I’m sorry. I did not have time to write a new blog post this week. I have been far too busy watching Olympics and ugly crying.
I am crying sentimental tears for the athletes who are realizing their brightest dreams.
I am crying for the shattered hearts of the athletes who compete, but disappoint themselves and wonder what might have been.
I am crying for the proud parents, spouses, siblings, children, and everyone who should have been at Tokyo in the stands watching their loved ones compete because they can only send support from the other side of a television screen.
I am crying for those athletes who are sitting home, missing their Olympic opportunity because their golden moment would have been a year ago.
I am crying because the opening ceremonies, though stunning, reminded me of the isolation and brokeness the worldwide pandemic continues to force down our collective throats, even now.
I am crying for the people who have suffered and died too soon.
I am crying because I am tired of grief, after seventeen months of mourning.
I am crying for the beauty of the spirit- challenge, endurance, selflessness, love, creativity, inspiration.
I am crying because I feel my own spirit eroding. The Olympics usually fill me with warmth and hope and belief in miracles. I was looking forward to these games as an infusion of positivity at a time when the rock of COVID seems to be sliding down the hill again, negating all the strides we were making towards getting back to our communal life. It isn’t working.
Have an inspiring day, even if I am not!
Okay, throw a girl a bone, please! What Olympic moments have touched your heart with joy? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My friend and I decided to take a trip to the beach the other day. We have both been craving saltwater and ocean breezes. We decided to hop to it when we saw a day that weather.com decreed would likely avoid rain.
We ran into a few snags as we made our way to Clearwater Beach, but we were having a good time and enjoying each other’s company. We stopped at a Christmas shop in route, which is always a plus in my book. We inched our way across the 10 miles or so of causeway to get to the beach area. Circling around several blocks several times, we finally found a parking structure. We drove up, up, and up before we found a place to park. The elevator did not work, so we climbed down, down, down four flights of stairs to the street level.
Maybe we should have stayed in the car.
We had not walked ten feet on the sidewalk, when my foot caught on a raised square of concrete. That was when I learned how to fly. I am convinced that I did fly. I was airborne for long enough to have the sensation of soaring across stopped time. It was like those commercials for paper towels when someone spills a drink. The film goes into slow motion. I was flying in slow motion. I even had enough hang time to realize what was happening, analyze whether I could right myself, and maneuver my body into the most viable, least harmful way to fall. What is weird is that I even felt kind of graceful. I am absolutely positive I did not look graceful.
Yes, I did learn to fly. The problem is that I did not learn how to land. Nobody told me where the landing gear lever was. I came down on my undercarriage with more force than a flying machine should. It took me a few minutes to figure out that I was still in one piece. Getting up was also a challenge. Several nice people stopped to see if I needed help. My friend also tried to help. All I could see was me pulling all these nice people down right along with me. I sat on the ground for a few moments and then I figured out a strategy for getting back on my feet. A few feet in front of me, there were some metal chairs cabled together. I crawled over to them on my battered knees and steadied myself on one of the chairs as I carefully moved myself into standing position.
We walked over to the beach. Before we even set our things down on the sand, it began to rain. Lesser women would have turned tail and gone back to the car. Not us. It is Florida and it is summer. We waited a few minutes and the rain stopped. I do not know if I decided to wait because of my fortitude or because I was afraid to face the scene of my unscheduled landing quite so soon.
Luckily, I did not sustain any significant damage. I attribute that to my general physique. Sometimes it is better to be shaped like Winnie the Pooh than like Tinker Bell. My fluffiness certainly saved me from serious injury.
I do have some impressive bruises on my thighs, elbows, knees, and toes. I did not do a lot of kneeling during the church service this week. Jack and Jill, the twin bruises on my left and right knees were not happy about putting themselves under that much pressure just yet. The bruises look way worse than they feel. There is very little tenderness now. I have been wearing a lot of navy blue to match the bruises. Now that they are starting to fade, I guess I am going to have to clash. Yellow is not my color.
I am going to try to avoid flying lessons in the future. Orville and Wilbur might have been Wright, but Terri LaBonte is definitely wrong!
What new skills have you learned since retirement? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com
I have never thought I was anything special. In fact, I think I may be the most unextraordinary person I know. I go through life trying to simply fit in, while still trying to be true to myself. It is not that I go around martyring myself to other people’s preferences. I have worked hard in my life to learn to ask for what I want. If I really, really want something, I will ask for it. On the other hand, I usually do not feel strongly enough about things to assert myself (except on my birthday… then, I am selfish and self-absorbed!). It is pleasant to go with the flow. I often find myself enjoying life more when I ride whichever wave happens by than if I had insisted on putting my choice first.
Even though I truly do not think there is anything terribly unique or wonderful about me, I do find that I blossom when someone else finds me special. It baffles me…but delights me.
Let me tell you about something that happened recently. I must explain the backstory for it to make sense, so please bear with me for a few seconds.
A few weeks back, I went to a lovely outdoor restaurant with a group of friends. The restaurant was getting ready to close for the summer (remember, I live in Florida where outdoor restaurants sound a whole lot more appealing than they actually are from the Memorial Day to Halloween.) It was a bit of a zoo due to crowding and we waited a long time for a table. Also, they were out of most of the menu items by the time we ordered. When we were finally finished, they were closing the place down. The food was yummy, though, and the server was excellent. Besides, there was a friendly German Shepherd Dog roaming around looking for diners to give him hands to pet and hand-outs to eat. All in all, it was a lovely experience. As we were leaving, the manager approached our table with eight boxed desserts that were leftover. She gave them to us.
I did not take one. As I explained to my friends, I must carefully consider priorities when eating, especially desserts. As a person with diabetes, I should not be eating them at all, so it has to be something I know I am going to love if I am going to indulge. I am a very unadventurous (read picky) eater. Neither peanut butter chiffon pie nor pistachio cream pie sounded like a certain winner to me. One of my friends mentioned that they had blueberry pie the last time she was there. I pointed out, very adamantly, that if there had been blueberry pie, my friends would have needed weapons to beat me out for a slice.
A week or so later, I was getting ready to run some errands when I received a text from one of my friends. She said she had a surprise for me and wanted to arrange to deliver it. I agreed to meet her near her house when we finished our errands.
The surprise was a piece of homemade blueberry pie. She was playing bridge with some friends the night before and the friend had made the pie for her guests. My friend asked if she could have hers “to go” and brought it to me.
This thoughtfulness of hers tickled me more than reasonable, I suppose. I was so surprised and delighted! It was not just that I love blueberry pie (and it was very yummy, by the way). It was more because my friend remembered me and what I had said in a very out-of-context situation. The surprise was the pie, but the surprise was also that she thought of me. My friend seemed surprised at the exuberance of my reaction. She probably did not think it was any big deal to bring me a piece of blueberry pie. It was.
The pie is long gone. The thought will be with me for a very long time, I know.
The next time you think about doing something nice for someone, don’t talk yourself out of it. Go ahead and do it. You may not think it is something special, but I bet the person for whom you do it will think it is special… and it will make you both feel special!
I truly am not writing this to fish for compliments that I am extraordinary and special. I really am not, except in the way everyone is extraordinary and special to those who love him or her. I would like to know, however, what you do to make the people in your life feel special and how do you feel when you do it? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, I offered you a concert. I gave you a list of proud historical dates in the history of the United States and asked you to identify what happened on each of those dates. Thank you all for playing.
Because inquiring minds want to know, here are the answers to this historical scavenger hunt:
On this date in United States History…
6/21/1788- The United States Constitution went into effect.
4/30/1803- The Louisiana Purchase geometrically increased the land within the boundaries of the United States.
1/24/1848- Gold was discovered in California.
4/9/1865- The civil war ended.
12/8/1865- The 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, was added to the Constitution.
8/18/1920- The ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was completed.
7/2/1964- The Civil Rights Act of 1964, probably the most all-encompassing civil rights legislation in history, went into effect.
7/20/1969- Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.
7/7/1981- Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to be named a Supreme Court justice.
1/20/2009- Barack Obama, the first person of color to be elected president of the United States, took office.
Congratulations to Sharon Salcedo, who is our winner. Congratulations also to our runner-ups, Mary Sorenson and Mary Ann McGinley. Fabulous prizes will be forthcoming!
What dates or events would you include in a list of “proud moments” in U.S. history? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
Happy 4th of July, everyone! For us living in the USA, Independence Day is an opportunity to pause and remember the beginning of the “American experiment.” It is a day to celebrate who we are, what we have done, and how we have evolved. I am glad that we have a holiday to encourage this reflection. Hopefully, as we remember the day our ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, we also remember that there have been many other dates worth remembering and celebrating.
Below, I am going to list ten other dates that mark occasions worth celebrating in United States history. This list of dates simply reflects some events that I, in my very subjective opinion, consider to be ten proud moments in our history. The list is certainly not exhaustive. The list may not even be the most important dates, as importance is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. Also, important events are not necessarily proud events worthy of celebration. These dates mark happy days in our history.
If you would like to participate, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, identifying what happened on each of these dates. Please submit your entries by midnight EDT on Sunday, 7/4/21. There is a fabulous prize for the one who properly identifies the most events. If there is a tie, the entry I receive first will be the winner. I will report back next week with the answers.
On this date in United States History…
Okay… on your mark, get set, GO! Happy history, everybody!
It is that time of year again… time for me to vent about how uncomfortable and inconvenient the weather in Florida can be during the summer. Summer happens from May through all of October here, so I think I am entitled to rage against the rain. Last year, we had a relatively mild summer. I made it to September before I published my mandatory annual summer weather whine. I fear that will not be the case in 2021.
You know how people use all those lovely poetic similes to describe weather… a blanket of snow, a blanket of fog, a veil of mist, etc.? In Florida, we have a blanket of mug. For almost half the year, our air is too heavy to breathe. When I was a child in Southern California, there were sometimes smog alerts. We were encouraged to stay inside and to avoid breathing. Smog was nothing compared to the liquid-laden air we are expected to inhale in central Florida.
When I began writing this piece, on June 13, the summer mug descended upon us. I realize that the calendar says it is not yet summer, but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. When I went into church that morning, it looked like a beautiful spring day. Some time during the service, a noise began to rise through the rafters of the church. At first, I thought it might be our air conditioner, which always starts with an overture. Soon, however, I realized it was the sound of driving rain whooshing through the atmosphere and pelting the roof of the church. God confirmed this understanding by sending several huge cracks of thunder bellowing through my cognizance. Then, lightning flashed through our stained-glass windows. It was a “thunderwower.”
It is now June 17th, and the rain has not stopped for more than a few hours since. The respite provided by those “few hours” is not all that relieving because the cooler air that typically appears when the rain cracks the humidity barrier is very short-lived. It is a constant unpleasant cycle of heightened heat and humidity, interrupted briefly by a thunderwower when the cloudburst cools things off and lances the boil of the water-heavy air, only to find the atmosphere building sog once again when the shower has passed. The weather teases in this way, making us believe that there is going to be a break but the discomfort marches on. The worst part is that it is already difficult to see the light at the end of the lightning. It feels like the summer weather will NEVER stop. I look at pictures of myself at Disney World last December wearing a jacket, jeans, and UGGs. I cannot quite believe that time will ever come again.
It is not simply the discomfort of the weather that is the problem. I am one of those people who genuinely enjoys planning the simplest of activities and looking forward to them. I am not really a spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment kind of gal. I delight in scheduling fun activities weeks ahead of time. I get excited as the appointed day gets closer. In the summer, planning and scheduling any activity is a fool’s errand. Obviously, outdoor activities are weather-dependent. Even indoor activities are iffy because it is common for the storms to be so bad that one cannot see the road in front of them when driving. I cannot even schedule a series of back-up plans because the weather is so contrary and unpredictable. We never know what the skies will bring even a day ahead of time. Plans are wishes and schedules are fantasies. This makes me fidgety.
I am afraid that I am not the most pleasant of companions from June to October. You know how some people have that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and need light treatment to replicate sun exposure? I have something like that. It is not so much lack of sun. After all, Florida is the “Sunshine State.” Why it is the “Sunshine State,” I am not sure, considering how much it rains. Still, there is plenty of sunshine… just like there is plenty of sunshine on Venus. It is more that the rain, humidity, and inability to look forward to fun activities feels oppressive to me. My mood feels as heavy as the air. I try to be self-aware. I try to force myself to be engaged and pleasant. Sometimes, I succeed.
Last summer, I think I was more tolerant of the wicked weather partly because the summer was milder but also because we were in the midst of COVID-19 lockdown. I could not go out and do things, anyway. It seemed churlish and insensitive to complain about my life being limited by weather when there was a much more serious limitation stalking all of us. This year, I am even less tolerant than usual. It feels like the world is finally opening and the weather is pushing the door shut again.
I know I am being petulant and whiny. I know that I made the choice to live in Florida. I know that I like living here for the most part. I know I am raging about something that would be no big deal to just about anybody who does not live in Florida. Frankly, it would not be a big deal to most people who DO live in Florida. I do not care. This is my blog, and I will cry if I want to!
What do you like or dislike most about where you live? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
We will be celebrating Father’s Day this weekend, so I thought I would share a few memories about my own father.
My father was always good with his hands.
When I was four, I wanted bunkbeds in the worst way. He built a bunkbed from two regular twin beds.
When I was five, my father built a crib for my new Christmas doll baby. He painted it purple. Purple was my very favorite color. In those days, nothing was purple. Toys came in primary colors and sometimes pink, but not purple. To this day, I remember standing beneath the Christmas tree, hugging the doll to my chest, and exclaiming over her purple crib.
When I was six, my father built a playhouse for my brother and me in the backyard. It was two stories. The bottom story was a six-by-six apartment, complete with counters and cabinets and furniture. The upper story, accessed by a hand-made ladder, was a rooftop fort.
When I was seven, I got a pogo stick for Christmas. I have always been lacking in grace and coordination. Because my father fancied being the parent of a live child rather than the parent of a child killed in a tragic pogo-ing accident, he attached the pogo stick to a sturdy rope safety line tied to a sturdy tree limb.
When I was eight, my father decided it was time to turn our rusty old swing set into a water park attraction. He rigged up a series of garden soaker hoses to the frame of the swing set so they would water the children when he turned on the faucet.
When I was sixteen, I wanted a cedar hope chest. My father spirited away the pine toy chest my grandfather made me when I was born. He refinished it, lined it with cedar, and presented me with the most special hope chest ever.
When I was twenty-one, my father single-handedly moved me into my first apartment. He pulled all my possessions out of the storage shed where they were housed, loaded them into his pick-up truck, and hauled them up a flight of steep cement stairs to my new home.
When I was twenty-nine, my father bartered with an attorney friend to submit my divorce paperwork in return for my father’s labor in refinishing the attorney’s dining room set.
When I was thirty-two, I moved into the condo I purchased. In addition to leaving my rented apartment, I was also leaving a rather creepy relationship. Unfortunately, the guy in the creepy relationship did not want to be left. My father stayed with me in my new place for two weeks, making sure I was safe. During that time, he quietly hung a bedroom door, painted a bookcase, put pictures on my wall, and repaired the finish on the bathroom sink.
When I was thirty-four, my father rigged up a seatbelt for my mutant Welsh corgi to keep her from trying to shift gears on my car as I traversed the rather steep and treacherous highway that took me from my house to the town were my parents lived. The said Welsh corgi had taken it into her head to push the gear shift into “park” one day as I was curving my way down the mountain, so my father built a solution.
When I was thirty-six, my father died suddenly. His body sputtered, stalled, and could not be restarted. His death was life-shattering. His loss left a huge tear in my soul that never healed properly. This was the one and only instance I can remember when my father could not use his skill with his hands to fix a problem for me.
Yes, my father was always very good with his hands. He was also very good with his heart.
Happy Father’s Day! What memories do you have of your father? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first Christmas my mother was in Florida, Max and I went to her mobile home to get our festive on. We enjoyed a meal together, opened presents, called my brother, laughed, and had a wonderful time. We brought a home video with us of a recent visit to Disney World. Max asked my mother if she would like to see it. She said “yes, but I’d like to tell you about something first, if you don’t mind.” She seemed very purposeful about the conversation, as if she had been saving some big news to tell us at just the right time. She told us it was something she had never told anyone before. Of course, we told her we did not mind and focused our attention on her story.
When my mother was living in California, she was the queen of the volunteers at a local dam, lake, and hydroelectric power center. She was a docent at the education center and coordinated all the volunteers. My mom’s story involved an incident that happened at the lake over a year before that Christmas. She told us that there was a group of visitors from a church group at the lake one day. After she gave them her normal educational spiel, she chatted with them for a little while. They noticed that she had a walker and that her mobility was severely limited. They asked if they could pray for her. As she explained to us, she said yes because “why not?” After they prayed, she felt stronger and more physically comfortable. When she got up to go home, she realized she could move without pain and could walk unassisted without her walker. It only lasted a few hours, but she always remembered the experience. Mom asked us if we thought she was crazy. I told her that I definitely did not think she was crazy- I thought she had experienced a mini-miracle. God was just letting her know He was still there.
I always did believe God can heal. I think He sometimes does heal, but I also think He does not often interfere with the natural order of things. Still, my mother’s experience really got me thinking about how God works in our lives in a variety of ways. Ever since she told us about her mini-miracle experience, I have tried to pay attention for little “coincidences” that might not be coincidences.
Soon after I joined the Episcopal Church, I attended a “ministry fair” after service one day. I did not know a lot of people very well at that time. My mother had died a few months earlier and I had some time to devote to volunteering. Remembering a conversation I had with the rector when I was “church-shopping,” I wanted to find a way I could serve in my new congregation. One of the church employees (let’s call him Dave) was manning a table to drum up interest in the Alpha program. Alpha is an international program designed to nurture people who are wrestling with the big questions of life and faith. Intended for people who would not necessarily identify as Christian, it is also a faith-builder for people who do consider themselves Christian but do not feel as connected as they wish they did. Alpha was a new ministry in our parish. I thought it might be a good fit for me because the techniques and approach in the Alpha program seemed similar to the leadership training programs I taught during my career.
I agreed to go to a meeting of those who were interested in volunteering. One of the positions that Dave was trying to fill was a hospitality coordinator. This volunteer would be responsible for creating environment, making guests feel comfortable, arranging for a meal to be served during each of the twelve sessions, cleaning up, and other duties as assigned. It seemed very much like hosting a dinner party for about 50 people every week for twelve weeks. Now, I am about as far on the introversion as one can get without falling off the edge of the world. Up until I started working with Alpha, I had never given a party in my life. I don’t really cook. I certainly don’t iron tablecloths. However, I do have a rather good background in creating the environment from my leadership training days. I explained my strengths and weaknesses to Dave who was quick to tell me that “we” could get me help for all the things I do not do well if I would only agree to coordinate the hospitality piece of the program. I agreed. For those of you who would like to read more about my Alpha adventures, you can read these earlier posts (alpha course – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement and alpha – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement).
I struggled my way through several weeks of hospitality-ing still wondering how on earth I ended up in this position. One day, Dave told me about a conversation he had with our rector and his wife, Sunny, early in the planning process- weeks before the ministry fair. He told them he was excited about launching the Alpha program but was worried about who he could find to do the hospitality piece of the undertaking. Sunny said, “Don’t worry. Terri will do it.” She had been praying and felt like God was directing her that I would take on the role. She barely knew me at the time and certainly did not know my leadership training background.
I have continued with Alpha in a leadership role through three courses now.
During this past Alpha season, there was another odd occurrence. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to host our regular “in person,” “shared meal” version of Alpha. We decided to try to run the course on Zoom. It turned out to be surprisingly successful, despite the lack of tablecloths, real coffee mugs, and dinner for fifty. However, there was one annoying barrier- internet upload speed. Because we were showing downloaded videos, it was critical that the person hosting the evening (that would be me) have above average internet speed and stability. In the area where I live, internet upload speed sucks. We are still living in a location that has not been fiber-opticized, so everyone’s technology is at least a generation behind more urban areas. I can easily use Zoom from my home but showing videos on it is much more of a challenge. Other members of the team tried also but were unable to do the video sharing from home. Even at the church, everyone except me seemed to have trouble getting any connection at all and certainly could not show the videos. I was going on a trip during one week of the course. One of my teammates was going to host the session that night. Laughingly, I left my laptop with her in case she had trouble doing exactly what I did each week on her computer. Neither of us could imagine why she would not be able to do exactly what I did when she was using the same program, the same internet location, and the same process. Guess what? Neither of the two computers she brought with her worked. The only way the process worked was if she used my computer in the church office.
Later in the Alpha program, I was preparing for a session about whether God still heals today. To prepare for the Alpha evenings, I usually watch the video, review the information in both the Alpha guest guide and the team leader guide, think about points I want to make sure come up in the after-video discussion, and craft discussion questions to try to elicit those points. That week, I just had an extraordinarily strong sense that I was not supposed to do any of that… I was just supposed to pray. In the days leading up to the session, two words kept coming into my head. I mulled them over in my mind and safeguarded them until it was time for the discussion. I told my group what had been going on and shared the two words with them. It turned out that they were significant to someone close to one of my group members. We prayed for that person and my group member told her about what had happened. It was very meaningful and encouraging for that person.
Recently, a close friend of mine died. A few days before she passed, I sat by her bed, stroking her hair. Suddenly, it came into my head to sing “You Are My Sunshine” to her. She smiled at me, closed her eyes, and seemed to feel peaceful. A few days later, her husband called me to ask my assistance in planning her funeral. He told me that he was arranging the music and would make sure the music included “You Are My Sunshine” because it was her favorite song. I did not know that. He did not know that I had sung it to her shortly before she died.
These are just a few of the experiences I have had that could be explained away as coincidences. I could relate many more. As their numbers start to mount up as I pay more and more attention to them, I wonder about them. What do you think? Coincidence or grace? All I will say is that they don’t call it amazing grace for nothing.
Have you ever had an experience that you cannot quite explain away as a coincidence? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
As I considered my tale about my College of William and Mary fantasy, I started thinking about other bucket list items I have embraced in recent years. Retirement can truly be a great time for pondering what it is that we really want to do… and making it happen. It can be easy to get stuck in the “pondering” part, which can be a little disillusioning or embittering. It can also be a bit anxiety-producing and manic if the “making it happen” part overtakes all good sense. The key, as it is with almost all of life, is balancing. There is quite a bit to be said for daydreaming and luxuriating in your “what ifs.” It is even more satisfying to take some of those “what ifs” and make them “now whats?”
I do not think I realized how much I have been doing that in the past several years until I began working on the William and Mary piece.
Bucket list activities do not have to be exotic, dangerous, or even expensive. It depends on the kind of person you are and what satisfies your soul. I am a bit quirky. There is no denying it. I am not, however, exotic. My soul-satisfying activities over the past few years do not involve jumping out of planes or going on safari or winning a Nobel prize. Still, they have all brought me great happiness- in the pondering and in the doing. Here are a few of my favorite bucket list accomplishments:
I’ve been publishing a blog, nearly ever week, for over five years.
I’ve published two books.
I’ve swum with dolphins several times.
I’ve been Bippity-boppetied.
I’ve been to New England to see the fall foliage.
I’ve taken courses at the College of William and Mary.
I’m sure if I thought about it, I could come up with a number of other experiences that have delighted my spirit. In fact, there is one that just came up the other day.
Those of you who have been paying attention know that I am a bit of a Disnerd. My parents called me Tinker Bell from the time I was born. I spent my childhood three miles from Disneyland. When I contemplated moving in retirement, Florida was a top contender largely because I could get frequent doses of Disney.
Now, I would be incredibly happy if the COVID epidemic never happened. It has been a health, financial, and emotional crisis for the whole world. I do not want to seem insensitive to the tragedies that occurred because of this horrible disease. I am not insensitive. I know people who were terribly ill. I know one person who died. Please do not think I am making light of the situation.
When Disney did reopen, there was a unique opportunity. They opened carefully and with respect for public health issues. They opened first for special minimal capacity passholder events. Even when the parks opened to the general public, they enforced a limited capacity by employing a reservation system. During this time, I have visited the parks several times. I have been able to experience “hot ticket” rides that are usually so popular I am not able to get on them under normal circumstances. There were about four or five newer attractions that I wanted to experience but had never waited in the 60 minute plus lines to get on them. I have been knocking them out during the COVID-tainted reopening. Some, I have been able to ride more than once.
Yesterday, I was able to ride the last attraction on my “never done before” list- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I have now been on every ride I want to at Walt Disney World at least once.
What do you think? Is my bucket a little shallow? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would not say that I have any regrets in life. Even people, decisions, and events that caused me trouble or pain have made me who I am today. Everything from the past frames the life I live now. Since I am pretty satisfied with who I am and the life I have, I cannot regret anything. I would not want to do things differently.
There are, however, a few things I wish I could revisit. I am not going as far as saying I wish I had not done what I did at the time, but I wish I could somehow go back and take the path that I did not take the first time around. I want to experience two parallel realities… what I actually did and what I left behind.
One of those few “path not taken” experiences has to do with my college years. I read many novels as a kid about teenagers going to college. These teenagers always seemed to be going off to ivy-covered halls, living in dorms in beautiful small college towns, and enjoying an entire college lifestyle. Their time was filled with coursework, socializing, studying all night in the library, and participating in a mad rush of school spirited activities. Admittedly, most of these books were published in the forties and fifties. I graduated from high school in 1977. I am sure my experience would have been much different.
Still, I imagined the college life inside my head. I fantasized about a college life that would look like the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah lives of the co-eds in my novels. I saw myself going away to college, developing a life away from the safety net of my familiar surroundings and loving parents. Growing up in Southern California, I dreamed of going to a school someplace that had seasons where I would wear crisp wool skirts and sweaters when classes started in the fall, see snow blanket the campus under the sharp winter night, join hordes of rollicking students welcoming spring relaxing under the warm sun on the quad, and happily go home for a refuel each summer. I craved history and charm. I did not necessarily think of an Ivy League School, but I did want a school that oozed history and tradition. I did not want to go to a mid-century “living better electrically” university. I would not go to an “education factory.” I would go to a college where education was a fine art.
As the time approached for me to apply to colleges, somehow all my fantasies deserted me. For some reason, I never thought I could make my fantasies a reality. In looking back now, I think there was every chance I could have done so. My grades were excellent. I had reasonable SAT scores. I participated in the speech club, girls service club, high school newspaper, and Junior Achievement. I came from a solidly middle class, blue color family. My parents made enough money to live comfortably, but I was afraid that the cost of educating me at a private college where I would need to be a resident would be beyond their grasp. I never asked and I still do not know if they would have been able to help me. I did have a part-time job in my last year of high school, although I did not make much money. I could have paid for part of the cost. I also could have applied for grants and loans. My parents believed it would be impossible for me to get financial aid because they were in a sandwich economic bracket- not wealthy enough to afford a “fancy” college education and too well off for me to qualify for financial aid. Today, I am not so sure that would have been true, especially if I had gone to a more expensive institute of higher education.
I also worried about leaving home. I wondered if I was confident and mature and worldly enough to hold my own in college lecture classes of 100 students, much less live an independent life. Now, I know that most graduating seniors feel the same way. College does not necessarily require that one already have these confidence, maturity, and worldliness skills. In fact, college is the place many young people acquire them.
Whatever the reason, finances or maturity, I did not achieve my dream of going away to college. I spent two years at the neighborhood community colleges, completing most of my general education classes and earning an AA degree. The man I eventually married called it “high school with ash trays.” I continued to work while attending classes. When I finished there, I transferred to a local commuter college about 15 miles from the home where I lived with my family. Four years and about $2000 (all in) later, I proudly graduated. I had my degree. I had set myself up to move respectably into a stable government job. I had a bachelor’s degree, but I do not think I can say I really had the “college experience.”
Years past. I married immediately after graduation. I did well on my job. While just scraping by in the early years, I could take care of myself and my husband financially. I continued to progress in my career. I received promotions and pay raises. Eventually, Congress passed a federal pay reform act that resulted in me being quite well-paid. I bought a tiny condominium in southern California. I retired with a nice pension, sold my condo at a great profit, and bought my sweet little house here in Florida.
My career also provided me with enough money to take vacations. Over the course of the years, I visited Williamsburg, VA several times. My parents spent their honeymoon there and we stopped there when driving across country for a family wedding when I was about twelve. I went once on my own as an adult. Max and I have been there three or four times. I love the place. On the first trip Max and I took, I realized that the College of William of Mary (where we spent a good deal of time on that trip) was the college or my fantasies. That was the campus that exemplified the college experience my novels described.
Now, I cannot really go back and start my college days over again. I would not even want to do that. However, in retirement I have been busy thinking about how I can capture some of what I would have wanted from that experience. I did some research and found out that William and Mary has something called the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. It offers a wide variety of limited time classes for people (aimed at the senior citizen population but open to anyone) who just want to learn “stuff.” Because of COVID, their offerings have been done through Zoom and other distance learning platforms this past year. This allowed me the opportunity to participate. For the price of $135, one could sign up for as many as eight classes in the semester. I got a bit of a late start and some of the courses that drew my attention were full when I registered, but I did sign up for two classes during the spring semester. This involved 4 sessions and added up to about 8 hours of instruction. It was terrific! It was so good, I am continuing this summer. The summer session is even less expensive, and I have four classes I will be taking.
Last month, when Max and I were in Williamsburg, we walked around the campus again and I felt such a sense of connection. It was so indescribably satisfying. In the bookstore, there was a small stuffed bear in a graduation gown inscribed with the William and Mary logo. Max kept pushing me to bring the bear home with me. I resisted, insisting that I did not qualify to have the bear because I was only an “adjunct” student and certainly not a graduate. A few days after we got home, a neighbor came to our door to deliver a package that had been erroneously left on his porch. I opened the box and “Wilma” the bear was inside.
Sometimes, some facet of fantasy gets so enrooted in your soul, it qualifies as reality.
What event or decision in your life would you want to revisit and experience the road not taken the first time? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com