Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

The other day, a friend of mine from work called.  She was questioning whether she wanted to keep working or retire.  Her will to work was starting to wear down, but she was concerned about the impact her leaving would have on the organization.  I encouraged her to decide based on what was best for her. I assured her that the government would find a way to soldier on without her.  She agreed and remarked bitterly, “I know all these people who seem so fond of me right now won’t give me a second thought once I’ve walked out the door.”

Her comment reminded me that one of my biggest concerns about retirement and moving cross country was that I would lose friends.

I’ve often said that I have a rather faulty emotional transmission.  It takes me a long time to connect with people.  Because I am shy, I often hang back when a new group of people is forming.  When everyone else is getting to know each other and forging relationships, I am still wrestling with my nerves and trying to calm the qualms in my gut.  It takes me even longer to disengage.  By the time I’m feeling comfortable and warmly clicking away on all cylinders with my new friends, other people are getting ready to move on.

When I started my first entry-level job with the government, I was hired with a whole group of new young college graduates.  We bonded over our new experiences and similarities.  It took me some time to weave myself into the group, but I reveled in this new comradery.  A couple of years later, I got the opportunity to take a career-enhancing job in another office.  I worked on an alternative schedule and had every other Friday off.  I hesitated about taking the new job because I couldn’t imagine leaving my friends, but a mentor told me that it was better to go away and leave everyone than to have everyone go away and leave you.  I ended up taking the job, but I didn’t really “go away and leave everyone.”  Every off Friday, I got up early and rode a freakin’ bus for over an hour round trip to visit my colleagues in my old office. I kept up my little pilgrimage for close to a year, even as other folks in my original cohort left the office.

Given my difficulty in shifting relationship gears, I could absolutely empathize with my friend’s concerns about leaving her work relationships.  I told her that I knew from my own experience that such fears don’t have to come true. 

I have always heard that some people come into our lives for a season, some people come into our lives for a reason, and some people come into our lives for a lifetime.  That is exactly what I experienced when I retired.  Retirement has shown me, quite clearly, that some people were part of my working life simply for that time in my life.  Some people were in relationship with me for a reason that was tied up with our work experience.  Retirement also teaches me, though, that there are definitely people I met through work that will grace me with their friendship throughout my lifetime.

I have had several surprises about who would fit into each category.  There are some people who I thought would be friends long after my work life ended who have actually turned out to be friends of the season or the reason.  On the other hand, there are people I expected to drift away when I retired who are still in touch and are still keeping my heart company.  There are actually more of the relationships that survived my retirement and move cross country than those that have faltered.  I am blessed with such faithful forever friends. 

I keep friends by being a friend.  I recognize that everyone is busy.  Having said that, I also realize that my time is probably more flexible than that of my still employed friends.  I bend to their schedules as much as possible. With technology that makes transcontinental communication less costly than it was when my family moved across country in 1965, it is relatively easy to stay in touch. I never mind that I am usually the one who reaches out first.  Friendship is such a valuable commodity, I guard it and grow it as much as I can. Maybe I can invest the time raising the priority and level of friendship-tending precisely because I am retired. Maybe relationships, rather than dwindling away because of retirement, can actually grow because of the increased time we have for them.

In thinking about this recent conversation I had with my friend about what retirement would do to her work relationships, another thought also occurred to me. Is there really anything intrinsically wrong with relationships that turn out to be based only on a season or a reason?  Those people that have meandered out of my life since I retired were no less valuable to me nor were the relationships less sweet because our connections were limited to my work life.  Our time together was precious.  Our relationships enriched my life and contributed to who I am today.

Also, you never know.  People who wandered out of my life may one day wander back.

What do you do to tend work-related friendships after retirement?  Have you been successful in finding your “forever friends?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Happy New Year!

Terri 🙂

A Traditional Christmas

I think of traditions as little hooks that attach my soul to people, events, and values.  Traditions can serve as reminders of what is important to me.  Sometimes, when life starts to get routine or joyless, fulfilling a tradition can give me an infusion of happiness.  Traditions can force me to get outside the struggles of the moment and make me focus on happier times and, also, the blessings that blanket my overall life.

All of that is fine and positive.  It can be difficult, however, to let go of traditions when they no longer serve.  Those hooks strain and bend and mangle before they eventually break.  Sometimes I cling to traditions long after they cease to be useful or even reasonable. 

Christmas is one of those seasons most fraught with tradition.  In my family, following certain Christmas traditions and rituals has an almost mythic quality.  The traditions are numerous, varied, and complex.  Christmas in our house was always a huge, shiny affair involving every kind of delicacy, entertainment, and a truckload of presents.  Some of our traditions would be familiar to most American families- like decorating a tree and hanging stockings.  Other traditions are more specific to our family.  For instance, we always hung the bedraggled silver tinfoil bells that first graced my parents’ wedding reception.  Other traditions would be regarded as just plain wackadoodle by most people… like eating the traditional festive Christmas dinner of warmed up Kentucky Fried Chicken. 

At any rate, getting from the middle of November to the end of the year while fulfilling all the traditional holiday responsibilities could be something of a marathon in my household.  I can remember worrying, even as a small child, that my mother would wear herself out completing all the traditional preparations.  I remember begging her to not too get too tired to fulfill the most important tradition- everyone must be happy at Christmas.

The other unwritten rule about Christmas traditions is that they should never change or the world as we know it will crumble like a gingerbread cookie.  I convinced myself to believe in Santa Claus by sheer force of will until I was eleven years old just to avoid defiling a Christmas tradition.

I’ve come to the painful conclusion that Christmas traditions can and should change over time.  In 2014, Max and I moved to Florida at the beginning of December.  He had this brilliant idea that my family could celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving when we would all be together.  We made a brave effort, but it was clear my family thought this was some form of sacrilege.  My mother had a Christmas tree at Thanksgiving and some presents.  My mother had a regular Christmas for my brother and his family on Christmas Day.  Also, because she couldn’t stand the thought of me not having Christmas on Christmas Day, she ended up mailing gifts for Max and me in our new home in Florida.  She even sent a small artificial Christmas tree.  Oddly enough, the world did not end because of the Christmas tradition violations.  Frankly, with the move and unpacking, it was kind of restful to have a quiet, spur-of-the-moment kind of Christmas.

In 2015, we were able to bring back some of the fa-la-la-de-rol.  Max and I were more settled in to our new home and my mother had moved from California.  We decorated, had Christmas presents under the tree, attended seasonal entertainments, and shared a nice time together.  Things were still not the same as in yesteryear.  They couldn’t be.  We lived 3000 miles away from some of our traditions.  My brother and his family were not with us.  Still, we found we had enough of our old tradition hooks and crafted enough new ones to make the holiday season unquestionably joyous. 

This year, with my mother’s illness, it is a challenge to find the merry and bright.  The vague notion of shopping and decorating and attending entertainments sounds tempting.  It is seductive to contemplate an escape into jolliness and frivolity.  The actual execution of that vague notion is daunting, however.  It seems easier to shut the door on the whole thing and lock myself away in the sadness.

Easier, perhaps.  But not better.  I am trying to plow through the inertia and grasp some tradition.  While it initially felt like overcoming the funk would be more effort than it was worth, I am finding that the Christmas traditions are lifting my mood a little bit.  After all, shutting the door on the shopping, decorating, entertainment, and trappings also tempts me to shut the door on another Christmas tradition.  The most important Christmas tradition.  The tradition of Joy.

“Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people for there is born to you this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”                                                            Luke 2:10-11

What are your holiday traditions?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at  Merry Christmas!  May God bless us, everyone!

Terri 🙂

News Flash- We Interrupt our Regular Programming to Report….

Fall finally fell.

 It took its own sweet time about doing so, I have to say.  It was such a momentous occasion, I took note of the date.  Fall fell on December 9th. Until then, Fall had not so much as stumbled.  Temperatures still hovered around the 90-degree mark.  The air was still humid enough to drink.

I was starting to take it as a personal affront.  Around the time the calendar said that Fall was beginning, Max bought me a beautiful autumnal sweatshirt.  It was a gorgeous shade of rust, richly embroidered with multi-colored leaves.  When I was looking at it in the store, I sighed sadly and said, “I love this, but it is much too hot to even think about putting it on.  If I wore this, it would literally become a SWEATshirt inside of ten seconds.  It will never be cool enough to wear it.”  Max replied, “Someday it will be” and purchased the garment for me.

Since that time, lo those many weeks ago, it has hung in my closet, silently chiding me for wasting his money.  When I look for something to wear in the mornings, my eyes immediately light on its beautiful color, but, almost as immediately, I remember that it is once again a hot, humid summer day IN NOVEMBER. I have really, really wanted to wear that shirt, but the season just wouldn’t cooperate.   I wanted to stick my leg out and trip Fall.

On December 9th, however, Fall not only fell, but tumbled down so hard and fast, I’m surprised it did not break a hip.  I got up to go to water aerobics class and got halfway there before I remembered that they don’t have class when the temperature goes below 50 degrees.  It was easy to forget that fact because I seem to remember the class being called on account of cold only once all last winter.  Besides, the day before, it was in the eighties.  Can you blame me for being confused?  You might ask whether it was really necessary for there to be an actual policy cancelling class in sub-50-degree weather for me to realize that submerging myself in water when the air temperature is 46 degrees is not a great idea.  You have a valid point.  Maybe I was just a bureaucrat for way too many years.  Or maybe I’ve just forgotten what “cold” is.

The temperature was all anyone was talking about on December 9th.  Everywhere I went, I heard people remarking on what they were doing when they realized the morning started with temperatures in the forties and that the day’s high temperature was about 25 degrees less than the day before.  I half expected to turn on the news and have the anchor announce, “It is not hot.  I repeat, it is NOT hot.  Film at eleven.” 

As the day progressed, however, the “not hot” front dissipated.  Fall sort of peeped its head out of summer, but retreated just as quickly.  The temperature rose and people discarded the sweaters that were seeing the light of day for the first time since last February.   Four days later, the temperatures approached 90 degrees once more. The “Fall” seemed to have been like those falls that world class figure skaters have when attempting difficult jumps- if there is a stumble towards the beginning, the skater has the opportunity to pick herself back up quickly and gracefully and resume the routine so that, by the time the program is over, the audience is wondering if there had ever truly been a fall at all.  At any rate, my sweatshirt is still hanging in my closet in pristine condition. 

How many degrees does it take to change the season?  Only a few, but the season has to really want to change.

Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it!  Does the weather seem wacky to you?  Have you had to adjust to a new climate when you’ve moved?  What has that been like for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a sunny day… both weather-wise and in every other way!

Terri 🙂

Hopping the Holly Jolly Express

As we pulled into the parking lot for our tour to Gaylord Palms and Celebration, it looked like we stumbled into an Ugly Christmas Sweater convention. There was an army of seniors dressed in all manner of holiday attire. There were festive t-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters galore. Some even jingled and lit up. I was not immune, although I like to think my white and gray sweater with the penguin on it and gray jeans were a tad more sophisticated. I’d like to think that, but I’d probably be wrong.

Even the bus was tricked out in Christmas regalia. There was a small, fully decorated Christmas tree seat belted into the first passenger seat on the driver’s side. A stuffed Santa Claus the size of a very hefty toddler sat beside the tree, also belted in. Safety first. Multi-colored twinkle lights graced the overhead storage compartments all the way down both aisles of the bus. The sound system blared “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”

Yes, I was sitting in a 40 foot, 55 seat pimpmobile on my way to see ice sculptures and children playing in the snow. In Florida. Who’d of thunk it?  Can anyone tell me exactly when I turned 80 years old?  Last thing I remembered, I was a perfectly middle-aged woman of 57 who was tastefully decorating a gold, silver, and white Christmas tree.  Now, I have turned overnight into a woman way beyond a certain age, trapped in a bus that looks like the North Pole threw up in it.

Years ago, I saw a tv show that visited the most “Christmassy” places in the country.  Strangely, this bus did not make the list.  Gaylord Palms in Tennessee, however, did.  I was fascinated to see the elaborate Christmas decorations in the lobby and the amazing rooms full of Christmas-themed ice sculptures.  The resort boasted ice slides, a bar completely furnished with ice furniture, and a crèche room with a larger-than-life rendition of the Nativity story carved out of crystal clear ice.  When I heard that there was a Gaylord Palms in central Florida with the same Noel-y type notions, I knew I had to visit.

When I saw that there was a bus tour that supplemented a trip to Gaylord Palms with a stop at Celebration afterwards, I took the bait.  Celebration is “the town that Disney built.”  The Disney Corporation, flushed with the success of the Disney theme parks and hotels, decided to create a whole themed town as an experiment in urban planning.   The concept was that Celebration would be a modern version of Marceline, Mo, the town Walt used as a model for the theme park Main Street, USA.   They built a variety of housing options, all quaint and cute.  They established a town center with adorable little boutiques and restaurants.  They even make autumn leaves fall in October and November and deliver snow at the Christmas season.  At some point, Disney decided it was much harder to manage a real community than a fake one and sold the project.

At any rate, an evening of snow and beautiful decorations and cute, Christmassy shops after our Gaylord Palms experience sounded good to me, especially since it would relieve me of the need to find parking at Celebration.  Thus, we booked our seats on the Holly Jolly Express in early December.

The trip to Gaylord Palms was uneventful.  I began to wonder if I really needed the Christmas pimpmobile for this trip.  Especially when the tour guide, with no apparent embarrassment, confided that she HAD NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE!

Still, now that I was committed to being one of the merry band of Christmasphiles, I was bound and determined to put my heart into it.  I allowed myself to be herded, along with 3 or 4 thousand other elderly elves (well maybe not quite that many, but A LOT!) into the foyer of ICE! – the great Christmas ice sculpture extravaganza.  As we entered into the exhibit area, friendly smurfs greeted us.  Actually, they may have been plain old garden variety Gaylord Palms employees who had just turned blue due to the sub-zero temperatures required to keep ICE!, well, ice. Or maybe they were just wearing huge blue parkas.

The smurfs explained that the temperature in the ice rooms was 5 degrees below zero and offered us parkas.  I thought they were concerned that our ancient blood might freeze over or that our already compromised circulation might collapse in the cold, but it seems they bundle all the guests into parkas.

As we turned the corner to enter the exhibit, I noticed that there was a mountain of ice off to one side.  Individual lanes descended down the mountain, allowing for several thrill-seeking riders as a time to whoosh down the ice to their probable death, for a separate admission.  No takers.  If you ask me, this mountain was proof that hell had, indeed, frozen over.

The ICE! exhibit was pretty amazing.  We walked through room after room of towering colorful ice sculptures, each meant to portray a section of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.   In one room, the scene shows a “little” (by giant standards, I guess) boy and girl, each poised at the top of their own bannister as they prepare to make a break for it.  Speaking of breaks, the bannisters contained 20-foot ice slides instead of stairs.  These slides were the milder version of the extremely high, extremely slick, and extremely steep slides in the other room. Two of our party decided to try them out. Luckily, no lives were lost, but there was still no way I was going to scoot my ample rear end down a sheet of ice.

There was a pop-up gift store at the exit of ICE!  It sold ICE!-related items, but also featured about 5000 square feet of Christmas decorations available for purchase.  So I did.  Purchase, I mean.

Then, outside the pop-up store, we spotted a small kiosk selling GINGERBREAD!  I gave up any wild thoughts I might have had of eating lunch and bought that spicy, delectable, melt-in-the-mouth Christmas treat that I crave all through the year but can only get at the holidays.  Max and I tucked into those cookies like ravenous, sugar-deprived wolves.

Then, the first of the downsides of a bus tour kicked in.  We were really pretty much finished doing everything we really cared about doing at Gaylord Palms, but the bus wasn’t going to be moving on to Celebration for another couple of hours.  Some people were having lunch at one of the regular sit-down restaurants, but Max and I had already decided we would eat a big meal in Celebration. The infusion of gingerbread made it pretty impossible to change our plan and eat a large lunch at Gaylord Palms.  Since our tour guide HAD NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE, she had not provided any helpful hints on what to see or how to fill the time.  Max and I went rogue and explored the hotel on our own.  We actually saw a few interesting things, like a pen of baby alligators.

Finally, we were back on the bus and on our way to Celebration.  We reached Celebration just as it was getting dark and the Christmas lights were beginning to illuminate.  The little shop windows sparkled with holiday decorations.  There was a man-made ice rink set up for skating.  Workers were blowing snow onto a section of the street, designated for kids to play in a winter wonderland.  It was pretty charming, I have to say.  The whole thing reminded me at bit of Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I wasn’t sure what we were going to do there for over two hours.  Our tour guide informed us, ONCE AGAIN, that she had never been to Celebration.  I am really not sure what value this lady added to the trip.  She was nice and everything, but isn’t a tour guide supposed to guide?

By this time, the gingerbread had worn off. Max and I went to a diner and had a yummy dinner.  As we were waiting for our meals to arrive, we saw horses and carriages pull up across the street.  We noticed children riding in a little train.  This gave us some ideas on how to fill our remaining time in The Town That Disney Built.

After dinner, we chatted with the fellows who were creating the “snowfield.”  It turns out that the “snow” is a laundry soap based concoction that is the consistency of gritty shaving cream.  They had a sort of reverse vacuum device that filled the area with about a six-inch layer of the stuff, which resulted in a wide expanse of area for kids to make snow angels, have snowball fights, and, in general, get the experience of snow without the cold and the wet.  How sensible!

Next, we went to inspect the horse and carriage brigade.  There was a horse and wagon, horse and Victorian-type carriage, and a horse and Cinderella coach.  We talked with the vendors and learned that we could take a 15-minute ride around Celebration in any of these conveyances, for a variety of prices, depending on which vehicle we took. We climbed onto the wagon, going with the cheapest option.  It was delightful.

After bidding adieu to our horse, we strolled around the little boutiques and purchased yet more Christmas paraphernalia.  A little before 7:00pm, a disembodied voice announced that the snowfall would commence in a few minutes.  We stood next to the skating rink to wait for the planned and scheduled weather.  Children with helmets and knee pads slithered around the ice.  Some even used a walker-like device to keep them upright while approximating skating.  I really thought the children playing in the snowfield were way more likely to incur injury.  Judging by the force and intensity with which they were throwing their small bodies on asphalt covered in a few inches of soapsuds to make snow angels, I am amazed no skulls were cracked.  I think they should have a concussion protocol for this snow angel sport.

The snow fell tidily, keeping to its assigned area, for about five minutes and then stopped until the next hourly demonstration of fake nature.  We got back on the Holly Jolly Express, expecting a quiet trip back to our car.

It was not to be.

We discovered the tour guide’s only added value was to encourage forced gaiety.  No sooner were we on our way when she insisted upon playing the Christmas movie, Deck the Halls, on the bus’s DVD monitor.  Deck the Halls may be the worst Christmas movie of all time.  This is not just my opinion.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 6%.  Any self-respecting Christmas movie should at least get into the double digits, if only for the schmaltz factor.

After the movie, our tour guide passed out the lyrics for the Twelve Days of Christmas, assigning us each specific parts.  Max pretended to be asleep.  I checked to make sure he was still breathing because Deck the Halls might have been just enough for him to end it all.  His chest was moving up and down, so I concentrated on mumbling my assigned lyrics each time “six geese a-laying” came around.  I hated those geese.  A few people had obviously done more than a little liquid celebrating in Celebration and they were having a boisterously awesome time.

When the twelve drummers finished drumming, I thought we were finished.  No such luck.  The next DVD was a Honeymooners’ Christmas Special.  I ask you, in what decade was gambling away you and your best friend’s life savings and threatening violence against your wife and mother-in-law considered uproariously funny?  I think that must have been before my time.  You see, I really am not 80.

We finally, blessedly, returned to where we left our car. We were happy to leave the Holly Jolly Express that had been so cruelly hijacked by the demented Christmas purveyor of hilarity.

Would we do it again?  Probably.

It’s your turn.  Do you engage in any wacky, over-the-top Christmas activities?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at Have a ho-ho-ho holiday season!

Terri 🙂

Programming note:  I’ll  be back to posting on Wednesday next week.  Since this post is a bit super-sized, you’ll have an extra day to read it before the next new post. :-0.