Tag Archives: Memories

Retirement – Week 1

Me on my last workday

The last weekend in October, following my last workday on Friday 27 October, I thought a lot about what my first week of retirement would be like. Even knowing that I would not be working this week impacted my weekend schedule—in a positive way. Normally, I would feel rushed and pressured to try to get all the things done over the limited time I had on the weekend. But the weekend before my first full day of retirement felt much more relaxed.

Usually by Sunday afternoon, I am feeling a bit frustrated that I am running out of time and will have to postpone until the following weekend the things I didn’t get done.

This feeling has roots dating back to early in our marriage when on Saturday morning, I would make a long list of things I needed to do over the weekend and then by Sunday night, feel a sense of depression that I only got 28 of the 31 items done on the list. This used to drive my wife crazy. Fortunately I got over that phase of my life and while I am still a perpetual list maker, I got out of the habit of making weekend lists long ago.

Sunday morning is normally a running day for me followed by a trip to the grocery store to get a week’s worth of groceries. Both of these activities I skipped knowing that I no longer had to do those on Sunday. My Sunday instead felt quite relaxed and my wife and I even went to an art festival downtown in the afternoon, something we normally might not find time to do.

When I went to bed on Sunday night, I consciously did not set an alarm knowing I could sleep as late as I felt on Monday.

Maybe it was due to an excited anticipation of this significant life change but I woke up in the middle of the night and started thinking about what I would do first. After lying awake for quite some time thinking about all these things, I realized the first thing I really needed to do was just make a list so I wouldn’t forget them all.

In spite of remaining awake for probably an hour, I woke up refreshed and glancing at the clock, saw that I had slept in until 6:30! (Normally on a Monday I would be awakened with an alarm at 4:45.) I did my usual stretching and then went to the gym to run indoors since it was too cold outside. By the time I left the gym around 8:30, I was feeling a bit lazy and thinking my day was getting away from me. But then I remembered, it was OK, as I was not going to work.

When I got home, I had my delicious Peet’s coffee and typical breakfast—“concrete”—a concoction I create of dry oats, Grapenuts cereal, sliced almonds, and fruit Greek yogurt that I have been eating for years.

However, rather than gobbling this down while I would normally be getting ready for work, I sat down and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. It was after 9:00 AM before I was shaving and showering, something unheard of even on the weekends.

After getting cleaned up, I went grocery shopping. As I wandered the aisles, I realized that if I continued to shop on Monday morning rather than Sunday, I would see a whole different crowd than whom I normally saw, shoppers like me now who could shop during the week. Driving home, it felt like I was on a holiday since all of these things were so foreign to me during the week.

Returning home, I could even participate in my daughter’s and grandson’s daily FaceTime with my wife, a treat I normally only get to join in on weekend mornings.

After lunch, I decided it was time to make my lists. I decided to make a short-term list and a long-term list. In my mind, my short-term items would be anything I wanted to be sure and get done within three months or less. I reflected back to my many thoughts in the middle of the night and quickly jotted down 18 items on the short-term list and four items on the long-term list.

When I shared these lists with my wife later in the day, she commented that these were all things that I needed to do but none of them were necessarily things that I might want to do. I realized that I had gone back and done the same thing I used to do many years ago when I made those weekend lists. My list was filled with chores not fun activities, which usually meant I didn’t have much fun on weekends in those days. This was not a way to start off retirement.

So on Tuesday, I made a third list, a list of things I wanted to do.

It was actually a year ago that I wrote a post of the fun things I would do after retiring. I remembered seven of them before deciding to reread that post to make sure I didn’t forget any. I only missed two.

Over the week, several people asked me how it felt to be retired and I typically responded either weird or different. Reflecting back, it seemed that both Monday and Tuesday felt quite different, at times like it was a holiday or vacation day since I was not at work. Wednesday and Friday did not seem that different, as I have been working from home ½ day on Wednesday and all day on Friday for quite some time. The difference was I did what I wanted to. Thursday was very different as I worked out at the gym in the morning and then got to go to Kinder Music with my wife and granddaughter, something I have not gotten to ever do since Thursday was typically a busy day at work.

Someone who retired two years ago recently told me one of the things he had gotten to do was catch up on his sleep. I guess I must have done that sleeping in on Monday and Tuesday as on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I slipped back into my work habit of waking up around 5:00 AM. Each morning I lay there a while thinking I should go back to sleep but since I was not tired, decided I could get up not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

After just one week, I can’t say that I fell into a new routine but I did definitely identify some additional things I might want to consider making a part of a new routine. Over the week, in my old list making fashion, I did manage to strike several items off that short-term list and only occasionally did I feel I needed to be more productive thinking my “vacation time” was almost over. But then I remembered that next week I would again be free and the week after that, and so on for many weeks ahead as I am no longer working full time. Having achieved one of life’s major milestones and only being one week into it, I think I am really going to like this retirement thing!

Retired!

After years and years of anticipation and months and months of planning, I retired last week. This is a self-photo I took of myself in my office on my last full workday. While my last official day was the 27th of October, I was actually on vacation for seven days before that so my last real work day, the day I took this photo was the 17th of October.

So what was it like on my last day? Well it was a day mixed with emotions of happiness but also sadness. After 35 years working in the same location and even in the same building, it should not come as a surprise.

The day before, I had sent out a mass e-mail saying goodbye to all of my work colleagues—those who were remaining behind as well as those who were moving on to other activities (some of which were also retiring). Part of my last day was spent reading the very touching responses I received from many reflecting on our productive and instructive work life together and wishing me well in retirement.

Another part of my day, I spent touring other floors of the building I had worked in all of these years. I decided to go by all my old offices that were on the four different floors I had worked on. Some still looked the same but others were no longer there having been torn down to make space for an expansion of our laboratory operations. Touring the labs was a bit sad as all of the equipment had been boxed up and relocated to other company sites. This was a part of the process of closing down our work site, the main reason I was retiring at this particular time.

But the most distressing sight I saw on my tour was when I came to our stability chamber area. When I rounded the corner of the second large room where many of these chambers were located, I was met with a gutted room. What previously had been our first chamber expansion area that housed four walk-in chambers and four large reach-in chambers were all gone. All that remained were the water, air handling, and electrical utility connections dangling from the ceiling, like bloody tendrils from savagely excised appendages. For 25 of my 35 years, I had responsibility for our stability program and these chambers had incubated the thousands upon thousands of samples at a multitude of environmental conditions. It nearly brought tears to my eyes.

One bright spot though was an unexpected visit by my youngest son who lives in town. He stopped by to ask me some questions about a research project he was working on and after his questions were answered, I gave him a tour of the two remaining floors that were still occupied. It was his first visit to my place of work in many years and he was amazed at the changes that had occurred. As we ended our tour, he suggested we get a selfie, which thanks to his rather long arms, hardly even looks like one.

After calling into my last teleconference of the day, I began to box up my few remaining personal items. After more than 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry, I had accumulated a number of reference documents and texts that I planned to use in my “retirement.” Many of these I had taken home the previous day so that when I walked out for the last time, it would only be a single trip with the one box.

My Bose speaker that I continuously played jazz music and my two phone chairs, where my work and personal phones reclined while I was sitting at my desk, mostly took up the box. I know my daughter will recognize the thermal mug on the left; the one I drank ice water from all day long at work for at least 15 years. I got this mug one year in the early 2000s when I picked her up from college after the close of a semester.

Over my 35-year career at this location, I spent 32 years in management. My first three years, years that I absolutely had had a ball, were the years I worked in an analytical laboratory. When I was cleaning out my desk, I found this spatula that I had used many years ago to weigh out milligram quantities of samples and standards.

Knowing that I had used this tool on a daily basis whenever I was working in the lab, I decided to take it with me as a memento of those really fun days in the lab.

I carefully placed my box on the passenger seat and put down the top for one last fun workday commute. As I pulled out of the parking space, I realized this was the last time I would be driving out of this parking lot and the last time I would be waving my ID badge at the security gate to exit.

Tomorrow starts the first full day of my retirement, a period of my life I have been looking forward to for some time—a time of freedom, a time of relaxation, a time of adventure, and a time of unexpected pleasures. But none of this was I thinking of that last day. No, my thoughts as I drove away were about the three phases of my life. The first phase was the years of educational preparation for work; the second phase was my professional career; and the third phase being my retirement years. All of us spend a different number of years in each of these depending on our level of education, our career, and ultimately our life expectancy.

As I zoomed down the road on my way home, I thought this was indeed the end of an era. But at the same time, it was just the beginning of a whole new exciting phase of my life.

As a view of my office building receded in the passenger’s side mirror, in spite of the iconic phrase that “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”, I shifted my gaze forward through my windshield to the next phase of my life—retirement—which was now closer than anything in my rearview mirror.

Moving

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In 2015, I chronicled all the towns I had lived in during my lifetime as well as shared some of the more significant firsts that I experienced in each of those towns. But an aspect that I did not address in that post to any large extent, was the friends I had to give up each time we moved.

While modern social media and electronic communication tools have allowed me to reconnect to some of these old friends, they can’t make up for the many years of lost opportunity for staying in touch.

While getting the chance to live in different cities throughout your life can certainly broaden your horizons in terms of experiences and even opportunities, I am actually jealous of my wife who has lived in the same town her whole life and still has friends from when she was five years old. And she even got to live in the same town with many of her aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as some of her grandparents.

For someone under the age of 18, the main reason we move is for one of our parents changing jobs. In my case, it wasn’t so much changing jobs as it was changing churches. My father was a Presbyterian minister and so each time we moved was when, as he put it, “we were called to another church.”

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The first time I moved, I was only four years old so I can’t say that I really even had friends at that age that I gave up in moving.

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The second time I moved was in the mid-1960s when I was 10 years old and I certainly did leave friends behind. I had both friends at school and friends in our neighborhood. This was before the age of any electronic devices so most play was highly interactive with other kids outdoors.

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The third time I moved was absolutely the hardest. Not just because of the friends and activities I left behind but also because of what I faced in my new town. I was 14 years old—just barely a teenager—when we moved during the summer between my 8th and 9th grades. At that time, the 9th grade was the upper grade of junior high school (no such thing as middle school then). I walked in the door that September as an outsider. Most everyone else in school had gone to the same elementary schools and so had been friends for eight years already. What would most of them want to have to do with somebody new when they were at the pinnacle of seniority, their “senior” status so to speak?

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It was very difficult to make friends in school that year. I was able to join the school newspaper so I could at least fit in somewhere and was able to make some friends serving in that capacity.

On the other hand, it was very easy for me to make friends at church as everybody knew who I was coming in, one of the PKs (preacher’s kids).

The following year, I started high school where 10th grade was new to all of us. Some groups of friends carried over from junior high school but with other junior high schools feeding into my high school, I was not the only new kid in town. In high school, I mostly made new friends with other kids in my classes of interest, science and math.

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Once I graduated from high school, the whole dynamics changed. No longer was I moving somewhere to make new friends, everyone was moving on—to college.

In spite of graduating with over 650 fellow students, not one of my friends attended the same college as I was enrolled in, Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). But that was OK as everyone in the freshman class was also new to the school.

After graduating college, people scattered all over the country, some returning to their hometowns, some moving onto graduate school in other cities, and some starting jobs throughout the country.

And all this time, college and two different graduate degrees, I stayed in the same town. It was quite ironic that now the roles had reversed and everyone else was moving away leaving me behind.

Even as a married adult, friends have continued to move away to other jobs and other opportunities and yet my wife and I have continued to live in Memphis, for my 35+ year professional career.

My wife wrote a very thought provoking blog post several years ago about friendship foreclosure and how it really takes a tremendous active effort on the part of someone to maintain friendships. I don’t know if I have used the excuse of me moving or other friends moving away to prevent me from having a large number of friends. I am an introvert so it is certainly much easier for me to do something on my own rather than to call up a friend and do something together. At the age of 60, I have two best friends—my wife of 35+ years and my only brother who is a couple of years younger than me—and one long-term dear friend, R, who I still regularly correspond with via e-mail and text.

So moving a lot growing up as well as friends moving away has definitely contributed to me not having many friends at this point in my life. But interestingly, moving is something that we are considering now that I am approaching retirement. We have always lived in Memphis throughout our marriage because that is where my job has been. In spite of numerous work force reductions and company buyouts, my job has remained, at the same location and even in the same building.

But that all changes the day I retire. No longer are we tied to this city because that is where my employment is. We are free to move almost anywhere we want.

My wife and I have already made a list of things we would want in a home and in a town if we were to move after I retire. We drafted this list in 2011, just after our two oldest kids had gotten married. Another “want” that has arisen since we created that list is living close to our grandkids, three so far.

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Not that this is a decision we will rush into or one that will be easy. It will take some time and extensive research. For my wife, it will be a big change since she has never lived anywhere else. As for me, it will be my first move out of town in over 40 years.

But no matter where we move to, we will still have our midtown condo to come back to be able to visit with friends and family in town. And in our new home, we plan to live near family as well. Because even though friendships have developed and then waned over the years due to my moving and theirs, our family will always remain.

Mom’s Photo Albums

In addition to my dad’s sermons that I brought home from my sister’s house last year, another item was a box of my mom’s old photo albums. My first task was to organize all of my dad’s sermons and once I completed that, I began to go through the old albums with the intent of scanning them to create digital copies. There was a box of loose photos and five separate photo albums. The loose photos and albums scanned the period from the early 1960s to 1996, an almost 40 year period ending just three years before my mom died. It turned out to be a trip down memory lane going through them all with some wonderful discoveries along the way; images that I never knew had even been captured on film.

This is a school photo I found of myself from when I was in the 5th grade. I didn’t even recall seeing it before so it was a special find.

And here is one of our whole family taken at my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was amusing to see how young all of us looked in the early 1960s.

The album from 1970 was so old that I was afraid I would destroy the photos trying to get individual photos out to scan. So I just scanned the entire pages.

This first page captured a visit of my aunt, uncle, and cousin when they came to see us soon after we moved to Memphis. It was a bitter sweet memory when I viewed this page as almost as soon as they returned home after this trip, my cousin became gravely ill with hepatitis and spent many weeks in the hospital before thankfully making a full recovery but then almost within days of returning home, my aunt died of a brain hemorrhage. To further sadden this memory, my cousin, who was just a year younger than me died of a sudden heart attack before he even reached the age of 50.

The picture on the bottom right is actually the one happy memory as it is of me in my bedroom where I spent many an hour building car models just as I was captured doing in this photo. But certainly tempered by the sad events that unfolded soon after that visit.

Also included in that album was a photo of my uncle sitting on my motorcycle at his home in Texas. I sold it to my cousin after we moved to Memphis as I never licensed it in Tennessee because of concerns about me driving it in Memphis, a much busier traffic city than the one from which we had moved which had a population of less than 10,000.

This is the only other photo I thought existed of my old motorcycle.

This is an even older image…

…one of my brother and I when we bought a mini bike that preceded the motorcycle. With our paper route earnings, we together purchased it when we lived in that small town and would ride it up and down our semi-rural street.

Here is a photo of my brother and I with our dad when we were learning to play golf together. This was one of the “father-son” activities my dad suggested we take up once we had moved to the “big” city with public golf courses available. This was obviously taken after that first outing when we learned that each player was supposed to have his own bag and set of clubs (the first time we golfed, all three of us played out of the bag pictured next to my dad).

And this picture is special of my sister with her first car, significant probably much more to me than my sister as she let me learn how to drive a stick shift in her new car.

My dad was a huge fisherman probably going fishing almost every week of his adulthood. Here he is with the largest fish he ever caught, a dolphin landed on a deep-sea fishing excursion we took one summer on vacation in Destin, FL.

The next photo album jumped forward to 1980 the year my parents left Memphis and moved to a small community church in northwestern Louisiana.

We made many trips there prior to my dad retiring in 1989.

It was a relaxing, probably idyllic pre-retirement setting for my parents.

But when I opened the 1996 album and perused the photos, I was shocked at how much my mom had aged in the few short years since the end of the last album.

Some of the photos were even taken of her in the hospital as she had been in and out seeking treatment for numerous medical issues that arose as she neared the end of her life. Some of the photos brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t bear to scan them, as I didn’t want to remember her that way.

As I closed the cover of that last album, tears running down my cheeks, I suddenly felt a tremendous sense of loss over my parents. On a daily basis, I probably don’t think about my parents what with me still working full time, having granddaddy duties, and maintaining a loving relationship with my wife of over 35 years. But it seemed that last album brought the death of my parents crashing down around me, a loss felt anew with fresh tears as I typed these words.

So I decided this was the memory I would try to etch in my mind of my parents, from December 1989, the year my dad retired and long before the medical conditions took their ravish toll on both my parents.

I miss you Mom and Dad. I love you and will always remember you dearly.

Old Car Magazines

As long as I can remember, I have always loved car magazines. Of course this should not come as a surprise for someone like me who loves cars.

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At one point after college (when I could afford it), I had subscriptions to the three big ones: Car & Driver, Motor Trend and Hot Rod. Occasionally they would review some of the same cars and so I enjoyed getting to read each magazine’s take on the pluses and minuses of a certain car.

But to clarify, while I am an avid car lover, I am not a car racer or car modifier and so over time, I found that I appreciated more the “sheer driving pleasure” editorial perspective of Car & Driver and so dropped the other two.

Over the winter, while rummaging around in my closet, I came across a dusty shoebox and cardboard box at the bottom of my closet.

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What delight to find that inside were some of my old car magazines dating back almost 20 years to July 1998! Not that a 20-year-old magazine with circulation probably in the millions and questionable increased financial value would be my source of glee, it was just that these old magazines held sentimental value for me.

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My favorite issue was always the new car issue that came out in either September or October of each year. Car & Driver would faithfully chart the changes over their glossy pages for the new models, confirm the demise of certain models, and include technical highlights for some of the more significant updates. I would use this issue along with ones specific to a certain car I was interested in to help make future car buying decisions. So rather than saying I was just hoarding old magazines, I was building a database archive of research material.

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But the greatest find in my closet was this shoebox, which contained all of my Miata Magazines, the official publication of the Miata Club of America (now defunct).

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It was in 1996 when I bought my first Miata and as soon as I did, I joined the Miata Club of America. For the reasonable price of only $29 per year, you got a member sticker to put on your car and four issues of a magazine.

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This was the first issue I got, not long after purchasing my car, which incidentally, just celebrated 20 years with me. I really used to love this magazine, probably the only one I would ever literally read cover to cover. This was no doubt because of all the cars I have ever owned; the Miata is my all-time favorite (I own two now).

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The magazine included news of Miata club gatherings all over the world, tips on how to take care of your car, how to modify it (if you chose), stories by Miata enthusiasts and the fun they had in their cars, and of course lots of great photos of Miatas. In no other magazine would authors refer to his or her car as a Blue ‘95 and everyone would know exactly what that meant (down to the actual shade of blue and color of interior)!

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One of my favorite columns to read in each issue was this one by Barbara Feinman where she chronicled her own story about her relationship with her Miata, at least until she got married, started a family and had to sell it since it was no longer practical.

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Sadly sometime between 2003 and 2005, these magazines were discontinued.

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Mazda stepped up and began to publish another magazine, with coverage expanded to include other sporty Mazdas and then this magazine morphed into…

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…which covered all Mazda cars. These later magazines would usually include stories about Miatas but other Mazda cars as well that I was less interested in reading about. It was sad to lose a magazine dedicated exclusively to my favorite car.

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But in spite of the demise of the Miata Magazine, I still continued my subscription to Car & Driver.

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Then in 2013, in addition to their long-standing print version, Car & Driver began to offer a digital version of their magazine through a partner company, Zinio. It was incredible! It was a multidimensional digital publication that went left to right and top to bottom.

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In addition, many pages had black or red dot hyperlinks that pulled up even more detailed information when clicked. But the feature that blew me away was for car comparisons, they included videos of the trials upon which the story was based. So rather than just reading about the test results, you could actually see the cars in action in a video. I’m sure it raised an eyebrow from my wife the first time I was reading an issue in bed when all of a sudden, engine racing noises emitted from my iPad.

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They must have offered this as a one year trial to existing print subscribers because at the end of 2013, I was sent a bill for $25 or $30 to continue it for 12 months (over four to five times the reduced hardcopy price I usually paid). I declined and so switched back to hardcopy.

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Then in 2016, Car & Driver began to publish their own digital version. It was not the multi-media version that I had received through Zinio, but it was offered at the same price as the hardcopy. I signed right up and have been receiving the digital version to my iPad every month since then.

I realize that by now subscribing to the digital version, I will no longer be saving hardcopy magazines that could possibly be valuable in about 100 years. I did google the value of one of my Miata Magazines (since they are out of print) and found they were going for about $15 a copy (about double the price I paid 20 years ago ($29 annual membership divided by four issues or $7.25 per magazine). So I obviously won’t be supplementing my retirement income by selling these old magazines. But then again, I won’t be piling up more old magazines in my closet that will just have to be cleaned out one day. So rather than leaving a bunch of old magazines to my heirs, I’ll just bequeath my iPad with all the digital issues.

Painting at Work

In 2013, I wrote a blog post about exploring the artist in me—an artistic challenge that was inspired by my admiration for a painting that hung on the wall where I work. I was so fond of this particular piece of artwork that I decided to try to paint it myself. In that post I wrote:

My first attempt at creating art grew from an appreciation for a painting I passed daily at work on my way to the cafeteria. I was drawn to a modern painting of a couple of buildings. Maybe this was a resurfacing of my adolescent love for architecture. I admired the interesting colors and the straight lines and I thought, “I could do that” and I am going to try. I knew aspiring artists often developed their skills painting other artist’s paintings. But I knew I couldn’t sit in the hall at work all day attempting to paint this painting. So I took a digital photo of it and took it home. You can even see a reflection of me in the glass.

I took that photo in 2004 so the refection you see of me in the glass (in front of the red building) is a much younger version of me. In that 2013 blog post, I went on to describe how I painted my version since I was not a trained artist:

I decided to make my version of the painting the same size as the original so I could judge how well I achieved my goal. I printed out my photo and began to measure the dimensions of each of the features. Knowing that I needed to accurately translate the building’s dimensions from an 8 X 10 photo to a 16 X 24 canvas, I pulled out my calculator and determined the proportions necessary to “blow up” the scale. Using a ruler, I drew all the straight lines on a piece of paper to allow for any necessary corrections and then once I had the 16 X 24 drawing on paper, I redrew it on the canvas.

 I knew with my hand skill limitations and my desire for precise straight lines that I was not going to be able to paint straight lines either. So I used blue painter’s tape to block off a section at a time for painting. I didn’t even try blending colors; I just used the paint right out of the tube. While this can be a slow, tedious process, taping and painting and repeating, it allowed me to achieve my goal. And I thought a fairly true rendition of a real piece of art.

This is my finished painting that, thanks to my wife’s encouragement, we hung on our wall at home. I loved my rendering of the original painting and was very proud that I had been able to recreate it. It has hung in several different locations in our home for the past 13 years.

If you are a regular follower of my blog post, you know that I will be retiring later this year—as a result of the 2016 announced closing of my work site. While this will mean huge changes for me and my family since I have worked at the same location for almost 35 years, interestingly one aspect will remain the same.

With my work site closing, it was determined that certain assets would not be relocated out of state to where our operations were being consolidated with an existing company site. As a result, employees were encouraged to take home the plants located throughout our facility. I found this nice one to take home.

In the fall of 2016, I learned through the grapevine that employees would also be allowed to take home certain furniture and fixtures that would not be moved to the new site. And included in this allowance was some of the corporate art that had graced our walls for all the years of operation.

Some of the art work; in particular original oil paintings of our company founder and of one of our iconic corporate brands, will hopefully find new homes in local museums. When I inquired about the painting I had admired for so many years on my way to the cafeteria, I was told I could have it. Now almost a year later, that painting has now moved to our home.

With the two paintings side by side, I could easily see that while I had intended to reproduce it in the same size, I had far under-estimated the original’s size. In fact, once I got it home and held it up in several different places in the house, it was too big for the space being much larger than I even remembered. With its ultimate location uncertain, I temporarily leaned it up against our dining room table until we could figure it out, at least until my 2-year old granddaughter pulled it over onto herself with a resultant loud crashing sound. Other than being frightened by the sudden noise, my granddaughter was unhurt and when I picked up the framed painting, I was glad to see that it too was undamaged. Finding a place to hang the painting then moved up in priority.

With a two story entry hall, this wall space offered the scale such a large painting needed.

And so it now hangs.

I don’t recall when my company first purchased this particular piece of art so I cannot say for certain how many years I have walked past it on my way to lunch. Now in its new home, every time I stride through our entry hall, I will walk past this long-admired painting. I do not know if it will always remind me of work, only time will tell. But whether or not it does, it will still serve as a reminder of when I actually began to explore my creative side by rendering a likeness of it by my own hand, a pleasurable artistic activity I plan to spend more time enjoying once I do actually retire.

Being Humble

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I started to entitle this blog post “I’m a Humble Man.” But then it seemed that making that statement wouldn’t be consistent with being humble but rather boastful. So I settled on this less pretentious title.

When I put together my list of potential blog topics over four years ago, “Being Humble” was 14th on my list of about 35. Since then, my list of topics has grown significantly and now exceeds 150 titles. And yet, it is just now that I am writing about it.

I don’t know if I have been putting it off because I didn’t want to wrestle with this topic or if as I scanned down my list of topics to choose from for my next post, that a spark of creativity just never jumped at me when I read “Being Humble.” But whatever the reason, I am willing to tackle it now.

A couple of years ago when I wrote a post about What We Would be Known For, I included a list character traits that I aspired to emulate: dedicated, honest, loyal, trustworthy, dependable, loving, considerate, funny, happy, and spiritual—all traits that fit very nicely with my MBTI personality type, ISTJ. But, missing from that list, whether it was consciously or unconsciously, was humble.

I think part of the reason that I have delayed exploring this topic is that I have had difficulty tracing back to why I want to be humble. One of the thoughts that I had while reading through my dad’s sermons recently was maybe I would run across one of his sermons that had inspired me to be humble. I know being humble is a subject that comes up multiple times throughout the Bible so it is likely that I had heard my dad preach on that topic. But if it was one of my dad’s sermons that inspired me, it was not one of the 32 typed up in his book.

Merriam-Webster has a number of definitions for humble but I think the one that is most relevant for me is: not proud or arrogant; not thinking of yourself as better than other people. Or another way to think of it is not being a braggart, which I never have been. Anytime I notice myself venturing close to making a boastful statement, I get a funny feeling like this is not who I am and if I proceed to make the statement anyway; I feel very self-conscious about how it will be interpreted.

Even when I am recognized for something good I have accomplished, I often will deflect the comment or come back with a statement that it wasn’t that significant.

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

One of the hardest awards for me to accept was the year that I won the scientific achievement award at work. One aspect that made this a difficult recognition for me was the fact that I had to beat out other scientists who probably felt their submissions were more worthy than my winning one. But the engraved, wooden plaque that I received in recognition of my achievement has hung on my office wall for almost 25 years, not as a boastful badge of arrogance, but as a reminder of the joy I received in being recognized for my technical accomplishment.

In actuality, I very much appreciate positive feedback and will typically undertake a task in order to exceed other people’s expectations. This has probably contributed to my perfectionism, which isn’t necessarily a positive character trait (as my wife can attest). But it is one way to prevent anyone from finding fault in what I have done so that only positive feedback will be the outcome.

It seems to me quite a conundrum that I enjoy getting praise and yet have difficulty accepting that praise for fear of appearing arrogant.

Teacher

In my professional teaching, it always brings a smile to my face and a feeling of joy when I get positive feedback at the end of the course. This is certainly not my motivation for teaching, but it does validate that my efforts have been well received.

If you think about it, anyone can choose to be humble. It is something you can do completely on your own. But a question, why would someone want to be humble? And in particular, why I have chosen to be humble?

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Growing up a PK (preacher’s kid), I know I was exposed to the Bible verses about the first shall be last and the last shall be first as well as how someone who exalts himself before the Lord will be humbled and someone who humbles himself before the Lord will be exalted. Could it be as simple as I don’t want to be a hypocrite like the Pharisees or that when a record of my life is reviewed, I will receive positive feedback?

I honestly don’t know.

But what I do know is that for as long as I can remember, I have strived to be humble. Being humble is not necessarily something I do to receive positive feedback like the other character traits I listed earlier. I like for people to notice my dedication and my dependability. I’m certainly not looking for someone to compliment me on being humble.

No for now, I will just continue to be humble but further explore its engendering in me. And if my searching proves fruitful, then I will come to you with an update once I have that revelation.