This boomer embraces her husband’s hobbies

Retirement for baby boomers means new endeavors. And if you don’t live alone, either you embrace your partner’s as well as your own, or… well… you go your separate ways. From Millsboro, Delaware, award-winning essayist Paula Ganzi McGloin writes about “Living with a Woodworker.”

Some men ogle women walking by. My guy eyes that pile of wood on the side of the road.

You know you’re living with a woodworker when you sort laundry into lights, darks, colors, and sawdusty.

Billy McGloin looking for good scrap wood.

His t-shirt drawer reads like an Etsy page: “I love the smell of sawdust in the morning!”

Retirement engenders the pursuit of passions. My writing career now has the time and space it deserves.

My husband transitioned from engineer to woodworker.

While I’m thrilled that Billy enjoys woodworking, there are some compromises I’ve made.

Billy in his workshop.

When we bought in a 55+ community and were designing our home, I acquiesced to having a two-car garage that would never shelter cars. It would house my husband’s workshop. For my home office, I chose a front room with French doors that looks out onto our porch with a view of the pond in the distance— and shares a wall with the garage. Though the sawing and banging can be disruptive, and the nail gun compressor sounds like a mob hit, I love working side-by-side-ish, yet maintaining our own space.

Billy creates live edge tables, tree trunk slice clocks, and pet feeders personalized to the dog owner’s photo.

“Oh my God!” is a typical first-look outburst.

“It’s such a great feeling when people like what I make,” Billy says.

Woodworking is a popular pastime for retirees.

“Somebody’s cutting,” Billy declares, as we’re walking in our community, his head swiveling toward the sound of a chainsaw. His Pavlovian response reminds me of a meerkat lookout, its head scanning the sky for predators.

I suggested Billy start a club. “You could meet monthly and rotate hosting in each others’ workshops!” I was bursting with enthusiasm, channeling a wood shop version of my book club, discussing the attributes of sycamore vs. walnut. But Billy didn’t bite. These guys just borrow each others’ tools and talk about the price of wood.

Our development is in its final building phase and when Billy noticed good wood being discarded, he hatched a plan:  dumpster diving at dusk.

I recall our first heist. “If someone spots us, I’ll be mortified!” I hissed, as Billy unloaded the ladder. I was outfitted in a black brimmed cap, dark jacket and gloves— if I’d owned a ski mask, I would’ve worn it.  Luckily our SUV is dark and looks like everyone else’s.

That first payoff? A few planks of pine and some pressboard.

A few of Billy’s woodworking creations.

Since then, the direction of our walks has been dictated by construction site progress. “Let’s go this way, they’re framing a house,” my husband says. We approach the site, abuzz with workers. Billy sidles up to the dumpster, stepping onto the lip to peek inside. I thought he’d spotted a Ziploc of fifties the day he saw a four-by-four. “We’ll come back tonight!” Billy said, his face flushed with excitement.

I rationalize our dumpster diving by reminding myself, we’re not stealing— we’re repurposing garbage that would end up in a landfill. One could say we’re environmentalists. You’re welcome, Planet Earth.

The other day in my office, I overheard a customer picking up her pet feeder. There was the creaking of the garage door opening, Billy saying “Hi,” and then a woman’s voice laughing, the muffled yet intelligible “Oh my God!”

Though I couldn’t see the scene, I could sense my husband’s beaming face.


  1. Great article, Paula. Glad to see your expanded writing time is paying off.

    I must admit that as I read your article, I could smell fresh cut wood while you mused over sawdust.

  2. I love this story . That’s what we do too. We pick up discards or help people get rid of things when they move. we have some very unusual items. And mops, brooms, soap, household cleaners. Then we ask around. Does anyone need a bed, a sofa, pots and pans. Our house is cluttered but we struck a bonanza last month helping a grandmother and her grand daughter move into their new Section 8 home. Keep things out of land fill Keep up the good work. Beautiful tables by the way. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I too have dumpster diving woodworker husband. Any walk with him around the community takes twice as long because we must stop at each dumpster. Luckily there are fewer today. He is happiest when there is sawdust on the floor from a project and that was a great help getting through the days of the pandemic. So I keep the vacuum close to to where he is tracking it into the house and we are both happy

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