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

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark Underbelly Of Sweetness

I have always thought I was a pretty unobjectionable person. I mean, I may not be anything special but I also don’t really piss anyone off, either. In all humility, I don’t think there is anything too much to actually dislike about me. I’m kind of like vanilla ice cream. Some people really like vanilla ice cream. In general, though, people don’t travel from miles around to buy vanilla ice cream. However, if it is the only flavor in the freezer, people will eat it. I am not exotic or interesting or glamorous. I am just simple, familiar, and comforting to have around in case you get the munchies after the fancy gelato shop is closed.

Something else that vanilla ice cream and I have in common is sweetness. I think most people (except for those who have encountered me when I am in desperate need of a snack) would describe me as sweet. I don’t mind being called sweet. I think I would prefer kind, just because it might sound a little less feeble than sweet. That, however, is sort of splitting sprinkles on the ice cream. Years ago, someone asked me how I would like to be remembered after I died. I replied that I’d like people to say that I was a kind, Christian woman of great integrity. That is the stretch goal. I’m actually quite happy with sweet.

Or I was happy with sweet until a few weeks ago. I think I’ve now discovered the unsavory side of being sweet. I attended a church service on Thursday evening and stopped to chat with some folks when the service ended. I wasn’t really out in the garden that long. I would say that I lingered amongst the azaleas, in all my vanilla sweetness, for half an hour at most. By the next day, my legs were a swollen, itchy, furious, uncomfortable mess. Apparently, mosquitos are pretty fond of vanilla ice cream. Or, at least, fond of me. I paid the consequences of tasting as sweet as vanilla ice cream for more than a week. I slathered myself with the anti-itch cream I had left over from Rudolph the Rash. I sprayed calamine lotion all over my lower extremities. I iced my legs down every evening. I took ibuprofen to decrease the swelling. All of this helped, but I find it amazing that I was still itching two weeks later. After three or four days, the swelling decreased enough so that I could start identifying the individual bites. I counted no less than 52 separate welts on my legs and feet. It is like someone posted a sign around my neck- “Mosquito Café- All You Can Buffet.”

It is ironic because I was talking to someone from California a few days before and he asked how I was handling the bugs in Florida. I told him, truthfully, that we really didn’t have much of an issue with bugs. Insects were one of those things that we thought we’d have to face when moving to Florida, but we haven’t noticed a problem after three-and-a-half years of living here. We attributed our good fortune to the fact that we avoid getting too close to standing water. Since there was no standing water in the church garden, that theory is now sort of shot to heaven.

Upon reflection, I think the reason we have not noticed mosquitos much is less about water and more about daylight. Max and I are rarely outside after dark. Still, no one else chatting in the garden had mosquitos pursuing every square inch of uncovered flesh. I chalk it up to the sweetness. You know how they say you can attract more flies with honey? Apparently, you can attract more mosquitos with vanilla ice cream. So, lesson learned. Now I know better than to go out bare-legged after sunset. The mosquitos just can’t resist something sweet during happy hour!

Okay, I’ve racked my brain to come up with a provocative question for this blog post, but I’ve come up empty!  So how about this?  What question would YOU ask to stimulate conversation about this post?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a sweet day… without the itching!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

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

Growing Grown-Ups

This past Mother’s Day was my first without my mother in my life.  I think I’ve been pretty healthy in mourning my mother, but Mother’s Day was more wrenching than I expected.  I felt a bit lonely and lost.

When I’m feeling down, it frequently helps to focus my attention outwards.  Rather than spending the day grieving the loss of the best mom in the world, I decided to celebrate some of my friends who are mothers.  I decided to consider what attributes have made them successful growers of great human beings.

I want to tell you about my three friends- Sunny, River, and Star.  These are not their real names, but they are definitely real mothers and I definitely really admire them.

Sunny is still on the front lines of mothering. She is our church rector’s wife. This means that she not only has to cope with the normal challenges of parenthood, but she also has the added pressure of doing her mothering in a pretty public way.  She is the mother of five boys and one little girl. She also serves as a stand-in mother for her teenage niece who lives with her brood. Her oldest son is 20.  Her little girl, our parish’s princess, is 3.  I don’t know Sunny well, but I have been observing her with her children on a regular basis for a couple of years now.  It may be presumptuous of me to comment on her mothering skills, but I am so impressed that I just can’t help myself.   Luke 6:44 says, “For every tree is known by his own fruit.” Presuming that is the case, I know that Sunny is a first-class grower of grown-ups.

Sunny’s eldest son started his own business while still in school.  In addition to growing the business, he writes a blog and is graduating early with his degree.  He is also planning to marry in the next few weeks.  While most people would think that 20 is very young to get married, this young man seems to be doing everything right to put himself and his bride-to-be in the best place possible to succeed as life partners.  The other children are also very accomplished.  Two play musical instruments beautifully.  Two others sing in the children’s choir.  They look after each other, keeping a special close eye on their little sister who is a tornado of energy and potential. They are all respectful, well-behaved, and helpful to others. The thing that really strikes me, though, is that they are not just “good kids.”  They seem poised and relaxed and confident.  They are secure in the knowledge that they are loved… by God and by their parents.  Sunny exudes that love.  She is warm and cuddly and wise in dealing with her children.  She is bemused but delighted by the notion that she may well become a grandmother while still raising a preschooler.  It couldn’t happen to a more qualified woman.

My friend River has two daughters.  River is the most free-spirited and independent of my friends.  She is strong, creative, ambitious, and charismatic.  She has excellent vision and perspective. Life is her personal adventure.  River’s younger daughter is sixteen and has big dreams.  This child knows what she wants.  It never occurs to her to think that anything is beyond her reach.  River’s older daughter struck out confidently away from her parents’ home when she went to college.  That daughter recently completed her Master’s degree in Accounting.  She now lives half a world away from her mother.  Still, River remains connected to her child by an infinite kite string that soars as high as her daughter flies. River cultivates strength and independence in her children by offering a form of support that is an encouragement and not a crutch. Her girls know there is a safety net beneath them to catch them if they fall, but they are confident enough to believe they will never need it.

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with River and her older daughter.  River’s daughter drove four hours each way to come spend the weekend with her mother and me.  “Spending the weekend” entailed driving us all over central Texas like honored diplomats.  Not only is this young woman strong and smart, she is generous with her time and ability.  Another thing I noticed about her is that she understands that what you do is sometimes much bigger than what you do. For instance, she works full time in the accounting field, but is branching out to coach cheerleading on the side.  She loves cheerleading and enjoys being connected to the sport.  Her excitement about this new endeavor exploded out of her when she told us about her plans.  As she talked, I realized that the joy was about more than just the sport.  River’s daughter knows that she is doing more than just coaching cheerleading.  She is using her creativity to infuse children with a passion for teamwork, fitness, leadership, and positivity.

I’ve been watching my friend Star mother her two children for over 35 years, since her oldest child was a year old.  Star is kind, smart, and beautiful.  She lives her life with complete integrity.  She is unfailingly true to her core values and to the enormous amount of love she holds in her heart for the people who are close to her.  In fact, I often call Star the perfect person.  I have seen her tired and overwhelmed and low on patience, but I have never seen her without love.

Star’s children are successful and positive.  They are optimistic about life and excited about what they can make of their futures.  They understand that life is not always happy and they can weather disappointments because they believe that good things await.  They believe this because they learned from their mother that, no matter what mistakes or misfortunes they tripped over, their mother would understand.  She wouldn’t necessarily approve and she would try to teach them how to make better choices in the future, but she would always love them.

Star’s children are polite, personable, and insightful.  They have good judgment and good hearts.  They have a curiosity and care for other people that goes beyond just good manners.  Star’s oldest child has two small children of her own now.  Star delights in her grandmotherhood, recrafting her nurturing skills to support her daughter’s own wonderful way of being a great grower of grown-ups.

My friends Sunny, River, and Star are very different.  They live in different states.  They do not know each other.   I am sure they each make different parenting choices.  Yet, they are all great mothers.  I think it may be precisely because they are different that they have been so successful as mothers.  Each one of these women has brought the best of who she is to the life’s work of growing grown-ups.  They have instinctively recognized the uniquely beautiful qualities God gave them and sowed the seeds of those qualities in the children they raise.  They trusted that vigilance, hard work, and a super-abundance of love, with God’s help, could nurture and germinate those seeds into high quality human beings. Because they “play to their strengths” in being the kind of mothers they were meant to be, they are able to be the best mothers they can be.  They produce the very best harvest imaginable.

Thank you Sunny, River, Star, and all you other uniquely wonderful moms.  You do us all a service by cultivating wonderful people.

What qualities do you think it takes to be a great mother?  Please

share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a nurturing day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

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The Social Event Of The Season

Some people attended the royal wedding last Saturday. Other people attended my book launch party for Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.  Maybe I’m biased, but I think we had a better time at my event.  I certainly did.

Giving a party is not something that comes easily to me.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever given one before now.  My natural shyness has always made it challenging for me to attend a party, much less give one.  The idea of being responsible for entertaining people actually made me a little nauseous in the weeks before the party, if you want to know the truth.  Publishing the book is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me. I am very proud of my pretty little book.  If ever I was going to host a party to celebrate an achievement, this would probably be the time.   Still, deciding to actually do something about it was unreasonably terrifying.  I vacillated about having a party for weeks.

In the end, it was my resolve to be more open to new experiences that motivated me to entertain the idea of a launch party.  It was the help and support of my friends that actually made it happen.  Left to my own devices, I am positive I would have talked myself out of it.

Two of my friends immediately jumped on the bandwagon when I broached the possibility of a launch party. Not only were they wildly excited about the idea, they immediately offered all kinds of help.  Their contributions were way more than I dreamed of requesting.  I was just hoping it wouldn’t be too much of an imposition to ask them to be my social safety net.  One of my friends, in particular, is wonderful at making people feel comfortable.  I can’t explain how she does it because it is a completely foreign skill to me.  I only know that she is warm and welcoming and accepting. People just feel good around her.  I asked her to be on the lookout for awkwardness or tension and just “fix it” during the party.

Not only did I get my safety net, my friends contributed most of the food and wine for the party.  They helped me plan.  They asked me good questions about what I wanted so that we could brainstorm ways to address aspects of the party I might not have considered on my own. They loaned me extra chairs, an ice chest, and other entertainment accoutrements. One friend created a beautiful art piece from a photo of my book cover.  She had it matted so that guests at the party could contribute their own messages around the picture.  Maybe most importantly, my friends kept the momentum of excitement flowing as we approached the countdown to Party Day. That momentum of excitement washed away any vestiges of dread my panic dredged up.

Other friends also fueled the Party Train.  Something else I am not good at is self-promotion.  Inviting people to the launch party felt a little like pressuring your friends to attend your Tupperware party…. and you are the one who invented Tupperware.  I felt like I was putting people in an impossibly awkward position by asking them to come to the launch party or even suggesting they might want to buy the book.  It was kind of excruciating. I tried to overcome my antipathy, in the spirit of embracing new experiences.  I tried to allow myself to accept that I wasn’t imposing on the kindness of strangers and that people actually wanted to celebrate my book.  My friends certainly gave every indication that this was the case.  I’m still somewhat befuddled by the reaction.  I mean, I am excited beyond all reason about the book, but that doesn’t mean everyone else should be.  Just experiencing my friends’ pleasure about my book helped me commit to turning my house into Party Central.

Everything ended up being wonderful at the party.  I’d put the food, drink, and companionship of my party up against the royal wedding any day of the week!  We had a room of folks on site at my house.  Some long-time, deep-hearted friends of mine from California came to Florida for the party.  Friends from our community and friends from my church blended.  My brother and his wife, my cousin-brother and his family, and a work life friend joined by conference call.  We had an icebreaker that helped everyone get to know a little bit about each other. We joked and laughed and appreciated each other. I read from the book and took questions from the crowd. My family and friends said wonderful, generous, kind things.  We had drawings for fabulous prizes.  During the toast, I thanked the people who have made this experience, culminating in the party, possible. That is, I tried to thank them. I am embarrassed to admit that, even though this whole event was to celebrate my accomplishment as a wordsmith, I could not find words beautiful enough to thank people for their love.

It was the most joyous celebration I’ve ever attended- not just a celebration of my book, but a celebration of friendship.  I think we had the royal wedding beat in that arena, as well. No offense to the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex and not to malign their guests or anything, but I am certain that I have the bestest friends!

For those of you who did not attend, we missed you.  Fear not, though.  You can keep the party going.  You can leave a comment to add your greetings to those of the party-heartiers.  Also, you can order a copy of my book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.  You can get the book in paperback, kindle, or nook editions.  If you go to my direct-to-reader sales page (https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2076 ), you can order your copy.  If you order a paperback copy, you can use the promo code terri to get a 15% discount.  You can also order the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retail book outlets.  The promo code applies only to orders on the direct-to-reader sales page, however.

Thank you to all who attended my party.  Please know that you helped create something wonderful.  I feel spectacularly special and abundantly blessed.

Do you want to join in the fun?  Let’s keep the celebration going!  Please leave a comment to add your message about the publication of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.  I’d love to hear from all of you! 

Have a creative day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Flutterbies

I went on an outing with the community garden club awhile back.  Among other things, we went to a natural history museum to visit a butterfly rainforest.  It was sensational.  The rainforest consisted of a room about the size of a fairly large movie theater.  It was filled with beautiful, lush, colorful plants.  There were butterfly feeding stations sprinkled throughout the room.  Innumerable wisps of gorgeous butterfly bits flitted randomly around the space- color and grace gone wild.  The museum’s butterfly whisperer gave a short educational presentation and released a newborn batch of flutterby beauty while we watched. 

One of the first things I noticed about the butterfly rainforest was that the air was weighty with delight.  Despite the fact that there were a sizable number of visitors in the area, the butterfly rainforest felt peaceful and mesmerizing.  Everywhere you looked, there was something gorgeous and enchanting to see.  I think butterflies must have some special endorphin that they secrete into the atmosphere because all the visitors stood around with huge, unrestrained grins on their faces.  Those butterflies generated joy.  Every now and then, a butterfly would light on a visitor. It happened to me once. It was kind of awe-inspiring…. as if the butterfly was God touching me with a tiny glimpse of the miraculous.   

As we looked around the rainforest, my friends and I talked about the different butterflies and which ones we liked the best.  Initially, all of us settled on a species of large, electric blue butterfly that almost glittered in its flight.  The color was so eye-catching and fantastical.  As we spent more time in the butterfly sanctuary, though, we started noticing other beautiful specimens.  I changed my mind about which I thought was most beautiful.  There was one species that was smaller in size and pure white in color.  When I looked closely at the wings, I saw that they showcased an intricate, delicate white-on-white pattern. The pattern on the wings looked like the most exquisite handmade artisan lace.   But you had to look closely to see it. 

Exploring further, we noticed a large species of butterfly with brown wings resting on a plant.  Again, looking closely at the wings, we saw a pattern of swirls and dots and curlicues in shades of brown.  The wings looked like soft, suedey hand-tooled leather.  Again, beautiful craftsmanship, but not necessarily flashy and eye-catching.  Then, the brown butterfly spread its wings and took off in flight.  We discovered that this “brown” butterfly was actually one of the striking electric blue butterflies.  When at rest, with wings folded up, the butterfly appeared to be brown.  When the butterfly opened up and showed the other side of its wings, it revealed a spectacular, sparkling surprise. 

So here’s what I learned from my day with the flutterbies: 

1.    The beauty of butterflies can touch you and give you a sense of God’s miraculousness.

2.    Sometimes, butterfly beauty is more than flashiness and you have to look closely to find it.

3.    No matter what you see on the outside of a butterfly, there may be another whole layer of beauty on the inside. 

I guess butterflies are a lot like people. 

Have you ever been to a butterfly rainforest?  Did you see any similarities between butterflies and people?  Please tell us what you learned!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a fluttery day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Vacationing To Versus Vacationing From

Some time back, I posted a blog piece discussing the concept of vacationing after retirement.  You can review it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/vacations/.  I asked whether you can still call it a vacation when you no longer have a job from which to vacate.  After considering the routine of my post-employment life and the activities I enjoyed on a couple of trips Max and I took after retirement, I concluded that the word “vacation” is still appropriate.

Recently, we visited Williamsburg, Virginia. There is something about the whole vibe of Williamsburg that relaxes me, reduces my physical and mental pace, and delights me.  Max and I have been there together three times now. Each time, we have highlighted different sights and experiences.  We repeat some activities, but, for the most part, each visit has been different. This time, we experienced a rather impressive number of new adventures.

If I had to put a label on the theme of this trip that made it different from prior visits, I’d probably say that this trip focused on “immersive” experiences.

We went to a reenactment of an actual colonial trial.  We’ve done that in the past. This time, though, I volunteered to play the part of the plaintiff. As wild and madcap and uncharacteristic as it was for me to willingly put myself at the center of attention, I actually enjoyed myself.  And I did a really good job.  Just ask my new agent.

In the colonial city, we also participated in three “nation-builder” talks.  Three fantastically smart and incredibly brave historic interpreters channeled George Washington, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson.  These gentlemen spent some time “introducing themselves” to explain who they were and into which specific time period we present day tourists had stumbled. Then, unbelievably, they took questions- any random questions from anyone in the audience (I know because I raised my hand and asked one).  It was mindboggling how much these guys knew.  What was even more incredible was how deftly they molded the massive quantities of data that must be filed away in their brains into coherent, conversational, and seamless answers to questions they didn’t know the audience would ask.  I was in awe.

Not only were these presentations impressive exhibitions of historical prowess, they were damned entertaining.  It was more than a mite chizzly in Williamsburg when we were there. The temperatures were in the upper 40s during the nation-building presentations and there was a less-than-gentle “brrrrr…eeze.” We sat in the cold and wind for 45 minutes for each of the talks. We were so mesmerized, we barely felt the blood freeze in our veins.

We ate dinner in one of the colonial taverns for the first time on this trip. We went to Christina Campbell’s, which is a restoration of George Washington’s favorite restaurant in Williamsburg.  I say that I have the eating habits of your typical four-year-old.  If a four-year-old won’t eat it, I probably won’t either.  At Christina Campbell’s, I even pushed the boundaries of my non-adventurous eating.  I tried the spoonbread.  I didn’t like it, but I got into the spirit of the thing and tried it.

Our “immersive experiences” did not stop at the colonial city.  We also visited Busch Gardens.  Our main objective for this excursion was to go on two special animal tours. During those tours, we interacted with Clydesdales, border collies, sheep, and wolves. What made the tours even more special was the fact that Max and I were apparently the only two people in the park more interested in animals than roller coasters.  On both tours, we were the only two participants.  We had private Clydesdale, collie, sheep, and wolf training lessons.  I got to pet a Clydesdale, shake hands with a border collie, feed a sheep, and play tetherball with a wolf.  It was all pretty terrific, but I have to admit that asking a wolf to jump for her ball and throwing her hot dogs when she did so was over-the-top cool.

This trip really was very different from our other trips.  When I think about it, I realize it wasn’t different only because of the activities we enjoyed.  The concept of “immersion” went deeper than that. I felt more engaged and connected with the entire experience.

I think my “immersion” experience had to do with the whole work versus retirement thing.  When I was working, I looked forward to vacations with almost the same intensity of a dialysis patient waiting for a kidney. The fun of a vacation generated at least as much from what I was escaping as it did from the trip itself. I had to spend a sizeable portion of the vacation bailing work-related stress out of my saturated brain before I could notice the delights of what was actually going on around me during the vacation.  Then, there was the period at the end of the vacation when I was reigniting to go back to work.  Those periods at the beginning and end of the vacation were not unpleasant.  They were helpful and regenerating.  It was a personal and professional advantage to take that time to reset my brain.  The thing is, though, that it didn’t really matter where I was or what I was doing when engaged in those “decompress and regenerate” cycles.  My focus was on the process of resetting my brain, not on the process of experiencing new places, people, and activities.  Those new places, people, and activities were really just a backdrop to my own attempts to renew my brain.

Even after I retired, I think I still had the “vacationing from” mentality rather than the “vacationing to” mentality.  Taking care of my mother, even before she suffered the stroke, replaced my “regular” job.  I didn’t work as many hours at this “new job,” but I invested all my love and energy to create as beautiful an experience as I could for her.  In creating that beautiful experience for my mother, I also created one for myself, but doing so required energy and focus.  When I went on vacation during the time I was caring for my mother, I had as much need to concentrate on renewing myself as I did when I had a paying job.

I think this trip to Williamsburg might have been my first vacation that was really about the vacation itself.  It is kind of ironic that, after grappling with whether a pleasure trip is still a vacation after you retire, I should come to the conclusion that post-work vacations may be more pure vacation than those trips during career life.

Now that I no longer have to focus on renewing my worn-out brain during vacations, I find myself much more able to throw myself into the experience of the vacation itself. A vacation is now an event instead of a respite from events.   I can immerse myself in the novelty of the experience.  I can participate more fully in the “only on vacation” moments- the activities, the sightseeing, the food, the environment, etc.  Everything about the vacation seems somehow more “in focus” than when I took a vacation while I was working.  It feels like I was experiencing vacations in 2D when I was still working and now I can perceive the vacation third dimension because the part of my brain that shut down to destress while I vacationed from work is now available to process a richer, more complete experience.

I don’t know whether I would say that vacationing after retirement is “better” or “more fun” than vacationing while one is still working, but it certainly feels different to me.

What do you think?  Are vacations different after you retire?  What has your experience been?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Please also email me if you would like to join the launch party for my book,  Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In RetirementThere are still lines available for the conference call.  

Also, if you would like to get an early copy of the book, you can go to https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2076  to order.  If you use the promo code terri, you will receive a 15% discount.  Those of you who are attending the launch party, either virtually or in real life, may want to wait as I will be offering a larger discount for party participants.

Finally, Happy Mothers’ Day! I’ve been working on a Mothers’ Day post, but it just wasn’t coming together as quickly as I had hoped.  I decided I would rather do it just-ice rather than just-in time, so terrilabonte.com will be celebrating Mothers’ Day at some future date.  For those of you living in the real world, though…. have a warm, wonderful celebration of motherhood whether your mom is in this world with you or not.

Phew!!!!! Hope I haven’t exhausted any of you.  Please try to get some rest today, after reading this marathon!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Cranes In My Cranium

Recently, I wrote about my feeling that the “circle of life” might be more of a curved line in my case because I don’t have any children. Mona, one of our faithful readers and commenters, shared her perspective on the “circle of life” from her experience working in a hospital. She said that there were always new babies in the nursery when someone died elsewhere in the hospital. Her comment really resonated with me. It was a timely reminder that everything isn’t always about me all the time. Imagine my surprise and dismay! Still, even when reality is a bitter pill, it can have the power to heal.

A few days after I posted that piece, the Universe brought Mona’s point into even sharper focus for me. As I was driving through my community, I nearly drove off the road because of cuteness distraction. I saw my first baby Sandhill cranes of the season. Those of you who have been reading the blog for some time will understand my reaction. By the way, if you haven’t been following every blink of my rapid eye movement for the past couple of years, where have you been? If you would like to jump on the Sandhill crane express now, you can read http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/cranes/ .

Sandhill cranes are a bit of nature’s serendipity to me. I never expected to fall in love with them when I moved to Florida, but they never fail to lighten my mood. Over the past several weeks, I’ve had my eyes open because Momma and Daddy Sandhill cranes usually start prancing their new offspring around the development right about this time each year. Even with my keen anticipation, the sight of these new fluffballs on stilts flipped my equilibrium when I saw them. It was only by the grace of God that I did not flip my car as well.

The sight of those newborn cranes filled my heart with effervescent delight. I felt as bubbly and fizzy as champagne all morning. I was operating under the influence of baby cranes, a condition which surely must alter the state of the mind. In fact, by the afternoon, I didn’t think my day could get any more whimsical and entrancing.

But wait, there’s more. Later in the day, I was driving down a highway to a doctor’s appointment. I turned off the main road onto a smaller street to get to the medical building parking lot. Almost immediately, I noticed a very official-looking sign on the side of the road proclaiming, “CAUTION! BABY CRANE CROSSING.”

I know, right?

I parked the car and walked over to get a better look at the sign. Apparently, the question is not only why does the baby Sandhill crane cross the road, but where. Somebody was taking no chances with baby Sandhill crane safety. There were at least five such cautionary signs spaced out along the road. It was pretty charming.

When I saw the doctor, she asked me how I was. I told her I was wonderful and related my Sandhill crane sighting stories with great delight. She looked at me rather oddly and suggested that perhaps it was time to cut back on the anti-depressant.

Today, I was running errands and happened to notice another Sandhill crane family parading around a schoolyard I was passing. The momma, daddy, and two baby cranes were promenading in perfect unison. They instinctively adjusted their strides to form perfect lockstep ranks and files. I wish I had been a crane when I was in the junior high school marching band.

What a wonderful day! The sight of those cranes put a soft, slippery smile on my face that has been there ever since. It is a smile that suggests I have a precious, heart-filling secret.

I do have such a secret. My Sandhill crane friends have taught me something. My life is not a circle. And that’s okay. My life is a small dot on the circumference of a much huger continuum. And that continuum is the circle- the circle of life.

What about you? Does Nature ever put you in your place and make you realize that there is more to the world than just you? Won’t you tell us about your experience? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a beautiful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I am kind of surprised that I have only heard from a couple of people about a spot at the virtual launch party for Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. Of course, I know that you all have lives that do not revolve around me and the publication of my book. I understand if you cannot join us or if you just don’t want to participate. A couple of my friends suggested, though, that some of you might not have a good understanding of what you would be getting into if you come to the virtual party. When I was working, I swear it felt like I existed more in virtual life than in real life. I guess I forget that not everyone spent thirty plus years with a phone growing out of his or her ear. I thought I’d give you some more info on what to expect if you come to the party.

Step #1: Email me at terriretirement@gmail.com to let me know you would like to attend. I will reply to you with a telephone number you can call from any phone, toll-free, a little before 4:00pm EDT on Saturday, 5/19/18. I will also give you a participant code.

Step #2: At party time, you will call the phone number I’ll provide you in my response to your email. An automated voice will prompt you to enter the participant code. Once you do that, you will be on a phone call with the other virtual guests, me, and the folks attending in real life. You will be on speaker phone, but I will give you instructions on how to mute your line at the beginning of the call, if you would prefer.

Step #3: Enjoy! We will have a couple of drawings for REAL prizes- no virtual teddy bears! I will do a reading from the book and field questions from the participants. During the event, one of my lovely assistants will be emailing you photos and coupons and information on how to purchase the book. If you don’t wish to get the emails, all you need to do is let me know. You are still welcome to join us.

There is no charge to you for the party and the process for joining is simple. I am limiting the number of spaces for virtual guests because of budgetary reasons- and also just to make sure it doesn’t become a crazy free-for-all. Right now, neither of these issues should be a problem, so please email me today at terriretirement@gmail.com if you would like to join us so that I can give you the call-in info and get you on my list.

A Day To Par-tay!!!

I recently told you that my book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement, would soon be making its world debut.  I’m happy to announce that you will be able to order your very own copy starting on May 19, 2018.  You can get your hands on this hot commodity by visiting my direct-to-reader sales website.  I will give you the address when the website is up and running. The book will be available in paperback and electronic editions.

You can also get the paperback and electronic versions at the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, but I hope you’ll go to my direct-to-reader site and order there because then I get to keep more of your money!  I have spent a lot of time trying to think of a graceful way to say that, but, as you can see, I have failed.  In addition to my greed, the other good reason to go to my direct-to-reader sales page to buy this masterpiece is because I will be offering you, my far-flung blog friends, a special discount code to use when ordering.

My book release is a momentous event in my life and I want to celebrate.  More specifically, I want to celebrate with you. I will be hosting a launch party on Saturday, May 19, 2018, and would like you non-local folks to join us virtually.  The event will be from 4:00pm-5:00pm EDT.  If you would like to join us, please send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.  I will provide you with the information you need to call in and celebrate with us. I also plan to have my lovely assistant take photos during the party and send them out to you in real time.  Please let me know in your email if you are okay with me providing your address to said lovely assistant so she can include you in the photo frenzy.   I have some activities planned that everyone in the room and everyone on the call should enjoy.  There will also be an opportunity to win a fabulous prize.  Well, kind of fabulous.

There will be limited phone lines available for the virtual party, so please email me your interest as soon as you know you want to attend.

I hope that you will be able to participate.  Please stay tuned to my blog for the website and discount code to use when ordering book copies.  Because I am incredibly socially awkward and insecure, I will be offering an extra discount for those people who attend the launch party.  I am sure that will incentivize crowds of crazed fans to participate! Or, maybe, at least one or two people who are mildly fond of me.  Either way, I’m good.

As always, thank you all for your support and encouragement.  In addition to celebrating the launch of Changing My Mind, the party will celebrate all my friends- all of you- because, even if you are miles away, you are all close in my heart!

What do you think about the idea of a virtual launch party?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  If you would like to attend the virtual launch party, please email me soon to receive the call-in info!

Have a day worth celebrating today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Hide And Seek

This week, I’ve run away from home. I’ve left behind my day-to-day routine and am bending my reality. I didn’t want you all to think I’d forgotten you, so I figured I’d stop in at the blogsite and say “tag…you’re it!”

Yes, I thought we’d play a game this week. Let’s see if you can figure out where I am. I’ll give you a couple of clues. I spy with my little eye….

A palace
A pillory
A part-Percheron

Where do you think I am wandering? Please take a guess! Everyone who gets it right will win a virtual “prize.” I use the quotation marks purposely. Don’t expect anything of any real value. Let’s not get carried away. This is for just for the fun part of “for fun and profit!”

Where oh where has Terri LaBonte gone? Please share your guess by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an playful day!  I’ll be back next week with news about how you can get in on the Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement  book launch celebration!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

I’m baaaaaack!  I saw:

Governor's palaceme in a pillorytwo percheron mix horses

 

Okay, I’ve been working on this for more time than I wanted to invest and have still not been able to get the pictures to stand up straight.  Heavy sigh.  Anyway, I saw the Governor’s Palace, a pillory, and a pair of Percheron mix horses in Colonial Williamsburg!!!!