Fraidy Cat

On my recent beach trip with my friend, we had a close encounter of the creepy kind.

One evening, we got a late start out to dinner after a day on the beach… and the need to do something about our two days’ worth of beach hair. By the time we got to the restaurant, it was monumentally busy. It took some time to get served. The server was moving around like a tornado in a mobile home park, but there were just so many people. Despite her heroic efforts, we didn’t get through with dinner for about two hours. When we got back to our condo, it was around 10:00pm. I am old. I live in central Florida, which is “early bird special central.” I do not usually dine at eight and I do not usually stay out quite so long after dark. Still, I am a grown woman and should be able to handle myself past sunset just going from the parking spot directly in front of our condo to the condo door. It was a distance of about twenty feet.

Not so. I got out of the car and chatted with my friend as she gathered up her stuff in preparation of making her own exit from the vehicle. I happened to look over to the side of the parking lot and saw something moving under a large pile of leaves. I could not see specifically what it was, but I thought I spied a small, pointy face peering out from a tube of moving leaves. This was something creepy… in every sense. It was some creature- probably a mammal because the part of its face I could see appeared to be covered in fur. It was cylindrically shaped. I estimated it was about fifteen inches long and had a diameter of about five inches.

I was intrigued at first and wondered what it was. Then, the blasted thing started moving in our direction. Most animals will move away from humans, but this whatchamacallit was making a beeline directly towards us. It was not fast, but it was purposeful. I did not want to wait around to see how long it would take for it to reach us, so I mentioned it to my friend, who had all kinds of questions about the approaching critter. My friend is a curious person. She is talented at asking good, insightful questions that should generate helpful, informative answers. I was not that curious nor was I particularly good at supplying those helpful, informative answers at that particular moment. All I wanted was to get in the condo, safe from the creepy critter.

When we locked the front door behind us, barring the mystery animal from following us into the condo, I felt better. I began to wonder what the creature was. I did some googling to try to identify it, but never did nail it down. The leaf-incrusted tube of terror creeping towards us did not match any of the possibilities that either I or Google had. The closest thing seemed to be a shrew, but, if it was a shrew, it was clearly some kind of science experiment gone wrong because shrews are much smaller than the creepy critter on our front lawn.

I eventually gave up and figured this encounter was going to be the stuff that nightmares are made of if I did not stop thinking about it. My friend, however, was less daunted than I was.

“You were really afraid, weren’t you?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes,” I responded. “It was coming TOWARDS us. Besides, don’t you realize that I am afraid of EVERYTHING?”

It baffled my mind that my friend who has known me for five years could be so unaware of the terrified nature of my personality. Fear has always been my emotion of choice. I get scared before I even have a chance to realize what else I feel in any given situation. This tendency towards terror makes life a little difficult. I would not say it limits me unduly, but I do find existing in the real world to be a ton of work.

Let me be clear. I am not a coward. A coward does not do things because she is afraid. I, on the contrary, am incredibly brave. Even though I am afraid of everything, I overcome the fear to do the things I want and need to do. Most of my life, this has meant fighting my own impulses and acting against what my brain is telling me to do. In its fear and paralysis, I must summon superhuman strength to catapult past my emotions to accomplish the life to which I aspire. In my life coaching process, I have been working on not forcing myself to catapult past the emotion. I am learning to do two things. First, to find the emotions that lurk just under the surface of the fear… the desire, the love, the anger… and use them to propel myself forward. In that way, instead of using my energy to keep the fear emotion at bay, I am using the momentum of the more positive motions to fuel my efforts. Secondly, I am learning to befriend the fear. Maybe I do not have to catapult past the fear. Maybe I can take it with me. Maybe there is strength to be had from allowing fear to be my traveling companion, but not the tour guide.

On the other hand, I am just as happy that the jeeper creeper in the leaves was NOT my traveling companion back into the condo!

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

Have a not-so-fraidy day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Not Crummy Bun

Some of you may recall my inherited fascination with a little confection called the “crumb bun.” Not the “crumb cake,” which is an altogether different animal. The “crumb bun” was a staple of Italian bakeries in New York during the 1950s and 1960s. My mother was crazy about them. She passed the crumb bun gene on to me.

When we moved to California, my mother mourned the absence of New York crumb buns. Vendors tried to palm off different types of crumb cakes and some questionable, decidedly crummy, crumb buns. Grocery stores did not have them. Specialty shops did not have them. Even bakeries showed a suspicious lack of crumb bun knowledge.

When I was a little girl, cross country travel was still relatively exotic and we were a solidly middle class family. We rarely returned to New York after our move. Every time we did go, however, the first thing my mother typically put in her mouth after the plane landed was a real New York, Italian bakery crumb bun.  As time passed, though, even New York did not have a steady supply of New York crumb buns. Family bakeries, like many small businesses, were dying as big box stores and grocery chains moved into the neighborhood.  My family members who lived in New York were oblivious to the catastrophe that this entailed. They had been on a gradual crumb bun withdrawal process. To my mother, it was cold turkey.

My mother reacted to the disappearance of the greater New York crumb bun, by going into mourning. Still, she lived in denial. When we moved to Florida, she decided we needed to search for crumb buns. She reasoned that we were now on the east coast. She reasoned that a lot of people retire to Florida and maybe there were a few former New Yorker bakers who enjoyed getting up at 4:00am to make crumb buns. She did not believe the crumb bun was extinct. She believed they were just elusive, like some exotic bird that ornithologists stalk with great enthusiasm.

I did not know whether crumb buns were extinct or not, but I was perfectly happy to travel the state looking for them. I do not know if I had quite the level of enthusiasm and commitment that my mother did, but I did my best. Time after time, the crumb bun rumors proved unfounded and we did not find an acceptable rendition of the traditional New York crumb bun. We found a few possibilities, but none quite measured up to our standard. One of them felt like sawdust in the mouth. Another one had way too much lemon taste in the base. A crumb bun should not taste like lemon cake with cinnamon all over it. The most common problem with the crumb buns we sampled was an insufficient crumb to bun ratio. It was a sad state of crumb bun affairs.

Once, I thought I had an answer when I discovered that Buddy Valastro, owner of the Carlo’s Bakery of Hoboken and star of television’s “Cake Boss,” had a bakery in Las Vegas where there was a pretty good imitation of a true crumb bun. When I heard he was opening a store in Orlando, I was excited to introduce my mother to this “almost authentic” confection. Unfortunately, he did not stock crumb buns in the Orlando store. I take it as a personal failure that my mother never got another “real” crumb bun before she died.

When I went on my little beach getaway with my friend recently, we went to an Italian bakery in Fernandina Beach called Nona’s. When I looked in the window, I saw something that looked suspiciously like a REAL crumb bun. Finally, it looked like I had found my quarry.

I bought a crumb bun… and, eureka! It was moist and sweet and spicy. It had the perfect crumb to bun ration. There was no lemon aftertaste. It melted in my mouth, enveloping my tastebuds in a smooth, rich, delicious blanket of awesomeness. It was one of the best lunches I have ever eaten.

#Lifegoals!

What is a delicacy that you remember from your childhood that no longer seems to be around? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a delicious day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Out To Sea

Recently, my friend and I whisked ourselves away for a beach getaway. We spent three delightful days on Amelia Island hanging out with the four “s’s”- sun, sand, sea, and shops. We had a wonderful time, but there was one catastrophic moment.

We were staying in a condominium a couple of blocks from a beach slightly north of the main beach, so we had been walking to that area for most of our beach time. We had an enjoyable time, but the ocean was pretty rough, and the beach was very, very rocky. I had an excellent pair of water socks that protected my feet very well. My friend had water shoes, but they did not fit so tightly. The tiny rocks that seemed to make up the entire shore filled her shoes like cement. She finally gave up and tried to remove them while still in the water. She successfully removed one shoe but lost the other one in the process. She chased it around in the surf for a bit, but finally realized that resistance was futile. The pink water shoe disappeared into the ocean. We went to Walmart that night and got her a pair of more fitted water shoes.

On our final day, we decided to visit the main beach for a few hours before starting our journey back to our landlubber homes. We immediately noticed that the ocean was less rough and less rocky than at our walkable beach. This perception turned out to be sinisterly deceptive.

Because the ocean was smoother at the main beach, we were able to make our way much further out to sea without being pummeled by waves breaking an inch or two from the shoreline. My friend and I were enjoying the sense of coolness and freedom as we bobbed up and down with the waves. We giggled and chatted like little girls. Neither of us wanted to tear ourselves away from this moment of time to go home.

At some point, we decided to venture out a little further and my friend realized she had her drugstore sunglasses on over her prescription eyeglasses. We decided she should go back to the shore and leave her prescription glasses in her beach bag. I, however, did not think to leave my costly brand-new prescription sunglasses in my beach bag. While waiting for my friend to return, I was pulled under a breaking wave. The undertow caught me, and I thrashed around for a bit. Luckily, I eventually surfaced. Unluckily, my brand-new prescription sunglasses did not.

I suppose that, if something had to go missing, it was better that it was my sunglasses than my lifeless body. I was still pretty bummed. However, I did not want mourning over the loss of my sunglasses to overshadow what had been an exceptionally wonderful time. I decided I was to reframe the situation.

Most of you know my Tinker Bell obsession. You may not know that Tinker Bell lives in Neverland. She collects “lost things” and repurposes them to create new, innovative items that make life in Pixie Hollow easier. My friend’s shoe and my sunglasses are not gone for good. I am convinced they have washed up on Neverland Beach. Tinker Bell will find them and turn them into something wonderful. You never know what a tinker fairy can do with a water shoe and pair of sunglasses!

What is the strangest thing you have ever lost to Mother Nature?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Hope you don’t hit rough waters today!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Dear Mrs. Rice

When I was a little girl, Mrs. Rice was the director of the children’s choir at my church. I joined the choir when I was eight or nine, during the late 1960s.

I have not thought about Mrs. Rice in many years. The other day, though, I put on a dress that touched a Mrs. Rice memory. Mrs. Rice always wore these wonderful long bohemian/peasanty kind of dresses. They were fitted through the bodice and flowed from her natural waist. The dress I put on reminded me of her dress and her body and her beauty. Vivid memories of that time and of Mrs. Rice scuttled into my brain. Mrs. Rice always fascinated me.

Her body was lush and soft and solid, all at the same time. Mrs. Rice was an artist and a performing musician. She made wonderful art in oils. She played the guitar. She had a voice as sweet and clear as a mountain spring, with an exuberant undertone that reminded me of a brook running merrily into that spring. Her personality was warm and enveloping and comforting. She had dark, exotic hair. Her complexion was pale, and she always wore makeup, including very red lipstick. Her eyes sparkled. She reminded me of Snow White if Snow White had been a gypsy. As a child, I always had the sense that there was something about Mrs. Rice that did not quite fit in with the rest of the suburban mommies in my parish. I do not know what her backstory was. I did not care then, and I do not care now. All I remember is that Mrs. Rice was wonderful, and I loved her.

I went googling to see if I could locate Mrs. Rice. I am guessing she would be somewhere between 80 and 90 now. I did find a photo from the Orange County Register, our local newspaper in the town where I grew up. The photo was dated in 2013 and Mrs. Rice was leading a group of school children singing at a celebration to dedicate the parish school’s new playground. She was wearing the same kind of dress, the same bright lipstick, and had the same dark hair. I checked in with a friend of mine who has connections in that parish to see what he knew. It turns out that Mrs. Rice is still alive but is ending her journey in this world even as I write this. My friend did get me an address, however.

I decided to write to Mrs. Rice to tell her what kind of impact she had on me, even fifty plus years later. From what I understand, she is at the point of her journey where she probably will not be able to comprehend or process a letter from me. I still want to try. Some part of her may delight in hearing the impact she had on me and, I am sure, lots of children like me.

Dear Mrs. Rice,

I do not think you would remember me, but you were someone very special to me when I was a little girl. I sang in one of your children’s choirs when I was 9 or 10 years old, back in the late 1960s. We sang during Mass and, also, I remember one year singing as entertainment at the St. Joseph’s table celebration. This was so meaningful to me because the grade school glee club rejected me and I was devastated, as I had been waiting a long time to be old enough to sing in the choir. You embraced me, both physically and metaphorically, into the church children’s choir.

Your kindness meant so much to me then, filling me with confidence and a feeling of worth. It was not just the acceptance into the choir, though. There was something about you that just radiated joy, love, and peace. You fascinated me. Your energy was warm and creative. You had the ability to make me (and I am sure, others) feel like I was the only thing that mattered when you talked to me. There was something slightly exotic and different about you that intrigued me, as well. I had the sense, even as a child, that you did not quite fit into the “mommy mold” that most of the women in the parish crafted. I do not know what it was, but I always felt you were a bit outside the traditional clique community. Instead of seeming bothered by that difference or trying to reform yourself into the image of life that the “church ladies” held, you seemed to celebrate your difference. You were an example to me of living in a world, but not of it. I felt that you accepted yourself and loved the life God called you to live. You had that sense of acceptance and celebration not “in spite” of your uniqueness but because of it.

I have thought of you many times over the years. I am now 62 years old, retired, and living in Florida. The other day, I had an experience that brought back my memories of you so vividly, that I had to reach out to let you know of your continued impact.

I purchased a dress and I put it on for the first time a week or so ago. It reminded me so much of the dresses you wore when I was a little girl- long, fitted through the bodice, maybe a tiny bit low-cut, and flowing from the waist. The dress is made of yellow and white gingham. I feel faintly ethereal in it. I applied makeup carefully and spent some effort on my hair.

All my life, I have believed that I look ugly. I do not think there is anything about my looks that is remotely beautiful. I certainly do not look like I belong in a fashion magazine. Even in my younger days, I was not the kind of girl that attracted positive attention or inspired men to cross the street, much less cross the sea, to be with me. I worked extremely hard to be “good enough” or “sweet enough” or “smart enough” or something enough to compensate for my looks.

When I tried on that dress, I realized something. We are not shaped the same. You are more pear-shaped and voluptuous, and I am more apple-shaped and round. You are tall and I am short. Still, in that dress, I saw some similarities. VOGUE would not be interested in featuring us on its cover. Our bodies do not mirror the image of beauty and health that most people accept as fact. We both have extra weight. We both use makeup to create more luminous faces. We both color our hair to feel more energetic and vital.

When I looked at myself in the “Mrs. Rice” dress, I remembered how much I loved you and how exceptionally beautiful I thought you were when I was a little girl. You are beautiful, outside as well as inside. From the way you presented yourself to the world, I believe you knew you were beautiful. That made you even more beautiful and more magnetic. Mrs. Rice, when I realized all this, I realized something important. If I believe you are beautiful, perhaps I need to believe I am beautiful, as well. And perhaps I can.

Thank you so much for all you did for me as a little girl and for the lessons you taught me, almost subliminally, that are still teaching me today.

With love, prayers, and thanks for all you gave me,

Dorothea Goodness Curran

Have you ever contacted someone who impacted your life positively after many years had passed? What was the result? Please leave a comment to share your perspective. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a beautiful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Wild and Unpredictable

Max and I were watching The Maltese Falcon together last night for about the seventh or eighth time. Something stirred in me when Brigid O’Shaughnessy said to Sam Spade, “You do such wild and unpredictable things.” I did a wild and unpredictable thing yesterday morning.

Todd Payne, my life coach, thinks I am extremely risk averse. I would like to quibble with him, but really cannot. The only really wild and unpredictable thing I ever did before now was buying a house and moving across the country when I retired. It felt like a cataclysmic event, but I know most people do things like that all the time. When it comes to everyday life, I am even more staid. I like spontaneity, but I like my spontaneity to be planned and scheduled. I like adventure, but I like my adventure to be carefully controlled. I think risk of litigation is a powerful moderating force in our society. When I contemplate doing something scary, I consider whether I could successfully sue the entity offering me the scary option if something goes amiss. If it seems likely that I would prevail, I figure the entity offering me the option must be confident that no tragedy will occur.

Yesterday, though, I slipped my leash and ran hellbent for leather off the trail. I went to pick up my new eyeglasses.

After I picked up the glasses, I realized that I have been wearing spectacles for over 50 years. That just seems inconceivable to me. Fifty years seems like such a long time. I guess I never thought about wearing glasses this long when I got my first pair of brown-rimmed cats-eye spectacles in the sixth grade. I estimate that I have worn at least fifty different frames since that time, counting both regular glasses and sunglasses. The number of frames I have tried on in that period must count into the hundreds. That is wild.

The other thing I noticed is that all those frames, especially those in the past 20 years, have been pretty similar. I always pick sunglass frames for durability because I am hard on sunglasses, so they do not really count. The regular glasses are my fashion statement. The regular glasses have always been smallish rectangular metal frames in some shade of gold, silver, pink, or blue. Once I had lilac, which was a real walk on the wild side. My goal was to have frames that were like eyeshadow. You were not really supposed to notice the glasses themselves, but the color and shine were supposed to enhance the beauty of my eyes.

This time, though, I was wild AND unpredictable. My new glasses are rose gold metal. They are large, squoval, and funky. They are unlike any other glasses I have ever owned. It is impossible not to notice them. Rather than serving as eyeshadow, they are more like jewelry for my face. I love them.

What is happening to me? The next thing you know, I will be ziplining. Oh yeah, I did that already.

What is the most wild and unpredictable thing you have ever done? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a wild and unpredictable day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Flappable

One bleak December day back in the mid-1980s, my boss’ boss asked me to come to her office. At the time, I was working in a just-a-smidgeon-above entry level position for a major governmental agency. I was a technician of the law. My job was to help people who were having trouble solving problems within the normal system. My parents had also worked for governmental agencies, and I knew the meaning of hierarchy. I had a healthy respect for bureaucracy. Therefore, my anxiety antenna went into overdrive when I received the call from the mid-level manager. For the sake of convenience, let’s call her Patty.

I cautiously toddled on over to Patty’s “office.”  In those days, the workplace was experimenting with open concepts and cubicles. Even a second-level manager would not merit an “office” with walls and a door. To create some semblance of privacy, someone pushed together an elaborate system of cubicle walling to make a “cone of silence” with no top on it.

As it turned out, Patty was not summoning me to give me the ax or anything equally tragic. In fact, she was asking me if I would take on an acting manager role for four weeks- the last two weeks of the current year and the first two weeks of the new year. The agency was even willing to give me a temporary promotion and raise to compensate me for assuming this additional duty. I was flattered, but also surprised. Patty registered my shock and wanted to salvage the situation, so she reached over the desk and carefully pushed my jaw shut.

“We really thought you would be such a great person to do this because you are so calm and unflappable,” Patty explained.

Calm? Unflappable? Me? There was a never a more flappable person on the face of the earth. Way to ratchet up the pressure, Patty.

I agreed to take on the assignment, but I told Patty that I planned a few days off after the first of the year. My then husband and I were taking a short vacation for the first time in four years. I had worked out the timing with the New Year’s holiday and a weekend so I would only have to take off two workdays. Patty’s face dropped. She began to make noises designed to convince me to cancel the trip. I guess I won that negotiation without even knowing it was a negotiation. I had no intention of bailing on the trip. My husband was a full-time student, so was only able to go during the holiday break. I had not taken off any vacation time in my four years of employment with the agency. I needed this time off very badly. Left without a fallback position, Patty agreed that I could take my two days off but made me promise that the weekly statistics for the department would not tank while I was gone.

This, of course, was a totally worthless promise. There is no way to guarantee a statistical outcome, especially for a period during which one is not working. On the other hand, being as flappable as I have always been, I immediately began devising a strategy to maximize my odds. In retrospect, I know that the whole scenario was toothless. After all, what could they do to me if the weekly statistics did tank while I was gone? Take away my birthday? None of this rational line of thought entered my head.

Anyway, my strategy involved scheduling out all the cases that would probably close in a two-week period. I also evaluated all the other cases in the inventory to see if there were any criteria we could apply to make them closable. Then, I devised a calendar for closing the cases during the entire time I would be acting manager to make sure that the proper balance of old and new cases closed in a given week so that the average number of days on closed cases and the percentage of closing inventory that was over 30 days old would be within acceptable limits. Scratch that. Not “acceptable” limits. Ridiculously low limits so that, in case I screwed up the math, we would still be okay. In other words, I manipulated the statistics. I also schooled my coworkers/temporary subordinates on how to manipulate the statistics in my absence if anything went astray.

Flappability is a great motivator. Some people call it “drive” and praise it as a desirable quality. In my case, it is simply nervous energy wrapped in fear of confrontation. As much as I have matured in the forty or so years since this episode, I am afraid that I still struggle to find the calm… before the storm or otherwise. As hard as I work to keep things in perspective and evaluate situations from a rational point of view, I am afraid flappability is something with which I just must live. I guess I might as well embrace it.

I plan and schedule everything. I am facilitating a brainstorming session at church in a couple of weeks. I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation for it. We made dinner reservations for a trip to Las Vegas… four-and-a-half months from now. On my first trip to Disney World, I spent a whole night awake worrying about what to do the next day because it might rain. When I was working on a simulated project as part of a management training class, I came to the class with a rolling suitcase of supporting information. I am, if I had to put it in one word, ridiculous.

I am also prepared. I am also dependable. I am also generous with my efforts. I am also typically successful in implementing anything I set out to do. Flappability works for me a lot of the time. On the other hand, there is a cost to my central nervous system. The key is to figure out the risk/benefit analysis in each situation. In most cases, I could conserve a lot of the energy I expend on anxiety by demonstrating a little wisdom as to when flapping works for me and when it works against me.

Flapping is not all bad. I must flap if I am going to fly. The trick is figuring out when and how to flap that will propel me forward, not cause me to crash and burn.

Are you a flapper? What do you do to control your flappability to keep it working for you instead of against you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Fly high today!

Terri/Dorry 😊

But, Body, What Have You Done For Me Lately?

The Body Positive Movement, which advocates for all people to feel beautiful in their bodies, suggests that an important step in reaching that goal is to recognize the amazingly wonderful things their unique bodies do. For instance, most women can say that their bodies have done this incredible thing of growing and delivering a human being. Another example is being able to recognize that a set of “muscular” gams means your body is strong enough to hike and climb mountains. I am still trying to identify the unique wonders of my body. I do not think being the last person to survive a famine is what they mean- especially with my pancreas. I would probably fall into a diabetic coma long before I starved to death.

Recently, I did realize one amazing story my body tells. I have a highly talented immune system, well-honed at producing kick-ass antibodies. I believe I have mentioned that my COVID19 vaccine experience has been a little extreme. Things were not too bad after the first shot, but the second and third dose ran roughshod over me like the English army ran over Scotland in Braveheart. The good news is that the reaction lasted only 24-48 hours rather than centuries.

Last week, I went to get my annual booster. Based on past experience, I figured I was in for a day or so of body aches, fever, headache, lethargy, and all around yuckiness. When the shot went in my arm, I barely felt it. As the day progressed, I felt pretty good. I ran some errands and began to think my body had finally learned not to call in the biological Green Berets in response to a little simulated COVID RNA. No such luck. By the time I went to bed, my arm was more sore than it had been after any of the other doses and the rest of my body was echoing the aches. I could barely move. The next day, I understood that the COVID vaccine continues to be really, really pissed off by anything even remotely resembling the coronavirus. Yay, me! It took me being out of bed about fifteen minutes before I was certain I would be going back to bed and spending the remainder of the day there. 

Not only did I hurt in every molecule of my body, I had zero energy. My degree of lethargy was so stifling, I could not even abide the thought of eating. Digestion just seemed like too much work. The time I did not spend asleep, I spent largely staring into space.

On Sunday, I had a full complement of activities planned. In fact, I had a few extra items on the agenda. When the alarm went off, I thought I was good. In keeping with prior experience, I expected to wake up like a new woman after a day and a half of feeling crappy. I did not feel too bad, so I got dressed and began my marathon day. About halfway through Sunday school (the second of my six activities planned for the day), I realized that I was not good. My back was starting to feel like knives were sticking into it again and the energy I regained while asleep seeped out of me in buckets. I felt like an old cell phone battery. The little battery icon is all green when you pull it off the power source, but the battery is too old to actually hold a charge for longer than a minute and a half. My battery looked green when I set out to church, but within a half hour it was clear that the only thing that was green was my face.

I ended up going home, immediately flopping down on the couch, and falling asleep for two hours. Then, I got up and went into my bedroom. There, I slept for another hour or so and spent the rest of the afternoon staring into space.

A little later in the evening, I began to feel more perky and actually did a little walking. This morning, except for the large red, swollen, overheated lump on my arm, I feel like me again. Me with more antibodies, apparently.

Good job, Body!

What does your body do especially well? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a (body)positive day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Deep Dark Secret

I have been playing with y’all over the past several weeks. My blog posts have been light, silly, puffy pieces about the weird turns my mind takes and the random ironies of life. They definitely reflect the quirkiness that is me.

Behind the scenes, though, I have been struggling with some darker, heavier issues. I have told you a little bit about my work with my life coach, Todd Payne (www.toddpaynelifecoach.com). I have shared some of the fruits of that work in terms of decreasing my anxiety, increasing my flexibility, and embracing more joy in my life. When I started working with Todd, I was not completely sure what I wanted to accomplish. I only knew that my brain runs in the redline area all the time. My mental “check engine” is ALWAYS lit. My brain exists in a dangerous internal world. I try to plan, prepare, avoid, and hope away all the potential perils to my psyche. This is, of course, impossible. I have always been a pretty functional individual. Many people would say, in fact, that I am highly functional. These two realities- that I am highly functional and that my emotion of choice on any given day is fear- are difficult to reconcile. Long ago, I learned that I had to manage my fears if I wanted to have any kind of life at all. I work very, very hard to overcome my anxiety. I end run my anxiety so that I can accomplish what I want to accomplish. I end run my anxiety so I don’t annoy people. I end run my anxiety so that the world won’t know how anxious I am.

All that running is exhausting. When I reached out to Todd, I wondered if it was possible to take my emotional management a few steps further. Instead of learning additional coping strategies to help overcome the fears, was there a way I could make the fears stop? In other words, was there an antibiotic that would resolve my infection of fear rather than just an aspirin that would mask the symptoms? The fear management techniques I have used most of my life were the equivalent to an emotional aspirin. If there was a way I could resolve the tendency to terror at its core, I believed I would not have to work so hard to function happily in life.

I believed this was a bit of a pipe dream, but I decide to give it a try. As I have shared with you, I have seen amazing progress. I could not be happier with the outcome.

On the other hand…

As I worked through my fears and anxiety, I realized there was something much deeper that has been eviscerating my self-worth most of my life… my perception of and relationship with my body image. I have talked a little bit about this issue in passing (retirement lifestyle blog; body image; life coaching – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement), but I have not shared much detail about it. I am not sure I can. I do not think it would be very helpful, anyway. Everybody’s story is different. My body image journey is unique to me. Most people, women especially, have challenges around the way the world sees them and how they see themselves. Physical beauty is such a high value in our society, yet its parameters are so narrow. It is hard for anyone to resist the messages the society crams down our throats about beauty.

I have always been so far outside the parameters. It is common for me to feel shameful and apologetic for simply taking up space in the world. I think even people who love me and who have some understanding of the emotional challenges of body image pain do not realize the breadth and depth of the damage in me. Writing this feels overly dramatic and I am truly not looking for anyone to pity “poor me.” I am just trying to outline a little of the effect so that maybe some of you who might have faced similar feelings will not feel so alone. And also, to offer some hope.

My work with Todd is helping. I am cautious about saying “to offer some hope” because I do not yet know where my journey will take me. I have a long way to go, but I am heartened by the success we have found with the issues that were overlaying the weight and body issues- decreasing the ever-present anxiety, freeing myself from self-imposed limitations, more confidently owning the parts of myself that I think are valuable, and compassionately embracing even the least attractive parts. I also feel some shifting when it comes to the weight and body issue. It is not yet enough to label a success, but I can label it as hope.

The other day, a group of the women from my church were discussing the benefits that the church gets from continued online streaming of services, even though congregants are now coming to church in person. Many of the ladies offered great insights. They can continue to participate in worship when they snowbird up north in the summer. They can rewatch the service to hear the sermon again. They can fast-forward to the part of the service where the children’s choir sings so they can get a better view of the kids. It occurred to me that I often rewatch the service so I can see how big my butt looks when I am standing in line for communion. Clearly, my star is not at its apex. However, I can feel the zenith getting further away.

Todd tells me that I will always have to struggle with loving myself, accepting that I am beautiful, and doing what is healthy for me. It is not that one day, I am magically going to lose fifty pounds, feel great about how I look, and become a militant advocate for the body positive movement. It took me 62 years to get to this place. I do not think I have 62 more years to reclaim my beauty and sense of value. It is not realistic to believe that I am ever going to be the most beautifully and naturally confident person in the world. At this point, my goal is to feel “not unfortunate looking.”

The work I am doing is about health- physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. I am trying to learn how to believe that I deserve to do the things that make me healthy- whether it be a choice to have a chocolate bar because chocolate is sweet, creamy, and delicious or a choice to eat a turkey sandwich because it is fresh, crunchy, and nutritious. Neither choice is morally wrong. It is good for my overall health to sometimes choose the chocolate bar and sometimes choose the turkey sandwich.

The next step is for me to figure out how to be more intentional with those choices… to understand them for what they are and what they are not. If I am making choices that do not strengthen my health in some way, why am I making them? Is there a need I have that I am using my food to address when whatever I am missing has nothing to do with food? I wish I knew the answers to these questions. The work I am doing now will help me answer them. The thing is… finding those answers is apt to be pretty uncomfortable.

So, why am I doing this? Why now, when I have spent 62 years living in this body and coping as I have? The truth is, I should have dealt with this long ago, but I was too scared and did not have support I trusted enough to storm this particular castle. Now, at this late date, I still believe I have something to gain. As I said, all the end running I have been doing to avoid this issue has become exhausting after all this time. Also, health is a lifelong pursuit. As we age, many of us find that we are compelled to take better care of our physical health. The goal is to be physically active and live a long life. As we get older, most people need to be more intentional about their health to meet that goal. For me, I do not know that I necessarily need to live longer, but I do know that I want the remaining years God gives me to be joyful, productive, and satisfying.

So, what advice do you have for me as I open the door to the dragons? Please leave a comment to share your perspective. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a beautiful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Wild Woman Of Charleston

I mentioned a few months ago that I was working with a life coach (Todd Payne, Life Coach (toddpaynelifecoach.com) to help me deal with some of the issues in my life that limit the joy I could be experiencing. Todd bases his coaching on the enneagram, a system of navigating life by understanding the basic needs and tendencies of various personality types. I am a type six. One of the biggest hallmarks of a type 6 is the need for certainty. We expend ridiculous amounts of energy preparing and planning for any eventuality that is likely to threaten our personal safety, especially our social and emotional safety. Even with all that preparation, we tend to doubt ourselves and our ability to handle even the most routine ups and downs of life.

For anyone who knows me, even a little, it would require neither an enneagram nor a life coach to reach this conclusion. I am about as six-ish as a six can be. The fact that I had trouble identifying that I was a six is probably part of the six-ishness. I even doubted my ability to understand myself.

Recently, Max and I planned a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. We invited our friends Kathy and Charlie to go with us. Neither Max nor I had been to Charleston. I, of course, experienced a fair degree of anxiety about the whole thing. The six in me cried “eeek!!!” at the thought of going somewhere unfamiliar. The six in me cried “eeek!!!” at the responsibility of planning accommodations, activities, and meals for the enjoyment of some of my nearest and dearest peeps. I also pushed my own envelope to insist on driving. Max was all for flying, but I thought it made more sense to drive. This meant that I would be driving further than I’ve ever driven before- almost seven hours each way. Eeek!!! again.

All these potential perils did scare me. I will not deny it. However, after all my work with Todd, I genuinely wanted to practice ignoring irrational anxiety that keeps me from doing things I want to do. After all, tons of tourists visit Charleston every day. People I know snowbird in Florida by driving much further distances twice a year. Truthfully, it was a fallacy to believe that it was my responsibility to guarantee that everyone had an enjoyable time; my traveling companions could certainly adjust my plans to meet their own needs and preferences. The internet boasted excellent reviews of the hotel I booked. I also checked MapQuest to get a feel for how far away we would be from things we wanted to do. There were plenty of activities and dining options from which to choose in Charleston and the odds are that most people do not book every minute of every day before ever crossing the South Carolina border. It was almost painful for me to embrace the unknown and just wait until we got to Charleston to reserve activities. However, logic told me that it was safe to wait and see what made sense based on our exact location, the weather, and our own biorhythms.

A couple of weeks before the trip, I began to feel the anxiety building. On the other hand, the delight and excitement about the vacation also increased. I found that I could manage the anxiety quite easily by concentrating on how much fun we could have if I did not ruin it for myself by overthinking. I felt pretty good about myself. Yes, I was checking the weather in Charleston compulsively every few hours, but I was also not despondent over the ever-increasing chance that we would be washed away in a typhoon. It seemed that the only three days in the entire forecast that would have weather issues were the three full days we would be in Charleston. However, I have now lived in the south long enough to know that you cannot rely on the forecast until the day before, if then. Weather below the Mason-Dixon line is nothing if not changeable. I just rode my little “the weather will probably change by the time we get there” horse until that horse was dead tired.

Two days before we were supposed to leave, Kathy called me to ask what I wanted to do about the weather in Charleston. Since I did not now it was an option for me to do ANYTHING about the weather, I was a bit confused. She sounded dejected and implied we should consider cancelling or postponing the trip. This bummed me right out.

Before we go any further, let me give you some context. I am the original “or” girl. I often say, “we can do this OR that.” Kathy resists my “or”ientation. She is the original “and” girl. She persists in believing that there is no reason we can’t do this AND that, even when my understanding of the space-time continuum would suggest otherwise. I usually rely on her to free me from my self-imposed limitations.

So, if Kathy was capitulating because of the weather, disaster must be looming. On the other hand, when she suggested postponing the trip by a week or two, my brain immediately went to that six-y planning place. What do you mean, CHANGE THE PLAN? cried my poor little six-ish sensibility. I am embarrassed to say that I immediately dismissed the suggestion without even really considering its merit. The idea of juggling months of scheduling, reservations, and preparations just did not compute. The only outcome of that conversation was to thrust my carefully managed anxiety into overdrive. The carefully cultivated optimism disappeared. I was bummed. Still, I gathered my pluck and insisted that we would have a fun time whatever the weather.

As the day wore on, I did think about the possibility of postponing. Even for a normal person who is not obsessed with sticking to a plan no matter what, it would have been a lot of trouble to change hotel accommodations, to say nothing of rearranging my schedule that I had specifically cleared for the week of our trip. Also, I know that changing plans because of weather often backfires. I have changed many a plan because of a rain forecast only to find the original day shines clearly with no precipitation while there is a deluge on the rescheduled day. I spent the day distinctly out of sorts.

Later, Kathy texted that she and Charlie had found that we should be able to do many of the things on our Charleston list even if the weather was challenging, so she was happy. I wish I could have changed gears so quickly. I still had an anxiety hangover. The good news is, though, that I was able to keep the negative thoughts at bay. I was proud of myself for regaining my optimism and excitement about the trip, despite being aware that I had to make a conscious effort to do so. I never could have done that before my work with Todd. I can remember one night on our first trip to Disney World when I did not sleep all night because I was too busy obsessing about what to do because it was supposed to rain the next day.

When we got to Charleston, we did run into a problem with our room. I began to feel despondent, ashamed, and awful… but prepared to live with it. Then, it hit me that I had some options. I thought about several possible courses of action and was just about ready to choose the one that would be the most expensive and inconvenient to me, when I stopped myself. Instead of just feeling whiny and bad about the room or martyred because I was the one who would be sacrificing, I could ask for help. I talked to the concierge at the front desk. As we talked things through, he was able to supply an option that was far better than anything I thought possible.

During our visit, we juggled our plans to try to outwit the weather. I could feel my body reacting a little unpleasantly to the changes, but I was able to rely on the wisdom of the decisions to overcome my discomfort with changing the plan. We ended up being able to do virtually everything on our list of “must-dos.” We only had two incidents of truly limiting weather- a hailstorm while we were at the City Market and a tornado-like weather event as we left a restaurant one evening. Together, these events probably lasted less than 45 minutes. The City Market had a cover over it, so we just waited for the hailstones to stop falling. The wackadoodle weather at the restaurant did turn Kathy and I into mermaids without benefit of ocean. We made it to the car in a considerable state of disarray- cold, wet, and untidy. My hair was wetter than it typically is when I shampoo it… and I was wearing a rain jacket with a hood. Still, it was the end of our day, and the damage was not anything that the car heater and a hairdryer back at the hotel could not cure. Overall, not much of a sacrifice for a wonderful trip.

I also committed to eating at whatever restaurants my companions chose. We each got to pick a place for dinner over our four-night stay. On my night, I picked a pizza place. It was wonderful. Okay, yes, I know I was in a city famous for its cuisine. Okay, yes, I know that pizza is not the cuisine for which it is known. Okay, yes, I know I eat like a four-year-old. The other nights, I did not state preferences or worry about whether I would find anything on the menu that a four-year-old would eat. I never whined or even mentioned my absurd eating practices. I just went along for the ride. I did not eat anything super exotic, but I did try things that would not normally be my first choice. Each meal was delicious!

On the last night, we hoped to do a ghost tour of the city. I talked to the concierge guy at the hotel, and he recommended the “Dark Side of Charleston” tour. I looked at the brochure, saw it listed under “ghost tours,” and made us a reservation. The first thing out of the guide’s mouth was “as ‘they’ probably told you, this is not a ghost tour.” I had a moment of panic because I was the one who selected this tour, and I knew Kathy and Charlie really liked ghost tours. I overcame it and decided to enjoy whatever this “non ghost tour” was. It ended up being a tour that told Charleston’s scandalous, criminal, and juicy history. We all ended up loving this ghostless ghost tour.

The Charleston trip was wonderful. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. I loved the city. I loved the churches. I loved our trip to the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. I loved visiting Fort Sumter and the USS Yorktown. I loved shopping and eating and walking. I loved the horse and carriage tour, the bus tour, and the non-ghost tour. What I loved more than anything, though, was the way I lived in the moment and enjoyed what was in front of me instead of forcing a round plan into a square hole. I loved being the Wild Woman of Charleston for a few days!

It occurs to me, as I read this, that some of you may feel a bit cheated. After all, for most people, my Charleston experience probably would not qualify as “wild.” Let me try to compensate by telling you something we learned on the non-ghost tour. The first rector of the oldest congregation in Charleston was fired because he got drunk and baptized a baby bear cub. How’s that for wild?

Have a wild day!!!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Where Am I, Anyway?

I am away on an adventure this week. Let’s see if you can guess where in the world I have gone. Here are five clues.

The city is named for an English king.

The hottest temperature recorded in this city was 104 degrees. The lowest was 7 degrees.

You would not have wanted to be here in 1698, 1699, or 1700. There was a smallpox outbreak, a fire that destroyed about a third of the town, and then a yellow fever epidemic.

In 2016, Travel and Leisure magazine called it the best city in the world.

Rhett Butler was born here (no, NOT Ocala, Cammarano family… I am not talking about that Rhett Butler!)

All guesses welcome. This is just for fun. Be accurate, if you insist. But be creative if you prefer!

Please leave a comment to share your perspective. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  See you next week!!!

Bye, y’all… and bless your heart!

Terri/Dorry 😊