Commemorating And Celebrating

Someone once said that you should do at least one thing that scares you every day. As we approach Halloween, it strikes me that I did a very scary thing last Saturday.

Last Saturday, I celebrated the launch of my newest book. Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go is the story of my mother. It is the story of a woman who made her own choices and built her own joy. It is the story of my relationship with her. It is the story of maturation and change. It is the story of relationship, aging, support, and grief. It is the story of living with loss. This book is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It exposes the most tender parts of me. As part of the event, I planned to read a chapter from the book. The thought terrified me.

I thought my anxiety and nerves and general busyness in preparation for the event had to do with worry over things like having the right amount of food, the right flowers, and a good internet connection for Zoom. I did notice that the overplanning and overworry turmoil that I have worked so hard to overcome with my life coach came roaring back over the week prior to the launch party. As I journaled out my feelings, I could sense the pitch squeaking ever higher and the volume shrieking ever louder until I reached a crescendo on Thursday evening. I texted my little group of helpers with a minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow schedule of what I expected to happen on Friday and Saturday. I had my furniture set-up, my decoration set-up, my cake delivery, my food and drink presentation, the Zoom initiation, my welcome, my reading, the door prizes, the toast, the cake, and book sales all slotted into convenient artificial timeslots. It was clear to me that I was certifiable. My friends were charitable enough to ignore the insanity and just follow the plan to the best of their ability.

Everything turned out beautifully. Just as I knew in some deep, dark, muted place in my brain- there was no need to sweat the small stuff. However, sweating the small stuff enabled me to avoid thinking about the big stuff.

Reading a piece from my book that discussed a facet of my mother’s long journey towards death was the big stuff. The book is me. The emotions are mine. The longing and the wistfulness I experienced at the time the incident in the piece happened is still blistering, even though the incident happened over five years ago. As I read the words I wrote, my voice broke, and the terror monsters kicked the inside of my gut with cleated feet. I had difficulty looking up from the page of swimming words. In some ways, I felt like my audience did not exist. I was reading for myself- as if I had not already written and felt the words. In other ways, I was acutely aware of the audience. I knew they were prepared to love my work, but I also knew they might hate it.

A few days later, with Todd’s help, I realized that my panic before the party and the piercing emotions during the party had nothing to do with the food or the flowers or any of that silly stuff. It had to do with my very unsilly fear of rejection. The way I write, the way I feel, and the way I conduct my relationships pretty much defines me. As I offered my words, my love, and my relationship with my mother to this group of people, I was asking them to accept who I am. The people listening could very easily have said no. Intellectually, I realized that it was unlikely that the people in the room listening to me would reject me. After all, I’d stacked the deck. The people who came to the party love me and accepted me long ago. They would not have come otherwise. However, a huge part of the scarred heart I carry around in my chest was sure this was going to be the time when those people did reject me. My brain occupied itself with silly stuff as the party approached out of fear that the party guests and other readers would decide that I was the silly stuff.

Nobody thought I was the silly stuff. I think the people listening were genuinely moved. I think people who came from far and near believed the time they invested in the launch event was time well spent. Even more importantly, I felt it was time well spent. I commemorated my mother with some people who knew her and introduced her to the people who love me but never got to know my mom. I dedicated my book to everyone who loved my mother and everyone who loved me. That would include all the people in the room on Saturday. We commemorated the woman my mother was on Saturday, and we celebrated the woman I am becoming.

Celebrate you today!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go is available on Amazon in kindle and paperback editions. If you would like to purchase a signed copy, please contact me at and I will arrange to send you one. The cost would be $15, plus $4 shipping.

Disney By The Decade Part 3

This week, we have the exciting conclusion of my Disney story!

The 2000s

From the time I met Max, I would say, “Someday we are going to go to Disney World in Florida. When I retire, we are going to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We are going to stay at a deluxe hotel, eat at a character meal, and do everything I’ve always wanted to do.” He would smile indulgently and repeat, “Someday.” When he moved in with me in 2002, his tune changed. In a good way. When I started my oft-told tale about my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney World, he stopped me and said, “Why are we waiting until you retire? Why don’t we go now?”  Max is the epitome of planned spontaneity and carefully controlled adventure. The fact that he would suggest such an idea was almost blasphemous- but appealing.

Not that we just went all bananacake and packed our bags immediately. We spent a year planning our trip- planned spontaneity and carefully controlled adventure. I produced a spreadsheet, using two different guidebooks to schedule parks, rides, shows, meals, and other “must-dos.” I had a list of level B attractions to fill in time in case we had a moment to spare. We researched the different Disney hotels and initially booked a package that included a room with a view of grazing giraffes and zebras from our balcony. In the year-long planning process, another package became available that was $1200 cheaper, but had us staying at the Yacht Club. This was my sole concession to price for this trip. I mourned the loss a little bit when I made the change, but it turned out that the Yacht Club was the absolute best choice because… location, location, location. We could walk to Epcot, which we did almost daily.

One of the things I learned on that first trip to Disney World is that there really is magic there. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2001. I was fastidious about watching my diet and testing my blood regularly. I forgot what it felt like to be full. On Christmas, I allowed myself one square of Dove chocolate, which felt like a religious experience. At Disney World, it turned out I could eat anything I wanted. I kept testing my blood and finding it was low, so could just keep eating a pretzel, ice cream, or other food-like substance I had not ingested in two years. Some people would probably argue that my newfound food freedom was more about the miles and miles I walked each day rather than magic, but I’m sticking with the pixie dust story.

I’ve never been very good at “once in a lifetime.” Max and I ended up making three more trips from California to Florida to visit Disney World during the first decade of the new millennium.

The 2010s

In 2012, Max and I began thinking about retirement. We knew we probably wanted to move out of Southern California. We discussed several possible destinations but kept coming back to central Florida. Truthfully, having spent so much of my life in Disneyland’s backyard, I thought my DNA might unravel if I moved too far away from a Disney park. When we looked into the idea more carefully, we found that there were many attractive benefits to moving to Florida. The biggest one is that I could buy a three-bedroom, 2 bathroom detached 1500 square foot detached house with a garage for $50,000 less than what my 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 650 square foot condo in California would be worth on the open sales market.  I poked around on the internet and found a central Florida real estate agent who used to live about 90 miles from my home in California. Max and I decided to take a trip to Disney World (he twisted my arm… not) and add on a couple of days to drive 45 miles north of Orlando to Lake County to look at some houses.

Some people go to Disney World and buy a t-shirt. I bought a house.

I retired in October of 2014. We moved to central Florida to live in my pretty little house at the beginning of December. It was quite the whirlwind. By New Year’s Eve, we had annual passes to Disney World and had already created some skid marks on them. We began a flurry of years doing Disney in ways I had only imagined before- seeing the Candlelight Processional at Epcot at Christmastime, wandering a park for just a few hours before getting tired and going home because we knew we could come back any time, resort-hopping at Christmas and Easter to see the special decorations,  taking advantage of special festival opportunities like learning to make paper art with a Disney artist and creating an abstract spin picture by riding a bicycle, buying Disney merchandise for a 20-30% discount. I was sad when we left Disney property in 2012 when we went to look at houses. Max asked me why and I explained that, if we bought a house nearby, we wouldn’t be staying at Disney ever again. He patiently pointed out to me that living 40 miles away did not mean that we could not spend the night at the House of Mouse occasionally. So, we did.

In February of 2015, two months after we moved to Florida, I went back to California to pack up my mother and move her to a mobile home park near our new home. This was a huge transition for all of us. My mother’s health had been deteriorating for some time, but she still led a busy, fulfilling life in California. I was determined to make up for what she was leaving by providing as much fun and amusement as I could. For my mother, that meant two things- endless trips to Walmart and regular excursions to Disney. I pushed her around the parks and pointed out small details that most people would miss, especially people riding in a wheelchair. One of my happiest Disney memories with her was going to the Osborne Family Light Spectacular. It was jaw-dropping. As I inched her through layers and layers of crowds, I did not even mind the lack of personal space. The look on her face was worth every jostle, every recapture of momentum, and every whiff of smoke and body odor. To cap off the evening, we bought t-shirts to proclaim that the Osborne Family Light Spectacular was a wrap, and we were there. We bought popcorn in souvenir buckets in the shape of Mickey Mouse wearing an elf costume. Elf Mickey still stands guard outside my front door every Christmas season. Perfect night.

After my mother died in 2017, Max and I made a trip to Epcot during the Flower and Garden festival. During the festival, Disney erects giant topiaries of favorite characters. I wanted to sprinkle some of her ashes by the Tinker Bell topiary. There is also always a butterfly garden. In 2017, the butterfly habit was called the “Butterfly Garden of Goodness.” I could not think of any place more appropriate to leave a little bit of my beautiful mother- Dorothy Goodness- than with the butterflies in the garden that I decided was named for her. All of this ash-scattering was highly illegal and carried a minimum penalty of Disney shunning, but I did not care. Some things are just worth the risk.

The 2020s

Disney in the time of COVID was certainly a new take on things. It was a microcosm of the rest of the world. For someone who did not know life without Disney parks in it, I could not conceive that Disney actually closed the gates even after reading it several times. It just seemed so shocking. I do not overstate when I say it felt like the world might actually come to an end. Churches could close and live stream services. Children could stay home from school and learn remotely. Employees could begin a whole new era of telecommuting. Disney, however, is just such a visceral, here experience. On one day-  March 16, 2020- the world got quieter, sadder, and lonelier.

In September, Max and I attended a special preview reopening for annual passholders. Despite the possible risk, I really wanted to go. I wanted to see the creativity with which the Disney cooperation devised distancing and other safety protocols. I wanted to see what activities were still operational. I wanted to feel something normal again. I just wanted to see my happy place. When we arrived, there was a weird quiet in the air- there were so many fewer people even in the parking lot. There was almost no hustle and bustle. The brave souls who did venture into the park that day seemed to be navigating cautiously and tentatively- almost as if they were trying not to breathe. The paths to the entrance were lined, at appropriate social distances, with masked cast members waving their Mickey-gloved hands at us. They were beaming and shouting “welcome back.” It had something of the flavor of those old movies where the grateful townspeople cheer the returning heroic soldiers who have saved their village from invasion.

The eerie quietness we noticed in the parking lot did follow us throughout the day. Never in my life have I been to Disney with so few people around me. We could walk on nearly all the rides. The queue areas were designed with social distancing in mind. That sounds easy enough, but it was actually a pretty complicated feat with the way Disney lines wrap around. It was a fun game to see if we could figure out the reasons for seemingly random stretches of empty space clearly exceeding six feet.

We attended this quasi-reopening knowing that certain elements, like parades and character meet-and-greets, would not be available. That did not stop Disney from throwing in a few surprises. As we came out of Starbuck’s, Tinker Bell was riding down the road on a huge treasure chest!  She sat atop the treasure chest, clearly socially distant from everyone, waving her wand and laughing. Because there were so few people in the park, it was easy to see her, and it was easy for her to see individuals. She pointed down at me and giggled. I was wearing a t-shirt depicting a huge Tinker Bell wearing a mask with the word QUARANTINED! brazened across it. She called down to me and made a heart with her hands. She spoke directly to me, and I trailed along next to the float like some sort of Neverland stalker. I did not need for her to stand next to me or hug me. I was a member of her posse.

During that first year of the pandemic, I was able to reach a milestone. In the days of Disney desolation, I was able to go on every ride I wanted to experience that I had not been able to because of crowds pre-COVID.

When restrictions loosened and people began feeling more comfortable navigating the outside world during the pandemic, crowds returned to Disney. Did they ever. I swear that everyone who stayed locked in their homes for 12-18 months decided all at once to go back to the World. It is rare to find six inches of personal space much less six feet.

Recently, in 2022, my brother died. He had always said he wanted his ashes scattered in the river at the jungle cruise ride. Always a little bitter that I moved away from California and took our mother with me, he stipulated “and not in fuckin’ Florida, either… I want to be scattered on the jungle cruise ride at DISNEYLAND.” I made a quick trip back to California and spent about $400 on admission and parking so my sister-in-law, step niece, and I could go into Disneyland to do this one activity. We were successful in our mission and my brother is now relishing his view of the back side of water.

Everyone has various frameworks for their lives. We see the events of our lives from different angles, with different cropping.  I will not say that Disney is the only framework of my life, but it is certainly one of them. It is not that Disney reflects my life. It is more that my life, over the decades, reflects how I view Disney.

I offer these musings to those who scoff at people like me and say that Disney is not “real life.” I beg to differ. Disney might not always be a fairy tale, but I am human evidence that Disney life is most certainly real life.

Have a pixie-dusted day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMINDER: The launch party for my new book, Puppies, Guppies and Letting Go, is THIS Saturday! The party is scheduled from 3-5pm on 10/22/22. If you are local to Leesburg, Florida (or even if you are not and feel like exerting a huge effort- I’m looking at you Bob and Judy!) and can attend in person, we will be getting together at the St. James Episcopal Church parish hall at 204 N. Lee Street in Leesburg. If you want to join by Zoom, you can click this link:

If you are not able to attend, you will be able to purchase the book in paperback and/or kindle edition on Amazon starting Saturday.

Disney By The Decade- Part 2

Let’s pick up where we left off last week…

The 1970s

A lot of kids start outgrowing their Disney affinity when they turn ten or eleven. Not so for me… but then I continued to believe in Santa Claus until I was twelve by sheer force of will.

I remember waiting in line to ride the Matterhorn with my father. Neither my mother nor my brother was ever interested in schussing down a fake mountain in a toboggan-on-a-track. My father certainly wanted to schuss with the best of them but would not take the time to go on his own unless someone else in the family wanted to go. I am not sure if I could say I really wanted to go on the ride, but I did want to please my father. The idea of doing it intrigued me and I usually did have a good time when I took the plunge. It was the waiting in line that was the killer. As I stood in the long line with my daddy, the anxiety would start to mount in my belly. The trick was to see if I could get to the front of the line before the mounting anxiety rose beyond my vocal cords. Usually, I managed to hang on and make it to the toboggan. Sometimes, when the line was a little too long, the anxiety beat me to the finish line. It transformed itself into a protest and leaked out of my mouth. My father was never very happy to have waited in line, only to take his fraidy-cat daughter back to her mother.

In 1976, Disney was reimagining their parade to embrace a bicentennial theme. There would be special dancers, new floats, and people with huge bobble-heads of revolutionary characters roaming down the route. We learned at school that Disney was holding open auditions for parade cast members one Saturday. This seemed like the Holy Grail of summer jobs for 16-year-old me. I went to audition. Somehow, it never occurred to me that I was not exactly physically suited to a job as a dancer. I was short, stocky and would certainly never fit into any costumes Disney manufactured. In those days, companies- including and maybe especially Disney- only hired girls who were a size 12 or smaller. I did not even make the first cut.

It was just as well because I ended up spending most of that bicentennial summer with the first boy to break my heart. I had been writing to a pen pal in Scotland for several years. We had a plan. He was going to spend the summer of 1976 with my family.  Then, I would spend the summer after my high school graduation in 1977 visiting him in Scotland and touring Europe with him. We, of course, went to Disneyland when he was here. He understood the magic right away. He could not stop exclaiming about how wonderful it all was. The only thing that put him off was the screaming children. He said to me, “Children in Scotland would never behave like this. They would be so happy to be here, they would never dream of crying or screaming or throwing a tantrum.” I told him that I doubted very much that the children in Scotland were much different from the children in the United States. A napless three-year-old child standing through shimmering heat in one line after another is liable to cry and scream and tantrum, regardless of their nationality. Hungry, thirsty, tired, overstimulated children are hungry, thirsty, tired, overstimulate children everywhere. We agreed to disagree. After my pen pal went home, I never heard from him again. I do not blame Disney, however.

My school participated in Grad Night at Disneyland in June of 1977. I had a date for the event, which was huge news. The grad night date was my third date ever, not counting the Summer of Pen Pal, which was not so much dating as providing free touring service. The problem was I did not want a date for the event. I had recently met the man that I would end up marrying. I had been on exactly one date with him, but I did not have the social skills or maturity of perspective to understand how to navigate the process. My grad night date was relentless in trying to get me to agree to go with him to the event. I finally said yes, but I spent the entire lead up to the evening and the evening itself feeling intrinsically uncomfortable because it felt like I was betraying this other fellow who barely knew I was alive at the time. I ended up asking the bus driver to drop me off at my house, which was right on the way back to the school from Disneyland. I told my date that I could save him the trouble of taking me home. In retrospect, I was awful. I wish I had been much nicer to my grad night date. I wish I had opened the door of my heart to him rather than my eventual husband. He would have been a much more satisfactory partner.

The 1980s

The 1980s were my years of poverty, so my Disney experiences were limited in that decade. I graduated from college in 1981 and nearly immediately married my brand-new husband who needed brand-new food every brand-new day. My husband was a full-time graduate student and I worked at an entry level government job. Disneyland was not in the budget for most of the decade.  However, in that first year of the decade and the last year of the decade, Disneyland created some light in my life.

My mother purchased Disneyland New Year’s Eve party tickets for my fiancé and me the December that 1980 gave way to 1981. She said she wanted to know I was safe. I think she meant that she wanted to know that I wasn’t drinking, driving on the streets with the drunks, or getting pregnant.

My husband suddenly decided to leave me one day in February of 1988.  He moved out of our apartment to “think about things” and never came back except to pick up his things when my mother served him with divorce papers. He gave me no reason for leaving beyond cruel, hurtful indictments of my physical appearance and general lack of appeal.

Thus entered a crucible season of my life. It took me a long time to heal from the abandonment, but it took even longer to heal from the marriage. It took me awhile to realize the best thing the man ever did for me was to leave me. While I was in the process of figuring all this out, I found a financial windfall in an emotionally bankrupt time in my life. My small salary no longer had to stretch to feed another mouth, maintain a second car, or in any way support anyone but myself. I bought myself an annual pass to Disneyland. I spent many, many mournful but satisfying evenings walking around the park. I went on rides sometimes, but, basically, I just walked and enjoyed public anonymity. Living by myself, the silence at home was sometimes too much even for the hermit I was then. If I went to Disneyland, I could hear noise, laughter, and conversation but did not have to be responsible for any of it.

The 1990s

In the 1990s, I began to grow into the adult version of myself. I began to move away from the demolition of my divorce. I began trying to create something new out of the rubble. The “something new” was not what I ever wanted or imagined it would be, but I could certainly create something more elegant than that sad, ghost sort of a person roaming the sidewalks of Disneyland alone. I adopted a dog. I bought a condominium. I invested in my career. The 90s were my own personal “me” generation.

About halfway through the decade, I met the love of my life. Max and I met in November of 1995. Very soon after we met, we spent a day at Disneyland. We both had some Disneyland nostalgia stored away in our brains. I don’t think our memories exactly meshed, but there was enough emotional fabric for us to knit a bond out of our Disney perceptions. Max had two weeks of vacation each year- one week in April and one week in October. Our tradition was to spend a day at Disneyland during his October vacation every year. He enjoyed Disney, but he enjoyed me enjoying Disney even more. One day he said to me, “How many other 50-year-old boyfriends would spend 45 minutes waiting in line to hang out with Tinker Bell?” Disneyland showed me that I am lovable and loved.

Do you have a magical Disney moment? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a magical day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Disney By The Decade- Part One

Today begins a three-part series on my life reflected in Disney park experiences. It is a little experiment in navel-gazing that I hope you will enjoy!

The 1950s

I was born in New York City on September 30, 1959, to Ernest and Dorothy Goodness. Although my arrival just barely missed cusping the new decade, my family found a way to kick start a Disney obsession that was to span at least part of eight decades.

My mother called me Tinker Bell from the time I was born. Disney released the movie Peter Pan in1953. Disney movies were about the only films that good, responsible parents allowed their children to view in those days.  Disneyland Park opened in 1955. I guess the whole world was a little Disney-obsessed at that time.    

When I was very little, I just thought it was a cute, girly nickname. On some level, I liked the idea of being a flittery, glittery little pixie. When I grew older and delved into the J. M. Barrie source material, I realized that Tinker Bell was not all sweetness and light. In fact, the original Tinker Bell had a dark, jealous, almost murderous side. I often wonder what my parents were thinking. On the other hand, I never asked. Maybe I did not really want to know.

The 1960s

In 1965, the Department of Defense closed the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where my father worked. The federal government offered him the choice of transferring anywhere there was an open shipyard, with full moving expenses provided. After much consideration, my parents decided to move to Southern California and my father took a position at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. My father moved to California while my mother stayed in New York to sell the house and organize everything necessary for the Goodness invasion of the West Coast.

We lived in an apartment in Long Beach when we first moved to California. My parents, having sold their house in New York at a loss, were having trouble finding a suitable house to buy within their budget. As they searched, we began exploring the new activities and sights of California. We went to the beach several days a week. We visited museums. We went to playgrounds and parks. On Saturdays, we all piled into the car and visited the popular tourist attractions.

The family folklore is that we went to Disneyland that particular Saturday because the Watts Riots were raging throughout Los Angeles County. My mother said that she could hear gunfire, so they decided to head south for the day. I do not know if that is a true story. I certainly do not remember hearing any gunfire, but I was not quite six years old. There were uprisings all over Los Angeles County in August of 1965, including Long Beach, so perhaps it is true. At any rate, the point is that my first “in person” taste of Disney was sort of a fluke.

I have a picture of our first trip to Disneyland. My father is standing, one hand on my shoulder and one hand on my little brother’s shoulder, in front of a gigantic cement whale. The picture shows my father’s smile, his lifted chest, and an air of pride. This detail hits me hard because I have only a  few memories of my father looking proud. My memories are mostly of him being frustrated and fractious. At Disneyland, though, flanked by his children, he was proud. In the picture, a white shift dress is encasing my squat little body. There is a huge zipper printed down the front of the dress. The picture is black-and-white, but I remember that the zipper was bright gold and green. It was definitely the 60s.

I have many memories of Disneyland in the 1960s. My parents ended up buying a house about three miles from the Happiest Place on Earth. We could see the fireworks on weekend nights during the summer months. I remember my family cooking hot dogs over an open fire in the backyard and watching the colorful explosions in the sky.

Going to Disneyland was an extremely special thing to do during my growing-up years. We did not go often because it was expensive. We usually managed a visit every two years or so. A Disney visit was an event. Most outings meant shorts and a shirt. Going to Disneyland meant a dress or a skirt. I think my mother curled my hair. For some reason, when I think of Disneyland as a child, I think of white gloves and patent leather. I am sure I never wore white gloves or patent leather shoes to Disneyland, but I cannot get over the idea that it always felt like an elegant, white glove and patent leather shoe kind of occasion.

One time, we were at Disneyland near Christmas. Santa Claus came down Main Street in is sleigh. High atop the huge float, he bellowed “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” He tossed candy and small toys. A small rendition of either Chip or Dale, stuffed with fairly heavy sawdust, bonked me on the head.  I kept that toy for many, many, many years until the seams split and sawdust oozed out of it.

Another time, when I was about eight, my father and I rode the whirling Mad Hatter ride together. When the ride stopped, we exited the teacup. I reeled my way to an exit. My sense of direction was clearly still on the ride. In my dizziness and disorientation, I apparently headed in the opposite direction from my father. When I found my way out the exit and noticed my father was nowhere to be seen, I began to panic. I sobbed until a nice lady took my hand and brought me to a cast member, telling the cast member that “this little girl’s daddy is missing.” My father came barreling towards the cast member, yelling that I needed to stay with him and not go wandering around on my own. I am sure he was simply scared and frustrated, but to my little girl mind, he was very angry at me.

Do you have Disney experiences from the 1950s through the 1970s? Tell us about them! Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Have a Delightful Disney Day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂