You CAN Go Home Again

I thought I would stop feeling chronically stressed and overwhelmed once I stopped working.  I realized that work issues are not the only stressors in life.  I knew that thinking I would NEVER feel stressed again was patently unrealistic.  Still, I thought the relentlessness of the condition would disappear.  I was wrong.  The stress storm that raged inside me through my work life hasn’t really blown away.  It has abated from hurricane level, but I’m not taking the storm shutters down just yet.

I think I’ve hit on a theory as to why that constant feeling of vague panic hasn’t left.  Somehow, in the rush of changes and new experiences, I’ve become less the sum of my parts and more my role in the world.  I seem to be less who I am and more what I am.  It seems “me” is no longer a compilation of my attributes, preferences, perspectives, values, and unique quirks. To the world, I am the senior citizen living in a retirement community.  To most of my former employees and colleagues, I am the retired leader who isn’t in the loop.  To my mother, I am the administrative assistant and caretaker.  To Max, I am the strategic and tactical partner in carving out our new life.  None of these roles is bad.  In fact, they all contribute to who I am.  Still, feeling that I am always the somewhat one-dimensional role and not the multi-faceted person is stressful.    Every now and again, I observe myself in a moment just being myself and reacting to others in a way that feels genuine and effortless.  It is wonderfully refreshing.  Most of the time, though, I am doing and saying things that seem right for the role I happen to be filling at the time. The living of my life seems to be a performance and a rather forced one at that.  I often feel like I am waiting to be me.  I’ve found that this can be as stressful as postponing a priority of my own when something happened at work that forced me to change my plans.

So how do I stop living in the role and allowing myself to be who I am?    I have a few ideas.

I need to notice what is happening when I observe myself just being me and do what I can to replicate those conditions.  I think those “me” moments often occur when I am talking about something or doing something that is quite apart from any of my roles.  I guess the common denominator is that I am usually focusing on a passion of my own.  For instance, I joined a book club about a year after we moved.  I have always loved books and revel in the artistry that goes into truly elegantly constructed literature.  About a million years ago, I majored in English in college.  During my career, I was not called on to discuss books.  However, many of the most satisfying aspects of my job involved analysis, discussion, and communication.  Those elements of analysis, discussion, and communication are certainly present in the book club.  I find the conversations at the book club to be fascinating and wonderfully soul-nourishing.  The club discusses a wide variety of genres and styles, which broadens my understanding of the world.  The other members’ comments enrich my understanding and enjoyment of the books.  I also love it when I can offer a perspective that the majority haven’t considered.

I also need to allow myself to speak genuinely of my interests to the people in my life.  I find that I have started to communicate in a rather sparse, functional way.  Instead of sharing my thoughts and feelings about my passions, I often edit myself and only talk about what needs to be done in the context of the role.  For instance, if my mother asks me how the book club went, I may just answer “fine” and move on to asking her about how she feels or what tasks I need to complete for her.  There is no reason to withhold my thoughts about the book club discussion.  It isn’t a secret society or anything.  In fact, my mother is interested in what I do when I am not with her and is always pleased to hear about my activities.  Maintaining relationships instead of merely fulfilling roles requires honesty and sharing ourselves generously with others.

Another strategy that will help is to protect the time I’ve set aside for doing fun things with Max and enjoy the day adventures we take.  I often find myself most relaxed and light-hearted when we are sitting watching a movie at home or spending a whole day together at a theme park or shopping mall.  Unfortunately, though, I will sometimes sacrifice that time either to do something that needs doing or compromise it by overscheduling myself and feeling rushed when I should be having fun.

I also need to make time for activities on my own.  I love doing things with Max.  I love doing things with my mom.  I love doing things with my new Florida friends.  Still, it is really fun and refreshing to sometimes just go out and have an adventure on my own without having to worry about what the other person wants or needs.  When I was working and before we moved, it was relatively easy to do something on my own because malls and events and other activities were all around us.  It was pretty easy to stop somewhere for an hour or two on my way home from work to get a little “me” time.  In our new home territory, things are more spread out, so going somewhere on my own is a little less automatic.  With a little forethought, however, I find it is possible and necessary to have Terri Time.

And, finally, I CAN go home again when I need to feel like me again.  Usually, that “going home” means a phone, text, or email conversation with a much-loved faraway friend.  However, planes do fly both ways and I certainly can travel to visit the folks who understand the real me best.

A few months ago, I made a quick trip to my home state to do just that.  I had not intended to go back so soon after moving, but there was a confluence of circumstances that motivated me.  A dear friend from another state was coming in to my home state for business.  The opportunity to see my three bestest friends in the same geographic vicinity was too good a chance to miss.

It was a whirlwind trip and very busy. I did not sleep late or loll around doing nothing.   It involved lots of planning and scheduling and visiting multiple airports.  I rushed hither, thither, and yon to spend time with the people I cherish.   I rented a car and drove about 800 miles in the four days of my visit.  I didn’t spend more than one night in any one location.  Still, I arrived home feeling re-energized, happy, and loving life.

When I thought about why the trip had been so wonderful, I realized that, to the friends I visited, I was just me.  They didn’t need me to do anything for them.   They relished in hearing me talk about our common interests and about my new life.  They had been looking forward to just being with and laughing with me.   I was not filling a role.  I was simply Terri- their sister of the soul.

So what are your thoughts?  Have you ever felt “on-you” after a major life change, like retirement or a move?  What did you do about it?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂

Note: Next week, I’ll be back to posting on Wednesday morning.  Thanks for your understanding…. and for reading!  You all rock.


Are There Crumb Buns in Heaven?

One of my mother’s fantasies about moving east involved finding tons of family-owned local bakeries.  More specifically, she was determined to hunt down crumb buns.

When my mother lived in New York, every neighborhood had at least one “real” bakery.  The bakeries were warm and crowded with happy, well-fed customers, clutching numbers and waiting for their turns to purchase freshly-made bread, cookies, cakes, and pastries.  These storefronts were fragrant with the most marvelous aromas and actually oozed charm.  And, on Sunday mornings, they baked crumb buns.  People came from all over the neighborhood to wait in line for these delectable treats, taking them straight from the oven to their brunch tables.  I was too young when we left New York to really remember the crumb bun experience.  When my mother moved to California, she mourned the loss of bakeries that weren’t located inside of supermarkets.  She was certain that, when we moved “back east,” crumb buns would abound.

We did take her to the quaint fairy tale German bakery in the woods near our house. However, she didn’t love it. More importantly, there were no crumb buns in sight.  She asked if maybe they made them on Sunday and, when she found out that the proprietor didn’t even know what a crumb bun was, she considered having him arrested for impersonating a baker.

Thus began the hunt for a real “east coast” bakery.

I searched the internet and asked folks in my community about their favorite bakeries.  Nobody knew of a real bakery. We found some good baked goods at local farmers’ markets and my mother enjoyed apple turnovers and oatmeal cookies, but there were no crumb buns to be had.  Most of the bakeries I found on the internet were no longer in business.  There was one place that looked more like an ice cream shop than a bakery to me.  Not that it made much difference.  It was in an old downtown section of a town about 20 miles away and the only parking available was parallel parking on the street.  Have you ever tried to get someone out of the passenger seat of a car parked parallel to the curb and into a wheelchair?   Well, I have.  And failed.  We finally did find a sweet little bakery in a tony town about 60 miles away (never let it be said I didn’t give my all for Team Crumb Bun).  We went for my mother’s birthday.   Still no crumb buns, but she did seem to enjoy the donut.  That’s right.  Over 120 miles round trip for a donut.

I was starting to admit defeat.  I explained to my mother that, while we had moved to the east, we had moved to the south east and I thought that probably explained why we weren’t finding New York style crumb buns. Her theory was that, with all the New Yorkers that retire to Florida, there must be some transplanted crumb bun crafters.  Personally, I think that if there are a bunch of retired bakers around, they might not want to be up at three in the morning making crumb buns.  That might actually be exactly why they are retired bakers.   I also must point out that it has been 50 years since my mother lived in New York. I doubt that even New York still has New York style crumb buns.  Family bakeries may have crumbled with the advancement of megastores.

Then, I read that one of the hotels on the Disney property opened a bakery selling something called a New Jersey crumb bun. I figured a New Jersey crumb bun couldn’t be that different from a New York crumb bun.  After all, there is only a river separating the two places.  So, Max and I took a drive down to the hotel and, lo and behold, found an actual crumb bun.  I brought it home to Mom with great fanfare.

Well, I guess New Jersey and New York are more different than I realized.  She said the crumb bun was good, but just wasn’t the same as the crumb buns of her youth.  Apparently, it was more bun than crumb.  Who knew that there was an optimum crumb to bun ratio?  There was also some sugary white icing drizzled over the crumb bun, which wasn’t necessarily bad, but did take away from the authenticity.

A few months later, Max and I took a trip to Las Vegas.  At the Venetian Hotel, there is a Carlo’s Bakery.  Carlo’s is the Hoboken, New Jersey bakery operated by Buddy Valastro and his family on the TLC television show Cake Boss.  The family branched out by opening this Las Vegas location.  I read online that they sold crumb buns.  I wanted to see for myself.  I waited in line outside the bakery and was rewarded.  I came face to face with a crumb bun!  I wouldn’t be able to get one home fresh for my mother, but I had heard that the Valastros were going to be opening a branch near Disney World in the coming months, so I wanted to sample the wares and see if it might be worth taking my mother when the new store opened.

With my first taste of the crumb bun, I understood my mother’s obsession.  This thing was a mouthful of AWESOME.  Sweet and simple, yet rich and flaky and streussely and decadent. Pixie dust for the taste buds, for sure.

The new Carlo’s opened at the beginning of December in a huge mall in central Florida.  I checked the website and couldn’t stop grinning stupidly when I saw crumb buns were on the menu.  This mall is attached to a big hotel and conference center.  It is a massive international tourist draw, with tons of stores and services.  The place is fairly overwhelming, even without holiday shoppers and tourists hoping for a glimpse of the celebrity cake maker himself at the store’s debut.  We waited it out for a few weeks.   Once we were solidly into the new year, I brought my mother to the mall, with our appetites primed in full crumb bun mode.

Well, curses!  Foiled again.

As I wheeled my mom to the display case, my heart fell.  I saw not a crumb nor a bun.  I asked the salesperson if they were out and she replied that they did not carry them anymore.  I could literally feel my face sag, my eyes droop, and my lip extend to a very sad pout.  I could tell I was breaking the salesperson’s heart.  Not. She was polite when I explained how we had driven all the way to the mall for a Carlo’s crumb bun, but I could tell she was wondering what I expected her to do about it.

Dang you, Buddy Valastro.  Another crumb bun dream crushed.  My mother was disappointed, but she did manage to down two cream puffs while I morosely ate a chocolate-covered strawberry.

Oh well, life is not perfect.  And I’ll keep searching for crumb buns.  It is good to have goals.  As Robert Browning said, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?”

What food waxes nostalgic for you?  Have you ever started on a quest for some particular treat and the quest comes to mean more than the actual food?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at 

Special programming note:  Next week, I’ll be posting on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday morning.  Please visit early and often!

Terri 🙂 

The Hoppiest Place on Earth

When I moved to Florida,

There was no one to caution

That I’d find plagues

Of Biblical proportion….


It wasn’t an eclipse of the sun.  Water didn’t turn to blood.  I don’t have boils.  It is frogs.

The other day, I opened the garage door.  Max came out to open the garage screening so I could go to my water aerobics class.  He took one look at what lurked outside on the driveway and, without moving the screens, he fled to retrieve a broom.

Frogs.  Hundreds and hundreds of them.

Yes, there were literally hundreds of baby frogs lethargically hopping around outside our garage door.  They were each about the size of a watch battery and the color of raisins.  I’ve never seen a raisin-colored watch battery move before, though.  These critters were definitely moving, although pretty laconically.  I guess baby frogs don’t really have a sense of urgency.

I dealt with the lizards.  I dealt with the snakes.  I guess I can deal with the frogs.  But what’s up with them, anyway?

I hopped (with considerably more energy than the baby frogs, I might add) onto the internet to google “invasion of baby frogs.”  As an aside, doesn’t “google” just sound like something relating to frogs?  At any rate, I learned that it is actually quite common to encounter zillions of baby frogs hanging out around your property in central Florida.  Apparently, mother frogs lay sufficient eggs to result in up to a thousand baby frogs at a time. Then, the moms just hop off to greener pastures.  Our driveway was the froggy equivalent of a doorstep on which to leave a baby…. excuse me…. vast quantities of babies.  There are no baby froglet Mommy and Me classes. Apparently, there is no nurturing or rearing of any kind.  According to the Internet, few of the thousand or so baby frogs survive beyond their first week.  Go figure.  I’m sorry to say that the baby frogs born in our driveway amphibian maternity ward probably have a shorter life expectancy than most.

I didn’t really have anything against them per se.  They didn’t annoy Max as much as the lizards did.  They didn’t creep me out the way the snakes did.  They were actually kind of cute little buggers.  It was just the sheer number of them that was kind of disturbing.  There were so dang many of them; it was almost like there was an entire layer of frogginess on top of our driveway. I’d say there were more frogs in my front yard than there are people in my entire community during the summer.  We were definitely outnumbered.  It was kind of alarming.  We sprayed some stuff across the entry to the driveway and swept away as many of them as we could.  I’m sure I probably ran a few of them over as I backed my car onto the street.

As we looked around the perimeter of the house, we saw that we were kind of surrounded.  Everywhere we looked, more baby frogs.  We kept spraying and sweeping so that the baby frogs stayed “around the house” as opposed to “inside the house.”  This operation continued every time we wanted to go in or out any door to our house for the next several days.  Knowing it was a self-limiting condition made it easier.  Sure enough, after about four days, we no longer had layers of visible frogs surrounding the house.

It has been a couple of weeks now since the frog plague.  We still see the odd toddler frog around the yard.  They aren’t bothering me, so I don’t bother them.  After all, if we have to have a plague of Egypt descend upon us in central Florida, frogs aren’t the worst of the bunch.

Of course, I still have a few niggling doubts.  How do we know that the frogs are the only plague in the offing?  What bothers me most is that both Max and I are first borns…

Of all the situations I’ve encountered since moving, I think the frog invasion is the oddest!  What about you?  What is the weirdest thing that you’ve experienced in moving to a new place?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at  Have a great day and hop to it!

Terri 🙂

Get A Life

While I was working, the calendar didn’t really measure the rhythm of life.  Even in a job that isn’t “seasonal,” per se, there are seasons.  There are different times of the year when we concentrate on different types of work.  There are different events for which we prepare and execute.  There was a certain momentum that these “seasons” provided to my life.  Time didn’t just pass, it propelled towards a larger picture.

Once I retired, it seemed like I had lost that momentum.  Days just sort of floated amorphously from one to the next.  I rarely felt like I was accomplishing anything.  I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it was.  Time passed pleasantly enough, but without a sensation of rhythm.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  In fact, one of my goals in retirement was to discover what it felt like to waste time. After a full career of activity, always bolting towards the next goal, I needed to rest and let life just wash over me like the tide.   It is kind of pleasant to go through life regularly feeling as languid as you do when you lay in the sun next to the pool on vacation.

Some people are perfectly happy in retirement, savoring whatever miracles happen along their paths and not thinking too much about creating a life.  For them, it is enough to just live the life that tumbles before them randomly each day. I, on the other hand, am sort of pathologically unable to just take each day as it comes.  When I realized I was measuring the seasons of time by when Survivor came back on TV, I thought it was time to reassess.

I found that I missed momentum.  In a strange way, it felt like I didn’t have a life.  It wasn’t that I was bored, exactly.  When I looked at my days, they were filled with activity.  I was actually much busier than I expected to be.  It wasn’t even that those activities were all drudgery, either.  Yes, I did housework, errands, and caretaking.  To be fair, though, my days did include plenty of fun activities.  I was also getting regular exercise, fresh air, and relaxation.  I still had this vague feeling of disorientation. Days were passing me by without me feeling like I was engaged in that passing of time in any way.  I felt like I was watching a movie (a really, really boring one!) of someone else’s life.

In musing over what I needed to do to get back that sense of ownership over my own life, I remembered that feeling of momentum I had while I was working.  How do I get that back?

After contemplating the matter for a while, I did some experimenting and figured out a few things.  If you, too, need a bit more structure and foundation to your life in retirement, it might be helpful to consider engaging in at least one or two “powerful projects” that will serve as cornerstones for the way you organize and spend your time.  I think of these “powerful projects” as the beams that will hold up your life.  You can change a lot in your life and can decorate it with whatever activities you feel like doing on an ad hoc basis, but you might feel more like you are living instead of just spending time if you build and maintain strong beams.

After about a year of retirement, I found two such “powerful projects” to help me get into a satisfying rhythm of living…. My book club and writing this blog.

What makes something a “powerful project” rather than just a bunch of activities?  For me, there are four components that identify a set of activities as a “powerful project” in my life.


Initially, I thought the problem was that my life lacked purpose.  However, that theory didn’t totally hold water.  Much of what I was doing did have purpose- I think taking care of my mother is a very purposeful activity.  It might actually be the most important project I undertook when I retired.  I organize my time to take care of her needs and her wants.  In addition to just making sure she is safe and comfortable, I also plan and strategize to think of activities that will be fun for the both of us, keep her feeling engaged and happy, allow her to contribute to and have an impact on life, and make memories for us together.  Still, I found that just having purpose was not quite enough to make me feel like I have a vibrant life.


Does your heart leap and your eyes light up when you talk about your “powerful project?”  Do you feel a burst of energy when you think about what actions you might take next or what you want to accomplish over time?  Can others tell that this Continue reading “Get A Life”