I would not say that I have any regrets in life.  Even people, decisions, and events that caused me trouble or pain have made me who I am today.  Everything from the past frames the life I live now.  Since I am pretty satisfied with who I am and the life I have, I cannot regret anything. I would not want to do things differently.

There are, however, a few things I wish I could revisit.  I am not going as far as saying I wish I had not done what I did at the time, but I wish I could somehow go back and take the path that I did not take the first time around. I want to experience two parallel realities… what I actually did and what I left behind. 

One of those few “path not taken” experiences has to do with my college years.  I read many novels as a kid about teenagers going to college.  These teenagers always seemed to be going off to ivy-covered halls, living in dorms in beautiful small college towns, and enjoying an entire college lifestyle.  Their time was filled with coursework, socializing, studying all night in the library, and participating in a mad rush of school spirited activities.  Admittedly, most of these books were published in the forties and fifties.  I graduated from high school in 1977.  I am sure my experience would have been much different. 

Still, I imagined the college life inside my head.  I fantasized about a college life that would look like the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah lives of the co-eds in my novels.  I saw myself going away to college, developing a life away from the safety net of my familiar surroundings and loving parents.  Growing up in Southern California, I dreamed of going to a school someplace that had seasons where I would wear crisp wool skirts and sweaters when classes started in the fall, see snow blanket the campus under the sharp winter night, join hordes of rollicking students welcoming spring relaxing under the warm sun on the quad, and happily go home for a refuel each summer.  I craved history and charm.  I did not necessarily think of an Ivy League School, but I did want a school that oozed history and tradition.  I did not want to go to a mid-century “living better electrically” university.  I would not go to an “education factory.” I would go to a college where education was a fine art. 

As the time approached for me to apply to colleges, somehow all my fantasies deserted me. For some reason, I never thought I could make my fantasies a reality.  In looking back now, I think there was every chance I could have done so.  My grades were excellent.  I had reasonable SAT scores.  I participated in the speech club, girls service club, high school newspaper, and Junior Achievement.  I came from a solidly middle class, blue color family.  My parents made enough money to live comfortably, but I was afraid that the cost of educating me at a private college where I would need to be a resident would be beyond their grasp.  I never asked and I still do not know if they would have been able to help me.  I did have a part-time job in my last year of high school, although I did not make much money.  I could have paid for part of the cost.  I also could have applied for grants and loans.  My parents believed it would be impossible for me to get financial aid because they were in a sandwich economic bracket- not wealthy enough to afford a “fancy” college education and too well off for me to qualify for financial aid.  Today, I am not so sure that would have been true, especially if I had gone to a more expensive institute of higher education. 

I also worried about leaving home. I wondered if I was confident and mature and worldly enough to hold my own in college lecture classes of 100 students, much less live an independent life.  Now, I know that most graduating seniors feel the same way.   College does not necessarily require that one already have these confidence, maturity, and worldliness skills.  In fact, college is the place many young people acquire them.

Whatever the reason, finances or maturity, I did not achieve my dream of going away to college.  I spent two years at the neighborhood community colleges, completing most of my general education classes and earning an AA degree.  The man I eventually married called it “high school with ash trays.”  I continued to work while attending classes.  When I finished there, I transferred to a local commuter college about 15 miles from the home where I lived with my family.  Four years and about $2000 (all in) later, I proudly graduated.  I had my degree. I had set myself up to move respectably into a stable government job.  I had a bachelor’s degree, but I do not think I can say I really had the “college experience.” 

Years past.  I married immediately after graduation.  I did well on my job.  While just scraping by in the early years, I could take care of myself and my husband financially.  I continued to progress in my career.  I received promotions and pay raises.  Eventually, Congress passed a federal pay reform act that resulted in me being quite well-paid.  I bought a tiny condominium in southern California.  I retired with a nice pension, sold my condo at a great profit, and bought my sweet little house here in Florida. 

My career also provided me with enough money to take vacations.  Over the course of the years, I visited Williamsburg, VA several times.  My parents spent their honeymoon there and we stopped there when driving across country for a family wedding when I was about twelve.  I went once on my own as an adult.  Max and I have been there three or four times.  I love the place.  On the first trip Max and I took, I realized that the College of William of Mary (where we spent a good deal of time on that trip) was the college or my fantasies.  That was the campus that exemplified the college experience my novels described. 

Now, I cannot really go back and start my college days over again.  I would not even want to do that.  However, in retirement I have been busy thinking about how I can capture some of what I would have wanted from that experience.  I did some research and found out that William and Mary has something called the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  It offers a wide variety of limited time classes for people (aimed at the senior citizen population but open to anyone) who just want to learn “stuff.”  Because of COVID, their offerings have been done through Zoom and other distance learning platforms this past year.  This allowed me the opportunity to participate.  For the price of $135, one could sign up for as many as eight classes in the semester.  I got a bit of a late start and some of the courses that drew my attention were full when I registered, but I did sign up for two classes during the spring semester.  This involved 4 sessions and added up to about 8 hours of instruction.  It was terrific!  It was so good, I am continuing this summer.  The summer session is even less expensive, and I have four classes I will be taking. 

Last month, when Max and I were in Williamsburg, we walked around the campus again and I felt such a sense of connection.  It was so indescribably satisfying.  In the bookstore, there was a small stuffed bear in a graduation gown inscribed with the William and Mary logo.  Max kept pushing me to bring the bear home with me.  I resisted, insisting that I did not qualify to have the bear because I was only an “adjunct” student and certainly not a graduate.  A few days after we got home, a neighbor came to our door to deliver a package that had been erroneously left on his porch.  I opened the box and “Wilma” the bear was inside. 

Sometimes, some facet of fantasy gets so enrooted in your soul, it qualifies as reality.

What event or decision in your life would you want to revisit and experience the road not taken the first time?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a regret-free day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Liberal Minded

A little while back, I spent a couple of weeks waxing poetic about the power and diversity of the human brain.  It is an interesting topic to ponder.  I like discovering how the creativity and diversity God gave us can combust in amazing ways.  That chemical reaction of creativity and diversity can produce explosive results- both productive and destructive.  Humans are powerful and unique creatures… by intentional design, I believe.  God intended we would combine our miraculous minds to do wonderful things.  Unfortunately, sometimes those miraculous minds do terrible things with just as much power and creativity.  That is where that pesky “free will” thing comes into play. 

While all the meanderings of my powerful and creative mind may be absolutely fascinating (at least to me), I know someone is likely to raise the question, “but what does any of this have to do with retirement?”  After all, dear Terri, you call this bit of literary fluff a “retirement lifestyle blog.”  You even call it “Terri LaBonte: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.”  Haven’t you wandered a little far afield?

I think these are fair questions.  However, I do have a few appropriate responses.  Of course I do.  Why would I have raised them if I did not?

First of all, the blog has been wandering off the “retirement” trail for years.  There are six words in the name of the blog.  Terri. LaBonte. Reinventing. Myself. In. Retirement.  The first four still apply.  The blog, as self-involved as it may seem, is all about me, so the Terri LaBonte bit still fits.  As for “Reinventing Myself,” I feel like I do that every day.  I am, at the very least, “rediscovering myself.” 

Secondly, I think the only way I would have time to think these great or not so great thoughts is to be retired from working for a living.  Self-discovery and philosophical musings, as entertaining as they are, did not fill a slot in my Franklin planner when I was working.  Days seem to move along almost without any kind of thought whatsoever.  So many times, I would cry out (at least on the inside, but often on the outside as well), “Could someone please just stop the earth from turning on its axis for just a few minutes so I can reorganize my brain?” My lungs certainly worked differently in those days.  I inhaled frequent, tiny, shallow nibbles of air to keep me operational while saving precious seconds of time I might have expended feasting on oxygen. Nowadays, my diaphragm relaxes, and I feel my lungs fill with air on a regular, steady basis.   Sometimes, when I get too wrapped up in my post-retirement activities, I can feel my lungs starting to ration air again and I know it is time to slow myself down- something I could never do in my working life.

I think my brain operates similarly.  When I was working, I was so harried and so busy and so time starved. Small, practical, critical thoughts might ooze from my tightly disciplined brain when I squeezed my mind hard enough, but there was nothing free-flowing, organic, or invigorating about thinking.  Now that retirement gives me time, my brain relaxes and wanders off on its own.  Sometimes, I think some satisfying thoughts.  And sometimes, I am just silly.  Either way shows a certain delight with myself that was missing in my work life.

The third reason I think that sharing thoughts not necessarily about life in retirement is appropriate for a retirement lifestyle blog has to do with how one is conditioned.  When I was working, not only did I not have a lot of spare time to network with the uniqueness of my mental disposition, but I also found that my job required that my brain behave in a certain way.  I will not say that creativity and individual talent had no place in my career.  I think they did.  I will say, though, that I learned early on that the creativity and individual talent is best received when presented in an employer-shaped box tied up with agency-colored ribbons.  My agency, like most corporate, hierarchical entities, did not value brains that wandered wildly.  When a brain sits in a box for too long, it is apt to stay there until someone opens the package.

One of the sweetest things about retirement is that one’s mind becomes one’s own.   When we walk out the door of our workplace, our employer hands us back that brain in a box.   We have the time to open the package and we have the freedom to do so.  We can even throw the package away.  Since retirement, I am often able to let my mind behave as it wishes.  For me, that means thinking and exploring and creating in ways I never could have when I was earning my living as a brain-for-hire. 

So maybe “Terri LaBonte:  Reinventing Myself In Retirement” is not exactly the best name anymore.  Maybe I should reinvent the title of the blog.  Maybe, from now on, I should call it “Terri LaBonte And Her Liberated Brain.”

So, what do you think?  Should I change the name of the blog?  How have your mental processes changed since retirement?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a liberated day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Shot Down

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out over the country, I knew that I would not be in the first group eligible to receive it.  Max was, but I am almost a decade younger than he is.  I also knew, based on the stories all my friends were telling, that getting a spot in the vaccine lottery was a crap shoot.  I had friends who waited hours in line only to be told that there was no more vaccines availability that day.  I had friends who wandered from vaccine center to vaccine center, like Mary and Joseph looking for room at the inn.  I was lucky in that I was able to get Max an appointment online for both his vaccine doses at the same time.  It meant having to drive 35 miles each way to the next county for both doses, but it was worth it. 

There were several problems with the vaccine distribution in the beginning.  First, the vaccine became available the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  That is kind of a recipe for administrative disaster in and of itself.  No one, of course, would even consider holding off the vaccine distributions for a week.  We had been waiting so long that everyone was committed to slogging through whatever process management sludge existed to begin getting shots in arms. 

The state of Florida probably should have had a better system in place when the vaccines started arriving.  I believe that there was a lot of preparation and decision-making about how to handle the distribution, especially about establishing priorities.  We all knew who was going to be first up to bat.  I even believe there was a lot of planning as to logistics, but that planning was not “just in time.”  Because no one knew how many vaccines were coming when, no one could really staff and open the vaccine appointment phone lines and vaccine centers immediately when the vaccines crossed state lines. Therefore, when vaccines arrived and authorities rushed to get people immunized, there was no clear process in place yet.  Other than the parameters set up for the “who’s first?” decision, everything else was pretty random.   I think we could have done a better job of setting up the infrastructure so that when it was “go time,” the grab ‘em and stab ‘em processes could start functioning immediately.  Someone should have been building a web-based appointment scheduling system as quickly as someone was working on a vaccine.

I will say that I was impressed with the immediacy with which Florida jumped into the jabbing.  It was certainly confusing and frustrating and upsetting to all the people playing musical vaccine centers in the beginning, but Florida clearly prioritized getting the job done even if it the process was ugly.  Also, the people staffing the sites have been consistently amazing.  Everyone I know sings the praises of every person with whom they interacted.   When we went to get Max’s vaccines, the atmosphere was far from harried or stressful.  Despite all the bruhaha involved in the scheduling process, the workers seemed unflappable, friendly, and calm.  In fact, there was almost a party vibe in the auditorium. 

Finally, as vaccine supplies stabilized and distribution increased, it was time for me to schedule my immunization.  I had registered to “save my place in line” when that option first became available, long before I was eligible for a shot.  I never thought that would work.  However, as soon as my number came up, I was able to go online and schedule an appointment in a location about 8 miles from our house.  I also received several calls from the nice people at the Florida Health Department to make sure I had an appointment.  I was somewhat concerned because the system only permitted an appointment for my first dose, but the fact that the contact system seemed to work heartened me.

When the day came for my first shot, I marched into the abandoned Sears building and proffered my arm as a target.  I have been saying all along that I was not particularly worried about getting the novel coronavirus myself.  My fears were more social than personal health oriented.  Weirdly, though, when the needle went into my arm for that first shot, I had a huge feeling of lightness and relief.  I don’t know if I was more scared than I thought I was.  It was probably just a relief that there was this very tangible sign that the world’s focus is taking a detour off the highway to “survival mode” and exiting via the offramp to “normal life.”  Whatever it was, it has been a rougher year on my psyche than I knew.  Experiencing the vaccine process was such a clear glimpse of a path forward, it gave me a lot of joy.  We are not “there” yet when it comes to “normal life,” but the vaccine showed us that there is a way to get “there.”  I just hoped that the system would work, and I would be able to get an appointment for dose two without significant Divine intervention.

A day or so after my first shot, I had a mild reaction.  I was lethargic and tired. My arm hurt.  I never had a real fever.  My temperature typically runs low, and it did go up a couple of degrees.   It was so not a big deal.  I only mention it because it was noticeable.  The reaction stopped within 36 hours.

The contact system worked, and I got a call for my second dose a few days before it was due.  I made an appointment and confidently scooted down to the abandoned Sears.  I was anticipating some sort of reaction because I heard the second dose was usually worse than the first and I did have SOME reaction to the first.

After the second dose, which did seem to sting a bit more going in than the first one, I sat in the waiting area waiting to explode for the requisite fifteen minutes.  During that fifteen minutes, I congratulated myself for completing the process.  My goal had been to get both doses before our planned trip to Williamsburg on April 17.  I met my goal.  Even though I was not going to have my full two-week incubation period after the second shot, I felt comfortable that I was well protected before getting on the airplane.  Mostly, I was just glad that I was done and wouldn’t have to play “Stalk the Vaccine” anymore.  When I did not spontaneously combust after the requisite fifteen minutes, I walked out of the vaccine stockade with a smug spring in my step. 

It turns out…. I was not done.  Not by a longshot.  An hour or so after dose two, I began to feel the familiar tiredness.  I could barely keep my head upright.  My neck seemed to be liquifying.  My arm was killing me.  I went home and tried icing my arm, which did not seem to help much.  I also kept ingesting water like it was going to stop coming out of the tap.  As the day progressed, I began to feel crummier, but I had expected the reaction.  I was not alarmed.  I just went to bed early, believing I would feel better in the morning. 

And I did.  When I got up the next day, I did not feel great, but I did feel better.  I felt more tenderness and sensitivity than actual pain.  At first.  By midday, I was officially trashed.  Every place on body that could hurt did hurt- every bone, every muscle, every joint, every molecule.  I tried to stay as still as I possibly could because moving in any way caused shooting pains somewhere.  I also had a massive headache.  Any cognitive ability I ever had was long gone.  I mostly sat wrapped in an afghan in a recliner and stared stupidly into space. My arm hurt, but that was almost a non-issue, given that I hurt EVERYWHERE.  Still, when Max felt my shot arm and then felt my other arm, it was abundantly clear that shot arm was living in a different climate than the other one.  The injection site was hot to the touch.  When evening came, I checked my temperature.  I had a fever of 101 degrees, which is about four degrees above my normal temperature.

The next morning, it was like a miracle.  I still had some vague achiness, and my arm was still protesting loudly, but I felt so much better.  I still cannot say I am completely done, as my arm still hurts from time to time, three weeks later.  I know I am getting there, though.

They say that reactions mean that the vaccine is working properly.  I must have some exceptionally talented immunity builders in my physiology.  I am certain I have some pretty kick-ass antibodies running around my bloodstream about now!

Have you received your COVID vaccine yet? If not, why not? If so, what kind of reaction did you have? My reaction was unpleasant, but certainly less unpleasant than getting COVID. It does feel great to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem!

Have an immune day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Wayback Wednesday- Mission To Marry Part Two

This post continues the story of my quest for love and marriage that I started last week.  I recommend that you read last week’s post ( Wayback Wednesday- Mission To Marry (Part One) – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement ) first. In full disclosure, I wrote this essay 10 years ago, so specific facts (for instance, ages, shared life experiences, etc.) are no longer accurate.

The realization that it was okay if I ended a relationship because the man just was not the person I wanted did nothing to stop my search for love and marriage.  I took a moment to remind myself that I wanted more than a husband.  I also wanted happiness.  Then, I decided to up my game.  I attended an adult education class called “How To Meet The Right Person.” At the end of the class, I signed up for private lessons from the instructor.  Imagine!  I was plunking down $75 a week for private tutoring in the art of meeting people who might like the real me and I might be able to enjoy without twisting my personality into a pretzel.

My dating guru suggest some strategies and gave me some assignments.  He even set me up on some “practice dates” with other clients.  In one situation, he sat at a nearby table and gave us feedback about our presentation and dating skills.  I almost expected one of those electronic score boards that you see in the Olympics.  At any minute, I figured a blinking “2.1” would come up on the wall in the restaurant to tell the whole world how far away I was from a perfect “10”.)   It was all incredibly stressful and emotionally draining.  I was still experiencing all these situations as me trying to fix myself to be good enough for this man rather than realizing I was supposed to be deciding if this man was good enough for me.

Just as I was summoning courage to discontinue my private dating lessons and cut off the guru’s $75 per week, he made one last suggestion.  He mentioned a singles dance he thought I might attend.  The event was what I referred to as “the pudgy people’s dance.”  It was sponsored by an organization that celebrated women with “more ample” figures.  I was little skeptical and, to be honest, more than a little horrified that the “secret” that I am overweight was out of the bag.  Still, I told myself, if I was going to pay this guy $75 a week, I should at least try to get my money’s worth. 

The night of the dance, I entered the room tentatively.  Within minutes, I was surrounded by gentlemen of all sizes, ethnicities, and ages asking me to dance.  I relaxed.  I had fun.  I talked to people.  I set down my worries about not being good enough, since this bunch seemed to think I was plenty good enough.  I stopped trying to be the woman trying to attract a husband and started being one of the gang. 

That night, I met a wonderful man.  A man who, specifically, is wonderful for me.  We both loved movies and had some of the same favorites.  We both loved Las Vegas.  We both enjoyed some of the same music.  We both had similar religious values.  We both were financially sound.  We both had successful lives with career, family, and friends.  We each had interests that we did not hold in common at the time, but that we could grow to enjoy together in the future. We were both wildly attracted to each other. 

It has been almost 16 years since that night.  We are still together.  Between us, we have lost three parents since we met, weathered illnesses and surgery, gone through job changes, and shared the sorrow of saying good-by to my elderly welsh corgi.  We work well together as a team and we play so joyfully that I cannot imagine how my world would keep moving should he not be in it.  He moved into my tiny, one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo nine years ago.  He has filled every inch of that small space with love. 

No, I still do not have the husband for whom I worked so hard.  I suppose you could say that my mission to marry has been a failure.  Now and again, there are times- when I watch a wedding on TV, or a friend gets married, or I am feeling a bit “not lovable enough to marry”- when I still dream of a proposal and of a wedding.  After all, if nothing else, there is something kinda ludicrous about calling a man your boyfriend when you are 52 years old and the “boy” in question is 60. 

More often, though, I understand that my mission to marry didn’t really fail.  Sometimes, on a mission, you do not accomplish what you wanted, but you do accomplish what you needed.  I may not have the husband, but there is no doubt in my mind that I have the happiness.

What are your thoughts?  Have you also experienced a “mission to marry?”  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a HAPPY day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

PS   For those of you who want to receive automated email notifications every time I post new content, please read Bonus Blog from yesterday.  I think I’ve figured out how to fix the glitch. 

Bonus Blog

For those of you who have been waiting with baited breathe for the second installment of Wayback Wednesday- Mission To Marry, I’ll be publishing that tomorrow morning. I wanted to try a little experiment today to see if I could bring my technological wanderings back into line.

Awhile back, I noticed that I was not getting the regular automated email reminders when I posted new content. I did not think too much about it. I figured it was something just with me, as I often get lost in techno-hell. However, in the last week, two of you wonderful readers have approached me with the same question. You are not receiving the automated notifications that there is another serving of Terri waiting for you in the blogosphere. Can’t have that. What gives?

I have spent many hours trying to figure this out. I have failed. I still do not know what gives. I do not know why my push notification feature pushed itself right out of my wordpress account (or is it jetpack?- I have a hard time telling what does what and which password goes with which- I do suffer for my art.) That is the bad news. The good news is I think I have found a tool to fix the problem or at least let me start the subscription service from scratch.

I know that there are about 30 of you who were receiving automated notification under whatever old system has abandoned us. If you get a notification when I post this piece, we are golden. If not, it looks like my workaround will mean you will need to resubscribe if you want to receive those notifications.

For anyone who did not previously subscribe for notifications and for those of you who did, but are not getting them now, there is a pretty easy way to get on board. There is a box to subscribe at the side of the homepage (under the long list of months since the beginning of the blog) if you are on a computer or at the very bottom of the scrolling on the homepage (if you are on a phone.) Please just include your email in the space provided. You will receive an email asking you to confirm your intentions. Once you click on that, you should be in business.

Thank you for your support and patience! Love you!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Did it work? Could some of you let me know if you received the notification?