Hometown Visit

Since trying to plan a trip might not be the best idea at the moment (although we are considering one at the end of October), I decided to take a look back at a special trip we made to Chicago, Illinois about four years ago.

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M. was born and raised in Hinsdale (about 25 miles from the city) and had not been back except for business trips in almost 20 years. He was anxious to revisit places that held some of his favorite memories. I especially loved hearing the stories he narrated as we drove from place to place. Hearing the excitement in his voice and at times talking at such a pace it was if his thoughts were outracing his words he had so much to share. Occasionally he would pause and silently reflect ~ I think he was hearing the voices of friends and loved ones from so long ago in the quiet of his mind ~ this memory still makes me smile.

We drove past where he went to elementary and high school, the church he attended, and then towards the ice skating pond where he once flirted and showed off for the girls back in his youthful, carefree days. We drove past the location of his childhood home (it is no longer there), found the place where his dad owned a restaurant many years ago (surprisingly the building is there and is still a restaurant) and past the house where his beloved grandmother had lived. We drove through a complex in Naperville where he worked for many years after graduating college. (Little did he know that this same company would transfer him to the area where he would randomly and unexpectedly meet this southern belle!) We drove past the location of the community garden on this same site where he first discovered his love of gardening. Sadly, the gardens are gone and all that remains is a field of weeds.

Our visit also included a drive to Downers Grove where he once lived as well.  We visited Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery (isn’t that a cute name?), walked through the small town, and he showed me the first house he ever bought and I could see how proud of it he was ~ even to this day.

There were many foods he wanted me to sample (and we did) such as Italian Beef sandwiches, a Chicago style hotdog and of course, Chicago’s version of pizza.  The trip, however, would not have been complete without a stop at the Bohemian Crystal Restaurant. M. has raved about this place for years so it was a must do on our activities agenda. As we looked over the menu, I was a little amused when our choices to start with were either soup, or small salad, or tomato juice. Tomato juice???? M. was as happy as I have ever seen him when he ordered the dinner of roast pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings smothered in gravy (which we split – no way we could have eaten all of this food as two separate orders – in fact we didn’t finish what we were served with just one order – although M. tried his best). Yes, dessert was included and we could choose either a homemade Kolacky or Jello.  Jello????? I don’t think I have ever been in a restaurant that offered Jello as a dessert choice unless it was on the children’s menu or cafeteria style.  With a big smile, extremely full stomachs, and a vow to return again one day M and I drove back to our hotel.

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Over the next few days we were typical tourists seeing such things as Buckingham Fountain, Lake Michigan, and Pier Park and other popular places here and there both in downtown Chicago and the suburbs. We visited Millennium Park and took photos of our reflection by the Bean.  After lunch we walked through the park and stumbled upon some performers rehearsing for an evening concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion.

It was such a nice trip down memory lane for M.  Although some areas had changed, there was just enough remaining to rekindle fond memories of so long ago. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to actually see all of the places that mean so much to him.

Although I have lived as far west as Texas and as far north as Connecticut I was actually born and raised only a little over an hour from where I currently live. I haven’t been back in several years and hear that area is growing and changing like crazy. I am lonely for it and will return very soon.

How about you? Have you been back to your home town lately?

Savoring Retirement – Summer Nights

Another great thing I am discovering about retirement is that every night can feel like the weekend.  We have a little shed in our backyard and we love to sit outside on its deck off and on from early spring until late fall.  We listen to music, talk softly, grill something delicious to eat, laugh, and just enjoy being outside. Sometimes I pretend we are at an outdoor cafe somewhere in the world or sitting dockside eating delicious seafood while pretending to listen to the waves pound the nearby shore.  M is a good sport and will play along for a couple of minutes.  We often wind up getting too silly or we sigh and wish we were really in that special location.  During this pandemic we have tried to be creative in making meals a little more special and evenings a little more fun since eating out at a restaurant or travelling is not a high priority these days.

M. loves to grill (he has three – gas, charcoal, and a Big Green Egg) and does so almost every single evening.  Yes, the temperatures are warmish, but we still like to sit outside most evenings and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

I like to try new recipes and this was a delicious lump crab cake dinner.  I mixed everything together that morning and let it marinade all day.  We modified the cooking by baking them on a pizza stone on the Big Green Egg instead of heating up our oven.  Recipe here

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My siblings and spouses joined us for dinner one evening and it was so so so VERY good to see them.  We took precautions and just being together was worth the effort.

We are in the process of waiting to build a home closer to other grandchildren, so we are trying to soak in as much of what makes us happy in our current location as we can before our dream of a move becomes a reality.

Savoring Retirement – Early Morning

I cannot believe it has been THREE months since I retired!

Honestly, I have to admit, it has been a little challenging filling my time. I am not one to be content finding things to keep busy around my house.  We anticipate a move sometime in 2021 (after M retires) so there are several decluttering projects I have taken on and more to come, but I need more mental and physical stimulation. For many years my time was so structured that this new opportunity for more “freedom of choice” is taking some getting use to. Some of the things I thought I would try to get involved with are either very limited or just not available due to COVID.

But the good news is I am discovering I have time to do some things I have always made an excuse not to do on a regular basis. Such as….taking an early morning walk.  It is something I look forward to each and every day. There is just something so very special about watching the birth of a new day.  The colors have been spectacular some mornings. This is also a wonderful time for me to give thanks and praise as well as talk over a few things with Him as I trudge along. I marvel at the beauty I see and these photos are but a few I have taken. They just don’t offer the same clarity and beauty my eyes see each day.

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I always hear the early birds singing their wake-up songs ~ busily tending to their chores. Here lately I have been treated to the almost daily sightings of geese honking as they fly overhead getting an early morning start on their journey.

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I tried to take along a special furry friend – my Havanese -MooMoo- but after a while she would have enough and stubbornly refuse to continue walking.  Carrying her and her additional 10 pounds of added weight the rest of the route – especially up and down hills – was not what I had in mind – so I no longer take her with me.  Instead, once I get home, she is eagerly waiting for me to take her for a short 15 – 20 minute “stop and smell everything walk” on a flat section in our neighborhood.

Once I have completed my route I usually sit on my back patio to enjoy my coffee as I watch the backyard light up with sunshine.

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Retirement is off to a very good start!

Thinning Hair (Part 2)

After spending a couple of years trying to manage my thinning hair (see original post here.)  I decided to stay proactive before it became totally unmanageable. So, I went to where I usually go ~ the Internet. As I stared at the computer screen I had no idea what to even look for since I truly felt I had already tried all of the options out there.  I just started typing key words like “hair loss solutions” and found this salon not too far from my home.

“Are you too afraid to be excited?” asked Kelli as she smiled encouragingly.

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Kelli is the owner of Borrelli’s Salon as well as Illuminations Medical Hair Loss Salon and she works closely with women who are experiencing medical hair loss while they recover.  She also works with women, such as myself, who are looking for a solution to thinning hair/hair loss.

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After discovering her salon, I read every single review and decided scheduling a consultation was exactly what I needed to do. When I arrived I was full of questions. My hair is full every where else on my head except the crown area so did I have enough hair loss to even warrant this consultation or did I need to give it more time? What are my options? What is the cost? Kelli patiently answered all of my questions and addressed my concerns.  She took the lead in looking closely at my scalp and offered support as well as a plan of action. My BFF also came along for moral support and assumed the role of another set of ears and another voice to ask questions.  At one point Kelli left the consultation room and BFF and I looked at each other and broke out into big smiles.  This place, this person, was the answer to my prayers!!

A week and a half later I received a “topper”.  Side note: A few days before this appointment I began to second guess myself ~ Would it look natural or would I look in the mirror and clearly see a hair piece had been added? I could never wear headbands or barrettes in my hair for very long without getting a headache, so it was crucial this topper not give me that feeling and what would I do if it did?  I also did not want to get my hopes up nor have my expectations set too high for fear of disappointment.

When I arrived I was escorted to a private room and sat quietly in the chair while Kelli meticulously trimmed, combed, and placed the topper on my head.  The color (with highlights added) and texture was a perfect match for my hair. It blended beautifully with my own hair and looked so natural you would never know I was wearing it.  Needless to say, I was more than pleased!  A huge plus was I could not feel where Kelli clipped on the topper ~ it was light and I truly and honestly did not even realize there was something on my head.

My BFF had come along once again for moral support and she could not believe how good it looked.  We went out to lunch to celebrate and then wandered around a few nearby shops and the whole time I felt confident and happy.

Here are some before and after photos I took to share the results.  This is the very top of my head.  My photos are very mild compared to some I have seen of other women.  Some ladies have really severe hair loss and it must be so devastating.

The topper really adds style and fullness to the crown area of my scalp and gives my own natural head shape a finished and defined look.

The topper in this photo lasted about a year and a half and I have since ordered another one that I have been wearing off and on for over a year. If you or anyone you know is challenged with thinning hair or hair loss, and nothing seems to be working, I encourage you to look into this option.  It is truly light on my head, not hot at all like I thought it would be, I always have a good hair day and the best part of all ~  it makes me happy!

After all of this, I have made the decision to grow out my gray roots and maybe change things up a bit.  I will let you know (in a few months) how this goes!

Thinning Hair (Part 1)

Okay, so I’m taking a deep breath and ready to share something very personal.

Before I begin I want to acknowledge the fact that their are some people that I dearly love who are currently suffering either emotional pain or a medical illness.  I understand many people are suffering from cancer, an addiction, the physical and emotional pain of chronic disease, mental, physical or emotional abuse and the list goes on.  The story I am about to share is in NO WAY comparable to what these brave warriors endure each and every day.  I am quite sure they would gladly switch places with me if at all possible.  Mine is a very small concern in the ways of this world, but by sharing my story I hope it will give encouragement to anyone out there with the same problem.

I first noticed my hair thinning a few years ago.  My hair has always been fairly thick and full so this discovery was a little alarming.  It is still thick in my lower back scalp area, and full in most areas except where I would wear a crown if I was a queen.

4c7cfbfdebe62530a8f54ffc593cb7fcEvery single day there was a disheartening amount of hair strands in my bathroom sink or shower floor as I prepared for the day.  I could run my fingers through my hair at any given moment and almost always found hair strand/s in my fingers.  Why was this happening?

Hours of internet research resulted in several possible causes for thinning hair/hair loss such as ~ medications, medical conditions, diet, stress, heredity, hormones, and a few random things in between.

After discovering a wealth of options I decided to fight.

My time was filled with appointments consulting various doctors (dermatologists, my regular GP, and even my gynecologist), looking closely at my diet and making a few changes, discussing hair implant procedure$$, researching family history, and reading everything I could about how others have dealt with this issue. I tried all kinds of products such as taking Biotin vitamins, applying Rogaine for women, and even applying Rogaine for men.  I carefully read the ingredients listed on the back of countless shampoo’s in an effort to avoid ingredients that may contribute to hair loss.  I tried several natural hair lo$$ treatment $erum$. Nothing was working!!

Solution one: For once, I actually considered my naturally curly hair a blessing. I allowed it to air dry curly instead of try to blow dry it straighter. The curls acted as a barrier to hide the scalp. Only problem was, here in the humid south during the summertime, Frizz became part of the problem and trying to tame curly frizz can be very challenging!  I had to make a decision – thinning scalp showing or frizzy hair?  I was getting desperate!

Solution two: Then one day…. I discovered the Joan Rivers product ~ “Great Hair Day – Thinning Hair Powder Filler” and it literally saved my sanity and I used it daily for a year or two. It was my secret weapon and I highly recommend it.

Here is a look at how it can help.  (Photos of the woman were taken from an advertisement found on the internet.) You just dip the soft brush in the powder and lightly apply it to your scalp or hair roots.  This product is not messy (unlike a brand I tried from Ulta), but the brush would retain some of the powdery residue so I kept it in a separate pouch.  The results I had with this product is very much like the model below.  If you did not know, you couldn’t tell I added the powder.

Over time, no matter how much I combed and sprayed my hair the area of thinning hair was getting more difficult to hide using the Joan Rivers product. It was just a matter of time until my secret weapon would be obvious.

Finally, I came to realize and accept that my hair would not adequately regrow itself. Heredity plays a part in this scenario. My mom had thinning hair, but she wore it in a style that seeing her pink scalp under her gray hair with her pretty face and petite little self underneath was endearing and sweet.  This is not what people would think about me.

Tired of the daily struggle, worry and frustration it was time to take further action. (stay tuned.)

Do you struggle with thinning hair or hair loss?