Sunday, January 27, 2019

Rookie Retiree adventure: Target on a Tuesday morning

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the world outside of your weekday work?

I did. Sure, before I retired three weeks ago, I got out and about during the workday on the way to meetings, appointments, lunch, runs home to let the dog out or to meet the plumber. But as a rookie retiree, I've found actually living in this other world has been quite enlightening.

Before, I sometimes idly wondered what happens at Target on weekdays? Who are those people on computers at the local coffee shop mid-morning? Is the grocery store crowded at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday? Who goes to a movie a 1:30 p.m. on a Thursday?

In my first weeks as a rookie retiree, I tackled a couple of these burning questions with field trips to Target and Lowe’s midmorning on a Tuesday.

I'm a weekend Target shopper - one of those get 'em done types on the weekend who can find almost any "staple" I need from there. Of course, like anyone who strides through those double doors bypassing the big carts because I "just need a couple of items," I always answer the cashier with "I found more than I came for" when asked if I found everything.

So I knew my habits well enough not to attempt a Target run as a rookie retiree without a goal and detailed list during this time of transition where I may be unusually vulnerable to purchasing random organizing containers or boxes of pens.

List in hand, I was focused. But I didn't expect the quiet I found in those aisles. Instead of frantic weekend grocery shoppers or moms trying to quiet toddlers screaming for the toy at the end of the display aisle, I found amazing calm.

Most people were dressed like I was - stinky from a gym visit – or at least dressed like they’d been to the gym. The few young kids I saw were infants snoozing in baby buckets, rather than toddlers wiggling in the cart seats (I'm guessing the moms knew how to time the Target run with infant naps). Target workers were pushing around inventory carts (something you don’t see on the weekend) methodically going about their work of scanning items and stocking shelves.

At the checkout line, I consulted my list, and it matched exactly with the items on the conveyor belt to purchase. Surely a first.

Rather than leaving Target dazed and overstimulated because I’d bought more than I'd intended, I left energized to tackle Lowe's for the special light bulbs for the bathroom. I hate visiting Lowe's. Its merchandise intimidates me. The organization of the aisles confuses me. While I always leave Target with more than I'd meant to purchase, I typically leave Lowe's with less than I need because I get so overwhelmed.

Lowe’s parking lot was close to bare. Most of the people I saw when I got in the store seemed to be confidently heading to the products they needed – bolts or paint or tools or gardening implements  - things that feel as foreign to me as football cleats would be to a ballet dancer.

Timidly, I tackled the light bulb first. I figured matching up the one I needed to one in a package couldn’t be that challenging – and I was right. Having gained a little confidence from that find, I reluctantly took off for the nail and screw aisle dreading having to figure out what exactly I needed to hang my uncle's old dartboard on the brick-walled sun porch.

Clearly, I had the dazed look of Dorothy after she landed in Oz when a young man who somewhat resembled Garth from SNL asked me what I needed. I told him cement screws, but after a couple of questions he quickly figured out it was nails I needed. He explained how to use the nails on the mortar not the brick, and assessed the size I needed by simply asking a few questions.

With two specialty light bulbs, a box of $1.72 cement nails and a new bottle of Gorilla glue (my treat to myself) in hand, I confidently left Lowe's a new woman having survived Target and Lowe's in one morning less stressed than when I started - and guiltless for not buying unneeded random items.

Not quite the same weekday challenges I was used to when I was navigating meetings, deadlines and projects while dressed in heels, a skirt and jacket. But I’m always up for a new challenge – and I think I survived this one dressed in yoga pants and fleece.


I've been trying to write a "daily 200" on my blog - a daily minimum of 200 words of just observations and lessons learned each day - more as a writing discipline than a journal. Read 'em here if you're so inclined. Also, stay tuned for more rookie retiree daytime adventures – field trips to coffee shops, early afternoon movies and dog walking at the Riverwalk.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Still missing Dixie

One year ago today, I got home from work and found our beloved Dixie had died peacefully in her sleep in her favorite sun puddle on the patio. This is the tribute post I wrote in her memory. I still miss her every day. She was much loved.

Not long after Dixie died, I came upon a book written by the playwright Eugene O'Neill in tribute to his much-loved dog, Blemie. It was written as Blemie's last will and testament. The book literally dropped off the shelf onto my foot when I was browsing at my favorite DC bookstore, Kramer Books.
This passage in the book gave me great comfort and allowed me to eventually open my heart to bringing a new dog into my life. For this I'm so grateful (and I hope Flossie is too:). I wrote this post back in August reflecting on this passage below.

"... I have heard my Mistress say, 'When Blemie dies we must never have another dog. I love him so much I could never love another one.' 

Now I would ask her, for the love of me, to have another. It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again. What I would like to fell is that, having once had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog!"

I know Dixie is keeping good company with my friends' dogs who joined her in the past year on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. I hope they are all celebrating her today with treats and balls.









Thursday, January 3, 2019

Rookie Retiree: My first 30 days with a Daily 200 (words that is)

(Just a daily stream of consciousness writing exercises to sharpen my mind for my first 30 days without a daily work routine. I'm sharing publicly to stay accountable to myself.)

Day 1 - January 3

Day one of retirement. New world order. Trying to start an exercise of writing 200 words daily. Maybe a theme of lessons learned today. Some may be too personal to publish here and they'll stay in my journal. Others will end up here.

It's ok not to have a plan. It's ok to sleep in a bit. It's ok not to get anything on the to do list done. It's ok to feel a little shaky about this new adventure. It’s ok to feel a sense of gratification from kind notes from people who say I’ve touched their lives. It's ok just to "be" for a while.

I did accomplish setting up the dual computer monitors and didn't flip out when I realized I've screwed up my google contacts. Nothing a trip to the Best Buy geek squad won't be able to fix, I feel certain.

An impromptu evening out with Harriet to the Still Hopes "new years eve" party is something I probably wouldn't have jumped on in my old world order at the last minute on a school night. Good for our parents and nice to have a little time in the car with my friend.

All in all, mission accomplished on day one - just be OK with what does - or doesn't  - come my way.

Day 2 - January 4
Several themes of the day - kindness, generosity, patience

Kindness - Three friends reinforced why I place such value on a handwritten thank you note. In one day, I received two notes from friends and one from a former co-worker sharing kind sentiments and words of grace. All were much needed and appreciated. Just reinforces that in giving to them I got so much more in return when least expected.

Patience - Patience was both mine and the "geeks" with the Best Buy Geek Squad who spent two hours with me trying to get my new email operation up and running. After 20+ years working in places with highly skilled (and even more patient) IT staff, I knew I'd be on my own in the IT wild west. Thinking I was somewhat intuitive in this area, I thought I'd be OK. To be on the safe side, I bought a year of "Geek Squad" membership with my computer. The three geeks who worked with me were patient and helpful - although they ultimately didn't solve my whole problem. I got home and worked on it some more and figured it out - I am woman hear me roar!

Generosity  - At a concert tonight, we went up to buy tickets only to be told we only needed to buy one because the gentleman in front of us didn't need his second ticket. Random act of kindness - my turn to pay it forward.

It was a second unstructured day - this part will definitely be a learning curve. Some of the Christmas decorations remain at the bottom of the stairs to be taken up, Flossie never got her long walk, and there's a pile of laundry (which I"d normally do a Sunday) unfolded in the bedroom. But I conquered the unanticipated email syncing monster and can tackle the rest tomorrow or the next day or next week. It will still be there.

Day 3 - January 5
I kept to my usual Saturday routine (yoga, Soda City, lunch errands). Will be interesting to see when the first Sunday rolls around tomorrow how that feels because I've already done my Sunday chores (grocery store, cooking, laundry).

My to-do list grows - or rather it's really my to-do of my previous life but I never wrote the items down - clean the bathroom cabinets, kitchen drawers, hall closet, etc. We'll see if I actually get to them. I'm feeling a desperate need to get the house straightened up - especially with the boxes of work stuff piled up in the dining room.

So today's first lesson - make time to walk the dog more than just around the block. Finally had a sunny day and there's nothing to say all the other stuff, chores etc won't still be there later. I forget how many neighbors I see only through dog walking.

Second lesson - don't just plop down at the computer to "quickly" check email or social accounts. Eventually I'll need to set  a discipline for this because I can already see it could be come a dangerous rabbit hole. Hopefully keeping the laptop mostly tethered to the dual monitors in the sunroom/office will keep me from taking quick looks like I did when I kept the laptop on the kitchen counter so I could easily keep up with work email.

Day 4 - January 6
I've always wondered if other people see days as having "personalities"? Sundays have been particularly mercurial for me depending on my spot in life. Sometimes they've been my day to just be and do what I wanted. Other times, they've been stressed filled days that were my only time during the week to get chores done - especially if I'd "treated" myself to a carefree Saturday then paid the price on Sunday.

In recent months, Sundays had become chore days, and typically I didn't enjoy them much finding myself at the end of the day tired out and dreading the week. An added Sunday "chore" usually ended up being trying to fit in a workout class to either get ahead of the next week's schedule or catch up from the last week's. Plus if Sunday was sunny, I wanted to be outside - biking, hiking, walking the dog - and not in the car doing errands or house doing chores.

Today, I had to give my Sunday attitude a very deliberate adjustment. I'd already done most of my weekly chores (grocery store, laundry, general house straightening etc) and didn't feel like I "owed" my workout schedule an additional day this week. Despite the first full day of sun in weeks, I didn't feel "obligated" to be outside since I can now "do outside" anytime I want to. So ... I went to a play - spent a perfectly lovely, warm Sunday in a dark theater and didn't fret over it in the least.

Attitude adjustment worked. I think the key is just staying aware of these patterns from my previous life and making changes where needed.

Day 5 - January 7

It was the first Monday of my new world order. Instead of stretching to remember all my "Monday things" to take to the office - gym bag, weekly snack supply, flowers for my desk, computer back in the bag after the weekend - I got up at the usual time, walked the dog and met a friend for coffee at Blue Flour. Learned a lot from this smart, successful woman who, too, is working on her next professional chapter.

After a lunchtime workout (where I knew almost no one in the class), the rest of day consisted of unpacking work boxes to set up my home office on the sun porch. I'm a huge fan of being organized. After cleaning the bathroom closet or the pantry, I'll make frequent visits back just to admire my handiwork. But I'm also a huge procrastinator, so this project was just perfect for my first week as a rookie retiree. No excuse to procrastinate getting organized.

About mid-afternoon, I talked to a friend who asked me if I was having fun working on this little project. My first reaction was "of course not, housework isn't fun." But I quickly realized, this was fun. And therapeutic. And somewhat mindless. And just a little creative in an odd sort of way.

In my new world order, I'm trying to recalibrate some habits that have become a little too rote - like dependence on my phone. When this friend called about 4 p.m., I realized the phone had been playing music for two hours, and I hadn't even sneaked a peek at email, social media or news feeds. Small steps.

Day 6 - January 8
Have you ever wondered who goes to Target in the middle of the morning on a Tuesday? On the rare occasion I made a Target run during the middle of day in my previous life, I was always silently wondering why these people are at Target at such an odd time (odd for me anyway).

Today was my first trip to Target as a rookie retiree. I'm a weekend Target shopper. One of those get 'em done types on the weekend who can find almost any "staple" I need from there. Of course, like anyone who strides through those double doors bypassing the big carts because I "just need a couple of items," I always answer the cashier with "I found more than I came for" when asked if I found everything. So I know my habits well enough not to attempt a Target run without a goal during this time of transition where I may be unusually vulnerable to purchasing random organizing containers or new lamps.

List in hand, I was focused. But I didn't expect the quiet I found in those aisles. Instead of frantic weekend grocery shoppers or moms trying to quiet toddlers screaming for the toy at the end of the display aisle, I found amazing calm. Most people were dressed like I was - stinky from a gym visit. The few young kids I saw were infants snoozing in baby buckets, rather than toddlers wiggling in  the cart seats (I'm guessing the moms knew how to time the Target run with infant naps). Target workers were pushing around inventory carts (something you never see on the weekend) methodically going about their work of scanning items and stocking shelves. At the checkout line, I consulted my list of items needed, and it matched exactly with what was in the conveyor belt to purchase. Surely a first.

Rather than leaving there dazed and overstimulated with more purchases than I'd intended, I left energized to try Lowe's for the special light bulbs for one of the bathrooms. I hate visiting Lowe's. Its merchandise intimidates me. The organization of the aisles confuses me. While I always leave Target with more than I'd meant to purchase, I typically leave Lowe's with less than what I needed because I get so overwhelmed.

After quickly finding the specialty light bulb I needed, I reluctantly took off for the nail and screw aisle dreading having to figure out what exactly I needed to hang pictures on the brick-walled sun porch. Clearly, I had the dazed look of Dorothy after she landed in Oz when a young man who somewhat resembled Garth from SNL asked me what I needed. I told him cement screws, but after a couple of questions he quickly figured out it was nails I needed. He explained how to use the nails on the mortar not the brick, and assessed the size I needed by asking a few questions.

With two specialty light bulbs, a box of $1.72 cement nails and a new bottle of Gorilla glue (my treat to myself) in hand, I confidently left Lowe's a new woman having survived Target and Lowe's in one day less stressed than when I started and guiltless for not buying unneeded random items.

And through it all, I managed to avoid checking email, social media or news feeds - using my phone only to consult my lists. More small steps.

Day 7- January 9
One of my personal goals during this transition time is learning to slow down and just "be." One challenge in this process is breaking my phone habit - that awful habit of picking up my phone just to mindlessly check email, texts, social posts, news feeds anytime I find myself at a stop.

Today, I made the conscious effort to put the phone in the back seat while I drove around doing errands. It made me feel off not to have it to pick up while I sat at a stop sign. During the day as I puttered around the house, I purposefully left the phone charging in the bedroom to keep me from checking it every few minutes as I walked through the kitchen.

There's nothing coming in on the phone that can't wait an hour at this point in my new world order. So to anyone emailing or texting me, don't worry if I don't respond immediately. I might be busy just "being."

WEEK TWO

Day 8 - January 10
Didn't realize how much I'd missed my Monday night band practice! We'd been off for the holidays since mid-December and hadn't played together in weeks. Despite missing our bass player and our vocalist/guitar player limping around with a broken foot, we jumped right back in tonight with our make-up lesson.

This band class (and its performance opportunities) has brought a real joy to my world - both from the amazing realization I can actually learn to play an instrument at this age and from the new friends I've made from this adventure. I'm sure I had a big grin on my face throughout the practice just from the sheer joy of being part of something bigger than me.

Day 9 - January 11
Two things on the "what I learned today" list
1 - Tire pressure can increase and decrease with the weather. Just because the warning light comes on, doesn't mean you necessarily have a problem.
2 - If you go to a 3:30 p.m. workout class, don't eat a big lunch at 1 p.m. - definitely something I never had to consider in my old world order.

Today was the second time I've met someone for coffee (well, tea for me). Last week it was Drip in Five Points and today was Indah in Cottontown. As with my mid-morning visit to Target and Lowe's earlier in the week, I wondered about who frequents coffee shops during the day. This was a work-related meeting but was also a nice personal visit with a professional friend. Most of the people in the shop seemed to be college-aged working on their computers. I can already tell I'll need to be out of the house to do any serious/focused writing. I'll definitely be back with my computer to give Indah a try.

Day 10 - January 12
Well, it's Saturday, but fortunately a baby shower scheduled during my usual workout time is forcing me to divert from my usual routine - that's a good thing. Need to keep things shaken up.

Flossie's training continues to improve thanks to last week's remediation training with the pinch collar. Lesson learned (or at least reinforced): it's all about practice, consistency and patience!

Day 11 - January 13
Bad weather stalled my plan to join my Friends of The Palmetto Trail group go to the Congaree Swamp to pick up trash. I happily continued my house purging quest. A rainy Sunday definitely encourages this kind of work.

Lesson learned today - the more I work on purging stuff the easier it becomes!

Tried to shake up my Sunday routine to avoid the downer Sunday mode I'd been experiencing toward the end of last year.

Enjoyed serving on a career panel at Hammond with fellow alums during a session for juniors and seniors. Continue to be amazed at how that place has changed. It was fun to think about one of the questions posed to the panelists - how did Hammond impact your career path? It brought back a couple of memories I hadn't really considered as answers to that question. I'd forgotten I'd won an essay contest in the seventh grade (I found the plaque when cleaning out my parents' house several years ago). I'd also forgotten about a unsuccessful run for student council secretary in the 11th grade, but also helping a friend run and win a campaign for student council the next year. I guess my interest in writing and elections started early!

Day 12 - January 14
Did a mental check-in on several of my informal goals. I've done pretty good in my efforts to avoid a routine/rut. Made good attempts to stop checking my phone so frequently but didn't succeed as well on that one (trying to remember to put my phone in the back seat when I'm driving so I don't automatically reach for it when I'm in the car). Working hard to shed the idea that everything has to be an accomplishment, check a box, or be a "to what end" effort - at least awareness of that is higher. Making progress toward decluttering files, closets and my head.

Day 13 - January 15
Rookie retiree goal fail today - I never got out of my gym clothes! I swore I wouldn't be one of "those people" who was going to the grocery store at 4 p.m. still in the gym clothes from a morning class. Not only did I do that, but also I didn't get out of the house until 3:30 to go to the gym. Then, it was Lowe's and Trader Joe's at peak traffic time. Since I don't have to do that anymore, I'll try to avoid Forest Drive at that hour.

That said, it was a very productive day of decluttering and purging, finding lots of treasures from jobs and lives past, laughing at the fact I still have bills from 1990s gas cards, and enjoying a 2-mile training walk with Flossie. She passed the squirrel test (stayed in her "sit" position while shaking to get at the squirrel) and we both got to enjoy a nice long walk with minimal pulling and tugging. It's all about the practice - as is most things in life.

So today's lessons learned:
1 - sometimes it's OK to spend the whole day in gym clothes (and it might even be OK at some point to stay in gym clothes and not be productive but it will take me a while to get to that one)
2 - it's still best to avoid Trader Joe's at Lowe's at 5:30 on a weekday afternoon.

Day 14 - January 16
Two weeks into this new world order. I went to my first volunteer committee meeting - the communications committee at church. I walked out with two assignments keeping my personal promise to myself not to overcommit to anything right now.

I'm finding it easier to leave the phone alone in the car - especially if I have good music or an interesting podcast playing. I didn't realize just how many emails I dealt with in a day until my email traffic slowed has slowed almost to a halt. I've finally figured out how to cull out the junk in my google account into a separate feed on my phone, and I can sometimes go hours without an email in my inbox. Best part is I don't miss it one bit.

What I learned today:
1 - it's possible to fit a good sized rolling desk chair into the back of my car as long as the top's down. It's also possible for me to maneuver the chair out by myself.
2 - there's a recording studio on Millwood next to Crave. Apparently it's Dick Goodwin's studio but it's also used by other organizations.
3 - it's only a myth that Trinity's communion silver was stolen during the Civil War when Rev. Shand was attacked by Union soldiers. The theft more likely happened when he was mugged by vagrants. I learned this at my committee meeting plus the fact that the silver was replaced by having members of the congregation donate various pieces of "odd" silver to the church and Gorham made them into several pieces of communion silver. These pieces were used until about 100 years ago when they were loaned to St. John's upon its founding. The pieces remain there today.

Day 15 - January 17
I'd forgotten how much I love writing just for the sake of writing - writing from a prompt, an idea or a theme. Today, I started a six-week journal writing class. It's a group of seven women led by an experienced facilitator who prompts us through a variety exercises in a two-hour session every Tuesday afternoon. Today's was made even better by reminisces of the beloved poet Mary Oliver who died today.

We wrote our way through wishes and hopes for the new year then also worked from a great poem about a photo from circa 1960. In this process, I discovered a poet named Tracy K. >>> who is the US Poet Laureate and has taken on Garrison Keillor's daily poetry radio show which is now a daily podcast. I subscribed and already loved it.

I could feel the creative juices revving up and oozing out as I listened to the other women read their writings and got feedback from them on mine. It's a good bit out of my comfort zone to share my personal writings like we do in this class but it was all good!

What I learned (or reminded of) today:
1 - a conversation with a friend who cares and listens goes a long way
2 - there's a lot of activity that goes on in my neighborhood between 9 and 5. I've met the mail man, talked with the FedEx guy, learned a little about tree trimming from the workers around the corner and visited with two neighbors I'd never even met.

Day 16/17 - January 18/19
Prepping for my trip to Ashville for the weekend and the Shandon Methodist Church's women's retreat. Been looking forward to this for weeks now. Next post will be Sunday after I return home. We'll do a lot of writing while we're there so I'll count that as my 200 words for the 18th and 19th.

Day 18 - January 20
Spent a wonderful weekend in Ashville with the women of Shandon Methodist. While I knew I would enjoy the weekend, there's still always a tingle of anxiety when going into a situation where I don't know a lot of people. Didn't take me long though, once I arrived on Friday afternoon, to forget about that.

Fun, fellowship, music, great food, lively conversations, a thought-provoking speaker, music, lovely accommodations, a little snow, old and new friends, and did I mention music. I think it was the music that helped calm my little case of anxiety. I had been asked to play with the group that played last year (thanks to Irene getting me hooked up with them) and attended two rehearsals. I knew I was in over my head, but also knew I was capable of practicing my way through it. Again, I found music pushing my comfort zone and letting me feel a part of something bigger.

Of the many things I learned this weekend (most are safely tucked in my retreat journal):
1  - the more I get to play music with others, the more I enjoy it, the more I need it and (who knew?) the better I am gradually getting. I doubt one day I'll ever wake up and discover I actually have a latent musical talent, I do know I can practice way into some level of competence. That realization is a gift.
2 - The other "wellin' women" (as the music team was named) are all hugely talented and I have a new appreciation for people with natural musical talent sharing it so generously with others in a setting like this.

Day 19 - January 21
Monday nights are the highlight of my week - even going back out on a cold night at 8 pm. That's band practice - just pure fun while always learning something new. Tonight we prepped for tomorrow's gig at White Mule which will surely be fun.

This was my first "where did the day go" kind of day. Completely forgot it was MLK Day until I walked into the gym at 9:30 to find the packed class of people who had the day off - how dare those early morning people invade our 9:30 class! Maybe I'm beginning to acclimate to this new world order.

Spent some time processing all that I learned and absorbed from the retreat weekend and the inspiriting speaker.

Today's lessons/observations:
1 - it's OK to give myself some "downtime" to just read, think, practice music.
2 - I'm inspired to work on closets and drawers. That's a little scary. In my old world order, I only wanted to do those kind of chores on rainy Saturdays because I felt like pretty Saturdays were meant to be spent out and about. It's OK to spend a pretty day inside decluttering if that makes me feel good.

Day 20 - January 22
I became one of "those people" who I always wondered about (in addition to "those people" who are a Target midmorning on a Tuesday) - those who are working quietly on their computers at Drip midmorning. I spent about an hour and a half with a pot of fresh brewed hot tea and my computer working on a couple of writing projects. It felt good. I can definitely do more focused writing there than I can sitting at the computer at home.

Another SFM gig at White Mule tonight didn't disappoint. Several friends showed up to listen - didn't realize how much it would mean to me to see those friendly and supportive faces right up front. The glow of playing with a group just doesn't wear off - striking that balance of paying attention to what I'm doing, enjoying the playing  and singing of my friends, and just enjoying what I'm doing. It was only a 30 minute set but it was FUN!

What I know from today:
1 - it feels good to have time to do flowers and notes for friends without having to "fit it in" during the weekend rush of errands and other obligations. I enjoy that!
2 - I like having the time to write and think without the pressure of a deadline

Day 21 - January 23
Three weeks in. I really like this! First try at going to a movie during the day. Had an experience similar to my first Target run during the day. Thought back to the days when I'd wonder who goes to movies on a Wednesday at 1:45? Well...at the Nick, I was clearly the youngest one in the theater. Mostly women. It was a little jarring to come out of the theater into the daylight but I"ll definitely go again.

Finally feeling a little in a groove that's not a rut or routine.

Takeaway from today:
I still need to have lists and goals for my day. Several non-timely, but nagging, tasks continue to loom from my Day 1.

Day 22 - January 24
So today will sound like a restaurant review most likely. Thanks to a suggestion from one of the women in my writer's group, I stopped into Small Sugar in the Vista (in an alley between Gervais and Lady down from Gadsden) for lunch today. What a treat! I do love a lunch place where I can settle in, eat a good, healthy meal, read my book, get a tea refill, enjoy a fresh baked cookie and maybe run into someone I know.

While I was expecting Small Sugar to be more of a bakery because of the name, it's also got a very appealing breakfast menu (that I think is available all day) and several very healthy and tasty-sounding bowls/salads and sandwiches.


From the minute I walked into this relatively small space (I think I read it seats 30), I felt welcomed. The friendly woman at the ordering station made a couple of recommendations before I settled on what looked like by the menu  description to be a very healthy (but maybe not necessarily tasty) salad with a variety of greens. That "not necessarily tasty part" ended up being far from the truth. Between the greengoddess dressing, the farrow, quinoa and avocado plus a few other greens thrown in, I had one of the best salads I've eaten in ages! It was big and filling.

While I waited for my salad, I experienced the first of several really nice personal touches. A young man stopped at my table with a small hook I could attach to the table to hang my bag on. The personal touch of delivering it to the table rather than just having the person at the counter give it to me further exaggerated this delightful experience.

Yet another one of the friendly staff members stopped by to check on me a couple of times and happily answered my questions about the restaurant - locally owned, they don't take gratuities because they "pay a living wage," all the bread is made fresh daily.

I'm an iced tea snob and cautiously approach any tea that looks the slightest bit cloudy with concern that it's been "infused" with something that will mask the tea flavor. When my tea arrived looking more like carrot juice than tea, I was concerned. The server assured me it was just the brewing process (not what we're used to here in the south she said:) and the orange pekoe tea that gave it the hazy color. They've won me over - and offered up a refill while I sat and enjoyed a chocolate cookie and read my book.

The only reason I left after almost two hours was because my meter was about to run out (and I've already gotten one ticket this week!). But Small Sugar, I will return!

Day 23 - January 25

I'm finding the closer I get to the weekend the more it feels like the weekend. Although I'm not quite sure how to discern the difference between the week-end and the weekday sometimes.

An early (7:30 am) workout class allowed me to do a great brisk Flossie walk where she performed at the B+ level. A for general heeling but lost  points on the dashing after other dogs issue. Hopefully some e-collar training next week will help with that.

Hunkered down on a couple of writing projects with deadlines and it's becoming clear that I'll do my best writing at Drip or Blue Flour or Indah - just not my office. Too many distractions. Although the distractions don't kick in while practicing my uke or keyboard. Funny how the brain works.

Enjoyed a dinner out at a W. Cola Italian hotspot with Mom and Dad and happy to have an evening at home.

Lesson for the day: Remember to just "be" as much as possible.

Day 24 - January 26
Again stuck with my Saturday routine of a long/hard workout class followed by a trip to Soda City. I was very intentional with my visit today, however. Making sure to walk slowly, taste what was offered, smell the scents of fresh coffee, donuts, and all the other goodness wafting from the stalls. I had nothing planned for the rest of the day and it felt great just to take my time meandering.

Found myself pulled back to the computer to continue working on organizing … finances, writing, shredding … I'm kind of liking doing this at my own pace without worrying about it looming on my perpetual to-do list.

A delightful evening at the Tapp's Art Center to see a friend's band was ever better than I anticipated. A fun combination of storytelling coupled with acoustic music made two hours fly - not to mention seeing a former  work colleague's daughter rip it during a guest appearance.

Lesson: Dump any writing inspiration directly into the small blue notebook I'm carrying just for that purpose. Never know what will come of those threads.

Day 25 - January 27
What a great Sunday treat to spend some time with an old friend who was in town for a family wedding. Five old friends around a table at Za's for almost two hours! Miles and years may have separated us but what a gift to catch up like we'd been together just yesterday. And the (selfish) best part was meeting at Za's at 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon did nothing to mess up my Sunday schedule - because I didn't have one! In my old world order, Sundays were carefully orchestrated to make sure I had all my chores done, food and flowers ready for the week, grocery shopping done, workout class snuck in and dog walked. Now, none of that has to be done on Sunday and what freedom that gives me!

Lesson learned: There is no good excuse to pass up time with old friends!

Day 26 - January 28
I'm really liking this Monday routine I'm kind of falling in to. Grocery shopping at Lowe's and TJ on a Monday after my 9:30 workout class is considerably less stressful than Sundays. I spent 30 minutes this morning just wandering the TJ aisles completely fascinated by all that I've missed in my dozens of trips there. I've recently been paying attention to friends' posts about all of their great TJ food finds. My TJ list is almost always the same - flowers, fruit, yogurt, wine, mini-avocados and their divine chocolate bars. Who knew there were so many interesting items to choose from - at reasonable prices in single serving containers?

Between my TJ finds and the pre-cut root veggies and pre-shredded chicken I picked up at Lowe's (after making a stop to get my iced tea and read the paper at the Lowe's coffee shop/bar), I whipped up a glorious chicken and roasted root veggie soup tonight. No recipe - just taste tested until I like the consistency and flavor. Don't want to like this cooking stuff too much - but it was nice to see this turn out so well.

Reminder today: Just slow down a bit.

Day 27 - January 29
So much for slow days! Can't believe I had so much scheduled today!

Got a pedi with blue toes with two music girlfriends. Haven't done that since I can't remember when and it was wonderful … the pampering, the conversation, the lunch at Crave after. I could get used to this.

After lunch, I got to "interview" several members of the K-9 team on the Cayce Police force for a CMM article. I knew I'd enjoy the time with the dogs, but the human team members were great too. Clearly, they love what they do and their dogs. Their passion for police work was evident. Very heartening.

Third piano lesson is done and I'm starting to feel a little more confident about what I remember from Miss Currell's music lessons almost 50 years ago (now that really makes me sound like an old person). Got my eye on the goal of playing something on the keyboard in May with the SeriousFM group!

All day long I looked forward to the new year's version of the Tuesday Sip N Strum gathering. As always, it was worth the wait. I so enjoy this group of new friends and the fun (and sometimes a little off) music we make every Tuesday night. This falls high on my gratitude list.\\

Flossie seems to be getting used to our 1.1 mile loop that takes us down Eastminster Drive - every time we round the corner to the front of the church, she tries to pull me across Trenholm.

Remember today: It's also OK to have a busy day.

Day 28 - January 30
Early workout with my temporary trainer and two others. I really like the encouragement that comes from team training.

Planned an intentionally slow day to finalize details for two articles due on Friday. Enjoyed a leisurely lunch at home with my new lunch ritual -I set a place at the dining room table, turn on a playlist of snazzy tunes, eat my lunch and read a book for 30 minutes. I'm loving MIchelle Obama's bio that John gave me for Christmas.

Before I realized it 3 p.m. snuck up on me, I headed to Freeway for a joint guitar/uke lesson. Didn't even have time to shower once i realized how late it was (again, I became one of "those people" who don't get out of the morning workout clothes until late in the day).

An impromptu dinner with Mom and Dad at Tombo to hear Billy Sloan was a nice topper on my day.

Day 29 - January 31
A day away from 30 days as a rookie retiree, and I've done a pretty good job of my Daily 200. It's been a good discipline keeping it public (even if I've not pointed anyone here) to keep me accountable. I'll wrap up this post tomorrow on Day 30 and do some pondering about how/whether to keep up the public practice.

Another busy day, but that was OK - catchup lunch, funeral for someone who died way young and my weekly writing class. I debated about not going to the class because I ended up being almst an hour late because of the funeral. So glad I did - not only did I get to hear some inspiring, uplifting writing from these creative ladies, but I also really connected with one in particular. That's half the fun!

Reminded today: Life is short

Day 30 - February 1
Here ends the 30 days of my commitment to My Daily 200. It's been a great exercise and maybe something will grow out of it one day. If nothing else, it's taught me the value of a little daily discipline and introspection plus getting the words out of my head and out through my fingers.

Flossie got a little more training today and I'm beginning to see a little light at the end of her tunnel (leash:).

Lessons learned from the first 30 days:
  • It's OK not to have a plan some days
  • It's OK to have too much of a plan some days (just don't overschedule)
  • I've really missed reading for pleasure
  • There's a lot that goes on in the neighborhood between 8 and 6 that I never knew about.
  • It's still easier for me to do my writing somewhere other than at my own desk (too many distractions). I've enjoyed comparison shopping among the local coffee shops.
  • It's OK the bathroom cabinet is still a mess and all my old work boxes haven't been completely unpacked.
  • I'm sure I made the right decision at the right time for the right reasons!
  • The best kind of music practice is just spontaneous when I walk by the uke or keyboard and just start playing.
  • There's great joy in writing just to write without any "to what end."
  • Days have always had certain "personalities" for me. Sundays used to be the mean older sister who was always beating me down. Sundays are now much more pleasant without the stress of Monday coming up.
  • I had no idea I was so burned out. Taking some time to breath and assess what I enjoy and how I process what I enjoy has been more worthwhile than I'd ever thought.
  • I've been very conscious about avoiding establishing any new bad habits like sleeping late, eating too much or whiling away the day scrolling on the computer. So far, so good on that!
  • It's hell not having cheerful, knowledgeable IT help available whenever I need it.