Category Archives: Traveling

Where the Hell Have I Been?

Where have I been for the last nearly three years? Living. Some days, barely, but I’ve been living and getting through this thing called life. I find that my last post was in June 2020. I think the pandemic really messed with my mind and I really neglected my blogs. But here’s what I have been up to:

  • Grandbaby #2 and I closed Las Vegas down at the start of the pandemic. We were enjoying the trip she chose to celebrate her high school graduation. We went even though things were starting to get crazy (or different) because of COVID. We took masks and hand sanitizer and drove to Las Vegas. We did things, took pictures, and had a great time. As we were preparing to leave, shows were closing, streets were empty, and people were staying home. We basically shut Vegas down.
At CSI: The Experience in Las Vegas
  • We were quarantined at home for my job. I learned to efficiently work from home. I saved a two-hour commute every day. I also learned that I really missed my human connection. We ended up going into the office three days a week, which solved that problem. It was a real surprise to me that I would not be ecstatic just staying by myself 24/7.
  • Grandbaby #3 graduated from high school in May 2020 with a drive-up graduation. It was at least broadcast so I could watch it live! We didn’t go on his celebration trip for another year, but in July 2021, we went to his chosen location—San Diego. He hadn’t ever seen the Pacific Ocean, so we did that first. We did a whole lot—museums, Hop-On/Hop-Off bus trips, great food, we even used our Airbnb host’s amazing tickets to a Padres game. It was, once again, an amazing opportunity to spend time with the adult version of the grandchild I watched being born.

  • I went to Chicago with two friends for our NALS Conference. We spent extra days exploring the amazing city and riding around on the Hop On/Hop Off bus to see even more. We saw a lot, ate some amazing food, and learned a lot. And we celebrated friendship, which I appreciated even more.
  • My mom suffered from dementia for many years. It was hard for me to watch and even harder when she forgot who I was. Dementia is such a horrible, ugly disease. It also forgot to tell my mom’s heart to continue pumping and she died rather unexpectedly in September 2021. I felt like I had lost her years before with her dementia, but she was there, humming Frere Jacques when she was happy—and she hummed it a lot, so at least she was happy even though I was not. I didn’t see her as much as I should have because it was painful and I regret that, but I can’t change it.
  • One way of dealing with my mom’s death was that I got another tattoo. It was bigger than I initially anticipated, but I love it. It reminds me that the pieces of my heart that are gone from this earth come back to me as butterflies that I see almost daily, so I know they are all watching out for me and make me want to make them proud.

  • Once Mom was gone, we tried to do more with my Dad, since he and my sister had been her caretakers for years with no time for themselves. We went on family trips to the casino, celebrated Christmas with almost all of the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids present, went out to dinner, and I listened to a whole lot of stories I hadn’t heard before. And then he got COVID. He hated—HATED—being in the hospital and just wanted to go home. Unfortunately, his body wasn’t producing enough oxygen to make that possible and he passed in February 2022. It crushed me. I was now an orphan. I wasn’t done listening to his stories. I wasn’t done doing the things he wanted to do (like visiting the town in Illinois where he went to elementary school). I wasn’t done showing him how much I appreciated his sacrifices for the life I had. I just wasn’t done. I still have moments where my eyes tear up—especially when I see a butterfly.
  • Grandbaby #4 graduated from high school in May 2021. I also got to watch his graduation ceremony live online as they had a limit on the number of tickets for each graduate. We went on his celebration trip in November 2022. We did what we titled the “Amusement Park Tour.” We drove to California and spent two days in Disneyland/California Adventure, then on to Knott’s Berry Farm, and finally to Universal Studios. We had so much fun on all the rides. I even surprised him by going on rides he didn’t think I would go on (I may be old, but I’m not dead and why the heck not?). I was a little bit worried in Knott’s Berry Farm when they made me leave my glasses in the bin for a couple of the rides because they could have flown off, but those rides were awesome!

  • After celebrating our firm’s 9th anniversary and thinking ahead of how we would celebrate our 10th anniversary, I found out that the founders decided to close the firm as of September 30, 2022. I was lucky enough to work there until December 31, 2022, getting everything buttoned up and transferred out. I’m still doing some stuff closing things up (I’m not sure it will ever end), but on my own schedule. I was unbelievably sad to see this chapter of my life end. I was planning to go part-time in January 2023 since I was eligible for Social Security and wanted to slow down and enjoy life, but on my terms. This changed the plan I had in my head.
  • So in January 2023, I started my own business working with attorneys I had worked with throughout my 40+ year career doing what I do—just from my house. I’m not as busy as I thought I would be, but I’m finding that that is not a bad thing.
  • We celebrated our annual BFF Christmas in January 2023 in Las Vegas. We decided to get dressed up and go to Giada’s for dinner one night. We talked a lot about doing it every time we were there, so we finally did it! And Giada was eating dinner there that night! Our waiter told us that she enjoyed taking pictures and chatting with customers, so we ate slowly and found an opportunity to chat with her for just a couple of minutes and get a picture or two! The food was amazing and Giada was wonderful! We will definitely go back! And I’ve heard a rumor they’re building one here in Arizona, so we may spend more of our monthly dinners there!
  • When I decided to work part-time, I also decided to go on a cruise from Athens into the Adriatic Sea to visit places like Dubrovnik and Corfu. Again, Facebook ads enticed me with Virgin Voyages—an adults-only cruise. The thought of no kids running and splashing in the pool and parents yelling at them while I was sitting and enjoying adult beverages by the pool was the thing that made the decision for me. I upgraded my room to have a huge balcony with a hammock. My travel buddy is coming with me and we are so very excited about our destinations, the food, the drinks, and all the fun we will have! Watch this blog for more about that!
  • Three of my siblings decided to go on a cruise to Alaska, so of course I had to say yes. My husband is going with me on this one and so far we have all scheduled the world’s largest and longest zipline and some amazing dinners!
  • THEN I am going with my sister-in-law on a cruise from Venice to Athens so I will catch all the Greek Islands I will miss the first time! I’m looking forward to spending time with my sister-in-law (who has been part of my life for over 50 years) in one of my favorite places (Venice) and exploring many new places.
  • I got another tattoo that says “One more” to remind me that everything I do could be the last time—every dinner with my friends could be the last time, every visit with my grandbabies and my kids could be the last one, every vacation I take could be the last one. So it is a reminder to live every single experience as if it were the last one and do the things I want to do and be the person I want to be and enjoy the experience as much as possible. I also recently decided that if someone hugs me, I will be the last to let go. I will let my love for them flow through the hug. I will hug as if it is the last time I will hug them.

My plan for the future is to enjoy my life, treat each day as the last one, and share all of that with you by blogging more frequently, including blogging during my many trips this summer/fall. Stay tuned for how my life is going in this second half of my 60s and all the things I’ve learned and continue to learn along the way!

Travel Lessons Learned

luggageI recently completed a 2 1/2 week trip to Europe. It was definitely as amazing as it sounds. But getting ready for the trip was not the most fun I’ve ever had. Trying to cram 2 1/2 weeks worth of stuff into a suitcase was a challenge to be sure. Plus, like I tell my friends, it takes a lot to make me look presentable. When I travel, and because I always manage to be packing at the last possible moment, I need lists or I forget things (one of the side effects of being 60).

I typically travel at least annually to a meeting for my professional association in addition to a weekend trip here and there throughout the year and a big trip every 2-3 years. For many years, I used a wardrobe matrix and a packing list to help me make sure I had everything I needed. Some of my friends made fun of me for my wardrobe matrix, while others requested a copy. So I thought maybe others could benefit from my years of traveling experience (and forgetting things) by sharing my brand spanking new matrix/packing list. By the way, I also pack my wardrobe matrix so I remember what I had planned to wear each day (and why) so I’m not standing at the hotel closet wondering why the hell I brought THAT! I also generally hang the entire outfit on the hanger together (one less thing for me to think about in the morning on a few hours of sleep). Here is a sample matrix with some information filled in:

Sample packing list2

Some explanations may be helpful:

  • I need to know what is going on every day I am at conference to bring the appropriate clothes. Some things (like actually being a speaker) require a different wardrobe than attending seminars. A social or networking event requires a different wardrobe than an awards lunch or dinner. So this “event” area helps me make sure I’m OK in the “what I should wear” department.
  • The clothes section can be (and usually is for me) much more detailed if I have specific pieces of clothing I want to wear on a specific day.
  • The shoes section should help narrow them down so you don’t have to bring every pair you own. I said “should”!
  • The accessories section is the same thing. If I have a statement piece that goes with a specific outfit, I list it there.
  • The packing list portion is brand new. I used to have one on my phone, but somewhere along the way it disappeared.
  • Some comments about specific packing list items might help:
    • Outlet Strip – I’ve found that if I pack a 6 plug outlet strip, I can charge my phone, iPad, chargers, etc. in one place and only take one room plug. This helps specifically if you are sharing the room with another person or two who have to charge all those same things.

      • Plugs to charge USB devices. While I usually remember to pack the charging cords, I don’t always have a place to plug the charging cord into the electrical outlet.

      • This past trip, for the first time, I included one of those travel storage bags that you force the air out of so they are thinner and easier to pack. I put my dirty clothes in there and at least zipped it closed each time. It helped with the dirty clothes smell (especially with the glass of wine that was spilled on my jeans one day) and kept them separated. Something like this is what I used and will be using every time in the future.

    • I included a foldable duffel bag since I knew I would end up with more stuff in my suitcase–which was just under the weight limit on the trip there so I knew I would exceed it on my way back. Since the overweight fee was the same as a second bag, I thought I could check the duffel if necessary. Well, it was necessary. I put all my dirty clothes (in the sealed bag) in the duffel and checked it so I had plenty of room for my souvenirs in my more secure suitcase.

    • Speaking of souvenirs, in my first trip to Europe, I felt the need to bring something back for everyone I knew. My husband (and my budget) wasn’t happy about that and made me promise that I wouldn’t do it this time. And I didn’t. I did, however, have an agenda at each location.
      • First, I have my whole life collected Christmas ornaments. I love putting my trees (yes, plural–that’s what happens when you collect ornaments for so many years) up so I can relive the story of each ornament. On my last trip to Europe, I knew I couldn’t be trusted with the glass ornaments so unless I absolutely positively love it and will be responsible for not breaking it, I started buying keychains. There is always a huge assortment, so I can choose one or two to tell my story of the location. And, more importantly, they pack very easily!
      • Second, my daughter-in-law collects refrigerator magnets and wants them from anyone who travels (while I prefer my ornaments from places that I’ve actually been or that have a story, but that’s me being a little weird), so I collected lots of magnets for her and she was ecstatic. My personal favorite was from Florence and was a David statue with clothes you could add. Magnets are usually very small and most are unbreakable (two extra points for me!).
      • Third, this year my son was collecting postcards for a friend who is using them to teach his daughters about geography over the summer. I’m all for anything that can be used to teach kids and keep them interested and postcards are even smaller and lighter–and, thus, easier to pack–than keychains and magnets, so he ended up with quite a selection.
    • Here are a couple of other things about packing I’ve learned over the years:

      • I actually keep a packing cube with my electronics which includes the outlet strip, extra charging cables, adapters for non-Apple accessories, plugs for charging cables into electric sockets, and extra chargers. I keep that packing cube with my travel stuff and just grab it when I’m packing. It isn’t expensive to buy extra charging cables and plugs, but it is so much more convenient for me to keep them together so I don’t have to go searching them down and hope I have enough while I’m gone.

      • After several trips to the store at different destinations to replace what I’d forgotten, I finally put together a packing cube with hair products, combs, brushes, hairspray, travel dryer, and travel straight iron (and anything else I decide I need). It is an extra set of everything, but bought over time, it didn’t hurt me that much and now I don’t have to worry about forgetting something I need. I keep this with my other travel stuff.
      • I keep a box in my closet with my travel stuff. This includes the packing cubes filled as indicated above, any travel adapters, a travel purse, anything else I need only for traveling. That way it is in one place and I don’t have to search high and low to find it when I’m packing at the last possible moment (yep–that’s me!).

Hopefully this will help you have less stress with packing for your dream vacation. Did I forget something important from the list? Let me know by commenting below and I’ll add it. If you’d like to use the list yourself, check out the Files section of the website ( and you can download it there.

Note that this post includes affiliate links. Please know that I only endorse products that I actually use and love. If you click through any of the items listed and purchase them, I will receive a very small commission (at no cost to you). Thank you in advance!

Get Lost!

get lost!When I go on vacation, I really like to take advantage of the new locale. In another state, it might be dining at a local restaurant rather than a national chain. Yelp is really helpful for this. In international cities, it might be eating what that region is known for–at least once.

If you don’t take advantage of learning the most you can about an area, you are wasting part of your vacation. Taking advantage of local customs really makes you pay attention to where you are. Particularly if you can (safely) venture off the beaten path.

In my first European trip, I tried cassoulet in France and we got lost (intentionally) in the streets of Venice. The cassoulet was delicious and was different from what I would have normally chosen, but I was pretty proud of myself for venturing outside of my comfort zone. And I didn’t die! So I will be testing that again on my next trip.

In Venice, we just meandered. We stopped for cappuccino when we saw somewhere interesting and stopped where we saw interesting things to admire–like Italian leather purses. If we had just stayed in the “touristy” areas, we would have missed it all, we would have missed the window boxes, the curtains in the windows, the age and architecture of the city, and REAL people living in REAL houses. It was–quite simply–amazing. We are returning to Venice next year and are already planning to get lost again.

I can’t imagine traveling that far to visit McDonalds or Starbucks (although I actually did do that once in Spain!). Venture outside your comfort zone and try it out–even just once. It may just make the time and money you spent to get there worth even more!