All Souls’ Day

I think God is doing marvelous things all the time. I also think we often don’t even notice them. Recently, I had one of those rare, perfect moments of clarity when I absolutely noticed.

My life coach had been encouraging me to find a way to “actively grieve.” He explained that it might be healthy for me to pick a day to just concentrate on allowing myself to feel the difficult emotions related to my brother’s death. He suggested that it is easy to hide those emotions away in some toxic part of my heart when I am running around bobbing and weaving through the normal activities of everyday life. The idea had merit. The idea of planned and scheduled grieving appealed to me. Of course. I wanted to try it, but my calendar was pretty full. I wanted to try active grieving but could not figure out how I was going to squeeze it into my already crammed schedule.

Right after this conversation with my life coach, God did one of those marvelous things.

The three local Episcopal parishes were holding an All Souls’ Day evening service at the church in Eustis- about fifteen miles from where I live. My pastor was going to give the sermon. I had been debating about going but decided to attend for two reasons: to support my pastor and to hear what he had to say at an All Souls’ Day sermon. I have a logical and theological conundrum with the idea of praying for the dead. If they are dead, surely their fate is decided and do not need our prayers? I understood the concept from my life as a Roman Catholic because the Roman Church has the doctrine of purgatory. The doctrine of purgatory seems to me to be a scriptural stretch. If I had to guess, I’d say God probably takes care of the “purgatory process” while the person is still breathing. I am not so sure this “purgatory process” is about punishment or even purification in the sense of making us “good enough.” I think it might be more about the person coming to a regretless and joyful feeling of readiness in body and soul to leave this life. I trust that God has some elegant, perfect way of sorting all this out, so I have never worried too much about it. Determining how God works out the whole balance between justice, love, and mercy is way above my pay grade.

At any rate, if one believes that there is an actual place or state of purgatory where people go after they die, as the Roman Catholics do, it makes sense to pray for those people. However, Protestants do not subscribe to the doctrine of purgatory, so I was interested to observe how Episcopalians experience All Souls’ Day.

The main point here is that I went to the service to be supportive and to benefit intellectually. I did not go to the service with the intention of grieving. As improbable and clueless as it sounds, it never occurred to me that I was going to have any sort of personal emotional experience.

When I arrived at the church and perused the Order of Worship, it was clear that the service was more about healing the grief of those of us who are still living than praying for the deceased. There was a candle-lighting service, recitation of the names of the lost, individual anointing for those of us who are mourning, communion, and an opportunity for individuals to talk with clergy afterwards if difficult emotions bubbled up during the service. My pastor’s sermon was about the relationship between sorrow and hope… the gift of learning just how much we need and rely on hope when we experience grief.

The whole thing was a bit “high churchy,” which is usually not my “go to” worship. Even when I was a Roman Catholic, high mass did not speak passionately to me. I can and do appreciate the beauty in observing a formally, poetically crafted liturgy the way one appreciates a painting in a museum. It never felt like an active, experiential worship immersion for me, though. However, the formal, somber tone of the liturgy on All Souls’ Day was absolutely perfect. Maybe for the first time, I experienced “leaning in” to that sort of  worship experience. I was no longer looking at the picture on the wall. I followed willingly as the Holy Spirit led me into it.

Actually, everything about the evening was absolutely perfect.

The lighting in the church was very low. Candles provided almost all the illumination. There were only about thirty-five people in the pews, so I did not feel a lot of energy coming from other people. The mood was somber and respectful. It was like my very own interior, homogenous, private experience even though it was a public forum. I was not picking up on other people’s divergent emotions at all, even though I am usually finely attuned to other people’s moods. I noticed that I regularly closed my eyes unconsciously and simply listened, focusing on what I was hearing in an almost  meditative way.

Before the service, ushers asked us to print the names of the people we wanted to remember in prayer. In this type of situation, I usually list all my relatives and all Max’s relatives who have passed from this life. This time, I listed only the names of my father, mother, and brother. It was instinctive. It was something I had to do just for me.

When the pastor read the names- Ernest Goodness, Dorothy Goodness, and Ernie Goodness- I felt this intense pain inside of me. It screamed, “You left me. You all went away and left me all alone.” I could almost see them together- happy, without conflict or brokenness- watching me. I needed a hug desperately- I needed touch. As it happened, I ended up kneeling at the communion rail right next to my pastor’s wife. We were shoulder to shoulder. Without my even asking, she reached her arm around me and hugged me. It felt so good.

The sermon, which I expected to enlighten me theologically did nothing of the sort. My pastor did not even really talk about the concept of “praying for the dead.” Instead, he talked about grief. As I listened, I experienced some feelings that have come up inside me regularly. I have struggled to describe them. My pastor’s words helped me to understand. I felt somehow small and innocent, enrobed in a strange kind of purity- like the bedraggled psyche I usually carry around with me was fresh and clean. I also felt lost and alone in the dark- vulnerable. It was a weird combination of despair and hope steeping in a stew of acceptance. It occurred to me that perhaps this emotional state is what it feels like to let go of the past and start exploring the future with a new frame of mind.

Tears oozed out of my eyes periodically throughout the service. The organizers of the event were clearly much more aware of the purpose of the event than I was. They provided boxes of Kleenex at the end of every other pew. Since I was not expecting emotion (improbable, clueless, etc.), I did not come prepared with tissues. I gratefully pulled a generous handful of Kleenex out of one of the boxes as I got in line to light my candle. I used them all throughout the evening. As I walked to the altar to light a candle in memory of my father, mother, and brother, I noticed that one candle lit by someone before me had gone out. I reached over and relit it. I found that action inexplicably satisfying and calming.

As I write this, I am not sure how to stop. This experience has embedded itself in my soul and I doubt I will soon forget it. I think I may be having trouble ending this story because the experience has not ended. It is still living inside me, as, I am sure, my father, mother, and brother are. The experience continues because grief continues. My gratitude to God for giving me this perfect evening continues because my walk with God continues. My confusion and chaos continue, even if a gossamer blanket of grace now covers it, because life and death are confusing and chaotic. Someday, I will join my family where there is no confusion and chaos. Until then, I am clinging to that gossamer blanket of grace.

Have you ever experienced one of those rare moments of clarity when you are sure you have seen God do something marvelous? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a reflective day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Flying Through The Air With The Greatest Of Ease

As most of you know, my birthday is kind of a big deal to me. I think everyone should get at least one day a year for things to be all about them. I celebrate me on my birthday, not my age. On that one day a year, I put myself first.

This past year, Max and I had to negotiate this issue. We were considering going to Las Vegas to see Rod Stewart for our autumn vacation. I told you a little bit about that adventure in last week’s blog. What I did not say was that, to maximize this trip, we would have to spend my birthday in airports flying home from Las Vegas. This certainly did not sound like an enticing way to spend my very own annual special celebration day. On the other hand, I did want to see Rod Stewart and the logistics were much simpler if we spent September 30th traveling home.

We decided to pretend we were in some alternative universe where my birthday was actually September 29th. I like to think I have improved with age (despite the protests of my body suggesting otherwise.) Maybe I have become so adaptable and so efficient, I have developed the ability to twist time. At any rate, I took the position that, for 2022, my birthday was September 29th.

It was a fun-packed day, but things really took off, so to speak, when my friend Kathy and I went ziplining. Yes, ziplining.

I have done ziplining twice before this trip. My experiences were a mixed bag.

Once, I was in a leadership readiness program in Colorado. As part of the class, we spent a day at a ropes course. We each had to do three of a number of activities that involved heights, ropes, balance, and physical endurance. I guess the idea was to help us overcome fears and realize how powerful we could be. All around me, people seemed to be getting the message… or, at least, some version of the message. I heard one woman scream, as she jumped from a telephone pole, “If I can do this, I can do anything. Watch out, I can fire your ass!” I wasn’t really afraid. Heights have never particularly bothered me. Ziplining always looked like fun when I watched The Amazing Race on television. Any concerns I had were related not to heights, but to my physical ability to do certain things. Climbing a telephone pole, maneuvering myself into a standing position on the summit, and balancing on the top of the pole seemed improbable for someone who trips over lint.

I was not afraid, but I should have been. I was the class injury. After successfully completing two other ropes activities with little trepidation, it was my turn to zipline. The instructor fastened me into a harness, and I climbed up the ladder to a platform. I do not remember any warnings. I do remember thinking that the people on The Amazing Race sort of sat in their harnesses. At this ropes course, the rider stood and held a bar above her head. On the way down, I screamed. The people below thought I was scared. I was not scared. I was actually in excruciating pain. I am not sure what I did wrong, but I almost dislocated my shoulder. I spent the next several weeks consuming Aleve and admiring the rainbow bruise that extended from my left breast over my shoulder down my back to my waist. Luckily, there was a hospital across the street from the ropes course.

The next ziplining opportunity was at the San Diego Safari Park. I am not sure why I thought ziplining was a great idea after my first experience, but I did. We had a practice run on a short course, which was fine except for an extremely abrupt end to the ride. When I hit the brake position, the momentum threw my heels over my head. I had second thoughts, but decided “in for a penny, in for a pound.” I got in the truck and rode three miles up into the hills. I soared over the African veldt in Escondido, viewing antelope, zebra, and elephants from my seat in the sky. Because it was a longer route, the stop was more gradual, and my feet did not go flinging all akimbo. The whole experience was fantastic.

I decided I’d like to try ziplining over the Las Vegas Strip. Kathy enthusiastically embraced the idea at first but became a little anxious as the time for our ride grew closer. I say, “became a little anxious.” She says, “almost had a panic attack.” It did not stop her, however. Even though she kept asking everybody she saw about what the ride entailed, she did not turn back. When it was over, she thought it was one of her favorite things about the whole Las Vegas trip. I thought it was amazing. It was such a celebratory, powerful thing to do on my birthday (yes, yes, I know it wasn’t really “on my birthday” but please humor me.)

After our ride, we had my birthday dinner at In and Out Burger. This may sound a little anti-climatic, but I LOVE In and Out Burger. It is a deep source of disappointment for me that Florida does not have any In and Out Burgers. Whenever I am in California or Nevada, I gorge myself like I am storing up hamburgers and French fries for winter hibernation. I took a bite of my double meat plain hamburger, and I was in Hamburger Heaven.

I had more than enough to eat for dinner, but we had to have dessert… ‘cuz it was my birthday. My answer to “cake and ice cream” was sharing a brownie sundae with Max at Ghiradelli. All of this wonderfulness of a day while Hurricane Ian was raging his way around town at home.

Sometimes unbirthdays are the best birthdays of all!

How do you like to spend your birthday? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Terri/Dorry 🙂

My Misspent Youth

I was never a child. Somehow, when I was very young, I did not get the message that children are charming and endearing. I got the message that children (or at least the child I used to resemble) were ridiculous. The adult smiles and laughter that most children correctly perceive as affectionate amusement, I saw as mocking and deriding. It was not anything that anyone did. My emotional translator was just too smart for its own good. As a result of my faulty interpretation of the adult reactions around me, I quickly learned to stifle childish impulses. Instead of experimenting with new things, saying what was on my mind, and acting my age, I pretty much just waited to grow up.

I absolutely hated being a teenager. Thinking back on the whole experience, I realize that it sucks to be an adolescent. I wonder how any of us gets through it. When I get to heaven, I really want to have a talk with God about puberty and the whole maturation process. I feel like there has to be an explanation. An almighty God could certainly have designed a more elegant, less traumatic way to transform children into adults. At any rate, I did everything I could during my junior high and high school years to try to avoid typical teenage life. I did not date. I did not rebel. I did not even hang out with a group of friends. I pretty much just waited to grow up.

As part of that “waiting to grow up” thing, I got married when I was 21 years old. I had a grown-up job. I had a husband. I lived in an apartment for which I paid the rent. My peers were going to clubs, taking trips to Cancun, and reveling in the freedom of being young, single, and adult. I was managing a budget, putting a husband through school, and falling asleep in front of the television. Heck, I spent my first New Year’s Eve after turning twenty-one bereft of all alcohol at the Disneyland party.

After seven years of marriage, my husband decided he wanted a divorce. I was now a “grown up.” It was quite disappointing to discover that the “waiting to grow up” strategy I employed when I decided to bow out of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood did not result in the “happily ever after” I thought it would. When my husband left me, I also learned something about trying to skip developmental steps. You can’t. As adamantly as I had said “no, thank you” to childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood during the appropriate chronological times in my life, I soon realized that the Universe was going to force me to experience these stages at some point or another.

In the long, sad, lonely months in the wake of my separation and divorce, I found I had to learn to play. I had to learn to play with abandon without fear of being ridiculous, the way a child plays. When I entered the dating world, I found I had to go through the thousands of little and big heartbreaks of embryonic attraction and love. I had to learn to live with the disappointments intrinsic to social situations without losing myself, as a teenager must learn that she can survive even those situations that seem catastrophic at the time. When I finally gained some confidence and began to enjoy life, I had to find a way to stay true to myself and to understand that other people won’t necessarily behave as I expect them to behave… just as young adults must learn how to discern their authentic place in the world.

I think I am still working on learning that last bit. I never did really experience the bold, busy, boisterous milieu of the young adult scene. To me, the word that best distills the young adult experience is “more.”  In this phase of life, we are trying to be ourselves but also trying to figure out who “ourselves” are in the context of the world. Everything is magnified so that we can better examine it. The volume of life is higher. The saturation of color is brighter. The number of experiences per square inch explodes. The contrast of life is on “high.” I am still a more muted person than most people project in young adulthood. I am an old adult who is missing a misspent youth. I’m still trying to acquire one.

Recently, I went to Las Vegas. The main reason we decided to go to Las Vegas was because we wanted to see Rod Stewart in concert. Rod Stewart is an old adult who is still living a misspent youth. He is 77 years old and still presents himself as someone in the eye of the young adult hurricane.

The night of the concert, I adorned myself in my most “rocker chick” finery. I wore black jeans with a beaded graphite-colored vine running down the leg. I wore a rose gold sequin blouse, and I topped it all off with a somewhat distressed, studded jean jacket. I felt like I was really letting loose my inner wild child. Part of me felt hip, sexy, and edgy. The other part of me felt ridiculous. I decided to go with hip, sexy, and edgy. I locked “ridiculous” in the closet before Max and I set out to the show.

As we waited in the elevator lobby for our friends, A man at least 35 years younger than I walked by me and said, “You look lovely this evening, ma’am.” I looked around to see who he was talking to, realized it was me, and blurted out a quick “thank you.” Random strangers do not usually compliment my looks. It was kind of a rush. I even forgave him the dreaded “ma’am,” which might have been a buzzkill.

We had excellent seats at the concert. One of the perks of being an old young person is that one typically has more disposable income with which to buy expensive tickets. We were in row eleven, almost exactly center stage. Sir Rod gave a fantastic, supercharged show. He sang around 35-40 songs- belting, tossing his hair, dancing, and gyrating like a man at least 35 years younger. His affected youth was contagious. I felt my inner young adult breaking out of this elderly woman’s shell of a body. I sang. I tossed my hair. I don’t know that I did much gyrating, but I did dance. My, how I danced. I checked my pedometer soon after the concert started and checked it after the performance. I danced the equivalent of 1.8 miles of walking while occupying the small piece of real estate around my seat.

I felt powerful, free, and vibrant. I felt like I had life by the cajones. At the time we were watching the concert in Las Vegas, Hurricane Ian was raging past our home in Florida. The threat of the hurricane had obviously been on my mind during our trip, but the energy of the concert quelled my anxiety. Hurricane, what hurricane? I was at least as powerful as any natural disaster. Move over, Ian. The misspent youth of Terri LaBonte has arrived. I was my own little pudgy bundle of wind, rain, and energy. I was the hurricane!

The next day, of course, I was back to the calm. Once more, I was the placid, responsible, quiet, introverted, awkward person I was before my evening of misspent youth. I am sure my aging body can stand only so much misspent youth at a time. I would not have it any other way.

I guess I did have a misspent youth during my actual youth. It was misspent because I did not misspend it the way young adults do to find, develop, and accept themselves. I plodded along through my twenties, spending my youth being who people expected me to be- responsible, sober, and serious. I am not sorry for the life I have lived, but I do think I could have made more productive bad choices when I was younger. Something else I have learned about trying to skip developmental stages is that the stakes are typically higher when you go back and live those developmental stages at an older age. You do not have the same kind of safety nets around you when you are sixty as you did when you were sixteen.

That still does not mean one cannot misspend their youth at age 63. I am proof that there are benefits from slipping the leash and maturing backwards, even later in life!

Did you have a misspent youth? When did it occur? What was the best takeaway from that developmental stage for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Spend your day well… whatever that means to you!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Me in my rocker chick finery!

Commemorating And Celebrating

Someone once said that you should do at least one thing that scares you every day. As we approach Halloween, it strikes me that I did a very scary thing last Saturday.

Last Saturday, I celebrated the launch of my newest book. Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go is the story of my mother. It is the story of a woman who made her own choices and built her own joy. It is the story of my relationship with her. It is the story of maturation and change. It is the story of relationship, aging, support, and grief. It is the story of living with loss. This book is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It exposes the most tender parts of me. As part of the event, I planned to read a chapter from the book. The thought terrified me.

I thought my anxiety and nerves and general busyness in preparation for the event had to do with worry over things like having the right amount of food, the right flowers, and a good internet connection for Zoom. I did notice that the overplanning and overworry turmoil that I have worked so hard to overcome with my life coach came roaring back over the week prior to the launch party. As I journaled out my feelings, I could sense the pitch squeaking ever higher and the volume shrieking ever louder until I reached a crescendo on Thursday evening. I texted my little group of helpers with a minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow schedule of what I expected to happen on Friday and Saturday. I had my furniture set-up, my decoration set-up, my cake delivery, my food and drink presentation, the Zoom initiation, my welcome, my reading, the door prizes, the toast, the cake, and book sales all slotted into convenient artificial timeslots. It was clear to me that I was certifiable. My friends were charitable enough to ignore the insanity and just follow the plan to the best of their ability.

Everything turned out beautifully. Just as I knew in some deep, dark, muted place in my brain- there was no need to sweat the small stuff. However, sweating the small stuff enabled me to avoid thinking about the big stuff.

Reading a piece from my book that discussed a facet of my mother’s long journey towards death was the big stuff. The book is me. The emotions are mine. The longing and the wistfulness I experienced at the time the incident in the piece happened is still blistering, even though the incident happened over five years ago. As I read the words I wrote, my voice broke, and the terror monsters kicked the inside of my gut with cleated feet. I had difficulty looking up from the page of swimming words. In some ways, I felt like my audience did not exist. I was reading for myself- as if I had not already written and felt the words. In other ways, I was acutely aware of the audience. I knew they were prepared to love my work, but I also knew they might hate it.

A few days later, with Todd’s help, I realized that my panic before the party and the piercing emotions during the party had nothing to do with the food or the flowers or any of that silly stuff. It had to do with my very unsilly fear of rejection. The way I write, the way I feel, and the way I conduct my relationships pretty much defines me. As I offered my words, my love, and my relationship with my mother to this group of people, I was asking them to accept who I am. The people listening could very easily have said no. Intellectually, I realized that it was unlikely that the people in the room listening to me would reject me. After all, I’d stacked the deck. The people who came to the party love me and accepted me long ago. They would not have come otherwise. However, a huge part of the scarred heart I carry around in my chest was sure this was going to be the time when those people did reject me. My brain occupied itself with silly stuff as the party approached out of fear that the party guests and other readers would decide that I was the silly stuff.

Nobody thought I was the silly stuff. I think the people listening were genuinely moved. I think people who came from far and near believed the time they invested in the launch event was time well spent. Even more importantly, I felt it was time well spent. I commemorated my mother with some people who knew her and introduced her to the people who love me but never got to know my mom. I dedicated my book to everyone who loved my mother and everyone who loved me. That would include all the people in the room on Saturday. We commemorated the woman my mother was on Saturday, and we celebrated the woman I am becoming.

Celebrate you today!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go is available on Amazon in kindle and paperback editions. If you would like to purchase a signed copy, please contact me at and I will arrange to send you one. The cost would be $15, plus $4 shipping.

Disney By The Decade Part 3

This week, we have the exciting conclusion of my Disney story!

The 2000s

From the time I met Max, I would say, “Someday we are going to go to Disney World in Florida. When I retire, we are going to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We are going to stay at a deluxe hotel, eat at a character meal, and do everything I’ve always wanted to do.” He would smile indulgently and repeat, “Someday.” When he moved in with me in 2002, his tune changed. In a good way. When I started my oft-told tale about my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney World, he stopped me and said, “Why are we waiting until you retire? Why don’t we go now?”  Max is the epitome of planned spontaneity and carefully controlled adventure. The fact that he would suggest such an idea was almost blasphemous- but appealing.

Not that we just went all bananacake and packed our bags immediately. We spent a year planning our trip- planned spontaneity and carefully controlled adventure. I produced a spreadsheet, using two different guidebooks to schedule parks, rides, shows, meals, and other “must-dos.” I had a list of level B attractions to fill in time in case we had a moment to spare. We researched the different Disney hotels and initially booked a package that included a room with a view of grazing giraffes and zebras from our balcony. In the year-long planning process, another package became available that was $1200 cheaper, but had us staying at the Yacht Club. This was my sole concession to price for this trip. I mourned the loss a little bit when I made the change, but it turned out that the Yacht Club was the absolute best choice because… location, location, location. We could walk to Epcot, which we did almost daily.

One of the things I learned on that first trip to Disney World is that there really is magic there. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2001. I was fastidious about watching my diet and testing my blood regularly. I forgot what it felt like to be full. On Christmas, I allowed myself one square of Dove chocolate, which felt like a religious experience. At Disney World, it turned out I could eat anything I wanted. I kept testing my blood and finding it was low, so could just keep eating a pretzel, ice cream, or other food-like substance I had not ingested in two years. Some people would probably argue that my newfound food freedom was more about the miles and miles I walked each day rather than magic, but I’m sticking with the pixie dust story.

I’ve never been very good at “once in a lifetime.” Max and I ended up making three more trips from California to Florida to visit Disney World during the first decade of the new millennium.

The 2010s

In 2012, Max and I began thinking about retirement. We knew we probably wanted to move out of Southern California. We discussed several possible destinations but kept coming back to central Florida. Truthfully, having spent so much of my life in Disneyland’s backyard, I thought my DNA might unravel if I moved too far away from a Disney park. When we looked into the idea more carefully, we found that there were many attractive benefits to moving to Florida. The biggest one is that I could buy a three-bedroom, 2 bathroom detached 1500 square foot detached house with a garage for $50,000 less than what my 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 650 square foot condo in California would be worth on the open sales market.  I poked around on the internet and found a central Florida real estate agent who used to live about 90 miles from my home in California. Max and I decided to take a trip to Disney World (he twisted my arm… not) and add on a couple of days to drive 45 miles north of Orlando to Lake County to look at some houses.

Some people go to Disney World and buy a t-shirt. I bought a house.

I retired in October of 2014. We moved to central Florida to live in my pretty little house at the beginning of December. It was quite the whirlwind. By New Year’s Eve, we had annual passes to Disney World and had already created some skid marks on them. We began a flurry of years doing Disney in ways I had only imagined before- seeing the Candlelight Processional at Epcot at Christmastime, wandering a park for just a few hours before getting tired and going home because we knew we could come back any time, resort-hopping at Christmas and Easter to see the special decorations,  taking advantage of special festival opportunities like learning to make paper art with a Disney artist and creating an abstract spin picture by riding a bicycle, buying Disney merchandise for a 20-30% discount. I was sad when we left Disney property in 2012 when we went to look at houses. Max asked me why and I explained that, if we bought a house nearby, we wouldn’t be staying at Disney ever again. He patiently pointed out to me that living 40 miles away did not mean that we could not spend the night at the House of Mouse occasionally. So, we did.

In February of 2015, two months after we moved to Florida, I went back to California to pack up my mother and move her to a mobile home park near our new home. This was a huge transition for all of us. My mother’s health had been deteriorating for some time, but she still led a busy, fulfilling life in California. I was determined to make up for what she was leaving by providing as much fun and amusement as I could. For my mother, that meant two things- endless trips to Walmart and regular excursions to Disney. I pushed her around the parks and pointed out small details that most people would miss, especially people riding in a wheelchair. One of my happiest Disney memories with her was going to the Osborne Family Light Spectacular. It was jaw-dropping. As I inched her through layers and layers of crowds, I did not even mind the lack of personal space. The look on her face was worth every jostle, every recapture of momentum, and every whiff of smoke and body odor. To cap off the evening, we bought t-shirts to proclaim that the Osborne Family Light Spectacular was a wrap, and we were there. We bought popcorn in souvenir buckets in the shape of Mickey Mouse wearing an elf costume. Elf Mickey still stands guard outside my front door every Christmas season. Perfect night.

After my mother died in 2017, Max and I made a trip to Epcot during the Flower and Garden festival. During the festival, Disney erects giant topiaries of favorite characters. I wanted to sprinkle some of her ashes by the Tinker Bell topiary. There is also always a butterfly garden. In 2017, the butterfly habit was called the “Butterfly Garden of Goodness.” I could not think of any place more appropriate to leave a little bit of my beautiful mother- Dorothy Goodness- than with the butterflies in the garden that I decided was named for her. All of this ash-scattering was highly illegal and carried a minimum penalty of Disney shunning, but I did not care. Some things are just worth the risk.

The 2020s

Disney in the time of COVID was certainly a new take on things. It was a microcosm of the rest of the world. For someone who did not know life without Disney parks in it, I could not conceive that Disney actually closed the gates even after reading it several times. It just seemed so shocking. I do not overstate when I say it felt like the world might actually come to an end. Churches could close and live stream services. Children could stay home from school and learn remotely. Employees could begin a whole new era of telecommuting. Disney, however, is just such a visceral, here experience. On one day-  March 16, 2020- the world got quieter, sadder, and lonelier.

In September, Max and I attended a special preview reopening for annual passholders. Despite the possible risk, I really wanted to go. I wanted to see the creativity with which the Disney cooperation devised distancing and other safety protocols. I wanted to see what activities were still operational. I wanted to feel something normal again. I just wanted to see my happy place. When we arrived, there was a weird quiet in the air- there were so many fewer people even in the parking lot. There was almost no hustle and bustle. The brave souls who did venture into the park that day seemed to be navigating cautiously and tentatively- almost as if they were trying not to breathe. The paths to the entrance were lined, at appropriate social distances, with masked cast members waving their Mickey-gloved hands at us. They were beaming and shouting “welcome back.” It had something of the flavor of those old movies where the grateful townspeople cheer the returning heroic soldiers who have saved their village from invasion.

The eerie quietness we noticed in the parking lot did follow us throughout the day. Never in my life have I been to Disney with so few people around me. We could walk on nearly all the rides. The queue areas were designed with social distancing in mind. That sounds easy enough, but it was actually a pretty complicated feat with the way Disney lines wrap around. It was a fun game to see if we could figure out the reasons for seemingly random stretches of empty space clearly exceeding six feet.

We attended this quasi-reopening knowing that certain elements, like parades and character meet-and-greets, would not be available. That did not stop Disney from throwing in a few surprises. As we came out of Starbuck’s, Tinker Bell was riding down the road on a huge treasure chest!  She sat atop the treasure chest, clearly socially distant from everyone, waving her wand and laughing. Because there were so few people in the park, it was easy to see her, and it was easy for her to see individuals. She pointed down at me and giggled. I was wearing a t-shirt depicting a huge Tinker Bell wearing a mask with the word QUARANTINED! brazened across it. She called down to me and made a heart with her hands. She spoke directly to me, and I trailed along next to the float like some sort of Neverland stalker. I did not need for her to stand next to me or hug me. I was a member of her posse.

During that first year of the pandemic, I was able to reach a milestone. In the days of Disney desolation, I was able to go on every ride I wanted to experience that I had not been able to because of crowds pre-COVID.

When restrictions loosened and people began feeling more comfortable navigating the outside world during the pandemic, crowds returned to Disney. Did they ever. I swear that everyone who stayed locked in their homes for 12-18 months decided all at once to go back to the World. It is rare to find six inches of personal space much less six feet.

Recently, in 2022, my brother died. He had always said he wanted his ashes scattered in the river at the jungle cruise ride. Always a little bitter that I moved away from California and took our mother with me, he stipulated “and not in fuckin’ Florida, either… I want to be scattered on the jungle cruise ride at DISNEYLAND.” I made a quick trip back to California and spent about $400 on admission and parking so my sister-in-law, step niece, and I could go into Disneyland to do this one activity. We were successful in our mission and my brother is now relishing his view of the back side of water.

Everyone has various frameworks for their lives. We see the events of our lives from different angles, with different cropping.  I will not say that Disney is the only framework of my life, but it is certainly one of them. It is not that Disney reflects my life. It is more that my life, over the decades, reflects how I view Disney.

I offer these musings to those who scoff at people like me and say that Disney is not “real life.” I beg to differ. Disney might not always be a fairy tale, but I am human evidence that Disney life is most certainly real life.

Have a pixie-dusted day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMINDER: The launch party for my new book, Puppies, Guppies and Letting Go, is THIS Saturday! The party is scheduled from 3-5pm on 10/22/22. If you are local to Leesburg, Florida (or even if you are not and feel like exerting a huge effort- I’m looking at you Bob and Judy!) and can attend in person, we will be getting together at the St. James Episcopal Church parish hall at 204 N. Lee Street in Leesburg. If you want to join by Zoom, you can click this link:

If you are not able to attend, you will be able to purchase the book in paperback and/or kindle edition on Amazon starting Saturday.

Disney By The Decade- Part 2

Let’s pick up where we left off last week…

The 1970s

A lot of kids start outgrowing their Disney affinity when they turn ten or eleven. Not so for me… but then I continued to believe in Santa Claus until I was twelve by sheer force of will.

I remember waiting in line to ride the Matterhorn with my father. Neither my mother nor my brother was ever interested in schussing down a fake mountain in a toboggan-on-a-track. My father certainly wanted to schuss with the best of them but would not take the time to go on his own unless someone else in the family wanted to go. I am not sure if I could say I really wanted to go on the ride, but I did want to please my father. The idea of doing it intrigued me and I usually did have a good time when I took the plunge. It was the waiting in line that was the killer. As I stood in the long line with my daddy, the anxiety would start to mount in my belly. The trick was to see if I could get to the front of the line before the mounting anxiety rose beyond my vocal cords. Usually, I managed to hang on and make it to the toboggan. Sometimes, when the line was a little too long, the anxiety beat me to the finish line. It transformed itself into a protest and leaked out of my mouth. My father was never very happy to have waited in line, only to take his fraidy-cat daughter back to her mother.

In 1976, Disney was reimagining their parade to embrace a bicentennial theme. There would be special dancers, new floats, and people with huge bobble-heads of revolutionary characters roaming down the route. We learned at school that Disney was holding open auditions for parade cast members one Saturday. This seemed like the Holy Grail of summer jobs for 16-year-old me. I went to audition. Somehow, it never occurred to me that I was not exactly physically suited to a job as a dancer. I was short, stocky and would certainly never fit into any costumes Disney manufactured. In those days, companies- including and maybe especially Disney- only hired girls who were a size 12 or smaller. I did not even make the first cut.

It was just as well because I ended up spending most of that bicentennial summer with the first boy to break my heart. I had been writing to a pen pal in Scotland for several years. We had a plan. He was going to spend the summer of 1976 with my family.  Then, I would spend the summer after my high school graduation in 1977 visiting him in Scotland and touring Europe with him. We, of course, went to Disneyland when he was here. He understood the magic right away. He could not stop exclaiming about how wonderful it all was. The only thing that put him off was the screaming children. He said to me, “Children in Scotland would never behave like this. They would be so happy to be here, they would never dream of crying or screaming or throwing a tantrum.” I told him that I doubted very much that the children in Scotland were much different from the children in the United States. A napless three-year-old child standing through shimmering heat in one line after another is liable to cry and scream and tantrum, regardless of their nationality. Hungry, thirsty, tired, overstimulated children are hungry, thirsty, tired, overstimulate children everywhere. We agreed to disagree. After my pen pal went home, I never heard from him again. I do not blame Disney, however.

My school participated in Grad Night at Disneyland in June of 1977. I had a date for the event, which was huge news. The grad night date was my third date ever, not counting the Summer of Pen Pal, which was not so much dating as providing free touring service. The problem was I did not want a date for the event. I had recently met the man that I would end up marrying. I had been on exactly one date with him, but I did not have the social skills or maturity of perspective to understand how to navigate the process. My grad night date was relentless in trying to get me to agree to go with him to the event. I finally said yes, but I spent the entire lead up to the evening and the evening itself feeling intrinsically uncomfortable because it felt like I was betraying this other fellow who barely knew I was alive at the time. I ended up asking the bus driver to drop me off at my house, which was right on the way back to the school from Disneyland. I told my date that I could save him the trouble of taking me home. In retrospect, I was awful. I wish I had been much nicer to my grad night date. I wish I had opened the door of my heart to him rather than my eventual husband. He would have been a much more satisfactory partner.

The 1980s

The 1980s were my years of poverty, so my Disney experiences were limited in that decade. I graduated from college in 1981 and nearly immediately married my brand-new husband who needed brand-new food every brand-new day. My husband was a full-time graduate student and I worked at an entry level government job. Disneyland was not in the budget for most of the decade.  However, in that first year of the decade and the last year of the decade, Disneyland created some light in my life.

My mother purchased Disneyland New Year’s Eve party tickets for my fiancé and me the December that 1980 gave way to 1981. She said she wanted to know I was safe. I think she meant that she wanted to know that I wasn’t drinking, driving on the streets with the drunks, or getting pregnant.

My husband suddenly decided to leave me one day in February of 1988.  He moved out of our apartment to “think about things” and never came back except to pick up his things when my mother served him with divorce papers. He gave me no reason for leaving beyond cruel, hurtful indictments of my physical appearance and general lack of appeal.

Thus entered a crucible season of my life. It took me a long time to heal from the abandonment, but it took even longer to heal from the marriage. It took me awhile to realize the best thing the man ever did for me was to leave me. While I was in the process of figuring all this out, I found a financial windfall in an emotionally bankrupt time in my life. My small salary no longer had to stretch to feed another mouth, maintain a second car, or in any way support anyone but myself. I bought myself an annual pass to Disneyland. I spent many, many mournful but satisfying evenings walking around the park. I went on rides sometimes, but, basically, I just walked and enjoyed public anonymity. Living by myself, the silence at home was sometimes too much even for the hermit I was then. If I went to Disneyland, I could hear noise, laughter, and conversation but did not have to be responsible for any of it.

The 1990s

In the 1990s, I began to grow into the adult version of myself. I began to move away from the demolition of my divorce. I began trying to create something new out of the rubble. The “something new” was not what I ever wanted or imagined it would be, but I could certainly create something more elegant than that sad, ghost sort of a person roaming the sidewalks of Disneyland alone. I adopted a dog. I bought a condominium. I invested in my career. The 90s were my own personal “me” generation.

About halfway through the decade, I met the love of my life. Max and I met in November of 1995. Very soon after we met, we spent a day at Disneyland. We both had some Disneyland nostalgia stored away in our brains. I don’t think our memories exactly meshed, but there was enough emotional fabric for us to knit a bond out of our Disney perceptions. Max had two weeks of vacation each year- one week in April and one week in October. Our tradition was to spend a day at Disneyland during his October vacation every year. He enjoyed Disney, but he enjoyed me enjoying Disney even more. One day he said to me, “How many other 50-year-old boyfriends would spend 45 minutes waiting in line to hang out with Tinker Bell?” Disneyland showed me that I am lovable and loved.

Do you have a magical Disney moment? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a magical day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Disney By The Decade- Part One

Today begins a three-part series on my life reflected in Disney park experiences. It is a little experiment in navel-gazing that I hope you will enjoy!

The 1950s

I was born in New York City on September 30, 1959, to Ernest and Dorothy Goodness. Although my arrival just barely missed cusping the new decade, my family found a way to kick start a Disney obsession that was to span at least part of eight decades.

My mother called me Tinker Bell from the time I was born. Disney released the movie Peter Pan in1953. Disney movies were about the only films that good, responsible parents allowed their children to view in those days.  Disneyland Park opened in 1955. I guess the whole world was a little Disney-obsessed at that time.    

When I was very little, I just thought it was a cute, girly nickname. On some level, I liked the idea of being a flittery, glittery little pixie. When I grew older and delved into the J. M. Barrie source material, I realized that Tinker Bell was not all sweetness and light. In fact, the original Tinker Bell had a dark, jealous, almost murderous side. I often wonder what my parents were thinking. On the other hand, I never asked. Maybe I did not really want to know.

The 1960s

In 1965, the Department of Defense closed the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where my father worked. The federal government offered him the choice of transferring anywhere there was an open shipyard, with full moving expenses provided. After much consideration, my parents decided to move to Southern California and my father took a position at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. My father moved to California while my mother stayed in New York to sell the house and organize everything necessary for the Goodness invasion of the West Coast.

We lived in an apartment in Long Beach when we first moved to California. My parents, having sold their house in New York at a loss, were having trouble finding a suitable house to buy within their budget. As they searched, we began exploring the new activities and sights of California. We went to the beach several days a week. We visited museums. We went to playgrounds and parks. On Saturdays, we all piled into the car and visited the popular tourist attractions.

The family folklore is that we went to Disneyland that particular Saturday because the Watts Riots were raging throughout Los Angeles County. My mother said that she could hear gunfire, so they decided to head south for the day. I do not know if that is a true story. I certainly do not remember hearing any gunfire, but I was not quite six years old. There were uprisings all over Los Angeles County in August of 1965, including Long Beach, so perhaps it is true. At any rate, the point is that my first “in person” taste of Disney was sort of a fluke.

I have a picture of our first trip to Disneyland. My father is standing, one hand on my shoulder and one hand on my little brother’s shoulder, in front of a gigantic cement whale. The picture shows my father’s smile, his lifted chest, and an air of pride. This detail hits me hard because I have only a  few memories of my father looking proud. My memories are mostly of him being frustrated and fractious. At Disneyland, though, flanked by his children, he was proud. In the picture, a white shift dress is encasing my squat little body. There is a huge zipper printed down the front of the dress. The picture is black-and-white, but I remember that the zipper was bright gold and green. It was definitely the 60s.

I have many memories of Disneyland in the 1960s. My parents ended up buying a house about three miles from the Happiest Place on Earth. We could see the fireworks on weekend nights during the summer months. I remember my family cooking hot dogs over an open fire in the backyard and watching the colorful explosions in the sky.

Going to Disneyland was an extremely special thing to do during my growing-up years. We did not go often because it was expensive. We usually managed a visit every two years or so. A Disney visit was an event. Most outings meant shorts and a shirt. Going to Disneyland meant a dress or a skirt. I think my mother curled my hair. For some reason, when I think of Disneyland as a child, I think of white gloves and patent leather. I am sure I never wore white gloves or patent leather shoes to Disneyland, but I cannot get over the idea that it always felt like an elegant, white glove and patent leather shoe kind of occasion.

One time, we were at Disneyland near Christmas. Santa Claus came down Main Street in is sleigh. High atop the huge float, he bellowed “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” He tossed candy and small toys. A small rendition of either Chip or Dale, stuffed with fairly heavy sawdust, bonked me on the head.  I kept that toy for many, many, many years until the seams split and sawdust oozed out of it.

Another time, when I was about eight, my father and I rode the whirling Mad Hatter ride together. When the ride stopped, we exited the teacup. I reeled my way to an exit. My sense of direction was clearly still on the ride. In my dizziness and disorientation, I apparently headed in the opposite direction from my father. When I found my way out the exit and noticed my father was nowhere to be seen, I began to panic. I sobbed until a nice lady took my hand and brought me to a cast member, telling the cast member that “this little girl’s daddy is missing.” My father came barreling towards the cast member, yelling that I needed to stay with him and not go wandering around on my own. I am sure he was simply scared and frustrated, but to my little girl mind, he was very angry at me.

Do you have Disney experiences from the 1950s through the 1970s? Tell us about them! Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Have a Delightful Disney Day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Cheese Stands Alone

I recently enrolled in an online writing class. The class assignments include a requirement to submit two personal essays during the eight weeks of the course. The instructor and other students critique the pieces the participant submits. The student can elect to either submit two separate essays or to revise the first submission based on the class feedback and submit the “new and improved” version for the second opportunity.

For my first submission, I used an essay based on the blog piece I posted here- Sand, Sea, and Sadness ( Sand, Sea, And Sadness – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement )– about my trip to the beach the day after my brother died. There was a lot of feedback from the instructor and the students, which I took under advisement and considered in submitting my second piece- the revision of my first essay. I honestly do not know which version I like better. They are quite different, although they relate to the same event and same family dynamics. It was an interesting exercise.

One piece of feedback that kind of threw me was that the class believed my ending was “too pat” and “too neat and tidy.” The general feeling of the critique-ers was that I suggested that simply remembering the good episode with my brother at day camp allowed me to come to terms with grief and resolve my feelings. If I suggested that, my bad. Of course, one memory and one trip to the beach did not punch my grief ticket. My point in the ending of the blog post was simply that the trip to the beach and the memory allowed me to start the grieving process more elegantly and effectively. I expect that I will be grieving and remembering and processing emotions around my brother’s death for the rest of my life. This is one reason that I have continued to share blog posts about my trip and the misadventures I experienced. The grief process is very much still in my mind and in my heart. Even the blog posts that have a comic framework are a way of working through my feelings about my brother and his death. Maybe I am just not ready yet to relate anything even a little bit profound about this experience. I have not found the profundity of losing my brother in a way I can articulate yet.

However, there is a serious issue related to my brother’s death that I want to share in this blog piece. I am now the last of my birth family standing on this side of the Great Divide. My father died in 1996. My mother died five years ago this past September 2. My brother died on July 28, 2022. My brother’s death was not just about losing my brother. My brother’s death caused a tearing away of the last tangible thread I had to my family of origin, my childhood, the hopes I had for my life that never materialized, my youth. Don’t get me wrong. I have a great life and I am incredibly grateful for everything I have. It is just that my life today is not anything like what I pictured when my world was my parents and my brother and me living on the corner of Cerritos and Perdito in Anaheim, CA. Also, as an adult, I see that the world I knew then was not even the world I thought it was at the time… and now, never can be.

While I was in California, I took a sentimental journey. I drove past the house where I grew up. I drove past the church we attended. I drove past my old elementary, junior high, and high schools. I cruised down the streets where the neighborhood children played late into the evening on extended summer days. I stayed in Hemet, where my brother lived. My mother and father, and later just my mother, lived in Hemet for many years, as well. Everything in Hemet and in Anaheim looked so foreign and far away from any relevance to me. Bars and fences on all the schools. A new addition on the house. The church building looked small and lonely. The storefronts did not look the same as I remembered in either Anaheim or Hemet. Even the mobile home park where my mother lived before she moved to Florida was completely different- new owners, new name, and a new sign. I almost missed it completely as I tooled down the main highway.

Finding yourself the only one left is disorienting. I looked online for some context for what I was feeling and found that my perspective is common, though not discussed very frequently. Society, in general, tends to concentrate more on the grief of widows, widowers, parents, and children. There is an unspoken idea that, somehow, the grief of a sibling is not “that bad.” I do not know about that. I am sure it is more about the emotional relationship than the biological relationship. Besides, as someone once told me, “Comparing is despairing.” Nobody needs to win the misery lottery to suffer with grief. The grief of a sibling is as legitimate as any other. It can be quite complex, as well, because sibling relationships are often fraught with difficult emotions. Spouses choose each other. Parents choose to have children. Children may not choose their parents, but, at the very least, children understand that their parents are necessary to their lives. Friends choose each other. Sibling relationships are the only ones where the parties have absolutely no choice in the creation of the relationship.

When the difficulty of losing a sibling combines with the isolation and disorientation of finding yourself as the cheese standing alone in the world, it can be even more difficult. I found myself struggling with that realization the whole time I was in California. I did a lot of sobbing when I was alone, mourning for everything I saw that was not what I remembered it being. There is a lot I could say about what exactly I was mourning. There is a lot I could say about the regret and guilt. There is a lot I could say about disillusionment. There is a lot I could say about when and how I learned to live as myself instead of simply as the oldest child in the Goodness family. And, certainly, how scared I am that maybe I never did learn that. I am just not sure how to talk about any of that yet. As the people in my writing class pointed out, grief does not resolve so neatly.

This trip was about saying good-bye. Yes, it was about saying good-bye to my brother. But it was also about saying good-bye to the me I used to be, the me I thought I was, and the me I dreamt I would someday be. The good news is that saying good-bye to those “mes” may open the door for greater acceptance and appreciation for who I actually am.

In losing someone close to you, have you ever realized you were losing more than just that person? What was that experience like for you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a fresh start today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Scattering The Ashes

I had a few missions in mind when I went to California after my brother Ernie’s death. The most important and most exotic one involved scattering some of his ashes. I have put off sharing about this because it is the most bizarre aspect of my trip. Grief is complicated and I sure I will be navigating pathways into the emotions for some time. Right now, talking about this last strange service I did for my brother seems a little tender.

The only thing Ernie ever mentioned about life after his death was that he wanted his ashes scattered in the river of the jungle cruise ride at Disneyland. And not in “fucking Florida,” as he called it. He only wanted the real thing- Disneyland in Anaheim. He never quite forgave me or Florida for moving his mother away from him. My sister-in-law and I wanted to honor his last wish, within reason. We knew that scattering all his ashes in the drink at Disneyland was not in the cards, but I thought we could get away with a couple of tiny Ziplock baggies of cremains. Distribution of any amount of ashes is against Disney rules.  However, I learned- when my mother died, and I scattered some of her in multiple locations at Disney World- that it is not so hard to do if one is determined. My sister-in-law and I were determined.

The entire process of scattering ashes at the jungle cruise ride was not an easy one. My sister-in-law has mobility issues with her knees and feet. It is hard for her to walk. My step-niece is developmentally disabled and has difficulty with coordination and with managing the hyperstimulation of crowds. These issues did not portend a smooth Disney experience. I knew that there were going to be tactical challenges, so I tried to devise a plan to minimize the burden. Because that is what I do.

I dropped my sister-in-law and her daughter off at the Uber location the evening of our mission. I suggested that they walk to the entrance of the park while I went to the parking lot and took the bus back. I left them walking down the primrose path from the Uber drop-off to the front gates while I drove down the street about ¾ of a mile to the first parking lot I found. As it turned out, that parking lot was closed, and the cast member directed me to one about three miles further down the road. When I got to that parking lot, I parked in row nine. The bus to the park picked up at row thirty-two. I could not even see the bus stop from my vantage point, but the parking attendant assured me it was “over there.” As I began my trek amongst the vehicles, I thought of a potential problem.  The two tiny Ziplock bags of ashes were in my backpack. It occurred to me that, should Disney security search my backpack, they were going to find two baggies of fine white powder. Probably not a good thing. I took the baggies out of my backpack and stuffed them in my bra.

My sister-in-law called to find out where I was because this process was taking longer than she believed possible. I explained that I was en route to the bus and would see her when I got there. She told me that she and my step niece were at the gates. When I finally arrived at the park entrance, I, of course, could not see them. I called her and asked where they were. She told me they were directly across from the stroller rental. I explained that I was right outside the stroller rental place; if I screamed, I am sure an employee would hear me inside the stroller rental stand and would rush to render me assistance. Then, I thought to ask if she was standing up or sitting down and she replied they were sitting down. I looked around for a bench and, indeed, they were directly across from the stroller rental place- about two hundred yards across from the stroller rental place.

Ultimately, we made it into the park. The timing was less than ideal. The electrical light parade was getting ready to start. Oceans of people were tiding from every corner of the park to wash up on Main Street. We were trying to go from Main Street to Adventureland- obviously going against the current. Pre-parade crowd herding is a special skill that Disney cast members learn early on in their magical careers. The bottom line is that the cast members must make sure people are either gathered in the stationary parade viewing areas or continuing to move consistently down the sidewalks. My sister-in-law was having trouble with the continuous moving part. I had suggested a wheelchair, but she declined. I think she thought better of that decision about ten minutes after we started our trek to Adventureland. Because of her mobility issues, she had to stop and rest every few minutes. My step niece did great, but it was obvious that the crowds distressed her. From the Disney cast members’ perspective, we were something of a hazard. They were extremely nice and polite, but the message was still “Keep Moving.”

With fortitude, we did continue to “keep moving.” Finally, we reached the jungle cruise ride. Since everybody and their great-aunt Matilda was on Main Street waiting for the parade, the line for the ride was blessedly short. We got in line, and all was going fine. Until we arrived at the staircase right smack in the middle of the line. I knew this would be Waterloo for my sister-in-law and step niece. I asked the conveniently located cast member if there was an elevator. She directed me beyond a rope outside the regular line. There seemed to be a second line, which we joined. Another cast member explained that this line was for people with disability passes. He sent me over to the jungle-cruise-disability-pass-issuing kiosk. I left my two companions there and hiked back over to the front of the regular line. The nice lady there tried three times to issue me disability passes and get me a time to return to the “special” line. Unsuccessfully. Finally, she gave up and just escorted me back to the disability line and vouched for me.

As we waited in the disability line, I noticed something disturbing. In the jungle cruise boats, riders sit on a bench that goes around the perimeter of the vessel. There is an additional bench in the middle of the boat to accommodate more passengers. I noticed that the cast members were putting people in the disability line on the center bench. This was messing with my whole strategy. I based my whole approach to this ash-scattering process on a simple principle. I honestly believed that people leave bits and pieces of loved ones on Disney property all the time. I think Disney employees often realize it is happening, but will politely turn the other way as long as the ash-scatterer does not flaunt their actions (or the ashes) in the cast member’s face. I had planned to stealthfully dump a little bit of cremains over the side of the boat when the skipper was too engrossed in his patter to notice. I did not see tossing handfuls of cremains across the boat as being stealth in any way, shape, or form. I think tossing handfuls across the boat would reasonably constitute “flaunting.” Luckily, after they loaded us onto the center bench, they let us move to the perimeter of the boat before loading people from the regular line. We were able to sprinkle our little baggies of ashes without drawing attention… and my brother now has an amazing view of the back side of water for all eternity.

Having accomplished our mission, we needed to reverse the process to get out of the park and back to the car. As we passed the restroom, we made a quick pit stop. When I got out of the restroom, the parade was underway. Tinker Bell was passing by, waving her wand, and smiling at the crowd. I chose to believe she was smiling specifically at me.

Have you ever had an experience that was quite stressful at the time, but was actually pretty comical when you look back at it after some time has passed? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have an adventurous day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

She Who Travels The Fastest Travels Alone

A week or so after my brother Ernie died, a package arrived at my front door. It was a painting created by Robert Holton. I used to go to high school with Robert and he is now a professional artist ( I have a couple of his pieces, but I did not remember ordering anything from him. It turned out that my brother, months ago, contacted Robert about creating something special for me for my birthday in September. He asked Robert to create a painting of the street sign at the intersection where we grew up in Anaheim, California. Robert and Ernie collaborated to design the painting, but Robert was surprised when Ernie stopped responding to him about timeframes and such. When Robert learned that Ernie had died, he completed the painting and sent copies to me, my cousin Raymond (who spent some of his young adult years living with us at the house at this intersection), and my sister-in-law Diane.

I loved the painting, but seeing it cracked the retaining wall around my emotions concerning my brother’s death. The fact that my brother had thought of me and wanted to do something so sweet for me certainly triggered complicated emotions. The biggest takeaway, though, was that he did genuinely love me and appreciate me. When I saw the painting, I could feel sixty plus years of emotion rising in my body. I slowly began to sob. Once I started, it was hard to stop.

Days later…

I left Orange County, Florida, on a plane bound for Orange County, California. My main mission was to take my sister-in-law to retrieve my brother’s ashes from the cremation company, create and emcee a dinner at my brother’s favorite restaurant for some well-loved people (some via Zoom and some IRL), and then scatter some of Ernie’s ashes in an exotic way. I will explain more about how these goals played out in a later post, but I first want to share one noteworthy aspect of my trip.

When I arrived in Orange County, California, there was no sign of my suitcase. I was not the only one searching for luggage and, by the mountain of unclaimed suitcases erected beside the Southwest baggage services office, it had been a bad day indeed for suitcases. I joined the line of people waiting to report a missing bag, congratulating myself on my relative calm. When I reached the front of the line, the assistor advised me that my suitcase was still in Denver. Although I had a layover in Denver for almost two hours and had plenty of time to make my connecting flight, my suitcase apparently did not. The assistor told me that the bag was in Denver and was expected to arrive in around three hours. She said that they would call me when the bag arrived.

I devised a plan on the spot. During this trip, I was going to spend several days in Hemet, which is beyond the delivery reach of the Orange County airport. I planned to spend my final day with my friend Judy in Laguna Niguel, which was only about fifteen miles from the airport. My original plan was to have dinner with Judy before making my way out to Hemet and then would return to spend the last day of my trip with Judy before coming home. I decided to have the suitcase sent to Judy’s. I would skip dinner with Judy that evening and, instead, go to Walmart to purchase three days’ worth of clothes and toiletries, and then go to Hemet. The suitcase and I would be reunited on the last day of my trip when I got to Judy’s… just in time to go home with me.

After I called Judy and explained the situation, I kicked myself for not choosing a different route. Since the airport lady told me the suitcase was expected within three hours, I could have gone to have dinner with Judy and then come back to the airport to pick it up before driving out to Hemet. As it turned out, I am glad this option did not occur to me until I was wandering around Walmart. The suitcase had very different plans.

Buying clothes at Walmart turned out to be more of a challenge than I would have anticipated. At the end of August, summer is over as far as Walmart is concerned. The clothes in prominent display featured long sleeves, denim, and sweatshirt fabric. It was 106 degrees in Hemet. The autumn/winter line of Walmart attire was clearly not going to work. I shoved my way through the clearance racks, looking for items that would fit, would go together, and would not cause me to have heat prostration. I steered myself towards dresses to solve the problem of “going together.” There were clearly no pieces left that went together. It took me about an hour, but I did end up finding three summer weight dresses that I could wear over the next few days. Two of them were the exact same dress in different colors, but I was not being too fussy.

When I reached the hotel in Hemet, the predicted 3 hours to get “eyes on” my suitcase had come and gone with no phone call or email. I was so tired that it didn’t really register with me. The next morning, I checked for phone calls and emails, but there was not a peep from Southwest. When I got out of the shower and dressed in my new Walmart clothes, my phone rang. It was the Southwest rep at Orange County airport, calling to tell me that they had no idea where my suitcase was. What a crappy job. I could hear the poor woman holding her breath, obviously dreading my reaction. We talked about the options and decided to give the suitcase one more day to get to Orange County before giving up and directing it back to Orlando if it was ever heard from again.

That evening, I was sitting in the car with my step niece while my sister-in-law made a quick stop at Target. My phone rang. The person on the other end of the line said, “This is Lily at Southwest Airlines in Long Beach. I was just calling to tell you we still had your bag.” At first, I was ecstatic that Southwest had found my bag, but then I realized there was a subtext to this call. “Uh, okay,” I responded. “So, what do I do now?” Lily answered in a polite if bewildered manner, “You can pick it up at any time of your convenience.”

Hmmm… Long Beach is about fifty miles from the Orange County Airport and about hundred miles from where I was sitting in Hemet. “Uh, no. I am not in Long Beach,” I explained.

It took Lily a couple of minutes and me a minute longer than that to realize what was happening. Lily was not calling in response to the “lost luggage” report I submitted at the Orange County Airport. She was calling because they had this random suitcase sitting at the Long Beach Airport and the baggage claim people had no idea why I had never picked it up after my flight. When we ascertained that I had not been to Long Beach, wasn’t scheduled to go to Long Beach, had no expected layover in Long Beach, and had no plans to go to Long Beach, Lily had a couple of options to explore. She told me that she would have to check to see if their luggage delivery company would go as far as Laguna Niguel to leave my bag with my friend. If not, they would put my suitcase on the next flight scheduled to stop at Orange County (a scant fifty miles away) and then have the Orange County luggage delivery company bring the suitcase to my friend’s house. That option sounded sketchy to me and, also, unlikely to produce my bag before I left to go home to Orlando.

Lily called me back an hour or so later to let me know that the Long Beach luggage delivery company could deliver my suitcase to Laguna Niguel that evening but would be pounding on my friend’s door at midnight to do so. We decided to wait until the next day. All went well after that. I did get to reunite with my suitcase the day before I went home. I barely cracked it open. I don’t know why I bothered with all that pesky packing.

Rudyard Kipling wrote, “He who travels the fastest travels alone.” I don’t think by “alone” Mr. Kipling meant without his suitcase.

My sister-in-law was talking to me about how much she missed my brother’s sense of humor. She said, “like this whole business with your suitcase… it sounds exactly like something he would have done to mess with you.” I thought about that and agreed he did enjoy pranking, but I was still stuck on why Ernie would have reached out from the Great Beyond to send my suitcase to Long Beach, of all places. Then it hit me. Where did we live when we first moved from New York to California? Long Beach.

Robert Holton’s beautiful picture of the street sign of the intersection where I grew up
The actual street sign

So what is your luggage tale of woe? Did Walmart make some money off you, too? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a well-packed day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂