Leaving The Nest

I have been living in Florida for over five years now. I wouldn’t say that I live in the country, but I do live in a “country-ish” location.  There is abundant undeveloped land in my community and the surrounding area.  It is certainly more rural than anywhere else I have lived.  I’ve seen more types of wild animals than I can easily count.   I have had numerous opportunities to watch the cycles of nature play out over time.  You’d think I would be used to the aftermath of the circle of life by now.  Not so.  I saw something a few weeks ago that brought me to tears. 

I’d say the wild mascots of our community are the sandhill cranes.  I’ve written about them before on this blog (http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/coping/ and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/05/cranes-in-my-cranium/.)  If you don’t know what a sandhill crane looks like, you should google it.  You should also read my prior blog to get a sense of how I tend to anthropomorphize them.  They are so much a part of our community; it is hard not to.

Sandhill cranes mate for life.  They have babies once a year and those babies stay with their parents for about 10 months.  The time of the year when we start spotting the baby cranes is noteworthy.  Facebook comes alive with notifications of baby crane sightings.  People pull over on the side of the road to take pictures.  There is one street not too far from here that posts official-looking, professionally printed signs proclaiming “Caution! Baby Sandhill Crane Crossing.” We watch those babies grow from little fuzzballs on stilts to mature cranes that are indistinguishable from their parents. 

What we don’t think about is what happens at the end of that ten-month raising period.  I never thought about it until recently. Sure, I’d noticed that our little trio and quartet families of cranes were back to being couples around Christmas each year.  It happened gradually, so it wasn’t something that signified anything to me. I lived in a little fantasy world where the juveniles had a graduation party and went off to crane college or something.  They literally left the nest.

A few weeks ago, I saw the darker side of the Sandhill crane life benchmarks.  As I drove down the street towards the exit of our community, I saw one of the crane families on the side of the road.  One of the adult cranes was charging the juvenile.  There were furiously flapping wings, hissing noises, and gnashing beaks involved. Clearly, the adult was running the juvenile crane off his territory.  It made me so sad.  How could these creatures who carefully hatched and raised their babies turn their backs so callously on their progeny?  How could the creatures, who mourned and cried when a baby got tangled in a telephone wire and died, now snarl and spit to drive away their remaining offspring? It just broke my heart to think how confused and sad those maturing cranes must feel to see how emphatically mom and dad want them gone.  Where will they go?  Won’t they be lonely and scared?  The entire episode really bummed me out. 

I know that there is a circle of life and that last year’s nestlings must make way for this year’s babies.  I know that the newly emancipated juveniles will likely find their own mates and begin exciting new lives of their own.  I know that the Sandhill cranes likely do not take stock of their emotions as humans do, so probably don’t feel as betrayed as I would feel had my parents decided to cut off all ties with me when I turned eighteen.  The logical, rational side of me understands that there is no tragedy involved in the launching of the juvenile Sandhill cranes.  My heart, however, can’t wrap itself around the idea. 

I know it is important for children to become independent and live their own lives.  It is extremely difficult for each generation to accomplish their own goals and achieve societal evolution if that generation is still occupying the last generation’s nest. Just as the very act of struggling to emerge from a cocoon strengthens a butterfly’s wings and prepares it for life in the great unknown, I’m sure the struggle of leaving the nest strengthens children of all species and prepares  them for life in their own great unknown.  Still, that Sandhill crane approach to launching their children seems unaccountably harsh.

Those chicks did not just leave the nest; they were pushed!

What experiences do you have of “leaving the nest?” When you or your children left the nest, was it as harsh as the Sandhill crane emancipation?  What was the result?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an exciting day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Love-er-ly

This isn’t my first attempt to write this blog piece.  Twice already, I’ve started the process only to end up chucking the whole thing.  I guess I am still not ready to admit defeat, so I’m taking another shot at it. I’ve decided that, if I can’t produce something this time, I’m giving up.  Three strikes and I’m out. 

My intended premise of this blog post, as Valentine’s Day looms before us, was to talk about how not everyone is lovely, but everyone can be love-er-ly. The trouble is, I always seem to fall down a woeful rabbit hole where I just keep bemoaning the sad truth that I have never been lovely.  Truth be told, I have absolutely nothing to recommend me in the looks department.  I have never been beautiful.  I have never been sexy.  I have never been graceful.  I have never been lovely.  All of these are very un-Valentiney confessions. 

As I cogitated over this sad state of affairs and the impact it was having on my ability to craft a blog post about love-er-li-ness, I remembered a conversation I recently had with a friend at church.  My friend is kind and faithful and devoted to doing good in her life.  However, she often runs herself down, dismisses her worth, and undermines her own contributions.  Her words about herself seem harsh and punishing.  One day, I asked her to do me a favor.  I asked her to be kinder to herself.  She is working on it.

It strikes me that I have been doing the same thing each time I try to write this blog.  I don’t want to be so hard on myself.  Instead of sinking into the ooze of my unloveliness, I really want to embrace my love-er-li-ness.  You see, I may not be lovely, but I think I am love-er-ly. 

Long ago, I decided that I probably was not destined to do great things, but I did want to do anything I did with great love.  Although I do not always succeed, the nurturing of love is my main life goal. I sometimes consider building love-er-li-ness to be like becoming an elite athlete. I started at a young age.  I am intentional in my approach.  I hone my love-building skills by subjecting myself to different conditions. I train by practicing and experimenting with different techniques.  I seek out coaches and role models who will show me ways I can be more loving.  I try to be single-minded in the pursuit of excellence.  I sometimes have “off days.”  Let’s face it, even Tom Brady isn’t TOM BRADY every day.  For the most part, though, I think I see growth and enrichment in my love-er-li-ness performance.  I may not be at the “elite” level yet, but I’m trying to at least be an “up and comer.”

I am no saint.  I am aware that all this talk of love and self-denial can come across as a little too Goody-Two-Shoes.  Honestly, though, my motivation for building my love-er-li-ness skills is more selfish.  It just feels good to love. 

I think everyone can hone their love-er-li-ness skills.  It doesn’t have to be difficult. I think, sometimes, we want to build love but get stuck on what to do.  It can also be intimidating to stick one’s neck out too far, especially if we feel shy about getting into someone else’s emotional personal space.   Here are a few suggestions that might help get you started.

It can be something as simple as sending a “thinking of you” card or picking up the phone to check in with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

You don’t have to offer any profound words or even acknowledge anything you think the other person could be feeling. Because people so rarely get anything in their snail mail other than bills and advertising, sometimes a card or note feels more significant to recipients.  However, you don’t have to get caught up in how you touch base- phone, card, email, text, whatever.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

It can be something like offering a specific service, like going to the grocery store or providing airport transportation, to someone who is hurting.

The person who is hurting may not take you up on your offer, but they will appreciate the effort.  They will also appreciate that you have not put the burden of having to think of something you can do on top of whatever load they are already carrying.  People often say, “please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”  It might be more comforting to add, “like go to the grocery store or pick up your daughter at the airport or anything else you might need.” 

Spread a little bit of serendipity.

Let someone else ahead of you online in a department store or post office.

People often do this in grocery stores when the person behind them only has a few items.  It is more striking when it happens other places.  Occasionally, leave all the change in the tip jar when your ice cream cone costs $4.01 and you give the cashier a $5.  If you can afford it, generously over tip a server, especially if you can hear that another diner is giving him or her a hard time.  Let workers and managers know what it meant to you when a service worker does a wonderful job.

Apologize.

In most hurtful situations, there is fault on both sides.  It may not be equal.  It rarely is.  The other person could truly bear 95% of the blame, but there is almost always something you could have done differently to make the situation less painful.  Don’t worry so much about the other person’s blame.  You can’t control that.  You can own your share of the issue and apologize for it.  That doesn’t mean you should put up with poor behavior from other people.  You can choose to love people from a distance without subjecting yourself to their brokenness if that brokenness continues to cause them to abuse you. 

Let someone else take the wheel, even if they are tearing up your highway.

Do you want to win, or do you want to love? I often go into projects or situations with something of an agenda.  I know what I want to have happen and I know how I want them to happen.  I’m sure I sometimes seem committed to “my way or the highway.”  Honestly, in most situations, it really doesn’t make that much difference how a denouement plays out.  In the love building department, very little is about the outcome and much more is about the benefits involved in the getting there.  For instance, when I have a conversation with someone, I may have a goal about what I want the outcome of that conversation to be, but I also have some goals about how I want both of us to feel at the end of that conversation.  Those goals about how I want us to feel are usually more important than the content of the conversation. 

Smile from your heart.

I am a very shy person. It is even hard for me to catch someone’s eye without dissolving into a pile of goo.  It feels like I am imposing on their privacy by my mere existence. I made a discovery, though, that has helped me “let my love shine” and reduce my shyness.  I make it a point to purposely look at people around me and to smile. I let that smile generate from the part of my soul that is busily building all that love. I let it rise to my heart, mouth, and eyes.  I let it be personal, because it is.  It must be genuine for it to work.  You must feel the smile, not just do it.  There is a scene from a movie about the life of St. Therese of Lisieux where she is trying to befriend one of her rather fractious sisters in the convent.  The other nun says to her, “why are you always smiling at me like that?” St. Therese responds, “If I am smiling at you, Sister, it is because I am happy to see you.”  For this heart smile to do its best work, you must be happy to see the person.  Sometimes, you must search a little for the part of you that is happy to see that person, but it is worth it.

Pray.

If there is anything that is the quickest, most sure-fire tool to build love for me, it is prayer.  God is Love, so why not go to the source of it all to multiply and replenish when you are hard at work building love-er-li-ness?

This Valentine’s Day try to embrace your pursuit of love-er-li-ness.  You can do it in whatever way works for you.  You can try some of my suggestions or go your own way.  All I am really advocating is that we all try to increase our love of God, people in general, people who we might find challenging, and the people who matter to us the most.  I’d also encourage one other technique.  Be kind to yourself.  Being love-er-ly to yourself is important, too!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! If you could leave a love-er-ly valentine message for someone, what would it be? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a love-er-ly day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Stopping The Presses

I am sure that most of you know by now that I published a book almost two years ago.  The book is called Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. I published it under my real name, Dorry Curran (for those inquiring minds who want to know what is up with the whole name thing, please see http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/03/the-big-reveal/.)  If you like my blog, you will probably like the book. 

I published the book using an author services company for several reasons.  The main benefit of using the company is that I didn’t have to learn how to do a lot of technical production work that I didn’t want to learn to do.  The whole experience was very educational and enriching.  I was able to produce a book that gives me a lot of satisfaction and pride.  I wanted to learn something about the mechanical/technical/operational world of book publishing and I did.  I did not really want the aggravation involved in learning how to do the mechanical/technical/operational work itself.  I think I made the right choice for me and I do not regret the decision.

The downside of using the author services company, of course, was cost.  It cost me a bit of money to publish and distribute the book.  I didn’t expect to recoup the entire cost and I’m fine with only making back a fraction of the investment.  My mother had a friend who was wildly obsessed with stamping and making cards.  She invested thousands of dollars on stamps, supplies, and a custom designed “stamping room” where she displayed her stamps on handmade shelves.  I think my book is similar.  I spent the money for the love of writing and the desire to create something wonderful and unique to me.  Every time I look at a copy of my book, it makes me happy.  Money well spent, in my opinion. 

The thing is that the money needs to keep getting spent if I want to continue to make the book available.  Each year, I have to pay a chunk of change to the author services company to handle orders and distribution of the book.  Last year, I cut that cost a little bit by discontinuing the “direct-to-reader” author website.  This year, the renewal for the remaining services will come due towards the end of March.  Since sales over the past ten months or so have been virtually non-existent, I have decided not to renew.  Yes, I’ll be stopping the presses.  My book will be out of print by the end of March.  I wanted to give you all a head’s up so that you can order any electronic or paperback copies that you want before the only place to get it is at yard sales and secondhand stores. 

If you would like to buy paperback or electronic versions of Changing My Mind, please visit your favorite online bookseller.  The book is available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and many other online sources. 

Thank you for your support of my work.  I will continue to blog each week until I run out of things to say (yes, I hear you scoffing, those of you who think I ran out of things to say years ago.) I appreciate all of you who come along with me on my musings and adventures.  I am so glad to have you as my traveling companions!

For those of you who have read my book, is there anything you would like to share (positive or negative) that might help others decide whether or not to invest in a copy?  Please share your perspective by leaving a message.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.