Rising Above

All of you who know me IRL (and, by now, probably most of you who know me only through the blog) know that flexibility and rolling with the punches are not exactly my strong suit. I really prefer a life where things are planned and scheduled. I like to know what will happen and when it will happen. Uncertainty causes me great anxiety. When things don’t go as I expect, I can go off the rails pretty easily. I can think of numerous times in my life when plans went awry and I was left, gob smacked and paralyzed because I couldn’t figure out what to do next.

On my recent trip to New England, life wasn’t playing by my rules. In fact, it might have been the most troublesome trip of my life.

We were delayed for 4 and a half hours trying to get out of the Orlando airport. There were three different mechanical issues that delayed us… each discovered right after the previous one was resolved. Not only did our plane experience multiple problems, those problems could not even have the goodness to happen concurrently. We “almost” left about four times before we actually did make it off the ground. We loaded and unloaded the plane multiple times.

When we finally got the second (or was it third?) safety check, apparently poised to actually get the airplane into the air, there was a further problem. One of the disgruntled passengers was on the phone to the airline headquarters, negotiating at the top of his lungs to get a travel voucher for his trouble. He refused to stop yelling long enough to listen to the safety instructions or hang up his cell phone for take-off. The rest of us were ready to pounce on him. If he had not finally shut up and apologized to the flight attendant, I think we would have had to go back to the gate AGAIN to have him removed from the flight. Had that occurred, I doubt he would have made it to the parking lot without serious injury.

By the time we got to Boston, I had put aside this sketchy beginning to our trip. I was ready to have a good time.

Unfortunately, the travel gremlins did not get that particular memo.

During our sojourn, I tripped over a step in Bar Harbor breakfast room (take note, all you who objected when I said I am an exceedingly clutzy individual.) I remained upright, but a bottle of milk on the buffet table did not. I managed to spill the entire serving carafe of milk on the (carpeted) floor. The food on my plate went flying across the room, with considerable less delay than our plane from Orlando. The bus we originally boarded in Boston did not have a working microphone system, so the poor tour director had to wend her way down the aisle repeating her spiel every few seats until we got a new bus a few days later. We were two hours late getting to New Hampshire because of traffic related to a small-town fair that is apparently attended by the entire population of Maine. Our bus driver nearly missed a stoplight in Massachusetts and slammed on the brakes, sending people and water bottles tobogganing down the aisle of the vehicle. In one hotel, a fire alarm went off at 4:15am, requiring us to evacuate and stand around in the cold in our jammies for an hour. We arrived back in Boston to the city’s first ever hotel strike and the resultant picketing and catcalling. Finally, on the last morning of our trip, as we were packing to leave, the fire alarm squawked. It was a sign from God to go to the airport, even though it was a couple of hours before we intended to leave.

Yes, this certainly qualifies as a candidate for the most troublesome trip ever.

And yet….

It might also have been the most wonderful trip ever.

How could this be? Simply put, I fell in love with New England. And maybe, just maybe, I am learning that a beautiful gift packaged in bedraggled gift wrap is still a beautiful gift. And New England was a mind-expanding, life-enhancing, oh-so-beautiful gift. Everything bad that happened was just the bedraggled gift wrap. I rose above it. I chose to live in loveliness and lovingliness.

I loved the fall foliage bursting with color and warmth and magic. I remember my mother once saying “when you see one tree, you’ve seen them all,” when I asked her how she enjoyed one of the tours she and my father took. For me, it was more like- “if I see one tree, I want to see them all.” I rode, hour after hour, drinking in the landscape as I stared, mesmerized, out the window. I didn’t even blink very often, for fear of missing even a slight smidgeon of miracle. I developed a sort of involuntary gurgling noise that became Max’s “exceptionally beautiful fall foliage early warning alarm.” Whenever he heard me emit my gurgle, he knew to turn to see what was delighting me.

I loved the rocky coastline of Maine- wild, free, and powerful. I loved the food- the lobster and the popovers and the gingerbread and the cheese and the apple cider donuts. I loved the ever-present autumn decorations- pumpkins and mums and cornstalks. I loved the beautiful paths to nowhere- except more beauty- that swirled around the rivers and meadows and forests.

I also loved the serendipity. I loved the way the air smelled and tasted. I loved the quiet, dignified sunrise over Bar Harbor. I loved that Max tried to ring the church bell in New Hampshire by swinging on the rope. I loved meeting a “local” artist who, before living in New Hampshire for about 10 years, had lived about a mile from where Max and I lived in California. He had been the illustrator for the California newspaper that both of us had read most of our lives. I loved the whimsical statues of bears and moose we saw at nearly every stop. I loved the soothing jacuzzi in the ski lodge in Vermont. I loved meeting the little welsh corgi “saleslady” in a souvenir shop in Newport.

Yes, it was a wonderful trip and I am still smitten by New England. I know I will likely never move there. I don’t really want to rebuild my life again. As Max kept reminding me, within a couple of months, the many colors I so fancied in the fall forests will be replaced by one color- white, white, and more white. While I think I could do better with cold than with the Florida summer heat, I don’t have any experience with managing snow and ice. I know I get antsy if I have to go more than a day or two without getting out of the house here in Florida. Winter in New England might give me terminal cabin fever. I have a great life in Florida. I am sure my life is easier than it would be in New England. I have an active life, with plenty of fun things to do. I have wonderful friends who I don’t want to leave.

Still, when the time comes for God to bring me Home, I hope we make a brief detour for a few decades in New England. In the scheme of eternity, it wouldn’t be much of a delay and I think my soul was meant to have a New England life.

I have to apologize for the pictures.  I wanted to share some, but they don’t do justice to nature’s beauty.  Also, I can’t figure out how to get them to line up the way I want them to, so you might have to tilt your head a bit!  Please don’t throw your neck out!  

What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a beautiful day!!!!  🙂

And Now… A Word From Our Sponsor

I’ve wandered off the grid this week, so there won’t be any new Terri Tales today. I know you are disappointed, but I’m sure you can withstand the loss. I have faith in you.

To help you cope with a week without me, I wanted to leave you with a little public service announcement to ponder while I am gone.

I’m sure most of you know by now that I have written a book based on this blog. The book is called Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. I’ve published it under my “real” name, Dorry Curran. The book has been out for about six months now and has been well reviewed by those who have read it. For those of you who have not read it, why haven’t you?

I’d like to help remedy that sad state of affairs by reminding you how to purchase the book. I’d also like to suggest that the book (besides being entertaining, helpful, and thought-provoking) is pretty darn nifty-looking. You probably don’t want to hear this, but we are entering the Christmas shopping season. Also, many people retire at the end of the year and it is sometimes hard to think of a retirement present on top of all those Christmas presents you have to select. Changing My Mind is a suitable gift for every occasion.

You can order as many copies of the book as you like by visiting my direct-to-reader page at: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076 If you use the promo code terri, you will get a 15% discount on paperback copies. You can also get the book in electronic form, compatible with either Kindle or Nook.

If you prefer, you can also get the book at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com in both paperback and electronic formats. The discount code will not apply to those order sites, however.

So, please consider buying a copy or several copies of Changing My Mind. If you enjoy the blog, I know you will enjoy the book. Remember…. I have faith in you!

So, for those of you who have read the book, what can you say about it that might help someone else decide whether or not to buy a copy? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Sending me an email might not really have the desired effect of tempting others to buy the book. Still, if you aren’t comfortable leaving a comment and would still like to say something about the book, I’m happy to get your feedback by email.

Change Your Mind today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

September 30th

I had an aunt who was born on New Year’s Day. One day, my mother and I were talking about her birthday and my mother commented that she thought it was sad that my aunt’s birthday always got a bit lost in all the holiday hoopla.  I replied that I thought it would be neat to be a New Year’s baby.  My mother looked at me strangely and said, “You kind of were.”

“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked.

“Do the math,” she replied.

I was born on September 30, 1959.  Apparently, my conception was the result of my parents’ private party to ring in the new year.  Knowing this seems like too much information.

My birthday is pretty special to me.  It is the one day of the year that I give myself license to let things be all about me.  For people who see birthdays as a reminder that they are aging, I can see how it can be tempting to forget the whole thing.  I psyche myself out of the birthday/aging correlation by scrambling my thinking.  I’m celebrating my 30th anniversary of turning 29 this year. Anyway, I don’t really think birthdays are about marking the number of years in my life.  They are about celebrating the unique (all right, weird) conglomeration of attributes, accomplishments, and activities that makes up the wonder that is me.  After all, when we celebrate George Washington’s birthday, we aren’t celebrating how old he is.  We are celebrating his existence and contribution.  I may not be the founder of a nation, but I am the founder of my life.  I’m pretty proud of that life.

Last year, my birthday was marked by disorientation and distraction.  Coming a few short weeks after my mother’s death, I was still oversaturated with emotion.  I was just starting to learn to live in a new world without my mother.  I had not really even begun to craft a life that did not include being with her, caring for her, and being mothered by her.  I was definitely living gingerly on the fringes of a life, trying to avoid the cracks in the landscape that fractured my old existence during her long illness.  I had not begun to repair those cracks.  I had not yet patched over the cracks so I could transverse them in the journey of my own life.  I was just trying to stay away from the edges so I did not fall into them.

For the first time in my life, I dreaded my birthday last year.  I was sure it was going to be a difficult reminder of the other person who was around when I was born 58 years earlier.  Instead, it turned out to be a pretty good day.  Max made it his mission to indulge me.  Even though he always does what he can to make me happy, he made a concerted effort to kick it up a notch on my first birthday after my mother died.  He took me to Disney Springs.  We shopped and walked and enjoyed a beautiful day.  As we wandered around, a beautiful pair of earrings caught my eye in a store window. Max bought them for me, as a spontaneous birthday surprise.  “Spontaneous” and “surprise” are not words that typically describe Max, but he was trying everything he could think of to delight me.  We had dinner at one of the restaurants specializing in comfort food.  We didn’t forget my mother, certainly, but I have to say that the plan for the day was to distract myself from my grief.  The plan was pretty successful, all in all.

My strategy of distraction didn’t end with my birthday.  For months after my mother’s death, I seemed to be engaging in an endless stream of activity.  I joined clubs, volunteered, published a book, began seeing friends regularly, and kept myself busy, busy, busy.  Part of my busy-ness stemmed from a genuine desire to expand my life, but I’m sure that a lot of my motivation came from my need to fill the space in my heart that my mother left when she passed.  It wasn’t necessarily intentional, but I know I was trying to not feel the ugly disorder of my grief.

My super-sized activity schedule was not necessarily satisfying at first.  I was happy to fill my time with something other than sadness, but I didn’t feel particularly connected to the activities.  I went through the motions and ticked off the time without grief.  I felt pretty triumphant that I kept functioning and wasn’t falling apart.  Some of the new endeavors felt successful and others did not.  I purposely tried not to make any commitments beyond a few weeks because I felt so alien to everything I was doing and nothing felt momentum-producing.  Everything was just something to do to occupy my brain for the moment.

At some point in the months that followed, I noticed that all the activities began to feel more cohesive.  They were starting to feel like a part of my life, rather than some life I was just visiting to escape from reality.  At some point, activity matured into meaning.  I had built a bigger life without even realizing I was doing it. I was still sad, of course, but I could allow myself to feel sad without worrying that I was going to sink into a dark place from which I would not be able to recover.  I felt less bereft of a mother and much more aware that I still had a mother living in me and encouraging me from Heaven to grow towards my joy.

I don’t know how it happened.  I can’t describe the process or technique of learning to live with grief and joy simultaneously.  I am pretty certain I have not yet mastered the skill completely, but I know that I feel calmer and more peaceful. My busyness did turn out to be an instrument of healing, although I was not the one using the instrument.  God used my distraction to lead me to where I needed to be. It seems that the distractions I employed to deal with my disorientation primed some part of my personal mechanics to ignite my brain, open my heart, and send my soul searching for a more sumptuous sense of spirituality.  All that disconnection and hollowness in my busyness of last year has ripened into a richer, fuller, life.

If my birthday last year was marked by distraction, I think the watchword this year is engagement.  I’m reveling in all the new activities and situations I’ve experienced over the past year.  I’m celebrating the journey of life instead of being afraid of it.  I’m also doing something I’ve always wanted to do for my birthday this year.  Max and I are going on a bus tour to New England.  I’ve always wanted to go see that part of the country and peep at the autumn leaves.

So I think I’ve turned a corner in my grief.  Well, maybe not anything as sharp and definitive as a corner…. But I have definitely made a “slight right turn,” as the GPS calls it when you are approaching a gentle fork in the road and need to veer one way or another.  I do believe I am veering right.  And I think my mother is happy about it.

What will you be celebrating on your next birthday?  What life achievements, personal progress, or happy events will you remember with joy?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a joyful 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

She Who Sings Prays Twice

Music and I have always been trapped in an abusive relationship. The thing is, I never know which of us is the abuser and which is the victim.

I used to say my singing prowess, or lack thereof, was God’s joke. I love to sing, but am not very good at it. In fact, it is fair to say that I am bad at it. The last time I can remember singing in public (before going Christmas caroling in the community last year) was when I was about seven. The choir director at church was putting together a children’s choir to entertain at the annual St. Joseph’s Day Table festivities. The presentation included making hand motions to accompany our rousing rendition of “Do, Re, Mi.” I wasn’t particularly good at the actual singing part, but I could wiggle my fingers on the sides of my head to make “doe, a deer” ears with great gusto.

A few years later, upon entering the fourth grade, I wanted to join the elementary school glee club. They wouldn’t take me. Let that sink in for a moment. I failed the audition for the public elementary school glee club. I mean, it wasn’t like I was trying out for American Idol or anything. All I wanted was to sing with the other, adequately voiced, 9-11-olds in the Jonas E. Salk Elementary School choir. How bad must I have been? And don’t you think that it was kind of cruel to reject such an enthusiastic child? The experience scarred me for life. I am always secretly wanting to sing, but I’m fearful that the sound of my voice will cause permanent trauma, or at least permanent hearing damage, to anyone who can hear me.

I’ve been tempted to join church choirs a few times in the past. St. Augustine is attributed with saying that “he who sings prays twice” and I think that is true. Singing adds another dimension to prayer for me. I don’t know whether it is because more of my body is engaged when I am singing rather than when I am simply speaking. I do know that my mind and heart and soul are usually more engaged. I seem to focus more on the experience of praying when I sing.

I enjoy singing at church. After years of repetition, I was familiar enough with most of the regular hymns I heard in the Catholic church to follow the melody without drawing pained looks from my neighbors. Sometimes, I’ll visit my current church on a weekday. There is a sign on the door that says, “Come in, rest, and pray.” That’s exactly what I do. I pray and, alone where I cannot endanger anyone’s ears, I sing. God never seems to mind.

In keeping with my resolve to try things I always wanted to do, I finally decided to try singing with the choir at my new church. During the choir’s “off season” in the summer, an informal group of folks would meet with the choir director right before the service to learn a song to sing during the liturgy. I enjoyed that. The problem, if there was one, was that everyone was too nice. I may not be able to sing very well, but I can hear and I know I was bad. I was fine as long as the melody was familiar and I could follow along with the tune. When it came to harmonizing, I reverted to that fourth grader who couldn’t make the glee club. I could not follow either the soprano or alto part consistently. I tended to wander all over the staff, hitting whichever notes my voice tripped over. I didn’t sing melody. I didn’t sing harmony. I sung cacophony. Still, the choir members were all way too nice to allow my lack of singing talent get in the way of my joining the choir. They were so warm and welcoming and encouraging, I decided to give it a try.

I loved the people in the choir and I loved the culture of the choir. It did feel very prayerful. I am sure we were “praying twice.” On the other hand, I was still not good. After a few practices, I was slightly better, but still bad. Basically, I advanced from very bad to just bad. Every time I mentioned it, the choir director and other members told me I was getting better and I was doing fine and I was loved and wanted. It made it kind of hard to disentangle myself from the choir. There is a lot of incentive in acceptance.

On the other hand, I realized that I would not be able to attend Sunday school if I continued with the choir. Our rector leads a Sunday school session between the two services every week and I’ve been attending fairly regularly. I get a lot out of that class and I think I contribute something to it, as well. I feel like God is calling me more to participate in the Sunday school class rather than the choir, so I am going to part ways with the choir for now.

In reality, the gifts God gave me are truly more suited to participating in Sunday school discussions. I’ve always loved discussing spiritual ideas. I think I can use the perspectives we explore in the class to help me with my blog posts and with church programs I might present. I read once that the best ministry is that activity where the thing that brings a person joy intersects with the needs of the people of God. I enjoy the singing, but I don’t think it brings me the kind of joy that drives the passion of ministry. As for intersecting with the needs of the people of God…. well, nobody needs to hear me sing!

One of the roles of a church choir is to lead the musical worship of the congregation. Leaders need followers. I can be a follower. Followers also pray twice!

One of the best things about retirement is having the time and energy to explore new activities.  What new pursuits did you embrace (or want to embrace) in retirement?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a pleasantly busy 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

Bopworthy

As I agonize over whether or not I should do the “character couture” experience at Disney World, my friends have been egging me on. As I mentioned in my prior post, “Bippity Bop or Not”, they are downright giddy over having a designated dufus to play dress-up at our happy place. They are looking forward to seeing a real-life pixie duster magically transform me into Tinker Bell before their very eyes. If I do it, I will provide them with all the entertainment of the experience without the strange looks from the passersby on Main Street, USA.

In an effort to push me over the top and persuade me to commit to the activity, a friend sent me a video published by an internationally-known sophisticated magazine that is named after a cocktail (I’m looking at you, Helen Gurley Brown.) The video described the “Bippity Boppity Boutique for adults” available at some Disney World resort salons. The video showed several “everyday” (if you live in The Valley Of The Dolls) twenty-somethings morphing into princesses at a highly improbable rate of speed.

I responded to my friend that it did look life fun, but asked if she noticed that none of the adult princesses-in-the-making appeared to need their gray roots touched up as part of the makeover. I knew I was getting perilously close to cresting the summit of my indecision and was about to succumb to the magic of the pixie dust. I told my friend that, to push myself over the top of the mountain of my angst, I needed reassurance that I haven’t completely lost touch with reality. Clearly, I don’t mind living in Fantasyland, but I like to at least keep one foot in the real world.

My friend responded by pointing out that one almost never sees a 3X-sized model. I agreed and also pointed out that the magazine in question is especially keen to showcase the beautiful people of the world. I pointed out that the Cocktail Magazine target audience probably thinks every woman self-destructs on her thirty-fifth birthday, if she has the bad manners to live that long. There are some exceptions, of course. Jennifer Aniston and Hallie Berry probably get a pass. Then there is Meryl Streep. She might be granted a 35-and-older dispensation. After all, everyone wants to be her…. granddaughter.

My friend is right that far too few businesses use people remotely resembling an average person to display their wares. Most models need the XS size altered to prevent the garment from slipping off their hipbones. I am always excited and impressed when I see a company, like television shopping channel QVC, use models of all shapes, sizes, and ages. It is an interesting turn of events to be able to visualize what an article of clothing might look like on MY body, not the body of a woman in dire need of a cheeseburger. It is also incredibly heartening to see these multi-dimensional models portrayed as beautiful, desirable, and successful. The shorter…older… plumper… whatever… models seem to be comfortable and happy. They don’t apologize for breathing air or occupying space. They don’t try to hide themselves, hoping nobody notices them. They engage boldly with the world. Their lives seem more than, not less than. They are excellent models.

My friend asserted that everyone is in Fantasyland in their heads and everyone wants to look like a model. She is probably right, but I hope we are beginning to create a culture where the word “model” has a broader (pun intended) connotation than it has traditionally held. The truth is, we are all beautiful. We become even more beautiful when we live in the world believing that we are all beautiful and worthy of creating something wonderful in our lives.

So, despite my age and despite my pudge and despite my short stature, I think I am Bopworthy. It doesn’t even have to be Fantasyland.

I just scheduled my date to be pixie dusted. I’ll let you know how I make out!

What attributes do you think a good “model” should have?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a model day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Good Grief

It has now been a year since my mother died. I’ve tried to be healthy in my mourning.  I’ve seen a bereavement counselor a few times.  I’ve tried to focus on the wonderful gift that my mother was. In general, I’ve done very well.  I’ve been sad, but functional.  I’ve been mournful, but also hopeful.  I feel that I honor and celebrate my mother every day by the way I live my life.  Still, there is a facet of my grief has been stubborn and uncooperative.  It holds on relentlessly.  On the other hand, the grief isn’t nearly as sharp or as devastating as I thought it would be.

During the months of my mother’s illness, part of my daily terror had to do with how I could possibly withstand the shattering blow that I would doubtlessly experience when she died.  I was so sad and in so much pain while she was still alive, I couldn’t see how I would be able to handle her death.  I read the hospice information about anticipatory grief.  I think I might have been the poster child for the condition.  The research said that many people traveling with a loved one during a long illness do experience the grief of loss long before the final ending.  They may experience the exact same grief cycle as most people do when a loved one actually dies.  I absolutely understood that and I knew I was experiencing it.  The bitch of the matter, though, is that experiencing anticipatory grief in no way guarantees that the mourner will be any less shattered when the death does occur. I dreaded and resented having to experience the rawness of grief in duplicate.

When it finally happened, I found that my grief, though profound and prominent, did not feel as raw and septic as I feared it would. I think there are many reasons for that.

At first, I thought the reason that my mom’s death did not devastate me more was because of the long road we traveled together during her illness.  I started grieving long before she left me alone in this world.  After her stroke, her decline was so treacherous and unforgiving, I lost her step by step and piece by piece. As her brain gradually crumbled in the last year of her life, my heart crumbled along with it.  By the time she died, my heart wasn’t shattered because there was nothing left of it to shatter.

It was also hard not to feel some relief that my mother was finally whole and healthy and happy again in God’s dwelling place.  The foundation of my life is a belief system that encourages me to rejoice that my mother is living more abundantly in Heaven and is waiting there for me to join her.  I do find some joy in that notion.  That belief does take some of the pain out of the grief now, but it still does not prevent me from missing my mom every day in this life.

I think I also came to understand, in my mother’s last days, that I wasn’t losing everything I thought I was losing.  A blog reader once left a comment that said, during the end of life, everything burns away except love.  This was absolutely my experience.  In my mother’s illness, there were many times when she would look past me or away from me as if I wasn’t there. There were also occasions, though, when she would look into my eyes with such intensity and meaning that I could feel her loving me to my very soul.  That love, maybe the biggest and best part of her, will never die.  She loved me with a love that I can never lose.

I am sure that all of these reasons played a part in my milder mourning experience.  There is something else, though.  I had a model for grieving.  My mother gave me that.

When my father died, everyone worried about my mother.  She was always an emotional person who loved extravagantly.  She felt with the people she loved.  She rejoiced easily and cried easily.  People sometimes took that heart on her sleeve as a mark of fragility.  Not so.  When my father died, she did everything she could to mourn in a healthy way.  She cherished her memories of my father. She continued doing activities they enjoyed together.  She helped herself and her children heal by loving us and letting us love her.   She joined an online support group for widows and widowers.  She kept working at a job she enjoyed with people who uplifted her.  She mourned him deeply and permanently. I don’t think there was a Thanksgiving after his death when my mother didn’t cry when we gave thanks for the people we loved who were no longer with us. Still, in the midst of that mourning, there was a renaissance.  My mother moved towards a life of her own crafting. She set her own priorities.  She pursued her own interests. She indulged her gift for happiness. She set out on a path of continual learning and grew in every way.  She reveled in her independence.   She turned her grief into something good.

In my mourning for my mother, I think I have been experiencing my own renaissance- almost without even realizing it.  Without thinking too much about it, I find that my experience with my mother’s end of life journey has prompted me to nurture my own life.  I’ve identified several attributes in my own personality that may be holding me back from experiencing as much joy as possible in life.  Almost unconsciously, I’ve been examining those personal barriers and experimenting with strategies for knocking them out of my way.

Good grief may be the last gift my mom gave me.

What have you learned through the process of grieving a loved one?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a blessed day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Bippity-Bop Or Not?

At Disneyland and Disney World, there are magical shops called Bippity-Boppity Boutiques (BBB).  These are enchanted places where parents can spend several hundreds of dollars for a Fairy-Godmother-In-Training (FGMIT) to transform their little girls into Disney princesses.  The service includes wardrobe, hair, make-up, accessories, and photo shoots.

You can see the results all over the various Disney parks.  You can tell when a little girl has been bippity-boppetied.  She has the costume, of course.  However, many little girls roam the parks in princess regalia purchased from Walmart so you can’t know for sure that a costumed child has visited the BBB. Sometimes the newly-fashioned princess has a pink sash draped across her torso, proudly proclaiming her patronage of the boutique.  You don’t need the sash to identify the bippity-boppees, though.  It is the hair that usually tells the tale.  A fresh bippity-boppety hairdo usually involves an improbably intricate contraption of the child’s hair, wiglets, tiaras, barrettes, and hairspray.  Oh, and glitter…lots and lots of glitter.

The glitter doesn’t stop with the hair.  Usually the bippity-boppee has glittery pink or purple eye shadow and may have cheeks that glisten with pixie dust.

I always swore that, if I had a daughter or granddaughter, she would be bippiy-boppetied whether she liked it or not.  I mean, how could I not?  I even checked one time to see if I could book my own session with a FGMIT, but the age limit for such enchantment is twelve.  Since I was several multiples past twelve by that time, I was out of luck.

Not anymore. Several spas located in Disney resorts are now offering “character couture” sessions. These sessions are very much like Bippity-Boppity Boutiques for adults.

Oh, there are a few differences.  For one thing, the character couture sessions do not include costumes.  That isn’t a problem for me, since I have a Disney wardrobe that is the envy of four-year-old girls everywhere.  Also, the character couture sessions are a little less expensive than BBB, but don’t include photo shoots.  The FGMITs in BBB are not licensed cosmetologists.  Their magic involves rocking a costume, wielding a wand, and being good with children.  In the character couture experience, the stylists are real cosmetologists.  They are hair and make-up experts who are there to customize a unique hair and make-up design for each client. The character inspiration can be any of Disney’s creations- princess or pirate, Minnie or Daisy, Ariel or Ursula, pixie or Pooh- whatever sparkles the client’s fantasy fireworks. The idea is to create a look “inspired” by the client’s favorite character, but to complement the client’s own natural beauty.

When I read about this service, my immediate thought was, “I have to do this!” Then, I started wondering if I really wanted to spend about $100 for a Tinker Bell makeover.  After all, I am a grown-up and it does seem a bit extravagant for a few hours fun.  I know the service is actually intended for adults, but I’m thinking that, at nearly 59 years old, I am even pushing the boundaries of “adult.”  I also can’t imagine even my most Disney-obsessed friends joining me in the transformation and I’m not sure how much fun it would be by myself.  Still, I can’t get the idea out of my head.

There is NO WAY I would schedule a character couture until the weather cools down.  I don’t expect the makeover to last forever, but I would like to give my transformation a fighting chance of staying pixie-lated beyond the front door of the salon.  With the current weather, make-up will melt immediately upon contact with the great outdoors.  Pixie-dusted hair and humidity are also kind of mutually exclusive.  While the weather is so not “happily ever after,” I have some time to contemplate whether or not I should really do this.

I started polling my friends to get their opinions.  Most of my friends were puzzled that I would even ask since they figured an opportunity to channel the Pixie Princess has me written all over it.  As I kind of suspected, they were all gung ho for me to do it, but none of them wanted to get in on a makeover of their own. They apparently want me to be the entertainment on a girl’s trip to Disney World.  They all want to watch me get Tinkified and then go over to Magic Kingdom to visit the “real” Tinker Bell in Pixie Hollow.

I guess they want me to be the designated doofus to play dress up.  I can live with that.  What are friends for?

What do you think?  Bop or not?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a glitterific 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

Note the Tinker Bell green!  All it takes is faith, trust, and pixie dust!

 

I Miss My Momma

My mother was born on August 22, 1931.  She was my beautiful, love-illuminating mother for almost 58 years until her death last year.  She spent her life loving and laughing and playing and working and bringing joy to everyone who knew her.  As many of you know, she spent the last year of her life stumbling around in the rubble of her collapsing brain before she found her way home to our great God.

The time I spent walking with my mother towards the end of her life was the most difficult time of my life.  When she died, I was sad to my essence. Every cell in my body mourned her. I was also relieved that she had finally escaped that half-world where everything she knew was disintegrating around her.

When she died, I had to look for a new way to live.  Learning how to grow towards my joy after keeping vigil at the edge of her darkness for over a year has been difficult.  For the most part, I’ve done pretty well.  I think that is largely due to the huge amount of anticipatory grief I processed during my mother’s illness.  Still, there is so much I am missing in this world without my mother.

The hardest part of mourning for me has been my fear that I would never remember my happy times with my mother when she was as she was in what I refer to as her “real life.”  Yes, my brain could remember those warm, loving, joyful, funny memories.  I could even point towards times during her illness that brought me deep peace, love, and happiness.  The scary part was that it was only my brain that could remember.  My heart couldn’t seem to connect with those times anymore.  I could tell those memories to someone else, but it always felt like I was talking about something I read or about someone else’s memories.  I couldn’t feel those happy moments anymore.  Before my mother’s illness, I could deftly enter my brain’s library and find a richly beautifully shelved memory.  I could re-live that moment and actually feel all the same feelings again.  After my mom’s stroke, all the happy memories seemed to be cloaked with the heavy, uncomfortable, dark sadness.  I couldn’t struggle my way out from under that cloak and refeel the happiness.

The hospice grief counselor assured me that the time would come when I would be able to connect with those jewels of joy again.  I was skeptical, but it turns out she was correct.  It happened for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  I was in my car backing out of the garage.  Max was waving good-bye to me.  He made some funny, exaggerated motions with his hands and, immediately, I was brought back to a time when I was a teenager.  My mother came into my bedroom to wake me. She began singing:

The Lord told Noah to build him an ark-y, ark-y.

The Lord told Noah to build him an ark-y, ark-y.

He made it of hickory barky, barky… children of the Lord.

So, rise and shine and give God your glory, glory.

Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory.

Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory.  Children of the Lord!”

She sang at the top of her lungs and her performance came complete with jazz hands, which is why Max’s motion triggered the memory.  I physically felt my mood soar.  I began to giggle.  I know my whole face beamed.

That wasn’t my last “re-feeling” moment. They are coming back to me spontaneously, like beautiful little surprises. I think my mother is sending them from Heaven.

I was thinking about how much I enjoyed teaching leadership classes when I was working.  I remembered the year I won my employer’s highest award for training.  I was going to Washington DC to accept the award and participate in a videoconference about teaching techniques.  I asked my mother if she wanted to go, even though I knew she probably wasn’t physically up to the trip.  She asked if all the other award winners would have guests with them because she “would crawl there on her knees before she would let me be the only one there alone.”   She had my back, every day in every way.

I saw something the other day that mentioned how many weekends were left before Christmas and remembered my mother’s intense adoration of all things holiday. I could feel her contagious excitement in the pit of my stomach.  I was watching “Countdown to Christmas” on QVC the other day and I kept wanting to text her when I saw something cute.

That’s the thing, though.  I am thrilled to find these joy jewels coming back to me.  I love being able to relive the emotions.  I feel love. I feel pride. I feel fulfillment.  I feel silliness.  I feel nurtured.  I feel mothered.  On the other hand, just as suddenly as these waves of warm, joyful, happy feelings crest, they crash down on the reality that there will be no new moments like those to remember.

I am happy that my mother is living a new, joyful, eternal life in Heaven.  I am happy that she is waiting there to share it with me when my turn comes.  I am also happy that my heart is now receiving glimpses of all the good she lavished on me in our life together.  I know she is no longer with me in my world, but she will always be with me in my life.

Yes, these heart memories and the wistfulness that follows them remind me that I have a hole in my heart that will always be empty.  Still, I’d rather feel that hole in my heart than not feel my heart at all.

What are some of your favorite memories of a lost loved one? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a joyful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

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