Symphony In My Head

My grandmother was an English Professor. She once told me that not a thing happened in her day that did not remind her of a poem. My mind is not full of poems, I wish it were because there are so many great ones out there. My mind is full of tunes, many of which have poetic lyrics. There are few things that happen in my day that don’t hit the “Play” button on the boombox in my mind. I will then hum along, and often dance, to the tune. This tends to frighten small children in the grocery store.

My taste in music, much like my taste in clothing, is not sophisticated. I’m a huge fan of Arlo Guthrie’s “Motorcycle Song.” This is ironic, because I would rather have a pickle than ride on a motorcicle. Strangely, as I’ve grown older, my musical taste has become less sophisticated. As a child my favorite thing to listen to was Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” As a pre-teen I loved Simon and Garfunkle’s “The Sound of Silence.” I would lay on the floor with my eyes closed, listening to “The Sound of Silence,” until I felt that I was evaporating and my spirit was floating with the musical notes (I was a strange child).

Sitting here thinking about it, I still love the music of my childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and I’m pretty sure I will love much of the music I haven’t yet heard. Apparently, my musical taste, rather than becoming less sophisticated, has broadened. I loved Ken Burns’s Country Music series. I love the bluegrass music in the movie “Mountain Minor.” I love the line “Don’t worry; be happy,” in Bobby McFerrin’s song. I love Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” (especially when it accompanies a video of dancing Minions). I love the Blues, Classic Rock, Folk…

Music is particularly good in a pandemic. You can enjoy music while alone; you can enjoy music while at home. You can enjoy music on the moon; you can make music with a spoon. Music makes my spirit fly high; music makes my worries say, “bye.” I listen to music with my cat; when music’s playing I don’t give a rat (‘s ass about all the yucky things going on in the world). My grandmother would not have liked this sorry excuse for a poem, but she did like music (and me).

Music is everywhere. You don’t even have to turn off the TV to listen to music; just change the channel. June 21st was “World Music Day.” I want EVERY day to be World Music Day. You don’t have to be retired (like me) to listen to lots of music. Listen to music at work! If it’s against your workplace rules, listen to music before and after work. Pandemic-encouraged working from home should open up music-listening possibilities and opportunities. Hurray – life is good!

I really want people to be nice to each other. I think, for the most part, people are nice to each other when they’re happy, so listen to music that makes you happy, and be nice. Thank you very much!

LPs, CDs & MP3s behind those doors.

I’m Not Always…

There are many adjectives that I can use to end this sentence. I’m not always: brave, forgiving, honest, kind, reasonable, supportive, understanding. The sentence-ending-adjective that I’m most ashamed of is “kind.” I’m not always kind. Usually my lack of kindness is limited to my thoughts (yes, sometimes I think unkind thoughts – bad Jennie, bad). My lack of kindness can become verbal and involve hand gestures when I’m driving. When working, my lack of kindness usually grew from fatigue, or had its roots in my unreasonable expectations of co-workers, or my frustration with those who were unwilling to forgive me for my mistakes.

The list of words that I can end my “I’m not always” sentence with includes “forgiving.” Uh oh! That worldwide bestseller, the Bible, says we’re forgiven as we forgive. I’m in deep doo-doo. I’m certain that in my Excel spreadsheet in the sky, my “Needs Forgiving” column is much longer than my “Given Forgiveness” column. I thought I would give the Microsoft product, Excel, a little plug here just incase they could use the marketing boost. I love Excel because it does all kinds of math for the user, that I could never figure out how to do on my own. Okay, I digress (I’m pretty consistent in my habit of digression). Back to the quantified “Forgiveness” columns in my spreadsheet. Things listed in my “Needs Forgiving” column date all the way back to my childhood. My “Given Forgiveness” column would be much longer if I would lighten up and be kind.

I need to forgive Ayn Rand for her selfish-centered philosophy of Objectivism. I still think she’s wrong, but I need to quit taking it personally. So what, Ayn Rand, if my being nice is motivated by my desire to win other people’s approval. At least being nice benefits me and whomever I’m nice to. Oops, I’m sorry Ayn Rand, I don’t fully understand what led to the formulation of your philosophy (another word to add to the possible endings for the “I’m not always” sentence: empathetic).

Retirement has provided me with the time I need to evaluate my past behavior and see what a jerk I could be. To those to whom I was not kind, I ask your forgiveness (I’m sure it includes many who are not among the 20 or so people who read my blog, but for those who do, please forgive those times when I was unkind). I have imagined slights where there were none. “Letting go” of those misinterpretations lightens my forgiveness-requiring load. You may have noticed that “imaginative” is not among the possible endings for my “I’m not always” sentence. My overactive imagination has long resulted in my misinterpretation of events.

When it comes to “forgive and forget,” age has really helped with the forgetting; I’ll have to put some effort into the forgiving and eliminate most of what I thought needed my forgiveness. Retirement HAS really boosted my kindness quotient (being pulled this way and that frequently resulted in unkind behavior on my part – particularly to my family – for which I ask forgiveness). Being kind requires a certain amount of time, and retirement has given that to me. Thank you retirement! I really LOVE retirement. I really LOVE my friends and family. I really LOVE being kind. It makes me feel good and I’m kind of selfish that way. Sorry, Ayn Rand.

Average Is Okay

When I was young, I bemoaned my consistent state of “average.” I was average height, average weight, average intelligence… I have continued that trend into adulthood. I believe it is in keeping with the “Law of Averages.” There is an actual formula for the “Law of Averages” but being of average intelligence, I don’t understand it. What do the exclamation points mean? Are they emphasizing just how average average is?

Law of Averages: Definition & Formula - Video & Lesson Transcript |

Is average just a synonym for mediocre? Why yes it is (I Googled it). From my vantage point of mediocre intelligence, I interpret the “Law of Averages” as follows: If I draw a card from the deck of 100% average cards, whatever I draw will be average. If I draw a card from the deck, where one exceptional card has replaced one of the average cards, I have a one in fifty-two chance of drawing an exceptional card. However, if I factor in my luck (I have below average luck), I can, one-by-one, draw each card and still only draw average cards (where does that factor into their binomial formula – is it the exclamation point?).

As a retiree, I think back on my working days (as infrequently as possible) and remember how “average” impacted the workplace. It frequently became a quantitative issue: are you more or less average than the person working next to you? I even suspected that some (not all) of my higher-ups surrounded themselves with mediocre employees in order to appear less mediocre. Proof of my state of mediocrity and/or averageness. I compensated by working very, very

Here’s the twist; average is okay (not great or horrible, but definitely okay). Somehow, I’ve been shuffled into a deck of INCREDIBLE friends (incredible people are very tolerant of the average – it’s part of what makes them incredible). Somehow, I gave birth to incredible children (I think this one does challenge the “Law of Averages”). I can’t say that the source of my state of average is my gene pool, because my family is full of people of incredible beauty and intelligence (my children, Zach and Jess; my siblings John and Pam; my cousins Ruth, Helen and Candy). It’s a mystery.

Average comes with certain perks. I don’t have to put on make-up, because I know that it is not going to alter my average appearance. In fact, by not attempting to make things look better, I have a great excuse for my average appearance. See, average is okay.

Let’s apply some circular logic (the logic most employed by those of average intelligence) to the “Average is Okay” theory. This year, 2020, has not been average. This year, 2020, has been a bad year; therefore, things that aren’t average are bad, so things that are average are okay. You can’t argue with that (well you can, but people of average intelligence won’t believe you).

I will continue to swim in the pool of average. It’s not too hot. It’s not too cold. It’s okay. Life is good.

Average deck of cards.

They’re Everywhere

Mosquito is a recurring theme in my life right now. I have mosquito plants, mosquito bites and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes travel the world to feast on my blood. I’m fairly sure that my blood is the crack cocaine of the mosquito world. I read that the oldest known mosquito-like creature was found in a 79-million-year-old piece of amber. I’m certain, that if I were to wear that piece of amber, the mosquito-like creature would bust out of the amber and suck my blood. Mosquitoes, HUH, what are they good for? Absolutely nothing (my personal opinion; however, not being an entomologist, I may be wrong).

Ants bite me too.

I don’t like mosquitoes. Their existence requires that I spread poison all over my exposed flesh before going outside. If I miss one millimeter of skin, a mosquito will stop by for a leisurely meal, exploiting my false confidence in my ability to repel. By the way, I have tried many non-poisonous repellent strategies. I made a salve of lemongrass and citronella essential oils and bees’ wax. Mosquitoes departed from their meals on my body with spa-like-treatment-conditioned mosquito feet. I’ve tried eating lots of garlic. My mosquitoes like a garlic-flavored host. I’ve tried drinking vinegar. My mosquitoes like Italian-dressing flavored blood. Friend Ronnie told me that mosquitoes are drawn to CO2 and that I should try limiting my carbonated drinks. Must I give up beeritas (light beer with lime with a splash of tequila and Margarita mix) to become less appealing to mosquitoes? That’s asking too much.

In an attempt to obtain only chili-relleno-sized green chilies, I visited Big Jim’s U-Pick-Em chili farm. I slid through the muddy field picking and filling my basket with what I thought were hefty-sized chilies. It turns out that there is a major chili shrinkage factor in the roasting process. It turns out that I do not have a migrant farm-worker aptitude. It turns out that chili fields are full of mosquitoes. As I waited in line to have my chili roasted (tip your roasters – it’s hard hot low-paying work), scratching, I carefully examined my fellow chili-roasting-line inhabitants. They were not scratching. Many had MUCH more exposed skin than I displayed. My small patches of exposed skin that had somehow missed out on poison spray coverage were welted and itching. I brought my now shrunken roasted chili home in a spirit of defeat. Mosquitoes had won another match.

Things I’ve learned about mosquitoes: there are over 3,500 species (all of which have bitten me); their name means “little fly”; females live longer than males, and are more into blood for dinner than are the males; if you want to avoid mosquitoes, go to Iceland (otherwise, they’re pretty much EVERYWHERE – but more so where I am); mosquitoes carry many illnesses which make people sick; mosquitoes are blood-sucking jerks.

Last week, I wrote about how we can learn a lot of good things (like forgiveness and unconditional love) from animals. This week I want us to learn from mosquitoes. Let’s not be blood-sucking jerks (I wonder if the explosion of political ads on television subconsciously inspired this week’s topic – maybe).

Mosquito-attracting Mosquito Plant.