And the Rain, Rain, Rain Came Down, Down, Down

Summer in the American southeast!   The snowbirds have gone home and I don’t have to arrive at church half an hour early to get a seat.  I don’t have to plan on eating dinner at 4:00pm in order to avoid waiting in a restaurant for several hours. 

 On the other hand, the summer weather has hit.  The temperature and the humidity are the same number on an almost daily basis.  And that number starts with a “9.”  As Max says, we live in God’s hot tub.  You don’t so much breathe the air as drink it.  They say ladies don’t sweat.  Horses sweat.  Men perspire.  Ladies glow.  If that is so, I believe I glow brightly enough to be seen from space. 

 We eat dinner to the dulcet tones of the weather alarm radio, squawking dire warnings at us about the damage that can be done by winds over 50 miles per hour.  I wondered if there would be lightning bugs in this area.  I haven’t seen any lightning bugs, but I have certainly seen lightning.  In fact, the thunder and lightning regularly convince me that someone finally invented the Way-Back Machine and we’ve landed in World War I France. 

 As someone who grew up in a place where we barely knew what rain was, it is interesting to live in a place where rain- in fact an abundance of rain- is just the way things are.  No one seems to have an ark in the driveway, but it certainly feels like one will be necessary at any time.  The thing about this state is that it CAN rain any time and, sometimes, it does. 

 Now that the summer is here, those “sometimes” are much more frequent.  We have a thunderstorm or two in our general vicinity almost every day.  They last from five minutes to an hour or so.  The other day, I went out to get my nails done.  As I left the nail shop, I got caught in a cloudburst.  In the time it took me to get to the car, I was so soaked that the dye from my blue suede shoes had steeped into my feet.  Not only did this deluge ruin my shoes, I looked like a smurf from the ankles down for the next two days.  I remember the first time I was out when I actually felt unsafe driving because of the weather.  I would have pulled over, except I couldn’t see anything in any direction.  I felt it was only slightly less likely I would run into something directly ahead of me than that I would run into something if I moved to the side.  When it isn’t actually raining, I often think of the weather as “oozing.”  The air can’t hold all the moisture and dampness seems to be literally seeping from the atmosphere. 

 Where I came from, people called in absent from work at the first sign of a raindrop.  Here, people do arduous outdoor work, soaked in rain and sweat.  If they stopped for weather, nothing would ever get done.  When there is lightning, the workers cover what they are doing, sit in their vehicles for a while, and are back at it immediately as soon as the sky is quiet again.  Supermarkets keep a supply of loaner umbrellas so people won’t get wet if a shower starts while they are in the store.  I believe the region’s economy would come to a standstill if rain stopped anyone from buying groceries at any time.

 When it rains, people don disposable ponchos and continue whatever recreational activity they are doing.  They consider it an imposition to get out of the pool or off a lake, despite the desperate warnings of that weather alarm radio screeching about lightning strikes.  Here are some famous potentially last words I heard at the pool earlier this week- “That isn’t really thunder.  It isn’t loud enough.”  I was listening to the news one day and the weather guy cautioned that there was going to be thunderstorms on the Fourth of July.  He went on to inform us that the rain might be over by fireworks time, so people should go ahead with their plans and just bring an umbrella.  Great…. A bunch of people sitting in a central Florida storm holding their own personal lightning rods. Fireworks might not be the only thing lighting up those displays.

 We are in “hurricane season” (not the most comforting of monikers, admittedly).  We live pretty far from any coast, so actual hurricanes are rather rare in our community.  However, whether you call it a hurricane, tropical storm, thunder warning, or just precipitation, it is more rain than I’ve seen in forever. 

 I have to admit the thunder is a bit unnerving.  It can actually rattle our very solid little house, even without a hurricane.  I remember parents telling frightened children that the thunder and lightning were “just the angels having a party up in heaven.” 

 I beg to differ.

 Those angels are pissed off. 

What do you think?  Is summer where you live a nightly light show?  Or do you have other impressions of the seasons?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at  Have a great day.  Stay dry!

Terri 🙂

The Great Snake Chase

Max was worried about lizards.  Little did we know!

Yesterday, I was on the phone with the girl from the radiology lab and went out to the garage to get something from my car.  As soon as I entered the garage, I saw a snake between our two cars.  I yelped into the phone, “There’s a snake in my garage, I’ll have to call you back.”  The girl from the radiology lab was suitably impressed and agreed that dealing with the snake took precedence over retrieving my mother’s Medicare number.  During this exchange, the snake was quickly slithering to a hiding place beneath Max’s car.  I yelled for Max to get his car keys and come help me.  He came, but without his keys, to see what the problem was.  He didn’t seem too keen to get into his car with the snake underneath it.  I opened the garage door, in the hopes that the sweet smell of freedom would entice the snake out of my living space.  I grabbed a broom and tried to roust the snake from its position.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t see beneath the car and move the broom at the same time, so all I succeeded in doing was chasing the snake back towards the door to the house instead of towards the garage door.

 The snake was huge and menacing.  Well, at least to me, he was huge and menacing.  To be clear, it was a tiny little garter snake and no real danger to anyone or anything.  Still, it freaked me out to have it in my garage. 

 After fleeing from beneath the car, he coiled in a corner behind a bookshelf.  We tried spraying him with a number of substances and trying to push him closer to the garage door, but he pretty much stayed put in a fairly inaccessible corner behind the heavy bookshelf.  We’d get him to move down a few inches and then he’d pop back into the corner.  Then, he disappeared.  I have no idea where he went.  It was eerie.  Now you see him; now you don’t. 

 Since we had proven to be inept at snake removal, I decided to call in a professional.  Never having needed a critter exclusion company (yes, that is what they are called) before, I was at a loss.  I tried calling our pest control company.  Their definition of “pest” was fairly limited.  Apparently, in their lexicon, a snake is not a pest.  Who knew?  They explained that snakes are so fast and furtive, it is usually impossible to find them if you don’t have eyes on them all the time.  They did recommend another company whose technicians apparently sit by the phone waiting for critter calls and drop everything to save the day when someone calls for service.  In my mind, the whole operation sounds like a scene from Ghostbusters.  At any rate, they rush to your home because they, too, believe that there is little or no chance of finding the snake after about an hour or so.  News flash… you pay whether they find the snake or not.  Color me not surprised. 

 The technician came and he was very nice.   There were a lot of “yes ma’am’s” going on.  He carried a long, heavy pair of tongs (which I am sure would have been overkill if he had, in fact, actually found the snake).   He did pretty much what we had already done, except for the panicking part.  He kicked around everything in the garage.  He peered behind things with a flashlight.  No snake.  Our technician could not even theorize about where the snake could have gone.  He refuted all the possibilities I mentioned.   He was marginally reassuring in that he confirmed that it had to be just a little garter snake and would find its way out when it was hungry or thirsty, if he had not already vacated the premises.  The technician looked at the garage door and identified a couple of places where the door didn’t absolutely reach the floor of the garage.  They were tiny, itsy bitsy holes, but he theorized that the snake might have entered through these points.  He suggested we get a garage door guy to come in and fix the seal and he put down some sticky snake traps. 

 That night, I did not sleep much.  I left the light on because I could not rid my mind of the idea that the garter snake was going to somehow get into the house, wind his way back to my bedroom, and wiggle up onto my bed.  The technician assured us that the snake could not climb more than about four inches, but I’m a skeptic. 

 The next morning, when I tentatively entered the garage to get into my car, I saw that there was a “mass o’ snake” on one of the traps.  Truth be told, it didn’t look exactly like the snake I saw the day before, but I rationalized that it might be just that this snake seemed to be upside down and the belly might have been a different color than the topside I saw as it slithered around.  Seeing the snake on the trap, I assumed it was an ex-snake, dead from the combination of stuff we sprayed on him and the trauma of being unable to extricate itself from the trap.  Later, though, Max went out and saw that there were actually two snakes on the trap and they were alive and kicking.  He tried to dispose of them with a rake, but they headed in different directions.  He was able to kill one and the other dispatched into the front lawn.

 Many of you are probably horrified that we were trying to kill the snakes.  I know, I know.  They are harmless.  They are good for the environment.  They were there before people were.  I get all that.  I just don’t want to live with them.  Once they encroach into my living space, it is war!  First, anyone living in my home except me should be paying rent.  Secondly, I have a finely tuned startle reflex.  I can barely handle the phone ringing unexpectedly without jumping.  The random sight of wiggling snakes does nothing good for my blood pressure.  Those snakes creep me out. 

The garage door guy came yesterday and fixed the door.  It would seem that there are no more access points. I prayed vigorously for the intervention of St. Patrick, who I am assuming must be the patron saint of snake removal.   We have had no more snake sightings since then.  However, I still can’t let it go.  I’m hoping that a few more snakeless days will reduce the adrenaline and cortisol rushing continuously through my body.  In the meantime, I’m sleeping with a rolled up towel under my bedroom door!

Anyone else have any critter exclusion stories to share?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at  In the meantime, here’s hoping for a reptile-free day for all of us!

Terri 🙂

Didn’t I Used To Be Smarter?

I never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I think I could pass for fairly intelligent when I was still working.

At work, I usually knew the answer when someone asked me a question. If I didn’t know the answer, I could reason through the possible options and choose a response that would work.  I could think analytically and figure out creative solutions to problems.  I could distill complex tax processes and ideas into concepts that the average person with or without technical background could understand.  I could communicate interactively, changing my approach when I saw that I wasn’t getting through to my audience.  In short, most people thought I was pretty smart.  Maybe not Einstein smart, but fit-for-use smart.

Then there is Jeopardy!  I love Jeopardy!  One of my earliest memories is watching television with my Nana in the early sixties, happily listening to Art Fleming read out the answers and field the question responses from the contestants.  Ever since I was a little girl, I could play along with the contestants. I might not have known all the right responses or even understood all the questions, but I was able to respond enthusiastically and confidently in a lot of categories.   Even when I was a child, most of the answers I called out were correct.  When there was a “kiddie lit” category, I usually smoked the participants on tv. I once tried out to be on Jeopardy!, but, sadly, did not make the cut.  For a long time after that, I kept a running tally of how much money I would have won if I was on the show. My total was always pretty darn respectable.  I followed Ken Jennings’ run of 74 wins with the same kind of obsession that hypochondriacs track their blood pressure.

I realize this passion for Jeopardy! probably automatically qualifies me for the Dork-of-the-Month club, but I can’t help it.  Through the years, I have learned a lot from Jeopardy!  Also, Jeopardy! increased my confidence about my level of smarts.  Watching Jeopardy!, I could almost feel my brain building IQ points.  On the other hand, Jeopardy! is also what leads me to ask if something might have gone wrong with my thinker.

I have noticed, over the past few years, that I seem to be getting more responses wrong when I play along at home.  I comforted myself with the idea that maybe my mistakes were about new technology, pop culture, or global politics.  After all, the world keeps amassing more and more information and maybe I just wasn’t paying close attention.  Unfortunately, that theory exploded yesterday when I missed a question about the integration of schools in Little Rock. I incorrectly identified Little Rock as being in Alabama.   I am pretty sure nobody moved the capital of Arkansas to Alabama in the last few years.  Somehow, I find the fact that I have misplaced Little Rock to be very disconcerting.

On the other hand, maybe Jeopardy! prowess isn’t the best barometer of intelligence.  Even though my game show skills might have taken something of a nosedive, I’ve recently acquired a bunch of new knowledge.

Ever since I can remember, I have struggled with all things mechanical.  It really goes even beyond that.  It is more that I have dismally poor visual reasoning skills.  Asking me to do anything that requires me to imagine what the finished product is going to look like or makes me look at a picture and recreate the action in the picture is enough to drive me to despair.  I can’t look at furniture and have any idea of what it will look like in a room.  I can’t lay a pattern out on fabric.  I can’t assemble the most basic “some assembly required” product in the world.  At least I can’t do any of those things without hyperventilating.  In my new life, I have had to face my fear and learn how to do some of these visual reasoning tasks.   Here is a partial list of tasks I’ve accomplished using my new knowledge:

  • Transplanted a rose bush
  • Decorated a home (and, despite my terror to the contrary, all $14,000 worth of furniture I purchased actually fit!)
  • Hooked up a computer, monitor, and printer
  • Assembled mass quantities of wheelchairs, walkers, shower seats, and other adaptive equipment
  • Rigged up extensions for the ceiling fan chains
  • Set and adjusted the timer to the irrigation system
  • Established a website (when I first saw television commercials for GoDaddy, I couldn’t even understand what it was that they were selling and now I’m a client- go figure!)
  • Added a riser to a toilet seat
  • Filled gaps around the garage with steel wool to thwart reptilian invaders
  • Hung a series of nightlights down a mobile home hall (all right, I did it with Command, but STILL!!!)

I’ve also learned how to treat and maintain my mother’s legs and feet to keep her various dermatological and circulatory problems under control.  I think I’ll be qualified to be a Vietnamese nail technician before the year is out.

So, although I may no longer be able to make it into Final Jeopardy with a positive score, maybe I’m not getting any less smart.  Instead of storing an impressive warehouse of largely useless facts, maybe my grey matter is applying itself to learning something practical for a change.  And I’m still smart enough to know how to Google.  So I guess I’m good.

So what do you think?  Is your brain just so full that you have to let some things go to make room for anything new?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at  Have a wonderful day! Go learn how to do something new!

Terri 🙂

A Thousand Points of Light

Many people look forward to volunteering in a rather vague, non-committal way when they retire from employment.  When you ask people what they are going to do when they retire, you pretty much expect to hear them say “travel” and/or “volunteer.”  If you push the matter a little further and ask specifically what they plan to volunteer to do, you might be met with blank stares.  The truth is that it is much easier to talk about volunteering than to do it.

Volunteerism is a wonderful thing.  Volunteers provide priceless service to the community.  A lot of the good that happens in our world would not get done without volunteers.  In addition, doing volunteer work can help a bored retiree by providing interesting, purposeful activity.  Volunteering can also provide the volunteer with a community of like-minded friends.

Some people are passionate about particular organizations or needs or have specific skills that translate well into the volunteer world.  Typically, these wonderful people already have a robust volunteering life, even while working. When they retire, they simply expand their involvement to fill some of the hours they used to spend on the job.  If you are starting from scratch, though, it can be hard to find volunteer work that is a good fit for your skills, interests, lifestyle, and number of hours you want to devote.  It is also important to be a good steward of your resources and it can be surprisingly hard to find sturdy organizations that are operating in an ethical, upright way.

One of the best ways to embark or continue on a volunteering career is to look to organizations you already support financially or know about through friends, family, and community contacts.  If you attend a specific church, is there some outreach program that calls to you?  Have you been impressed with some organization that provided help in an awesome way to someone you know?  When you were working for a living, did you interact with any charitable organization that did great work?  Have you seen an organization on the news or other local source that sponsored some event or project that speaks to you?  These are all great places to start in your search for volunteer involvement.  Usually, a charitable organization will have a place on its website to explain how to volunteer.

You can also try websites that match potential volunteers with opportunities based on areas of interest and location.  Two websites to check are and  Both sites let you specify what kind of organization speaks to your passion.  They also both give you a way of filtering by how far away from your location you are willing to travel.

Before committing to volunteer at a specific organization, you might want to do some research.  Google the name of the organization.  Read their website to see if their mission and general vibe seems compatible with your own thoughts and feelings.  Also look for other chatter about the organization on your internet search.  Are there any reviews anywhere?  Is there a hit showing someone mentioning them on a blog or comment?  Are there any news stories about events concerning the organization?  Of course, as with any other internet research, it is important to be discerning.  Whether the hits you find cast the organization in a positive or negative light, you will ultimately have to be the one to decide how much weight to put on the perspective you get from your internet search.

You can also check out the organization’s tax exempt status with the IRS.  This may give you a general idea that it did meet some standard of charitable intent and financial accountability.  You can check the status of most organizations by going to and typing EO Select Check into the search bar.  You will land on a page with a button that will take you to a form where you can request information on an organization based on name or Employer Identification Number (EIN.)  Some organizations, such as churches, do not need to have a specific exempt organization determination from the IRS.  These organizations may not be listed on this database, but are still considered bona fide charities.  If you have doubts, you can ask the organization to show you a copy of their tax exempt determination letter.

You may also want to visit the organization’s offices and/or the location where you would be working.  Is it a reasonable drive?  Is it an area where you feel comfortable?  Is there parking?  If you have special needs, are you going to be able to manage the parking lot and office?  Most places are handicapped accessible in this day and age, but it pays to check.  For instance, maybe you need a handicapped accessible parking place and the organization has one or two spots, but they are nearly always filled.  You might want to either see if the organization can make arrangements for you or you might want to consider another charity.

I think it is important to cut yourself some slack, too.  I know I used to say I would probably volunteer when I retired.  After I retired, however, my enthusiasm sort of paled.  I just felt like I wanted to rest and decompress.  For quite some time, the only thing I volunteered to do was write a check.  Contributing money to worthy causes is fantastic.  On the other hand, it is kind of like asking someone who says they like to cook what they like to make and have them respond, “reservations.”

My community is largely resident-operated.  We have a small paid staff of employees to take care of administration, but much of the amenities and services are provided by residents who volunteer their time and talent.  We have many residents who bring with them experiences and expertise from their working lives that they generously share to help the rest of us.  Max and I have taken advantage of the benefits provided by these volunteers.  The couple who coordinates the volunteers who staff our community’s gate guardhouse used to work in law enforcement.  We attended a hurricane preparedness seminar led by a gentleman whose employment career had been with the Red Cross.  A gentleman who used to work for some city agency performed our mandatory annual irrigation system backflow testing (don’t even ask me what that is because I haven’t a clue but that guy basically used to do it for a living!).   I go to water aerobics classes taught by a lady who has been a certified instructor for over 30 years.

After about six months of living in the community, I was feeling pretty guilty that I availed myself of these benefits but didn’t do anything.  It was eating away at me, but my natural shyness, the amount of time I was spending with my mom, and my reluctance to jump too quickly into committing to something I might regret was leaving me stuck in a no man’s land.  I was wallowing in guilt, but not really motivated to do anything to propel me out of the mire.

Finally, an opportunity presented itself.  The community contracted a photography company to produce a pictorial directory for the residents. This is a pretty common practice for communities, churches, schools, large clubs, etc.   The photographer does photo sessions with all residents who agree to be photographed and produces the directory for the community.  The photographer pays a fee to the community for each person who participates. Each resident who agrees to participate gets a free 8X10 photo and a free copy of the directory.  The photographer makes money by selling prints and other products to the participants in a discussion after each photo session.  It is a reasonable partnership between the photographer and community.  The community also contributes volunteer labor to set appointments and check people in for their sessions.

I figured I could safely volunteer to help with this project.  It didn’t sound like it would be too taxing or require any particular skill.  The main selling point to me was that it seemed like a self-limiting condition.  In volunteering for a self-contained project like this, I could offer some service, but would not be committing myself for an undefined amount of time over some indefinite period. It also might be a good way to meet people and maybe make some friends.   I signed up to greet people when they came for their photos and complete the forms that the photographer needed.  I even used my real name and phone number when I signed up!

The coordinator called a few days later to invite me to attend the orientation meeting.  When I got to the house, I was surprised to find a living room and kitchen crammed full of people…. And food.  Apparently, one of the fringe benefits of volunteering in the community is free snacks.  I found the number of new people a bit overwhelming.  I could feel myself start to retreat into my shell.  Then I remembered one of my goals in volunteering was to meet people so I pulled out some of my “forced extroversion” skills from my working life.  I listened carefully to conversations around me and was even able to manage some small talk, thus integrating into one of the little group chats that was buzzing around before the meeting.


One of my new-found acquaintances introduced me to the coordinator.  My new-found acquaintance began to list all the activities and events included in the coordinator’s volunteering portfolio.  I don’t think I could have listed them all without index cards.

“Wow,” I said to the coordinator when my new-found acquaintance came up for air, “You are a busy lady.”

“Yes,” replied the coordinator.  “It started really small.  I volunteered to do one thing and it kind of just grew.  They really keep you hopping here.”

“I don’t know if I really want to hop,” I said doubtfully, beginning to wonder if I had made a dreadful error in judgment. “I think I’d prefer to amble.”

The coordinator gave me an odd look and wandered off.

I staffed several shifts of greeting people on picture days.  It was definitely not a difficult job.  Let’s face it- it also wasn’t a huge, noble sacrifice to improve the state of the universe.  Still, I know that the money that the photography company paid to the community will benefit others and I felt good about contributing. Maybe it will motivate me to amble into something a little more substantial sometime soon.

Have any of you volunteered in retirement?  What was your experience like?  Any suggestions for folks just starting out on a volunteering career?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂