing. All Cargo ships from every direction were heading to this 7.7 nautical mile opening that separates Europe and Africa. And the tiny likes of us, were sailing beside the towering tankers.

Then there it was, the Rock of Gibraltar. A sailors sign of safety and dockage. I left them a day later to continue their year abroad. After a day trip to Africa I backpacked 5 more countries via Euro rail for another 2 weeks and headed back to Florida.

They continued there adventure as planned...well, as planned as you can be when you are at the mercy of the Wind Gods. I'm not sure when the NEW plan was formulated, I think during this trip. They would get married, have kids, live life until the kids were older, buy another boat, homeschool the kids and repeat the adventure. 15 years later, this is EXACTLY what happened.

And this is the trip I am joining soon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Decisions that hurt

I have to lay off an employee. They worked for me for 15 years. I’ve never had to do this so it is the hardest business action I have done to date. I have put it off for almost a month giving them some extra time, even though I am losing money. I am working with my door shut more than normal and tearing up in the office. They will never know how hard this is. Business can be cold. Following proto-call is robotic and looks insensitive…but there are no options. No one see’s my financials and no employee would be expected to understand the employer’s struggles. Most only think of themselves and their own ramifications. So it goes as expected: bad. Even the extra check I slip in their box is received with a sarcastic comment. By the end of the day, clients are calling-in reacting to the employee making bitter phone calls. I do as much damage control as I can. Other managers understand that the economy is tough and a tiny company like mine has to take the actions needed.

I learn there is no appreciation for the past, only bitterness about the present. I understand and I take it.

It’s hard to see the big picture when you are only looking at one piece of the puzzle.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Standing on the Edge of a Cliff

I made a promise to my sister long before I knew my life was going to take a twist. I promised I would join her if she did her first Half Marathon. It is my eighth Half and now it’s coming up in Kansas City this weekend. Ironically, as my life is changing, hers is doing the same. After 30 years in Finance, and being laid off by Sprint eight months ago she has decided to go to nursing school. And after 21 years of marriage and putting up with his multiple affairs, she has decided to end the marriage. We are both standing on the edge of a cliff ready to jump. I have not told my job, she has not told her husband. But for now, that’s on hold. For this weekend we run, walk, move towards a finish line 13.1 miles away.

Small problem as I fly to KC…the regular Flu Shot I had yesterday is effecting me and I am breaking out in Hives. I have a shot every year so I don’t understand what’s happening. By the time I arrive in KC, I drag my sister into the bathroom showing her my torso. By the expression on her face I knew it was bad. I am having a severe reaction to the flu shot. With a call to my doctor, I get the meds but the itching is insatiable. For 48 hours I itch. Then by a miracle, the night before the Marathon I sleep all night. So by 5am, I decide; "I can do this”. I’m as afraid of the 40 degree temperature that morning as I am the itching! I carry some extra Benadryl and we head to the start line. As the miles pass, the fog is clearing in my mind. Changing my life is what I need to do, it’s the direction I need to take. I finish and watch proudly as my sister gets her first finishers medal.

Now both of us head toward vastly different life changes. Ready to jump off that cliff and head towards new finish lines.

Monday, October 12, 2009


The Company was given my ultimatum in September. Today I got their answer, they didn’t accept it but counter offered. It felt a sign. Because I was asking for a short term fix compared to my long term sacrifice, the small difference in the counter offer felt insulting. Drawing a line in the sand can be very tricky. Then telling myself if it goes one way it is a “sign”. Like flipping a coin to determine which way to drive; North or South. I did that once and ended up talking my way onto a Cruise Ship and ending up in the Bahamas. But you do things like that at 24. Now was I looking at a sign or looking for a sign? A justification that a tide of change had hit my heart and the idea of Sailing and seeing the World was starting to feel more right then than wrong.
I agreed with the counter offer.
I knew it was a temporary fix and decided it would give me more time to work on making my business profitable or more time to justify a change. SIDE NOTE: with time, this tiny 5% difference in commission would be the deciding factor. And the Company’s final decision maker, some big wig who doesn’t even know me, set my life on a brand new course.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Asking for help, a new concept.

I have decided to ask for help. It’s something that I am not comfortable in doing. I’m single with no children. I’m fiercely independent and moved from Kansas to Florida when I was 23 with no job and $500 to my name. Everything I have was grown from a College degree and a lot of work. Now I stand watching everything fall apart. My life investments were piled into 2 wonderful houses I bought at the high point. I dived in and helped renovate them myself. I was determined to not be a slum lord but rent homes that I would want to live in. This would be my 5-10 year exit plan as Florida Real Estate was sky rocketing as was the rest of the country. But now, no math works. They are bad investments. They have terrible mortgages that an overly enthusiastic friend/mortgage broker had pieced together. Later I would find out this person had a cocaine problem.
I would ask everyone I knew if they could give me advice.
I called my friend Brad. Wanting to be direct I had my speech prepared: “He had investment property experience, I needed advice, can we get together”...but what came out was a babble of sobs and words and embarrassment that was as unexpected as it was barely decipherable.
The next day, Brad and girlfriend Katie took me out on their boat to a sandbar in the river the locals have fondly named Disappearing Island. We discussed the idea of me moving overseas and letting the job and real estate go. Brad has been self employed and owned multiple properties and has experience at several levels. Katie has a unique energy and as an Australian, has traveled the world. They helped me put my situation in perspective. There is a Big Wide World out there. Between the vodka and conversation, my tears rolled freely and I knew if I did this, there would be the monumental us task of unraveling 25 years of life in this beach town. It all seemed too overwhelming.

Then there it was, the Biblical symbol for hope: a Rainbow. Across the Ocean and over the Light House. I decided it was especially for me that September day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Plan B, just a negotiation technique?

I’m in the stairwell on the 7th floor of my building. The only private place I could find on short notice. I am leaving in a few minutes to drive to Orlando to give the Company an altermatim. I need to close my business on Oct. 1 unless something is done to help stop the financial bleeding. But I have studied negotiations, I am in a very bad spot: I have all my eggs in the same basket and could look desperate. I need an option and I need it fast. Something that I can have in the back of my mind, for my future, if I close my business. Like a “Plan B.” So I call my friend. I have sailed with her and her husband, many times and I know he had planned and executed a 2 year plan to sail the Mediterranean and Caribbean homeschooling their 2 boys while she pursued her career and flew to Ports meeting them along the way. The boat was 5 months into the trip. Surprisingly she answers her cell having been caught between her many meetings. Between sobs, I explain that I need a backup plan in case I need to quit my job. I ask “Could I crew for the rest of the trip?” The answer came quick, “Can we fly you there next week?” she responds excitedly.

And now, I’m ready for my meeting.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Blog: going from 6 figures to nearly 4, chosing to sail the Med and Caribbean for 1-1/2 years.

BLOG PREFACE: Everyone has a story. My story, and my opinions in this blog are only that, mine. Not better or worse, just mine.