Serial Killers

I love the books written by Fredrik Backman. They are not about serial killers. I am not a fan of media focusing on serial killers, but because I am a fan of Fredrik Backman, I found myself watching the TV series “Outlier” which is set in northern Norway, Sweden and Finland. Backman’s books are set in northern Sweden. The TV series was dark, which is ironic since it’s set in the “Land-of-the-Midnight-Sun.” The plot involves a young woman who is studying serial killers as a doctoral student in criminal psychology. I like to sleep at night, so I wouldn’t choose this as a subject of intense study. I did, however, learn some things about the psyche of serial killers while watching the series. Apparently (and Google agrees, so it must be true) most serial killers are driven by a need to exert power/control over others. That’s not very nice.

I’m going to switch gears now and discuss vaccines. Just mentioning the word can result in death threats (particularly if your last name is Fauci), so I’m having to gather all of my courage to continue. Public acceptance of vaccines has changed significantly in the last century. When I was a child, we readily lined up to receive our polio vaccines. It was not that that vaccine had been through a more rigorous testing process than recently developed vaccines. Developers of the vaccine experimented with vaccinating children and their own families (Koprowski and Salk respectively). There were problems: the “Cutter Incident” and Simian Virus concerns. Ultimately, issues identified during the development of the Polio Virus have led to a safer vaccine development process. Now, why did we READILY line up to receive that Polio Vaccine? Because we cared about the health and wellbeing of our fellow citizens. Polio was declared eradicated from the Americas in 1994.

So, I’m curious. If someone INTENTIONALLY spreads false information about a vaccine, with the intent to CONTROL large portions of the population and the result is widespread loss of life, what does that make that person? I am not a scientist, so I will not pretend to be an expert (on vaccines or serial killers). I will continue with my daily prayer: God, please bless the citizens of my country with access to the truth, with awareness of the truth, with acceptance of the truth and with acknowledgement of the truth. Amen

Blank Page

I’m sitting here staring at this blank page and suddenly I realize, it’s an exact reflection of my mind. Hello in there; anybody home? Nope – it’s empty. Based on this realization, I’m suspending my Friday Blog post activity. Frankly, I have nothing to say. If you’re driving by Sunset Memorial Park in Albuquerque as I’m writing this, you will hear Phil saying, “I don’t believe it.” To which I respond, “Really Phil, this time it’s true.”

To my dear friends who’ve been following me, THANK YOU! Having what you’ve written read is GREATLY satisfying and rewarding.

As I bounce from activity to activity in days to come, I hope I land here intermittently. Life is good!

Perhaps I should have been fishing for words in a larger pond.

First Loves

Both my best friend Shari’s and my son Zachary’s first loves were horses. Shari loved the four-legged kind and Zach loved the internal combustion engine kind. Shari’s sister, Debra, immortalized her first loves with an AMAZING mosaic of a galloping horse. Debra’s so talented.

Shari’s First Love

Zachary loved his 1988 Mustang 5.0. He saved every penny for parts and pieces to soup it up and customize it. He took his then girlfriend, now wife, to both their Junior and Senior Proms in it. He sold it to get money to set up house when they married. Twenty years later, his brother-in-law came across the exact Mustang for sale on Craigslist. It was still owned by the person who had purchased it those twenty years earlier. Sarah secretly purchased it and presented it to Zach for their twentieth wedding anniversary. Pretty cool, huh? It had long sat in a garage and needed a lot of work to get it up and running. Now their oldest son is driving it. It still has the bass-boosters Zach had installed back in the Nineties and they still work. Grandson Caleb has assured me that he doesn’t turn them on while the car is moving because they make his eyeballs vibrate and he can’t see to drive.

Jou

My first love was God. I read The Greatest Story Ever Told when I was nine. The descriptions of leprosy terrified me and I erected altars in my closet and backyard. I prayed that God would protect me from leprosy. I also decided to become a nun when I was an adult. I had to let go of that aspiration when I found out that Methodists don’t have nuns. I have, however, avoided armadillos throughout my adult life including during my retirement since they are known carriers of leprosy. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t become a nun, since some of their orders work in leprosy colonies (I totally admire their selfless devotion). I avoided contracting Covid during the recent pandemic and I’ve also managed to avoid leprosy during my lifetime. Life is good!

65 Is The New 21

When I was a teen, I could barely wait to turn twenty-one. It represented freedom: the freedom to vote, the freedom to drink in bars; and other freedoms that I really didn’t care about. I married at twenty, so I could legally drink in bars as long as I was with my husband who was over twenty-one. I could also drink in the Capital Bar in Socorro, NM with my friends who were students at New Mexico Tech. Back in those days, Socorro was kind of a sovereign nation ruled by Tech students. They had their own rules, laws and justice system. For independent bar drinking I coveted a driver’s license with a birthdate twenty-one years prior to the date on which I was attempting to enter a bar.

I will turn sixty-five this year and I can barely wait. At sixty-five, I’ll qualify for Medicare. Medicare represents freedom from the health insurance ties that bind most of us to the workplace. I was able to retire at sixty-two only because I had been a Federal Government employee and we were able to retain our health insurance benefits in retirement once having met minimum retirement criteria. For most people, however, that Medicare card is the equivalent to the driver’s license of the newly-turned twenty-one year old.

I turned twenty-one many years ago (let’s see; sixty-four, minus twenty-one equals forty-three – yep, I didn’t go to college for nothin’). I don’t know if I was hassled by telemarketers looking to sell me alcohol the year I turned twenty-one, but I am currently being hassled by “Medicare Advisors” trying to sell me their services. I receive between ten and fifteen calls a day. I’ve asked to be put on “do-not-call” lists; I’ve threatened to report callers and their organizations to the FCC; but mostly, I just don’t pick up (by the way, if I’ve missed a call from you, I apologize). That, and formerly unknown aches and pains are the downside of turning sixty-five. Beyond those things the perks of turning sixty-five are great. In addition to Medicare eligibility, I also like the discounts and special deals afforded the aging. I do get a little discouraged, when people don’t even ask if I’m sixty-five, but rather determine my eligibility for all-things senior-citizen-worthy by simply examining the many wrinkles on my face (those wrinkles help to hold my glasses in place, which in turn hide the bags under my eyes). Aging is not always easy, or pretty, but even while aging, life is good.

I wonder if I was talking to a telemarketer.

Work Dreams

Last week I was talking with my friend Terry, and the subject of work dreams came up. Work dreams invade the peace of retirement, dragging the retiree back into the workplace. I awaken exhausted and mildly traumatized following a work dream. My work dreams typically involve my running from task to task never adequately completing one before being pulled-in to inadequately complete the next. These dreams are an exact replica of my work life. Oh yeah, there is usually an element of family languishing from inattention to their needs (sometimes in a piano bench – dreams can be weird).

Terry, a retired teacher, told of her work dreams. She is asked to write a play or song and then to teach what she’s written to the children in her classroom. I believe, and people who taught with Terry have told me, that Terry could teach anyone anything. I sense that Terry taught the children in her classrooms how to learn. That’s the teaching trait that I’ve always admired most. As usual, I digress (one of my superpowers). When Terry told me about her work dreams, I was inspired to write a poem. Terry deserves a much better poet, but here’s the poem:

Terry’s Work Dream
You asked me to write a play.
You asked me to write a song.
I told you "I don’t know how,"
Now I see that I was wrong.

Everyday of my life is a play.
Everyday I’ve shared the lines.
I’ve taught children to love and laugh,
And to persevere through tough times.

Everyday I’ve sung my song.
The melody's meant to be shared.
Join in and sing along.
My song tells how I’ve cared.

In the play that is my life,
I’ve watched characters come and go.
I cry when I say good-bye.
I rejoice when I say hello.

Tears I cry as I write my play
provide notes for my song, and irony
Joy, pain, love and loss
Create my song’s harmony.

Children put on your costumes,
sing your own song.
I’m here to teach you to bravely sing and play.
I’m here to teach you to be strong.

You asked me to write a play.
You asked me to write a song.
I told you "I don’t know how,"
Now I see that I was wrong.

While I may not be blessed with a poet’s pen, I am blessed with amazing, inspiring friends. Thank you! Life is good.

I’m dreaming of and hoping for mountain rain from those clouds.

People Who Love People

I usually start thinking about what I’ll write in my Friday Blog on Tuesday. By Friday I’m usually still thinking about what I’ll write in my Friday Blog. This week is an anomaly. On Wednesday, ideas started popping into my head. I’ve jotted them down, providing myself with a small bank of ideas. I’m not ready to commit to any of them; invoking one of the many privileges of retirement: decreased commitment requirement. I finally decided to go with the idea inspired by this week’s “Song-In-My-Mind.” In all honesty, almost all of my Friday Blogs (almost, but not all) are inspired by that week’s “Song-In-My-Mind.”

This week I’ve been saying the word “beautiful” a lot as I catch sight of the many flowers blooming in my yard. The word “beautiful” opened the door to the song “People” (composed by Jule Styne with lyrics by Bob Merrill and sung by Barbra Streisand in the Broadway play, Funny Girl). It must be a violent process for these songs when they pop into my mind because the lyrics rarely arrive intact. In my mind, the word “need” is with replaced with the word “love” in the lines, “People, People who need people, Are the luckiest people in the world.” Oh yeah, the word “luckiest” is replaced with the word “loveliest.” I find the use of the word “people,” and the words love/loveliest (I take full responsibility for this as it is not what Mr. Merrill wrote) redundant and annoying. Songs-that-pop-into-my-mind have a grand capacity and wide range of emotion invocation. Some songs in my mind invoke irritation, and some invoke peaceful serenity. Some songs even inspire me to sing-along loudly and dance wildly. My children have asked that I refrain from doing the latter in public and/or their presence.

Beautiful flowers got me thinking about beautiful people and the door to the “People” song was flung wide open. As I’ve suggested, I’m not a big fan of this song (or its current place in my mind), but I’m a HUGE fan of beautiful people, and I’m hugely blessed to have (and have had) many, many beautiful people in my life.

I’m hugely blessed to have so many beautiful flowers in my yard. I love their different colors. I love how they bloom at different levels and how their blooms are so diverse. I love how some are best appreciated from up close and others are best appreciated from a distance. I love their uniqueness and individuality. Hey, that’s what I love about people, too; particularly people who love people.

I’m going to go out in the yard and look at beautiful flowers (I might even smell one or two). Life is good.

Yep, that’s Jennie’s She Shed in the background (go back to April 2019 to read all about it).
Blooms on Barrel cactus. Look but do not touch – OUCH!
Flowers are pouring forth.

Ooh and Aah

I’m always a little anxious when I see two vowels at the beginning of a word, particularly when they’re the same vowel. Vowels tend to intimidate me. They can be pretty wishy-washy; unwilling to commit to one sound or another. That kind of flexibility (as well as the flexibility displayed by some circus performers) makes me uncomfortable.

How did I arrive at this uncomfortable place this Friday Blog morning? The answer is simultaneously simple and circuitous: Bohemian Rhapsody. I bought a ukelele last February. I watched Jake Shimabukuro’s online “How To Play Your Ukulele” class last week. Jake Shimabukuro plays Bohemian Rhapsody (WOW) on his ukulele. Bohemian Rhapsody contains the line, “Mama, oooh.”

While I have not yet opened the box that contains my ukulele, the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody have been circling my mind continuously since seeing Jake Shimabukuro play the song on the ukulele. Since the words were there, I thought I would think about them. Particularly, I thought about “oooh.” Those two “o’s” between the initial “o” and the “h” are like the dash between birth date and death date on a headstone. That’s where everything happens. With a little lilt up or down, we can move from happy to sad. We can go from scolding to scolded. We can convey confusion or confidence. There it is, that vowel flexibility that makes me squirm in discomfort. Aah, I know, I’ll listen to Jake Shimabukuro’s “Peace Love Ukulele.” It sooths my anxiety and inspires. The music is amazing and entertaining. The sounds he coaxes from the humble ukulele are beautiful, varied and impressive. This gives me hope for beauty in other unexpected places. Hope, beauty, ooh and aah are full of possibility. Life is good.

Unexpectedly beautiful blooms on my sage plant.

Lemon Balm

For the past year I’ve been studying herbalism. I like herbs. You can eat them and they won’t kill you (but be careful, because there are some plants that look like edible herbs that CAN kill you if eaten). Lots of herbs have amazing properties that sooth and heal. Herbs are nice. My teacher (via Zoom, of course), Dara Saville, is a big proponent of Lemon Balm. It is credited with calming the nerves and easing ruminating thoughts. While planning this year’s backyard planting I chose to focus on medicinal plants and herbs, including Lemon Balm. I drew a very rough diagram of my backyard’s planting areas and noted what I planted where. That was on April 1st. Some things have sprouted (sprouting makes me happy), but some things have not. The Lemon Balm has not. My granddaughter, who loves to give helpful advice told me, “You must have done something wrong.” Maybe, but maybe not. I realized when I sat down to write today’s blog, that God is protecting one of my sources of inspiration: ruminating thoughts.

My thoughts bounce and swirl around in my mind landing where they will. I wipe them up with my hand and with a flick of my wrist, fling them across the page. SPLAT! Because I think in images I have many analogies for my ruminating thought process. It’s like riding a bucking bronco. It’s like a superball in a racketball court. It’s like a leaf in a wind storm. Sometimes I kind of like it, but at other times I don’t. That’s how ruminating thoughts work.

I still wish my Lemon Balm (and Thyme, and a half a dozen other things that I planted, but that haven’t sprouted) would grow. It makes a yummy iced tea, and while I don’t reject that ruminating thoughts can have some merit, they’re pretty annoying at three in the morning.

Today’s quote on my day-at-a-time calendar was, “A good teacher tells you where to look, but not what to see.” It wasn’t credited to anyone. My mind doesn’t tell me where to look, but it tells me to see twenty different things in interpretation of each thing my gaze lands upon. It’s how I’m able to come up with something (granted, not necessarily something worth reading) to write every Friday. I like writing, so this makes me happy. Life is good.

Metal roadrunner peaking out from behind the mint. Lemon Balm is in the mint family. I mistakenly thought it would be happy to grow in my backyard.
Calendula struggling to take hold.
Pretty, but not edible, iris bloom.

A Deck of Doors

The grandkids were all sitting on the floor.  I couldn’t believe that they wanted to hear my story.  They typically showed very little interest in me, but they asked, so I told.

“How did I get to where I am today?  It was the door I chose.  Things are so different today.  We didn’t have personal computers, tablets or cell phones back then.  Back then, your future was determined, or at least you believed it was determined, on Door Day.  You kids probably can’t even imagine it, but I remember.”  And I did remember.

Why didn’t they look as nervous as I was? I hoped there was no arm-raising involved.  There’s no way my “antiperspirant” would earn that label today, I thought.  Well, I might as well suck it up and go into the auditorium. 

Whew, there must have been others who were as nervous as I was.  The place stunk. I looked around the auditorium and could see the tables set up.  There was a dealer at each table.  Just one dealer per table.  I had heard that you could get an idea of the dealer’s cards, by examining the dealer; by really looking at him or her.  I wondered if the dealer’s gender was a clue to the cards in his or her deck.  Of course, some of the lines weren’t available to me.  Some lines were by invitation only.  My Dad was a mechanic.  Dealers whose decks I choose from would be unlikely to contain the doors available to those in the “invitation-only” lines even though I had been told that while the decks of doors varied from dealer to dealer, there were a few cards that showed up in all decks.    

Where were my friends?  I had thought we were going to meet up and pick a line together.  Maybe I was too early.  I was always either too early or too late.

“Hey, no loitering.  Once you enter the auditorium, you have to get into a line.”

“I’ll just go out and wait for my friends.”

“That’s not an option.  You can walk the perimeter of the auditorium once, but the next time round you have to get in a line.  You’re not allowed to enter the lines that are curtained off – I can tell by looking at you.”

It must have been my low-quality antiperspirant.  It always gave me away – that and my stomach rumbles (nerves, not hunger).  Even though I couldn’t see who was in the curtained-off lines, I knew who would be standing there; the cheerleaders and kids who were cool by virtue of money, looks or intellect.  Money being the surest attribute leading to an invitation to one of those lines.

“Yeah, I’ll just get in this line.” I responded as I moved towards the line directly in front of me.  Impulse control also suffered when I was nervous.

The line was moving incredibly fast.  It didn’t take much time at all, and the hard-plastic chair (orange of course to match the school’s colors) at the table facing the dealer was vacated.  I hadn’t even seen the last kid sitting there get up and leave.  The dealer, in a black suit, with white shirt and black tie, waved me over.  So much for getting a clue to the cards in the deck by examining the dealer.  I moved forward and sat down.  The fact that my sage-colored shirt clashed with the orange chair, increased my anxiety.  The dealer, in this case a man, began to explain the process very matter-of-factly.

“So, I’ll shuffle the deck and then you’ll pick your door card.  You can have the cards door side up, or door side down.  I’m not supposed to, but I’ll go ahead and tell you.  You can’t really tell where the door will lead, even if you can see the card before choosing.  Particularly this deck.  To be honest, I don’t much like this deck.  It’s difficult to judge where the doors in this deck lead by looking at them.  They are partially open, but you can’t see much of what’s behind the door.  The line’s getting long so we better get going.  I’m going to shuffle, and you choose.  You must choose immediately after I shuffle. Cards face up or face down?”

All I could think was that I hoped my sage-green top didn’t show the perspiration that was accumulating under my arms.  I blurted out (I tended to blurt out when I was nervous), “Face up.” 

The dealer shuffled. He had been right.  I really couldn’t make out much of what lay behind the doors pictured.  At that moment, I realized that there was not much advantage to the cards being face-up.  I grabbed a card.  I glanced down at the door, and before I could begin to examine it, it grew and opened before me.  I could barely hear the dealer’s voice in the background saying “Next.”

The door opened to a black and white, checkered linoleum floor.  I knew it.  I was destined to wait tables in a diner the rest of my life.  I had worked at a donut shop during high school to earn gas money for my sixty-two Ford Galaxy (I’m pretty sure that Ford Galaxy owners were not allowed in the exclusive, curtained lines of students awaiting their turn with a dealer).  It was thankless work.  I pushed open the door, a little more so that I could enter, and saw what I still believe to be a small alien.

“Wait a minute,” grandson Cody called out.  “You’re telling us that when you left high school you went through some sort of magical door and met aliens.”  He was looking down at the floor, shaking his head back and forth.

“I’m not only telling you, that’s what happened.  That door, opened to my life’s adventure.  I had many great times and more than a little pain after going through that door.  There were also many more doors.  I choose to open them, and what happened next was always a consequence of my choice.  Opening those doors led me here.  They led me to be here with the five of you.  I’m happy here, and even if I wasn’t it wouldn’t matter.  I didn’t have total freedom-of-choice for the first door that I opened, but it led me to the other doors, and they led me here so it was the right choice.”

Cody looked at me incredulously and asked, “But what about the alien?”  I answered, “Why do you think we all have two spleens?”

This post is in response to Dan Antion’s writing challenge (No Facilities) to write something inspired by a picture of a door. I picked the intriguing door pictured here which was posted on the blog, Retirementally Challenged.  

Gnarly (Dude?)

I like to walk in a dedicated open space area in the North Valley of Albuquerque. The walking paths follow the perimeter of agricultural fields. Last Friday, the field was full of geese (the Sandhill Cranes having migrated away in early March). A hawk circled overhead and landed at the top of a very gnarly tree. I’ve walked past the tree many times and always admire it (it’s gnarly dude). It has a LOT of character. It encompasses both the traditional definition of gnarly – twisted and knotted, or difficult and challenging; as well as the Urban Dictionary definition – cool and awesome.

Like the tree I saw on my walk, the map of my life has been gnarly. It’s twisted and knotted; and while probably not cool, and often down-right painful, it has been awesome. My gnarled career path included pretty much every job position ending with the word “assistant,” including library, medical, legal, office, program, etc. Eventually I progressed to job positions ending with the word “manager,” including office, program, etc. Ultimately it led to retirement, and that’s awesome!

My neighbors and I gathered in front of my next-door neighbor’s house on Monday before retrieving our recently-emptied trash bins. We started discussing the paths our lives had followed. The neighbor across the street told of the excitement and challenges of being in a band in the late 70s (a great time to be in a band as far as times to be in a band go). He shared that there were amazing successes and some devastating losses, but that he wouldn’t have chosen any other path. A gnarly path almost always beats a straight path.

Visually, a gnarly tree is much more interesting than a run-of-the-mill straight-up-and-down tree. Gnarly trees twist themselves into unique yoga-like poses that probably hurt, but ultimately keep the tree going. So, “come on baby, let’s do the twist” and create a life that is fun to look back on. Life (even when gnarled) is good!

Gnarly tree in Los Poblanos Open Space field in Albuquerque’s North Valley.

I had written this post before reading a fellow blogger’s post which shared a challenge (Glastonbury Doors) to write something inspired by a picture of a door. Her post (Interplanetary Portal) contained an intriguing picture of a door. My response to the challenge is in the following post.