Taking A Break Or Broken?

Those of you who read my post last week know I have been struggling lately with time and energy management. In exploring new opportunities, I find myself unable to juggle all the activities and routines I would like to embrace. I know the idea is that, as I find healthy habits and mechanisms, I should be letting go of less healthy choices. I get that and I have been trying to do a better job of making the healthier choices. The problem comes about when I am trying to choose between two healthy activities.

I had been doing very well throughout the holiday season. I felt happy and I was being gentle with myself. I had momentum and vitality. I delighted in the new experiences I tried. I kept up with the healthy activities that I have built into my life since retirement. I was writing blog pieces regularly and smoothly. I was walking my six to seven miles a day. I was keeping up with my Bible reading, prayer, and devotional activities. I spent my evenings bonding with Max over conversation and old videos. I maintained or improved my relationships. In addition, I took advantage of opportunities to engage with a wider range of people. I made a more energetic start on writing my next book. I was keeping a regular meditation schedule. I added another Scripture study. I was keeping all the balls in the air and enjoying the swishing noise they made as they circled above my head.

Then, something happened right around New Year’s Eve. I do not know if it was the post-holiday letdown or if it was something more significant. I had some sad news about someone important to me at that time. In fact, that person is someone who has particularly encouraged my new outlook. Maybe I am just spoiled and whiny. I do not know. Whatever the reason, I crashed over the New Year’s weekend. I have tried pretending I did not. I have tried talking myself back onto the happy wagon. I have tried spinning the wheels and trying to jump back on the bike. Nothing has worked.

Those balls that had been pleasantly whooshing above my head came hurling down onto my cranium, creating a kind of emotional concussion. I am confused. The rhythm of my new life broke down and all my momentum was gone. I was getting behind on my Scripture study. I was walking around my bedroom in the middle of the night, trying to get my six miles done. I was taking shortcuts in communication. I was getting annoyed with Max for trying to convince me to learn enough deep information about Christian apologetics to advance arguments in Sunday School. I felt like I was getting nothing accomplished.

It is bad enough that I felt scattered and like I was not accomplishing anything. What came next was worse. It was a feeling that my brain, energy, and motivation were drying up. Ideas and thoughts that had been so free flowing only a few days before seem to squeeze out of my mind with all the fluidity of the last bit of toothpaste in the tube. I had several of my “not fit for human consumption” days. I tried to ignore the feeling and continue with planned activity, hoping it would help. Unfortunately, it did not help, and I just feel empty. If I feel anything, I just feel guilty for not being better able to engage.

I am going to try to cut myself some slack here. It certainly has not helped to beat myself up. Maybe a gentler approach will help. I am going to take a few deep breaths. Hopefully, I am not broken; I just need a break.

What do you do when you hit the doldrums? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an unbroken day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Sky Is Falling

Well, it finally happened. After almost six years of writing the blog, I woke up one Wednesday with nothing ready to post. Oh, I have had Wednesdays before when I did not post. The difference was that I planned to not post on those prior blogless Wednesdays. I had deliberately decided to take a break here or there. I COULD have posted on those other Wednesdays, but I intentionally chose not to do so. This past Wednesday, I intended to post new content, but did not have anything written. I had a few bits and pieces of posts that I thought I would have perfected by Terri Time, but I failed.

Upon waking last Wednesday, I immediately checked my pulse and I still had one. Outside my door, there was every indication that the earth was still turning on its axis and revolving around the sun. No one contacted me to let me know they were missing any body parts or vital portions of their psyches because there was no Terri LaBonte post. There was absolutely no blood on the floor. In other words, nothing happened because I failed to complete a new blog post.

At first, I felt anxious about not having a new post. It was the problem that I had been trying to avoid for the last six years. It was the reason I did not even launch the blog until I had twenty posts already written in reserve. Last year at this time, I even broached the subject that I might not post every week to give myself time to work on my next book, ­Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go. Even though you all supported my decision, I have still been faithful with new content. I published forty-eight new posts in 2021. I never went more than a week in a row without posting. I did not really cut myself much slack. Last Wednesday, though, I felt very unsettled and ungrounded because not only DIDN’T I post new content, I had no new content to post. I have a renewal date coming up in a couple of weeks, so I began to question if I should continue to pay the fees to maintain the blog. After all, if I am out of ideas and am stunted of new content, would it not make sense to just stop? On the other hand, if I am just a bit scattered just now, do I genuinely want to give up the blog, which I love?

This musing led to me to ask myself why I did not have anything new written for the blog last week.

I discovered the answer quickly. I have been on a quest to try new things and challenge myself with new ways of being in the world. As a result, I have been adding numerous activities to my repertoire. I have engaged with people more often. I pulled myself out of first gear on the book. I began meditating. I allowed myself to act spontaneously- going on a solo trip to Disney World, going to the gingerbread jamboree, trying a Bible study class at church one evening a week, entertaining friends- instead of “keeping to my schedule.” All these experiences have been good for me, and I enjoyed them. The problem is that time is a finite commodity and there are other things that are good for me that are falling by the wayside.

Working on new blog posts is one of those activities. My “normal” routine also involves walking 6-7 miles a day. That takes a lot of time. I also prioritize spending time with Max. I keep up with several friends in California and Hawaii. All these activities are critical to my well-being. As a result, I am adding more healthy dimensions to my life, but I am not dispensing with any activities. I am excited to see how these changes will enrich my life, but I must admit to a certain sense of hysteria as time flies by without me accomplishing everything I want to do on a daily basis.

This may be what retired people mean when they say they do not know how they ever had the time to work for a living. Retirement is one of the biggest transitions most of us will ever experience. Any kind of transition, whether it be retiring or simply trying to improve one’s emotional and physical health, requires adjustments. Learning the right balance in implementing those adjustments takes a little finagling!

What adjustments have you had to make to craft the life you want in retirement?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an adjustable day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

And Christmas Goes On

Most of the world finished celebrating Christmas the night of December 25th. After the presents were opened and the children were once again tucked into their beds, while actual sugar plums danced through their tummies, many people were wondering just how long they had to wait to take the tree down. Since I spent most of my life in California and Florida, those people with “real” Christmas trees were wondering how long before their trees constituted a fire hazard.

In my faith tradition, we celebrate the “Christmas season” AFTER Christmas Day. We have twelve more days of hollying, jollying… and holy-ing after the holiday itself. Not that any of this kept me from getting my merry on before Christmas Day. I frenzied my festivities with the best of them. As a result, the concept that there is twelve more days of celebration is daunting. On the other hand, the fact that we are still officially in the “Christmas season” gives me license to continue blogging about my holiday cheer. Christmas day may be past, but my holiday navel-gazing continues. You’re welcome!

In last week’s blog, I reported on my daily hunt for Kringle, my elf on the shelf. I enjoyed this activity more than any grown woman should. Max enjoyed helping Kringle hide more than most people would expect. He is not the most whimsical guy in the world, but I was holding out for a hero (cue the Bonnie Tyler music), and I got one with him. I also got a kick out of the fact that Kringle’s popularity spread to some of my friends this year, who asked for daily photos to update them on Kringle’s mischief.

Elf-hunting was not my own celebratory activity this “before Christmas” season. Let me tell you about a few more.

Max and I went to a dinner party with our bestest church friends a week or so before Christmas. It truly struck me that evening that I have a new kind of family in my old age… a family of friends. The people with whom we celebrated at that dinner party (and a few others here in Florida and in California) are the ones I can trust to support, love, and help me through this latest phase of my life. I am very, very blessed. This realization was a wonderful gift.

I received another exquisite gift the Sunday before Christmas. My pastor’s wife, Kathleen, has a tradition of making gingerbread houses with the children in her life each Christmas. Kathleen knows that I have a gingerbread fixation. Gingerbread is my catnip. Therefore, this year she asked me if I would like to join them. Now, to be perfectly truthful, my elevated level of social anxiety would normally drive me to make an excuse not to go. Typically, I would be afraid of not fitting in or not knowing what to say or what to do or when it is appropriate to go home. However, something about the invitation really, really appealed to me. I agreed to join them. The anxiety did not abandon me. On and off for a couple of weeks, I dithered significantly whenever I thought about the gathering. However, I kept coming back to the knowledge that I really, really did want to go. I told myself that I was going to be fine… that I did not have to know, do, or be anything other than just myself. Kathleen invited me because she wanted to be nice and she wanted ME- not some perfectly secure, poised, polished person who does not exist (except for that imaginary one who is taunting me in the darker side of my mind.)

I went to the gingerbread jamboree and had a wonderful time. There was so much laughter, love, and energy. There were children and dogs running around producing an energizing momentum of positivity (I am sure the sugar did not hurt that particular biochemical reaction!) The adults played at making their gingerbread houses with as much abandon as the children. People seemed happy to have me there. In fact, Kathleen’s youngest daughter greeted me with a delighted, over-the-moon exclamation, “YOU CAME!!” It would be hard to imagine how I could have felt more welcome. This event was exactly what I did not know I needed. I sat at the long table, with a dog lying on my feet. I stuck gingerbread together with royal icing. I learned how to make a heart out of two candy canes. I admired the work of my gingerbread colleagues of all ages. It was perfect. When I finished, I bundled my gingerbread house (now permanently cemented to a plastic plate with said royal icing) into my car and headed home. My gingerbread house was not pretty, but the experience was beautiful.

I also went caroling in our community the week before Christmas. A friend of mine heads up this effort each year. We parade through the community in golf carts.

 We visit the homes of people who cannot get out into the world as much as they once did. We bring cookies and sing a couple of carols on each visit. The good news is that this activity requires no actual singing ability. In fact, it is more effective if the music is not too perfect. It is joyful and loud and accompanied by random jingle bells. We are a funny lot, dressed in Christmas regalia as loud as our voices. I take pride in looking like an elf. It was cold and rainy this year, but that did not stop us. I sat on the back of a friend’s golf cart, bouncing along our merry Christmas way. After an hour of holly jollying, we end up at the community center and stuffed ourselves with snacks. At some point, my month-long sugar rush is going to wear off and then, well, God bless us, every one.

All these events were fun and meaningful to me, but I also participated in a special event of my own this year. I knew I was jumping into a holiday world filled with people and stimulation and new ways of looking at things for me. As I have mentioned in the past, I have been working with a life coach over the past few months to help me be more comfortable with myself and take advantage of opportunities for happiness (Todd Payne, Life Coach (toddpaynelifecoach.com).  One of the things I have learned is that I tend to allow anxiety and insecurity keep me from doing things that might increase my happiness. When something frightens me, I am apt to just not do it instead of finding a way to challenge the anxiety.

This year, I decided to try to plunge into life during the holiday season, but to be respectful of my tendency to become anxious. I built in “silent night” time each day for the two weeks before Christmas. Each day, I spent a short time- five minutes or so- simply being quiet and letting my soul go where it wanted to go. Invariably, my soul wanted to go to God. I spent my “silent night” time thinking about saying “yes” to God and all He wants for me. I spent my “silent night” time realizing that there is no need to let anxiety dictate my actions because God is much more powerful than my anxiety. I won’t say that I have always succeeded or that I think my struggles with anxiety are a thing of the past. I am sure I will need to keep showing my anxiety who is boss, for the rest of my life. The thing that I am celebrating this Christmas is that I am finding that I can show anxiety who is boss. I do not think I could ever have honestly said that in the past.

What did you learn this holiday season? How do you think your life will be different going forward? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Merry Christmas Season!

Terri/Dorry 😊

the front door of my gingerbread house- do you think it should be condemned?
even the heart I made out of candy canes is off-kilter!
The caroling elf!

Spreading The Elf

Those of you who have been traveling through life with me over the past several years know that December is elf of the shelf month in my house. Every morning, Max hides my miniature elf, Kringle, somewhere in the great room at the front of my house. I search for him each day and, boy, does he get into some mischief. Kringle is very, very little,  He is about as long as my thumb and about half the width of my thumb. Unfortunately, because he is so small and his limbs tend to be a bit delicate, he has had a few amputations over the years. He has lost bits of appendages, which makes him even smaller. His size makes it extremely easy for him to hide in places where he is almost undetectable. Sometimes, I need a lot of hints. This year, though, I’ve been hot on the Kringle trail most mornings. Both Max and I look forward to playing our elf game. It makes me quite giddy. Yes, I am very, very weird.

But maybe I am not the only one who is very, very weird. Two of my friends are intrigued by my elf adventures. They asked me to text them pictures each morning to show what Kringle was up to. We have invented quite the elaborate mythology around the process.

One morning, Kringle was at the bottom of a Moscow mule cup and another morning, he hid in a double shot glass. We decided the all-night benders had to stop and recommended that it was time for an intervention. The next day, he obviously felt he needed wise counsel and hid in the pages of my devotional booklet. Another day, he was trying to read the Bible, but his hands were too tiny to open the book. We took him on our annual Disney holiday vacation, and, on the last day, he was obviously ready to go home because he was hiding in my open purse. Once, he was sitting in the corner, behind the sliding shutters in the dining room, facing the wall. We decided he must have been misbehaving in elf school. On another morning, he was hiding behind one of the legs of our kitchen table. I said it was a lucky thing it did not take me long to find him because it took me pretty much all day to get up again after wiggling myself down to find him. My elf-finding skills may be improving with age, but my elf-retrieval skills are not!

I am glad that my friends are enjoying Kringle’s adventures with me. Sometimes, in the weird world within my brain, it can feel kind of lonely. After all, I cannot expect upstanding, reasonable adults to understand my obsession with a three-inch piece of plastic. It is nice to know that other people do live in Weird World, too. Or maybe that is going a bit too far. Maybe no one else really lives in my Weird World, but I love it when they come to visit!

Have a holly, jolly, very merry Christmas! Here’s to Kringle and spreading the cheer… one elf at a time!

Kringle had a hard night and woke up at the bottom of a Moscow Mule mug! He needs an intervention!

What is your weirdest Christmas tradition?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a very merry, holly jolly Christmas, everybody!!!!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Merry Christmas, One And All!

I must admit that it is sometimes difficult to wish quite so many people quite so much merry.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas and all that goes with it. It is just that it gets so “peoply” out there at this time of year. I can remember how time between Thanksgiving and Christmas used to drag when I was a kid. Now, the festive season of the year seems to go racing past at a dangerous speed as we all try to get our holly on at the same time. Not only is the road to Christmas a superhighway with no apparent speed limit, it is also a highly congested superhighway. As I navigate my fully packed calendar, trying to cram all the jolly possible into a few short weeks, I am regularly dismayed by the endless number of people I must dodge.

I am a bit spoiled because the “Christmas rush” of people was non-existent last year because of COVID. I was out and about and trying to enjoy some festivities in as safe a manner as possible, but most of the rest of the world was still buttoned up. This year, it is something of a free-for-all. I am vaccinated and boosted, as are most of the people I know. Mask mandates and social distancing requirements are becoming less suffocating. Clearly, most of the country feels safe enough to engage with the world again. They all seem to be engaging with it at the same time I am.

I am happy that life is starting to get back to normal. Or, should I say, I am happy the life is going through another one of the “safer” cycles. I have been lulled into thinking normalcy was right around the corner a couple of times over the past twenty months. I was getting ready to have a mask-burning party at one point. Luckily, I stayed my hand. Now, I am even considering buying more masks. The huge wardrobe of masks I purchased in the first nine months of the pandemic are starting to get threadbare. Also, my buying more masks could ensure that there is never a need for masks again. That is the way I roll. It is hard to know what to do when COVID trends are so incredibly fickle.

Despite the lack of certainty, many people have decided to just venture out into the world. And I keep tripping over them.

In my neighborhood, pre-COVID, there was always a significant uptick in traffic between October and May. I live in a community where snowbird migration is a real thing. I am not complaining about traffic because I come from Southern California. Even winter traffic here is for amateurs. Still, it was always noteworthy when the migration occurred each year. Once COVID happened, snow birding stopped. People stayed put wherever they were, north or south. Traffic in central Florida stayed stable. In fact, it decreased because so many people were staying home until they could be vaccinated. This week our winter influx of people has returned with a vengeance.

A week ago, Max and I went on our annual holiday mini-vacation at Disney World. On our last trip to Disney World before we moved to Florida, I grew sad when I realized that I might never stay overnight at Disney World again. Max reminded me that living only forty miles from the most magical place does not mean you are banned from reserving hotel rooms. Disney will happily take our money whether we live across the country or across the street. Starting in 2015, we have spent one or two nights in early December on property. I love being able to see the decorations, lights, and special shows without having to think about driving home in the dark after tramping around a theme park all day.

It was a strange trip in 2020. Although the parks had re-opened with COVID safety measures in place, many hotels and restaurants were still closed. Some of the experiences we love during Disney Christmas were not operational. As far as I am concerned, socially distanced lines should be a forever thing at Disney. Forcing people to keep six feet away from each other and OUT OF MY PERSONAL SPACE was a boon to my comfort level. No kids stepping on the backs of my ankles. No being belted by somebody’s backpack. No co-mingling of oxygen. On the other hand, the quiet was a little spooky. It felt almost furtive to scuttle around in relatively empty parks.     

As our trip approached in 2021, we were looking forward to a more “pre-COVID-like” experience. Our favorite resort reopened. Disney was again offering a version of their Candlelight Processional show, which is my favorite thing about a Disney Christmas. In looking through the various Disney food blogs, I saw gingerbread of every ilk on a variety of menus. While some experiences are still not back, the vast majority of our typical Disney holiday trip were again in the offing.

What I did not expect, however, was that the crowds were also back. Let me rephrase that. I did expect that the crowds would be back; I just did not expect that the entire free world would be spending the first week of December at Disney World. I have been to Disney many, many times. I have even been to Disney World the weekend before the 4th of July. Never have I experienced the crowds that we slugged our way through during this trip. Luckily for us, we have annual passes and make many trips a year, so we had no huge agenda for this trip other than seeing the holiday decorations and watching the Candlelight Processional. The crowds, while a bit oppressive to maneuver, were not really a barrier to doing what we wanted to do. It was just an odd experience to see SO MANY PEOPLE.

In retrospect, it makes sense. All the folks who typically take trips once a year or so have been incubating at home for the past two years. They have been bursting with energy, desire for distraction, and entertainment budget dollars. We probably had not only this year’s Disney Christmas crowd, but last year’s as well.

It is taking me a long time to write this piece. Typically, when that happens, it is because something isn’t setting right with me. In reading over what I’ve written so far, I realize I am sounding whiny and ungrateful. I do not mean to be. I am excited to see the world come back to life. Plowing through crowds at Disney is a first world problem of the highest order, both from a global geopolitical perspective and a COVID perspective.

 I can certainly handle an excess of people if it means that the world is safer and that the economy is healthier.

The thing is, I am not certain that the world is coming back to life. I fear getting duped again. Last spring, when COVID numbers were falling, I happily slipped into celebration as we started to engage with each other in real life again. Only a few weeks later, the COVID catastrophe grew new legs and shut us down even tighter than before. Now, as we unmask again, I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. Indeed, the omicron variant is increasing the COVID case numbers again. I know we are cautiously optimistic that this variant, while very contagious, may not be as severe as the prior variants. It still seems pretty overwhelming. Just at a time when I should be feeling hopeful, I despair of ever feeling normal again.

My life coach explained something about anxiety to me. He said that anxiety is always future-focused. Anxiety is about wondering what I will do or how I will handle a situation if it happens. I don’t have to wonder about what I will do or how I will manage something that is in the present- I am already doing and handling, so there is no need to wonder. Maybe there is a lesson in this revelation that applies to my COVID despair this Christmas.

Maybe it is time to enjoy the merry right now and stop worrying about whether it will be snatched away tomorrow. Yes, be careful. Keep my vaccination boosted, as necessary. Mask up if the COVID statistics so suggest. Stop passing the peace at church if the need arises. But for now, stop thinking of COVID as either ongoing or over. Just enjoy the pause.

How are you feeling about the COVID progression?  What was COVID-19 is about ready to be COVID-22.  How do we keep living through this apparently never-ending pandemic?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Happy Holidays!

Terri/Dorry 😊

It’s Gift-Giving Time!

I am here today to provide a Public Service Announcement. I may be too late for Hannukah, but I want to take a little stress off your minds as you consider Christmas presents for your nearest and dearest.

Books are wonderful presents! You can order them from Amazon and have them delivered directly to your giftee. No extra trips to the post office. You do not even need wrapping paper. I understand that this might seem a little sterile and impersonal, but I have a way to make this “unwrapped, delivered by a third party” gift the most meaningful gift your giftee has ever received. When you see that the gift has been delivered… because God bless Amazon…, you can either contact the recipient and tell them to put the package under the tree or you can have them open it, depending on how tied up in tradition your jingle bells are. Then, either at that time (if the person is opening the gift then) or on Christmas (if the Amazon package is waiting patiently under someone’s tree), send a supplemental email or text that explains specifically why you chose that particular book for the giftee. This explanation could demonstrate a shared bond or memory with the recipient, something special you admire about the giftee, a sincere wish for them in the coming year, or some other information that shows the recipient just how special he or she is to you. This is how you infuse individuality into what may seem to be an uninspired gift. Some recipients may even print out your explanation and house it in the book. Or, if you are at all crafty, you could make a bookmark with the explanation on it, and either give it to the person when you see them or put it in a regular mail envelope.

Now, if you want some suggestions on what books to give…

I have two books that are available on Amazon. My first book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement, would be perfect for someone who is considering starting their own post-career adventure. It would even work well for someone who is not ready to retire but sees that day on the horizon or someone who isn’t thinking about retirement but is dealing with a lot of change in his or her life. I tend not to be proud of anything I do, but I’m really proud of this book. It is funny, poignant, and practical. I thought it was out of print, but I just tried ordering it on Amazon as an experiment. The copy I ordered will be in my mailbox next week. The other book, Random (A)Musings is full of funny stories and bizarre observations about life. I remember reading a cartoon one time that had the tagline, “Bravo for life’s little ironies.”  Random (A)Musings is all about life’s little (and big) ironies. I authored this book during the first disorienting weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. It helped a lot to find things about which to laugh. It also helped to remember, that most of us have a lifetime of practice at successfully navigating random, odd misadventures. COVID is just one more.

You can buy either or both of these volumes through Amazon. You can buy as many copies for as many people as you like. I certainly won’t stop you.

Gladsome Gift-Giving. You’re welcome.

Do you think books are good gifts? Do you have any special ways you personalize them? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a giving day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Most Thankfulest Time Of The Year

Many of you know that I post on Facebook every Thursday about the five things for which I am most thankful that week. I provide a virtual donut for anyone who joins in and shares a “thankful” to keep the gratitude game going. It is something I have done, in one form or another, for about fifteen years. While the past two years have been especially challenging for many of us, I continue to keep my thankfulness train on the tracks. I believe there is a lot for which to be thankful even in challenging times. I also believe that celebrating the thankfuls increases hope and connection. It may even burn calories. See, celebrating thankfuls DOES increase hope! False hope, perhaps, but that is something. Sometimes, false hope is all that stands between us and despair until we can feel the real hope that truly does exist in the world.

We can look back at the past year with amazement in many ways. As we approached the end of 2020, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We seemed to think that the end of 2020 would somehow magically mean the end of our national troubles- COVID, race relations, violence, divisive political wrangling, supply chain snafus, economic hardship, the disintegration of the family, and the wearing of white after Labor Day. I think we can all agree that we still face all the same troubles. On the other hand, it is heartening to see some hopeful trends foment in 2021.

Since we in the United States celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving tomorrow, I wanted to raise the bar on gratitude. In this post, I am going to share thirty thankfuls I have noticed since last Thanksgiving…one thankful for every day in November- the most thankfulest time of the year!

  1. I am thankful for the COVID vaccine.
  2. I am thankful that COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are decreasing.
  3. I am thankful that we can worship together in person.
  4. I am thankful that we can take what we have learned about virtual training and meetings to supplement in person connections, not to use instead of in person connections.
  5. I am thankful for the return of hugs.
  6. I am thankful that the economy has mostly reopened.
  7. I am thankful for Todd Payne and for his coaching.
  8. I am thankful that Gary and I have grown even closer during the challenges of the pandemic.
  9. I am thankful for the family and friends who love me no matter how neurotic I am.
  10. I am thankful that I was able to spend time with my brother and his family in California.
  11. I am thankful that I was able to visit two close friends in California.
  12. I am thankful that my brother has a treatment plan in place for his health issues.
  13. I am thankful for a wonderful trip to Williamsburg in last spring.
  14. I am thankful that I got to take virtual classes at the College of William and Mary through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program.
  15. I am thankful for a fun girls’ trip to Marco Island.
  16. I am thankful for God renewing and enriching his family through infant baptisms and adult conversions… both of which I witnessed in this past year.
  17. I am thankful for the opportunity to develop and deliver the Blessed Stewardship: A Door Of Opportunity course at my church.
  18. I am thankful for Fr. Tom Trees, Seth Peter Trees, and all the members of the stewardship committee for their assistance.
  19. I am thankful for my family at St. James Episcopal Church and the generosity with which they offer their gifts to benefit God’s people and give glory to His holy name.
  20. I am thankful that Gary and I are worshipping and fellowshipping together.
  21. I am thankful for a fun trip to Las Vegas with good friends.
  22. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit blessed our Alpha class, even in the virtual environment.
  23. I am thankful for good health.
  24. I am thankful for enough material blessings to live comfortably and, with God’s help, give a little more than comfortably.
  25. I am thankful for healthy food, clean water, pure air, and all the necessities of life.
  26. I am thankful for the demise of the rat that was living in my garage.
  27. I am thankful for a birthday blessed with so much love from around the world.
  28. I am thankful I decided to continue my blog this year.
  29. I am thankful for the wise leaders and creative visionaries in my life that help me see a way forward when times seem unmanageable.
  30.  I am a thankful to God for giving me a life blessed with opportunities to learn, grow, worship, and serve as I walk the path He set out for me… and for giving me that life in a free country that allows me to pursue that path without persecution.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Here is one more bonus thankful:  I AM THANKFUL FOR YOU!

For what are you most thankful this Thanksgiving? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Terri/Dorry 😊

Rats!! 2: The Sequel

A few weeks after my unwelcome encounter with the rat in our garage, I received an email inviting me to attend the passholder “squeak peek” of Ratatouille, the new ride in the France pavilion in EPCOT. For some reason, this seemed too good an opportunity for me to miss. Never mind that I live in terror of rat-like tails. Never mind that I had just paid vast quantities of money to rat-proof my home. Never mind that I cannot even watch a movie with rats in it without covering my eyes and cringing. I was not going to miss this very special opportunity to experience Ratatouille before the general public. I love being special. Surely, after facing my fear of an actual rat (well, kind of… the closest I got to the said ex-rat was texting a picture of its lifeless body to the critter control guy), I could sit through a ride depicting a cute cartoon rodent.

Or not. Here’s the thing. I knew the ride was based on a rat. However, I did not expect quite so many rats. I also did not anticipate that, as part of the ride “story,” the rider is supposed to be a rat. We rode in a little plastic rat vehicle through the various vignettes of the ride. Because we were supposed to be rats, the veritable armada of rats on the screens were HUGE. It was terrifying. Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by buck-toothed, mangy-looking giant rats. Maybe to the average rational person,  they were somehow cute.  Truthfully, I could not opine on what reaction normal people might have had. I was too busy keeping my eyes closed and cowering against Max to take in the nuances of what I will now always refer to as the “rat ride.”  At one point, I even screamed involuntarily, 

In retrospect, I could give the imagineers points for the premise and execution of the ride. There were too many rats, but, apart from that, the ride was clever and well-produced. The ride vehicle was innovative. I get all kinds of feels from creativity and the rat ride was certainly creative. Unfortunately, what it created within me was horror.

So, let’s review what I learned from my Ratatouille experience:

Rats are not cute.

One rat is too many rats.

Rats do not belong in a kitchen.

I can manage Mickey Mouse and Cheese, the mouse from the Tinker Bell movies, but Ratatouille is pushing my luck beyond wisdom.

“Special” does not necessarily mean “good.”

Sometimes, it is important to overcome your fears; sometimes it is important to just avoid the rats!

What amusement park ride do you avoid and why? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a magical day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

It May Take A Village, But The Village Gets Something Out Of The Deal, Too

The other day, we had two baptisms during our Sunday church service. One thing that made the occasion especially noteworthy was that the rector was baptizing his own grandchildren, ages two years and about two months. It was All Saints’ Day. The rector gave his sermon surrounded by precocious children, who he asked to help him with his message.

The whole event was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I reacted in such a profoundly joyful way in my deepest soul. It is trite and cliched to say that my heart was exploding or melting, but my heart definitely did SOMETHING quite extraordinary and dramatic during this celebration.

I am certain that part of my reaction had to do with my not having children of my own. I do not get these milestone moments in my individual experience. The regenerating joy of family milestones is one of those empty spaces in my heart. When others are kind enough to share their moments, I enthusiastically… perhaps, greedily… partake.

There is an even more significant reason I had such a profound reaction to the baptisms. The love and grace that God was pouring out that day, as He renewed His Church, was so abundant that it runneth over even the largest cup. As God graced the newly baptized children and their family, that grace overflowed right into my soul. It was a reminder that we are all family through baptism. At least for a time, I become part of the family and piggybacked on their grace. It was also a reminder that all of us in the congregation have spiritual responsibility to support their journeys of growth in wisdom, faith, and favor. In witnessing the ceremony, God also gifts us with grace, and we also take responsibility as members of God’s family.

I am teaching a course on stewardship at my church. Stewardship is about taking care of all the gifts God gives us and using them wisely for the benefit of His people and the glory of His name. We usually think of stewardship in regard to sharing the “three Ts’- time, talent, and treasure. The gifts God gives us are much more diverse than that. The baptisms are a good example.

Most people count their families- perhaps especially their children and grandchildren- as one of their most precious gifts from God. They try to steward that gift well by taking good care of their families. What they may not realize is that is also blessed stewardship when they are generous and thoughtful enough to share their children with the church as our rector’s son and daughter-in-law did. Their decision to share their children and their commitment to God with the community generated more faith-enriching power than they will ever understand.

I hope and believe that these parents also received grace in this act of stewardship. I hope they felt the love, prayer, and support of the community. I hope they felt the special power of God’s grace “when two or three are gathered.”  Some time ago, I posted a piece called Giving is FUN-damental, in which I argued that sharing what we have with others is not only noble, but also darned fun! It feels good to give and God often equips us with an extra helping of grace when we have momentum in giving. I hope that the parents of our two new Christians felt that extra helping of grace!

How do you steward God’s gifts to you? Please share your perspective by adding a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a blessed day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Melodrama In My Mind

In one of my earlier posts, Birthdays, I mentioned that I was engaged in a battle royale with myself to figure out some substantial, long-time “straight edge” issues that cause me a great deal of trouble with my emotional health. I said I would tell you more about these issues once I started figuring them out. As I sit down to write this, I am uncertain as to whether I will publish it. I am not sure that a discussion of the dysfunctional workings of my psyche will be interesting or helpful to anyone. These are all my neuroses and insecurities. Why should you have to struggle with them, too? On the other hand, I did say I would spill the tea and I am a woman of my word. It is a pickle. I decided to write it out and see if my words decide for me.

When I started sorting through all the crap in my brain that forms my decisions and perceptions about myself, I realized that there is one big, ugly, menacing issue that I have been trying to hide from myself and the world for decades. It is ironic that I try to hide from it because it is all about what people see.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, I inextricably linked value with physical beauty. My appearance is the litmus test by which I assess my value and worth in the world. I have never been good-looking. I have never been pretty, desirable, or sexy. I have never even been average-looking. I have always been overweight, under tall, and dowdy. I would say I have no shape, except that round is a shape. I truly have no waist and no neck. The various parts of my body are completely out of proportion. My skin has always been dull and mottled looking. My lips are thin and blend into my face. My eyes are not bad, but my cheeks and my glasses kind of obscure them. I have decent hair, but it doesn’t do what I tell it to do. My measuring stick of worth has become physical appearance. I fall so short, I have trouble feeling worthy of anything.

As a child, other children were often cruel because of my weight and looks. They called me unkind names and yelled at me. There were times when there was even physical bullying. This went on consistently from about third grade through high school. I did not want to upset my parents, so I carried all this hurt on my own back. I have never really downloaded it because I am so embarrassed and ashamed.

For years in my life, I believed I was the ugliest person on the face of the planet. I did make progress. I do not believe that anymore. I just believe my appearance would rank in the lowest one percentile.

I do not say all this because I am looking for pity or asking you to reassure me. It would not help. You could tell me that I am completely wrong about my level of unattractiveness, but I would not believe you anyway. To be honest, I have never really dealt with this issue because no one I have ever talked to about it took it seriously. They tend to not believe the depth and breadth of this belief within me nor understand how painful it is.

The thing is that my looks are not just my looks. I wish I could just accept that I will never be pretty and move on. I have such a sense of shame and unworthiness and fear wrapped up in my perceptions of my appearance. I truly do not want to be overdramatic, but, if I am honest, I think I do many things in my life to “make up” for imposing myself and my ugliness on the world. I want to be as little trouble as possible because my looks already mean that I am getting more than my share of generosity from people. I do not deserve to come first.

My head knows that this perception never made sense. Now, at 62 years old, it makes even less sense. Even the most beautiful people in the world usually do not look like the most beautiful people in the world once they hit their sixties.

I started this whole journey of figuring all this out as part of a coaching process I joined a few months ago. I am working with Todd Payne (Todd Payne, Life Coach (toddpaynelifecoach.com)The process is based on the enneagram. I am not going to try to explain the enneagram worldview because I am no expert. You can get better information from other sources by looking it up on the internet. Todd, the coach who is collaborating with me, is excellent. I do feel I am progressing quite rapidly in overcoming anxiety. It is a very practical approach. It has helped me strategize how to manage many specific situations. I was flying quite high over the whole thing, as I became more proficient in managing myself in stressful situations. However, I think I have just been practicing… and, perhaps, testing the coach and the process… before facing the most powerful negative forces in my life.

I finally broke the wall a couple of weeks ago. Todd asked me to contemplate what in my life has caused me to embrace the unhealthy strategies I employ in managing my life. In other words, how did these strategies occur and how have they served me over time? Truly, many of my life skills do have benefits. It is just when I apply them in an unhealthy way to inappropriate situations that I sink my spirit. Over the week I was thinking about these life situations, I felt awful. I thought of a few things- mostly easy to face- and we talked about them. I did mention the weight/looks thing, but I let it skitter to the corner of the conversation. After the conversation, I still felt unresolved and dodgy. The hopeless feeling was there. I came to a revelation, which led me to a fundamental question.

Obviously, I have struggled with this issue for decades. I believe I have grown and improved. Normally, I am now a pretty happy person. That has not always been the case. There have been times in my life when the melodrama of my mind took place on a dangerously dark stage. Today, after much maturation on my part, I do not walk out onto the dark stage very often. When I do wander onto that stage, however, it is awfully bad. My revelation was that I have not resolved my issues around body image; I have simply learned how to manage the pain they bring. The question I had for my coach was whether it was possible to actually change my perceptions completely instead of just learning to deal with the scarring… and, if fundamental change is a reasonable goal, is it too late for me?

I found the courage to revisit the coaching session, show this very damaged part of me, and ask for help, I felt terrified. It was irrational fear, but that irrational fear refused to listen to reason. I pushed it all away and avoided contemplating it until the night before the next coaching session.

I thought that my coach might try to convince me that I was wrong about how unattractive I was. I thought my coach might try to help me lose weight and improve my appearance. I thought my coach might be flummoxed by the whole issue, as others have been. What he did instead was plot out a course of how we can get me to completely change the measuring stick. Mind blown.

First, he normalized this huge, deep, dark, monster of a secret that lives in my mind by pointing out that the world is going through a huge transformation in trying to see beyond how people look- color of the skin, age, disabilities, ethnicities. He did not say body type, but I could fill in that blank. Then, we spent time talking about inherent value and God’s plan for each of us. Intellectually, of course I could understand what he was saying, but I was still having a tough time kicking the monster to the curb. What really tells the story was when he was asking me about what I wanted to be able to truthfully say about myself, I honestly could not realistically visualize any goal beyond believing I look “fine and not off-putting.”  I am still a work in progress.

We did talk about simple things to do to fight my way into the light when I feel myself pushing onto the dark stage. We also discussed that I will often just need to trust and have faith and step into life without the certainty that I will be okay. One of those things was to produce a prayer, mantra, or system of words that would remind me of my worth completely apart from physical appearance. I was not firing on all cylinders on this activity. Nothing was resonating with me.

That evening, as I puttered around in my brain, I remembered something someone had once said that made me feel very, very good. When I was received into the Episcopal Church, I was talking to the archdeacon who was coordinating the ceremony. She said to me, specifically to me, “You are a precious child of God, and we are so happy you are here.”  I adapted that message to “I am a precious child of God and I bring joy to the world.”  Immediately, I knew this is what I had to tell myself.

The next morning, I woke up feeling even worse than I had been feeling. I was dull-spirited and dull-minded. I felt completely worthless, unlovable, unattractive, undesirable, and hopeless. It did not take me long to go back to bed, where I stared through dull eyes at the walls, with no real trust that anything could ever get any better. Then, I remembered my epiphany of the night before and began to tell myself, “I am a precious child of God and I bring joy to the world.”  I truly did not believe it would work, but I was trying to follow my coach’s advice to do something just on faith.

It did not sink in right away. I said it ten or twelve times before anything changed. When I did feel the change, though, the wave of power and well-being was palpable. As I kept repeating the words, I felt better and better. My eyes were registering objects and motion. They sparked up instead of looking deadly out into space. I am sure my brain chemicals changed.

Maybe hope is possible. Maybe change is possible. Maybe killing the infection instead of just taking aspirin is possible. Maybe I am a precious child of God and maybe I bring joy to the world.

I’m not sure what question to even ask today.  I am feeling wicked vulnerable right now, so please be kind.  If any of you have ever felt the way I do, please feel free to leave a comment or email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. I’d also recommend that you think about contacting Todd Payne if you think you could use some help moving into a more joyful way of living.   

Have a day you deserve!

Terri/Dorry 😊