My Backyard is Happier Without Me

The best part of traveling (except when traveling to a fabulous fun & friend-filled place like Capitol Reef) is coming home. It’s wonderful to lie down in a bed that conforms to your body while the washing machine hums in the background while tackling the first hill in a mountain range of laundry. When it squeals during the spin cycle, you know that all is well; you’ve heard it before, and it will live to spin again (and again, and again). It’s the peace that results from knowing which screeches to worry about, and which to ignore, that makes a house a home. Knowing what to expect is reassuring and comforting.

When we headed out to Northern California in our little Chinook, the backyard was freshly mowed, and plants had sprouted with a good bit of greenery above ground. I like green. It’s my favorite color, but when we returned home the plants had produced thousands of brightly-colored blooms. These blooms were bigger and brighter than ever before. I’ve nurtured these plants for years, and in my absence, they decide to produce a plethora of pretty flowers. It made me feel kind of un-needed.

When I retired, I vacillated between wanting my former co-workers to miss me and to forget me. I wanted to be remembered for doing a good job, but I also wanted the program I coordinated to continue to be a success. I have to admit, I didn’t necessarily want it to be more successful in my absence (like my backyard just proved to be) than it was while I was at the helm. After a full six months of retirement, I still occasionally experience a sense of panic that I’ve forgotten to go to work. It’s like my recurring nightmare where I have forgotten to attend a class I’m enrolled in, and the final is tomorrow. I’ve even forgotten where and when the class meets, and I’m not wearing any pants.

We’re home now, and the backyard looks beautiful. I’m retired, and the program I once coordinated is being managed by a bright and talented young woman. I’m kind-of depressed about the whole thing.

Accessing and Making Memories

While working, I tried to remember people’s names. My theory was that if I didn’t continually walk down the mental pathways to those names, the grass would grow obliterating the path and the name at the end. There might have been other important memories at the end of that path, that I needed to access, too. I trampled down the grass, well fertilized with mental poo, to keep my mental paths ready to traverse (and impressed people with my name-retention capabilities).

Now that I’m retired, I don’t have as many names to remember. What if the grass is growing? I don’t have the moniker memory motivation to trample down the grass on the mental pathways. I still have plenty of mental poo, which is quickly composting and fertilizing the greenery. I know: I’ll make new memories, hanging out with friends and family, going to local activities, and traveling. Then I’ll tell my friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers about these escapades, in detail, from memory. It will be like a verbal slide show.

Here’s a list of possible verbal slide shows:

  • Movies seen (like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “The Green Book”)
  • Plays seen (like “The Pirates of Penzance”)
  • Trips made (to cool places like Capitol Reef, Utah and Grass Valley, California)

This is going to be good.  My recent trip to Capitol Reef was a triple-hitter memory maker: hanging out with friends, experiencing local activities in Capitol Reef and travel.  The scenery was spectacular, the food deliciously waist-expanding, the company phenomenally gracious with no scrimping on the laughter-inducing fun.  This trip alone, generated a National Park sized multitude of memories with scenic pathways and trails leading to each individual verbal slide show possibility.   Speaking of trails, while hiking the trail to Hickman’s Bridge (yes, I hiked the trail to Hickman’s Bridge), an elderly couple of gentlemen on the trail behind us were discussing their ailments and frailties.  Not intentionally listening in (sound carries in the great outdoors), I heard one gentleman say to the other, “Thank God we’re worn out.  It shows that we’ve truly lived.”  I liked that philosophy, and shared it with one of my friends.  She let me know that her father (a great guy who I was fortunate to have known) used to say, “I would rather wear out, than rust out.”  

Hickman Bridge

This week, I’ve traveled through Arizona, and Nevada into Northern California for a fun-filled visit with family.  It’s the end of May and we’ve traveled through rain, sleet, hail and snow.  With all of this moisture, I will happily keep moving, risking wearing out to keep from rusting out.

Happy Hummingbird in Northern California

Today is Someday; So is Tomorrow

Way back, in my working days, I identified many tasks that I planned to complete “someday” when I had more time. Someday was included with my retirement package. The days of my week are no longer Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… They are now Someday, Someday, Someday… Today is Someday; tomorrow is Someday, and so was yesterday: so much to do, so many Somedays.

This is part of the reason I developed a Retirement Position Description. I don’t want any of my Somedays to go to waste (or waist, which is what happened when I spent my Somedays eating sugar cookies). The past ten Somedays were spent in another grout encounter of the worst kind: restoring the Saltillo tile on the back patio. I did not take a before picture, because I was ashamed. Shame should have kept me from taking after pictures, but Shame was out to lunch when I arrived with my picture-taking-device (my cell phone – I feel like I’m being less than truthful when I refer to it as a camera; and misleading when I refer to it as a phone).

Yes, this is an after picture.

After many hours of scrubbing, stripping, and patching chips (they were more like chunks) and cracks (they were more like chasms) in the tile, I scrubbed again and then sealed. The tile has great sentimental value. Phil and I had traveled to Nogales, AZ for our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and excavated it from the hillside behind my sister’s home, where it had been thrown after a remodel. It is another reminder of the many joys and great times we’ve had while married. We then brought it home, and installed it ourselves (more good times) on our back patio. We did have to supplement the hillside supply with store bought to cover the entire area. The hillside tile, in testimony to survival of the fittest, has weathered and aged much more gracefully than the store-bought tile. They just don’t make things like they used to.

My current quality standard for task completion is that the work completed last for 15 years. I’m guessing I have about 15 years left in this house, and most of the work that I’m doing, I do not want to repeat. I did a lot of research to find a Saltillo Tile sealer that would provide a 15-year seal. So, while the finished project is not beautiful, I hope that it will function for the next 15 years, allowing me the luxury of moving on to my next Someday task. Life, unlike my patio, is good.

There’s No Poop Fairy in My Mind

In Albuquerque, our Parks and Recreation Department has a “No Poop Fairy” campaign intended to encourage pet-owners to remove their pets’ poop when said poop is deposited in city parks, trails or pathways. As I passed a sign promoting the poop- picking-up initiative, I thought, I wish I had a poop fairy in my mind. Retirement provides me with more time to think, and thoughts that are total pooh pop in to my mind all the time. Once there, they clutter my mental pathways, tripping me up and polluting my thought processes. They stink!

I want to say, that I have nothing against pooh, and realize it’s a necessary bodily function for pets and people alike. I would, however, prefer that pooh stay out of sight and OUT of mind. The pooh in my mind is usually the excrement of my own paranoia. I am always afraid of what people will think of me. Will the ubiquitous “people” think that I’m stupid, worthless, a pest, lacking talent, lacking skill, etc.? The list is much too long to include in its entirety here. When it’s right here in front of me in black and white, even abbreviated, I think, wow, I’m afraid of a lot, and why do I think other people are thinking about me that much. Obviously, I am not spending enough time focusing on the “don’t take myself too seriously” technique intended to keep me from killing people.

I have other mind-cluttering pooh producers: anger, pride, jealousy – oh heck, let’s just throw in all of the deadly sins, except lust (removed with uterus, ovary and fallopian tube), and sloth (I’m kind-of a neat freak, because I’m afraid someone might think I’m a sloppy mess). A poop fairy in my mind, would be worked to death, and as well as not wanting to kill people, I also don’t want to kill fairies. I’m just going to have to gather up those poopy thoughts myself (and quit taking myself so seriously, limiting my food for poop-producing thoughts). What am I going to do with all of that mind pooh? Much like making lemonade out of lemons, I’ll make mental compost out of the mind pooh. I will then use it to grow good thoughts. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do, and maybe those good thoughts will grow into a book, but not erotic fiction, because that whole lust thing is off the table.

There is no poop fairy.