My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Much thought will be required

It’s something that I have to face, and plan on, like every one else, I’m getting older. I’ll turn 61 this year, just one year away from when I could take an early retirement and collect a partial Social Security benefit if I choose to do that. However, I know that I couldn’t live on that alone, so I’ve done a little checking on the subject. The first thing that I learned is although I thought that I’d have to wait until I reached 67 years old to collect full benefits from Social Security, it’s actually age 66 and two months for me. Ten months may not seem like that long now, but one never knows what the future holds.

Fox squirrel pondering a bright future?

Fox squirrel pondering a bright future?

I’m fortunate, I’m in relatively good health for some one my age, and I can still get around fairly well, but who knows how long that will last?

As you may know, I hate driving truck for a living, but after the economic collapse a decade ago, I found myself out of work and no one willing to hire some one my age in the line of work that I used to do. So, I looked at what was available, and made a career change even though I didn’t really want to.

I’d love to have more time off from work so that I could travel more than I could ever hope to when working full-time, just one week of vacation per year doesn’t go very far, or allow me to go very far. I’d love to see and photograph Yellowstone Park again, as well as the Canadian Rockies, maybe the most scenic area on Earth. But, since they are over a thousand miles away, getting there and back in a week leaves no time for anything but driving back and forth. Two weeks isn’t close to being enough time either.

So, what I am thinking about doing is taking the early retirement, sort of, and to also continue working for the majority of each year until I reach full retirement age.

Chipmunk pondering its escape route

Chipmunk pondering its escape route

From the little that I have looked into the matter so far, it looks like if I worked most of a year, and collected Social Security for the entire year, that I could end up earning about the same as I do now by working a full year. That seems too good to be true, and probably is. However, I may find that by signing up for Social Security early, I may be able to take an entire month or two off from work, with Social Security benefits picking up the slack in my income.

Red-tailed hawk trying to see into the future

Red-tailed hawk trying to see into the future

The rules for Social Security are a bit complicated to say the least. If you take early retirement but continue to work, there is a limit as to how much you can earn and still collect the full benefit. If you earn more than the limit, your benefits are cut in the short-term until you reach full retirement age, then, those benefits that were cut are added back into your full retirement benefits, actually increasing them in the long run if you live long enough.

Nowhere on the web site for Social Security does it mention any income tax implications, and I’m sure there must be some. Another thing that I would have to consider is paying the health insurance premiums for the months that I don’t work. There’s a lot to think about, that’s for sure. However, if I read the government website correctly, and I did the calculations correctly, I could work for ten months a year, take two full months off, and not lose very much in terms of income now, and my income would increase when I reach age 66 and two months and qualify for full benefits.

Nashville warbler trying to find its way though the maze

Nashville warbler trying to find its way though the maze

 

Nashville warbler trying to find its way though the maze 2

Nashville warbler trying to find its way though the maze 2

As complicated as all the rules and regulations are for Social Security, I will probably have to consult an expert on the matter. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of “experts” to choose from, unfortunately, they are not all trustworthy. I learned that while dealing with my mother’s financial matters when she developed Alzheimer’s and I had to take over managing her financial affairs.

I can’t tell you how much that I would love being able to get away from work and spend an extended amount of time outdoors shooting photos of the things that I see. I could easily stick to Michigan and work on both more species of birds for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on, as well as photographing the scenic parts of Michigan, such as the Pictured Rocks and Porcupine Mountains in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

If it were to work out so that I could take two months a year off for the next 4 years, I could spend one month escaping winter, traveling to places like the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, which I’ve always wanted to see, and where it’s too warm in the summer for me. Then, I could take another month off in the warmer months here to visit the parts of Michigan that are too far away to reach in just a weekend or even a week.

Juvenile turkey vulture pondering an escape

Juvenile turkey vulture pondering an escape

 

Juvenile turkey vulture preparing to escape

Juvenile turkey vulture preparing to escape

 

Juvenile turkey vulture escaping

Juvenile turkey vulture escaping

Of course, that would mean that I’d also have to cut down on my expenses as far as camera gear that I would like to purchase in the future as well. That doesn’t seem too hard to do, as most of the equipment that I had on my wish list were things that would be nice to have, but weren’t things that I absolutely had to have. Most of the expensive things on the wish list revolved around the new Canon 5DS R camera body that I would love to have for photographing landscapes since it has such a high-resolution sensor.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the craze to have the latest and greatest gear available, and in part, the 7D Mk II that I purchased fed into that. It may be the best sports and wildlife camera on the market today, and it has features that no other Canon camera had at the time when it was released, until the 5DS R was introduced. Canon has just announced a major upgrade of their top of the line 1DX that incorporate some of those features, as well as introducing an all new 80D crop sensor body that has scaled down versions of those features. I can’t help but think that they will soon upgrade the 5D Mk III very soon as well, that would include the features that I would love to have, but with a more modest full-size sensor somewhere between the current version and the high-resolution 5DS R version, at a lower price than the 5DS R.

There are many advantages to a camera with a full-size sensor, lower noise being just one of them. In reality, I don’t need a camera with a full-size sensor at all, but it would make more sense for me to go with less than the very best anyway. I seldom print any of the photos that I shoot, the major reason to switch to the high-resolution camera. Then, there’s the fact that the 5D Mk III has been a workhorse of a camera for many professionals over the past few years, something that I have to take into account if I were to decide to go to a full-size sensor camera. I know, all this camera talk has many of you scratching your heads.

Dragonfly scratching its head

Dragonfly scratching its head

There are other things to consider, like, what do I do with all the photos that I would shoot in a month? Would it be better to stock up on memory cards or purchase a notebook computer to take with me? A quick check of prices tell me that a notebook would actually be cheaper than memory cards, as hard to believe as that is. That would work out much better anyway, I could review my photos to delete the bad ones, and to make sure that I had gotten the shots that I wanted of an area before moving on.

As a matter of fact, I did make it out for a walk once this week, even though it was quite cold that day. When I got home, I couldn’t transfer any of the very few photos that I had shot from the memory card to the computer. I have to think that it was because the card was still very cold that the computer couldn’t read it, because it worked fine yesterday, when it was warmer and a rare sunny day.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

It was so warm that many of the pine cones were fully open.

The open cone of a white pine

The open cone of a white pine

Back to memory cards, I’d hate to spend an entire day or two shooting photos only to find out that they were all lost, so having a notebook computer rather than relying on just memory cards would be good insurance.

I’ve been working on this post and my dreams of extended vacations for a few days now.

I had even begun to plan when I would take time off from work, and where I would go. I’d sign up for Social Security at the beginning of the year that I turn 63. That year, I’d go to the Grand Canyon in February, making it my first place to visit. I based that on the fact that it would likely be one of the more strenuous trips, so I’d like to do that one while I’m still in good shape. That same year, I’d spend a month in Michigan’s upper peninsula photographing the scenery there, much better than a did a few years ago.

It does all seem too good to be true, so I have been trying to contain my excitement about all this, there has to be a fly in the ointment somewhere. However, I found an online Social Security calculator on the AARP website, and it confirmed my calculations, not only would the idea that I have in mind work, it would also mean a hefty increase in my full Social Security benefits once I do reach full retirement age.

There may still be a fly in the ointment though, they just changed the laws as far as Social Security, and no one seems to want to put out any information as to what those changes are, or what they would mean to me. As much as I was looking forward to taking an extended vacation or two a year, I have to believe that the changes in the law will put a chill on my plans.

Frosty leaves

Frosty leaves

 

Frosty dandelion

Frosty dandelion

It would be just my luck to have this all planned out, only to learn that the laws had changed, destroying this dream that I’m dreaming right now.

Even if I found that I couldn’t travel to the out-of-state places that I’m thinking of, having an entire month off at a time for a vacation would still be wonderful. A chance to escape the daily rat-race and really relax. The past few vacations that I took were good, but I tried to pack too much into too short of time. When I went up to the UP a few years ago, I wore myself to a frazzle, I was so worn out by Thursday morning that I couldn’t remember how to make simple exposure adjustments to my camera.

That’s what happens when I push myself too hard and don’t take time to eat right or allow myself any downtime. I was on the go from before dawn until after sunset everyday, and my body and mind finally said enough already, you need to take a break. I passed up places that would have produced some good photos, and didn’t spend any time looking for wildlife, because I simply didn’t have the time. Also, because of how much that I tried to see, I was forced to shoot photos of many of the places at the wrong time of day when the light was all wrong for the best photos.

I don’t want that to happen if I visit some of the places around the United States that I have in mind, or even the more distant parts of Michigan. I’d like to be able to take the scenic route, stopping along the way to see some of the lesser known places, and to also spend some time shooting photos of the wildlife that I see. I’d like to be able to plan to be in each place at the right time for a change, to get the best photos possible.

But, I’ve prattled on long enough about a dream that may or may not become a reality, time to get back to reality. Last weekend was the coldest of this winter season, so I stayed inside catching up on my housework and cleaning my lenses. It’s amazing how much crud a camera lens can attract in such a short time. One day during the week I did venture out after work, that was the day that it was still so cold that I couldn’t get any of the photos that I shot from the memory card to the computer.

On Friday, warmer air arrived, packing a wallop…

The aftermath of the push of warm air

The aftermath of the push of warm air

…as the warm air was driven here by wind gusts over 70 MPH (112 KH). We did set a record high temperature for the date, but I was working, which was just as well as I don’t want to be hit by falling trees or branches. Saturday was also very nice, and I did make it out for a walk after work, but by then, most of the birds were taking their afternoon siesta. Sunday dawned cloudy and even a bit gloomy…

Blue skies all around, but not over me

Blue skies all around, but not over me

…so I went for an extended walk around home once again, rather than going to Muskegon. That was probably the wrong choice, for later on that day, we had pretty good light for just about any type of photography.

The day improved

The day improved

It felt great to be out in nice weather for a change, not that this winter has been anything like the past two. We’ve only had 30 inches (76 cm) of snow for the season, last winter season, we had that much by the end of November. I’m glad that I spent as much time outside as I did, for if the current weather forecast for next weekend is correct, I’ll be back to hibernating again. The idea of being out in sub-freezing temperatures with the wind blowing snow in my face doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to. besides, I’d like to get a really good photo for a change.

The ones that I shot this weekend so far are okay, but nothing special, as you will see. But then, I am getting more picky about which photos that I post. When I crop a bird photo these days, I limit myself, and go no smaller than this most of the time.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

In the past, this was the lower limit which I would crop to.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

That’s mostly because I view all my photos full screen on my 27 inch iMac, rather than on the tiny screen of my old notebook computer. The tighter crop does look good here, but not so good when viewed when presented on the bigger screen. Still, I may have to consider doing some tighter crops for my blogging photos, since they are presented here in such a small size format. I’ll have to think about it, as I can easily have two versions of the same photo using Lightroom. One for if I want to print an image, and a second version for here.

Anyway, here’s the rest of the photos from this weekend so far. I’ll start with a photo that I didn’t have to crop at all.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

It was still a bit breezy yesterday, which had the remaining milkweed seeds dancing in the sunlight.

Milkweed seeds in the wind

Milkweed seeds in the wind

 

More Milkweed seeds in the wind

More Milkweed seeds in the wind

But, those are a fall type of image, I was looking for signs of spring, and found a few.

Maple flower buds beginning to open

Maple flower buds beginning to open

But, I couldn’t catch one of these guys singing.

Male house finch

Male house finch

It dawned on me that shooting photos of the mosses that grow on the ground this time of year, before the other vegetation cover and hide them would be a good idea…

Mosses

Mosses

…but, I wasn’t about to lay down in half-frozen mud to do these mosses justice.

More mosses

More mosses

I recently posted a couple of photos of the goldfinches eating sycamore seeds, well, here’s one of the seed pods still intact.

Sycamore tree seeds

Sycamore tree seeds

Then, I thought that I should show how the stem that the seed pods hang from unravel over time, to look like strings are holding the pods on the tree.

More sycamore seeds

More sycamore seeds

I found more signs of spring.

Willow leaf buds?

Willow leaf buds?

And, a couple of birds willing to pose for me.

American robin

American robin

 

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

 

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

In a recent post, I showed the cone from a white pine tree starting to open…

Pine cone opening in warmer temps.

Pine cone opening in warmer temps.

Here’s how much progress the same cone has made so far, after a few very cold days, then a few warm days.

Pine cone opening more

Pine cone opening more

While checking the cones, I noticed what looks like new growth starting on the tips of some of the branches on the white pines, but I don’t know if it’s a flower bud, or new needle growth, but I took it as another sign of spring.

New growth on a white pine

New growth on a white pine

I still wasn’t ready to lay in the mud for this one, but I had to shoot it anyway.

Yet more mosses

Yet more mosses

With all the wind earlier this week, there were plenty of branches down to allow me to see some of the lichens that had been growing on the branches too high for me to see.

Lichens

Lichens

Sometimes, even I get lucky and shoot images that need no editing what so ever, as these next two show. I didn’t even have to crop them.

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

 

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

I didn’t have many chances to stay in practice shooting flying birds, here’s one of the few times that I did.

Canada geese in flight

Canada geese in flight

I love the patterns and symmetry of pine cones, can you tell?

Another cone from an evergreen

Another cone from an evergreen

All in all, not bad photos, but still, I want more. It’s been almost two months since I shot one that I would rate as excellent, one that I’m very proud of, other than mallards that is.

Male mallard

Male mallard

So, today I’m going to take the short trip to Muskegon to see what I can find. It’s been over a month since I was there, and I need a change of scenery from what I see around home here.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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31 responses

  1. Good luck with your dream, I wish you all the best. You have some excellent pictures on this post, of course I loved the squirrel but the milkweed seeds were a delight as well.

    February 22, 2016 at 4:02 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I hope that I am able to partially retire, then I’ll have that much more time for photography. 😉

      February 22, 2016 at 4:41 am

  2. Best of luck.

    February 22, 2016 at 6:14 am

    • Thank you very much Victor!

      February 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

  3. I think I’d be wanting to partially retire too in your situation, Jerry. Neither of my parents had good health and both were on disability pensions at an early age so I am not banking on being physically and or mentally able for too many years into the future. For women my age the current age of retirement for a pension is 67 years of age but the government is looking at increasing that to 70 in the future. It’s all very complicated to work out as well! While my work is much more flexible than yours, it doesn’t pay well and it is unpredictable so I am currently not able to venture away for more than a day or two at a time now. I hope that your dream comes true and you’re able to have relaxing longer trips to see other places. It’s true that while more expensive camera gear would always be wonderful to have, you are producing really beautiful shots now. Perhaps as you say, it’s more important to have that extra precious time rather than more money. I hope it all works out well for you. I know it can be a headache trying to sort it out, especially when laws keep changing! I hate thinking about it.
    I loved the milkweed seed shots in particular and the frosty dandelion. And of course, the first fox squirrel one is a delight! that would look lovely on the wall or a calendar. The bird shots are superb as always. 🙂

    February 22, 2016 at 6:17 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! My dad died young, as did some of his siblings. However, some are still living and doing well. My mother’s relatives all lived to ripe old ages, so I can’t go by family history. Besides, just living to age 70 doesn’t mean that I’d be able to strap 20 pounds of camera gear to my back and hike 6 or 7 miles in a day either. I will definitely trade better camera gear for long vacations using the gear that I have now, and it makes more sense that way as well.

      February 22, 2016 at 4:25 pm

  4. Jerry, hope you do find a way to make early retirement happen. I like the thought of the wonderful images you would produce traipsing around some of the grand National Parks in the southwest. You’re right that you do want to get there while you’re young and healthy enough to really explore. So many fun things to plan and consider.

    In the meantime, I loved the ethereal quality of your milkweed shots. The little bits of color just shimmer. And I agree with you about the patterns and symmetry that are found in pinecones. There’s so much to see if we would all just open our eyes and take a good look.

    Have a great week. Hope the warming trend continues. I knew there hadn’t been much snow, but I was shocked to see that it’s only been 30 inches so far. That probably doesn’t bode well for the Lake level this year?

    February 22, 2016 at 8:58 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I would love to tackle the parks all across the country while I’m still able to get around well enough. I would like to do the Grand canyon, Yosemite, and Death Valley in that order during the winter months over three years time. I would also love to do Acadia in Maine, Yellowstone, and the Canadian Rockies, although in the summer or fall, and not in that order. I’m trying to not get too excited, things seldom work out for me, but I can always hope, and dream.

      We’re headed back into the deep freeze by next weekend, after up to a foot of snow Wednesday and Thursday, yuck!

      February 22, 2016 at 3:49 pm

  5. It is a lot to think about! I’m a few years younger than you, but am going through the same mental discussion with myself. I took a generous buy-out from the company I worked for. I’m now working part-time, for a lot less money per hour, but doing something I love, outdoors. Even so, I really want / need some time off to rest and enjoy the things I’ve always wanted to do. I’m aiming for age 62 as well. Please do set an appointment with a financial advisor! Many want your business, so you can set initial consultations with as many as you want. From each one, you’ll learn something new and will be better prepared to make your decision.

    February 22, 2016 at 11:09 am

    • Thank you very much for the pointers! I will set up meeting with several people later this spring, once I have other business matters taken care of.

      February 22, 2016 at 3:42 pm

  6. It’s been many decades since I worked in Social Services, but there’s one thing you really need to clear up with someone directly in the Social Security office. Unless things have changed radically, I don’t think you can take early retirement benefits and then later switch to full retirement. My understanding is that if you take your benefit at 62, you are then locked into the lower amount no matter how you try to juggle it. Rather than talk to random ‘experts’ your best bet should be talking to someone in the Social Security office. I’ve had very good luck with them. Of course results may vary if you’re living in a big city.

    Wishing you luck with your decision.

    February 22, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! That was my understanding as well, if you signed up for early benefits, that’s all that you got for the rest of your life. But, according to the Social Security website, there’s now a three tiered system, you can start at 62, get “full” benefits when you hit retirement age, and then get even more once you reach 70. I couldn’t believe it when I read that the benefits that were reduced when you continued to work and draw SS were added back in later. I will definitely talk to several people in the know first, then confirm it with SS later.

      February 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      • Great news indeed! Hope it works out for you!

        February 22, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      • I believe that you were correct, that if you opt to actually quit working at 62, then your benefit is frozen. But, since I’ll continue to work after I begin to draw the benefit, what they don’t pay me will be rolled back into my benefits when I do reach 66 years old. But, I will have to check into it more.

        February 22, 2016 at 11:58 pm

  7. The chickadee pictures were my favourites. It is not an easy bird to catch becuase of the strong contrasts so you do exceptionally well.

    You should live in dear old backward Europe where they give you more generous holidays. I hope that you can find some competent advice.

    February 22, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I was blessed with good light and plenty of practice to get the shots of the chickadee.

      As far as backwards old Europe, no thanks, no one gives you anything unless they’ve taken it from you in the first place in one way or another.

      February 23, 2016 at 12:04 am

      • You could have been a teacher. They get long holidays.

        February 23, 2016 at 5:54 pm

  8. I could have written the first parts of this one! I’ve pretty much decided that I have to work until at least 66, but I couldn’t take 2 months off from my job anyway. I was going to suggest what Gunta did-that you talk to the actual Social Security people. It’s free and they’re there to answer our questions and they won’t steer you down the wrong road. I hope you can make it work for 62!
    I think the moss just before the sycamore seed heads is tree moss (Climacium dendroides.)
    I’m fascinated with the pine cone that opens and closes. I haven’t found one that I can easily watch yet. I always thought they only opened full when they were ready to release their seeds.
    That’s a nice shot of that lichen. I’m not sure of its name but it’s into heavy spore production.
    The cone before the mallards looks like it might be a spruce cone.
    Those are great shots of the chickadee and of course the squirrels!

    February 22, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen, for both the sage advice, and the identifications! One good thing about being a truck driver, every company is so desperate for drivers that they are willing to bend over backwards in some ways to keep one. There are several other part time retired drivers working there, I should have thought of this before.

      If I had plenty of time, I should do a time lapse sequence of photos of one pine cone to see if they do open and close, but I believe that they do.

      February 23, 2016 at 12:32 am

  9. I hope your dream comes true Jerry. My husband took early retirement at 62 last year and hasn’t regretted it at all. Not that he has been able to do many of the nice things he’d planned on doing, as family commitments and house repairs have taken over!
    I love those Chickadee shots! The delicate colours of the bird and the background are gorgeous and with a lesser photographer than you the bird could have merged into the background and been lost. I also love the American Robin shot. Such a fabulous coloured bird and what delicate feet it has!

    February 22, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I’d love to be able to fully retire at 62 as your husband did, but that isn’t in the cards. I do hope that he gets the chance to fully savor his retirement soon.

      February 23, 2016 at 12:00 am

      • Thank-you Jerry – so does he!

        February 23, 2016 at 4:54 pm

  10. Jerry, you’ve gotten so many great comments on SS and retirement, it’s hard to add anything new. Hubby & I have talked so much about this ourselves and with our financial advisor. With my mom passing too young in years and my medical scare in November, we are in the midst of making life changes as well to retire early….and live life.

    Here’s a wild thought. I know you are an outdoor guy. What about if you took early retirement and you bought a camper or motorhome? You would be on an adventure of a lifetime, going wherever you wanted, when you wanted. I’ve been mum on my blog, but this is what we are honestly thinking hard on doing. You know I’m in Florida camping, and we love the simple life of camping. I follow several RV blogs of other ‘full-timers’. No one regrets it! But obviously, it’s a big change, selling everything that you can’t pack and take with you. It’s exciting and scary to think about. But I believe we are going to do it. And I kind of like the thought of being a RV road gypsy. And all the photo ops I would have the chance to take! 🙂 Like I said, a wild thought!

    BTW, your photos are again fantastic as usual! Loved the chickadee!

    February 23, 2016 at 12:15 am

    • Thank you very much Donna! I would love to become an RV gypsy, but I can’t afford to completely retire at 62, no matter what. I also follow several full time RVers and it does look like they live the good life, so I’m exploring that option for once I reach full retirement age. Fortunately, I live a simple life, so going full time wouldn’t be that much of a change, and it would be great to follow the best weather around the country every year. I hope that things work out for you, and that it does bring you all the joys that you’re hoping for!

      February 23, 2016 at 12:37 am

      • Thanks, Jerry, same to you!

        February 23, 2016 at 1:47 pm

  11. Jerry, you probably already know about this government site: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/applying2.html that explains the implications of taking your social security benefits early. Read it carefully. No need to consult an “expert”.

    Practically all the experts say that you’d be better off waiting until you reach full retirement age. Some even say it is better to wait until you get to be 70 because you will be collecting considerably higher benefits.

    By the way, once you take early benefits, they will be reduced permanently and will not increase when you reach full retirement age.

    I was laid off and forced into retirement two years ago. I learned how to live on less and still enjoy the small things in life, like taking photographs. It ain’t so bad at all. Then last month they hired me back, and I am now working full time. The extra income is nice but I sure do miss the freedom to make solo pursuits. 🙂

    February 24, 2016 at 8:03 am

    • Thank you very much for your input on this! I know that what you said about taking SS early is correct if you quit working, but this is from the website for which you sent me the link.

      “If you work after you start receiving benefits, we may withhold some of your benefits if you have excess earnings. However, after you reach full retirement age, we will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for any months in which you did not receive some benefit because of your earnings.”

      Since I plan continuing to work full time other than a month or two off each year, my early retire benefits will be reduced to next to nothing. According to the benefits calculator that I found on that same website, I would end up getting almost my entire full retirement benefit when I do fully retire, because of that re-calculation. However, I don’t trust that, so I will need to talk to some one who knows all the details of how it works.

      You may find out that since you’re back to work, you’ll get more when you reach full retirement age.

      Sounds as if we went through similar times, but I couldn’t draw SS while I wasn’t working, I ended up going through all my savings while looking for work.

      February 24, 2016 at 2:05 pm

  12. Wish you all the best in weighing all of these important decisions! None of it is easy and, as you know, the world is changing so rapidly, it’s hard to count on anything *but* change. Love the way you chose the pix to go with your story. Some really cute photos today, too! Adorable chipmunk and that charming chickadee (America’s cutest bird, perhaps!)

    February 24, 2016 at 9:54 am

    • Thank you very much Lori! I think that chickadees are the cutest birds, which is why I photograph them so often.

      February 24, 2016 at 1:40 pm

  13. Beautiful photos, Jerry, as always. Early retirement is a great thing if you can do it. Best of luck!

    February 27, 2016 at 10:36 am

    • Thank you very much Lavinia!

      February 27, 2016 at 2:47 pm