It was my last day at work. I had looked forward to this day with anticipation, yet it did not feel ‘real’ to me. A delicious cake had been baked in honor of this, my last day. There were meetings with both my immediate department co-workers and peers from other areas on campus. Everyone was pleasant, gracious and offered genuine good wishes for my future. My plans were to be picked up from work; go home and finish packing up the kitchen; doctor’s appointment in the morning; spend the night with friends; and the next morning head out on our cross-country move. Even with all those plans, it still felt like ‘just another day’ and I could not understand why! At the end of the day Tom arrived to help me carry things out of my office. Our car was nowhere to be seen. Instead he directed me to where a limo was parked. I was shocked. Tom reminded me I previously said, “I’ve never ridden in a limo.” I was a little surprised, but figured we would just take a limo ride. After the door opened and a car full of my friends yelled “SURPRISE” I was speechless. Even thinking of that afternoon leaves my eyes moist. It was an amazing time! We shared great appetizers from the Black Sheep restaurant with Champaign, stories, laughter and memories. My retirement felt ‘real’ for the first time in the limo with my friends. …and we made even more memories together. Every one was returned to their car. We went home and I completed packing up the kitchen. The limo ride with friends created a wonderful transitional highlight to mark the beginning of my retirement. That ride celebrating with friends made my retirement ‘real’ to me. That afternoon ride also taught me the truth about limos. Riding in a limo is not the big deal nor is just for important people; it is who you ride in the limo with and what you share that make it a big deal! Now when I see a limo, I wonder what and how the people inside are celebrating. It is friends who make life ‘real’! To my friends – again, thank you for the memories!
By 2011, we had already created our own matrix for evaluating retirement locations. We also had pretty much eliminated locations east of the Mississippi River in search of a dryer environment for health reasons. What we did not expect was what the outcome of a spring business trip would be. I was being sent to Denver, CO to speak at and attend a National IT conference. We chose to coordinate a vacation with this trip and spend about ten days on the western slope visiting Tom’s brother and sister-in-law. I was captivated by the beauty of the area and did not want to leave! I found myself feeling healthier than I had felt in years. In short, we had a great time! Upon returning home, we added this location to our matrix and started some serious research. We changed our summer plans of traveling to Arizona and New Mexico, to traveling to Colorado, specifically, the western slope and determining if we enjoyed it as much as we had in March and to start looking at property. We enjoyed the second trip even more than the first! After returning to Wisconsin we started to market our home on the lake. At work, I told them we would be moving when our house sold. I had hoped they would use this time to cross-train someone. Instead, they were banking on the weak housing market and limited by hiring policies, did nothing to prepare for my departure. At home, we continued to research property in the area where we wanted to move and created another matrix for tracking information on those homes. We lived in a large home and decided we did not want the burden of moving all this ‘stuff’ cross-country and yet wanted to maintain a warm inviting feel in our current house. We started with the obvious things. Many went to our kids and then we started running ads to sell the rest. It was a weekly process of giving away, throwing away, selling something. During the down-sizing phase, I started to emotionally connect with people who had ‘moved west’ many generations earlier. It was a liberating, exciting and emotional process. By Christmas time, there had been several successful showings of our house and we had plans to drive back to Colorado in January to seriously look at property again.
It was early in 2010. Retirement was just around the corner. Tom would retire first, and then within two years I too, would retire. Our plan was to move after retirement. We recognized the house on the lake was a wonderful place, but the cost and work necessary to maintain the property was going to limit our ability to travel and participate in other activities of interest to us. Still, it all just seemed like a dream. Brunch with Tim, and his conversation about a friend who had moved to the San Juan Islands changed our attitude about retiring. That day was the turning point for us. We started thinking more seriously about retiring. We recognized, we were in control of what was going to happen and started in earnest to research and evaluate ‘where we really wanted to retire’. We spent much time on the computer and as much time as our schedules would permit traveling. The computer time was consuming and sometimes frustrating, but the dreaming and imagining us in the various locations was fun!