Tag 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 107: Revelations

I’ve been doing the happy dance a lot this week.

I finished my first eight sessions of personal training and signed up for forty more. I have never worked out this well and this hard. It’s true what they say about exercise-based euphoria, because I experience it every Tuesday and Friday. It’s a revelation.

I’ve completed four weeks of eating like a thin person and have lost eight pounds. I’m right on target at two pounds a week. I’ve also found that having protein shakes made with fruit helps me to get through the witching hours of 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. I no longer feel as though I could eat my arm, and a result, I’m not snacking on bad stuff while driving home or preparing dinner. I feel victorious over a demon that has ruled my life for many years.

I went through all of my clothing and separated out the “fits” from the “doesn’t fits.” I made a stack of “I never wear this” stuff to give to Amvets next week, and then I put only those pieces of clothing that actually fit back into my closet. I’ll save the “doesn’t fits” for later this fall and winter as I reduce back into them. Or I’ll give them away when I find that they don’t fit my new lifestyle or outlook on life!

I’ve made some positive steps forward toward a new career in travel. I’m feeling (almost) capable of reserving and ticketing an airline ticket and I’m signed up for the Incentive Travel Show in October, where I’ll make some connections with people who want me to use their services or book their hotels in England. With the exception of the current issues with American Airlines, which worry me, I’m feeling really pumped about my future as a custom tours travel agent.

There’s also something I’m happy about that’s not such as clear-cut as losing weight and learning a new trade.

It all started at happy hour last week with my former colleagues when I found out that my work nemesis not only “quit,” she was escorted out of the building. Although I’m not usually one to dwell on the past, lingering resentment over unfair treatment and a tarnishing of what was previously a good reputation has followed me for six years. I have to admit it made me happy to know that there is karma in the world.

I’ve been listening to a good book in the car, and yesterday, the climax of the book was really relatable to my situation. The main character finds that the anger she’s been carrying around for twenty years is corrosive and it is time to let it go. Even though I’m retired and no longer in the toxic situation, I’ve continued to carry my own resentment about my former boss and it hasn’t been good for me. Since I’m not with my work friends every day, the resentment has been under the surface, but it was still there, eating away at my soul. Just the act of writing this down is freeing — I’m done with all that and I don’t need to think about it again.

And now it’s time for me to move on too. I’m a blank slate and a clean book ready for a new story.

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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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Day Fifteen: The Best Retirement Movie I’ve Ever Seen

I guess I do have a life after all.

I’m trying to settle into a writing rhythm for Retirement 365 and Got My Reservations, but writing every single day, even in retirement, is proving difficult. So, apparently, is doing everything else I want to do. I keep telling myself that I have not weeks or months, but years to get some of this stuff done. I do have house guests coming in just one month, so I actually need to get quite a bit done before they arrive. Can’t wait for the visiting to start, though!

But movies on the big screen don’t wait for retirement.

We’ve been trying to find time to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel since it came out in theaters, but either the youngish company we were keeping or our activities interfered with getting to see it. I really wanted to see it on the big screen since it is set in India and the previews promised fabulous exotic scenes.

My friends and I are definitely the target market for this movie.

In fact, a couple of the people I saw this with are in their early fifties, and they were most definitely the youngest people in the audience. Most of the audience were people who had let their hair go grey, if you know what I mean. That doesn’t mean young people won’t love the movie, but it will hit home more poignantly with those of us who are on the dark side of fifty.

With seven decorated and experienced British actors and a beautifully nuanced, witty script, how could this film go wrong?

The all-star British cast includes Dame Maggie Smith, Ronald Pickup, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Dame Judy Dench and Tom Wilkinson. Dev Patel also stars as the innkeeper and manager of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Since you already know that I hate to write summaries of books and movies because they give away the story, I’m going to give you the bare bones. You can click into the link above if you want more plot. 🙂

The main story of Marigold Hotel revolves around seven retirees who decide to “outsource” their retirement and move to an Indian palace that has been converted to a retirement community. The hotel has seen better days but is located in exotic Jaipur and each of the characters deals with the new situation differently. It’s charming and just a little sexy — with a lot of laugh-out-loud one-liners.

If you are a fan of Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, or any other ensemble cast movie, and you’re willing to see retirees as people who want to have fun in retirement, then be sure to catch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel before it leaves the theaters. I absolutely loved it.

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Day Ten

We have just spent the last week in a Marriott property in Emeryville, California. Let’s just say that it has had some awkward moments and leave it at that.

I am happy to report, however, that I discovered something important — I should be sleeping on feather pillows at home. I’m not allergic to them and they have really helped my sore neck and knees.

I take the soft pillow and roll it up under my neck where that nasty pinched nerve resides, and it give me support in a way my hypo-allergenic super firm foam pillows do not. It’s kind of a miracle.

Then, sometime in the middle of the night when Music Man’s not using the fifth pillow, I grab it too. I know this sounds weird, but putting the pillow between my knees keeps the pressure off the place where I don’t have any cartilage anymore. Thanks to years of marching band and years of being overweight, my knees are in bad shape, but the pillow trick seems to help.

If you’re the person who’s now laughing at the picture in your head of me stealing my husband’s pillow in the middle of the night and putting it between my legs, just stop your ironic chuckling. I told you there’d be full disclosure during my retirement…

And for those of you who don’t get the joke, I am a proud graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Named for the Miami Indians who populated southwestern Ohio prior to the white man, for many years the Redskin warrior was the mascot for Miami University. As I see it, unfortunately, in a politically correct move, Miami was forced to change its mascot to a redhawk — a bird common in the area.  I ruined my knees for a bird???