Soul Pimp

When I began my final workplace position, that spanned eight of my nineteen years of Federal employment, I promised myself that I would give up my there-to-fore soul pimp behavior. In previous positions I wouldn’t take breaks; I would stay late; I would eat my lunch at my desk and I took very little time off. I would put my heart and soul into my work. I would sell my soul for my job. That behavior never provided any extraordinary success, and rarely resulted in recognition. In other words, I sold my soul cheap. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the martyr factor. My mother always told me that I relished being a martyr, but I think being a pimp (even a soul pimp) and a martyr are mutually exclusive.

So as I began my professional finale, I was determined to be governed by reason. I wasn’t successful. I quickly sold my soul to the company store, and worked longer hours with fewer breaks, and more personal sacrifice than I ever had before. I have to admit, that I loved to hear, “Oh Jennie, you work sooooo hard,” and “Oh Jennie, you’re such a hard worker.” I even resented co-workers, usually those in supervisory positions, who didn’t acknowledge my selfless personal sacrifice (ohhh, that martyr thing is starting to make more sense).

Retirement lends itself more to martyrdom than to soul pimping. This week, in an ultimate display of martyrdom, I was flayed by the task of jelly making. I pitted six pounds of plums, ensuring that the pitted fruit was free of blood let during this task. I mashed the fruit to free the juice, like Moses, seeking freedom for my charges. There was no parting of the Red Sea, but there was a red sea of plum juice that ran down my arms, across the counter and onto the floor. Happily, my Fitbit, while not water resistant, is plum juice resistant.

I went on to cook the juice with sugar, lemon juice and pectin; pour it into sterilized jars, which I then boiled in a huge water bath. I was not burned at the stake, but I have plenty of jelly-making sacrificial burns on my arms and fingers. After eight hours, I realized that the jelly was not jelling. I was sad. I opened the jars, collected the un-jelled contents, re-sterilized the jars, recooked the fruit with additional sugar, lemon juice and pectin, refilled the re-sterilized jars, and re-boiled them in the huge water bath, re-burning some of my previous burns. It’s a repetitive process. As of this morning, the jelly has not jelled. I am sad.

When I began that final Federal work position, I hoped that I would live to see retirement. As I continue through retirement, I hope I live to see next year

Fruit of My Labor

Bad Luck Gets a Bad Rap

As a retiree, I am happy to be independent of gainful employment as I celebrate Independence Day this year. I appreciate my retirement status, and I am reminded how lucky I am every time I run into a former co-worker; all of whom say, “You’re so lucky to be retired.” Frankly, luck had little to do with it. I worked the requisite years, contributed to my retirement fund, and now I’m happy to be reaping the rewards.

Much like good luck is often credited with the rewards of hard work, bad luck is often blamed for the consequences of poor choices. Let’s look at a few examples (these are not personal quotes, but they are reminders to me that when I do something stupid, and something bad results, it has nothing to do with luck):

  • Gambling – “I spent hours at that slot machine and lost $500.00. I have the worst luck.”
  • Reckless driving – “I rushed to make it through that light, just as it turned red, and got T-boned. I have rotten luck.”
  • Reckless behavior – “I had sex with that jerk, and now I’m pregnant. I can’t believe my luck.”

Bad luck has become the crutch propping up the rapid decline of personal accountability. Here in Retirement Land, personal accountability is much more… personal. When you mess up while retired, the impact as well as the effect is usually personal. Yes, another benefit of retirement, is that when you do something stupid, you have only yourself to blame. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “Life’s good!”

So what is good luck? Among other things, good luck is being born with natural talent. Natural talent is the kind of thing that spurs many people on to long happy careers. Natural talent is the kind of thing that encourages many people to retire early to further explore and share that talent. Natural talent is the kind of thing that allows for great professional success providing the choice for either a long happy career or early retirement. That’s good luck. Of course, really, really hard work can result in professional success, too – but not always. That’s bad luck

Bad luck is getting cancer. Good luck is being cured of cancer. Bad luck is being hit by a car that runs a red light. Good luck… has nothing to do with driving. In my mind (since retiring, my mind has been my most frequent travel destination), luck is kind of like a wet bar of soap: you get a hold of it and it’s ready to lather and do it’s soap job, but if you squeeze it too hard, it slips right out of your hands, falls to the ground where you can step on it, slip and fall and break your neck. That will totally burst your good luck bubble.

My advice to young people is to work hard, be courageous enough to explore your natural talents, and be careful while handling soap. Good luck!

My brother-in-law uses his natural talent to make cool soap.

Harvest and a Buffet of Isms

I’ve been picking apricots (and more apricots, and then just a few more apricots). Summertime has just begun and the beginning of harvest time is here too. Retirement is a harvest. You’re reaping the fruits of your many years of work.

Apricots awaiting the next step.

It makes me think of Neil Young’s “Harvest” album and a line from a song on that album, “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done, a little part of it in everyone, milk blood to keep from running out.” My thought processes travel circuitous paths. I like Neil Young’s music and I own the requisite copies, for anyone who was a teenager in the mid-seventies, of the “Harvest” album (both vinyl and compact disk). I wish I could say I don’t get the line from the song, “Needle and the Damage Done” but retirement has provided me with new insight. No, I have not used my free time to experiment with intravenous drugs, but I have developed an awareness of the false allure that addiction provides: ESCAPE.

Escapism is one of the insidiously seductive “isms” that become more accessible with the lack of workplace time management. There’s consumerism, isolationism, totalitarianism, and alcoholism just to name a few. This takes me back to Neil’s song. Maybe the little part of addiction in everyone is what we hold on to, to keep from running out… of energy, of hope, of motivation.

This reminds me of a line from another song. This one was popular in the eighties and nineties (before political correctness was so pervasive, and probably a strong argument for political correctness) on the local 94Rock, TJ Trout Morning Show: “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than have a frontal lobotomy.” The line is attributed to Randy Hanzlick in Google. It seems to me that this is another, less eloquent, way of saying what ol’ Neil was saying; addiction can provide the escape needed to cope with the challenges of existence.

We all know that alcoholism rarely has a happy ending, so let’s look at the “ness’s” for possible life sustaining, addictions: happiness, fitness, awareness; and for balance, let’s throw in some “ity’s” like activity, civility… We can still drink and buy stuff, just in moderationness (or is it moderationity?). And we can always eat apricots.

On Track

After years of being on a career track (I changed lines a few times, but I was continually on a track owned by someone else) I am having trouble identifying the track I should be traveling in retirement. I watched the “Lego Movie – 2” with some of my grandkids the other night, and I felt like my retirement track was similar to the roads the Lego characters traveled – thrown down in front of me as I go. I’ve been told that this is one of the perks of retirement, but I’m always afraid I’ll do the wrong thing (really, I’m always afraid… of making the wrong choices, of offending someone, of wasting time, of wasting money, of smiling too much, of not smiling enough; it’s exhausting).

I see commercials for financial retirement plans that promise to provide the right track for retirement. I don’t think I qualify for those plans. I’m not independently wealthy with a lot of money to put in to a retirement plan. I don’t want for anything: food, clothing, shelter, entertainment; so I am doing okay, I just doubt the longevity of my retirement track. What if my track ends before I end? What if, in a here-to-for luckless life, I’m experiencing a temporary moment of luck, manifesting as fiscal adequacy? I’m afraid it will come to an unexpected and abrupt end.

My daughter, in an attempt to maintain some maneuverability in my granddaughter’s room, periodically gathers up toys that are not being played with and gives those toys to charitable organizations. While staying at our house earlier this week, six year-old granddaughter Liadan was lamenting the loss of her doll houses . Although she hadn’t been regularly engaging in play with her doll houses, she immediately recognized their absence and mourned their absence throughout her visit with us. She began to worry about other toys that might turn up missing. She is worried that her Mom, in her next toy purge, might include her Marty McFly action figure. Liadan has been enthralled with the “Back to the Future” movie franchise from the age of three. When her Mom arrived to pick her up, she immediately brought up the missing doll houses and with big tears in her eyes said, “Just promise me you won’t get rid of my Marty McFly.” Happily, her Mom agreed.

Marty McFly is safe!

I wish I could implore the stock market not to devalue my retirement stock holdings. To whom can I cry, “Just promise me the value of Home Depot stock won’t fall”? And here I am back at the depot for my Retirement Track. I think I need to be laying tracks that embrace frugality (this is a component of my Retiree Position Description). Maybe my Retirement Tracks need to be made of recycled aluminum. There will be no golden spike in this track. I’m pretty sure that’s okay. Truly, I have enough money, I just don’t have MORE than enough money.

There are LOTS of great money quotes out there. The common theme is that it’s not about quantity or even quality, its about how you use what you’ve got. There are quite a few “time is money – time is better than money – spend time before spending money” type quotes out there too. Which brings us back to retirement, where any lack of money is compensated by availability of time.

So I will take my time (currently, my most readily-available resource) and leisurely lay my Retirement Track, except while working on grout-related projects, because there’s no “leisurely” in anything related to grout.

I Haven’t Retired from Stupidity

I hoped, when I retired, that my opportunities to behave stupidly would decrease. As I hung upside down behind my dryer which sat atop my newly-installed washer, my head approximately four feet from the ground, I realized that that was not the case. Punctuating this realization, was the fact that I was stuck. Sadly, this isn’t even the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, and yes, I did this to myself.

Last week, my washer, that has been squealing as if in severe pain for months (and which I believed would continue to do so for many more months while adequately extracting the dirt from our clothing), let out one last ear-piercing squeal, and then joined me in retirement. This necessitated another unexpected withdrawal from our retirement savings to replace the washer. Happily, Memorial Day appliance sales were still in effect. Life is good.

We purchased a washer online, and awaited its “free shipping” delivery. Frankly, I’m surprised there are still so many trucks on the streets. This whole “free shipping” thing is practically negating the need for individuals to own trucks. We do own a truck, but we don’t possess the muscles needed to lift heavy items on to and then off of the truck so we take advantage of “free shipping” when available.

Speaking of muscles, we had the delivery men put the newly-purchased washer in the garage until our son, Zachary (who does possess muscles) could help us with the exchange of the working washer for the non-working washer. The washer purchased was a different brand from the one that retired (after only three and a half years, which is why we went with a different brand), so we thought the whole dryer stacking thing, necessitated by the space available, would be a challenge. We were right.

Zachary manipulated the washer and dryer so as to unscrew the brackets holding the two appliances together, lifted the dryer off of the washer, moved the old (that’s a sad adjective for an appliance that was only three and a half years old) washer out of the tiny space that serves as our laundry room. The door to the room had to be removed in order to accomplish these tasks. I scrubbed up the disgusting mess of lint, liquid laundry soap, and deceased insects that we found beneath the washer while Zachary loaded up the new washer. He brought the new washer in, hooked it up, and put the dryer vent hose on the dryer in preparation for mounting it atop the washer. The brackets previously used would not work with the new washer, so we went with industrial-strength Velcro (thank you George de Mestral). They don’t sell it in the box anymore, so it must have permanently attached things that were not supposed to be permanently attached and was then taken off of the market (we took this as a good sign as to its dryer/washer coupling capability). Zach lifted the dryer on to the washer, squeezed behind the washer to connect the dryer vent to the outside outlet, pushed it back, climbed on top of the newly-erected laundry-handling structure to peer behind it ensuring that all connections were in place. All of this had taken much longer than I had estimated when requesting his assistance. His family rushed off to a Little League end-of-season celebration, armed with our sincerest appreciation. I popped a load of laundry into the washer, which was washed with no appliance-emitted squeals of protest. I then transferred the load to the dryer, and this is when the excitement began.

Within a few moments of putting the clothes in the dryer, I noticed steam on the laundry room window. I suspected that the dryer vent had been blown off of my blow-hearty dryer. I brought in a ladder, climbed it, with the top of my head briefly colliding with the top of the door jam, continued on to the top of the dryer, peered down the narrow space between the back of the dryer, and the wall, and confirmed that the dryer vent had come off of the dryer. My first thought was, “DRAT.”

I was as determined not to bother my son, as I was to finish my laundry (a second load in the washer, awaited its turn in the dryer). I climbed off of the dryer, grabbed a flashlight, a roll of duct tape, and climbed back on to the dryer, leaving whatever little bit of sense I had behind. With the flashlight hanging from one wrist, and the roll of duct tape around the other, I wrapped my foot around the previously combative door jam, and squeezed my head, arms and torso – head first – behind the dryer. After unsuccessfully trying to attach the vent hose to the dryer, the top of my head throbbing as the blood rushed to the door jam inflicted knot, I attempted to remove myself from behind the dryer. This is when I realized, that my propensity for doing stupid things had accompanied me into retirement. I was able to dislodge myself by performing a semi-Spiderman-like wall climb combined with a spastic-snake-like slither.

Before attempting to hang upside down behind the dryer again, I used the dolly to move it a few inches further from the wall into the room to provide a wider dryer-vent-attaching work space. After three more tries (bungy cords, industrial-strength Velcro, and back to duct tape) it appeared that I was successful (the ol’ duct-tape-on-the-end-of-the-vent-with-slotted-overhang-rolled-back-on-one-edge-of-each-tab-all-the-way-around-allowing-it-to-be-pushed-up-to-the-dryer-surface-without-gathering-in-upon-itself technique). I have had to reschedule a mammogram, due to multiple painful bruises across my chest, but I promise you, that I was never so happy to be small-breasted as I was while wedged upside down behind the dryer.

I’m drying a load of clothes right now. I think there’s steam building up on the laundry room window.

It’s very scary behind this dryer!

Things That Make Me Proud

Yesterday, I successfully emptied my little RV’s waste tanks. I was simultaneously proud and disgusted. I was equipped with vinyl gloves, Clorox wipes, gallon jugs of water, and anxiety. Happily, no one was watching. Once the tanks were empty, I flushed the drainage hose thoroughly, wiped everything down with Clorox wipes (including the bottoms of my shoes); disposed of gloves, empty water jugs and soiled Clorox wipes; came home and showered. I still haven’t decided whether to wash the clothes I was wearing with a generous amount of bleach or just burn them.

I haven’t yet washed it, thinking it best to save that task for POST-waste tank emptying.

I was touched and proud when my dearest friend told me that she felt I have earned wings (this was even before I had successfully removed the waste from my RV). Sadly, I know that any wing earning I’ve cooked up has been well seasoned with pride, self-pity, resentment and a bunch of other stuff that I’m too embarrassed to list. In the greatest display of friendship, my friend chooses to focus on the positive aspects of my behavior. It did get me started thinking about what kind and size of wings I may have earned. In keeping with my Retirement Position Description which includes writing, I wrote the following short, semi auto-biographical story (of course, I am still alive).

Hopper Wings

Tina died. We all will. Tina had been a moderately good person. She hadn’t been bad or evil, because that would have taken too much energy. She hadn’t been great or wonderful, because that would have taken too much energy. She watched a lot of television.

As far as earning wings goes, her wings reflected her life. They were small; incapable of supporting flight. When she jumped, they took her higher, and kept her elevated longer, than she could have managed without them. They could best be described as “hopper wings.”

Television is not broadcast in the afterlife, so Tina had much more time on her hands than she had while living. She spent that time learning how to use her hoppers. She hopped. Since her hoppers could not lift her high into the heavens, she hopped around the world seeing what was going on. Some of it was good. Some of it wasn’t good, but it was real and it was interesting; sometimes even entertaining like television. Like television, she couldn’t change the storyline. The difference was that she truly cared about what she saw. She wanted to comfort the sad, laugh with the happy, and share the joy she felt when she saw things that were good. She hopped. Maybe, she hopped a little higher.

One time, while hopping, she encountered a low-flying, impressively wing-endowed, heavenly being. She had just enough time to ask a question: “How’d you get those wings?” Luckily, the answer was just one word: “Love.” Tina realized what she had begun to suspect; love lifts us up. Love is “Miracle Grow” for wings. Tina realized that caring about others was love. Tina realized that she loved and that she was loved and Tina’s wings grew.

Image result for free images wings

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.