January 22, 2020

Why "Raining Iguanas"

Why "Raining Iguanas" 
By John R. Greenwood

A recent 2020 cold snap in South Florida has resulted in several news articles
regarding the lizard phenomenon called raining iguanas. It also initiated a slew of messages from friends of this blog of the same name. Since there may be new visitors here I thought it would be good to write a fresh explanation and also repost a link to the first piece I wrote about how the name “Raining Iguanas” became the title of my blog. Having never visited Florida in my life and with little affection for lizards, in general, it makes sharing this story even more interesting. The vision of iguanas raining down comes from their inability to survive in frigid temperatures. Because they reside in trees where they can absorb the warmth of the sun when that sun disappears and the mercury drops to the low 30’s they lose their grip and drop to the ground. If the sun and warmer temperatures don’t come quickly enough, the iguanas die. Conversely, if the sun and temperature rise, so do the iguanas. 

I adopted that phenomenon as a metaphor for my life several years ago after my parents had both passed away, and several years of caregiving were now in my rearview mirror. The realization that my life had just made a drastic turn weighed heavily on my ability to function. Job and family obligations would change by default. Grieving and breathing were now intertwined in a confusing cocktail. It was twelve years ago that I sat at my dining room table and read a random article about ashen colored lizards being warmed back to life by the simple rays of the sun when something clicked. It was a crossroad moment where you must make a life-changing decision to take one path or another. Do I choose to mope and feel sorry for myself? Or, do I celebrate the life that my parents provided me and leap forward. I chose the latter. My parents weren’t perfect but they always wanted what was best for me. I was fortunate to have grown up in a rural environment where hard work and solid friendships provided a foundation for what would be a fulfilling and rewarding life. On that day where I connected with the idea of a second wind and a renewed outlook on my life, the name “Raining Iguanas” was born. The name stands for revival and survival. It stands for stepping out and stepping up. It stands for glasses half full and embracing the best life has to offer. It understands there are days when the temperature hovers near freezing and things appear bleak, but it is the “raining iguana’ mantra that there is always something better just around the corner that fuels this author. When you hear “raining iguanas,” think of a new foal circling the field kicking its back legs high and galloping for all he’s worth. Picture a grey-haired retiree neck-deep in local history uncovering old stories that yearn for the light of day. There are days when the chore of mowing the lawn needs a boost of “RI” (Raining Iguana). These are the days when the focus becomes the smell of fresh-cut grass and the memory it evokes. That memory might be the time you caught hell from dad because the lawn wasn't done when he got home, or the day you mowed over a nest of ground bees and had to run for dear life, it’s a gift worth saving and replaying in the years that follow. 

From the day the Raining Iguanas Blog was conceived I have embraced all that is supportive of the positive and accepting of the negative. The knowledge that there is no perfect answer has become clear during the iguana years. Friends and family of differing opinions and varying solutions seem destined to collide. My choice is to weigh with action, not words. “RI” is not about confrontation its about contemplation. You choose your path—I’ll choose mine—no judgment necessary. 

If any of this makes sense, then you will enjoy the ride. If it doesn’t today, it might tomorrow when your hair and tolerance of intolerant people thins. Sometimes you are better off letting the sun warm you back to life in any way you can. That ashen grey look is unbecoming and deadly. 

Here are two links to posts I wrote explaining the name of my blog "Raining Iguanas." 
Click Here: What's in a name"
Click Here: The Name?

Here is another link. This one is to the very first post of this blog. It's a poem I wrote before I had the courage to start this blog and begin sharing my stories with the outside world. 
Click Here: Post Number One: Raining Iguanas Poem

Here’s to the best of days—past, present, and future. 

Raining Iguanas

January 02, 2020

Six Month Checkup

Six Month Checkup 
By John R. Greenwood

 Owl Pen Books
 June 2019

It went by like a freight train. Unbelievably, it’s been six months since Elvis left the building. My prox card remains untouched in the small basket where I toss my car keys. No more working weekends and holidays. If my phone rings now its the trash company letting me know they’re running a day late. My impact on the world has shrunk considerably and so has the weight that perched upon my shoulders for so many years. It’s a feeling of relief that peaks every morning as I sip my coffee. The ability to maintain an early morning workout schedule adds as much mental benefit as it does physical. A full night's sleep is now a normal event, not a rare occurrence. No more 2:00am phone calls from sick or injured drivers to wrestle with. I’m not complaining, I had a rewarding career filled with honest, hardworking people who relished the journey just like me. I’m simply sharing my thoughts from the inside out. 

It has not been a feet-on-the-coffee-table retirement though. I have accomplished more around my house in the last six months than I did in the last six years. From large projects like painting the house to small nagging ones like replacing a shut-off valve on an outdoor faucet, I’ve been busier and happier than ever. Although my dreams of spending hours pecking away at the keyboard have dwindled, my contributions to the Simply Saratoga Magazine have continued on a regular basis. I remain forever grateful for their generosity in publishing my work. 

The contacts and connections that I’ve made over the last six months is a long list. I’ve joined multiple organizations and made many new friends. Research into the company that made my retirement possible has been a large part of the last six months. I discovered photos of myself from the 1960s I never knew existed; documentation of the life-long relationship with the company that I worked for. The question of travel is always the first sentence you hear when mentioning your recent retirement. I respond the same every time. “Not yet,” is my go-to reply. I’m quite content exploring the nooks and crannies within earshot of my home. The area where I live is blanketed with parks, museums, bookstores, wildlife preserves, rivers, and lakes. I can spend a day or an hour enjoying nature in every form and never move the needle on my gas gauge or pull a dollar from my wallet. This is the reason I worked long hours and holidays. It’s cashing in without breaking a sweat and it feels great. 

The downside of my retirement has been the news and the politics that have infiltrated it. It’s hard to escape. It has affected the way I look at the world. My positivity is tested daily. Watching the divide within my country has burdened me, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Having spent my life as a fairly non-partisan person, I find myself in constant turmoil. To see the anger and disdain for people who look and sound different from what we see in the mirror leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. This is not the world I imagined for my grandchildren. I yearn for the days when acceptance for people with opposing views returns, and children and education take priority over individual gain. 

I’m going to do my best to shake 2020 like a dog toy and give it all I have. I have writing and remodeling projects lined up like pickets on a fence. I have a couple belt sizes to re-lose again this spring—my exercise routine not robust enough to overcome my latest snack routine. I will end this first post of the New Year with photographs documenting the last six months. With any luck and fewer promises, I can knock off a few more blog posts than I did in 2019. 

Happy New Year!