How I Keep from Killing People

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.

It’s Part of the Plan

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.

The plants are to remove the toxins emitted by the cheap paneling.

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.

I Wonder…

I was eating a bowl of cereal this morning, staring at the free McDonalds-provided 3-d Lego Movie juice cup that held my grapefruit juice. I was trying to determine the secret identity of “Lord Business.” By shifting the cup to just the right angle, I revealed that “Lord Business” is also “President Business!” I will not expound upon the freakishly prophetic content of the 2014 “Lego Movie” here, because I promised my son-in-law that I wouldn’t use this as a political forum. It did make me realize that retirement has provided me with more time for reflection and contemplation.

The things I contemplate are, sadly, not lofty ideals, but rather an indication, that I probably watched way too much TV in my rare free-time while working. As I was contemplating what I want to be while retired, the Toys-R-Us jingle, “I want to be a Toys-R-Us kid” kept running through my head, and I wondered, now that Toys-R-Us is closed, are all of those Toys-R-Us kids orphans? Commercialism has not only taken over Christmas and Easter, but also my thought processes.

In the spirit of repurposing, I used an old blanket on my couch as a prophylaxis to spills and the day-to-day wear of exposure to my spouse, grandchildren, and me. I wondered if the blanket was now acting as a kind-of couch condom. It would be a kinder, gentler couch condom (if less effective) than the clear vinyl couch covers of old, but you wouldn’t stick to it during hot weather, unless you spilled something, and you sat there long enough for it to dry and adhere to exposed skin. It’s this kind of earth changing thing that I wonder about in my now increasingly available free time thanks to retirement.

I wonder about avoidance behavior. I was wondering why I settled on Friday as my blog writing day. When I retired, I decided that I didn’t have to clean house on Saturday any more, and that I could make the bold move of choosing to clean house on FRIDAY. Sadly, I soon realized that cleaning house on Friday, is no more fun than cleaning house on Saturday. I wonder if the avoidance behavior that plagued me while working (I would tell myself that I would be better able to prepare my program budget if my desk drawer was clean and organized) has followed me into retirement (I tell myself that I will be more energized to clean house once I’ve spent an hour or two writing; except when I tell myself that I’ll be more inspired to write once I’ve spent two to four hours cleaning house)?

I wonder if I’m qualified for the position of retiree.

I Forgot!

I forgot (you tend to do that when you’re old and retired); I also want to be an inventor when I grow up while I’m retired. I have experimented with inventing. Many of my inventions involve repurposing items, like my sweatshirt sweater/slipper sets. I then make dozens of my newly designed item, and force them on family members and friends.

Since I’ve always valued function over form (function/form; nature/nurture; this/that – I love alliterative “this or that” comparisons); my inventions are not beautiful. They tend to get the job done for me (the sweater/slipper sets provide warmth, and a modicum of modesty preservation as I traipse around the house in my pajamas), which leaves the recipients of my homemade inventions wondering, “what was she thinking?” Another personal invention is the “Two- Rectangles-Easy-To-Switch-Out Purse.” I like for the color of my purse to match my jacket and shoes, but the effort involved in changing purses (not to mention the cost of purchasing many different-colored purses) was distasteful to me, so I invented a totally tasteless purse that accepts a handy-dandy purse insert with pockets for all of the items needed in one’s purse. They are VERY functional.

Not all of my inventions have been material; I’ve also come up with conceptual inventions, like the “See Food Diet” (it’s not the one you’re thinking of). Basically, you use your phone to take pictures of everything you eat during the day, and in the evening you review the pictures to “See” exactly how much, and what, you’re eating. I told friends and family about it, and no one seemed interested in giving it a try. I tried it, and was so depressed to “See” how much, and what I was eating, that I ate some cookies, after refusing to take a picture. Not all of my inventions work.

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This is not a picture of cookies that I ate; however, it is representative of many cookies that I ate without having taken a picture.

I WANT to invent wonderful things, but I don’t want to market these things. In fact, I don’t even want to know when my inventions are not wonderful. There is safety in giving away your inventions. It would be rude for the recipient to be critical. I don’t take criticism well. I’m not sure if it’s a nature or nurture thing.

When I Grow Up…

I spent much of my time between ages seven and sixty asking myself what I wanted to be when I grew up. The answer, until two years ago, changed with the season, if not daily. Two years ago, the answer solidified, and was comprised of one word: RETIRED. I began working towards realizing this goal, spurred on by commercials with orange origami squirrels scampering along green paths, leading the way to happy, healthy, and prosperous retiree status.

Here I am… retired. Retirement has blessed me with a new question; what do I want to do while retired? The difference between this question and the question I have asked myself; am I qualified to be a retiree?, is subtle. The latter is more a question of how to, while the former is more a question of (the clock is ticking… I’m trying to determine the spirit of the “want to do” question, and, as with most spirits, this one is elusive, whisping – yes whisping – about my head taunting me with the soft whispering of “duh”); okay, let’s just say it’s a different bigger question.

Many years ago, I determined that if dreams were trees, mine would be Poison Sumac. Retirement has done little to change the genus of my tree-like dreams. They continue to be of the clonal colony variety: one root source with lots of shoots (suckers). Yes my dreams in retirement tend to shoot up from my core, sucking the life out of me almost before mid-day, leaving me craving the comfort of my overstuffed chair and crochet hook and mindless repetitive motion.

Enough of this. There are weeds to pull, to further my dream of a beautiful backyard. There are online courses to study, to further my dreams of becoming a sought after storyteller, writer, philosopher. There are exercise/activity programs to begin like Tai Chi and Yoga that sound cool and allow the practitioner to say things like, “Tai Chi and Yoga are keeping me young; mentally, physically and spiritually, so that I can pursue my retirement dreams.” I find myself, tripping down the weed-tree bordered path of my retirement dream world where wants are easily addressed, if not so easily financed, nor realized when factoring in that well known dream-killer: learning. Dreams, unlike wants, can suffer from the pervasive immediate gratification desire. Internet shopping has made want satisfaction easy, but dream satisfaction usually requires the time required to learn. Learning required can be the toxic Roundup of the dream world. I want to speak Spanish; I don’t really want to LEARN to speak Spanish. I want to play the piano; I don’t really want to LEARN to play the piano. Learning and immediate gratification are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I don’t think they’re even on the same spectrum. No I’m wrong; learning is wonderfully gratifying, there’s just no “immediate” involved. If dreams were insects, some people’s dreams would inch along allowing for learning and experience before entering a cocooned state, to later emerge as gratifyingly beautiful, well-educated, butterflies. My dreams, have rarely developed beyond the larval state. Retirement has given me the gift of free time which should allow for dream maturation; however, my dreams continue to enter pre-pubescence as greasy haired, acne covered pupa before emerging from the chrysalis as moths that make their homes in and around Poison Sumac.

I want to (and I’m going to keep telling myself this until it’s true) embrace learning and pull weeds while retired. I want to be a beautiful, well-educated, moth that hangs out in a weed-free backyard when I grow up.

Butterfly, Butterfly Bush, Summer, Brown

Spring’s a Tough Task Master

I have completed an entire season as a retiree: Winter. As seasons go, Winter is a GREAT season for retirement. You aren’t required to go out in to the cold to get to work. Winter retirement tasks are cozy and gentle (if a little conducive to weight gain). Winter tools are typically measuring cups, mixing spoons, crochet hooks and knitting needles (with an occasional snow shovel thrown in for variety and Vitamin D provision). I spent much of Winter sitting in my cozy overstuffed chair crocheting ANOTHER afghan, while eating ANOTHER sugar cookie, sipping tea and binge watching my latest favorite British TV mystery series. Those were the days.

But now, Spring has sprung with its wind, rain, pollen and yard work tasks. Spring even turns up the demand for cleaning with the whole Spring cleaning thing. Throw in a garage that is suffering from major Winter-induced garage arterial sclerosis; occurring when all winter long, large items have been added to the clutter lining the interior walls of the garage, leaving an increasingly narrow slot for vehicle insertion, and Spring demands the greatest of effort, to be exerted with heavy cumbersome tools; like rakes, shovels and maybe a back hoe. The great thing about retirement, is that now I have the time to throw myself into those backbreaking activities. Admittedly, they are a little more difficult, as I now carry an extra ten pounds that ascended upon me as I sat in my cozy chair, crocheting and eating homemade sugar cookies. It was not an immaculate ascension, as I have just vacuumed up the cookie crumbs from beneath the cushions of my cozy overstuffed chair, as a part of my Spring cleaning.

The not-so-funny thing about Spring, is that it is sprung while it is still cold and wet outside. It’s not like Winter, which has been cold and Winter-like, since the beginning of November. By December 21st, or there-about, we have no problem accepting the reality of Winter’s arrival; however, Spring, with the exception of some misguided daffodils (particularly here in New Mexico), seems to arrive in a cloak of misconception and Spring-like qualities, but retains all of the Springtime demands.

Spring relies upon the charms of May, with its flowers blooming, and June, with its vegetables sprouting, to seduce us, while hiding the ugly secrets of March and April: blisters, backaches, and sneezes. I am entering the Spring of my retirement with a small amount of trepidation, and a large desire for a beautiful backyard (thank goodness my backyard is small). Yes, Spring is a tough task master, but you know what they say, “a bad day working in your garden, is better than a good day working in an office,” or something like that. Welcome Spring!

Retirement and Spending (Less)

Retirement business rules 2 & 3 deal with decreasing spending. For most newly-retired people one of the first Retirement Merit Badges, donned is “Fixed Income.” I have done so, and look forward to flashing it proudly and bravely when dealing with internet service providers, utility companies and politicians.

I have begun, in earnest, my decrease-spending training. I begin my daily warmup by reading the day’s glossy full-color advertisements included with the newspaper and saying, out loud, “I don’t want that” to every image I see. Sometimes this is easier than others. When I don’t want the thing I’m looking at, it’s a breeze. When I do want the thing I’m looking at, it’s not only difficult to say I don’t want it, it’s difficult to not want it NOW!

There’s been a lot written about the social trend of the desire for immediate gratification. That there has been a lot written, is not going to stop me from writing more, because this social trend is impacting my success with decreasing spending. After all, I enjoy being socially trendy.

Spending is too easy! Many have had to hock their “Fixed Income” merit badge to finance a sleepless night of watching infomercials. I have lain in bed, finished the e-book I was reading, and purchased fifty dollars’ worth of additional e-books from my e-book’s easily-accessible e-shopper without even rolling over. I remember the good old days (that’s what we “Fixed Income” merit badge wearers call it) when I had to get in my car, and drive to a bookstore during normal business hours to spend fifty dollars for books. I usually wouldn’t spend fifty dollars, because carrying fifty dollars’ worth of books could be awkward.

The every-other-day spending fast is also, partially, in response to the current ease, and increased methods and opportunities, of spending. Since, to date, the only fast I’ve mastered is the fast fast (this could be interpreted either as a fast that begins, and is over almost immediately, or as abstaining from fasting altogether), I’m struggling. After all, spending is gratifying. I must tell myself, “I don’t want that.”

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This is how it always begins.

Retirement Business Rules

After one day of trying to execute my Retirement Position Description, I realized I needed some business rules. This morning, while trying to simultaneously increase exercise, while decreasing food intake, I nearly passed out. We don’t always realize correlations between one thing and another. For instance (you better believe I’m going to sneak grandchildren stories in here), a few weeks ago my family gathered at my house for a birthday party. We had a sundae bar, complete with ice cream, and toppings, including aerosol whipped cream.  I suggested that an adult be in the room while the kids were fixing their sundaes, and my daughter-in-law said that she thought the kids were all old enough to fix sundaes unsupervised.  Grandson Owen added, “Wow, and I haven’t even seen the puberty video yet.”  Up until that moment, I would not have considered the possibility of a correlation between puberty-facts awareness and sundae-preparation supervision requirements. Thanks to Owen’s keen sense of observation, that possibility has been disavowed.

Okay, back to possible Retirement Business Rules. I was reminded by my wonderful friends that fun is a requirement of retirement so business rules will address adding fun. Proposed business rules follow (numbered, but not necessarily in order of importance):

  1. Decreasing food intake and increasing exercise are to be coordinated, while retaining the option of temporarily (in the interest of fun) suspending either one.
  2. To facilitate decreasing spending, a spending fast is to be observed every-other- day (EOD), except when limiting the ability to have fun (this can, however, be used to facilitate decreased food intake and home repair projects – specifically the purchase of grout and/or paint).
  3. To further facilitate decreasing spending, no additional yarn is to be purchased, until all currently-owned yarn is used (sadly, as I currently own a large amount of yarn, this will not prevent my family from running the other way, whenever I approach them with a newly-made-from-yarn item, but chasing after them with the newly-made-from-yarn item will assist in my requirement to increase exercise). This rule may also be applied to fabric, beads, and all other craft materials currently owned.
  4. Drawer cleaning is to be conducted before purchasing (on non-spending-fast days) any office-type supplies.
  5. Television watching may be used as a spending diversion when weather (snow, rain, wind) limits ability to exercise and/or perform home repair activities; however, purchase of streaming television services is to be limited and executed only on non-spending fast days.
  6. Television watching is to be interrupted at least hourly to get up and walk at least 250 steps (when doing this in a circular motion in home, duck when walking in front of windows, so as not to cause the neighbors concern as to sanity, or further embarrassment to family members).

I’m sure there will be a need for additional retirement business rules as I continue the retiree journey, and I think I am going to have to examine each rule IN DETAIL (sorry) in later posts.

Qualified for Retirement?

November 30th, 2018 I officially retired. Since then, I have questioned my qualifications for the position of Retiree. For the past 40+ years, my activities have been largely driven by job position descriptions (sometimes driven off of a cliff in my fiery vehicle at hand – obsessive compulsive disorder). I really need to find the Retiree Position Description. My attempt to create my own has sent me flailing about my house emptying drawers, painting, scraping out aged grout, all while draped in skeins of yarn in the process of being crocheted into afghans. I really need this whole thing quantified and set out in bullet points, something like:

  • Clean and organize one drawer per week
  • Paint one room per month (until all rooms painted and then remove from list, to be reinserted in 15 years – if I’m still living)
  • Major home repair activity (usually to involve grout – i.e., removing, inserting, cleaning) to be ongoing
  • Crochet one afghan a month (until forbidden to do so by potential afghan recipients)
  • Increase the following daily – physical activity, meditation, mental productivity (at first I had mental activity followed by meditation, but I thought those two might be mutually exclusive, so I changed “activity” to “productivity”), happiness
  • Decrease the following daily – food intake, spending, television watching, emotionally-charged activities, i.e., crying, teeth gnashing

I’m not sure if these are approved retiree functions/activities or not. Where does fun fit in here? Decreasing spending, may limit opportunities for fun, so to be on the safe side, I’ve left it out.

Thank you for your willingness to share in my journey through retirement.

Jennie coming up from under the bus.