Jumpin’ Jaguarundi!

Have you ever heard of a jaguarundi? Neither had I… until one appeared in our backyard. His name is Whispurr.

How do I know his name is Whispurr? For that matter, how do I know he is a he? I know his name is Whispurr by decree. In other words, since he didn’t seem to be carrying any identification, I just decided on a name that seemed to fit him. Strictly speaking, I am not completely sure he is a he, but he was pretty big as jaguarundis (jaguarundice? jaguarundium?) go. Since the males are supposed to be significantly larger than the females, it seemed logical to assume our guest was a he.

This brings us to the $64,000 questions. What is a jaguarundi and how do I know that one is lurking on the outskirts of the wetland behind our house?

At around 10:30 this morning, Max called to me from the Florida room. We often see squirrels and rabbits in our backyard in the mornings, so I figured he’d spotted one of our regular furry friends. Instead, he yelled that he could see a bobcat. We have never seen a bobcat in our development, but other people have. I grabbed my phone as I came running, hoping to get a picture. Unfortunately, the “bobcat” had slinked back into the brushy wetland behind the house by the time I got to the Florida room.

I listened, disappointed, as Max described what he had seen. He said that he was looking out the Florida room window and saw a big black cat, with an incredibly long tail walking around the corner of our house.

Wait… what? My vision of bobcats is that they are a tawny-taupey color AND that they have short tails. I think they are called “bobcats” because they have “bobbed” tails, not because they are all named Robert. I asked him about the black and he said the animal wasn’t jet black like a panther, but it was definitely dark-colored. I asked if it couldn’t have been a feral house cat, but he was sure this cat was much larger than any house cat. It was long and thin and kind of bullet-shaped. Oh, and the creature’s head! From what Max described, it sounded like God tried to force a round head into a rectangular hole.

I googled “dark-colored wild cat in Florida” and came up with the jaguarundi. The jaguarundi is a small wild cat, about double the size of a house cat. It can be dark grey or black. It has a long tail and is slender and thin. They are sometimes called “otter cats” because their heads are flattened and they are shaped like an otter… or a bullet, if one is more violently minded. They are typically more active during the day. In fact, Wikipedia even specified that they are most often seen at around 11:00am!

I found out that jaguarundis eat snakes and lizards, which is good. Unfortunately, they also eat squirrels and rabbits. We are hoping Skitter and Skatter (our regular squirrel visitors) and Honey Bunny, Thumper, and Wascal (our regular rabbit friends) will make sure to visit only when Whispurr has a full belly.

There are some people who vigorously assert that there is no proof jaguarundis exist in Florida. These people were clearly not in my backyard this morning. The consensus of scientific opinion is that there is, indeed, a jaguarundi population in Florida. The population is probably not indigenous, however. The jaguarundis seen slinking around the southeast United States are probably descended from captive jaguarundis released into the wild by humans at some point. There have been sightings in central Florida since the early 1900s. Cat species can interbreed, so it is also possible that Whispurr is a hybrid of some feline genetic cocktail. Even if Whispurr is a Heinz 57 of a cat, it seems certain to me that he has a goodly amount of jaguarundi blood coursing through his veins.

Why am I so sure that the fine furry feline in our backyard is a jaguarundi? For one thing, the Wikipedia description matches exactly to what Max observed, down to his smushed, flattened head and preferred time of day to prowl about town. I showed Max a picture of a jaguarundi on the internet and he immediately identified it as the spitting image of Whispurr. Also, a few days ago, I thought I saw some sort of dark creature down by the wetland. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I had seen anything because it was gone in a flash. I just caught it out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was just a shadow slanting off the neighbor’s Florida room. Now, I think it must have been Whispurr.

There is one more bit of evidence that supports our own personal jaguarundi sighting. For the last couple of months, we have noticed some weird animal poop in the ornamental rock area surrounding our house. We wondered what was leaving it. Given our latest development and a little subsequent research, I am now willing to bet money that it is jaguarundi poop.

There truly is no end to what you can find out on the internet… just try googling “jaguarundi scat” and see what I mean!

What is the weirdest or most exotic animal you have seen in the wild?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a purr-fect day!!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

Flying Creatures Of The World, Unite!

And that seems to be exactly what they are doing. Uniting. In mid-air.

It seems like something has gotten into the birds, butterflies, moths, and dragonflies in central Florida. Something frisky, to be precise. For the past couple of weeks, I look out my window to see birds in brilliant shades of red and blue and yellow engaged in elaborate mating rituals. I see parades of butterflies, soaring around trying to impress each other. I see moths displaying their most spectacular colors and patterns. The other day, I was driving and could see two copulating dragonfly couples spinning through the air. At least, I think they were copulating. Maybe they were just cuddling.

I suppose it is just a natural phenomenon that I am experiencing. I would have thought this frenzy of animal attraction would have happened earlier in the spring, so I did some googling and found out that butterflies and moths tend to emerge from their cocoons in the late spring or early summer. As soon as they emerge from the cocoons, there is apparently a free-for-all designed to keep their genetic material going. Dragonflies supposedly mate during the hottest and wettest time of the year. It is feakin’ Florida. I wonder how they know when it isn’t time to mate? As for the beautiful bird ballets, I had a harder time accounting for those. Googling confirmed that mating usually takes place in the spring. Maybe my fine featherer friends were just feeling left out.

Whatever the timing of this explosion of color and life, it is amazing to behold. Whatever it is, it is perfect. I don’t know why I’ve never noticed it in past years. The grace and peace and inaudible music of the whole panorama is too lovely to describe. It is heart-breaking and heart-healing all at the same time. When one of these vignettes catches my eye outside my dining room window, my brain seems to suspend all activity. I don’t think about what I am seeing… or about anything else, for that matter. My mind and my heart and my soul just live in the beauty of what I am experiencing. My senses overlap- I seem to be able to see sounds, hear sights, taste scents, and touch God.

Maybe that is why I’ve never noticed this phenomenon before now. I’ve not been able to let my senses override my brain enough to fully live in the moment and appreciate this exquisite miracle around me.

I hope it isn’t too weird that I am noticing this. Being so fascinated by free flying creature procreation makes me feel just a little voyeuristic and obscene. On the other hand, the United States Supreme Court decided that one criteria for obscenity was that it didn’t have any “artistic value.” I think my flying friends might be the very essence of “artistic value.”

What miracles have you encountered when you observe nature?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a miraculous day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

Fresh Starts

Recently, I published a post called Graceful, about my spectacular clumsiness. Several of my friends who have known me for some time commented that I was too hard on myself and that they didn’t consider me particularly klutzy. They may have reopened Pandora’s box.

After considering this feedback, I thought it might be time to rethink my position (especially if that position is inclined to be unstable…. I am much better off on firm ground!). In keeping with my quest to open myself up to new experiences and bolstered by my friends’ confidence in my ability to remain upright, I decided to buy a new pair of flip flops.

I didn’t completely throw caution (and several years of painful experience) to the wind. I did some research and discovered Vionic sandals. Vionic shoes are supposed to be great for your feet, ankles, legs, hips, back, neck, shoulders, and maybe even your spleen. They make flip flops in all kinds of cute colors and patterns. Online reviewers rave about their comfort and orthopedic splendor. They are expensive, but people swear they are worth every penny. Surely, I reasoned, if this company is all about health and foot safety, their designs must be less perilous to the dexterity-challenged than the $12 Old Navy variety of flip flops.

I plunked down my credit card at the local department store and bought a pair of these cloudwalkers. I took them home and began to wear them the next day. Time will judge the wisdom of this decision. I am hopeful, however.

Retirement really is about making fresh starts. It is the perfect time to try activities for the first time. It is also the perfect time for trying a second take if something didn’t work out so well the first time. In retirement, the stakes for experimenting are both higher and lower than they were when I was working. The stakes are higher because, as I age, it becomes clearer to me that my time in this world is limited. If I don’t try things I want to explore now, there might not be another chance. On the other hand, the stakes are lower because I am the only one who defines success and failure now. There are no bosses to disappoint. There is no annual review to make me feel inadequate. It is up to me to decide what success looks and feels like. For me, the success is in the trying and allowing myself to delight in the attempt. It is pretty cool to do something that you’ve always wanted to do. It is pretty cool to do something that has always scared you in the past. It is pretty cool to consider yourself a winner, even when the product resulting from your effort is a bit of a loser.

I’ve done a lot of new things in the past several years. I’ve moved across the country. I’ve learned to be part of a community. I’ve spent days swimming with dolphins. I’ve started a blog. I’ve published a book. I’ve painted a picture. I’ve given a party. I’ve gone Christmas caroling. I’ve started doing water aerobics. I’ve changed religious affiliation. Some of these endeavors have yielded beautiful results; others not so much. I can say, though, that every single one of them has brought me pleasure and delight. I consider all of them to be unmitigated and absolute successes!

We’ll see how Take Two with the flip flops goes. So far, all is well with my experiment into foot fresh starts. However, if you hear of any freak flip flop related fatality, you will know why Terri LaBonte is no longer publishing weekly blog posts.

Have you had an experience with a “fresh start?” Have you tried something again that you had previously abandoned?  What was that experience like for you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a flip floppy kind of day, without actually flopping!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

The Harbinger Of Doom

It seems that, as we age, we are called to deal with bad news more often than when we are younger. Maybe it is because all the people we love are also aging and experiencing more health problems. Maybe it is because the elders that often protected us and buffered us from the brunt of bad news are now gone.

Somewhere along the way, I have become the designated driver of bad news. I’m not sure how it happened or why, but I seem to be the person that gets the rotten task of telling someone that something bad has happened.
I first noticed it when my aunt died. My brother, who lived about five miles from my mother, called me to drive out and tell my mother the sad news that her sister had passed. I drove 150 miles roundtrip to be the bearer of bad news.

I had three employees die during my career and I was the one who got to share that news with the staff. I had to fire several people during my tenure in management, which was very difficult.

It isn’t that I’m especially good at breaking bad news. I never know what to say, no matter how hard I try to come up with the right words. I can’t say I have ever noticed that anyone’s grief was lessened because I was the one who told them. I think the only skill that I have learned to bring to these unpleasant conversations is that people get to feel however they feel. Perhaps, if there is a way to manage another person’s grief, that way is to NOT manage it. Maybe I’m a good person to break bad news because I understand that. I am willing to listen and sit silently in the wake of the other person’s grief, trying to absorb as much of it as I can.

I’m not sure when I started developing this skill, if it is indeed any skill. I’m not sure it is. I can’t explain it or tell you what steps it entails.
Maybe it was when my father died and I found myself comforted by selecting the music and readings for his funeral mass. I was going to read the responsorial psalm and I was nervous about it because I wasn’t sure I could get through it without crying. I found that, as I spoke the words of the psalm, my voice actually got stronger and my soul felt lighter. I am sure that was the intention of the psalmist. I volunteered to do these tasks because I saw it as the last service I could do for my father- to see that he was blessed on his way to Heaven and that the people he left behind were comforted.

Maybe it was when an employee died in a train accident, only a few years after surviving an earlier crash on the same train line. I did not think of the “right” things to do. Someone else had the presence of mind to call in the grief counselor and informed the union president, who called me to suggest truly sensible, practical things we might do to help the family. I was the one who made the grieving about my other employees- sitting with them, as a group and individually, and assuring them that their grief was important. I went to the funeral, even though the service was many miles away from my home. This happened soon after I took the position in this new office. Oddly, I noticed a shift in attitude towards me after these events. I could feel a subtle change towards their desire to let me lead them. I didn’t behave in any particular way during this time in order to curry favor with the employees, yet it happened.

Maybe it was even earlier. I remember, as a very small child, the day my maternal grandmother died. I was in first grade and, when I came home from school, my mother told me that Nana had gone to Heaven. She was crying and shaky and seemed almost like a stranger to me. I climbed into her lap and cried with her, as she rocked me in the rocking chair and held me. Yes, that is probably when I first learned to give bad news and try to bear some of the pain.

It is hard to be the town crier of catastrophe. It feels like desperation to me when I know I am going into a situation that will require me to tell another person something that will cause them great sadness. In a way, I think that feeling of desperation and confusion is almost the beginning of me trying to absorb some of the grief. It is either self-pity or empathy. I choose to believe it is empathy.

Despite the fact that being the bearer or bad tidings is such a difficult task and takes so much of my inner reserves, I am glad that I have been able to experience these situations. Being with people in these moments of grief has taught me a lot about how to live and how to die. While I pour out my emotional reserves, I often find I am repaid with a wide spectrum of wisdom after the experience. There is a richness in these experiences that I am privileged to share.

A cousin of mine had a massive stroke about a month before my mother suffered her stroke. He died eleven days later. He was my mother’s godson. In my extended family, there are many cousins. Since my family moved far away from most of the siblings and relations over fifty years ago, there are only a few with whom we have kept a continual bond and relationship over the years of separation. The cousin who just died was one of the few. He bought me my first typewriter for Christmas one year when I was a little girl. It was bright orange. He airmailed it to me, likely spending more money on the shipping than on the typewriter itself. He used to send me holiday greeting cards decorated with sheet music that I could actually play on my flute when I was in the school band in junior high. He took me gallivanting through Manhattan, even to see Broadway plays, when I made trips to New York as an adult.

His sister called me when it happened and asked me to tell my mother, of course. She called my mother a few times after the original news, giving updates while we were waiting for the tests to come back that would suggest a prognosis. She tried to make these updates sound cheery and hopeful, even though they really weren’t. The news finally came that the stroke was devastating and any rehabilitation was unlikely. The hospital was moving my cousin to Hospice where a breathing apparatus was going to be removed. The doctors did not expect my cousin to survive long after the transfer. Of course, at that point, my cousin called me, the harbinger of doom, to give my mother the bad news. A day or so later, when my cousin died, I was again called upon to tell my mother the sad ending to the story.

Telling an 85-year-old disabled woman who has always cried over even slightly sentimental events (like my first communion) that her godson was dying and, then, that he succumbed to his illness, was difficult. I could say I didn’t want to upset her, which is, of course, the truth. However, such a desire was completely unrealistic. Of course I was going to upset her. I just didn’t want her to be upset to the point of making herself ill and compromising her own life. I told her and she was upset, of course. But that is okay. She was allowed to be upset and, if she wanted to cry, she was allowed to cry. She kept apologizing and I kept assuring her that it was okay…. That she gets to feel however she feels. It soon became clear that, despite the tears, she was actually strong and wise and faithful enough to know that the best thing that could have happened for my cousin had happened. She found it sad and confounding that he should be gone and she should still continue in this life, but she knew that his life was often complicated and fraught with darkness. She also knew that, given the effects of the stroke, any life he had in this world would be painful and compromised.

I have learned that a death often brings a life into focus. When I was still working, I used to think that wasting time was a luxury that I could indulge once I retired. Being the harbinger of doom has taught me that wasting time is not a luxury. It is simply a waste. When I leave this life, I want the life I leave to be emanating light and love and courage. Until that day comes, I will not waste time. I will spend time. I will use time. I will invest time. I will percolate in time. I will do all these things with time in a different way and for different reasons than I did while I was working, but I will remember that time is precious. Using it wisely, whatever wisely means, is the most important thing we can do in our lives.

How do you relay bad news?  Have you found that you have to do so now more than you did when you were younger?  What have you learned from the experience?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a doom-free day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

Discovery In The Cove

I say I’m not very good at once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I justify spending money to do something by saying, “I’m only going to do it once,” but I am rarely successful in limiting myself to one time if I enjoy an experience.

I proved this point yet again by visiting Discovery Cove, Sea World’s dolphin-centric sister park in Orlando. I visited the park for the first time last year. The experience blew my mind. I had such a great time, I actually wrote two separate blog posts about my playdate with the porpoises. You can catch a rerun of those posts by visiting:

My Date With The Dolphins

School Of Dolphins

Even though my dolphin day at Discovery Cove was beyond my wildest expectations, my initial thought was that I probably wouldn’t do it again. There is a steep discount on the admission for Florida residents. Still, I did suffer a bit of sticker shock when the ticket price showed up on my credit card. The amount just seemed ridiculous for a day at a theme park. On the other hand, the admission gets you a lot for your money and there is a pretty low limited daily entrance to the park. You never feel like you are fighting the marauding hordes for your entertainment or for any of the “free” (well…. let’s say “included in the price of admission”) goodies they hand out with wild abandon (meals, snacks of every ilk, soft drinks, frozen beverages, beer, wine, dolphin safe sunscreen, towels, snorkeling gear, showers, shampoo, conditioner, and other stuff that I’m probably forgetting). Also, the admission price includes unlimited admission for fourteen days to Sea World and the other sister park, Aquatica.

You can probably tell that I am still trying to justify my decision to pay the big bucks and return to the park this year. Since I went ahead and did it, it is probably time to let it go.

Once I made my reservation, I began to wonder if my second trip to Discovery Cove would be as magical as my previous visit. Was it possible to enjoy the experience as much once the serendipity factor no longer applied? I remember that, on my first trip, it seemed like some unexpected, delightful surprise lurked around every corner. Now that I knew the drill, would these encounters fail to enchant me? Also, last time, my Discovery Cove trip came at a particularly difficult and stressful time in my life. In fact, I’d cancelled my original reservation because it was scheduled when my mother’s stroke was still a new and stultifying situation. By the time I actually went, my mother and I had already been through most of our difficult journey together. She had been living in the skilled nursing facility for about five months. We were past the point of believing she was going to improve and not yet at the point where death prepared to pounce. We were both living in a shadow world and trying to light the way for each other. I’m sure the fact that my first trip to Discovery Cove propelled me totally away from Stroke World for one, beautiful, restful day enhanced my first experience.

When I packed up for my recent excursion, I was a little apprehensive. Maybe it was better to live with my perfect memory of my “once in a lifetime” Discovery Cove adventure rather than risk overlaying it with another trip that might not be as wonderful. Then, I considered that I am trying to broaden my horizons by being braver and less anxious. I am trying to embrace the now rather than living in the past or obsessing about the future. I am trying to stop automatically saying “no” to things simply because they make me a little uneasy. So I said “yes” to myself and went to Discovery Cove.

The activities I enjoyed at Discovery Cove were very similar to my prior visit. I swam with the dolphins, snorkeled in the salt water reef, waded past marmosets and otters, fed birds in the aviary, and lounged my way down a lazy river. I spent hours and hours in the water. I ambled aimlessly around the beautiful grounds, sliding my feet through the elegant sand beaches and splashing around the edges of the coves. I ate and drank and read my kindle. I shopped in the little stores. I stayed even longer than I stayed last year. And I enjoyed every moment of it.

On one of my numerous trips down the lazy river, I floated behind a family with two small children. As I passed them, I heard the little girl exclaim, “Mommy, this is the best day ever!” I closed my eyes, listened to the birds chattering around me, snuggled my shoulders deeper under the gently warm water, and felt the sun skip across my face. I smiled and thought to myself, “it sure is.”

That spontaneous reaction started me thinking. Was it the best day ever? How could it be better than my last trip? Was it better than my last trip? Wasn’t it the same experience?

In purely objective terms, I could argue that this visit might not have been quite as good as my first visit. The dolphin assigned to my pod was a bit of a maverick and wasn’t really in the mood to play host to a bunch of strangers that day. Her dolphin ADHD required some patience and creativity. It was a bit chaotic. Also, the sloth I went to visit at the animal encounter kiosk was not able to overcome his slothful DNA and rouse himself from his crate, so there was no small furry animal petting on this visit. Also, I forgot my credit card and worried that I would be unable to purchase merchandise to take home. I also lost my brand new sparkly prescription sunglasses somewhere in the depths of the snorkeling reef.

Still, I had a wonderful time and I am not even going to pretend that I don’t want to go back next year. So, what was different this time that made my visit a new, magical event despite the minor glitches I’ve mentioned?

It is true that the activities were basically the same as last year, but the difference is that I am not the same as last year. I am much further along in my journey to improve my capacity to enjoy life as it comes and embrace new adventures without mourning what they are not. I am more confident. My heart is more open. My brain is calmer. I even embraced the glitches. I didn’t just tolerate them; I leveraged them.

I may not have been able to pet a sloth this time around, but I had a new experience. I held a macaw on my arm. That was pretty cool. Instead of worrying about the scheduling short circuiting while my dolphin played keep away, I enjoyed the extra time in the cool saltwater surrounded by a whole navy of dolphins. When I realized that I had forgotten my credit card, I stopped to strategize about how I could overcome the problem. In the past, I know I would have panicked, mournfully declaring immediate defeat. I would have been all woebegone over my inability to buy stuff. This time, I remained calm and brainstormed some ways I might still be able to charge merchandise. In doing so, I figured out how to use Apple Pay. While the loss of my sunglasses was a little more difficult to push away from my overactive nervous system, I was able to do so. I remembered that these glasses were the same prescription as my old ones, which were in the glove compartment of my car. I didn’t love that I lost the glasses, but it was not a tragedy. As if to reward my determined Zen-ness, someone found my sunglasses and returned them to Lost and Found by the end of the day.

So even though my day’s activities were pretty much the same during both my visits, each visit was a very different experience. Both were the “best day ever” while I was living them. Maybe this most recent visit felt even more like the “best day ever” because I have changed enough to immerse myself more deeply in the present moment.

Nothing is ever exactly the same. The earth keeps turning and the soul keeps growing. I think every experience is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What do you think?  Have you ever done something that seemed very different than a time when you did it before because you were different?  Please tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a one-of-a-kind day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!  If you would like a second helping of Terri, I am guest posting on another retirement lifestyle blog this week. If you’d like to read my post, The Dream Is In The Doing,  please visit:

http://retirementandgoodliving.com/the-dream-is-in-the-doing/

 

Summerwhine… And The Living? Not So Easy!

It is time for my mandatory annual Florida summer weather rant.  I admit it’s a bit early, as summer officially started only a few weeks ago.  However, summer did not get the memo in central Florida.  Summer weather started early this year and visited our home in a particularly diabolical way.

It’s kind of ironic.  Just the other day, I mentioned to Max that I thought I had finally come to terms with summer in Florida.  After three summers in the Land-Where-You-Drink-The-Air, you would think I would have realized resistance is futile before now.  I am a slow learner.  I think the heat and humidity short circuits the synopses in my brain, impairing my ability to process information.

When we spent our first summer in Florida, we were concerned about protecting the nation’s resources.  Less altruistically, we were also concerned about the electric bill.  We ran the air conditioner only when the temperature in the house hit 84 degrees and we typically only brought it down to about 79 degrees.  Why those numbers?  I have no idea.  The next summer, I quietly reset the threshold to 80 degrees and would let the air conditioning run until we hit 74 degrees.

This year, Max apparently realized that I am a much nicer person with whom to live when the temperature is regularly below the boiling point.  He started turning the air conditioner on at 77 degrees.  I found myself able to sit comfortably watching television in shorts and a tank top.  Max put on a jacket and brought a blanket out from the bedroom.  I don’t know which of us has a faultier internal thermostat.  The bottom line is that he can keep putting clothes on, but there comes a point when there is nothing left for me to take off…. And nobody wants me to reach that point.

So, this year, when the temperatures climbed, the humidity soaked through the sky, and the thunderwowers surged, I felt slightly less tetchy than in past summers.  We had a very active month of May, filled with exciting events, including a trip to Texas to visit a cherished friend, the publication of my book (which you can order at https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076 hint, hint, nudge, nudge), and a visit from another cherished friend for my launch party.  By the time late May rolled around, and summer with it (no, don’t consult a calendar…. Believe me, summer started in late May this year!), I felt content to stick close to home in my comfortably cool house.

Then, all that changed.  The air conditioner died.

Max and I were watching television in the midst of a crackling storm.  There was wind, thunder, lightning, and enough rain to drown the cats and dogs.  All of a sudden, we heard a loud crack.  At first, we figured the noise was thunder, but it sounded different enough that we both noticed it.  The electricity went off for a second or two but came back on even before the clocks had time to stall.  We continued watching television until it was time for bed.  We noticed the house seemed a little warm and checked the thermostat.  The temperature was higher than it was before we started watching TV, even though we could hear the whirring of the air conditioner fan.  We soon realized that  the fan in the garage was still going, but the air conditioner unit outside was not.

I decided this catastrophe must have had something to do with the storm or a power surge when the electricity restarted.  I went googling around to figure out possible remedies.  Max spent many years working as a manager and dispatcher for a company that worked on commercial heating and cooling systems.  He is only marginally better than I am at home repairs, but he is very good at knowing what questions to ask and diagnosing probable issues.  Max believed that the cracking noise we heard was the death rattle of the air conditioner compressor. I, of course, gave a lot of weight to his opinion because of his experience.  On the other hand, Max is also a bit of a fatalist and tends to imagine the worst case scenario in every case.  In my heart of hearts, I knew that there was at least a 75% chance that Max was correct and the compressor was deceased.  However, I really tried to live in the other 25% of my brain- the part that was in denial.

The next morning, I went outside to look at the air conditioning unit.  I saw no charring or melting.  I tried a few tricks that I learned in my googling, to no avail.  Max also looked at the equipment and found nothing that would explain its sudden demise.  The 25% denial part of my brain in which I was living started to get more claustrophobic.

Of course, when the air conditioning people came to look at the unit, they announced that the compressor in our 12-year-old air conditioner was grounded (which I guess means “should be six feet under ground”).  We could fix it for $2000 or replace the whole system for $5700.  I opted to replace the system, which I believe was the right financial decision.  However, opting for replacement meant that we had to wait for reinvigorated air conditioning for nine days.

So much for coming to terms with Florida summer. I “slept” with two fans blowing on my bed.  I actually forgot what it felt like to be not sweaty. I rarely turned on the hot water in the shower.  I changed clothes several times a day.  We went to the beach so I could remember what it felt like to breathe.  I fell asleep in a movie theater, lulled into slumber by the novelty of air conditioning and recliner seats.  I actually enjoyed going to jury duty because the temperature in the jury assembly room was set below “par-boil.”

I think it is remarkable that I did not lose my mind during those nine days. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Leaving mine to soak in the pot of boiling water that was my home surely wasn’t good for it.   I think surviving this challenge qualifies me for honorary native Floridian status.

Now that we have a whole new air conditioning system, our house is more consistently comfortable and energy efficient.  It is kind of amazing how much better the new one is performing.  It is set at 75 degrees.  When we go out, we turn it off and the temperature does rise…. because it is freakin’ Florida and it is summer…but we are comfortable very soon after flipping the thermoset back to “cool.”  With the old system, once the house was warm it was probably going to stay warm until October.

It is still early days to declare victory over my summerwhine blues.  There is plenty of time for me to worry about another hurricane.  There is plenty of time for me to go stir-crazy because thunderstorms and torrential rain make it perilous to undertake leisure outings.  There is plenty of time for me to dissolve into a pile of goo while out doing errands.  There is plenty of time for my joints to stiffen from the humidity and inactivity necessitated by summer heat lethargy.

Still, for right now, I’m okay with summer.  Today, I am blissfully grateful because the only thing that is overheated in my house is my credit card from paying for the new air conditioner!

What do you like best and worst about summer?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Stay Cool!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

 

 

 

America The Beautiful (A Prayer)

Oh, beautiful for spacious skies,
(Help us to keep them clean and blue.)
For amber waves of grain,
(And remind us, when we reap the harvest, to nourish others, too.)
For purple mountain majesties
(Sometimes we struggle to the crest)
Above the fruited plain!
(But, with Your grace, we’ll reach Your banquet when at last we come to rest.)
America! America!
(Help us love our people, one and all)
God shed His grace on Thee,
(And heal us, Gracious Father, at the times when we will fall.)
And crown thy good with brotherhood
(Open our hearts to Love and Right)
From sea to shining sea
(So, as our nation changes, it changes towards the Light.)

What will you be doing to honor out country on Independence Day?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a great 4th of July!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

PS  How do you like the red, white, and blue action?

 

Shopping Around

I am a recreational shopper.  I enjoy going to malls and trying on clothes.  I love going to home décor stores.  I get super psyched by specialty shops, farmers’ markets, and craft fairs, especially at Christmas time.  I practice shopping the way some people practice their golf swing.  To me, shopping is entertainment, a leisure pursuit.

When Max moved in with me after we dated for several years, I made him promise that we would keep “dating” and go someplace fun at least once a week.  Shopping counted.  It worked out pretty well because Max is a very tolerant shopper.  He actually enjoys trailing around behind me in a mall or craft fair. He is a good fan and cheers me on when I make purchases.   If he does tire of waiting for me to try on potential new outfits, he sits on a chair by the fitting room and surfs the internet on his phone.  All in all, he is a very satisfactory shopping companion.

The only thing is, he really doesn’t get my concept of “museum shopping.” He doesn’t always understand that I can like things I see while shopping, but don’t necessarily have any desire to own them.  For me, shopping isn’t really about the acquisition of things. I certainly do my share of buying and continue to do my part to keep the economy strong, but the real pleasure in shopping is just seeing new things in different surroundings.  I get exercise while I watch people, admire the merchandise, and appreciate the store’s environment and decoration. It is almost like observing a microcosm of pop culture.  Max always seems vaguely deflated if we end a shopping expedition without purchasing anything, as if he has somehow failed in his mission. For me, the absence of multiple shopping bags digging into my arms does not mar my appreciation of the excursion.

One of the reasons I think Max doesn’t appreciate the whole “museum shopping” thing is that he takes gift-giving very seriously.  Once he has allocated money into his budget for my Christmas and birthday presents, he is like a meerkat protecting the mob (yes, that is what a group of meerkats is called; I looked it up on Wikipedia).  Every time I admire something, he pops his head up and suggests that he buy it for me for the next gift-giving occasion on the docket. That money burns a hole in the present budget until he can purchase something. Then, once he has purchased something, he budgets money for the next gift-giving occasion and the process starts all over again.   Because of this propensity of his, I think I will be opening my Christmas present for 2020 this year.  It mystifies him that I can be so excited over whatever I am admiring, but still not want him to buy it for me.  I just always want to keep shopping.  You never know when there might be something better or somewhere better to buy a gift.

Speaking of a better place to buy a gift, I don’t really consider a trip a vacation unless the activity schedule includes shopping.  I usually don’t buy a lot of souvenir things, but I do like to buy “regular” stuff while on vacation.  If a buy an article of clothing or piece of jewelry or Christmas ornament or home décor item while I am on vacation, there is the added benefit that I will always remember that experience when I use the item back at home.

Then there is online shopping. My mother was Amazon.com’s best friend.  It was a rare day when she did not receive multiple boxes from the Big Box Store In The Sky. Max likes the purchasing without benefit of human contact that online shopping provides.  I’m not a huge fan.  Because of my poor visual reasoning skills, I have a hard time converting the pictures and descriptions on a website to what an item will actually be like in real life.  In regular stores, I can look and listen and smell and touch to my heart’s content.  Yes, my mother did teach me not to touch, but it didn’t take.  I’m careful, but I always touch.

I do appreciate the efficiency and cost effectiveness of online shopping when I know exactly the item I want.  I regularly order hard-to-find protein bars and the Costco brand of over-the-counter sleeping pills from Amazon.  Cyberspace buzzes between Amazon and my kindle on a regular basis.  However, I find that online purchasing misses exactly what I like best about shopping… the exploration (that visual reasoning thing makes searching for items online unsatisfactory for me), the exercise (I don’t really call rhythmic keystroking exercise, do you?), the sensory experience (you can’t touch the merchandise in online stores) …. and, for the most part, the excitement.

I’ve just written over 800 words about shopping.  They say everyone needs a hobby when he or she retires.  I think I’ve decided shopping qualifies.

Do you think shopping qualifies as a hobby?  What hobbies are you pursuing in retirement?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Buy yourself something nice today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

And another fun fact to know and tell…..

If you would like to receive an email when I post new blog content, you can hit the Subscribe button.  If you are viewing the blog on a computer, you will find the Subscribe feature at the side of the page under the list of prior months.  If you are viewing the blog on your phone, I believe you will have to scroll all the way down to find the Subscribe feature.

Graceful

I am an extraordinarily klutzy individual. It started when I was a tiny child.  I expect that I fell on my head a lot as a toddler.  I have a report card from the end of my year in kindergarten that says, “Dorothea should work on her fine muscle coordination over the summer.”  I think that is teacher-speak for “Teach this hot mess of a child how to walk without injuring herself or any other unfortunate child who happens to be in her wake.”

I also took dance lessons when I was in kindergarten.  After kindergarten, we moved from New York to California.  Although I begged to continue dance lessons in California, my parents refused.  I was very disappointed, but I think my parents just saw the writing on the wall.

When I was about seven, I broke my right arm, in another predictable demonstration of my clumsiness.  I was trying to swing from one jungle gym bar to another.  I apparently did not understand that there should never be a time when both one’s hands are off both bars.  As far as anyone knew up to that time, I was right-handed.  The broken right arm required a cast and I could not use my supposedly preferred hand for some six weeks. I managed pretty well.  As uncoordinated as I was when I had the use of both arms, the bar was set pretty low.  I don’t think it surprised anyone that I struggled doing tasks with my left hand as much as I did with my right.

It was when the cast came off that we were all in for a surprise.  I was actually less adept at tasks using my right hand than I had been when I was forced to use my left.  My mother was very alarmed.  Let’s face it; there wasn’t much wiggle room in my manual dexterity to begin with.  Several visits to various medical specialists later, the consensus of opinion was that I had probably been born left-handed.  I had just adapted to a right-handed world because no one knew any better.  I guess this is a more common phenomenon than most people realize.  Many people become ambidextrous as a result.  In my case, I became ambiklutzious.  I could find a way to fall, drop things, twist myself into awkward angles, tangle my legs together, and sprain my own wrists equally well using either hemisphere of my brain.

I never grew out of my dexterity challenges.  In junior high school, I actually had a pair of tennis shoes embroidered with the words “right” and “left” on them so I could keep my feet straight. The only class I ever came close to failing in my life was Home Ec. Sewing was completely beyond my confused and uncoordinated central nervous system.  The art of positioning fabric, laying out a pattern, cutting material, and assembling pieces of cloth was way beyond my ability to cope. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say my problem bordered on a learning disability.  When the teacher told us to make a gathered skirt, I was as horrified as if she asked me to construct a nuclear bomb.

When I was training to be a midlevel manager, I had to attend a class that involved spending a day at a ropes course.  I am not particularly afraid of heights. However, as a person who regularly trips over lint, I was a little apprehensive about making a fool of myself due to my tendency to pratfall.  I managed to get through the first couple of exercises without hurting anyone.  Just as I was beginning to think I might make it through the day without incident, my group headed over to the zipline.  I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of trying a zipline. I was kind of excited to give it a whirl.  Since the point of the whole thing is to fall off a little tower and plummet towards the ground, I thought I might be pretty good at it.  I wasn’t afraid.

I should have been.  I ended up being the class injury.  I screamed as I stepped off the platform.  The instructors thought I was screaming from excitement or fear or just because people tend to scream automatically when shooting through the sky.  Actually, I was screaming because I was in pain.  Somehow, I had managed to come close to dislocating my shoulder.  The good news is that the ropes course was right across the street from a hospital.  Somebody knew I was coming.  I ended up on painkillers, with a huge, nasty, multi-colored bruise that covered most of my back for the next several weeks.

I met Max at a dance.  All I can say is that it is a good thing he was drinking at the time.  We might not have made a life together otherwise. If he had been completely sober, I am sure he would have taken one look at my graceless dance moves and decided that dating me would be hazardous to his health.

I may be the only woman in Florida who does not wear flip-flops.  I gave them up years ago.  Max calls them my “fall down” shoes because…. you guessed…. I fall down when I wear them.  I love the look of flip-flops, but I have tripped over the front of them and fallen off the back of them more times than I care to admit.  I am not talking about stumbling, either.  I am talking about full-on, hazardous, land-in-a-prone-position kind of falling down.

Recently, I hit a new nadir in my clumsiness.  I was blow-drying my hair and walloped myself in the head with the hairdryer.  I actually saw stars and raised a lump the size of a sugar cube on the back of my head.  I thought my hair and I had come to an understanding, but I guess it was just lying in wait before forming an alliance with the hairdryer to try to take me out.  It almost worked.  I did not straighten my hair that day.

As I sat at the kitchen table holding a bag of frozen peas to my scalp, I felt a bit woebegone and sorry for myself.  Why do I have to be so klutzy and graceless?  Don’t I have enough unattractive qualities without being an accident constantly waiting to happen?

Then, I looked out the window at the view in my backyard.  The sun dappled through the large oak trees.  Two squirrels were chasing each other along a branch.  I could hear sandhill cranes yodeling.  I saw the blooms on the bushes out in the wetlands behind the house. I noticed there was a sound roof over my head and a refrigerator filled with food.  As I looked around the living room, I saw the beautiful picture of my book cover signed by my wonderful, supportive friends.  Max wandered in and kissed the sugar cube on my head to make it well.  When I looked up at him, I noticed a Bible verse I have on the wall from Psalm 84:1- How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord almighty!

Never mind about the clumsiness.  It doesn’t matter.  I have a more excellent kind of grace!

Are you graceful? How can you tell?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

I hope you find some grace today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

 

Fathering

As Father’s Day is approaching, I wanted to write a post honoring fatherhood.  Two years ago, I posted a piece in tribute to my own father.  You can read it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/06/the-first-man-i-remember/.  In light of how much time I have spent on the concept of motherhood in the past, two years seems an inordinately long time to go without discussing fatherhood.  Still, I seem to have way more difficult a time opining on the virtues of fathers than I do the virtues of mothers.

It isn’t that I think fathers are less important than mothers.  I absolutely DON’T think that.  All you have to do is read my June 2016 blog piece about my own father to know the value I place on dads.  In fact, one of the reasons I am not a mother today is that my child would not have had a father in his/her life.  When I was contemplating adopting a child, one of the reasons I decided against it was that I firmly believe that the optimum condition for raising a happy, healthy child includes having a loving mother and loving father.  While a lot of people are great single parents and do a phenomenal job raising wonderful human beings, I think the odds are better when there are two people giving their all to the parenting process. I didn’t think I was strong enough to start out being a strike behind the count.

Maybe my difficulty in capturing the qualities of daddyhood has to do with the fact that I am a woman and my closest friends are also women. Parenting is such an intimate activity.  I’m not sure I’ve ever have had enough “up-close-and-personal” opportunity to observe men being parents to define what made them good fathers.  I just know that they are.

I don’t think I am the only one that has a hard time identifying the unique qualities of good dads.  It isn’t fair, but I think we might tend to undervalue our fathers when compared to mothers.  Even the language of parenthood is different, depending on gender.  When we say the verb “mothering,” most of us visualize a lifetime of coziness and support… sometimes, even to a fault. Someone who “mothers” us is there over the long haul. “Fathering,” however, has a different connotation.  Someone who “fathers” a child is there for the conception.

If I make a deliberate effort to identify what does make a good father, I think it comes down to action and service. Good fathers walk the walk of love.  They fix things.  They take care of their families.  They do things for their families, even when that means sacrifice.  The thing is, a really great father almost doesn’t think of it as a sacrifice because the pleasure they get from doing something to make their kids happy is more satisfying than the personal pleasure he gave up.

I don’t have a lot of memories of my paternal grandfather, but the ones I do have are burned in my very soul. He was an excellent purveyor of serving acts.  He helped build an extension on the house where my parents lived so my maternal grandmother could move in with us.  He made me a beautiful purple crib for my Christmas baby doll.  My favorite color was purple and this was a time when people just didn’t make things in colors like purple.   I remember a time when I was having a meltdown at age four because my best friend had flowers after a dance recital and I did not.  No one could comfort me.  The hugs and the kisses and the soft words were all very nice, but they did not address the problem.  My grandpa fixed everything by taking me into his backyard garden, instructing me to take any of the flowers that I wanted. He followed in my wake, patiently clipping away at his carefully cultivated blooms as I identified the ones I wanted.   He even found me a length of ribbon when I pointed out that Kathleen Murray’s bouquet had streamers on it.

My grandfather also raised a father with similar traits. My father was also a service action kind of guy.   I do have some memories of touching conversations with my father, but I remember much more the things he did to keep me safe and happy.  He worked hard physically so I could make a living with my brains instead of my back.  His job was the way he paid for his life with his family and he took a lot of pleasure from the knowledge that he provided well for us.  He taught me to ride a bike.  He taught me to swing on the rings at the school playground.  He taught me to drive a car.  He refinished a lawyer friend’s dining room set as payment in barter for handling my divorce.

I know other great dads who embody those twin qualities of “action” and “service.” I know one father who built a skateboard half-pipe for his son in their relatively small backyard.  I know one stepfather who transports his stepdaughter to bowling every week.  That may not sound like a particularly noteworthy contribution, but it helps to know that the stepdaughter is over 40 years old and has a cognitive disability.  The bowling and other activities to which her stepfather drives her provide her with social connection, confidence, and pleasure in a world that would be otherwise very limited for her.  I know another father who goes to his daughter’s apartment when she is at work to take her puppy for a run every day so his daughter does not have to come home to a wildly energetic, out-of-control terrier.  There are few things in life less relaxing than a wildly energetic, out-of-control terrier.

I’m sure there are many examples of fathers who act and serve.  Sometimes, I think we take fathers for granted because these actions of service are often not dramatic or emotion-packed. Schmaltzy movies often depict parenthood as fraught with crucial conversations.  These heart-to-heart talks are often filled with angst and life-changing declarations.  I don’t know about everyone, but, if I had those kinds of experiences at all, they were with my mother and not my father.  Yet, I can’t imagine how pallid and fractured my life would have been without my father.

Maybe fathers help us to do stuff rather than help us get through stuff.  Or maybe, they help us get through stuff BY helping us do stuff!

What qualities do you think it takes to be a good father?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  I am aware that my posts about mothering and fathering tend to reflect gender stereotypes and that kind of bothers me, but I can only report on my own experiences and my own experiences of parenthood have tended to fall out along fairly traditional gender lines.  I would love to hear from all of you and would be especially interested in hearing from folks whose experiences have shown them a different side of fatherhood than what I’ve experienced.

Have a wonderful Father’s Day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076