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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
After forty-five plus years working and the resulting work-place restrictions on my personal freedoms and decision making, the freedom I’ve acquired in retirement is very important to me. To maintain this freedom, I’ve developed a couple of strategies to keep from killing people, and thereby, avoid incarceration. There are other reasons I want to keep from killing people (killing people is bad), but I’m going to focus here on avoiding incarceration. Specifically, I’m going to focus on how I keep from killing people by accident (or due to my own stupidity), and how I keep from killing people due to anger (which frankly, is also due to stupidity).
Here in Albuquerque, there’s a lot of killing. Lots of those killings are due to stupid anger, and stupid accidents. I don’t want to get caught up in those trends, so I wondered if I couldn’t come up with some anti-killing-people strategies. One of the strategies I’m adopting is not to drink and drive. I did not come up with this one on my own. There is plenty of evidence in New Mexico (memorials along the roadsides) that are testimony to the danger of killing people as a result of drinking and driving, so it’s a good idea not to drink and drive. At a much less significant level, I also say out loud the color of the traffic light I’m approaching. When I say “green” I go. When I say “red” I stop, and when I say “yellow” I usually slow down (much to the dismay of whomever is behind me) and stop. Sometimes I don’t say “yellow” but rather, “I’m gonna go.” Yellow is really tricky when it comes to not killing people. I also avoid doing things that involve electricity and power tools, because one of the people I’m trying to avoid accidentally killing, is me.
Anger is truly a stupid reason to kill someone. I read in my local paper, an article about some teenage boys who, after being kicked out of a party, returned and shot three people. The reason they gave for the shooting, was that they had been disrespected. I don’t find shooting people very respectable (able to be respected) behavior, so I see why they may have been “disrespected.” I don’t own a gun, so I can’t shoot someone if I get angry with them (I also put down shovels and other heavy tools and remove myself from the general vicinity of people with whom I’m angry). I haven’t killed anyone, so I think lack of access to firearms and discriminate use of heavy tools are good strategies to keep from killing people. Also, we probably shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously. If someone treats us in a manner we find offensive, leave that person’s company, and then don’t return (with or without a gun) until no longer angry.
While I’m on the topic of stupid reasons to kill people, another stupid reason to kill someone is the fear of having that person reveal something we would rather not be revealed about ourselves. I’ve read more than one account of this happening. What happens next? The killer gets caught. The thing they didn’t want revealed is revealed at a much higher, widespread level (like on the evening news and in local newspapers) than an individual could have managed, and the killer is incarcerated. So pretty much EVERYONE knows what they didn’t want ANYONE to know, plus the whole “now you’re a killer” thing. Killing people really reflects badly on the killer. So, how do I avoid this? I write a blog, telling everyone who reads the blog, the stupid things I’ve done; thereby, avoiding the fear of exposure. Some character flaws (like overuse of parenthetical statements) are apparent, and don’t require that I spell them out (hopefully correctly – I find misspelled words and hypocrisy irritating).
I will summarize, with bullet points (a holdover from my days of employment), how I keep from killing people:
Don’t drink and drive
Say out loud the color of the traffic light I’m approaching and then behave appropriately
Remove myself from the vicinity of people with whom I’m angry, and implements of destruction, until no longer angry
Don’t play with electricity or power tools
Allow people to say what they want about me
Don’t take myself too seriously
I’m sitting in my She Shed, listening to the music of my youth (James Taylor, Elton John, etc.). Having a She Shed, and listening to music are also great ways to keep from killing people. Life is good. Don’t kill people.
Before retiring, I developed a retirement plan. The plan was to retire as soon as possible. I tried to do things that would allow my plan to materialize, including maxing out my retirement savings plan contributions. This left me with very little money to live on, which I considered to be retirement training, because, if I retired as soon as possible, I would have very little money to live on. Happily, it turns out that I need much less money to live on, than I thought. Working was expensive.
Part of my retirement plan was to have a shed built in the backyard. My spouse (Phil) and I would then finish the inside to create a self-contained, self-controlled office (She Shed) for me to write in, and stay out of his hair (he’s been disabled for over 20 years and is used to having control of the house, television remotes – including volume, thermostats, etc.).
Tuff Shed was happy to take my pre-retirement money and then deliver and assemble the shell of my 8 X 12 shed, which they did in September 2018. Phil, a former electrician, very kindly ran electricity to the shed so that I would be able to heat and cool it, and power my laptop computer. We didn’t start working on the inside until I began retirement in December, 2018 We decided to go with polystyrene foam insulation, and learned that we could purchase a block (I could have sworn they called it a blub, but my cognition has suffered following many hours of polystyrene – in both its solid and gaseous state – exposure), and have sheets cut to our specifications. We felt that 3 inch sheets would work, and the company was happy to comply. We picked up our custom-cut polystyrene and then experimented with ways to cut the stuff so that it would fit between the studs in the shed. We tried an electric carving knife which was messy. We don’t get a lot of snow in Albuquerque, but it looked like it was going to be a White Christmas in our backyard. We moved on to a “heat knife” and were much more successful (I did worry about the ozone).
This was followed by spray-in foam insulation, to fill in gaps. That resulted in many foam insulation stalactites. It was like Carlsbad Caverns North. After much trimming, we were ready for the paneling.
We went with the cheapest paneling available at Lowes because it was our favorite. With the help of family, we got the paneling cut mostly to size, and up on the walls. I put down peel-n-press tile. Next we painted and put up trim and molding to cover spaces that the paneling had chosen not to cover. The spaces that remained were filled with paint, and if too large to fill with paint, they were filled with caulk and painted.
Furnishings were repurposed items donated by family members (again, with a heavy reliance on molding, caulk and paint). The best decorations were donated by friends and family (two personalized signs and a chandelier). The remaining artwork is the result of sales at Hobby Lobby and Michaels, lots of hot glue (Phil says the house still smells like burning wax and skin), and artificial plants. There was even a little sewing involved to make a cushion cover for the repurposed banco.
I was so proud of our finished project, that I sent pictures to Tuff Shed. They like it!
The welcome mat is out, and I’m planning lots of She Shed shindigs like She Shed Scrabble and She Shed Screenings, and of course writing She Shed Scribbles.