Category Archives: Travel

Celebrating Retirement

And suddenly you know:  It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. – Meister Eckhart

Five years ago today, July 7, 2017, I drove into downtown Birmingham for my last day of work.  After 37 years at a large Birmingham company, I was retiring from corporate life.  During those 37 years, I had four very different careers within this company.  And I was very fortunate to be able to create a position that really gained my company recognition and praise around the state, thanks to the foresight of an executive who was such a mentor to me.  He was determined to get a multicultural markets position, that we worked to create together, established for me because during that particular time, the Hispanic population in Alabama was booming.  It was crucial to have someone in company coordinating efforts to enable employees to best serve the Hispanic population.  That position went on to define my work life as well as my personal life.  Looking back, I realize that everything that I did up to that time led me to that position and its success for over ten years.  Those were some of the best years of my career too.

I was 57 when I retired.  Honestly…I thought about finding another corporate job and continuing to work but I just never did.  Maybe because there were plenty of other things to do!  But more on that later… I’m now 63 years old and this is actually around the age that I had planned to retire.  In fact, Eddie and I had already decided what our retirement date would be.  One day we went to lunch at Brio.  Neither of us were having the best of days for some reason.  Because of this, we got onto the subject of retiring.  We talked about what we would do with our time, the trips we would take and how we would live our lives after working for so long.  So, I said, “let’s set a date!”  We both pulled out our phones, opened our calendars and looked about five years into the future and selected a date.  We considered our vacation time and holidays and there it was…our last day in the office would be April 16, 2021, then we would take our vacation and our official retirement date would be…June 2, 2021!  We decided we would ride to work together that day – our schedules were always so different we never rode together even though we worked in the same building – and we would walk out together hand-in-hand at the end of our last day.  As soon as we decided this, it felt like a weight had been lifted from us and with that goal in mind, we were ready to work out the next five years. 

Of course, one of the underlying themes of retirement that I’m discovering after talking to so many friends over these past few years is that retirement plans don’t typically go as you imagined.  I think many people have the image of setting their retirement date, getting the company party or some other fanfare and leaving on a cloud, so to speak.  But for me, it was a corporate reorganization in my department that changed it all.  My department had been going through a reorganization for over two years.  I think most of us were so weary of the reorganization talk that we just didn’t think it would ever happen.  But when it did, it happened quickly.

For me, it was just a good time to leave.  Professionally, I felt like I had accomplished all I could at the company especially in my last position.  Personally, Eddie and I felt we had planned well enough financially for me to leave at that time.  Making the decision to leave…to retire…actually became an easy one at that point.  So that Friday, July 7, 2017…after saying goodbye to my remaining co-workers (several retired along with me) and making a trip to HR for some final paperwork, I got back in my car at noon, left the parking deck for the last time and drove back home.  Once at home, I opened a bottle of wine I had been chilling, poured a glass and felt an overwhelming sense of peace come over me. 

Today, July 7, 2022, and five years later to the day, I hope to be on a plane with Eddie at 3:30 p.m. EST to Paris, France.  We planned this trip in 2019 to coincide with Eddie’s retirement in May 2020 and to celebrate both our retirements.  Of course, we had to postpone due to the pandemic to the following May 2021 and then again to the fall of 2021 and finally to this year in July 2022.  There were times when I wondered if we would ever get to take this trip but today…here we are.  As the days have drawn closer, I’ve been cautiously excited and I have also seen the same type of excitement start to build in Eddie too. 

I’ve done a lot of living these past five years.  Seriously, it has felt non-stop! I worked three United Way campaigns as a Loaned Executive Manager, helped my mother clean-out her house, get it repaired and sold and then move to a retirement village, planned my youngest daughter’s wedding, seen three granddaughters born, helped my son move back to Birmingham from Wetumpka, continued working with Fiesta to provide scholarships to Hispanic students through a Latin themed festival, worked with non-profits like Girl Scouts, HICA and Children’s Aid Society, planned multiple events for friends and non-profits, and been a food blogger with a la carte Alabama, to name a few things.  I’ve found there is never a lack of things to do or things I want to do.  I’ve also realized that since the pandemic, I’m getting better a little better at disconnecting and experiencing JOMO – you know, the “joy of missing out.” 

Sometimes I think this trip to France has been postponed so much to give me time to accomplish all the things I just mentioned and now shift gears to focus on my next chapter with Eddie – just the two of us.  We still have a lot of living to do and a lot of retirement memories to make with each other beginning with this trip.  Meanwhile, I already have ideas on where we can go and what we can do next.  And no matter what that ends up being, I’m just so happy to have Eddie by my side so we can do all of this together. 

31 Days of France – Part Deux

This is part two of a two-part story of my cancelled trip to France this year due to the pandemic and how my husband and I celebrated from home.

As May approached, I decided to get my #31daysoffrance posts organized.  It really got me pretty excited too!  I mean, what else did I have to do while sheltering in place, am I right? 

My first post on Instagram on May 1st was a photo of four French wines that I had recently purchased.  My post stated: “Two weeks from today, Eddie and I were supposed to be on our way to France for our dream retirement vacation – a food and wine river cruise.  We knew in early March this wouldn’t happen for us this year.  Luckily, we have been able to rebook for next year and I’ve optimistically said that maybe that will give me time to learn some French!  (NOTE:  I did take French in 3rd grade when I lived in Puerto Rico, but most of that is long gone!)  So, for the month of May, I plan to pull as many French items into our lives as I can from the comfort of our home.”   I went on to ask for French wine suggestions and I actually got a few!

It became a great daily activity for me as I searched my home for French related items to post about.  I started with a can of Café du Monde coffee which I had just started drinking at home along with a coffee mug I found at the thrift store earlier in the year.  It contained the famous Audrey Hepburn quote – “Paris is always a good idea.”  When I saw it, I felt like it was meant to be!  I think it was the universe telling me that I was going to be using it quite a bit for this #31daysoffrance project! 

Other posts featured books I was planning to read, including “My Good Life in France” written by Janine Marsh.  This was a book recommended to me by my friend Lisa Pruitt who was also mourning the loss of our trip this year.  I signed up for Janine’s newsletter and started following her on social media and was thrilled when she acknowledged my photo of her book and the fact that we had to cancel our trip.  I soon became one of her Facebook page’s Top Fans. 

Some other posts included a wonderful Taste of France magazine, an Eiffel tower necklace made from an old watch (found at the thrift store), an Eiffel tower figurine – again, something I found at the thrift store leading up to my trip, – an Eiffel Tower tray that I used next to my recliner in the family room.  There were so many little things that I didn’t even realize I had collected in anticipation of our trip.

On my weekly grocery shopping outings, I looked for French related foods from Brioche bread, French butter, yogurt (Oui), of course French cheeses (I got into a lengthy conversation with the guy at the Whole Foods cheese counter one day), French toast, croissants and naturally French wines!  These posts were fun and I loved staging them just right and then enjoying the food and drink afterward.  I also loved listening to 60s French music on Pandora as I went about my day.  Really great listening!

When May 15th arrived, the day we were supposed to be flying to Paris, I started posting about our trip and what we would have been doing.  I had the itinerary provided by Tauck so I knew exactly where we would each day.  This made me want to do more research into what we would be experiencing.  I began sharing screenshots of places, wines, food and other things we would have been doing.  I learned a lot about France from the safety of my home for the next few weeks.  Or at least the places we would have been visiting.

I mean, we would have been making dessert at the Cordon Blue, visiting museums like Musee Rodin, and Musee D’Orsey, enjoying a chef demonstration by Chef Anne Sophie, sampling French cognacs at a dinner at the restored chateau and ground of the medieval Duchy of Uzes.  The list goes on and the experiences would have been breathtaking and unforgettable, I’m certain! 

Chicken Fricasee – our end of France trip dinner!

We were due to return from France on Friday, May 29th.  So, in honor of this, I prepared a French dinner for Eddie and myself along with a lovely French cocktail.  We facetimed with our friends, the Pruitt’s, during cocktails to toast to the trip that didn’t happen.  Then Eddie and I enjoyed a wonderful meal in our dining room with French music playing in the distance and toasted to an inspired #31daysoffrance experience this May 2020, during the pandemic of 2020.

NOTE: Look for my post about the French dinner I prepared for me and my husband in celebration of the end of my #31daysoffrance project.

#31 Days of France – Part 1

The Paris coffee mug I found at the thrift store in January set against some fragrant lavender on my dining room table.

This is part one of a two-part story of my cancelled trip to France this year due to the pandemic and how my husband and I celebrated from home.

Going to France has always been on my list of places to visit and explore.  Our friends, Lisa and Johnny Pruitt went two years ago for a long trip and really enjoyed it.  Lisa is such a Francophile and was even taking French lessons.  I loved seeing their photos and hearing their stories of that trip and it just made me want to visit all the more.

Then they decided they would go again this year and put out the word to close friends to see if anyone was interested in joining them.  Well, I was all in!  The timing of the trip hit perfectly with my husband, Eddie’s plans for retirement this year.  I mean, why not?  I had retired in July 2017 and we really didn’t do anything special since it happened rather quickly .  This would be a celebration of both of our retirements!  I was pumped!

Paris themed tray I found at the thrift store earlier this year.

Lisa and I started making plans.  This trip was a food and wine river cruise and we would begin our journey in Paris – the city of lights!  We would spend a few days there with various exciting events planned by our tour planner and then be transported to Lyon for the river cruise.  We chose a Tauck trip because Lisa and Johnny had used them when they went the previous year and were really impressed with what they offered.  Lisa said they were planning to add a few days on the front end and back end of the trip because they wanted to do a little more exploring and hoped we would too.  I figured, what the heck!  Eddie and I had traveled to Namibia, Africa several years prior and I was still disappointed that we didn’t do a little more while we were there so this seemed like a chance to make that right!

Lisa selected several side tours for us and I was all for them.  She kept asking me what we wanted to do but in all honestly, I had no idea.  I mean, I was ready to do whatever they wanted to because they had been there and knew what was worth visiting.  My only requests were the Eiffel Tower, the chance to see the Moulin Rouge and maybe visit a French flea market.  Other than that, … I was wide open for suggestions. We made our final payments for the trip including airfare and all we had left to do was wait for May 15th.

But in February we began to get a little concerned.  There was talk of a global pandemic and we weren’t sure what all of that meant for us.  In all honesty, I didn’t pay much attention to it thinking it was something that would quickly pass.  I’m sure many of us felt that way…and how wrong were we?!  I was in Colorado visiting my daughter and son -in-law when Eddie, Lisa, Johnnie and I began texting and Eddie was the one being pessimistic that we wouldn’t get to go.  I really thought he was overreacting.  Surely by May things would settle down, right?  I got back to Alabama and a few weeks later I was headed to Torreon, Mexico for a friend’s wedding.  At this point though, I was a little concerned.  I had heard talk that the president might close the borders because of the pandemic that seemed to be hitting Europe pretty badly.  For a bit, I wasn’t sure I should go to Mexico but went ahead.  While there, none of us were really paying much attention to what was going on in the world with all the festivities going on until a few days into the trip when one of our group said, “what the heck is going on with toilet paper back in the states?!”  Our final day at the hotel, notices went up about using hand sanitizer and a few other precautions.  No one was talking about masks yet.

When I got back to Alabama it was pretty clear the trip to France wouldn’t happen.  In fact, I returned on March 10 and by March 16, my husband was officially working from home and my daughter who is a teacher said her school had closed and teaching had begun virtually.  It was so disappointing but we were able to rebook the trip to May 2021.  Now we just have our fingers crossed that the pandemic will be gone by then so we can make the trip.

So, when it got close to May, I was really starting to mourn the loss of this trip.  I mean, we had been planning for a year and it was to be a celebration trip.  I started thinking about ways to experience France in the safety of my home when it occurred to me that I could find ways to celebrate France for the entire month of May!  I called this celebration #31DaysofFrance and I began posting about it on social media – mainly insta-story – as a way to celebrate the trip that didn’t happen.

In part two of 31 Days of France, I’ll share some of the things that I did to celebrate our France trip from home. 



Thanksgiving at the Beach

Ocean view condo for Thanksgiving 2005

In 2005, we spent Thanksgiving at the beach.  It was a first for the Odom family.  We had always spent the day at my husband’s mom and dad’s house in Jasper.  But my mother-in-law, Johnnie, had been wanting the family to spend the holiday at the beach and we finally all came together and got it planned.

I don’t remember the name of the place we stayed but I do remember that we all booked rooms close to each other so we could come and go easily.  When we arrived the first day, it was a sunny and windy day and we decided to head to the Pink Pony Pub for drinks and appetizers.  Besides me and Eddie and our three kids, we had Eddie’s brother Terry and his wife Rhonda and their twin daughters, Kate and TJ.  Eddie’s older brother Allen and his wife Rhonda were also there along with my mother-in-law’s sister, Joyce and her daughter, Debbie.  We had quite a large group, much to our delight!

Fun at the Pink Pony Pub!

My best memory is of the family gathering at Pink Pony Pub.  We sat outside and just enjoyed each other’s company.  Our family tradition of taking a Thanksgiving photo on my mother-in-law’s swing was transferred to the deck of the pub that particular year.  I remember the kids being adamant that we would take a picture to keep with tradition.  I loved that they wanted to do this and not skip tradition just because we weren’t in Jasper.  Then we took family group photos together.  The one of me, Eddie and the kids is probably one of my favorites.  We all huddled close together and hugged not just to keep warm but because we were all excited to be at the beach and together.  I took the photo of my brother-in-law, Terry and his wife Rhonda and their girls – TJ and Kate.  For the rest of the family, they posed around the table where we enjoyed food and drink.

There is another great memory from that Thanksgiving at the beach and it was watching the kids play on the beach from our balcony.  They had a kite they were flying and then they also did some writing in the sand.  It was just great watching them all enjoy the beach from afar.  I didn’t have the best digital camera at the time so the photos I took are a little grainy when I tried to zoom in, but it’s still nice to have them to bring back those memories.

We also enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving turkey and dinner that year at the condo thanks to the cooking of both of my sisters-in-law!  That was always a joke with the three of us since I didn’t do much cooking and they did…they used to just ask me to bring drinks, paper products and desserts!  That was fine by me!  They were both great cooks so why would I want to compete with that?!!!  I remember telling them one year that all the sisters-in-law named Rhonda did the cooking and the ones named Teresa brought the fun!  Ha!…and I still stand by that comment!

We’ve lost several family members since this Thanksgiving in 2005 so holidays tend to be bittersweet for us.  Still, we still do things to keep their memories alive when we gather.  Having these photos is so precious to us all and taking this trip in 2005 is still one of our great memories.  Now after 12 years, many of us have returned to the beach this Thanksgiving to make new memories.  And of course, I am taking the photos…

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…

A Safari of Giraffe

Our encounter with a safari of giraffe in Namibia, Africa this past August.

Our encounter with a safari of giraffe in Namibia, Africa this past August. – Hunters Namibia Safaris

My husband and I took an incredible trip to Namibia, Africa in August.  To say it was a trip of a lifetime would be an understatement!  I’m still trying to find time to go through the more than 2K photos I took with my camera, and several hundred I took with my iPhone.  I don’t want to rush through them either.  Instead, I want to relive those moments and really tell the story of where we were and what we did.

Last night, my husband and I were talking about the trip and I pulled up a few photos.  The first ones that popped up were of our last full day in Namibia among the beautiful giraffes!  We were riding along in the jeep when we spotted one after another.  Our PH (Professional Hunter), Johnny, stopped the jeep and told us to slowly get out and walk toward them.  We couldn’t believe our good fortune in seeing these beautiful creatures of all ages and sizes!

August 2016 Namibia, Africa - Hunters Namibia Safaris

August 2016 Namibia, Africa – Hunters Namibia Safaris

Johnny took my camera while Martin, our Tracker, took my iPhone and they began taking pictures of me, Eddie and Eddie’s cousin, Myrk, standing in front of several giraffe.  What a treasure!  We kept walking slowly toward them after our impromptu photo shoot and I started clicking away with my camera.  They moved with such grace and elegance.  I particularly loved the babies because they were so curious about us and would stare and then their tails would swish back and forth.  They almost appeared to be smiling at us!  The mamas, of course, were standing nearby and keeping a side-eye on us and their youngsters.

August 2016 Namibia, Africa

August 2016 Namibia, Africa – Hunters Namibia Safaris

By the time we got back in the jeep and rode on a ways, we had stopped counting at 80 of these magnificent animals!  We learned later that a group of giraffe is called a “safari.”  Safari means “journey” and giraffe typically travel for food from the Acadia trees.  The trees eventually start to defend themselves from being feasted upon and increase their tannin output causing the giraffe to journey on.

I can’t wait to share more about our trip…what I saw and what I learned.  Meanwhile, please enjoy a few of my photos from the Safari of Giraffe we encountered.

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Traveling Gear


My Patricia Nash collection – all pulled together and ready for my trip overseas on Monday!

On Monday I’ll be taking a trip…an adventure…  Two weeks off of work.  I can’t remember the last time I did that for a vacation.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever taken that long off to take a vacation and actually go somewhere and completely disconnect.

My husband and I are traveling overseas…(more on where later)… so since this is a much longer trip.  I’ve been trying really hard to keep it simple and make sure that everything I take is compact and useful.

The main thing that I have been concerned with is how to take my camera and zoom lens.  I found a smaller camera backpack at Target a few weeks ago and it worked great when we traveled to Austin, Texas last weekend.  I like it because it’s not cumbersome and it’s just the right size for my camera and the zoom lens as well as a few accessories.


I love maps…so how could I NOT love this over the shoulder purse with a map on it?! Perfect for travel!

I also needed something to carry my passport in….something small that also holds my driver’s license and a few credit cards and my immunization records.   I was shopping at Macy’s when I discovered Patricia Nash leather handbags.  What drew me to the wallet was actually a large satchel bag with a map on it.  I considered the satchel but decided instead on the wallet and a cross body bag – both with maps on them.  They worked well on our weekend trip to Austin.


Patricia Nash Italian Leather handbags and accessories…discovered them at Macys and bought my handbag and passport wallet there. I bought my satchel through Amazon. Love this collection! So beautiful!

As I was preparing for the Austin trip though, I realized that I didn’t have a good satchel bag and so I went back to the Patricia Nash collection and chose a solid leather satchel.  I ordered it through Amazon and it arrived while I was in Austin.  It’s beautiful too… I slipped the cross body bag right into it along with my travel journal.  There is also plenty of space for my Nook and a few other things!  I think it’s going to be easy to travel with the satchel and the small camera backpack.  Really…I want to keep the “stuff” I carry to a minimum!


Finally…I was in Macy’s the other day when I walked up on a jewelry display.  Mind you, I don’t typically look at pre-packaged items but for some reason I did that day.  The sterling silver jewelry was deeply discounted that particular day and I became fixated on a necklace.  It’s a layered necklace – the smaller piece is a gold circle with the cardinal points – north, east, south and west.  The larger piece has a saying “life is a journey, enjoy the ride.”

This is my first trip out of the country in a long time so this spoke to me, I guess you could say.  I also don’t believe in accidents…finding this necklace was predestined.  It will be one of the only jewelry items I wear on my trip – again, trying to keep it simple.


My new “travel” necklace…I really love the cardinal point part of the necklace.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru


Finding a Travel Journal


In love with my new travel journal! Isn’t it cool!

For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to notebooks and journals.  When I go into a bookstore or any specialty store, I always find myself in the aisle with the journals and notebooks, thumbing through the various designs and thinking of ways I can use each particular one.  Then I shake myself out of that dreamy state and realize I have more than enough journals and notebooks at home and I need to use those first!

What I didn’t have was a good travel journal…at least until now!  My husband and I are taking a 30th anniversary trip in August and I wanted something special to take with me and record our trip.  Sure, I could have used something I already have but I was browsing in that aisle again – in Target this time – and I landed on the perfect one.

IMG_7373It’s funny how journaling and decorating journals has become such a big industry these days.  The options are endless!  Back in the early 1980’s, I would eagerly await the new Hallmark calendar and get it ready for the year – adding birthdays, appointments and other special events.  Then I would use the daily page to journal about my day and feelings, and then add things like ticket stubs, photos, receipts, invitations and other items that I wanted to remember.  By the end of the year, the calendar would be 3 times its original size from all the things I was saving!  The book pictured on the left is the one I diligently kept the year before I got married so when I found it in the attic recently and opened it up – so many memories flooded back to me.  Reading a few pages immediately took me back to that particular time and how I was feeling.  It’s amazing the power of your own voice…

Finding these old journals has made me all the more excited about keeping a travel journal.  I have to say, the cover of the journal got my attention first.  It’s full of passport type stamps.  It’s also made of a burlap type fabric.  As I opened it, I noticed there were stickers to use and pockets to store things.  Another cool feature is that it contains several pull out pages that show the map of the world.  I can definitely see myself marking that map with some of the stickers included as I check places to go off my bucket list.  There is also space for photos which is always a hard one for me since I take so many!  I generally like to pick out a few postcards when we travel and tuck those away “with” my photos.


One of the fold out maps in my new travel journal!

In addition to the journal, I found the coolest pack of sticky notes at World Market a few weeks ago.  I actually bought this before I found the travel journal but they go together perfectly!  They’re called Bon Voyage sticky notes and you know why they got my attention, right?  The map of the world on the cover, of course!  The love of maps seems to be a Zuniga gene thing – at least that’s what my sister Kanista seems to think.  I think she may be right!


Travel sticky notes from World Market – nice companion piece for my travel journal.

As far as journaling and photographing our trip…I’m ready for that!  When it comes to packing clothes…not so much…but I still have some time to get that underway.

NOTE:  I’ll post about the trip in September so stay tuned!