Discovery In The Cove

I say I’m not very good at once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I justify spending money to do something by saying, “I’m only going to do it once,” but I am rarely successful in limiting myself to one time if I enjoy an experience.

I proved this point yet again by visiting Discovery Cove, Sea World’s dolphin-centric sister park in Orlando. I visited the park for the first time last year. The experience blew my mind. I had such a great time, I actually wrote two separate blog posts about my playdate with the porpoises. You can catch a rerun of those posts by visiting:

My Date With The Dolphins

School Of Dolphins

Even though my dolphin day at Discovery Cove was beyond my wildest expectations, my initial thought was that I probably wouldn’t do it again. There is a steep discount on the admission for Florida residents. Still, I did suffer a bit of sticker shock when the ticket price showed up on my credit card. The amount just seemed ridiculous for a day at a theme park. On the other hand, the admission gets you a lot for your money and there is a pretty low limited daily entrance to the park. You never feel like you are fighting the marauding hordes for your entertainment or for any of the “free” (well…. let’s say “included in the price of admission”) goodies they hand out with wild abandon (meals, snacks of every ilk, soft drinks, frozen beverages, beer, wine, dolphin safe sunscreen, towels, snorkeling gear, showers, shampoo, conditioner, and other stuff that I’m probably forgetting). Also, the admission price includes unlimited admission for fourteen days to Sea World and the other sister park, Aquatica.

You can probably tell that I am still trying to justify my decision to pay the big bucks and return to the park this year. Since I went ahead and did it, it is probably time to let it go.

Once I made my reservation, I began to wonder if my second trip to Discovery Cove would be as magical as my previous visit. Was it possible to enjoy the experience as much once the serendipity factor no longer applied? I remember that, on my first trip, it seemed like some unexpected, delightful surprise lurked around every corner. Now that I knew the drill, would these encounters fail to enchant me? Also, last time, my Discovery Cove trip came at a particularly difficult and stressful time in my life. In fact, I’d cancelled my original reservation because it was scheduled when my mother’s stroke was still a new and stultifying situation. By the time I actually went, my mother and I had already been through most of our difficult journey together. She had been living in the skilled nursing facility for about five months. We were past the point of believing she was going to improve and not yet at the point where death prepared to pounce. We were both living in a shadow world and trying to light the way for each other. I’m sure the fact that my first trip to Discovery Cove propelled me totally away from Stroke World for one, beautiful, restful day enhanced my first experience.

When I packed up for my recent excursion, I was a little apprehensive. Maybe it was better to live with my perfect memory of my “once in a lifetime” Discovery Cove adventure rather than risk overlaying it with another trip that might not be as wonderful. Then, I considered that I am trying to broaden my horizons by being braver and less anxious. I am trying to embrace the now rather than living in the past or obsessing about the future. I am trying to stop automatically saying “no” to things simply because they make me a little uneasy. So I said “yes” to myself and went to Discovery Cove.

The activities I enjoyed at Discovery Cove were very similar to my prior visit. I swam with the dolphins, snorkeled in the salt water reef, waded past marmosets and otters, fed birds in the aviary, and lounged my way down a lazy river. I spent hours and hours in the water. I ambled aimlessly around the beautiful grounds, sliding my feet through the elegant sand beaches and splashing around the edges of the coves. I ate and drank and read my kindle. I shopped in the little stores. I stayed even longer than I stayed last year. And I enjoyed every moment of it.

On one of my numerous trips down the lazy river, I floated behind a family with two small children. As I passed them, I heard the little girl exclaim, “Mommy, this is the best day ever!” I closed my eyes, listened to the birds chattering around me, snuggled my shoulders deeper under the gently warm water, and felt the sun skip across my face. I smiled and thought to myself, “it sure is.”

That spontaneous reaction started me thinking. Was it the best day ever? How could it be better than my last trip? Was it better than my last trip? Wasn’t it the same experience?

In purely objective terms, I could argue that this visit might not have been quite as good as my first visit. The dolphin assigned to my pod was a bit of a maverick and wasn’t really in the mood to play host to a bunch of strangers that day. Her dolphin ADHD required some patience and creativity. It was a bit chaotic. Also, the sloth I went to visit at the animal encounter kiosk was not able to overcome his slothful DNA and rouse himself from his crate, so there was no small furry animal petting on this visit. Also, I forgot my credit card and worried that I would be unable to purchase merchandise to take home. I also lost my brand new sparkly prescription sunglasses somewhere in the depths of the snorkeling reef.

Still, I had a wonderful time and I am not even going to pretend that I don’t want to go back next year. So, what was different this time that made my visit a new, magical event despite the minor glitches I’ve mentioned?

It is true that the activities were basically the same as last year, but the difference is that I am not the same as last year. I am much further along in my journey to improve my capacity to enjoy life as it comes and embrace new adventures without mourning what they are not. I am more confident. My heart is more open. My brain is calmer. I even embraced the glitches. I didn’t just tolerate them; I leveraged them.

I may not have been able to pet a sloth this time around, but I had a new experience. I held a macaw on my arm. That was pretty cool. Instead of worrying about the scheduling short circuiting while my dolphin played keep away, I enjoyed the extra time in the cool saltwater surrounded by a whole navy of dolphins. When I realized that I had forgotten my credit card, I stopped to strategize about how I could overcome the problem. In the past, I know I would have panicked, mournfully declaring immediate defeat. I would have been all woebegone over my inability to buy stuff. This time, I remained calm and brainstormed some ways I might still be able to charge merchandise. In doing so, I figured out how to use Apple Pay. While the loss of my sunglasses was a little more difficult to push away from my overactive nervous system, I was able to do so. I remembered that these glasses were the same prescription as my old ones, which were in the glove compartment of my car. I didn’t love that I lost the glasses, but it was not a tragedy. As if to reward my determined Zen-ness, someone found my sunglasses and returned them to Lost and Found by the end of the day.

So even though my day’s activities were pretty much the same during both my visits, each visit was a very different experience. Both were the “best day ever” while I was living them. Maybe this most recent visit felt even more like the “best day ever” because I have changed enough to immerse myself more deeply in the present moment.

Nothing is ever exactly the same. The earth keeps turning and the soul keeps growing. I think every experience is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What do you think?  Have you ever done something that seemed very different than a time when you did it before because you were different?  Please tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a one-of-a-kind day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!  If you would like a second helping of Terri, I am guest posting on another retirement lifestyle blog this week. If you’d like to read my post, The Dream Is In The Doing,  please visit:

http://retirementandgoodliving.com/the-dream-is-in-the-doing/

 

Summerwhine… And The Living? Not So Easy!

It is time for my mandatory annual Florida summer weather rant.  I admit it’s a bit early, as summer officially started only a few weeks ago.  However, summer did not get the memo in central Florida.  Summer weather started early this year and visited our home in a particularly diabolical way.

It’s kind of ironic.  Just the other day, I mentioned to Max that I thought I had finally come to terms with summer in Florida.  After three summers in the Land-Where-You-Drink-The-Air, you would think I would have realized resistance is futile before now.  I am a slow learner.  I think the heat and humidity short circuits the synopses in my brain, impairing my ability to process information.

When we spent our first summer in Florida, we were concerned about protecting the nation’s resources.  Less altruistically, we were also concerned about the electric bill.  We ran the air conditioner only when the temperature in the house hit 84 degrees and we typically only brought it down to about 79 degrees.  Why those numbers?  I have no idea.  The next summer, I quietly reset the threshold to 80 degrees and would let the air conditioning run until we hit 74 degrees.

This year, Max apparently realized that I am a much nicer person with whom to live when the temperature is regularly below the boiling point.  He started turning the air conditioner on at 77 degrees.  I found myself able to sit comfortably watching television in shorts and a tank top.  Max put on a jacket and brought a blanket out from the bedroom.  I don’t know which of us has a faultier internal thermostat.  The bottom line is that he can keep putting clothes on, but there comes a point when there is nothing left for me to take off…. And nobody wants me to reach that point.

So, this year, when the temperatures climbed, the humidity soaked through the sky, and the thunderwowers surged, I felt slightly less tetchy than in past summers.  We had a very active month of May, filled with exciting events, including a trip to Texas to visit a cherished friend, the publication of my book (which you can order at https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076 hint, hint, nudge, nudge), and a visit from another cherished friend for my launch party.  By the time late May rolled around, and summer with it (no, don’t consult a calendar…. Believe me, summer started in late May this year!), I felt content to stick close to home in my comfortably cool house.

Then, all that changed.  The air conditioner died.

Max and I were watching television in the midst of a crackling storm.  There was wind, thunder, lightning, and enough rain to drown the cats and dogs.  All of a sudden, we heard a loud crack.  At first, we figured the noise was thunder, but it sounded different enough that we both noticed it.  The electricity went off for a second or two but came back on even before the clocks had time to stall.  We continued watching television until it was time for bed.  We noticed the house seemed a little warm and checked the thermostat.  The temperature was higher than it was before we started watching TV, even though we could hear the whirring of the air conditioner fan.  We soon realized that  the fan in the garage was still going, but the air conditioner unit outside was not.

I decided this catastrophe must have had something to do with the storm or a power surge when the electricity restarted.  I went googling around to figure out possible remedies.  Max spent many years working as a manager and dispatcher for a company that worked on commercial heating and cooling systems.  He is only marginally better than I am at home repairs, but he is very good at knowing what questions to ask and diagnosing probable issues.  Max believed that the cracking noise we heard was the death rattle of the air conditioner compressor. I, of course, gave a lot of weight to his opinion because of his experience.  On the other hand, Max is also a bit of a fatalist and tends to imagine the worst case scenario in every case.  In my heart of hearts, I knew that there was at least a 75% chance that Max was correct and the compressor was deceased.  However, I really tried to live in the other 25% of my brain- the part that was in denial.

The next morning, I went outside to look at the air conditioning unit.  I saw no charring or melting.  I tried a few tricks that I learned in my googling, to no avail.  Max also looked at the equipment and found nothing that would explain its sudden demise.  The 25% denial part of my brain in which I was living started to get more claustrophobic.

Of course, when the air conditioning people came to look at the unit, they announced that the compressor in our 12-year-old air conditioner was grounded (which I guess means “should be six feet under ground”).  We could fix it for $2000 or replace the whole system for $5700.  I opted to replace the system, which I believe was the right financial decision.  However, opting for replacement meant that we had to wait for reinvigorated air conditioning for nine days.

So much for coming to terms with Florida summer. I “slept” with two fans blowing on my bed.  I actually forgot what it felt like to be not sweaty. I rarely turned on the hot water in the shower.  I changed clothes several times a day.  We went to the beach so I could remember what it felt like to breathe.  I fell asleep in a movie theater, lulled into slumber by the novelty of air conditioning and recliner seats.  I actually enjoyed going to jury duty because the temperature in the jury assembly room was set below “par-boil.”

I think it is remarkable that I did not lose my mind during those nine days. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Leaving mine to soak in the pot of boiling water that was my home surely wasn’t good for it.   I think surviving this challenge qualifies me for honorary native Floridian status.

Now that we have a whole new air conditioning system, our house is more consistently comfortable and energy efficient.  It is kind of amazing how much better the new one is performing.  It is set at 75 degrees.  When we go out, we turn it off and the temperature does rise…. because it is freakin’ Florida and it is summer…but we are comfortable very soon after flipping the thermoset back to “cool.”  With the old system, once the house was warm it was probably going to stay warm until October.

It is still early days to declare victory over my summerwhine blues.  There is plenty of time for me to worry about another hurricane.  There is plenty of time for me to go stir-crazy because thunderstorms and torrential rain make it perilous to undertake leisure outings.  There is plenty of time for me to dissolve into a pile of goo while out doing errands.  There is plenty of time for my joints to stiffen from the humidity and inactivity necessitated by summer heat lethargy.

Still, for right now, I’m okay with summer.  Today, I am blissfully grateful because the only thing that is overheated in my house is my credit card from paying for the new air conditioner!

What do you like best and worst about summer?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Stay Cool!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

 

 

 

America The Beautiful (A Prayer)

Oh, beautiful for spacious skies,
(Help us to keep them clean and blue.)
For amber waves of grain,
(And remind us, when we reap the harvest, to nourish others, too.)
For purple mountain majesties
(Sometimes we struggle to the crest)
Above the fruited plain!
(But, with Your grace, we’ll reach Your banquet when at last we come to rest.)
America! America!
(Help us love our people, one and all)
God shed His grace on Thee,
(And heal us, Gracious Father, at the times when we will fall.)
And crown thy good with brotherhood
(Open our hearts to Love and Right)
From sea to shining sea
(So, as our nation changes, it changes towards the Light.)

What will you be doing to honor out country on Independence Day?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a great 4th of July!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

PS  How do you like the red, white, and blue action?

 

Shopping Around

I am a recreational shopper.  I enjoy going to malls and trying on clothes.  I love going to home décor stores.  I get super psyched by specialty shops, farmers’ markets, and craft fairs, especially at Christmas time.  I practice shopping the way some people practice their golf swing.  To me, shopping is entertainment, a leisure pursuit.

When Max moved in with me after we dated for several years, I made him promise that we would keep “dating” and go someplace fun at least once a week.  Shopping counted.  It worked out pretty well because Max is a very tolerant shopper.  He actually enjoys trailing around behind me in a mall or craft fair. He is a good fan and cheers me on when I make purchases.   If he does tire of waiting for me to try on potential new outfits, he sits on a chair by the fitting room and surfs the internet on his phone.  All in all, he is a very satisfactory shopping companion.

The only thing is, he really doesn’t get my concept of “museum shopping.” He doesn’t always understand that I can like things I see while shopping, but don’t necessarily have any desire to own them.  For me, shopping isn’t really about the acquisition of things. I certainly do my share of buying and continue to do my part to keep the economy strong, but the real pleasure in shopping is just seeing new things in different surroundings.  I get exercise while I watch people, admire the merchandise, and appreciate the store’s environment and decoration. It is almost like observing a microcosm of pop culture.  Max always seems vaguely deflated if we end a shopping expedition without purchasing anything, as if he has somehow failed in his mission. For me, the absence of multiple shopping bags digging into my arms does not mar my appreciation of the excursion.

One of the reasons I think Max doesn’t appreciate the whole “museum shopping” thing is that he takes gift-giving very seriously.  Once he has allocated money into his budget for my Christmas and birthday presents, he is like a meerkat protecting the mob (yes, that is what a group of meerkats is called; I looked it up on Wikipedia).  Every time I admire something, he pops his head up and suggests that he buy it for me for the next gift-giving occasion on the docket. That money burns a hole in the present budget until he can purchase something. Then, once he has purchased something, he budgets money for the next gift-giving occasion and the process starts all over again.   Because of this propensity of his, I think I will be opening my Christmas present for 2020 this year.  It mystifies him that I can be so excited over whatever I am admiring, but still not want him to buy it for me.  I just always want to keep shopping.  You never know when there might be something better or somewhere better to buy a gift.

Speaking of a better place to buy a gift, I don’t really consider a trip a vacation unless the activity schedule includes shopping.  I usually don’t buy a lot of souvenir things, but I do like to buy “regular” stuff while on vacation.  If a buy an article of clothing or piece of jewelry or Christmas ornament or home décor item while I am on vacation, there is the added benefit that I will always remember that experience when I use the item back at home.

Then there is online shopping. My mother was Amazon.com’s best friend.  It was a rare day when she did not receive multiple boxes from the Big Box Store In The Sky. Max likes the purchasing without benefit of human contact that online shopping provides.  I’m not a huge fan.  Because of my poor visual reasoning skills, I have a hard time converting the pictures and descriptions on a website to what an item will actually be like in real life.  In regular stores, I can look and listen and smell and touch to my heart’s content.  Yes, my mother did teach me not to touch, but it didn’t take.  I’m careful, but I always touch.

I do appreciate the efficiency and cost effectiveness of online shopping when I know exactly the item I want.  I regularly order hard-to-find protein bars and the Costco brand of over-the-counter sleeping pills from Amazon.  Cyberspace buzzes between Amazon and my kindle on a regular basis.  However, I find that online purchasing misses exactly what I like best about shopping… the exploration (that visual reasoning thing makes searching for items online unsatisfactory for me), the exercise (I don’t really call rhythmic keystroking exercise, do you?), the sensory experience (you can’t touch the merchandise in online stores) …. and, for the most part, the excitement.

I’ve just written over 800 words about shopping.  They say everyone needs a hobby when he or she retires.  I think I’ve decided shopping qualifies.

Do you think shopping qualifies as a hobby?  What hobbies are you pursuing in retirement?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Buy yourself something nice today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

And another fun fact to know and tell…..

If you would like to receive an email when I post new blog content, you can hit the Subscribe button.  If you are viewing the blog on a computer, you will find the Subscribe feature at the side of the page under the list of prior months.  If you are viewing the blog on your phone, I believe you will have to scroll all the way down to find the Subscribe feature.

Graceful

I am an extraordinarily klutzy individual. It started when I was a tiny child.  I expect that I fell on my head a lot as a toddler.  I have a report card from the end of my year in kindergarten that says, “Dorothea should work on her fine muscle coordination over the summer.”  I think that is teacher-speak for “Teach this hot mess of a child how to walk without injuring herself or any other unfortunate child who happens to be in her wake.”

I also took dance lessons when I was in kindergarten.  After kindergarten, we moved from New York to California.  Although I begged to continue dance lessons in California, my parents refused.  I was very disappointed, but I think my parents just saw the writing on the wall.

When I was about seven, I broke my right arm, in another predictable demonstration of my clumsiness.  I was trying to swing from one jungle gym bar to another.  I apparently did not understand that there should never be a time when both one’s hands are off both bars.  As far as anyone knew up to that time, I was right-handed.  The broken right arm required a cast and I could not use my supposedly preferred hand for some six weeks. I managed pretty well.  As uncoordinated as I was when I had the use of both arms, the bar was set pretty low.  I don’t think it surprised anyone that I struggled doing tasks with my left hand as much as I did with my right.

It was when the cast came off that we were all in for a surprise.  I was actually less adept at tasks using my right hand than I had been when I was forced to use my left.  My mother was very alarmed.  Let’s face it; there wasn’t much wiggle room in my manual dexterity to begin with.  Several visits to various medical specialists later, the consensus of opinion was that I had probably been born left-handed.  I had just adapted to a right-handed world because no one knew any better.  I guess this is a more common phenomenon than most people realize.  Many people become ambidextrous as a result.  In my case, I became ambiklutzious.  I could find a way to fall, drop things, twist myself into awkward angles, tangle my legs together, and sprain my own wrists equally well using either hemisphere of my brain.

I never grew out of my dexterity challenges.  In junior high school, I actually had a pair of tennis shoes embroidered with the words “right” and “left” on them so I could keep my feet straight. The only class I ever came close to failing in my life was Home Ec. Sewing was completely beyond my confused and uncoordinated central nervous system.  The art of positioning fabric, laying out a pattern, cutting material, and assembling pieces of cloth was way beyond my ability to cope. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say my problem bordered on a learning disability.  When the teacher told us to make a gathered skirt, I was as horrified as if she asked me to construct a nuclear bomb.

When I was training to be a midlevel manager, I had to attend a class that involved spending a day at a ropes course.  I am not particularly afraid of heights. However, as a person who regularly trips over lint, I was a little apprehensive about making a fool of myself due to my tendency to pratfall.  I managed to get through the first couple of exercises without hurting anyone.  Just as I was beginning to think I might make it through the day without incident, my group headed over to the zipline.  I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of trying a zipline. I was kind of excited to give it a whirl.  Since the point of the whole thing is to fall off a little tower and plummet towards the ground, I thought I might be pretty good at it.  I wasn’t afraid.

I should have been.  I ended up being the class injury.  I screamed as I stepped off the platform.  The instructors thought I was screaming from excitement or fear or just because people tend to scream automatically when shooting through the sky.  Actually, I was screaming because I was in pain.  Somehow, I had managed to come close to dislocating my shoulder.  The good news is that the ropes course was right across the street from a hospital.  Somebody knew I was coming.  I ended up on painkillers, with a huge, nasty, multi-colored bruise that covered most of my back for the next several weeks.

I met Max at a dance.  All I can say is that it is a good thing he was drinking at the time.  We might not have made a life together otherwise. If he had been completely sober, I am sure he would have taken one look at my graceless dance moves and decided that dating me would be hazardous to his health.

I may be the only woman in Florida who does not wear flip-flops.  I gave them up years ago.  Max calls them my “fall down” shoes because…. you guessed…. I fall down when I wear them.  I love the look of flip-flops, but I have tripped over the front of them and fallen off the back of them more times than I care to admit.  I am not talking about stumbling, either.  I am talking about full-on, hazardous, land-in-a-prone-position kind of falling down.

Recently, I hit a new nadir in my clumsiness.  I was blow-drying my hair and walloped myself in the head with the hairdryer.  I actually saw stars and raised a lump the size of a sugar cube on the back of my head.  I thought my hair and I had come to an understanding, but I guess it was just lying in wait before forming an alliance with the hairdryer to try to take me out.  It almost worked.  I did not straighten my hair that day.

As I sat at the kitchen table holding a bag of frozen peas to my scalp, I felt a bit woebegone and sorry for myself.  Why do I have to be so klutzy and graceless?  Don’t I have enough unattractive qualities without being an accident constantly waiting to happen?

Then, I looked out the window at the view in my backyard.  The sun dappled through the large oak trees.  Two squirrels were chasing each other along a branch.  I could hear sandhill cranes yodeling.  I saw the blooms on the bushes out in the wetlands behind the house. I noticed there was a sound roof over my head and a refrigerator filled with food.  As I looked around the living room, I saw the beautiful picture of my book cover signed by my wonderful, supportive friends.  Max wandered in and kissed the sugar cube on my head to make it well.  When I looked up at him, I noticed a Bible verse I have on the wall from Psalm 84:1- How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord almighty!

Never mind about the clumsiness.  It doesn’t matter.  I have a more excellent kind of grace!

Are you graceful? How can you tell?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

I hope you find some grace today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

 

Fathering

As Father’s Day is approaching, I wanted to write a post honoring fatherhood.  Two years ago, I posted a piece in tribute to my own father.  You can read it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/06/the-first-man-i-remember/.  In light of how much time I have spent on the concept of motherhood in the past, two years seems an inordinately long time to go without discussing fatherhood.  Still, I seem to have way more difficult a time opining on the virtues of fathers than I do the virtues of mothers.

It isn’t that I think fathers are less important than mothers.  I absolutely DON’T think that.  All you have to do is read my June 2016 blog piece about my own father to know the value I place on dads.  In fact, one of the reasons I am not a mother today is that my child would not have had a father in his/her life.  When I was contemplating adopting a child, one of the reasons I decided against it was that I firmly believe that the optimum condition for raising a happy, healthy child includes having a loving mother and loving father.  While a lot of people are great single parents and do a phenomenal job raising wonderful human beings, I think the odds are better when there are two people giving their all to the parenting process. I didn’t think I was strong enough to start out being a strike behind the count.

Maybe my difficulty in capturing the qualities of daddyhood has to do with the fact that I am a woman and my closest friends are also women. Parenting is such an intimate activity.  I’m not sure I’ve ever have had enough “up-close-and-personal” opportunity to observe men being parents to define what made them good fathers.  I just know that they are.

I don’t think I am the only one that has a hard time identifying the unique qualities of good dads.  It isn’t fair, but I think we might tend to undervalue our fathers when compared to mothers.  Even the language of parenthood is different, depending on gender.  When we say the verb “mothering,” most of us visualize a lifetime of coziness and support… sometimes, even to a fault. Someone who “mothers” us is there over the long haul. “Fathering,” however, has a different connotation.  Someone who “fathers” a child is there for the conception.

If I make a deliberate effort to identify what does make a good father, I think it comes down to action and service. Good fathers walk the walk of love.  They fix things.  They take care of their families.  They do things for their families, even when that means sacrifice.  The thing is, a really great father almost doesn’t think of it as a sacrifice because the pleasure they get from doing something to make their kids happy is more satisfying than the personal pleasure he gave up.

I don’t have a lot of memories of my paternal grandfather, but the ones I do have are burned in my very soul. He was an excellent purveyor of serving acts.  He helped build an extension on the house where my parents lived so my maternal grandmother could move in with us.  He made me a beautiful purple crib for my Christmas baby doll.  My favorite color was purple and this was a time when people just didn’t make things in colors like purple.   I remember a time when I was having a meltdown at age four because my best friend had flowers after a dance recital and I did not.  No one could comfort me.  The hugs and the kisses and the soft words were all very nice, but they did not address the problem.  My grandpa fixed everything by taking me into his backyard garden, instructing me to take any of the flowers that I wanted. He followed in my wake, patiently clipping away at his carefully cultivated blooms as I identified the ones I wanted.   He even found me a length of ribbon when I pointed out that Kathleen Murray’s bouquet had streamers on it.

My grandfather also raised a father with similar traits. My father was also a service action kind of guy.   I do have some memories of touching conversations with my father, but I remember much more the things he did to keep me safe and happy.  He worked hard physically so I could make a living with my brains instead of my back.  His job was the way he paid for his life with his family and he took a lot of pleasure from the knowledge that he provided well for us.  He taught me to ride a bike.  He taught me to swing on the rings at the school playground.  He taught me to drive a car.  He refinished a lawyer friend’s dining room set as payment in barter for handling my divorce.

I know other great dads who embody those twin qualities of “action” and “service.” I know one father who built a skateboard half-pipe for his son in their relatively small backyard.  I know one stepfather who transports his stepdaughter to bowling every week.  That may not sound like a particularly noteworthy contribution, but it helps to know that the stepdaughter is over 40 years old and has a cognitive disability.  The bowling and other activities to which her stepfather drives her provide her with social connection, confidence, and pleasure in a world that would be otherwise very limited for her.  I know another father who goes to his daughter’s apartment when she is at work to take her puppy for a run every day so his daughter does not have to come home to a wildly energetic, out-of-control terrier.  There are few things in life less relaxing than a wildly energetic, out-of-control terrier.

I’m sure there are many examples of fathers who act and serve.  Sometimes, I think we take fathers for granted because these actions of service are often not dramatic or emotion-packed. Schmaltzy movies often depict parenthood as fraught with crucial conversations.  These heart-to-heart talks are often filled with angst and life-changing declarations.  I don’t know about everyone, but, if I had those kinds of experiences at all, they were with my mother and not my father.  Yet, I can’t imagine how pallid and fractured my life would have been without my father.

Maybe fathers help us to do stuff rather than help us get through stuff.  Or maybe, they help us get through stuff BY helping us do stuff!

What qualities do you think it takes to be a good father?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  I am aware that my posts about mothering and fathering tend to reflect gender stereotypes and that kind of bothers me, but I can only report on my own experiences and my own experiences of parenthood have tended to fall out along fairly traditional gender lines.  I would love to hear from all of you and would be especially interested in hearing from folks whose experiences have shown them a different side of fatherhood than what I’ve experienced.

Have a wonderful Father’s Day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark Underbelly Of Sweetness

I have always thought I was a pretty unobjectionable person. I mean, I may not be anything special but I also don’t really piss anyone off, either. In all humility, I don’t think there is anything too much to actually dislike about me. I’m kind of like vanilla ice cream. Some people really like vanilla ice cream. In general, though, people don’t travel from miles around to buy vanilla ice cream. However, if it is the only flavor in the freezer, people will eat it. I am not exotic or interesting or glamorous. I am just simple, familiar, and comforting to have around in case you get the munchies after the fancy gelato shop is closed.

Something else that vanilla ice cream and I have in common is sweetness. I think most people (except for those who have encountered me when I am in desperate need of a snack) would describe me as sweet. I don’t mind being called sweet. I think I would prefer kind, just because it might sound a little less feeble than sweet. That, however, is sort of splitting sprinkles on the ice cream. Years ago, someone asked me how I would like to be remembered after I died. I replied that I’d like people to say that I was a kind, Christian woman of great integrity. That is the stretch goal. I’m actually quite happy with sweet.

Or I was happy with sweet until a few weeks ago. I think I’ve now discovered the unsavory side of being sweet. I attended a church service on Thursday evening and stopped to chat with some folks when the service ended. I wasn’t really out in the garden that long. I would say that I lingered amongst the azaleas, in all my vanilla sweetness, for half an hour at most. By the next day, my legs were a swollen, itchy, furious, uncomfortable mess. Apparently, mosquitos are pretty fond of vanilla ice cream. Or, at least, fond of me. I paid the consequences of tasting as sweet as vanilla ice cream for more than a week. I slathered myself with the anti-itch cream I had left over from Rudolph the Rash. I sprayed calamine lotion all over my lower extremities. I iced my legs down every evening. I took ibuprofen to decrease the swelling. All of this helped, but I find it amazing that I was still itching two weeks later. After three or four days, the swelling decreased enough so that I could start identifying the individual bites. I counted no less than 52 separate welts on my legs and feet. It is like someone posted a sign around my neck- “Mosquito Café- All You Can Buffet.”

It is ironic because I was talking to someone from California a few days before and he asked how I was handling the bugs in Florida. I told him, truthfully, that we really didn’t have much of an issue with bugs. Insects were one of those things that we thought we’d have to face when moving to Florida, but we haven’t noticed a problem after three-and-a-half years of living here. We attributed our good fortune to the fact that we avoid getting too close to standing water. Since there was no standing water in the church garden, that theory is now sort of shot to heaven.

Upon reflection, I think the reason we have not noticed mosquitos much is less about water and more about daylight. Max and I are rarely outside after dark. Still, no one else chatting in the garden had mosquitos pursuing every square inch of uncovered flesh. I chalk it up to the sweetness. You know how they say you can attract more flies with honey? Apparently, you can attract more mosquitos with vanilla ice cream. So, lesson learned. Now I know better than to go out bare-legged after sunset. The mosquitos just can’t resist something sweet during happy hour!

Okay, I’ve racked my brain to come up with a provocative question for this blog post, but I’ve come up empty!  So how about this?  What question would YOU ask to stimulate conversation about this post?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a sweet day… without the itching!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER:  You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

Growing Grown-Ups

This past Mother’s Day was my first without my mother in my life.  I think I’ve been pretty healthy in mourning my mother, but Mother’s Day was more wrenching than I expected.  I felt a bit lonely and lost.

When I’m feeling down, it frequently helps to focus my attention outwards.  Rather than spending the day grieving the loss of the best mom in the world, I decided to celebrate some of my friends who are mothers.  I decided to consider what attributes have made them successful growers of great human beings.

I want to tell you about my three friends- Sunny, River, and Star.  These are not their real names, but they are definitely real mothers and I definitely really admire them.

Sunny is still on the front lines of mothering. She is our church rector’s wife. This means that she not only has to cope with the normal challenges of parenthood, but she also has the added pressure of doing her mothering in a pretty public way.  She is the mother of five boys and one little girl. She also serves as a stand-in mother for her teenage niece who lives with her brood. Her oldest son is 20.  Her little girl, our parish’s princess, is 3.  I don’t know Sunny well, but I have been observing her with her children on a regular basis for a couple of years now.  It may be presumptuous of me to comment on her mothering skills, but I am so impressed that I just can’t help myself.   Luke 6:44 says, “For every tree is known by his own fruit.” Presuming that is the case, I know that Sunny is a first-class grower of grown-ups.

Sunny’s eldest son started his own business while still in school.  In addition to growing the business, he writes a blog and is graduating early with his degree.  He is also planning to marry in the next few weeks.  While most people would think that 20 is very young to get married, this young man seems to be doing everything right to put himself and his bride-to-be in the best place possible to succeed as life partners.  The other children are also very accomplished.  Two play musical instruments beautifully.  Two others sing in the children’s choir.  They look after each other, keeping a special close eye on their little sister who is a tornado of energy and potential. They are all respectful, well-behaved, and helpful to others. The thing that really strikes me, though, is that they are not just “good kids.”  They seem poised and relaxed and confident.  They are secure in the knowledge that they are loved… by God and by their parents.  Sunny exudes that love.  She is warm and cuddly and wise in dealing with her children.  She is bemused but delighted by the notion that she may well become a grandmother while still raising a preschooler.  It couldn’t happen to a more qualified woman.

My friend River has two daughters.  River is the most free-spirited and independent of my friends.  She is strong, creative, ambitious, and charismatic.  She has excellent vision and perspective. Life is her personal adventure.  River’s younger daughter is sixteen and has big dreams.  This child knows what she wants.  It never occurs to her to think that anything is beyond her reach.  River’s older daughter struck out confidently away from her parents’ home when she went to college.  That daughter recently completed her Master’s degree in Accounting.  She now lives half a world away from her mother.  Still, River remains connected to her child by an infinite kite string that soars as high as her daughter flies. River cultivates strength and independence in her children by offering a form of support that is an encouragement and not a crutch. Her girls know there is a safety net beneath them to catch them if they fall, but they are confident enough to believe they will never need it.

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with River and her older daughter.  River’s daughter drove four hours each way to come spend the weekend with her mother and me.  “Spending the weekend” entailed driving us all over central Texas like honored diplomats.  Not only is this young woman strong and smart, she is generous with her time and ability.  Another thing I noticed about her is that she understands that what you do is sometimes much bigger than what you do. For instance, she works full time in the accounting field, but is branching out to coach cheerleading on the side.  She loves cheerleading and enjoys being connected to the sport.  Her excitement about this new endeavor exploded out of her when she told us about her plans.  As she talked, I realized that the joy was about more than just the sport.  River’s daughter knows that she is doing more than just coaching cheerleading.  She is using her creativity to infuse children with a passion for teamwork, fitness, leadership, and positivity.

I’ve been watching my friend Star mother her two children for over 35 years, since her oldest child was a year old.  Star is kind, smart, and beautiful.  She lives her life with complete integrity.  She is unfailingly true to her core values and to the enormous amount of love she holds in her heart for the people who are close to her.  In fact, I often call Star the perfect person.  I have seen her tired and overwhelmed and low on patience, but I have never seen her without love.

Star’s children are successful and positive.  They are optimistic about life and excited about what they can make of their futures.  They understand that life is not always happy and they can weather disappointments because they believe that good things await.  They believe this because they learned from their mother that, no matter what mistakes or misfortunes they tripped over, their mother would understand.  She wouldn’t necessarily approve and she would try to teach them how to make better choices in the future, but she would always love them.

Star’s children are polite, personable, and insightful.  They have good judgment and good hearts.  They have a curiosity and care for other people that goes beyond just good manners.  Star’s oldest child has two small children of her own now.  Star delights in her grandmotherhood, recrafting her nurturing skills to support her daughter’s own wonderful way of being a great grower of grown-ups.

My friends Sunny, River, and Star are very different.  They live in different states.  They do not know each other.   I am sure they each make different parenting choices.  Yet, they are all great mothers.  I think it may be precisely because they are different that they have been so successful as mothers.  Each one of these women has brought the best of who she is to the life’s work of growing grown-ups.  They have instinctively recognized the uniquely beautiful qualities God gave them and sowed the seeds of those qualities in the children they raise.  They trusted that vigilance, hard work, and a super-abundance of love, with God’s help, could nurture and germinate those seeds into high quality human beings. Because they “play to their strengths” in being the kind of mothers they were meant to be, they are able to be the best mothers they can be.  They produce the very best harvest imaginable.

Thank you Sunny, River, Star, and all you other uniquely wonderful moms.  You do us all a service by cultivating wonderful people.

What qualities do you think it takes to be a great mother?  Please

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

Have a nurturing day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

DON’T FORGET TO GET YOUR COPY OF CHANGING MY MIND: REINVENTING MYSELF IN RETIREMENT  BY DORRY CURRAN.  TO ORDER, PLEASE GO TO:

HTTPS://SECURE.MYBOOKORDERS.COM/ORDERPAGE/2076 

USE THE PROMO CODE TERRI FOR A 15% DISCOUNT!!!!

https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

 

 

 

 

The Social Event Of The Season

Some people attended the royal wedding last Saturday. Other people attended my book launch party for Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.  Maybe I’m biased, but I think we had a better time at my event.  I certainly did.

Giving a party is not something that comes easily to me.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever given one before now.  My natural shyness has always made it challenging for me to attend a party, much less give one.  The idea of being responsible for entertaining people actually made me a little nauseous in the weeks before the party, if you want to know the truth.  Publishing the book is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me. I am very proud of my pretty little book.  If ever I was going to host a party to celebrate an achievement, this would probably be the time.   Still, deciding to actually do something about it was unreasonably terrifying.  I vacillated about having a party for weeks.

In the end, it was my resolve to be more open to new experiences that motivated me to entertain the idea of a launch party.  It was the help and support of my friends that actually made it happen.  Left to my own devices, I am positive I would have talked myself out of it.

Two of my friends immediately jumped on the bandwagon when I broached the possibility of a launch party. Not only were they wildly excited about the idea, they immediately offered all kinds of help.  Their contributions were way more than I dreamed of requesting.  I was just hoping it wouldn’t be too much of an imposition to ask them to be my social safety net.  One of my friends, in particular, is wonderful at making people feel comfortable.  I can’t explain how she does it because it is a completely foreign skill to me.  I only know that she is warm and welcoming and accepting. People just feel good around her.  I asked her to be on the lookout for awkwardness or tension and just “fix it” during the party.

Not only did I get my safety net, my friends contributed most of the food and wine for the party.  They helped me plan.  They asked me good questions about what I wanted so that we could brainstorm ways to address aspects of the party I might not have considered on my own. They loaned me extra chairs, an ice chest, and other entertainment accoutrements. One friend created a beautiful art piece from a photo of my book cover.  She had it matted so that guests at the party could contribute their own messages around the picture.  Maybe most importantly, my friends kept the momentum of excitement flowing as we approached the countdown to Party Day. That momentum of excitement washed away any vestiges of dread my panic dredged up.

Other friends also fueled the Party Train.  Something else I am not good at is self-promotion.  Inviting people to the launch party felt a little like pressuring your friends to attend your Tupperware party…. and you are the one who invented Tupperware.  I felt like I was putting people in an impossibly awkward position by asking them to come to the launch party or even suggesting they might want to buy the book.  It was kind of excruciating. I tried to overcome my antipathy, in the spirit of embracing new experiences.  I tried to allow myself to accept that I wasn’t imposing on the kindness of strangers and that people actually wanted to celebrate my book.  My friends certainly gave every indication that this was the case.  I’m still somewhat befuddled by the reaction.  I mean, I am excited beyond all reason about the book, but that doesn’t mean everyone else should be.  Just experiencing my friends’ pleasure about my book helped me commit to turning my house into Party Central.

Everything ended up being wonderful at the party.  I’d put the food, drink, and companionship of my party up against the royal wedding any day of the week!  We had a room of folks on site at my house.  Some long-time, deep-hearted friends of mine from California came to Florida for the party.  Friends from our community and friends from my church blended.  My brother and his wife, my cousin-brother and his family, and a work life friend joined by conference call.  We had an icebreaker that helped everyone get to know a little bit about each other. We joked and laughed and appreciated each other. I read from the book and took questions from the crowd. My family and friends said wonderful, generous, kind things.  We had drawings for fabulous prizes.  During the toast, I thanked the people who have made this experience, culminating in the party, possible. That is, I tried to thank them. I am embarrassed to admit that, even though this whole event was to celebrate my accomplishment as a wordsmith, I could not find words beautiful enough to thank people for their love.

It was the most joyous celebration I’ve ever attended- not just a celebration of my book, but a celebration of friendship.  I think we had the royal wedding beat in that arena, as well. No offense to the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex and not to malign their guests or anything, but I am certain that I have the bestest friends!

For those of you who did not attend, we missed you.  Fear not, though.  You can keep the party going.  You can leave a comment to add your greetings to those of the party-heartiers.  Also, you can order a copy of my book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.  You can get the book in paperback, kindle, or nook editions.  If you go to my direct-to-reader sales page (https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2076 ), you can order your copy.  If you order a paperback copy, you can use the promo code terri to get a 15% discount.  You can also order the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retail book outlets.  The promo code applies only to orders on the direct-to-reader sales page, however.

Thank you to all who attended my party.  Please know that you helped create something wonderful.  I feel spectacularly special and abundantly blessed.

Do you want to join in the fun?  Let’s keep the celebration going!  Please leave a comment to add your message about the publication of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.  I’d love to hear from all of you! 

Have a creative day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Flutterbies

I went on an outing with the community garden club awhile back.  Among other things, we went to a natural history museum to visit a butterfly rainforest.  It was sensational.  The rainforest consisted of a room about the size of a fairly large movie theater.  It was filled with beautiful, lush, colorful plants.  There were butterfly feeding stations sprinkled throughout the room.  Innumerable wisps of gorgeous butterfly bits flitted randomly around the space- color and grace gone wild.  The museum’s butterfly whisperer gave a short educational presentation and released a newborn batch of flutterby beauty while we watched. 

One of the first things I noticed about the butterfly rainforest was that the air was weighty with delight.  Despite the fact that there were a sizable number of visitors in the area, the butterfly rainforest felt peaceful and mesmerizing.  Everywhere you looked, there was something gorgeous and enchanting to see.  I think butterflies must have some special endorphin that they secrete into the atmosphere because all the visitors stood around with huge, unrestrained grins on their faces.  Those butterflies generated joy.  Every now and then, a butterfly would light on a visitor. It happened to me once. It was kind of awe-inspiring…. as if the butterfly was God touching me with a tiny glimpse of the miraculous.   

As we looked around the rainforest, my friends and I talked about the different butterflies and which ones we liked the best.  Initially, all of us settled on a species of large, electric blue butterfly that almost glittered in its flight.  The color was so eye-catching and fantastical.  As we spent more time in the butterfly sanctuary, though, we started noticing other beautiful specimens.  I changed my mind about which I thought was most beautiful.  There was one species that was smaller in size and pure white in color.  When I looked closely at the wings, I saw that they showcased an intricate, delicate white-on-white pattern. The pattern on the wings looked like the most exquisite handmade artisan lace.   But you had to look closely to see it. 

Exploring further, we noticed a large species of butterfly with brown wings resting on a plant.  Again, looking closely at the wings, we saw a pattern of swirls and dots and curlicues in shades of brown.  The wings looked like soft, suedey hand-tooled leather.  Again, beautiful craftsmanship, but not necessarily flashy and eye-catching.  Then, the brown butterfly spread its wings and took off in flight.  We discovered that this “brown” butterfly was actually one of the striking electric blue butterflies.  When at rest, with wings folded up, the butterfly appeared to be brown.  When the butterfly opened up and showed the other side of its wings, it revealed a spectacular, sparkling surprise. 

So here’s what I learned from my day with the flutterbies: 

1.    The beauty of butterflies can touch you and give you a sense of God’s miraculousness.

2.    Sometimes, butterfly beauty is more than flashiness and you have to look closely to find it.

3.    No matter what you see on the outside of a butterfly, there may be another whole layer of beauty on the inside. 

I guess butterflies are a lot like people. 

Have you ever been to a butterfly rainforest?  Did you see any similarities between butterflies and people?  Please tell us what you learned!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a fluttery day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂