Preparing for Retirement

More than year ago, Kevin and I began to plan for the timing of my retirement.  Since he had already retired more than a few years ago and because he loves his life as retiree, he was ready for me to take this life-changing step.  About 9 months ago we decided that an extended trip would be a great way to celebrate the next phase of our life.  The reasoning escapes me right now but we landed on Central America as a destination.

Six Months and Counting:

Then came the difficult step of actually making the commitment.  About six months ago I told my boss that I would plan for March 1st – a date with no good rationale however it was as good as any other date.  (Leaving for vacation on March 3 was carefully thought out, however, for all of the reasons you can imagine). A six month notice would give my boss enough time to recruit for a replacement and personally I thought it would give me enough time to do the personal work that goes along with making such a huge personal change.  My sense was that I needed to prepare in the same way as one prepares for other major life changes such as having children or being an “empty-nester”.

Withdrawal from the Addiction to Work:

Withdrawal from a lifetime of professional work would require me to tackle the difficult process of making an identify shift. While I knew I was ready to have more time to do the things I couldn’t do as a full-time worker, my desires alone wouldn’t guide me through the emotional aspects of this life transition.  While I have experienced as least some level of addiction to the compelling and exciting aspects of my work, my desire to have “time” to enjoy life was a strong opposing force.   I was ready to begin the process of “letting go” of my professional identify and the associated rewards.

Preparation:  Big and Small

The following are some but certainly not all of the steps I have taken to prepare for the transition:

  1. Clothing: Because the type of clothing we wear can be viewed as a component of one’s identify, approximately a year ago I begin to purchase less professional wear (especially suits) and have focused on wearing more casual clothing to work.
  2. After the close of each season, I gave away at least some professional clothing from that season.
  3. Professional reading and resources:  About the time I announced my retirement date, I began to substantially reduce the amount of professional reading and acquisition of new professional knowledge.  More often than any time in my career, I deleted informational email messages pushed to my account, especially if they were focused on acquiring new knowledge.
  4. Change in focus: Instead of focusing on being personally successful, my goal with staff in my work area was focused on helping them to go through a leadership transition.  (This may have helped me more than it helped the staff).
  5. Living in 2 Worlds: For the past six months, I was conscious of the fact that I was living in two worlds – as if I was betraying my employer by having an affair with retirement.  The world of “I really need to not care about this because I’m retiring” competed with “I am still in a job and while here, I need to do what is expected of me”.  These were rough waters to sail.
  6. Talk about Retirement: While it was difficult to discuss the excitement of retiring at work, because I have a number of friends and family members in the same age group, we spoke often about our plans to retire.  Ed, John and Kathleen – 2 BIL’s and good friend are retiring within days of me.  Kathleen helped me to name and frame ‘retirement grief” one experiences, just like any other loss we experience.  Believing it would help my emotional journey, I saw a therapist for a single visit.  As a person in the same age group as me, I could tell that she hadn’t thought about this next phase of her life – in fact I think my discussion about retirement made her more anxious than I was.  No need for a second visit with her.  I bailed.
  7. Work Hours: To the degree possible, I have worked fewer hours in the past six months, and have done less work at home.  While this was very difficult in a job with great demands on my time, it helped me to spend more time engaging in leisure activities.  I found that the more time I had, the more I wanted.

No doubt there are many aspects of retirement which I’ve not prepared for such as how it will feel to not have a professional identity or what it will be like to not have the intellectual stimulation of which is derived from being with work colleagues.  While I may not have prepared for all that is ahead, I am certainly ready to not get up and go to work five days a week as I’ve done for the past 40+ years.

A leisurely morning cup of Jo sounds good to me right now.

A Sewing Sabbatical

I’ve always thought professors are fortunate in that many or most of them get the opportunity to take a sabbatical – just time away to focus, re-focus, discover or study.  For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that’s what I’m doing for the next several months.  This week I will be retiring from my professional work/job in healthcare.  Two days later we’re hitting the road for two months – a time to travel, to learn, to celebrate retirement for both Kevin and me (his is a belated celebration as he’s been retired for 8 years), to contemplate the next steps and to enjoy life.

As you can guess, sewing isn’t a part of life during our travels.  While I don’t feel a need for a sabbatical from this creative form, it will be interesting to see how several months away helps me to reflect and decide on the next steps for my future.  While I don’t plan to work professionally, I definitely will plan to be involved in some type of work that stimulates my creative side and it likely will be sewing or fabric related.

From Sewing to Travel Blog

The upshot is that for the next 2 months this blog will be focused on travel as opposed to sewing, family and other aspects of life.  Please join me as I share our travels with you.  I’ll try hard to find some sewing, fabric or fiber arts to share along the way  but either way the posts will be replete with Central American culture.

Please bookmark this site, add it to your RSS feed or just stop by from time to time.  Either way, you are all invited to join Kevin and me on this adventure, sabbatical or vacation.  There won’t be any sewing patterns or tutorials but hopefully there will be a few photos and some interesting details to share..

Steve the Sweater

One of my winter projects was to upcycle a sweater which I purchased from the local second-hand shop.   It was a rather boxy size medium Sigrid Olsen women’s sweater with the neckline trim made of crochet and cut loops of yarn.

Unfortunately I didn’t photograph the sweater but it looked much the same before and after – originally just a different size and with less shaping.  


This is a pretty easy project and doesn’t take long to finish.  For this type of sweater, the steps are:

1. Remove the neckline trim and crocheted bottom edge and the buttons.

2. Felt the sweater in the washer and machine dry until you have the desired amount of felting.  The result was not only a sweater of a smaller size but one that was incredibly soft.

3. Cut the sweater pieces apart at the seams.

4.  Re-cut using a child’s sweater or sweatshirt pattern. Keep the front overlap intact so you can use the buttonholes and finishing. In this case there was barely enough fabric to cut a size 7 sweater.

5.  Sew the pieces together by laying one seam over the other (probably a 1/2″ overlap), using a backstitch.  This results in a nice flat seam which is amazingly strong.  It takes several hours of sewing time in front of a good movie.

6. Re-attach the neckline trim and the braid at the bottom both with a backstitch.

7. Replace the buttons.

The Result

On our last visit to Wisconsin, I gave Mira the sweater.  She loved the softness and named it “Steve the Sweater”, in place of her favorite plush bedtime partner, Steve the Fish.  He was mysteriously missing so Steve the Sweater became her replacement sleeping partner.

Mira’s request:  “Ramma, will you take a photo of me and put it on your blog?”

So this blog post is for you, Mira.

Love, Ramma.

Mira’s First PJ Pants

Previously I’ve blogged about the pleasure I get from having granddaughters who have an intense interest in all things  sewing.  When we visited over the Christmas holidays, I took with me some pre-washed flannel and a pants pattern with the hope that if asked, Mira would want to sew her first piece of clothing. When I made the offer to spend some special time sewing with Ramma (grandma – that’s me), she wanted to begin immediately.

Mira could hardly wait for me to cut the pieces and to pull out the sewing machine.  Following a safety review (hold your hands at each the side of the needle, never put your fingers under the needle, etc) she immediately began to sew the pieces together.  For each joining, I stood by her side but she guided the fabric and back-tacked at the beginning and end of each seam.  After each seam, amazed by her accomplishment, she ran upstairs to show her grandfather (fondly known as Racka) the progress.

Within an hour she had completed the pants including making the casing and pulling the elastic through with a large safety-pin. In fact drawing the elastic was quite fascinating for Mira’s 8 year-old inquisitive mind.

By this time her energy was waning so I quickly hemmed the legs.  Rightfully so, Mira was extremely proud of her completed project.  She put them on and ran to show her grandfather; later that day she was equally as thrilled to show her parents.


Mira took the completed pj’s to show her teacher the next day; she wore them as day clothing for several days and took them with her when visiting family and friends.  This weekend we visited again and the glow hasn’t worn off – yesterday she took the pj pants to a Superbowl Party so she could show them one of her aunts.

Nor has my glow worn off!