Tag Archives: Retirement

What’s It Really Going to be Like to Retire?

Now that my retirement date is less than two months away, I have really been thinking a lot about what it is going to be like to be retired. I know it is going to be a big change as I have worked full-time for over 35 years, ever since I was in graduate school. But I am looking forward to this next phase in my life.

Credit: Saveup.com

This biggest change will simply be to have all the extra time available to do things I want or need to do. I’ve talked to friends who have retired and many of them say they are so busy in retirement, they don’t know how they ever found time to work. I am looking forward to finding out that for myself.

Over my entire career, I have never been on vacation from work for more than two consecutive weeks. And the longest I have even been off from work was three weeks last year when I was off recuperating from surgery. This gave me my first taste for what retirement would be like although I certainly was not able to do whatever I wanted to do.

With all the extra time, I know I will want to spend a lot of it on projects that I have just not had time to do (I enjoy doing things with my hands). Rebuilding this garbage blind is high on my list, as it looks very worn out in comparison to how it looked when first built.

And while I have the table saw set up, I will likely rebuild this old and worn fence that is sorely in need of refreshing.

Our wooden deck overlooking our pool is over 10 years old now and a number of boards need to be replaced. Over the years, I have pressure washed and re-stained it but this time it will need major restoration.

Pulling weeds and mulching flowerbeds is a job that I have had to relegate to weekend days while working full time. Because of this as well as business travel I typically have in the spring, I always seem to behind the 8-ball and never seem to get it all done before the summer is over. My wife works in the yard too but her time has also been limited in the past by her work hours. Next spring, I am looking forward to having five days a week to work in the yard getting the beds ready for spring. And a reward will be that I will have my two weekend days to relax since I will have so much more time to work during the week.

Travel is another activity that my wife and I will have more time to do. Even though towards the end of my career, I have had over 6 weeks of vacation time available to me, I took much of my vacation days teaching the professional courses I have taught for many years. Combined with travel to visit our kids/grandkids, this left little time for as my wife says, “a real vacation.” One where I am not working and we are not visiting relatives.

And now that my wife has a really comfortable car for travel, we will be able to take many more road trips. Some of these could be weeks-long grand tours to places neither of us have been.

Speaking of road trips, I too am looking forward to some of “my road trips,” ones that are simply for the pleasure of enjoying the road (these are not ones my wife will want to take and so I will probably go solo). The last time I took one of these was in 2010 when I took my 2002 Mazda Miata on a 5-day, 2,000-mile trek to drive the Sky Line Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). I’m thinking of doing another drive of the BRP in my new and more comfortable WRX.

Another thing that will be different is likely the end of the day check in my wife and I have had for so many years.

We have what we call “our club” where we typically enjoy a beer and talk about our day. Since we are apart most of the day, there is usually much to talk about. But since we will both be home most days, we may not have as many things to talk about as we may experience our day together. A friend of mine who retired said while he was working, he and his wife usually had a lively conversation over dinner but now they had a hard time thinking of things to say that the other doesn’t already know and so sometimes have a meal mostly in silence. Hopefully that will not be our problem as we still have separate things to share, books we are reading, news we have heard, or interactions we have individually had with our kids. And there is always talk of making plans for what we will do now that we will have more time not working (my wife also retired this year).

So it is with eager anticipation I await my final workday. And after that, not even the sky will be the limit of what we can do!

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.

Photos on My Office Wall


Some of the items that I will need to take home when I retire are these 11 framed photos hanging on my office wall. I cannot even begin to fathom how long they have hung on my wall, but I know they have moved from one office to another each time my office changed. Considering that I have worked at the same site and in the same building for over 30 years, they are probably quite old.


A close up inspection reveals that these are really cheap, 8” X 10” metal frames with a “faux-wood” finish.   I think I probably bought them at Target years ago. At least once when I moved into a larger office, which had a larger wall, I had to search for additional frames of the same design to expand my gallery.

Over the years, I would occasionally change out a photo for a newer one but with one exception, the photos were always either of my family (wife and kids), travel, or my cars. And the reason I know this is because each time I added a new photo, I simply put it on top of the photo previously displayed.

I recently took down each frame and took off the back just to see what treasures were hiding inside the frames.

In some, I found just a few photos but in others, the frame contained four or five photos. As I looked through the photos “archived” in each frame, I saw some of these images for the first time in many, many years.


Harahan Bridge over Mississippi River

The earliest of these photos were black and whites. Prior to getting married, I had bought all the equipment necessary to develop and print my own black and white photos from black and white film. But some of the ones in the frames I realized I had printed from color 35 mm negatives as I recognized the image as a familiar color snapshot from my first year of marriage (back in my “artsy” pre-digital camera age when the only way I could make a black and white photo was to either print it this way or to use black and white film).

Based on finding just four black and white photos, my earliest wall gallery must have only included four frames.

Once I started traveling internationally, I began to add pictures from my travels, replacing all of my black and white photos with color photos.

Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

And as my travels increased, I needed to add additional frames to accommodate photos from all my trips.

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

When family members traveled with me on these international trips, they appeared in my displayed photos as well.


Sometime in the early 2000s, I began to display photos of my cars (at first two and then three cars in 2006) and then in 2011, I added photos from my two oldest children’s weddings.


As my travels continued, I began to replace old travel photos with newer ones.


In May of 2016 when I bought my latest car, I planned on replacing the picture of my Mini, which we no longer owned, with my new WRX.


But then just days later, I got word that my work site was closing.

So rather than adding to my collection, I began to think about what I was going to do with my photo gallery when I left. Since the frames are so cheap, I wouldn’t want to display them inside our house unless I invested in much nicer frames.

And then I came upon the idea of hanging them all in our garage over my workbench. After all, once I retire, I will be spending a lot more time at my workbench doing one of the things I love doing, working with my hands.


I’ve wanted to take down these shelves for quite some time since they just end up becoming a storage space for old paints and chemicals that are not even good anymore. Now I have a good reason to.

So rather than boxing up these old frames and sticking them in the attic or worse yet, throwing them away, they will simply relocate to one of my “new” office walls. Because after all, every time my office moved these gems moved with me. And so they will!

Unquenchable Thirst for Reading

I can’t get enough of reading. For someone who read very little for pleasure up until about the age of 25, I’ve sadly missed a lot of years that I could have been reading. But a reader I have turned in to! These are some of the bookcases filled with books I’ve read over the years.



Once I started this blog several years ago, I began to keep a digital list of all the books I read in a calendar year. And for several years, I’ve been keeping an Amazon “wish list” of all the books I wanted to read. I’ve written before about all of the books I have in waiting on that list, but unfortunately that list is growing faster than I can read.


Not long ago, my sister-in-law introduced me to BookBub, a service you can sign up for in which you pre-select the types of books you would be interested in reading (I signed up for both fiction novels and non-fiction history books.). Once activated, you then get a daily e-mail message that lists digital books that are on sale—just for that one day—priced from “Free” to $3.99. Who can pass up these kinds of prices? So far this year, I’ve purchased eight BookBub books, each for $2.99 or less. Even with the current price of gas, I can’t drive to the public library and check out a book for much less than that.

My problem is, as always, I am a slow reader. I marvel at my wife for how fast she can read.

My Wife's Bookcase

My Wife’s Bookcase

Often when our evening is almost over, we will each get up on our bed and read a digital book on our iPad. It is amazing how quickly she is touching her iPad to move to the next page. Sadly for me, I often end up falling asleep while reading being so worn out by the end of the day.


One of the best times for me to get to read is when I am traveling by air. I honestly don’t mind sitting in the airport waiting to board when I have a good book to read. And once on the plane, I often put ear buds in to discourage any conversation from fellow travellers so I can have hours of uninterrupted reading pleasure. Thank goodness we can now use our e-readers below 10,000 feet and while waiting to depart.


My favorite flight is on my return trip from Amsterdam each year when I typically have a seven to eight hour flight during day light hours when, despite the 7-hour time difference, is still when I would normally be awake (The flight to Amsterdam is overnight so I usually try to sleep as much as I can rather than read to better acclimate to the 7-hour time loss).


Another favorite time of mine is on vacation when I can also spend many hours reading non-stop.

Having turned 60, an age I’ve always thought of as “old” (although less so now that I am actually 60), I’ve had the sad thought of wondering just how many more years of reading I have left.

One of the items on my “to do” list once I retire is to read more. So even though knowing each of us has a limited number of years to live, I plan to accelerate my reading. Not that I will necessarily become a speed-reader to rival my wife. But with more hours available to read, I’ll be able to read even more books. But I suspect that even with that change, I’ll still have trouble keeping up with all the books I want to read. Because there are just so many great books out there, and the universe of books continues to expand ever larger.

Old Files


Even though my retirement is still months away, I have already begun to clean out some old files as the archiving staff will be leaving before my last day. I have been the head of Stability for over 25 years so some of my files go back that far. On the first day of our site-wide clean up, I began to go through some of these quarter century old files.

It was really interesting looking back at some of the reports I approved in 1991. Even more interesting was seeing the names of fellow workers from that period that I had not even thought of in probably almost that long. Sadly, a few of them are not still alive so as I ran across their names, it was with a touch of sorrow.

But as I thumbed through documents from some of the other companies we worked with in the past, it was joyous to see names of people I know now that back then were just another name on a report. It is truly amazing how small the pharmaceutical industry really is.

That first day, I only managed to clean out one 5-drawer lateral file cabinet so I have a number of other files still to go through before I’m done. I fortunately didn’t come across any original documents that would have to go through the lengthy archival process. I did, however, generate a lot of recyclable waste. I can’t image how many trips I made to the recycle bin but I know I met my Fitbit 10,000-step goal that day (I even had to search for additional bins as along with fellow employees, we filled up all the ones close by.).

In advance of this clean-up day, I actually started going through some even older files that dated back to when I first started working.


I ran across this photo of me that I think must have been taken for the company newspaper (remember those?).


When I pulled out this file labeled “Programs”, I didn’t quite know what would be hidden inside. I was floored when I opened it.


Inside was a Basic computer program I had written to crunch method validation data. My boss, when I first started, was very much into computerization (this was 1982) and challenged me as one of my first special projects to come up with a program to perform these method validation calculations.

When I was in college in the mid 1970s, I had studied Basic programming in a calculus lab course I had to take. Back then, the computer we had was a mainframe the size of two deep freezers end to end. We hand wrote out our program (there were no word-processors) and then typed each line of code onto a punch card (e.g., 100 cards for a 100 line program). Our task was to write a program to take multiple inputs of student’s individual test scores, generate a semester average for each student, assign a letter grade, and then rank order the students from highest to lowest average. I had had no exposure to computer programming in high school so this first semester freshman class proved to be a challenging assignment that I ultimately was not able to finish.

Imagine my chagrin when my boss assigned this project to me, a task far more challenging than my college assignment. Maybe it was the motivation of wanting to impress my boss (or the fact that I was being paid to do this rather than just earning a grade) but I remember taking home books on programming in Basic and hand writing my program at the kitchen table. Fortunately less than a decade after college, we were working on a “mini-computer” using a text processor that could take our lines of code and compile them into machine language—no more punch cards—so once my program was complete, I typed it into the text processor.


Turns out writing it was a blast! I had to write several subroutines to perform the actual linear regression and to output the data in a table. I even figured out how to sort the data with a single pass through the calculated results, a functionality that had eluded me in college.


In the same folder, I also found that I had started writing a computer program to manage our family budget. Only problem was this predated the invention of personal computers and so I had no computer of my own on which to run this program. But for a more “legitimate” business use, I did find that I had written a program to track our golf league participant’s scores and total them up to determine the season’s winners. It was almost like that student’s test score program I never was able to write correctly in college, only with golf scores rather than test scores.


As I looked over these 34 year-old documents, I recalled the fun I had had writing these and the sense of pride that on my own, I had taught myself how to successfully program in Basic. It seemed that once I had slayed that old nemesis from college, I was bubbling with confidence to try even more.

I wonder on our next clean-up day what other treasures like these I may uncover that bring back such fond memories. I guess only time will tell.

Retirement Dreaming?


A few months before my planned retirement date, I had an unusual dream. I know we do not fully understand how our minds process data while we sleep but when we can recall a dream; it is often interesting and sometimes even enlightening how different events at the time get woven into our dream. In case you have not followed my posts previously, a little background information may be helpful.

Credit: Saveup.com

Credit: Saveup.com

After almost 35 years working at the same location, I am retiring. But the cause of my retirement is not necessarily a planned event; it is the result of our work site closure and relocation out of state. I was one of the employees designated to work until the site closure actually occurred to ensure a smooth transition of functions to the new site. And since I was planning on retiring in 2018 anyway, it did not make sense for me to relocate to a new site for what would likely be less than a year of additional employment.

Prior to my dream, several related events occurred.

First, for some time, I had been thinking about the fact that when I left, there would be no retirement party. Not that my vanity caused me to wish for the recognition in such an event but just the acknowledgement that there would be no happy celebration of one of the most significant milestones anyone can achieve in their professional career. Over my years at this location, I had been to numerous joyous occasions when others retired. It seemed almost as if rather than me leaving the company, it was leaving me.

Then a few days before I had the dream, my boss told me that rather than executing the previous plan of consolidating the last few remaining employees onto the first floor of our multi-floor building, that we had had an offer on the entire site and may have to actually vacate the site before our planned closing date.

With that as background, in my dream, I was going to a surgery center to have some procedure performed, for what I do not know. When I entered the center, there was a vast number of beds sunken into the ground so that the bed surface was level with the floor. The room was divided into plots with four beds to a plot, each surrounded by a walkway. The beds were of different sizes and styles (I tried to draw this image for you but alas, I am not a very good free-hand artist).

I don’t know if I arrived late but there was no more room for me on that floor so I had to go down a long walking escalator to the lower level. When they took me to my bed, rather than a bed level with the floor, it was a coffin. I remember sensing it was going to feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable and I was not going to be able to move around.


I told the attendant I did not want to be in that coffin and so was shown to another bed much like the others in the room.

The next thing I remember, much like when we are sedated for a medical procedure, was afterwards. I never understand what procedure was performed on me. But my next image was of me standing at a loading dock. Backed up to the building were the open doors of an 18-wheeler trailer. Inside were rows and rows of identical wedge shaped containers, almost like roller luggage bags. I must have been told the trailer was loaded with biological tissues from other patients who’d had procedures, the contents of which were being taken offsite for sanitary incineration.

My bag was not on the truck and then the doors were closed and the truck left. After the truck was out of sight, my bag arrived at the dock all by itself.


Somehow I knew that my red and black work backpack, which contained my work computer and my personal iPad was also in the roller bag. But when I looked closely at the bag, thinking I needed to take out my backpack before it went off to the incinerator, I could see that there was something beating inside the bag like a human heart.


I knew I couldn’t open it for fear of what I might see inside and then all of a sudden the beating heart stopped.

My next thought was, wait I am not dead. Even though the heart in there has stopped beating, I am still alive. I then wheeled my bag into a secluded alcove where I planned to take out my backpack without anyone seeing me. Then I woke up.

I shared this dream with my wife over dinner that night and she thought it was quite revealing. She coaxed me through interpreting what it might mean.

The work life that I had known for so many years was dead but I was not. Something was taken from my body but I had survived. Going to the lower surgery center level was probably me having to relocate at work. Being lead to the coffin were the months of anticipation knowing our site was closing, in a sense dying. And the 18-wheeler was filled with human losses from all of the other employees impacted by this site closure reminiscent of how all our lab samples had actually been loaded onto an 18-wheeler months before and relocated to a new lab.

While this may sound like a bit of a morbid dream, I think it will help me bring closure to my working full time. I am actually very much looking forward to “retiring” although I must say that with air quotes as I plan to continue to teach and potentially consult. I know it will mean change for the life my family and I have known for so long. But I expect it to be a joyous change with more time for travel, more time with my family, and more time for other fun activities. SO close that casket and let the fun begin!

Will I Miss My Morning Commute?

Now that my retirement is less than a year away, this is a question that has been rolling around in my head for the last several months. It probably started one day when I noticed a bumper sticker that read: “Work for me is just a detour on my way to happy hour.” Obviously for this person, their daily commute was just a passage to a more pleasurable, possibly numbing experience. As for me, the answer whether or not I will miss my commute is: yes and no. An explanation is probably in order for my indecisiveness.

I have written numerous times that I love cars and I love to drive. And for 34 years, a big part of my driving has been my daily commute to the same work location. Although I have lived in three different houses in different parts of the city/county during that time, for more than the last 15 years, my daily transit has been about 30 miles, round trip. This is the bulk of my total weekly mileage so my back and forth drive to work represents the majority of the time I spend behind the wheel of my car.


For almost 20 years of that daily commute, I have had access to either a Miata or a Mini Cooper, both cars that are very fun to drive. When we first moved out to the county over 15 years ago, I intentionally took back roads in the morning zipping around some of the curvy county roads. Even taking back roads, my commute time was often just a little over 20 minutes. As more and more people moved out to the county, I would notice a bit more traffic each year when school started but by leaving just a little earlier, I could avoid a lot of this additional traffic and still have a blast on my drive in.


In warmer weather, I particularly had a good time when I could drive to work with the top down. But each fall, I would notice a bit more traffic than I remembered when school was still in session. But then all that changed in the fall of 2013 when construction started on a new flyover at the busiest interstate exchange in the city.

Memphis is unfortunately cursed with very few continuous East-West streets. So when one of them is under construction, traffic backs up and many motorists hop over to one of the other East-West routes increasing their traffic significantly.

That construction is still going on and so for almost three years, one or more lanes of that main East-West Interstate have been closed. This is the same route also used by the majority of Interstate through-traffic so at certain times traffic crawls and when there is an accident, it literally becomes a parking lot. When that happens, even drivers normally willing to crawl on their commute seek an alternate route, which just increases traffic flow on these other routes even further. And construction is projected to continue until mid-year 2017, just a few months before I actually retire.


So my ambivalence about answering my original question is driven by this predicament. I would love to drive like I used to without having to fight so much traffic. At times now, my old 20-minute commute can turn into over an hour. People that love to drive love to do just that, drive, not sit in traffic.

This past August when school started back, traffic was absolutely the worst it has ever been. Construction at another interstate interchange that started over the summer has even taken away a roundabout way for me to get work that distance-wise was even further but actually took less time. Certain sections of my drive today would actually take less time if I were walking. And on mornings before work when I exercise by running, traffic is even worse because I am heading out the door sometimes an hour later.


As a result, I have started spending more nights during the week at our mid-town condo from where my commute time is 10 minutes or less. It is really too short for a fun drive but it is a much better alternative than dealing with the frustration of excessive traffic. I also recently came to the realization that rather than spending the night at the condo, I could actually drive from home to the condo early in the morning and either run in that neighborhood or simply get ready for work there. The first time I tried this, I had a 25 minute commute to the condo (with very little traffic and even fewer stops at traffic lights) and then once I had gotten ready for work, had an 8-minute commute to work for a total commute time of 33 minutes. Rare during the school year is my morning commute from home ever this short.

This new approach will help me avoid hour-long commutes to work until May when school gets out. And then next August when school starts back, it will be the first school year in five years that morning traffic hasn’t been negatively impacted by construction.

Will my commute return to what it was like 15 years ago? Probably not since during that time, more population has moved to the county resulting in even more cars than before. But at least a more rapid commute on the Interstate should funnel off some of the cars from the back roads I prefer to use.

So at least for those last few months, my commute will be better than it’s been in five years. And once I actually retire and am no longer driving to work each weekday, I know I will likely think of numerous errands I need to run to get in some fun drives—just not during rush hour. Who knows, maybe some of those drives will be just to enjoy the road with no other purpose in mind. Because for someone who loves cars, a commute is all about the drive, not necessarily the destination.