You may remember my “once in a lifetime” trip to Discovery Cove two years ago.  If not, you can read about it at and  You might also remember my second trip to Discovery Cove last year, when I returned to make sure it was as wonderful as I thought it was.  You can read about that trip at

I just made a third “once in a lifetime” visit.  It is time to stop kidding myself.  It is time to start calling it what it is…. My annual retreat to Dolphinland.

Some people go to monasteries or retreat houses for their yearly spiritual sojourns.  Not me.  I say there is nothing wrong with going to Discovery Cove to take spiritual inventory and commune with God.  I think God was definitely there. 

I spent a wonderful day frolicking with the dolphins, swimming with the rays, winding my way down a lazy river, wading past otters and marmosets, and examining the vibrant feathers of numerous bird species.  I also cuddled with a kinkajou, who stuck her arm in her mouth while I was petting her, much as a human baby might suck her thumb.  I faced my fear of rodents with long, scaly tails, when I interacted with a young three-legged possum named Ricky.  I also ate a lot of rice crispy treats and soft, hot pretzels.  I relaxed, rested, warmed my bones in the sun, listened to God, and prayed.  Maybe the most important thing I did was just observe.

The animals at Discovery Cove are real.  Of course, Discovery Coves busses them in from various places around the world.  Orlando is not even remotely close to a sea or a rain forest, so most of the animals I visited are not to be found in nature anywhere in the greater metropolitan area.  Ricky, the three-legged possum, was the exception.  He was a three-legged possum precisely because he was run over by a car in a local populated area.  My other new animal friends, however, were strangers in a strange land in Orlando.  That doesn’t make them any less real.  The plant life in Discovery Cove is also largely imported, but it is beautiful and lush and abundantly real. 

Spending the day at Discovery Cove forces me to forget the world I know intimately and enter the natural world the Busch Entertainment Company has built in the shadow of the Central Florida roller coasters.  The act of observing this manufactured natural world with all my senses frees my soul in a way that is as real as the surroundings.  Maybe this Discovery Cove natural world is assembled by human beings and maybe those same human beings are manipulating my soul to feel free in a way that isn’t quite organic.  I don’t really care.  Experiencing that world, losing myself in it, and imprinting it on my memory is very, very valuable.  And human beings may have assembled this magical self-contained world, but God created the components. 

So I refuel and retool- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually- during my dolphin retreat.  Something actually changes about the way I see the world.  I began to notice things that I never saw before because I was so incredibly present.  I was living in the moment and observing the moment and analyzing the moment instead of just getting through the moment and going on to the next one. 

For instance, after taking a last lap through the snorkeling reef, I settled myself on a quiet island in the middle of the reef.  I snuggled down into a rope hammock and closed my eyes.  I could smell the scent of jasmine.  I could taste the salt water on my lips.  I could hear breezes rustling the palm fronds, punctuating the impossible quiet of a theme park in Orlando. It was more than pleasant; it was healing.  I opened my eyes and noticed a cloud shaped just like the face of the kinkajou I snuggled earlier in the day.  I watched, fascinated, as the shape flattened and distorted and slipped away.  I also noticed colors.  If you had asked me to describe leaves before my retreat of observation and discovery, I would have told you that they are green.  When I looked around from my vantage point in the hammock, I saw many, many colors of leaves- greens and yellows and reds and fuchsias and pale pinks and oranges.  Also, did you ever realize that the sky is not sky blue?  In fact, the sky is not blue at all.  It is most definitely blueS.  I saw a swath of sky that melded sections the color of stone-washed denim and the color of Wedgewood and the color of lapis lazuli and the color of robins’ eggs. 

Maybe, in addition to enriching my body and soul, my dolphin retreat developed my senses, too.  Maybe my discoveries about color and perspective mean that I had a moment of artistic inspiration.  Maybe I was seeing the world through the eyes of an artist.  And God is a pretty amazing artist. 

How about you?  Where do you go for your spiritual retreats?  Where do you find God and do you think it is weird that I find him in a central Florida amusement park?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have an artistic day discovering God and yourself!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Me dolphin surfing with Thelma!

kisses for Thelma

Dolphin delight!
petting a kinkajou

So many colors of leaves!

Decisions, Decisions

When I was working, I taught leadership classes and helped people develop their resumes for management positions.  I learned a lot about the qualities and skills needed to be a great leader.  My agency evaluated twenty-one “core competencies” when considering a person’s leadership potential.  Two of these core competencies were decision-making and decisiveness.

When I first learned about this competency model, I was confused as to the difference between decision-making and decisiveness. I always thought they were the same thing.  Not so.  Decision-making has to do with weighing the options and assessing the relative risks and rewards to make a sound decision.  Decisiveness means creating a viable strategy to implement your decision and acting on it.  In a perfect world, leaders would be good at both competencies.  They would be able to use good judgment in coming to a conclusion, figuring out what to do about a problem, and acting to enable the outcome they seek.  You don’t want to place your trust in someone who goes off half-cocked at the firing range, but you also don’t want someone who is the victim of paralysis by analysis.  You want to follow someone who is thoughtful and wise and who also has the courage of her convictions to actually act on what she decides is right.

I don’t know that I am very good at either competency.   I’m an excellent ditherer.  I can cover the same mental territory over and over again in my attempts to make the perfect decision.  It doesn’t seem to matter if the decision involves the fate of the nation or the fate of my breakfast cereal.  I can entertain myself endlessly with improbable scenarios until I’ve “what iffed” myself into a fight or flight neurological response.  I key myself up so much trying to make a decision, I can’t stop making it.  Max is the same way, except perhaps worse.  He is an impressive purveyor of unlikely scenarios, even by my standards.  On the other hand, once he has made a decision, he is the most decisive person I have ever met.  He plunges ahead in action, absolutely convinced that he is doing the right thing and never looks back.

Me, I can’t ever stop looking back.  In fact, I rarely get to the point where I have anything to look back to.  I find that avoiding any action at all is often the most comfortable psychic state.  Even when I finally believe I have considered all the data that is likely to EVER be available and make a decision, I often back pedal or couch what I do to allow for an escape hatch.  Or maybe it is just that I am constantly looking for deniability.  If I do actually act, I spend a lot of mental energy considering the road less traveled.  Often, it isn’t that I sit around mired in regret, it is just that I seem to be incapable of detaching from the mental process of making a decision.  Mulling the “might have beens” is a kind of hobby. 

I spent a lot of effort working on my decision-making and decisiveness when I worked as a leader in my agency.  I knew it had to be frustrating for my employees, customers, and senior managers to have to deal with my eye-crossing lack of commitment.  People did like me and respect me, but it was not uncommon for someone to look at me in despair and sigh, “can’t you just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” Yes. No, I mean no.  Well, sometimes. 

You get the idea.

In looking back over my life, I do see why it can be so hard to make and act on decisions.  They are often so complex and fraught.  I sometimes think about roads I took that maybe were not the most satisfying. It strikes me that I’ve experienced wonderful offshoots of those roads that I would never have seen if I had not been going down that particular less-than-satisfying path.  For instance, I don’t know that becoming a tax auditor at age 21 was the career of my dreams.  Nor do I think I was very good at it.  It might not have been the best fit for me- a person who ponders over what color of thumb drive to purchase from Amazon- to take a job that required me to make decisions about what people deducted on their tax returns 20-25 times a day.  If you consider my introversion and my inborn tendency to want to make people happy along with my issues with decisions, it is remarkable that I survived six months on the job, much less a successful 30+ year career in the tax field.

Still, I marvel at the ways God blessed me that I would have missed had I taken another path.  Some of the best people I have ever known came into my life through work. My much-loved friend Judy may have actually saved my life.  If she didn’t actually save it, she certainly provided a spark of motivation for me to continue living and trying to find my way out of the shadows.  I never would have met her and we never would have become sisters by selection if I had been in a different job.  Knowing her is one of the most satisfying experiences in my life, born out of a work experience that…wasn’t.

My marriage is another example.  For reasons too melodramatic to go into, I decided it was a good idea to marry before I ever had a chance to live my own life or see what the world had to offer me.  Both my husband and I were ill-suited to the partnership and I ended up very miserable.  I was scared a lot of the time.  I was financially vulnerable.  My heart was broken and scarred beyond recognition before our first wedding anniversary. Let’s just say that things did not get better.  We stayed married for another six years of so.  Finally, my husband, seemingly out of nowhere, left me. I dithered my way through months of waiting for him to figure out what to do. Finally, he told me he wasn’t coming back and I decided to file for divorce.  The fact that I waited five months for him to declare his intentions before doing anything shows you just how slow my decision-making transmission is.  When people asked what was going on during those five months, I kept saying I didn’t know because my husband hadn’t told me what he wanted to do.  They all seemed baffled, as I am now, as to why it never occurred to me to decide what I wanted to do.  At any rate, both the decision to marry and the decision to divorce seemed to be imbued with pain, heartbreak, and tragedy. I was sure my life was effectively over. 

Still, when I think back to my marriage, separation, and divorce, I have to admit that I gained some things I never would have if I had never gone down the aisle.  I became smarter, stronger, and more self-reliant.  I became a better judge of other people. I became a better judge of myself.  I learned how to indulge my potential for joy in a way that I would never have been able to accomplish without going through this crucible time in my life. I discovered that I was stuck in a sort of arrested development. I gave myself permission to grow up at my own pace, with my own interests at the center of my growth.  It wasn’t easy and it has taken many, many years, but I am convinced that I am a much better person than I would have been if I have never married my ex-husband or if we had stayed together. 

So, it is understandable that decisions are difficult.  There is so much at stake.  On the other hand, maybe there really isn’t all that much at stake. There may not be all that much point in stewing over decisions. No matter which decision we make and no matter how boldly we implement it, life will go where it wills.   And wherever our decisions lead our lives, there is always the potential for both pain and joy.

I hope that I look for the joy, even in the pain.  I believe God can make spaghetti sauce even out of over-simmered tomato soup.

Do you have trouble making decisions?  Is it more difficult to come to a decision once you are retired and don’t necessarily have the same pressure to move through the decision-making process?  How do you make a decision and not dwell on the “might have beens?”  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Decide to have a great day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

It’s Not The Heat; It’s The Humidity

Summer has different associations for everyone. Some people think of beaches, vacations, school being out, longer days, picnics, or the smell of fresh peaches.  I sometimes think it is my goal in life to change your core association with summer.  When you think “summer,” do you think “time for Terri’s annual whine about the Florida weather?” Yes? Then I’ve succeeded.

The other day, I saw a post on Facebook that said, “Lord, whatever you are baking out there- it’s done.”  It seemed highly appropriate.  The temperature zipped up to the mid-nineties this past week, with little fanfare or buildup. The term “baked” was spot on.  It was more of a California kind of a mid-nineties heat than a Florida heat.  The sun glared. It took little or no time to start to feel hot as Max and I tramped around an outdoor shopping mall.  Strangely, the weather seemed really bearable to me, though.  It was dry and quiet.  The sky was clear and clean.  It was easy enough to feel immediate relief from the heat. All we had to do was simply step out of the sun into the shade. 

The day is coming, any time now, when this will all change.  The sky will darken, the air will sog, and the moisture in the atmosphere will be impossible to escape.  At any given moment, the angry, painful-looking clouds that are obscuring the sky will crack open and furious rain will accompany the heat.  There will be thunder so loud you have to shout to be heard over it.  Chain lightning will be a daily occurrence.  People who try to make the best of things will tell you that the rain is really good because it brings the temperature down.  That may be accurate, but I’m not sure.  The temperature may go down, but the humidity is so heavy you can’t really tell.  In fact, it is sometimes difficult to know when a storm has passed because the rain is followed by steam.  The only clue that the storm may be over is that you no longer have to yell over the sound 0f rain brutally assaulting the roof.  

This past week’s heat has been dry and clean, like a towel fresh out of the dryer.  No one likes a towel fresh out of the dryer being stuffed over her nose and mouth, impeding the ability to breathe.  If the weather gets so hot that you can’t draw air without scorching your lungs, then that isn’t a good thing.  However, I think there is a pleasantness to having that warm towel close to my face.  It harkens back to childhood and safety and helps when I have a sinus headache.  On the other hand, a towel dipped in super-heated water stuffed, sopping wet, into my personal space, is not my idea of a good time. I think we are getting ready to take the towels out of the washer very soon now.  Breathing in dense, wet, terry cloth has absolutely nothing to recommend it.  Breathing the hot, humid summer air in Florida is pretty much like that. 

You see, its not the baking; it’s the boiling that is the problem with Florida summers!

Update:  I wrote this a couple of weeks ago.  Rest assured that, since then, we are out of the frying pan and into the crock pot.  God is making a big tasty batch of Florida soup and I fear it is going to be simmering nonstop until November.  Any suggestions on how to stay comfortable while slow-cooking in a pot of soggy atmosphere?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alterative, you can email me at

Hope you stay out of hot water today!

Terri/Dorry 😊

P.S. I seem to be a week ahead of myself.   When I posted last week’s piece, I was convinced that Fathers’ Day was on June 9th.  I learned I was wrong last Friday.  Therefore, I’d like to wish all you dads a happy Fathers’ Day NOW that the correct day is this coming Sunday.


As Fathers’ Day approaches, I realize I’ve written about my mother many times on this blog, but have not shared much about my father.  I don’t like to leave the impression that my father was not part of my life or that I somehow don’t appreciate my father.  He lived his life for me, my brother, and my mother.  I am who I am partly because of him.  He died in 1996, at the relatively young age of 72.  

Like many little girls, I went through a period of hero worship with my father.  I clung to him.  He fascinated me.  He was bigger than life in my eyes, even though he wasn’t a particularly large man.  When I think of him, I think of him singing or making something or teaching me how to do something.  He called me Dooley, for some unknown reason.  For years after he died, I would see him when I was out walking my dog and would hear him call me by that ridiculous name.

My father knew lots of songs and he had a beautiful voice.  He used to sing when we were in the car or when he was working around the house.  Some of the songs were not the most appropriate for children, but I thought they were funny.  Navy drinking songs might be a strange choice for entertaining a seven-year-old, but I didn’t care.  I just loved to hear my dad sing.  My mother always used to try to get him to join the church choir, but he never did.  I don’t think he liked the idea of having to “measure up.”  I think he got a lot of confidence from his family and from his ability to take care of us.  Outside that family unit though, I think he felt somewhat insecure about his abilities.

My father was the oldest of six children.  He was born a couple of years before the stock market crash of 1929.  By the time his siblings came along, the Great Depression had the world firmly gripped in its jaws.  I think most people in the 1930s saw working together as the only way of surviving this financial monster.  Individual hopes and dreams did not mean as much as banding together with family and friends to make sure everyone came through safely.  My father’s childhood and, also, his young adulthood, was structured in such a way that others came first.  He helped raise his younger siblings.  He helped his parents during the lean years. He enlisted in the Navy upon graduation from high school to fight in the war.

 He did not get to pursue a college education or go to drafting school or learn to play the piano.  These were all aspirations that he one day told me he wished he had been able to fulfill.  When the time came in his life when he could have pursued these interests, I think he was too afraid of failing to embrace them.  I wish he had felt surer of his ability to reinvent himself.  It was almost as if he was resigned and reasonably satisfied with what he had accomplished and was afraid that he would fail at a new pursuit.  He felt that such a failure would erode what he already had. I think my father’s life was full of accomplishment and success and there is nothing more he could have achieved that would make him any “more than” in my eyes.  I just hope that now, in Heaven, he is fulfilling all of his dreams deferred.

My father was inventive and creative.  Some artists write.  Some artists paint.  Some artists compose music.  My father’s artistry used a different medium.  He built me a purple baby doll bassinet when I was four.  He built me a playhouse with a fort on top for my brother when I was seven.  He worked with me on a science project when I was nine, building a device that demonstrated how primary colors could be combined to make secondary colors. 

My father kept me safe.  When I proved myself inept at using a pogo stick, he rigged up a rope on the limb of a sturdy tree in the backyard.  He attached the pogo stick to that rope and I was free to bounce without breaking.  When all the other kids at school knew how to swing from one end of the monkey bars to the other, I couldn’t even get from ring one to ring two.  Daddy took me to the schoolyard on the weekend and practiced with me until I confidently flew from ring to ring as competently as any lemur.  He taught me to swim.  He taught me to drive.  He taught me to sacrifice, not just by example but by noticing when I did something unselfish and recognizing me for it. 

When I was a little girl, I think I was my father’s princess.   I think he marveled that I was his creation.  He couldn’t imagine that there could ever be any fault in me, which is why he tended to overreact when I did something that clearly demonstrated that I do have faults in me.  He told me once that he was sorry for sometimes being too hard and too harsh on me when I was young.  He said it wasn’t ever because he wasn’t proud of me.  It was actually the reverse.  He said that I seemed to him to be so wondrous and miraculous, he couldn’t imagine me being anything less than perfect in any way. Therefore, when I did something wrong or churlish or immature, it was a shock and he didn’t always show good judgment or patience in his response.

The very first thing I ever wrote that I tried to publish was an essay about him.  A national teen magazine was holding an essay competition and asked contestants to write about the world’s best father.  I submitted my essay and never heard back (which should have been a clue to my future in publishing).  My father found a copy of my essay and read it.  I remember how touched he was.  I remember him looking at me in amazement and saying, “thank you, Dooley.”

I do think my growing up scared him.  We went through a lengthy period in my adolescence and young adulthood during which he didn’t really understand how to relate to me.  I think the notion that I was moving away from being his little girl made him believe I was moving away from him.  It took some time for us to figure out how to be special to each other in our new roles… father and grown-up daughter.

Even when we gingerly settled in to a new, deeper, more mature understanding of each other, I was still his cherished little girl. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I probably needed the daddy that still saw me as the princess in a tower who needed his protection.  To everyone else, I was strong and in charge and capable.  To Daddy, I was precious and deserved a knight in shining armor.  It was more valuable than I can say to have had a father who I knew was willing to fight my battles, even though I was completely capable of fighting them for myself.

Happy Fathers’ 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

Have a wonderful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂