Category Archives: Travel

Day 191: The Little Black Coat

I have needed a new all-purpose black coat for several years. There was this top-stitching that came loose a while back and it wasn’t really fixable because of the lining. I had to put a key ring on the zipper pull because the original pull disappeared years ago. Unfortunately, I hated to get rid of the coat because it was impermeable to rain, had a hood and zippered pockets, and the princess seaming and front zipper were relatively flattering. I wore it to death over the last ten years.

That’s right, it’s been ten years. I realized that I bought the coat for my first trip to Europe in 2003. We went to Austria over Spring Break and it was cold. And rainy. I layered the snot out of that coat and it just kept going — for ten more years.

When I was telling a friend about my beloved coat, I actually started looking carefully at it. I discovered that those lovely princess seams were all raveled on my right side — why only the right side, I don’t know. The loose top-stitching was worse and had become even more noticeable. We are going to California where it is spring in the winter with possible rain, and then to France in April when it is sure to rain. April in Paris, remember? It became glaringly obvious that I needed a new coat.

Check out this blogger's lovely description of Paris here.

Check out this blogger’s lovely description of Paris here.

Off I went to Burlington Coat Factory. They usually have coats in my size and I lucked out again. My new coat ticks all of my boxes — water-repellent, full length zipper, princess seaming, zippered pockets, and hood. And I bought it in a smaller size. Eureka.

It was kind of hard to throw away the old jacket. It’s got history and a lot of traveling under its belt. Here’s hoping that my new coat will bring ten more years of bucket list travel and fun!


Day 145: A Lot of Fun and A Little Knowledge

You may be wondering what happened to me over the last week or so. Life got in my way.

I worked with a family member to book a cruise vacation; because I’m new at this, it took a lot of time and energy. But I learned a lot and am ready to work at my friend’s travel agency for the next week while she vacations in Europe. I’ve been training with her on a regular basis; I don’t feel very “retired.”

I photographed a friend’s glass party. I was scared to death, but it all turned out well. Some of my photos were even good.

We also had a series of social events that just plain wore me out. It’s hell getting old. Going to the Angels Ball to support Rainbow Hospice is always fun, but Music Man and I are both having knee issues. He was a good sport and danced anyway to the amazing band, The Gentlemen of Leisure Band. Awesome music! We played a band concert with the American Wind Band, and I had a solo that was a little nerve-wracking. We celebrated Music Man’s birthday with friends in their home for a lovely surf-and-turf dinner. We also had friends and family in from out-of-town and we went to Saigon Sisters and Kiki’s Bistro for fabulous food and enjoyed visiting. Fun, fun, fun, but by Friday I ran out of steam.

Knowing what happens to me when I’m exhausted (it isn’t pretty, folks), I decided to take a break from the world and I read two books in two days for close to 1000 pages. The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s new adult novel (512 pages), was engaging and worth reading, but its teenage “disaffected youth” characters brought me too close to the kind of kids I want to avoid. Rowling is very concerned about disadvantaged youth and it was an integral part of this novel, which is ostensibly about filling a vacancy on a local government council in small-town England. Bring Up the Bodies (432 pages) is the second book in a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s councilor. It’s rare that I read a book where I learn something new about the Tudors, but Hilary Mantel’s research is wide-ranging and she sheds a new light on Cromwell. It was really good for me to take a break; I needed the solitude and quiet to re-energize.

After that mini-break from life,  I’m back on the exercise and eating-right wagon and tomorrow I go to the office full-time again. I know just enough to be dangerous; I’m a little scared of what I could do to Nadya’s computer system. Keep me in your thoughts; I’m hoping that good karma will hold me up while she’s gone.

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Day 130: How Old Is Old Enough?

I kinda want to go on a Mississippi River Cruise on a paddlewheel steamboat. How many days do I have to be retired to get away with this?

This cruise with Big Bands sounds like a lot of fun…

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Day 126: Chomping at the Bit

I came home from our glorious weekend taking trains to Greenfield Village with just one thing in mind.

I have to figure out a way to stop carrying around my sleep apnea machine. I was determined to use my smaller carry-on suitcase on the train, but still take three pairs of shoes, my baby computer, my full camera bag, and my CPAP. Oh, and I needed clothing, too. It was almost an epic fail.

As you can see from this photo, the CPAP bag takes up half the suitcase, and the baby computer is tucked away between clothing packing bags. I carried the camera in my tote bag. If we were traveling by air, I wouldn’t be able to put the CPAP machine in the checked bag because it has to be hand scanned by TSA.  In order to get by with just one suitcase and one carry-on, then I would have to trust my camera bag to the airport baggage people. It’s not the fanciest camera in the world, but it’s my baby, and I don’t want to “lose it” in baggage hell.

I have been researching the use of dental appliances for sleep apnea. Remember when you had to wear a retainer for straightening your teeth? This is the grown-up version of a retainer — it forces your chin forward to clear the airway. I even went to see a doctor who charges $3500 up front for the privilege of making me an instrument of torture and somehow wasn’t able to get it approved by my insurance companies. After that, I was so disappointed I gave up on the idea.

But after this weekend, I’m back on the track. I’m determined to fix this problem before the next trip so that I don’t have to carry this enormous machine around with me. It has to be better to use the dental appliance. I got a referral from a friend for a doctor that seems to be more interested in my business.

All I have to figure out now is whether I’m going to the Lincoln Avenue location (more fun) or the Westmont location (probably easier to drive to). Wish me luck.

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Day 114: What Am I Thinking?

I just posted a link on Got My Reservations that commits me to posting every day in October. Apparently, I should be committed.

Yet I’m hopeful about this project. I have a lot of material in my photo archives to use and I’m working at making my posts shorter, although you’d never know it from the Sunday Review posts or the self-examination posts I’ve been doing here at Retirement 365.

Short and sweet. That’s my motto for October. I’ll hope you’ll join me this month on the “other side.”

Day 113: Five Minute Friday — Grasp

This week’s theme at Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday is grasp. It’s perfect for me as I finish up this week — I’m grasping and gasping for fresh air and deliverance from the chains of working in an office.

I’ve been interning at a travel agency for about a month. For the last two days, I have been on my own in the office while my friend took a well-earned vacation.

Now I know that I never want to work in an office again.

After 100-ish days of being “retired” and working from home, I now know that it is my preferred style. Even when busy with customers and paperwork, I feel confined and less productive in the office. I can’t multi-task like I do at home. I can’t throw in a load of laundry and let it wash itself while I sit on hold on the phone. I can’t sort paperwork while watching a show on my DVR. I can’t work in my pajamas if I feel like it. I can’t step outside and feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair because I’m chained to a landline. In fact, I can’t leave the office at all because I don’t want my friend to lose any business on my account.

I always wondered if I had the self-discipline to work at home, even occasionally, as my son, my daughter, and many of my friends do. This stint of office work has shown me that I do have what it takes to work from home. And I like it.

Bring on the next step toward my new custom travel business. I’m doing it from home!

Day 99: Contentment

They say it takes three weeks to break a habit and apparently I’m living proof of that.

I’ve lost the I’m-crabby-about-work mentality that has driven my every waking moment for years. I’m not angry anymore — and unless provoked by someone who wants to disrespect the teaching profession,  I’m ready to move on to something that interests me more. I’m cured, and apparently it shows in my face. Several people this week have commented on the fact that my whole demeanor is less stressed and more calm. I’ve broken my crabby habit.

On the surface life now seems pretty boring.

As I’m sitting down to write and eat my leftover squash casserole from last night, I’m realizing that my days are starting to have a pattern. I get up at a reasonable 7:00 ish, check my social media sources, make a healthy breakfast, and then embark on the project of the day. I market almost daily for fresh food and household essentials, go to various appointments, and exercise. Two days a week I train at the travel agency for a few hours. I watch some tube and read for a while every day. I cook and make protein shakes. I go out with my friends. I listen to Music Man’s stories of work and share the need-to-know pieces of my day. I attend rehearsals of my musical groups and go to club meetings in the evenings. I’ve become a stay-at-home-wife and I like it.

 Change seems to have become the new normal, at least where it comes to food.

I’ve also broken the unhealthy food chain. I’ve been able to go out to restaurants and only order one glass of wine and yes, even decaf coffee. I didn’t order the chips with the fabulous fish and chips at Duke of Perth, and yesterday I didn’t have raisin toast or hash browns with my omelette at Buffalo. I haven’t cracked open a bottle of wine at my house for two weeks — what will the recycling men think today when my bin is not full of empty wine bottles? I’ve been having fun trying new recipes, and I don’t think that either Music Man or I have felt deprived in any way. And I’m continuing to lose weight, bit by bit, which is all I’m trying to do. It took me a long time to put this weight on, and it will take a long time to take it off as well. I’m okay with that.

Yet the essential me is still in there.

I’m devouring books and movies. I’m researching the city tote bag that I am going to create to carry camera equipment, one that won’t scream “I’m carrying thousands of dollars of camera equipment!” to pickpockets. I’m thinking about how I can turn my love of travel into a custom travel service for busy people who don’t have time to do the research themselves. The agile mind that has served me well as an academic is now enjoying the opportunity to be creative in a different way.

Friday, Friday has a new meaning to me now.

When we played Rebecca Black’s anthem to the weekend in my homeroom, it was as heartfelt for me as it was for the students (unless, of course, I had papers to grade over the weekend). But then, the weekend meant errands, projects, craziness around the house trying to catch up with the things we didn’t get done during the week. My being at home has taken some of the stress off of our household and we have the freedom to choose whether or not we can take the time to spend a day playing in the city.

There’s still a lot to be done, but progress is also habit-forming.

Every day I take a step toward establishing order in my home and my personal life. I’m breaking some life-long habits of ignoring what’s in front of me and hoping that somehow the hard stuff will just go away. I know that I’ve made the right decision for Music Man and for me, and we’re happy. I get some flack from people who question my choice to retire at age sixty, but thank goodness we live in a world where I have that choice.

Have a wonderful weekend. You deserve it!

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Day 83: In My Little Town — Katie’s Kitchen

I love diner breakfast.

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It’s a fact that I cannot deny. Omelettes smothered in cheese and veggies. Crispy hash browns with the soft center. The bottomless cup of coffee. Yum and yum and yum again.

Being retired makes diner breakfasts with friends on weekdays a new possibility in my life and I’m taking advantage of it.

Options are endless in my area to celebrate diner breakfast and I visit them all.

I have breakfast in Buffalo Grove at The Buffalo with Michele — it’s halfway in between our houses, and we’ve been having Saturday gab fests there for years. Now that I’m retired and she teaches college students on the late shift, we can have breakfast during the week. Yay!

A local institution is the Egg Harbor Cafe, which I have described as my happy place. It’s fun to meet up with Melinda at Egg Harbor and catch up on our lives. Part of a regional chain, I know that I will have lots of choices at Egg Harbor.

There’s Mrs. V’s Restaurant in Des Plaines, which is a classic neighborhood diner with an extensive menu of lovely fried food.

Which brings us to my current favorite place to enjoy diner breakfast, Katie’s Kitchen in Des Plaines.

A quick strafe down Central takes me to this unassuming restaurant in a strip mall. You would never know from the street view or even from the classic diner decor what is in store for you when you choose your breakfast.

I have had the good fortune to have breakfast twice at Katie’s Kitchen — the first time was apparently a CRAFT * moment.

I went to Katie’s last week to meet friends for breakfast, but I got my date wrong. I was a week early. Not being a person who passes up an opportunity to have diner breakfast, I ordered anyway and ate by myself. I had the Midwest Egg White Scrambler with smoked salmon, onions, capers, tomatoes, and cream cheese for $9.99 and it was delicious. As you can see, the order included toast, fruit cup, and a corn relish.

On the RIGHT day, I met up with my friends for another round of diner breakfast.

Debbie W. had Katie’s specialty, the Sunrise Baked Oatmeal topped with dark sweet cherries, bananas, molasses, macadamia nuts baked with a cinnamon cobbler mix.

Debbie K. ordered blueberry pancakes with a strawberry and blueberry topping.

Since I just started a somewhat restricted diet, I went with a veggie omelette and fruit cup. I have to say, although I was very virtuous, my omelette would have benefitted from a little cheese. But that’s just me.

Katie’s Kitchen is also open on Friday evenings and has a BYOB policy. If you look at the menu, you’ll see that it’s typical diner food, but if it’s as good as the morning offerings, it’s certainly worth a try.

And just so you are clear, Katie does not serve baked oatmeal in the evenings. 🙂

* Can’t Remember a F %&# ing Thing (you insert the middle letters as you wish)

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Day 75: In My Little Town — Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns

Retirement gives one the opportunity to discover and rediscover one’s surroundings, and I’m already taking advantage of that.

I live in a Chicago suburb of approximately 75,000 people. It’s not really a little town; it’s a large city with a downtown, malls, two train stations, a racetrack, and lots and lots of residences. In the big picture that is Chicagoland, though, it is kind of a little town.

I’ve started taking walks and popping into stores, greeting the shopkeepers, and generally getting to know what’s up in the Heights.

It was pretty embarrassing to walk into this cute yarn shop that I’ve never even seen and find out they’ve been open for three years. And I call myself a knitter. The shop is spacious and has room for classes and hanging out.

You may remember that I have several quilts to finish and a knitted baby blanket that’s almost done. So I’m putting Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns on my radar for this winter. Maybe I’ll take a class.

Anyone want to join me?

Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns

218 West Campbell St.

Arlington Heights, IL 60005                 


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Day 29: Reflections on the Gift of a Watermelon Pickle

Did you ever read the poetry book, Reflections on the Gift of a Watermelon Pickle?

It’s a collection of modern verse designed for middle school kids and is often used in classrooms. Its title is derived from an ode to summer, which you can see in its entirety here. Watermelon is used as a symbol of the summer that so quickly passes by us every year.

Its first two lines are speaking to me at the end of my first month of retirement.

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible

It has been a month of unicorn moments — seeing people and places that are new to me, being able to accomplish changes in areas that have been eating at my soul, creating the new normal. The watermelon is still firm and juicy; it’s amazingly sweet and can be devoured in one sitting. After all, I’ve still got a lot of summer ahead of me. At the end of the first month, it still seems like unicorns are possible.

This week not only marks my official retirement, it marks my 60th birthday on July 11.

A friend gave me a birthday card last night for which she shopped very carefully. I have to admit, it was quite jarring to see the big six-oh on a birthday card. I surely never thought I’d be this f-ing old. Like my mother. Like my grandmother. OLDE. My friend urged me to look past the number and read the sentiment, which talks about the future, and creating a new chapter for my life. I agree; that’s important and most days, I’m there. I don’t want to be my mother and certainly not my grandmother in my retirement years. Both were sick and often sick-and-tired of their lives. I don’t intend to be sick and certainly not sick-and-tired.

I can take my summer watermelon and mix it with a little vinegar and some spices and keep the important parts preserved for the future.

My almost manic cleansing of curriculum materials from our home and garage is necessary. It’s like an amputation, so I’m making it quick and clean. I’m not giving myself time to mourn over an educational system that no longer exists and that I no longer want to be a part of. I keep telling myself — and anyone who will listen — that recycling all this paper and emptying hundreds of dollars worth of binders and sheet protectors is only a symbol of who I was as a teacher. It’s all still in my head and a lot of it is still in my computer. If the time comes that I need it, I can recreate it. And it will be better than it was the first time, because I’m better now than I was then, too.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

My friend also gave me a Pandora bracelet for my birthday, and once again, she hit the symbolic nail on the head.

I can hardly think of a better way to start my retirement. The bracelet is small and doesn’t take up much space, but each charm that goes on it will celebrate another unicorn moment in my new life. I look forward to the charms that represent my children’s marriages, the births of grandchildren, and travel to new places. The first charm was a tiny Eiffel Tower — so perfect for the “now” me, not the old me.

Unicorns are still possible.

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