The Last Day Before Retirement

Retirement Road

Retirement…

What came to mind as I drove home today, was the last scene in Terminator 2 where the road stretches out towards an unknown future. Okay, that’s kind of weird. But, it did feel weird. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be driving downtown everyday, I wanted to appreciate the moment.

Retirement…

The last few months, I’ve been paying attention to the lasts.

The last off-duty job when I worked traffic control for the Turkey Trot; the last day in uniform; the last shoot qualification; the last training course; the last…the last…the last.

Retirement…

I suppose it isn’t really the last day, since I have some administrative details to clean up and I’m officially on vacation, but it sure felt like it as I left my empty office behind and loaded up all my boxes, calendars and the coffee cup that has seen me through my last few assignments. Thirty two years wrapped up in six boxes and three thumb drives. Saying goodbye has never been easy, so the small informal potluck was perfect.

Retirement…

Some people have large recognition events and some just leave one day and everyone is surprised when they find out they’re gone. My goodbye was in the form of an email with all my personal contact information, including links to my social media accounts.

A lot has happened in 32 years. These people have worked beside me in the most strange and sometimes tragic circumstances. They have supported me and kept me safe.

Retirement…

Hopefully, my co-workers, both civilian and sworn, will call me and we can meet to tell war stories over coffee. If life gets busy, as it often does, I may not see some of them again. But I’ll never forget what an honor it has been to work beside them.

Retirement…

I unloaded my boxes when I got home and was greeted by my very enthusiastic dog, Olive. To her, this was just another day. Little does she know that she has a lot more walks in her future.

Retirement…

During the evening as I thought about the day, I came to the conclusion that over time the weirdness will wear off and my new life will become the norm. Until then…I plan to embrace the weird and to turn off my alarm clock.

 

Retirement the End or Just Another Beginning

retirement journeys

“You’re too young to retire!”

“What will you do?”

“Aren’t you going to be bored?”

RETIREMENT

A group of us discussed the word in a class I took last year, Planning for Change in the Third Age. Some people refused to even say it. I was shocked at the powerful emotions expressed during our discussions. Retirement means something different to everyone and the lifestyle associated with it has evolved over the years.

At 57, I’m in a much different place than my mother was at the same age. Today, people are more active and there are more opportunities available to us then there were 30+ years ago. Modern medicine has improved and the majority of us can expect to live another 25+ years. It’s just another phase of our lives.

When I was working out this week, with sweat pouring down my face, I thought about my mom. I wonder how her life would have been different if there were fitness centers on every corner and healthy living was a priority. As I approach this major life change, I’m in a much better place and more active because these options are available to me.

After 30+ years of proudly working in law enforcement, it’s time to focus my energies in new directions. I can travel, learn, contribute and even try a new career if I choose to do so. When I say retirement, it means moving on from my current career into something else. What it doesn’t mean, is that I’ll sit at home watching television and fade into the background.

I’m 20 days away from my last day at work. While I have a brief moment of panic every now and then, I stop myself and review all the planning I’ve done and get excited again. I’m going to do things I love and things I’ve never tried and may end up loving. So, watch out, because I’ll be living large and loud.

A Sparkly New Year From a Different Perspective

Planning 2016

The map spreads out before me, so expansive that I am easily overwhelmed. 

After almost thirty-two…32…30+…more than three decades, of being in one profession, I’m retiring from law enforcement. My road has been very defined for most, if not all, of my life. That’s about to change drastically.

As I look back in review, there have been ups and downs, but overall, I’m proud of the work I’ve done and how I’ve served my community. I’ll write more about that later, but for now, I’m looking forward to a bright and sparkly new year.

It’s strange, scary, exciting, intimidating…I’m not sure I can even name all the emotions that flash by quickly like an out of control slide show.  So, what do you do when life opens up and you’re walking a path you’ve never been on before? Here’s my plan.

The year will begin as it has for decades, with a relaxed timeout for an inventory and then a rough mapped route of where I want my life to travel this year. Even better, I’m facilitating a group session on mapping out the new year with my favorite people, some I know and some I will soon meet.

A new year always seems like a fresh start, building upon the foundation I’ve set over the years. While I’ve thought a lot about my path moving forward, it’s still opening a door to a place I’ve never been before.

So, I’ll be looking at life from a new perspective with lots of available choices. So, I’m choosing to have a sparkly, fun and adventure filled new year and I’m planning to share my journey here. Stay tuned!

What do you choose for the new year?

Etosha Elephant Pool Party

One of the unexpected highlights of my trip to Namibia occurred at the Etosha National Park on one of our last days. Toni, our guide, had mentioned seeing the elephants at Halali, but we’d had such an amazing morning, I hadn’t given it much thought.

She parked the vehicle, handed us our lunches and told us to follow the path. We ended up at a covered overlook above the watering hole. There were about 20 people there, several with professional looking cameras with long lenses. It was a large space, so there was plenty of room for everyone.

Toni leaned over and pointed at the trees. I saw the top of an elephant and looked back at her with a smile.

“Jennifer, look!”

I turned back around and there they were. More and more elephants came from the distance toward the water. It was incredible.

Elephants Pool Party

I loved every moment of the Elephants’ Pool Party. My face hurt when it was over, I was smiling so much.

Thanks for such an amazing experience, Toni.

This is a must see when you visit Namibia. Who knows? I may just see you there. 

Cruising on Walvis Bay

Swakopmund
We spent the afternoon wandering around Swakopmund and then out for dinner at The Tug which is a former boat. The salmon was fabulous! I enjoyed wandering around the town with the wonderful shops. Keeping in mind that I had no luggage space to speak of, I limited my souvenir shopping.

We stayed at the Hansa Hotel, which was originally built in the very early 1900’s. It was a beautiful place and very comfortable. After another good night’s sleep (it seems as if we are exhausted every day so I was sleeping great) we set off for our Walvis Bay harbor cruise.

Walvis Bay is just a few miles from Swakopmund and one of the main seaports in Africa. About 50,000 people live here, primarily working in harbor related industries. It doesn’t feel like the city is that large. Most people live along the shoreline.

Walvis Bay Cruise

We arrived at the harbor and climbed onto a catamaran style boat. There were probably 20-30 people aboard, but it didn’t feel crowded and we had a great view. Once we were out on the water, the special cruise features began. The birds were amazing. I’ve never been up close and personal with pelicans or seagulls. I’ve seen them before, just not within reach. It was incredible.

seagull walvis bay

Here is where I get carried away with seagull pictures.

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seagull walvis bay

They are huge!

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Crystal was the trained profession. I just watched in awe.

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Gorgeous! I was fascinated by these two birds.

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And then, after having their fishy snacks, they flew off.

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And then, lest we get bored, here came Bronzy the cape fur seal.

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See the knee in the bottom left corner? That was me. I just wanted to reach out and hug this little guy. He was a bit shy so Crystal asked us to stay quiet and still. Wendy, my sister, would have loved this. She has been fascinated by seals since she was a kid.

cape fur seal Walvis Bay

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cape fur seal Walvis Bay

He was beautiful!

This was another jaw dropping moment on my trip. I never expected to see birds and seals so close. It was so special.

Then we left the area and made our way around the rest of the harbor.

Cape Fur Seals Walvis Bay

Here the seals were “checking out the chicks”.

Pelican Point lighthouse

This is the Pelican Point Lighthouse and next to it is a lodge where travelers can stay. That might be fun for my next trip to Namibia.

Hey Wendy, want to go see some seals?

Cape Fur Seals

As we made our way around the rest of the bay, we headed inside because the seas were a bit rough and it was windy. That’s when I started to get a little nauseous. So, I spent my time looking at the horizon. I’m sure the tour guides had some very interesting things to say, but I missed all of them.

Despite a few stomach issues, I loved this cruise. The sea life was stunning and I enjoyed every moment of the first half of the trip. I highly recommend adding this to the itinerary if you are heading to this part of the world.

 

Namibia – From the Air

Every line and shadow of Sossusvlei was incredible. But it was time to leave. After a great night’s sleep, we climbed on the plane to experience it from the air as we traveled from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund to visit another part of Namibia.

Air Namibia

Carlos was our pilot and Aravind sat in as co-pilot. I’m not sure Aravind could have assisted if the plane was going down, because he was just as busy taking pictures as I was.

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Here’s the video view. It was an amazing flight and with the patch and Dramamine, no motion sickness for me!

And here is an aerial view of Deadvlei. It’s not the best picture, but I’m really glad I caught it.

Deadvlei Namibia

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Sossusvlei Namibia

We flew over the fairy circles. Scientists still are not positive about what causes them.

Fairy Circles Namibia

It was incredible to see the Atlantic Ocean from the air.

Atlantic Ocean Namibia

And…the shipwrecks caused by the rough seas and possibly inattentive captains.

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I’m so glad we experienced the area from both the air and the ground. It was beautiful both times, but in very different ways.

Skeleton Coast Namibia

Awesome!

If you’ve missed some posts and would like to read about the whole adventure, click here.

Call of Deadvlei Namibia

Single grains of sand
blowing, building,
Nature’s monuments that reach to the sky

Trees outlasting lifetimes
dead, dry
Strokes of dark brown against a vibrant background of color

Travelers climbing
stepping, sinking,
Trying to conquer what nature has created

Languages of the world
appreciating, celebrating
Still failing to capture indescribable beauty

Footprints in the sand
filling, erasing
All evidence we were here

Memories of moments
breathing, thinking
Surrounded by monuments built of single grains of sand.


This was one of the reasons I came to Namibia, to stand in the pan of Deadvlei and see the beauty of the dunes and the trees. 

Deadvlei Namibia

We began by climbing a portion of Big Daddy, one of the largest dunes in the area.

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While I only climbed a short way, it was still an amazing experience. I climbed to the section just above the travelers in the below photo.

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Looking down to the right, it seemed as though the side was straight down.

Toni, our guide, was with me and asked if I was ready to head down. 

“You mean straight down?”

I thought maybe I’d be walking back the way I came.

“Yes, put your camera inside your shirt and grab my hand.”

“Okay…”

I was very hesitant, but trusted Toni. So I grabbed her hand, leaned back and took my first step. My foot slid down and I took another step. It was a hot day but the sand was delightfully cool as my feet sunk down. Then finally I sat down and slid the rest of the way. It was so much fun. I laughed the whole way.

Then we walked over a small hill, and there it was.

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It’s hard to describe what a beautiful place it is. The pan is made up of cream colored dried clay. The trees died after the dunes blocked the water source hundreds of years ago. They are estimated to be 900+ years old.

Deadvlei Namibia

Here is a photo of people walking across the pan and people coming down the side of Big Daddy. The mirage created by the heat reflecting off the sand is amazing. Yes…this captures some of the vastness of the area.

I had time to sit down beside one of the trees and to take in the beauty and spirit of this unique place on Earth. Seeing, listening, feeling…I will never forget.

There are some grasses and short bushes that have sprung up in a few places- survivors in an area where most things cannot live. It was hot, but the slight breeze helped cool me down a bit.BlogDeadvlei11

Because it is such a large space, it’s easy to find solitude. It was a spiritual experience that touched my heart.

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Once again, the shadows and textures helped set the stage.

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Deadvlei Namibia called and I’m so glad I answered.

Playing In the Namibia Sand

I had a choice. I could have slept under the stars on the roof of my room, but I just imagined what would happen when I tried to climb down the ladder in the dark to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. So, I just stayed inside in the very comfortable bed and slept. I woke up refreshed, feeling great and ready for the day’s adventures. Namibia and sand…what could be better?

Namibia Sand

Marcelino from the Mosaic Sanctuary had told me about the amazing contrasts, but I was still shocked at the incredibly beautiful light play on the landscape…a photographer’s dream,

We were staying on the boundary of Sossusvlei. Here’s how they describe it on the website:

“Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Characterised by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan and is a great destination all year round. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light.”

Sossusvlei is made up of the most incredible dunes I’ve ever seen. We have the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and earlier this year I visited the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. The parks are both stunning and I highly recommend a visit to each one. But I’ve never seen anything like this. I am in awe of what God and thousands of years can create with sand and a little wind. Let me just say, “Wow!”

Namibia Sossusvlei

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Sossusvlei Namibia

Sossusvlei, Namibia

Namibia Black Backed Jackels

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Sossusvlei Namibia

Aravind and I kept asking Toni to stop the vehicle so we could take pictures and she graciously accommodated every request. I’m not sure the photos do the landscapes justice, but at least they provide a small glimpse. It was spectacular watching the constantly changing sunlight, shadows and colors. I wanted to capture every moment, but this was just the beginning of the day and we still had more to see…

Namibia on Safari

One of the best things about an organized safari is stepping off the plane in a country where you’ve never been before, and seeing a friendly person holding a sign with your name on it. Phew!

I was finally in Namibia and Barnabas, from Wilderness Safaris, loaded my luggage into the car and took me to my hotel. I stayed at the Galton House in Windhoek. It was a nice place, but frankly, I was so tired I checked my email and went to bed. I’d had such a busy day, I’d forgotten to keep hydrated and wasn’t feeling up to par. I should know better…

The hotel agreed to store my large suitcase and so I packed my safari clothing into a small duffle bag. I was a bit worried the zipper was going to break, but at least the camera gear was safely stowed in my backpack. There was some good and some bad news. My safari pants? After losing 20 pounds in the months prior to the trip, they were WAY TOO BIG. I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy with all the extra fabric. I tightened the belt and did my best to evenly distribute the rest of the waistband.

So, while I made a fashion statement on my trip, it was probably “what not to wear” or worthy of the worst dressed list in safari attire. 

Toni, our guide with lovely bright red hair, picked me up and after adding Aravind, another traveler originally from India, we hit the road. Both of them were very friendly and interesting people. Our first day together included hours on the road, much of it on gravel roads. The main roads are very well kept, although dusty.

It had been a long time since I’d relieved myself behind a bush…but…heck, I was in for the whole adventure. It was a bit of a challenge with my oversized pants. I added the used toilet paper to the trash bag and we were back on our way to Sossusvlei and the Kulala Desert Lodge.

Namibia Road Trip

We had lunch at the Khomas Hochland escarpment. The views were incredible!

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I still wasn’t feeling too great, so I tried to drink as much water as possible and to eat what I could. The drive was long and I’m sure I was very quiet. Still, I enjoyed the company.

We did see ostrich and our first Oryx. The oryx is the national animal of Namibia and is represented on the Namibia Coat of Arms.

Namibia Oryx Antelope

After we were welcomed at camp, I headed to my free standing suite where I unpacked and took a quick nap. The accommodations were fabulous and very comfortable. We ate dinner and I fell back into bed for a good night’s sleep.

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It’s cool in the evening at this time of year, perfect sleeping weather. And…the hot water bottle at my feet was an added treat.