Did You Miss Me?

I’m baaaaack.

Did you even realize I was gone for a week? 

Last week was my first “not posting because I did not have anything prepared to say” Wednesday since I started the blog in January of 2016.  Did the tectonic plates shift?  Did the world stop spinning on its axis?  Are icebergs melting at the polar caps more rapidly? Has the Liberty Bell cracked once again?

It sure felt like it.  To me.

I am sure that most of you are only aware that a Wednesday has come and gone without a Terri LaBonte morsel just now as I bring it to your attention.  You are probably reading this and saying, “oh, yeah, she didn’t publish last week.”  After all, I know that most people are understandably too wrapped up in their own lives to be unduly concerned about the absence of one weekly blog post.  I am not self-absorbed enough to think missing a week of Terri time counts as a problem in your lives. 

Since this blog is all about me, however, I did want to share how not posting for a week impacted me. 

I was fidgety the week before my FTP (failure to post) and could not settle myself.  It was like there was something that I was trying to forget, but just could not.  A vague conception of there being “something” up in the air never left me.  That feeling was probably bigger because I kept pushing it away from my consciousness until it was about something amorphous and intangible rather than a specific task.  I think I used to get like that when I was working, too.  There might be something I did not want to do that I decided I did not have to do. The task would not completely remove itself from my mind.  I did not focus on it enough to name it and vanquish my dread about it but did focus on it enough to keep me awake at night.  It was kind of masochistic.  I made a conscious decision that I did not have to do the task, but still seemed to believe I had to feel guilty about it.  I think it is important to do the right thing in life.  It does not have to be important to feel bad about not doing something that you have intellectually decided is not a moral imperative, however.

When Wednesday morning came around and I did not publish a post, I had a sense of failure.  Even though nobody cared, I felt like I had somehow let someone down.  Maybe it was just me I was afraid of letting down.  It seemed a defeat to me.  That was especially true because I did not spend any time at all last week working on my new book, which was the whole reason I decided to post less regularly.  The idea was that I would allow myself to skip the odd week of blogging in order to use my writing time to work on my book.  I did not write at all last week.  Just typing this feels somewhat like a shameful confession. 

After Wednesday, I started compulsively checking my blog statistics to see if there was any negative impact from not posting.  You would swear the blogging stakes are much higher than they are.  I did not see any particular downward trend in views or visitors.  Even if there were a downward trend, what would it matter, really? 

Of course, I know that I do not have to have a reason to skip a week.  Writing is my pleasure and if becomes a chore or a stressor in any given week, I should respect those feelings and take a break.  No one is paying me to write.  Blood will not be spilled if I do not write.  The pandemic will not spread further if I do not write.  You all have supported my plan to only write when I feel called to say something interesting… even if it is only interesting to me.  In short, there is no reason for me to have such complicated, unpleasant feelings surrounding the issue.

I suspect that the unpleasant feelings stem from something much bigger than just not posting for a week.  COVID crazy has been eating away at me this week.  Everywhere I turn, there seem to be challenges and barriers.  My book is not going well just now.  I have a book club meeting coming up and I have not read the book… nor am I particularly interested in doing so.  I guess there seem to be a lot of barriers in my way just now.  I think I will probably get over it, but I would not put money on the result.  As I said, I see my current mood to be a kind of lifelong pattern. 

I have said it before, and I will say it again.  The most difficult change most of us will ever undergo is changing our minds.

So, did you miss me?  How did you use the 2.1 minutes you usually spend reading my blog?  I hope it was something fun.

Have a useful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Al-phantastic

Some of you may remember reading some of my blog pieces about the Alpha program I’ve helped run at my church. Alpha is a program designed to give people a place to explore the big questions of life- meaning, purpose, God, religion, relationships, etc.- without judgment or pressure.  The program originated in the Anglican Church and is now used by churches of all Christian denominations all over the world. I mention that to demonstrate that Alpha is not “way out there” or cultish in any way. 

This 12-week program offers weekly sessions consisting of friendship, a video about some basic principle of Christianity, and a small group discussion to unpack the content of the video and to wrestle with any questions that our Alpha guests have.  The conversation is relaxed, candid, open, and uncharged with expectations.  One attendee, an atheist, specifically mentioned how it was clearly a “non-coercive, relaxed environment filled with caring people.”

Alpha is for everybody.  Some Alpha guests are unchurched. Some would not even identify themselves as Christian. Some have been sturdy lifelong believers.  Many are somewhere in between.  The intended audience is anyone who is questioning their spiritual journey in life or who is not as close to God as they wish they were. 

I always think of Alpha as a “search party.”  It is a “party” because one of its main foundations is friendship- having fun and good conversation together.  It is a “search” because we are all searching for something. 

In the past, running an Alpha program meant, among other things, providing dinner for our guests every week.  The principle was that the catalyst for the evening is relational.  The basis of the program is the sincere, genuine friendships that develop. It is frequently those relationships that spark the power of God into each evening’s proceedings.  Sharing a meal together is one of the best ways to foster those relationships.  If anyone questions whether the Holy Spirit actually works through the Alpha program, all they need do is consider that I pulled off multiple dinners for 50 without poisoning anyone. To put that factoid in perspective, you have to know that my first Alpha evening was the first time in my life I had ever hosted a party.  I don’t even really cook.  I eat a lot of peanut butter and pre-made food at home.  I still look at pictures of the foil pans of food I prepared for Alpha dinners in absolute amazement.  I’m sorry, but I have to take those pans of food as evidence that there is indeed a God.

Now that we are living in world where people must stay physically distant and sharing food in public is suspect at best, meeting in person and sharing a communal meal is not a good option.  We want to spread the love of God, but not the coronavirus.  Still, in a time when people are more isolated and lonelier, Alpha may be even more necessary than before the pandemic. 

As Alpha pivots into a coronaviral world, we are finding that we can recreate the Alpha experience virtually.  There are even some additional benefits from running Alpha online.  There are no geographical limits.  There is no necessity for anyone to walk into an unfamiliar location.  Parents who have small children can participate even if they have no one to babysit their kids.  If guests have to travel for work, they can still jump on Zoom for the discussion.  When we “meet” people in their own environments, we get to know each other quicker than in even the most relaxed “classroom” type setting. 

We can even adapt the elements of Alpha that seem particularly rooted in the face-to-face experience.  We may not be able to serve dinner every week, but that does not mean we cannot find creative ways to share snacks.  We may not be able to have light conversation around a dinner table, but that does not mean we cannot dedicate part of our virtual session to just being friends hanging out together.  We may not be able to share physical hugs, but that does not mean we cannot encourage, comfort, and love.

So, it turns out that the Holy Spirit is perfectly okay using Zoom.

My church is going to start a new season of Alpha on Wednesday March 10,2021. We will be meeting on Zoom from 6:30-7:45 pm Eastern USA time.  I thought I would take advantage of the “no geographical limits” benefit of online Alpha to invite you to participate with me.  I would really love it if some of you would join us.  If you do not want to commit to the whole program but would just like to “come and see” for a session or two, you would be very welcome. 

In our crazy, coronaviral world, many folks are already using Zoom.  For those of you who have not yet gone Zooming, it is really easy.  It is free.  All you need is a computer or tablet that has a camera, microphone, and speakers.  Some desktops have all these things.  Just about any laptop or tablet will.  You can even use a smart phone, but it is a little less comfortable.  If you wish to join us, I’ll be sending you a link by email.  All you will need to do is click on it.  The first time, the process will lead you through installing the Zoom app on whatever device you are using. 

If you would like to hang out with me in an Alpha session, please email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Please provide your name, phone number and whether or not you can/wish to accept texts at that number, email address, and mailing address (you never know what delightful surprises you might find in your mailbox!)  I will keep your information private.  There is absolutely no commitment and NO PRESSURE. 

Please consider joining us for our next search party!

Have you ever heard of Alpha?  What questions do you have?  Does it sound like something you might find interesting?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Let’s party!

Terri/Dorry 😊

A Piece Of My Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day!  It strikes me that, over the past five plus years, I have been sharing pieces of my heart with all of you.  One little crumble of heart at a time, I have been giving you so much of what makes me me.  I always say that love cannot be rationed or horded.  Giving it away never depletes one’s own supply of it. 

In sharing these pieces of my heart with you, I find that the love within me expands and renews itself.  I am sure, as a result of writing this blog and engaging with you all, that there is infinitely more love in my heart than there was before I started. 

Thank you for the love you give me.  May it expand and renew itself in your hearts as well… on Valentine’s Day and every day. 

What expands and renews the love in your heart?  Please share your own little valentine by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Happy Heart Day!

Have a loving day!

Terri/Dorry 😘

Days Of The Dolphins

I finally got to take my retreat day at Discovery Cove.  It was wonderful. 

Some of you may recall my visits to Discovery Cove in earlier years.  If  you would like to refresh your memories, you can read my accounts at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2017/05/my-date-with-the-dolphins/ , http://www.terrilabonte.com/2017/05/school-of-dolphins/ , http://www.terrilabonte.com/2019/06/artistry/ , and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/07/discovery-in-the-cove/ .

As you can see by the plethora of blog pieces I have written to memorialize my days of the dolphins, I cannot get enough of the experience.  Once I got over the silly “once in a lifetime experience” orientation, I looked forward to my Dolphin Day each year.  Each year, the experience far exceeded my unreasonably high expectations.  The most interesting thing is that, each year, the experience has been uniquely wonderful.  You would think that, by now, my annual trip to Discovery Cove would have fallen comfortably into a pleasure niche… a fun day, to be sure, but not exactly novel and surprising.   Truth be told, the activities in which I engage during each visit are pretty much the same. The reality, however, is that the way I experience each visit has been very different.  I seem to get what I need at the particular time each time I go.

The first time I went to Discovery Cove, the experience was very much about novelty and luxury.  My first trip occurred during the time I was accompanying my mother on her end of life journey.  Time blurred during that period in my life.  Days and nights ran together.  Everything in my life was pretty much about loving my mother and living for her. There was nothing novel about my life.  In fact, part of the burden was the aching, heavy, oppressive sameness of each day.  As anyone who has ever been inside a skilled nursing facility knows, there is no luxury involved.  While I did not reside in the skilled nursing facility, I lived there. My life was with my mother.  My life was institutional grey and every facet of it was functional, not luxurious.  The day at Discovery Code gave me sunlight and saltwater and service and specialness.  It delighted me and lit some joy in my depleted soul.

The second time I went to Discovery Cove, I was learning to embrace life.  I struggled with letting go of practicality.  It seemed frivolous to spend money on an encore of my “once in a lifetime” experience.  As soon as I settled happily into my day, though, I realized that there should be nothing “once in a lifetime” about enjoying each moment.  Having memories to savor and having dreams to pursue are important, wonderful facets of a full life.  Having those memories and those dreams does not diminish the magic of the now.  I spent a wonderful day, practicing my living in the now skills.  The fact that I had been to the cove before did not take the dew of my dolphin rose.  That time, I heard a child proclaim, “this is the best day ever.”  Suddenly, I understood that each day can be the best day ever, if we fully experience the present.  As illogical as it sounds, maybe we don’t get just one best day ever.  Maybe God blesses us with many best days ever, if we are open to His grace.

The third trip to Discovery Cove focused me on the beauty and sheer artistry of nature.  I focused much more outwardly than during my prior visits.  Instead of exploring my own mind… as fascinating as that was… I explored the sights, sounds, textures, scents, and tastes I experienced.  I purposely let my mind be still and soak in the experience.  I savored the fruit of my senses and remembered that God was the artist of the breathtaking canvas of the world.  On this experience, I realized that my day at the cove was actually a spiritual retreat for me. 

This last visit was different because Discovery Cove made significant adjustments due to COVID-19 protocols.  I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as prior visits.  In fact, I probably would not have gone except that I had a quarantine-postponed paid reservation that was speeding headlong towards an expiration date. 

To my surprise, I enjoyed my COVID-curtailed day at Discovery Cove very much.  I was interested to see how the employees adjusted to retain as much magic as they could while offering only encounters that could be handled with physical distancing.  Typically, one of the highlights of the day is “swimming with a dolphin.”  That entailed swimming out to deep water and holding on to a dolphin’s flipper while she towed you back to the shore.  I knew that there was not going to be any dolphin surfing on my recent trip.  However, what I did not know is that the keepers would offer alternative experiences.  I got to train a dolphin, dance with her, and giggle as she sang with me.  It wasn’t quite as exciting as riding a dolphin wakeboard, but it was so much fun.  Because I had been shut away from the world for so long, it was a very sweet treat to be outside in the sun and water for a day.  I truly appreciated the sensual jubilee that my day with the dolphins provided.  Because Discovery Cove is always a limited admission park, it never feels crowded.  On this last trip, the sense of being almost alone on a tropical island was even more pronounced.  There were few visitors and we were all staying well clear of us each other. 

Yes, this past trip represented a different kind of experience.  Of all my trips, there were the fewest experiences available.  However, in some ways, this last, “limited” trip was the best of all worlds.  As I reveled in the luxury and novelty in my first trip, my last trip represented the luxury of liberation from quarantine… freedom from the world within my four walls.  As I reveled in the opportunity to embrace life and live in the moment without worrying about the past or future during my second trip, my last trip reminded me that an experience that is different from what I expect is not necessarily a “less than” experience.  As I reveled in the infusion of senses emanating from God’s natural world and spent some quality time with my Maker on my third trip, my last trip gave me silence and solitude to continue those divine conversations. 

Discoveries are delightful!

Do you have an experience or activity that continues to surprise and enrich you, even after doing it multiple times?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a Discovery Day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Pink Cupcake- Wayback Wednesday

A couple of years after I got married, my husband’s youngest sister decided to also take the plunge into matrimony.  She asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding party, which was very nice of her.

I was really excited. You’ve heard of those women who are always the bridesmaid and never the bride?  That was not me.  I have been a bride exactly once.  Up until my sister-in-law married, I had never been a bridesmaid.  

Let me give you a little background. I love weddings, despite my relative inexperience with them.  I also loved the idea of being included as part of my husband’s family.  Coming from a family with only two children, I was kind of excited when I married into a large Catholic tribe.  I did not have a sister by birth, so I was joyful at the idea that I was acquiring two by marriage.  For many reasons, this sister thing never really happened.  I actually felt lonelier and more isolated within the family than I did before I was part of it.  When my sister-in-law asked me to join the wedding party, I was ecstatic.  I could see this step being the beginning a whole new sisterly relationship.

The complication is that weddings are costly affairs for everyone involved.  My in-laws, despite appearances to the contrary, were not particularly affluent.  My father-in-law would not be paying for my bridesmaid gown.  My own financial situation was pretty marginal, too.  My brand-new husband, who required brand-new food every brand-new day, was a full-time student.  I had an entry level government job that would eventually fund a pretty good life for me.  At the time, however, my earnings were barely enough to cover our basic expenses.  We had only one car.  I rationed how much I spent at the grocery store. I stretched spaghetti sauce for days.  Our idea of a splurge weekly “date night” was when we picked up Wendy’s fast food instead of McDonald’s.  We had no cable television.  Our rabbit eared reception was pretty much my only source of entertainment.  I do not think we even had a credit card at that point.  Where I was going to get the money to pay for a bridesmaid dress, I had not a clue.  Still, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. 

Enter my mother.  My parents, a few days after my wedding, had gone off the grid, dragging their 27-foot travel trailer behind them.  Their dream had always been to forgo a stationary house and travel the country, camping as the spirit moved them.  They did sell the house about a year before I graduated college and married.  The three of us and our two basset hounds lived in the travel trailer for a year.  After I married, I was on my own.  Momma and Daddy were on the road again.  They called me from a pay phone about once a month.  In between times, we exchanged letters and audio cassettes.  It was not exactly a real time two-way dialogue.  A year or so later, they settled in a campground in the city where my brother and I lived.  My mother offered to pay my bridesmaid dues. 

My sister-in-law took us bridesmaids with her to select a dress, but the final decision was, of course, the bride’s. I was young, but my sister-in-law was far younger in just about every way.  Her choice reflected her level of sophistication.  It was a rose pink satin ballgown number with a basque waist and big puffy sleeves.   I did not object to her choice.  For someone who had never been a bridesmaid before, something princessy fit my fantasy. On the hanger, it reminded me a bit of Princess Aurora’s gown in Sleeping Beauty.  

However, I was much fatter and much more short-waisted than Princess Aurora… or any other Disney princess.  When I tried on the dress in the largest size the salon offered, it was a pathetic moment.  The experience reminded me that the reason no one had ever asked me to be a bridesmaid was probably because I was never going to fit into a standard size bridesmaid gown and I certainly was not going to be ornamental in the wedding pictures.  You would think brides would have been happy to have a misshapen bridesmaid.  It would make them shine in comparison.  It seems, however, that beautiful photographic memories of the special day are more important to most people. 

The wedding consultant looked distressed at the sight of me spilling out of the sample gown.  My sister-in-law had another bridesmaid, her future husband’s sister, who was also a little bigger than the dress.  Her situation was not as dire as mine, but it was clear the two of us spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e.  The wedding consultant asked a seamstress to join our little party.  Together, they decided they could make the other bridesmaid’s dress work by letting it out a tiny bit.  In my case, however, that was not going to work.  I was so embarrassed, standing in the middle of the shop being fretted over by the consultant and seamstress.  The seamstress finally agreed she could put in a gusset… no two gussets… to make the dress fit around my considerable girth.  Relieved to finally have the experience over, I squirmed out of the gown and paid the deposit with my mother’s credit card.

Several weeks later, I returned with my mother in tow to get the altered dress.  After the last experience, I was not going into that shop without moral support.  I am glad I heeded that instinct.  The moment I got into the dress, it was clear that it was, in no way, going to match my fantasy.  The gussets distorted the proportions of the bodice of the dress.  There was more material in the skirt than anyone without a shape (oh wait… I did have a shape… round is a shape) needed.  I could have had several small children hidden in the folds of the skirt.  The sleeves and bustline bunched together in a way that made me look like I was wearing a cape that did not quite cover my boobs. The point on the basque waist in the front of the dress bunched up right at my belly and my butt pushed out the point on the back as if I had grown a pink satin tail.  All in all, I looked like a pink cupcake that had been sliding around in a bakery box on the floor of the back seat of a car over a very bumpy road.  It was terrible. 

Ready to burst into tears, I looked at my mother.  She looked horrified.  Like most mothers, seeing her child in pain was not one of her favorite pastimes.  She struggled for something positive to say.   She finally blurted out, “at least it is pink.”

Yes, at least the dress was pink.  I love pink.  I guess if I must look like a worse-for-wear cupcake, it might as well be a pink one. 

I got through the wedding.  I bobbed down the aisle with as much grace as I could muster.  I kept my head down.  I managed to keep myself covered while not suffocating in the massive yards of material at the shoulders.  I think I fidgeted with the basque points, fruitlessly trying to keep them lying flat. You know how brides tend to try to justify the cost of a bridesmaid gown by telling their attendants that “you can wear the dress again?” The only saving grace in this situation was that I could NOT wear the dress again. 

My husband and I left the wedding as soon as we could.  When I got home, I immediately took off the dress and threw it in the dumpster behind our apartment.  I have never been a bridesmaid since.  I am also still kind of leery of pink cupcakes. 

Scarred for life.

Do you have a nightmare wedding story? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a shiny pink day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Just Plain Growing Old

A couple of months ago, I posted a blog called Growing Old Together In The Old South (Growing Old Together In The Old South – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement). In that post, I discussed Max and me celebrating our 25th anniversary in Savannah.  That was a fun time.  Today, I want to address a more sinister topic…. Just plain growing old.

We all understand that aging is a natural process and, unless we die young, old age will have an impact on our bodies.  I think I got complacent, though.  For years, even though the number in my age increased, I did not feel any different.  Aside from a momentary panic upon reaching each milestone birthday, I truly did not feel any older each September 30 when I blew out the candles on my cake. 

I think I am being realistic when I say I think I went about 15 or 20 years with no significant aging.  Even when I look at home movies and pictures from days gone by, I think I looked pretty much the same from age 35 to age 55.  Certainly, there were differences if one looked closely.  Still, I think I always looked to be in my late thirties. 

Then, sometime around my 60th birthday, nature seemed to catch up with me.  It is as if all that aging that should have happened in the first 15 years of the new millennium happened in a matter of two years.  My skin is dull.  My face has wrinkles, which might be a good thing.  Without the wrinkles keeping some of my features in place, my cheeks and jowls might be sagging down to my waist. There is certainly extensive sagging around my previously taut jawline.   My back and legs tend to protest more vociferously when overexerted… or, maybe more accurately, exerted at all.  My knees, always a weak point, seem to have locked up tighter than a maximum-security prison cell.  Picking up items from the floor is suddenly much more difficult.  I am surprised it is not an Olympic sport.

It is not that there is anything really wrong with my health.  Certainly, no new illness has cropped up in the past couple of years.  I am a pretty healthy person.  If anything, I am healthier now than I was prior to my descent into agedness.  My diet is better than it used to be.  I exercise every day.  My lab results are excellent.  I am fortunate that the only malady that seems to plague me is this mutated version of the normal aging process.  I am not complaining.  It is just that the suddenness and fierceness of my elderliness is alarming.  At this rate, my body will be eighty-five before I am chronologically sixty-five. 

Do you think it might have something to do with senior discounts?  I did qualify for some discounts when I reached 55, but many did not kick in until age 60.  Does every 10% off come with a corresponding hit to my physical being? Or perhaps it is the decades of hair dye.  Maybe dying my hair is like donning a pair of Spanx.  When I put on Spanx, the fat does not, unfortunately, disappear.  The Spanx just shoves it to another location.  Maybe coloring my hair does not make me more youthful.  Maybe the hair dye just shoves the aging to a different position. The dye covers my gray hair but causes other parts of me to age more.   I will have to think about that one.  I think I would rather have gray hair than joints that do not cooperate with my inclinations. 

My brother and my cousin, bless them, tell me that I look as young as I did in junior high.  My brother and my cousin are clearly liars.  On the other hand, maybe their assertions bear some consideration.  Let us ask ourselves a question.  Do any of us really want to look like we did in junior high?  I certainly do not.

Maybe aging is not that bad.

Me, as an incredibly awkward fourteen-year-old… let’s not go back in time!

Have you aged suddenly or has the process been more of a slow burn for you? What do you to keep healthy and functional as aging starts to catch up with you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you may email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a youthful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Closing The Loop- But Not The Blog

Last week, I wrote asking for your advice about whether I should continue publishing the blog.  At the end of January, Terri LaBonte will celebrate five years in print. I was wondering if that was more than enough to exceed my fifteen minutes of fame.  Obviously, five years is much longer than fifteen minutes, but let’s be honest.  My time in the blog-a-limelight probably does not qualify as actual fame.  I figured more time and less fame might average out to mean it was time for me to pack it in.

Thank you all for your helpful and very flattering feedback.  It was so touching to read all your support.  I guess there are a few of you still reading, after all!  Many of you suggested that I should write blog posts when the spirit moves me and not worry about making sure I have new content each week.  You graciously tell me that you will continue to read, no matter how frequently I post.  This brought me a great deal of joy. In essence, you gave me reassurance that I should do what I wanted to do anyway.

I am going to continue the blog.  I have renewed my support subscription with the web hosting service.  For about $10 a month, I think I can afford to indulge myself.  Regrettably, I probably spend at least that much a month on Disney swag that serves no purpose whatsoever.  The cost is not a significant factor in making the decision.  The real issues are time and fear.  Your kind feedback has calmed the fear that I am ridiculous to think what I write might be interesting or helpful to anyone.  After all, writing posts and sending them out to the blogosphere as if anyone cares is a bit self-absorbed.  It would be easy to start taking one’s own perspectives way too seriously.  You all have convinced me that I am relevant to someone other than myself.

The only other issue that remains a bit of an obstacle is time.  I do want to spend more time in the future on my next book.  I do not want to feel panicky because I am not making the progress I want to make on the book, the blog, church work, housework, friendships, prayer, and other projects. I do not want to feel like I must skip fun activities or outings because I am getting behind of my self-imposed responsibilities. They way to manage this problem, I think, is to let go of the need to post new blogs every week.  I may or may not post new content every Wednesday.  I think I probably will still post most weeks, but I am not going to make it a chore.  If I do not have anything in my hopper of new posts, I will just skip a week.  Thank you all for agreeing to keep reading anyway.

Many of you are already getting alerts when there is new content.  If you are used to just checking every Wednesday and do not want to face the crushing disappointment of hopping on over one Wednesday to find nothing new, you can arrange to get email notifications when there is a new post.  You can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com  and I will put you on my mailing list.  You can also allow the blog to do it automatically by becoming a subscriber.  It is free.  You will find the box to subscribe under the list of blog posting months.  If you are looking at a computer screen, it is over to the right side (your right as you look at the screen).  If you are looking a phone, you will need to scroll down all the way through the previous posts on the first page.  There, you will find the list of months and the box to subscribe below the list.  I hope that helps. 

Again, thank you for sticking with me and helping me make this decision.  You ROCK… and ROLL!

Have a great day!!

Terri/Dorry 😊

What To Do; What To Say

Believe it or not, we are approaching the fifth birthday of www.terrilabonte.com.  I have published over 250 posts.  At an average of about 1000 words per post, that means I have written approximately 250,000 words over the past five years.  There have been over 1200 non-spam comments.  Who would have thunk it? 

It is hard to say how many people read my blog.  Analytics show about 350,000 hits per year.  This sounds impressive, but I know there is a lot of junk in there. There are so many spam comments that I just delete without y’all ever seeing them.  This tells me that a lot of those hits are from search engine optimization companies that pay poor people in foreign countries pennies to “hit” websites.  The idea is to create clickbait for their clients.

When I first started my blog, I said, no matter what the readership, I would continue posting until I ran out of things to say.  Every now and again throughout the past five years, I would hit a place where I wondered if I had arrived at the “ran out of things to say” point.  Then, something would happen in my life or in the state of the world that would make me think a new thought and I’d write another blog post.  Now, as five years is drawing to a close, I wonder if now might be a good time to call it quits. 

Typically, I have about 5-10 blog posts written and waiting to be posted.  Now, I am down to just a couple.  Is that a sign that the new ideas are drying up? Am I becoming boring or redundant?  Also, it is a bit of pressure to come up with a new post every week.  I started a new book a couple of months ago (by the way… remember you can get a paperback or Kindle copy of my book Random (A)Musings on Amazon) but have kind of stalled because the blog has taken precedence.  It also costs money to pay for the blog hosting for another year.  And, is anybody reading?  I know I said that I’d keep writing if I had something to say, regardless of readership.  If I were a really noble, well-adjusted person, I would not care about readership numbers.  I must confess that I do care a little bit, though. 

As part of my COVID reconsideration of my life (see  The Year That God Hit Pause – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement for more information on that), I am taking a good hard look at the blog.  Is it something I want to continue doing? 

On the one hand, the downsides I have just noted are real. They may be sufficient reason to shut the blog down before it is time to pay the annual renewal fee. On the other hand, I really do enjoy the blog.  The fee is less than $10 per month… less than most people pay for just about any form of entertainment.  If I was better adjusted, the readership numbers should not be a factor in my satisfaction level.  I could eliminate any undue pressure to come up with new blog posts if I just released myself from my self-imposed requirement to publish every week.  I know that people might stop reading if there is not continuous new content, but I truly do not think I am rocking anybody’s world anyway.  Maybe I should get outside my head and pay the renewal… then, just do whatever comes naturally.

Part of me wonders if the blog is really what I am supposed to be doing in life.  I truly believe that God has a plan for each our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).  I think it is important to stay awake to the signs and opportunities He puts in our path so that we will see the plan He has for us when it appears.  I believe that, if we follow the path He has for us and use the opportunities He gives us, then He will bless our efforts.  He will multiply whatever little we are able to do on our own so that the results will be far beyond anything we can ever imagine.

I have always maintained that His plan for me was not to do anything extraordinary, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.  I believed that God would bless these little, love-soaked ordinary things and they would have a positive impact beyond my small circle.  St. Therese of Lisieux lived simply as a nun in a cloistered convent for her entire adult life and spent her days doing small, generous things for others.  Today, her writings are known the world over and they inspire people to walk towards God.  Unfortunately, I do not think my ordinary acts, despite the extraordinary love of God that I try to harness within them, are having much impact beyond the people who love me anyway. 

Maybe I believe I am only supposed to be doing the ordinary deeds I find in my way because it is the most comfortable way for me to be a Christian.  Maybe God believes I am supposed to aim a little higher in finding the plan He has for me.  So, is there more I should be doing?  Does God have a bigger plan for me, even at this late stage in the game? And does www.terrilabonte.com have a place in that plan?  Or do I just need to get over myself?  I am no St. Therese of Lisieux.

What do you think?  Should I keep blogging?  Is there anybody out there reading?  How would you feel if I only ended up posting new content on a more irregular schedule?  Would you keep reading?  What do think about finding purpose in life?  How do you know if you are following the path you were meant to follow?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement.com. 

Have a metaphysical day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Year That God Hit Pause

For most of the year, I thought of 2020 as “The Year That God Hit Pause.”  As the year closes, I am thinking “The Year That God Hit Reboot” is more appropriate.  And I don’t mean one of those lame “control-alt-delete” reboots, either.  I mean the last resort- close the programs, unplug the computer, disconnect the modem, and pray for Divine intervention kind of reboots. 

For much of 2020, most folks stopped living their normal lives.  We kept thinking that we would just wait for “all this to end” and then try to catch up on real life.  I remember very clearly that the pandemic restrictions started as a two-week stay-at-home order.  We truly believed that, after two weeks of solitude, the world would have the tools it needed to halt the virus in its tracks.  When that turned out to be wildly optimistic, we kept cutting off the dog’s tail by inches.  Maybe by extending the world standstill for a few weeks, we could bring things “back to normal.” Maybe by having everyone work from home, we could stem the infection.  Maybe if we wore masks and stayed at least six feet away from each other, we could find the light at the end of the tunnel.  This prolonged period of adaptation had various effects on people, the culture, the economy, and on political thought. 

People responded to the continuing pandemic in different ways.  Some folks are still staying safely tucked away in the “waiting for things to get back to normal” bubble.  They continue to pause their normal expectations of their lives.  Other people, at varying paces, started strategizing safer ways to get back to some semblance of normal life.  There are benefits in doing so, certainly.  It feels good to not feel so stuck.  It feels good to be helpful to others.  It feels good to rebuild community. 

Sometimes life seems even weirder when you try to live a relatively normal life within the parameters of pandemic restrictions than when you stay cocooned away from most normal activity.  It is hard to communicate with a mask on.  It is awkward to flash a peace sign to fellow congregants when you are used to a handshake or hug during the church service passing of the peace.  Using virtual technology to meet with others is wonderful, but it does emphasize that life is clearly not normal.   

It is at least hopeful that many of us have started fresh.  Everything is not working quite as well as we would like, but we can at least move forward with living, albeit at a more labored pace.  That labored pace results not just from exerting energy to figure out how to do things, but also from figuring out whether to do them at all. 

I think many people are remembering how precious our time and energy is.  When rethinking how to get on with our lives, it becomes much clearer to us that we truly may not have the ability to do everything we are used to doing with the enthusiasm and drive we would like.  During our enforced slowdown and period of separation, most of us are examining our priorities and our passions.  As the world starts to pick up speed again, we are not sure we want to.  I have several friends who remark that they have sort of enjoyed the quiet and slower pace that the pandemic shutdowns caused in their lives.  It gave them time to breathe and think and pray.  They are finding it a bit difficult to jump back into all the activities they used to think they enjoyed before the pandemic.  Did they really enjoy them at all?  Or did they enjoy the activities, but not the frantic unstoppable whirl of energy propelling them from one activity to another? They are making deliberate choices about what activities they choose to reintroduce into their lives. 

I think that is one of the upsides of the pandemic.  We had the time to appreciate the fullness of our lives and to consider how we wanted to reinvent some aspects of those lives.  Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, different is better.  Sometimes, in thinking about the content of our daily lives, we realize that the activities with which we are filling those lives are not supporting our core values.  If that is the case, now is a good time to think about changing or reapportioning those activities in the future.  

The pandemic also gave us the time to consider from where our strength, activity, and values come.  Sometimes, in the busy-ness of life, it can feel like I am moving as fast as I can and juggling plates on sticks until they come crashing down around me.  It is like I always know I am headed towards disaster, but I can’t stop spinning and adjusting and controlling and moving.  During the pandemic, I stopped moving for a time.  I realized that I was never the one jumping, moving, and spinning.  I was never the one keeping the plates from crashing.  It was always God.  I was just getting in His way. 

As for me, I will never feel content, productive, able, or peaceful if I rely on my own energy to accomplish the things I want to do.  I must rely on God to show me what to do and to give me the tools to do it. 

So, as we close our programs from 2020, unplug our computer, disconnect our modem, and pray for Divine intervention, we can rely on God to respond to that prayer and reboot our souls.  May He bless us all with wisdom, grace, peace, joy, and industry in the coming year. 

How have your priorities changed in the wake of the global pandemic?  Are there activities with which you have chosen not to re-engage?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a contemplative day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Christmask

The other day, I received a package from a dear friend of mine in California.  I opened it to find a Santa Claus Christmas ornaments.  Nothing unusual or noteworthy about that, you say.  The world is rife with Santa Claus ornaments.  What was unusual and noteworthy was the fact that Santa Claus was wearing a mask. 

We have been constantly figuring out new ways of living due to the pandemic for almost a year now.  As a society, I guess we are becoming adept enough at it to celebrate the festive season of the year despite danger of contagion.  After all, if Santa Claus is going to visit all the good little boys and girls all over the world, damn straight he better be wearing a mask.

It beats the Santa I saw in the mall the other day.  Instead of a mask, he was wearing a clear plastic face shield.  The thing was, it was fitted so close to his face that the curvature of the plastic and the reflection of the lights caused a lot of distortion.  It created an overall effect that was pretty disturbing.  I am certain that Santa terrified a lot of small children.  Sadly, children have become used to friendly faces partially concealed by masks.  I don’t think that any of us will ever get used to a Santa who looks like a malevolent alien. 

It isn’t just Santa.  I am going Christmas caroling tonight.  We will be singing through masks.  Rather than gathering cozily in doorways, we will be spreading out on front lawns like blow-up ornaments.  I am sure that many, many neighbors will be hearing us.  Even if they don’t want to. A friend was saying the other day that she always bakes Christmas cookies for her grandchildren, and this is the first year she has to mail them.  She is earnestly seeking packing solutions to ensure the cookies arrive as cookies and not as boxes of crumbs.  I guess, when you are in a pandemic, that is the way the cookie crumbles.  A cast member at Disney was telling me that she is shopping for her niece, who lives locally, but her sister insists that she mail the presents.  She must also send them at least a week early so her sister can quarantine them for a few days before putting them under the tree.  Even Kringle, my miniature elf on the shelf, has been more socially distant this year.  This morning, Max had to give me clues that narrowed down his position with the pinpoint accuracy of laser surgery before I could find him. 

People are more isolated this year.  Most folks will not be traveling or even seeing all the family and friends with whom they usually celebrate.  Some people who find comfort and joy in attending church services with others will be sitting at home in front of the television or computer, passing the virtual peace to their fellow congregants. 

I am tired of masks.  I am tired of distance.  I am tired of not hugging.  I am tired of having to rethink everything I do to try to safely retain some semblance of my humanity. The Christmas season sort of accentuates the issues.  On the other hand, it is also exciting and hopeful to see how far we have come.  Many of us are coming up with ways of continuing to live a normal life in a safe manner.  The COVID-19 numbers are not decreasing.  In fact, they are spiking significantly where I live. However, treatments seem to be improving and fewer people seem to be getting very sick.  We can see a suite of approved vaccines on the horizon, even though it may be several months before most of us can obtain one.   All of this is hopeful news, during a season when hope is a hallmark. So, we try to do our best to rejoice in what we have, look forward to a better future, and give thanks for all our blessings…. From a distance. 

It is also important to remember the true meaning of Christmas and that the future is not just tomorrow or next year.  For those of us who believe in God’s promises, we have an eternity of joy before us. I am pretty sure there will be no masks in heaven. The real hope in a Christmas season filled with masks and distances and touch prohibitions is that God is never socially distant.  The baby who was born in Bethlehem so many centuries ago reaches out to touch our hearts and souls every day.  It is okay to hug back!

christmas decoration on tree
Doesn’t the blue mask make his handsome eyes pop?

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the season, in whatever way brings you satisfaction, safety, and delight! What are you doing differently this year? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at www.terrilabonte.com.

Have a holly jolly day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂