Friday Eve

While working, I loved Thursdays. Thursday was Friday Eve. On Thursday, you could rejoice in the fact that tomorrow would be the working man’s beloved Friday. I am writing this on Thursday. Retirement Thursday does not have the potential happy punch that working Thursday did, but here I am on Thursday, still happy. I’m happy that I’m retired and no longer working.

I’m happy that I’m not working EVERY day during retirement. Happy is heavily dependent upon perspective. Every morning I have to get up and check my shoes to make sure that they don’t have unhappy slime on the soles. That slime will cause my happy feet to slip right out from under me and I can (and have) slide into a pool of unhappiness and self-pity. I have quoted my favorite business slogan (Bissell’s) before: “life’s messy; clean it up.” When it comes to unhappy shoe slime, I have to clean it up myself. Only I can clean it up. There is no Mr. Clean who can magically appear and clean it up for me. Mister, that’s not very nice to me.

I’ve been developing an unhappy shoe-slime cleaning solution. The ol’ Coronavirus has complicated my formulating. My granddaughter, Liadan, frequently reminds me of the impact of Coronavirus. She is very theatrical, so she often, with much drama, tells me that she would have… (it’s always something phenomenal) but she was foiled by CORONAVIRUS. Things I can’t do because of Coronavirus are unhappy slime on the soles of my shoes. I would be going to the gym (or more likely the YMCA) and be incredibly svelte, but for Coronavirus. Slime removing solution: walk (while masked) with friends. I would be learning Spanish (or pickleball, or bridge, or improved writing skills) at my nearby senior center, but for Coronavirus. Slime removing solution: Masterclasses and The Great Courses. I would be reconnecting with friends from my past, but for Coronavirus. Slime removing solution: writing a blog and sending invites to the blog to friends (after 100 posts I’m up to 25 followers – thank you my friends). I’m retired; my time is my own. Today I cleaned my pantry shelves. Yeah, life is good (and my pantry is clean).

So it’s Friday Eve and I love it. I learned to love Thursdays while working. In retirement, I’m LEARNING to love EVERY day. To tell the truth, I’m only moderately happy, but another thing I learned while working is to fake it until you make it. If you’ll excuse me, I have some unhappy slime to remove from the soles of my shoes so that I will be ready to be happy on Friday.

Shoe-slime-removal chair

The Long and Winding Yarn

I have a lot of yarn. I have too much yarn. Why? I have yarn for use with my knitting machines. I never use my knitting machines. I have yarn for crocheting and hand knitting. I don’t hand knit, so that leaves a lot of yarn awaiting pulling and twisting with a crochet hook. When I think about it, it is pretty amazing that a long linear strand of fiber is pulled though itself one loop at a time, over and over again, to create something else. Crocheting is my attempt at being amazing. Last week I finished crocheting an afghan, started and finished crocheting a deer and started another afghan. None of these projects has visibly decreased my yarn “stash.”

When I began my retirement journey, I established rules for myself (I was missing those rules imposed upon me by the workplace), intending to ensure that my much-decreased income would meet my not-so-decreased expenses. One of those retirement-spending rules was to NOT buy yarn before going through my existing yarn supply when beginning a new project. I’m amazed that I should have so much yarn, and still, on most occassions, not have what I need for my newly-begun projects. Of the three projects that I worked on last week, only one did not require the purchase of more yarn. Yarn is very seductive stuff. It can really pull you in.

It’s amazing what people can do with yarn. I am a member of a machine knitting guild. The other members create beautiful articles of clothing, art and warmth. I own knitting machines. They are capable of creating, they just don’t under my ownership. They’re heavy and would no doubt help to hold my house down in a storm. They are also great whisperers of yarn-buying urgings. As I’ve said before, during a pandemic, household items become increasingly conversive (and persuasive).

I choose projects requiring a crochet hook, because crochet hooks require much less commitment than do knitting machines. Knitting machines require a commitment to space and set-up effort before you even start a project. With a crochet hook, you just pick it up and carry it to wherever you want to use it. When you’re to a stopping point you set it down.

Cinnamon sometimes curls up next to me and “helps” me with my crochet projects. She’s a very helpful cat. She has put in an order for a crocheted cat. We’re both still on the fence about getting her a real cat.

And so, my yarn about yarn is coming to a tangled end. I will untangle it, and add it to my stash to be used later. Retirement is full of “later” and yarn. Life is good.

Less-than-perfect home-made deer.

My Favorites

When Phil and I began dating, he took me to the home of one of his friends. This friend had small children, and one of the little ones told me that I was her favorite. I assumed that I, of the many young women that Phil took to this friend’s home, was her favorite. I was flattered. The following Valentine’s Day, I had a sign made for Phil, with the words, “You’re my favorite” inscribed on it. Last Valentine’s Day, the first following Phil’s passing, I was comforted by the outpouring of love from my friends. I want everyone to know, that friends are so much more valuable than money… and chocolates and flowers. Although friends bringing chocolates, flowers and cards are truly amazing, the best gift is the friendship itself. Yep, the gift of friendship is definitely my favorite.

I started evaluating “my favorites” when I read the headline in this morning’s paper, “Polar vortex to bring big chill to NM.” I immediately thought, as far as vortexes/vortices go, Polar ones are not my favorite. I prefer a visit to the many vortices of Sedona (one might say a whirlwind visit, if one was as proficient at all things corny as myself) to standing outside during the chill winds of a Polar vortex.

My favorite pet is always my current pet, because, and this is an amazing phenomenon, my current pet is always my best pet ever. Cinnamon knows that she is my “best kitty.” Yes, she is my FAVORITE kitty and I tell her so repeatedly every day.

My favorites have changed over the years. My favorite kitty, three kitties ago, is not my favorite kitty now (although I have fond memories of all of my kitties). My favorite food has not changed, but has spiraled out (kind of like a favorite-food vortex) to include many foods. Isn’t that GREAT. Instead of just craving one yummy, not-so-good-for-me food, I now crave almost anything that is slightly sweet and edible. Life is good!

Retirement is currently my favorite stage of life. It provides the time required to leisurely explore potentially-favorite activities and foods. When a Polar vortex descends upon New Mexico, I can stay inside, snug and warm. I don’t have to brave (although to be honest, there was no bravery involved when I travelled icy roads to get to work – just cowardly white knuckles) the elements to fulfill work commitments.

Today, I’m going to stay inside with my FAVORITE cat, drinking my favorite herbal tea while watching my favorite “All Creatures Great and Small” episode. She and I will happily reside in the warm eye of the Polar vortex that swirls around my house. I may call or email some of my wonderful friends. I may not. I may simply reminisce; remembering some of my favorite times with some of my favorite people. Apparently, even a Polar vortex brings gifts – opportunities to appreciate the warmth of home and value of friends (including furry ones). So, it’s good to have a warm home, a fluffy cat, good memories and be retired during a Polar vortex. I should donate to those who don’t have a warm home. It’s cold outside, and I am inside: blessed and warm.

Cinnamon, contemplating the approaching Polar vortex.

“He Was a Friend of Mine”

I like John Prine, even though he didn’t write, or record “He Was a Friend of Mine.” I do wish he was a friend of mine. His music makes me feel. Sometimes it makes me feel sad. Sometimes it makes me laugh and feel happy. It’s powerful, and sometimes ludicrously profound. For the most part, I love music.

I don’t swear (except in extreme emergencies). I say, “oh dirty words.” Many people have mistaken my “oh, dirty words,” for “oh, dirty birds.” I’m okay with either. You can imagine how I feel when I pull up next to a car, with music blaring lyrics that proclaim the mystical magical attributes of certain parts of male anatomy and how females (referred to with a derogatory reference to female dogs) should interact with those anatomical features. I don’t like this kind of music. I think it’s inconsiderate of drivers to broadcast it from their vehicles.

Sometimes this inspires me (and not in a good way) to write song lyrics responding to those I’m being forced to listen to. These lyrics are not nice. I should be ashamed (and I am). In response to the afore-mentioned song, the following popped into my mind: “I want to cut off your testicle(s) and use your anus as a receptacle.” In our Country’s current state of divisiveness, I jumped on the extremely-inflammatory- response vehicle heading towards universal anger and outrage. It’s a real demolition derby. We (I) must resist the urge to subtract civil from civilization. We don’t want to end up with just “ization.” What the heck is that? I think it’s kind-of like an “I Nation” where it’s all about me and what I want. Let’s all tune in to some good ol’ John Prine. His lyrics could be rude and irreverent, but in a fun engaging way that encouraged self examination and ultimately, civility.

It’s been a few days since I encountered the vehicle with the blaring music advocating foul language and misogynistic disrespect. Maybe I should carry complimentary headphones to be distributed to drivers whose choice of music is inappropriate for small children and old ladies. It would be a gift that kept on giving. Is it illegal to drive while listening to music through headphones? I’m all for free speech, I would just also like to have the right to choose what I listen to. If the headphones thing is legal, I may have to go with it. It’s probably time for me to again embrace social distancing and isolation (for my own safety). I haven’t yet been vaccinated for COVID so isolation is recommended. Thank God I’m retired. Life is good.

Happy music player (headphones optional).

Give And Take

I can rarely resist the temptation, in response to a speaker’s closing remark, “Are there anymore questions?” to ask, “Just what is the meaning of life?” Yes, I did ace “Corney 101.” That I can even bring myself to write Corney 101 is testimony to my prowess. It’s a family trait. My sister typically responds to the question, “can I call you later?” with, “I’d rather you call me Pam.” I always, no matter how hard I try not to, have to add, “…and boy are his arms tired,” to, “He just flew in.”

What makes my question, “Just what is the meaning of life?” even sillier, is that I know the answer. Scientifically, the meaning of life (okay, maybe it’s the purpose of life) is the sustainment of the species. Yep, we want to be around for a while longer. A trickier question is, “What makes a life meaningful?” Being a self-proclaimed know-it-all (my kids and siblings concur with this proclamation), I claim to know the answer to that one too. No wonder, I have a hard time finding people to hang out with (I tell myself it’s Coronovirus). And, my answer is: give more than you take.

So, this is a short one. I probably don’t know as much as I think I do. I know that I love being retired; I love my friends and family; and that life is good. Happy Friday!

Christmas Amaryllis just keeps on giving

Hold My Hand

In May of 1986, the “Hands Across America” event took place. My sister picked up my six-year-old son (I stayed home with my infant daughter) and drove with him to approximately sixty miles east of Albuquerque to join hands with strangers who had also chosen to participate in the event. How great was that? Complete strangers came together to hold hands in a sign of unity and to raise funds to fight hunger and homelessness here at home and famine in Africa. That was nice. I am a huge fan of nice. I mumble in my sleep, “can’t we all just get along.” For fifteen minutes almost thirty-five years ago we did.

Darius Rucker and Mark Bryan met around that time and went on to form “Hootie and the Blowfish.” Their song “Hold My Hand” (written by Jess Glynne) is one of my favorite hand-holding songs. Holding hands is such a lovely act of affection, comfort and support. We hold our children’s hands to keep them safe. We hold the hands of friends when they’re frightened and quite literally “need a hand.” Holding another’s hand is often the first act of shared affection.

Do you remember The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” released in 1964? What a big jump from “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in 1964 to “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” in 1968. When you’re young, your attitude towards affection is in hyperdrive. When I was a teen in the 1970s, we went from wanting to hold each other’s hand to wanting to do it in the road pretty quickly. Enough of that potentially progeny- mortifying reminiscing. Let’s get back to hand holding.

Music is full of hand-holding encouragement. If it’s encouraged in song, I’m usually all for it (with the exception of the rap music of the nineties that frequently encouraged “killin’ yo mama”). Michael Jackson and Akon’s performance of – “Hold My Hand” is another favorite. “Things will go better if you just hold my hand” is some of the great advice included in this song, written by Aliaune Thiam, Giorgio Tuinfort, and Claude Kelley. The video was released following Michael Jackson’s death. It is lovely.

Last week we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Like MLK, “I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world… [and] to return hate for hate does nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Someone must have sense enough and religion enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil, and this can only be done through love.” Thirty-five years ago, people came together to form a chain of charity, good will and love. I’ve got an idea; when this whole COVID thing is over, let’s hold each other’s hands. Let’s turn back the clock thirty-five years and be friends. Life is good, and it’s even better when you’re holding someone’s hand.

Me, holding my plastic flamingo Hank Jr.’s hand. Hank doesn’t really have hands, and is immune to COVID, so it’s okay.

News of the World

“News of the World” is the title of the new Tom Hanks movie. It was filmed in New Mexico, my favorite destination. I landed here 64 years ago, and I liked it so much, I’ve stayed. I could not have afforded to leave, should I have wanted to, so it’s a good thing that I like it here. It’s beautiful; culturally rich; rich in natural resources, and my home. It has its problems, but we’re not going to talk about those.

We’re not going to talk about the current “news of the world” either. We can barely take a breath without the news of the world having been atomized and pervasively available to be sucked in as we inhale, causing a coughing fit of fear, frustration and fury. It’s amazing to think of a time when you were only exposed to the news of the world when the rare wandering literate ex-soldier arrived in your town to read aloud the events that were happening when the newspaper he reads from was published. It gives a whole new perspective to “current events.” A flash flood would have washed a town away and rebuilding been completed by the time the news of the flood was shared. Wars would have ended, and unknowing soldiers would still be fighting. Not that the news of the time was not sensationalized (yes, Ms. Montoya, I was paying attention when we studied “Yellow Journalism” in Social Studies), it’s just that for most of the Country’s citizens, it was anything but current by the time they heard it. I remember having to cut an article from the newspaper and take it to my Social Studies class for “Current Events” day. My children (who are now forty-one and thirty-five) did too. I don’t think my grandkids are required to do so. I just don’t know and I’m not going to ask. Again, I’m consciously avoiding current events here (and there).

Back to my love of New Mexico. In New Mexico we still have many places with no internet access or cellphone reception. It’s like heaven. From the small Village of Placitas (home to friends Debra and Jennifer), views include mountain ranges, hills and valleys hundreds of miles away. Inhabitants include aging hippies and affluent yuppies (lots of peas in this village pod – sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Next week, the news of the world has the potential to be either chaotic or conciliatory. I think I will leave the newspaper unread and the television off. I may go for a hike in Placitas. I’m retired, I can do that.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, mountain, outdoor and nature
View from Placitas (photo taken from Karl Reineke’s Facebook page)

Epiphany

Someone once told me that it was bad luck to take down your Christmas decorations before Epiphany (January 6th). This thought seems to add credence to the argument raised by agnostics and atheists that religion is organized superstition. I believe that God is and that God is Love, and I won’t be swayed by this argument, but I won’t risk bad luck either (remember the exploding candleholders that marked my success in burning my bayberry candles to the socket so as to bring luck to my home and money to my pocket). I have come to my own Epiphany/luck arrangement. I take down all of my Christmas decorations on January 2nd, EXCEPT my Nativity set which I don’t take down until January 7th. It requires some box juggling. So far I haven’t experienced any kind of recognizable luck, but I remain hopeful.

My grandmother, who was raised by a Methodist minister in the days of a true itinerate ministry (every year the minister would travel to “Conference” and be told of his next year’s assignment – if lucky – hah, “lucky” – he would be assigned to his previous year’s church, if not, he and his family would be required pack up and to be at the new church the next Sunday) was the most superstitious (and faith-filled, in a profoundly open-mined way) person I have known. She would share her many superstition-motivated practices with us, her three grandchildren. These included, never change out the calendar until the first day of the new month. One of our favorites was stamping white horses. This was an activity my grandmother and her many siblings took part in while driving in their Model T to their new church assignment. When one saw a white horse, he or she would point at it, lick the tip of the pointing finger, and press it into the palm of the opposite hand and then ball-up into a fist the pointing hand and smack the newly-slimed palm. After “stamping” three white horses you got a wish. They probably wished that all went well at the new church. There were many other superstition-based practices, but those are the two that come to mind. I still stamp white horses, but since I see them so infrequently my count is lost, so I make a wish with every stamp, just in case it’s a third stamp.

I wish, even without a white horse, that this would bring me back to Epiphany, but it doesn’t, at least it doesn’t with any kind of grace or even reason, but I named this post “Epiphany,” so I’m coming back to it anyway. Epiphany this year was last Wednesday. It was the day that the Electoral College vote was being confirmed in Congress. Politically, it was not a pretty day. I wish, again without the benefit of white horses, that epiphanies would have been as widespread that day as was bad behavior, although I do believe they occurred. I will not pass judgement on President DJT, but I will admit to foregoing the invocation of luck right to the hope of prayer in praying that he experience an epiphany where truth was truth and self-service was apparent and public service DID extend to all members of the community that is the United States of America – the one he swore to serve. I really struggled to type “United” because while government struggles to be transparent, the “United” part of our Country is becoming almost invisible. This makes me sad. This makes me want to drive around until I’ve seen fifteen white horses, because it’s going to take more than one wish to make things better. Oh yeah, back to prayer. So, I’ve been praying for an epiphany for President DJT. In my mind, it looks a little like the one Ebenezer Scrooge experienced in “A Christmas Carol.” There would be ghosts of America Past, America Present, and America Yet-to-Come. I really want things to be better, kinder. You know with more charity of thought and action (this reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:2 – “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”) At this point, I’m thinking it might take some pretty powerful ghosts to make this happen. But I have faith, and hope, and even though it isn’t easy right now, charity as I struggle not to judge.

I have a plastic pink flamingo (thank you friend Shari) who I dress for the season and holidays. I imagine his relief when I take off the turkey outfit after Thanksgiving and the Santa suit after Christmas. I imagine him preferring the dignity of his New Year’s Eve party outfit. I have a pretty active imagination. I imagine a UNITED States of America where life is good for everybody.

All dressed up to welcome in the New Year.

That’s Funny

I began 2020 with a group hike to the top of Mirador Overlook in New Mexico’s Cerrillos Hills State Park. When the group reached the summit, we were provided with kazoos by the Park Ranger, on which we joyously played Auld Lang Syne, sending off the previous year and welcoming the new. At that moment, I had so much hope for 2020. Since kazoo playing is deemed a “super-spreader” activity the Park chose not to schedule a New Year’s Day hike to kick off 2021. This has left me a little bit confused. The hyped hope for 2021 is the promise of a return to normalcy, but I awoke this morning, my first awakening of 2021, to the prospect of a day alone like most of those I have survived during the past ten months.

View from Mirador Overlook on January 1, 2020.

My New Year’s Eve was spent watching comedians bid a comic farewell to the trials of 2020. I don’t mean to be a downer here, but so far 2021 seems like the greater portion of 2020. Granted, I could don warm clothing, a warm mask, and take myself for a hike but I would be alone, and without witnesses to my efforts and companions who could rescue me should I fall, it just doesn’t seem worth it. “And all the Whos down in Whoville [put on their masks] and cried boo-who-who.”

New Year’s Eve at my house included the burning of bayberry candles. It’s a long-standing tradition in my family: “Bayberry candles burnt to the socket, bring luck to the home and money to the pocket.” My family is the unluckiest, empty-pocketed candle burners in the Country. Traditionally, as we lit our candles and reflected on our bad luck of the previous year, we would quip that it could have been much worse if we hadn’t burnt our candles on the last day of the previous year. We’re afraid to take a risk, so we continue the candle-burning tradition. Last night, as the candles’ flames burned in the sockets of the candleholders, the heat generated resulted in an explosion of the candleholders which rivaled the sound of fireworks and gun shots that welcomed in 2021 in my neighborhood. As soon as I’m done here I’ll clean-up the luck infused glass shards that are scattered across my kitchen cooktop.

Welcome 2021. I’ll wish for the best. I won’t prepare for the worst, because I have glass shards to clean up so that I can get busy preparing black-eyed peas to ensure my continued luck. I refuse to be disheartened, because life is good. Now, that’s funny.

I’m so lucky that my bayberry candles burned to the socket before exploding my candleholders.

The Secret’s Out!

I am a follower of the Christian faith. I particularly like those Great Commandments: Love God and Love your Neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39). I love that our neighbor is defined, in the story of The Good Samaritan, as not the person with faith beliefs exactly as our own, but as the person who unselfishly loves and cares for others (Luke 10:25-37). I’ve always loved Christmas and the Hope it encourages. Like my friend Shari, I embrace the motivation hope provides: to persevere and believe in the promise of the future. The Christmas Story is full of encouragement to persevere and have faith in the promise of the future.

I’m sure, as my children and grandchildren opened their gifts from me, they were hopeful for the Christmas money I typically give to them (I had always looked forward to monetary gifts). They can then use that money to buy things they were hoping for. This year, I played a cruel trick. I was inspired by the cruel trick 2020 was to us all. I made each of my children and grandchildren a mask and hid their Christmas money in the mask’s filter pocket. I did wash the Christmas money first, because money is dirty (always literally and sometimes figuratively). They’ve all received many of my homemade masks. They have not been thrilled. As in all things I make, function takes precedent over form. To be honest, even function can be questioned as one of my homemade mask’s attributes. Some were too thick, making it difficult to breath. Others tugged and pulled at the ears of the wearer creating a new torture technique for would-be terrorists. The Christmas masks were made using my favored pattern, but my sewing machine is limping along and skipping stitches as it experiences mask-making-induced Coronavirus fatigue. Openers of the mask-containing boxes were encouraged to change the filter immediately with the polypropylene filter also enclosed in the box. Since I won’t see my family open their gifts this year, I’ll have to hope they change out the filters before tossing the masks aside. As I said, this was a cruel trick of the gift-giving variety.

The Secret’s in the Mask.

I’m hoping (in the Christmas spirit) that 2020 will contain some value-hidden surprises like my Christmas masks did. It contained a lot of opportunity for ingenuity. People were provided the time to discover hidden talents and re-ignite past interests. I was impressed by the ingenuity teachers possessed (not all, but most) as I watched my grandkids complete on-line learning. In a dark year, there were plenty of opportunities to shine.

So this Christmas, the secrets out – the money’s in the mask; the light shines brightest in the dark; and we’re most creative when there’s a need to create. It’s no secret that I LOVE my family and friends. I strive to be a Good Samaritan so love to you and yours. Love is what makes life good and life IS good.