A few weeks ago, I had my retreat day with the dolphins. Some of you who have been following along with my adventures for a few years know of my experiences at Discovery Cove, a limited entry day resort in Orlando. The admission price includes zillions of amenities-  food, drink, dolphin-friendly sunscreen, nice showers with toiletries, snorkeling with sting rays, floating on a lazy river, random animal encounters, lounging on luxurious beaches, wading past otters and monkeys, and swimming with dolphins. They sell no more than 1400 tickets a day, so the park never feels crowded and you always feel like a special guest. After much debating with myself, I finally decided to go as a “once in a lifetime” experience several years ago. The thing is that I am absolutely terrible at “once in a lifetime” experiences. Typically, I enjoy them beyond even my unrealistically high expectations. Experiences that I deem “once in a lifetime” never disappoint me. I usually end up making “once in a lifetime” a “regular thing.” In the case of Discovery Cove, I quickly upgraded my “once in a lifetime” to “annually.” I shelled out the rather massive bankroll necessary to gain admittance for several years running.  Besides being ridiculously fun and relaxing, I found that my dolphin day each year actually helped me grow spiritually. I am not kidding when I use the term “retreat day with the dolphins.” I go alone and leave the outside world outside the parking lot. I spend a substantial portion of these retreat days soul-searching, praying, strategizing with myself, and planning what spiritual improvement actions I will implement.

Although I always wrestle with myself when booking my dolphin retreat because of the price tag, I have NEVER been disappointed in my day at Discovery Cove. I am rarely so contented, relaxed, and hopeful as I am while I am floating along the river, reaching out to touch a sting ray while I snorkel, and giggling when my own personal outboard dolphin engine propels me towards the shore. Each time I go, I leave absolutely convinced that it was worth every dime. Last year, however, the price of admission went up substantially. It stuck in my throat, and I could not gulp it down. I kept telling myself that it was not like I had never experienced the park. I had experienced everything multiple times- even in the midst of the pandemic. How could I justify paying so much for the experience?  For the first time in six years, I did not go. And I grieved. I really, really hated not going. Luckily, last November, the park had a Black Friday special which discounted the tickets to approximately the same (high) cost as I had paid in prior years. I jumped all over that deal. I booked my May dolphin retreat day in November.

As soon as I got to the park, the euphoric feeling I remember feeling every other time I’d been there flooded over my psyche. Everything was the same, but different. Every experience is actually a “once in a lifetime” experience because no two experiences are ever exactly the same. The fact that I’d been to Discovery Cove numerous times before did nothing to diminish my joy in my 2023 experience. Also, what if it was the same experience? What would make me want to deny myself the pleasure that I had every reason to expect the day would bring me? Yes, it is expensive, but all I have to do is clean out my closet to see that I frequently spend money frivolously on stuff that brings me way less satisfaction than a day with the dolphins does. I could create a rather mountainous pile of clothes that never really fit right or that don’t reflect my current taste or have no purpose in my wardrobe given that I am a retired woman living in Florida. What I spent on that pile of clothes would far exceed the price of a day with the dolphins.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  I do not think it is just me. I balk at spending money or taking time or exerting energy on things that have the power to energize and enrich me. I tell myself I “should” not spend the money or that I “should” stop wasting time or that I “should” invest my energy on more profitable pursuits. A friend of mine once told me that I needed to stop “shoulding” all over myself. All of us have to live within some level of parameter, of course. We all have limited resources. The truth is, though, that there are likely many more possibilities than we believe we have. We probably needlessly deny ourselves much more than is good for us. We make choices about how to spend those limited resources. Would I rather buy 14 items of clothing that will never quite make me feel beautiful or spend a day feeling beautifully peaceful at Discovery Cove? Would I rather clean the kitchen for the second time this week or would I rather dance to upbeat music videos for 20 minutes? Would I rather get a part-time job making a few hundred dollars a month or would I rather write a blog that makes no money but gives me no end of satisfaction?  I think these “would I rather” questions are much more productive than the “should” questions.  

Most of the time, when people talk about living in “denial,” it means that they are hiding from the crueler realities of life. For my purposes in this blog post, I think of people living in “denial” refers to people who are needlessly denying the pleasure they could get from life if they could just open their eyes to what the potential positive realities are.

I always learn something from a day at Discovery Cove. This trip was no different.

What is something that you are denying yourself that you could make happen?  What keeps you from pursuing it? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have an abundant day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Girl Dads

I, of course, have never been a father. I have, however, been the daughter of a father. I have also observed a wide variety of fathers interacting with their daughters over my 63 years of life. In honor of Father’s Day last Sunday, I wanted to share a few life hacks I have observed for being an effective girl dad.

Loving the mother of your girl child:

The first male/female relationship your daughter will observe will be the relationship between you and her mother. Make sure you are modeling how you hope a partner will one day treat your girl child. Don’t let her see you do things that you would never, ever want a man to do to her. Be affectionate and tender. Be thoughtful and respectful towards your daughter’s mom. When you disagree or argue, do so productively and fairly. Try not to burden your daughter with your relationship problems. If you and Mom are having a serious issue that may be triggering, find a place and time to do it that will not involve your daughter. It is okay for your daughter to see disagreements. In fact, it is good for her to learn that disagreements do not equal catastrophe. It is not okay for her to see you devalue or harm her mother physically or emotionally.

Complimenting your girl child:

I once read that a father should praise his daughter for getting an A on a math test AND for looking pretty in her prom dress. I understand and appreciate the idea behind this advice, but I would tweak it a little bit. I think a father should acknowledge and validate a daughter for achieving academically and looking beautiful. Achieving academically may not look like an A on a math test. It may look like working hard on a project and learning new skills. It may look like finding a lifelong passion. It may look like missing the mark, but learning valuable lessons. Looking beautiful may not mean rocking a fluffy pink prom dress. It may mean a bright, happy smile. It may mean looking healthy and strong. It may mean that Daddy sees in his daughter a unique beauty that is tangled and encased in a soul that is fraught with anxiety and self-doubt. I also think that a father should praise his daughter for being kind to others AND for standing up for her own needs. A girl who understands that her father truly believes she is intelligent, beautiful, kind, and valuable in her own right is likely to expect other men to see the same qualities in her. She will be far more likely to seek out a man who truly loves and respects her as a partner.

Communicating with your girl child:

I don’t know if it is true, but I have often heard men say that women are complicated. These men assert that males are easy- what you see is what you get- but, with women, you need a secret decoder ring. The same is true of little girls. There is often much more going on in their minds than you might think. It may take some mining to figure out what they really want, believe, and fear. Look for the question behind her questions. Try different strategies. She wants to tell you. She really does. She just doesn’t always know how. She just isn’t always sure you’ll still love her if she does because what is in her mind can be scary. And, as for teasing her… don’t. You may know you are teasing. She may even know you are teasing, but some part of her may always wonder if what you said in jest was your truth.  

Sharing activities with your girl child:

It is important for a father to share in his daughter’s activities, even the girly ones. Some girls will enjoy activities that are traditionally more popular with men. Some will tolerate and try to embrace such activities simply for the opportunity to share time with their daddies. There is nothing wrong with that. In any healthy relationship, the people involved try to find common ground. That includes compromising on ways to spend enjoyable time together. However, it should be a two-way street. If a daughter tries fishing so that she can spend a few hours bonding with her father, it is only fair that the father joins her in playing an interminable game of Candyland.  Sharing time and attention should be a mutual goal. A little girl may not be able to articulate that, even if she hates fishing and thinks worms are icky, she is delighted with the idea of spending time with her father. Still, that is what she is doing. In the same vein, a father may think playing Candyland is an activity designed to push a grown man over the boredom edge but will be delighted to do it because he gets time and attention with his little girl.  Oh, and, Dads, dance with your daughters! It makes them feel cherished and beautiful and precious. You absolutely want your daughter to feel cherished and beautiful and precious… because she is.

Protecting your girl child:

There is a fine line between protecting your girl child and limiting her. You are the dad. Your job is to protect her. Don’t abdicate that role. A little girl who does not feel protected is a little girl who will grow up into a woman who is afraid she is not worth protecting. Ensure that you can financially support your girl child.  Make sure she has a safe place to live and food in her belly. Anticipate possible physical and emotional dangers. Mitigate the damage. However, figure out a way of letting your daughter stretch beyond her comfortable cocoon when she is ready. Help her to be ready by talking about the kinds of things you consider when making decisions. Help her to realize that failure is not an option because nothing that helps her learn is a failure. Help her to be ready by standing by her side when she tries new things. I remember going on the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland when I was a little girl. It was one of those things I did because I wanted the opportunity to have individual time with my father, not because I really wanted to do it. My mother and brother were not fans of thrill rides, but my father enjoyed them. I would agree to go on the ride with Daddy so he would have company. As we waited in line, my anxiety and nerves would get worse and worse. Sometimes, I ended up bailing before it was our turn. Most of the time, however, I ended up riding the toboggan because Daddy encouraged me. I have a friend who is a girl dad. He set up a back-up system for his daughters as they started to have lives outside the family. When his girls were going out with friends or to another family’s house, he told them to always call him and ask if their laundry was done if they felt uncomfortable with any situation they encountered. He would know that would be his cue that there was something going awry, and he needed to come extract that daughter right away. It also meant that he should feign getting angry and “making” the daughter come home, so there would be less social pressure for the daughter to navigate. I think that is so smart and so LOVE-ly.

No girl dad is perfect. No girl dad- NOBODY- will be able to hit the bullseye all the time. In fact, just about everyone has arrows flying around willy nilly at some point in their lives. That doesn’t mean you are not a wonderful girl dad. You probably are, simply because you want to be.  Every dad is going to be different, and every girl is going to be different. The only hack that is absolutely mandatory is to be there and to do your best. And any girl dad who loves is doing his best!

Happy Father’s Day! What are some of your best memories of your girl dads? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Terri/Dorry 😊

Two Steps Forward And 114 Steps Back

Sometimes, life is so joyful. I feel strong, accomplished, and self-actualized. Even when the circumstances around me are less than ideal, I sometimes feel the growth and power that comes from accepting myself and my value. When I am hovering in that mental atmosphere, I feel like I can handle anything life throws at me.

Then, life throws something at me. And hits me with it. Life does not miss. All the finessing and dodging and feinting right or left that I attempt is useless. Life definitely lands a solid punch that leaves me on the canvas. Sometimes, it is simply for a standing eight count, and I stagger back onto my feet to continue the fight. Other times, as I lay on the floor, I feel like I won’t be able to get up again and life is going to win by knock-out.

Recently, I’ve encountered a whole series of events that have served as a huge blow to my glass chin. A family emergency resulted in me taking an unplanned trip to Pennsylvania, traversing strange roads in a rental car, meeting and dealing with a whole group of strangers that have very different world views from mine, mediate squabbles between said strangers, live for ten long days in an inhospitable environment,  grapple with at least four profound ethical dilemmas, face a huge helping of personal grief, confront the heartbreaking reality that the sad life of someone very dear to me was even sadder than I had known, and struggle with financial and administrative issues. And those are the biggies that I can articulate just off the cuff.  For a while, I was doing great. I was so proud of myself. I was being strong, brave, gentle, creative, and, in general, the person that I have been working very hard to become over the last two years. Despite the circumstances, I was wandering around in a bit of a euphoria because I couldn’t believe what I was able to do. I wasn’t afraid. I thought through multiple possible solutions for problems and came up with a compromise plan that I thought met the interests of all involved. I grieved appropriately but remained functional. I was kind and generous. I did not shy away from difficult conversations. I did not dismiss my own point of view the moment I was faced with opposition. I was freaking amazing.

Then, the situation started to decay. A few things happened that took me to a deeper, darker, uglier, more isolated place than I have been in a long time. I remembered what it felt like to experience these painful feelings nearly all the time. Life landed a dangerous blow.  I did not like living in my own body, heart, and mind anymore. I still am lying on that canvas trying to figure out if I can stand up or whether to just let the referee call it a loss by knock-out.

As I have alluded to in prior posts, I’ve been dealing with some pretty big emotional and mental health issues since January. You may recall my Lenten miracle (A Lenten Miracle – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement). This year, I have been able to resolve and heal some horrible events in my past. The tragedy is that it took me 40 years to let go of those particular demons. The good news is that I’m a completely different person in many ways. I have been released from the pain, fear, and self-devaluation that I have spent most of my life trying to contain. I have been able to see the difference and I often cannot believe who I have become. One example of that joyful amazement was the first half of the trip to Pennsylvania. Even in the midst of my grief, I found myself musing, “Who am I? How am I doing this?”

However, once the considerable strain and pressure I was withstanding hit a point where my life’s very state of matter was changing, I could no longer find that remarkable woman anymore. She was completely gone.  It is a demoralizing feeling. It was as if my considerable progress over the past five months meant nothing, and I was down for the count.

I remembered something that I learned in the Alpha course I help orchestrate for my church. The course is intended to help guide people who are grappling with the big questions of life- purpose, evil, faith, God, etc. One of the things that the presenter mentions is that, often, when a person finds a new place in his or her relationship with God, there is a counterintuitive effect. When someone first comes to Christ or reaches some sort of new level in their spiritual walk, there is usually an overwhelming experience of triumph, joy, satisfaction, peace, or some other positive feeling. However, it is not uncommon in the days after such an epiphany, for that person to experience some internal strife. It is as if evil has found that person in their new state of spirituality and is doing its best to kick the legs out from under this new, beautiful understanding and joy in God. Evil, darkness, Satan- whatever you want to name it- does not want us to experience that joy and peace that passes all understanding and will fight your spirit to retake control.

I understood this in terms of spiritual development. Now, I’m thinking that maybe it applies to emotional development as well. Maybe, when a person like me who has fought the emotional demons all her life, gets a taste of what it feels like to live without that pain, the emotional demons don’t go down without a fight. Maybe that is what is happening as I lie here on the canvas for the eight count. The me who has finally found her way out of the dark is still vulnerable to attacks of emotional evil and destruction. They are putting up one last stand to retake their mental territory.

This past week and a half have made me feel like I took two steps forward and 114 steps back. I am struggling to see it as 114 steps forward and two steps back. As I write this, I am beginning to feel, for the first time since 6/3, like I may regain consciousness. What do you think? Can I get back on my feet before the eight count is over?

Anybody have any encouraging words? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a better day than I have been having lately!