So Now I’m An Infomercial Star

This post is going to be a little bit scary to write. I debated whether or not to write it and how much I am comfortable saying. But I am an enneagram type 6. My life coach, Todd Payne, tells me that the gift of the type 6 is courage. What that all means is that I live with basically the same anxiety level as a whack-a-mole on a bad acid trip…  who continues popping up to face real and imagined giants wielding heavy mallets. Despite my fear of emotional concussion, I always keep on keeping on. I am functional and productive. I kick butt and take names. Part of my work with Todd has been about minimizing the anxiety, believing in my well-honed ability to dodge said mallets, and using my natural courage to thrive.

Speaking of my life coach, he is the impetus for this post. Last April, Todd asked me if I would be willing to record an interview that he could use as a video testimonial on his website. The idea was frightening, but I wanted to give him this gift. He has done so much for me, and I have grown so much. Most of me was excited to do something that would help him and would show off the new person I am becoming, but it was a big thing to ask of myself. Todd and I talked about it a lot, in terms of how much I would share and what I would not share. We talked about the kind of questions and the level of control I would have. We talked about the appearance and body image demons I fight all the time. The mere mention of appearing on videotape for the world to see triggered the emotional switchblades to begin slashing at my flimsy self-image. During these discussions, I realized I wanted to make the video for Todd, but I also wanted to make it for me.

The interview seemed to go well, from my perspective. Todd also expressed that he was pleased with the results. He told me that it exceeded any expectation he had. The next step was for him to send the video to his editor and then, to show the finished product to me. With my agreement, he would then post it.

The timing was a bit wonky. The editor finished it right before Todd and his family made a major move. The video ended up in the digital equivalent of one of those bulging cardboard boxes you pile high in the spare bedroom after moving… with the full intention of unpacking them “when you get to it.” I was not too concerned. I asked about it once but did not pursue the matter because I figured that, if it never showed up, it was probably meant to be. The interview was a gift from me to Todd and, as the recipient, it was his to do with as he wished- even if what he wished was nothing.

The other day, I received an email from Todd, sharing the completed video with me. He seemed a little chagrined about it taking four months, but I was more worried about what the whole world was going to be seeing.  I immediately opened the file.

Now for the spoiler alert… I was…pleased.

I did not hate the way I looked. A couple of years ago, I am sure the video evidence of my appearance would have sent me running to lock myself away from the world for several days. I was convinced I was the least attractive looking person on the face of the planet. Really. That is not an exaggeration. In the video, I thought I looked… almost pretty. If not pretty, at least not distractingly ugly.

Listening to myself, I thought I was warm and engaging. I was articulate. I made all the points I wanted to make but also sounded genuine and spontaneous. It all felt very natural when I was doing it and it looked very natural on screen. Todd did a fantastic job briefing me ahead of time on what sort of structure and development he wanted. He also asked great questions to cue up my most authentic responses.

All in all, I thought that, if I was just some stranger watching this random interview on Todd’s website, I would think to myself that I really liked that girl and would like to be as healthy as she seemed to be.

Of course, growth is not a one-and-done kind of thing. Since April, I have been through four months of life with some special challenges. I AM much healthier than I have ever been, but I am going through another growth spurt right now. Again, I am dealing with some issues that I should have processed many years ago. I am doing very well. These issues are not nearly as gut-crushing as those I tackled earlier this year during my Lenten miracle ( A Lenten Miracle – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement) but they are still uncomfortable to face. This video reminded me what it is like when I feel strong and valuable.  The “delay” in sharing the video with me was not a delay at all. The timing was absolutely, exquisitely perfect. I think Todd might have done it on purpose. He’s smart like that.

So, anyway, here is the scariest part. I’ve been trying to decide whether to post the link to the video. I was not sure I wanted to draw attention to it. I think, though, that, if I want to maximize this gift to Todd and myself, it is best if I do post it. Of course, that would give the most exposure for Todd’s practice. It would also be good for me to own this moment and be proud of it.   So… here it is:

Todd Payne – Enneagram Coaching | True Self

So that is the story of my brush with infomercial stardom. Don’t worry. I’m not promoting a multi-level marketing scheme. I am not selling ginzu knives on late night tv. I am not shouting, “but wait, there’s more!”  I am simply sharing an amazing experience that has made a huge impact on me. I am sharing this experience because, first of all, this is my blog and that is what I do- analyze the wriggling mass of minutiae in my soul. Secondly, maybe someone out there will recognize themselves in this video and will reach out for help.  Not hurting all the time is really great.

Have a mentally healthy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

What do you think of my video interview? Please be tactful, if not kind. Remember, I have that flimsy self-image. Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

The Pony Express Isn’t What It Used To Be

I had an alarming encounter the other day when I went to pick up the mail.

In the subdivision where I live, the postal service typically does not deliver mail to specific houses. There is a mailbox village near our clubhouse when you first enter the community. Some people walk to the mailboxes to get their mail. We live just about as far from the mailboxes as you can get and still live in our development. It is 1.1 miles from our front door to our mailbox. Given that the temperature level has been in the ninth circle of hell recently, with the humidity level set on “boiled lobster,” I have not been trotting my behind to the mailbox under the power of my own two feet. Picking up the mail requires a vehicle.

Recently, I decided to get the mail as I returned to the community after running a couple of errands. I was already hot, sticky, and overwhelmed. It seemed wise to perform the strenuous work of turning the key in the lock before I crept back into the house where the blessed air conditioner would cool down my body temperature. As I traveled the little road to the mailboxes, I noticed a car stopped in the oncoming lane. I wondered what the problem was, but, when I got closer, I identified the impediment. It was a reptilian speed bump- better known as an alligator. The people in the other lane were waiting for the thing to move out of their way. I guess they didn’t want to insist.

The alligator showed no sign of moving anywhere any time soon. I stopped my car to take pictures, forgetting that the car in the alligator occupied lane was probably waiting for me to move on so they could swerve into my lane to proceed down the road. Delaying them so that I could take pictures was inconsiderate of me, but I was so surprised by the alligator, it did not hit me until later that I was being rude. My apologies to the people in the car waiting for the crazy woman to stop photographing the alligator and get the heck out of the way.

Seeing alligators in the community is not exactly a common occurrence, but it is not unheard of, either. It is no longer surprising to see a picture on our community Facebook page that demonstrates that we do actually live in the wild. I have to confess that, for years after moving into my community, I doubted the veracity of those pictures. I guess I was in denial ( oh wait, crocodiles live in The Nile, not alligators!) and didn’t want to believe that I lived in the alligators’ backyard. However, during the COVID19 shutdown, I could no longer doubt the evidence of my own eyes. Max was looking out the Florida room windows one day and called to me, asking if that was an alligator hanging out behind our next-door neighbor’s house. I initially said that I thought it was a tree root. Until the tree root moved. That gator was about 9 feet long. While I say there was an alligator in my backyard, I am sure the alligator would say that there were humans in his backyard.  Since that day, I am inclined to believe just about any alligator-related story that reports from Florida.

Going back to the alligator on the road the other day… he wasn’t a huge guy. I’d say about 4 to 5 feet. There are many lakes and retention ponds where I live. The largest one is near the entrance to the community. Alligator sightings are pretty common around there. You see, adult male alligators are very territorial. They will typically run off juvenile males as soon as said juveniles are big enough to look like threats but before they are big enough to actually be threats. This means that we spot the occasional evicted alligator teenager wandering around in a confused state looking for a body of water to call his own. Someone once said that, in Florida, if you have a glass of water, there will be an alligator trying to get into it. Since our community is a veritable soda fountain of swimming holes, it isn’t too hard for the displaced gator to find alternative lodgings. Sometimes, though, it takes a little bit of help. Awhile back, someone posted a picture of a small group of my neighbors trying to “help” a young alligator by herding him across the little road to our clubhouse to another pond. It wasn’t a very big alligator. Maybe only a foot or two. He must have done something really annoying to get run off so early. He did not look like that much of a threat to me… and apparently, he did not look like that much of a threat to my well-intentioned neighbors. I have to say, though, that I don’t think I would have been brave enough to interact with him. I would have left him to his own devices and trusted Mother Nature to help him find his way to a new home. Sometimes bravery is just a nice word for recklessness.

Anyway, after I took my pictures and realized I was holding up traffic, I drove past the alligator and made my way to the mailboxes. We are pretty popular with the junk mail crowd. We have mail virtually every day that mail is delivered, even if that mail is just ads. On the Day of the Alligator, I opened the mailbox and found… nothing. Not even a warning that I needed to renew my car warranty. Not even an invitation to attend a dinner where I could learn all about the benefits of prepaid funerals. Not even a shout out to consider buying a state-of-the-art hearing aid at a bargain price. Absolutely nothing. I couldn’t help but wonder if the alligator blocking the road to the mailbox had anything to do with it.

Doesn’t the postal service have some kind of oath? Neither snow, nor rain, nor alligator will keep us from our appointed route? Someone was clearly falling down on the job!

What is the most dramatic animal you have seen wandering in your neighborhood? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have an eventful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The alligator moving along (or rather, not moving along) on the wrong side of the road
This one gives you some perspective of how close he was to me

Stranger In A Familiar Land

It always amazes me that very simple, seemingly routine, events can have a huge impact. By the time most of us get to our current stage of life, we have usually experienced numerous occasions of what I call “ordinary grace.” Maybe the event is not something that is dramatic or visible from an objective, outside point of view. Still, those events are life changing. They can change the way we look at ourselves and our lives, even if our external circumstances do not change.

Recently, I had one of those “ordinary grace” experiences. A cousin, my last living relative on my mother’s side, had several sequential catastrophic medical events. She lived in Pennsylvania. I ended up going to say good-bye, helping to make sure her last days were as peaceful and as beautiful as possible, arranging for her cremation, and, as executrix of her will, starting the administrative work necessary to settle her estate. A few weeks later, I made another trip to Pennsylvania to retrieve the cremains and bring them to the church for the funeral.

Most of us have been through events like this once we reach a certain age. There are always challenging circumstances. There are also many opportunities to experience ordinary grace. I could tell you many stories about my time in Pennsylvania- I could tell you about sleeping under a feline-fur-encrusted cat tower that was twice my size. I could tell you about the six hundred cans of cat food I found in my cousin’s house. I could tell you about determining, for the first time in my nearly 64 years, that I have a cat allergy. I could tell you about finding the cremated remains of her last dog in a drawer in her closet and burying said remains. I could tell you about sitting at my unconscious cousin’s bedside, praying, singing, and talking to her- certain in the knowledge that I was doing exactly what God called me to do.  I could tell you about trying to negotiate cremation and funeral arrangements that my cousin’s friends could respect.  

Today, though, I am going to limit my ramblings to one lesson I learned through my trips that I think might be helpful for me in the future.

During my first trip to Pennsylvania, there was a lot of conflict and a lot of judgment. I had traveled to Pennsylvania partially because a friend of my cousin’s, whom she had appointed as her medical POA, begged me to come. She did not feel she could cope with the responsibility. Once I got there, though, I was about as welcome as a new mutation of COVID19. I was doing everything in my power to solve problems and identify solutions that would respect everyone’s interests. At the same time, I was saying good-bye to a much-loved family member and walking with her as she came to the end of this life.

I thought it would be nice to attend mass at my cousin’s church the Sunday after she died so that I could get a sense of connection with the community. I wanted to experience what worship was like for her. After almost an entire lifetime of being an observant Roman Catholic, I expected to feel a sense of nostalgia and homecoming.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. I never realized how Protestant I had become. Actually, it is more accurate to say I never realized how Protestant I was even before I became a Protestant. Not only was this not the emotional and spiritual space I cherish in my current church community, it was not even the emotional and spiritual space of my Roman Catholic youth.  I felt out of place when I attended mass. A significant portion of the women came draped in lace mantilla head coverings. No one touched me, not even a handshake during the sign of peace. No one even spoke to me or looked at me. At communion, I went up for a blessing, with my arms crossed over my chest. The priest did not even put a hand on my shoulder. He muttered “God bless you,” in a rather surly tone, as if I had sneezed at an inconvenient time. Then, he looked at me pointedly- expecting me to toddle off out of the way, past the chalice bearer where communicants were sharing the communal cup. At the end of the mass, they prayed directly to St. Michael, the Archangel.

I decided that, perhaps, I would not attend the funeral because I did not feel connected to the Church or the people. This decision caused some mayhem amongst my cousin’s friends. Several contacted me to tell me that they would welcome me and “protect” me from any potential drama. One lady who seemed to be the key person arranging the funeral at the church called me and talked to me for at least 20 minutes trying to convince me to attend. She kept telling me how wrong it would be for me not to come- that I should fulfill all the sacrifices I had made by attending. She told me it would be a sin for me not to attend. I tried to explain that I felt no need to be there because I had been at my cousin’s bedside during her last three days of life and would be able to say a final good-bye at the internment ceremony at my own church. I told her that the funeral mass was really for the friends. I told her that the mass was for her and “your peeps.” She hastened to assure me that everyone would shower me in love and support, and she wanted me to include myself in their passel of peeps.

The day of the funeral, I decided to put on the black dress, place the cremains at the church, and then sit in a pew for a few minutes to see how it felt.  As I was sitting in the pew, the deacon and the priest were readying the altar. Neither greeted me, even though both met me in the hospital on the day before my cousin died.  I opened the program for the service. All four readings were different from the ones I selected and sent to all the involved parties. One of the readings they did select, I considered and rejected for some specific reasons… one of which is that it is from the Book of Wisdom, which not is even included in the Protestant Bible. Suddenly, I thought- “How clear does God have to be to let you know you do not belong here and do not need to be here?” I got up and walked out of the church.

I am blessed that I got to go home and worship with my own peeps at St. James Episcopal Church the next Sunday. Not everyone in my situation would be so fortunate as to be truly connected to a church. In the situation with this funeral, the people certainly invited me. They welcomed me, almost to a fault.  However, they ignored my voice. By ignoring my voice and not respecting who I am in my relationship with God and my spirituality, they alienated me. If I had been a person who was not truly connected with God and His Church, I probably would have gone away alienated not only from this particular parish or this particular denomination, but from God.

It was a good reminder that growing a Christian community does not end once we get people in the door. It is important to not only welcome people, but also to respect and value their perspective and their gifts. Some of you may remember that my church was involved in an INVITE, WELCOME, CONNECT weekend presented by Mary Parmer (  The Episcopalian Card – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement ) In her presentation, she reminded us that it is critical to be a truly “friendly congregation” rather than simply a “congregation of friends.” My experience in Pennsylvania was a good demonstration that a truly “friendly congregation” doesn’t just invite and welcome. We also need to make sure we truly connect. God gives us all part of the wisdom and gives none of us all of the wisdom. If we behave in ways that seem to always be giving wisdom and never accepting it from others, our little red church door will start swinging out as often as it swings in. 

Ordinary grace. Thank You, God.

Have you experienced moments of extraordinary grace? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a grace-filled day!