Getting To The Root Of The Problem

Lately, I’ve been rootless.  At least, it feels that way.  One would think, at almost 60 years old, my roots would be getting deeper. On the contrary, I seem to be losing roots right and left recently.

It all started in January when I went for my dental cleaning.  A few days before my scheduled appointment, I developed a slight toothache in one of my upper molars.  It wasn’t a big deal, really.  I kept brushing and flossing, thinking I might have a bit of something caught between my teeth or sticking into my gum.  I took some ibuprofen, but it wasn’t too bad. When we first moved to Florida, I had a pain in the same area but it went away after the dentist prescribed a course of antibiotics. 

When I went for my January cleaning, I mentioned my pesky tooth. The dentist concluded that I had another infection in the same area. He was pretty convinced that the time had come for the endodontist to go spelunking down the roots of that particular tooth.  I reluctantly made an appointment with the endodontist. 

The endodontist took one look at the x-ray and immediately saw that I had a root canal on the same tooth in the past.  I had all but forgotten about it, but I remembered the experience when he asked me about prior work on the tooth.  It was 35 years ago, so I don’t think anyone can fault me for not remembering the details.  At first, the endodontist thought the tooth must have a crack in the root.  That would mean a root canal would not work.  I would need an extraction and related tooth replacement work.  If there was any news less happy than the fact that I needed a root canal, it would probably be I didn’t need a root canal in these circumstances.

To confirm his analysis, he sent me for a cat-scan of my face.  It turned out that I had badly infected, drowning sinuses.  Oh… and my constantly freakish anatomy had been playing tricks on me for 35 years. It seems I had a sneaky mutant extra root which managed to escape notice when the original dentist roto-rootered the infected tooth.  That rogue root had been playing hide and seek all this time.  In short, my tooth had been abscessed for 35 years. It just flared up from time to time.  Wow.  Great news.  I could have a root canal after all. 

After the root canal, I felt fine. For about 30 hours, there was no tenderness or pain or really any discomfort at all.  After the 30-hour mark, however, a small war broke out in my mouth.  For about five days, I was miserable.  My sinuses drained constantly.  My gum throbbed.  I had numbness and extreme swelling on the right side of my mouth and face.  I couldn’t eat anything solid.  There were times I looked like a stroke victim.  I took the antibiotics and iced my face compulsively.  I counted the hours until I could take more ibuprofen. It baffled me because I have had a couple root canals before and I didn’t remember them hurting like this.

Finally, after four or five days, I began to get better.  I still wasn’t good, but I was a lot better.  By the time I saw the endodontist for the completion of Root Canal 2.0, the tooth was back to normal.  Normal as in the way it had been for 35 years…. sketchy and skittish, but not causing me any consistent problems.  A few weeks of misery and a couple of thousand dollars later and my tooth felt the same as it had before the root canal. 

The endodontist, to his credit, did not declare victory.  He saw that the gum was still slightly swollen.  He took another x-ray and saw that a pocket of infection still existed.  He ended up doing a small surgical procedure to open up my gum and remove part of the root, along with the rest of the infection.

That sounds horrible, but it was actually much better than the first visit.  After the root-ectomy or whatever you call it, I had no pain at all.  I waited through the first 30 hours in dread, remembering the previous experience when I was all hoity-toity over breezing my way through the root canal.  Then it happened…. Nothing.  Picture me… rootless and loving it!

It isn’t just my dental roots that have been acting out.  An oak tree in my front yard was attacking my house. The first day we moved into the house, we took a break from unpacking to go to the local home repair store for something.  When we returned, we saw a garbage truck in front of our house, along with a huge pile of amputated tree limbs.  A neighbor explained.  While we were gone, the garbage truck got a little too close to our yard and accidentally sheared off a large portion of the tree. I should have known then that the tree was not to be trusted. 

For the entire time we have lived in Florida, that tree continued to be a malcontent.  Everybody else has clean driveways.  Not us. Less than an hour after sweeping the driveway, we’d find it covered in leaves. Northerners may talk about the leaves falling in the autumn.  In Florida, there is no such thing as weather and Mother Nature can’t seem to keep her seasons straight. The leaves fall ALL FREAKIN’ YEAR. 

After the hurricane, we surveyed our front yard with dismay.  Yes, everyone on our street had some mess to clean up. We had our own private natural disaster area on the front lawn.  The tree was still standing, but everything that used to be on the tree seemed to be covering the yard.  I’m not sure we ever really recovered.  The fallen leaves and branches seemed to expand geometrically over time.  We’d work on the mess for a couple of hours and then take a break.  Improbably, there seemed to be even more dead tree vomit to clean up when we started up again.  It defies all laws of nature the way that dead tree matter multiplied. 

There was a bigger problem, too.  Little by little, the roots from that tree have been expanding and pushing up through the ground…. And the driveway.  We were the only ones on our block with a split-level driveway.  If the tree had its way, that split-level was going to turn into a two-story model very soon. This all begged the question… if the tree roots were forcing our driveway ever higher into the stratosphere, what were they doing to the foundation of the house?  It truly was time to take steps. 

We hired our lawn guy to remove the Tree That Took Over The World.  He cut it down and we learned that there is sometimes sun in our front yard.  Apparently, our tree was causing a total eclipse.  He recommended a guy to grind down the stump to further thwart the root force.  The stump guy ground the stump down to a pile of sawdust.  He told us ahead of time that we would have to get rid of the sawdust ourselves.  He estimated we would have to shovel two to three large garbage bags of sawdust.  Fifteen bags of sawdust and many sore muscles later, we placed the last of our tree on the curb for the recycle people.  It still seems odd to look out the window and not see the tree, but I am hoping our efforts will result in our house remaining affixed to the ground. 

I think when people say they are trying to get to the root of a problem, they are barking up the wrong tree. The root IS the problem!

But more on that subject next week….

Am I the only one who is fighting with her roots?  What are your experiences?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a deeply happy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Singing The Unsung Songs

Working with the Alpha program at church reminds me again how valuable everyone is.  It is a huge undertaking, with many moving parts and many needs. We should notice and thank the people who step up and meet those needs.  It is easy to see and appreciate good leaders.  They are the face of the effort.  They are easy to spot.  They contribute unique and wonderful skills.  They orchestrate the whole project with an artistry that merits gratitude.  But there are other people who are a bit harder to see who also merit gratitude. 

For instance, I have two tall male friends that hang decorations for our Alpha evenings.  Part of my décor is colorful signs hanging from the ceiling, proclaiming thought-provoking quotations.  There is no way that I could hang those signs myself without a lot of effort and possible bodily harm.  My friends are comfortable with ladders.  They are both engineer types.  They skillfully figure out how to do this job efficiently and gracefully.  They actually seem to enjoy the process of deciding where and how to place the signs.  These tall guys do a lot of other things for me, including moving furniture and setting tables, also. 

There are also people who could not commit to providing a whole dinner for an Alpha evening, but contribute a bit of this and a bit of that so the person cooking the meal can concentrate on just the entrée and maybe one side dish. Everybody sees the cook du jour dishing up the entrée, but not everybody sees the person who brought the salad or made sure there was plenty of bread and butter.   

There are so many unsung people who help with clean-up ever week.  These angels stay out of the spotlight washing dishes, putting leftovers away, and cleaning countertops.  They may not have glass slippers, but they are Cinderellas, for sure. 

Young adults volunteer to staff the nursery room so that parents can attend the sessions.  These teen angels regularly ride herd on several small, squirmy bundles of kinetic energy during the two hours the Alpha course meets.  They feed them dinner and prevent all manner of disasters. So far, the same number of children who go into the nursery have left in one piece every week.  I think that is quite an achievement, but I am guessing that most of the Alpha participants don’t even realize they are there.  Out of sight, out of mind.

My friends Laura and Kari help with any number of smaller tasks, week after week.  One major contribution has been their skill and patience with folding. It may not sound like a talent, but I have to tell you that their penchant for folding laundry has helped me kept what little sanity I have.   I don’t mind washing and drying table linens, but those linens are supposed to be folded in a strange and wondrous way that is completely beyond me.  Laura and Kari patiently lay them out and follow the established protocol so that they end up neatly hanging in the linen closet. 

Other people pray for us.  They quietly beseech God to surround us with His grace and He always does.  I know that cadre of people generating powerful prayer is helping to fuel our efforts. 

It strikes me that there are unsung providing the backbeat, not just in my Alpha program, but in a good many life experiences.  It seems to me that almost every undertaking is supported by an army of people who are quietly contributing without anyone really noticing.  In fact, their job is often to make sure no one notices.  After all, if the tablecloths are clean and tidy, no one pays attention.  If they are a mass of wrinkles covered in stains, everyone notices…. And that isn’t a good thing.

I’m going to make an effort to seek out the unsung and sing their beautiful melody to the whole world.  It may be quietly and to one or two people at a time, because sometimes the unsung truly don’t like a fuss or a lot of attention.  But I’m going to make sure their music is heard…. because, even if a person doesn’t like a fuss, everyone needs to know he or she is valuable. If you agree, I hope you will find ways to spread the music of the unsung people in your life and activities. 

I also suggest that we might consider joining the unsung choir ourselves sometimes.  I’ve found that there is always a myriad of tasks that need to be done in any project… often tasks that no one ever even anticipates.  Being able to complete these tasks may not seem to be much of a talent or God-given gift…. Until you are the one on the receiving end.  Then, it is clear that, as quiet as those unsung musicians are, they are extremely talented and I am gifted when they show up for the concert!

Who are the unsung in your life?  Please leave a comment to share their music!  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a thankful day!

Terri/Dorry😊


Upside Down, Inside Out, and Sideways

I am not artsy-crafty. I don’t really cook. I don’t believe in ironing. I am about as far from extroverted as you can get.

So how did I ever get to be Hospitality Princess for my church’s Alpha course?

Alpha is an international program of interactive sessions designed to explore the big questions of life and faith.  It was originally intended to minister to people who would not necessarily identify themselves as churchgoers or Christians.  The target audience has expanded to include anyone who wants to feel more connected, passionate, and intimate about the Christian faith.  The program lasts for twelve weeks, meeting once a week.  Every session includes a shared meal, a video about basic concepts of Christianity, and small group discussions.  One of the significant hallmarks of the program is that it should provide a welcoming, low-pressure environment that organically encourages comfort, trust, introspection, and searching. 

The Hospitality Princess is responsible for making sure the room where the sessions take place is warm and welcoming.  This includes décor and table arrangement and all things environment.  She is also responsible for either cooking a meal for the Alpha guests each week or cajoling friends, relations, and people who owe her money to provide a meal. There is also the small matter of clean-up and laundering table linens after each session.  Then, there is the hospitality princess’ most important royal duty of all- welcoming guests, bonding with them, genuinely loving them, and allowing that love to be palpable. 

So, I’ll ask again.  How did I ever get to be Hospitality Princess?  It seems difficult to think how a person could be worse-suited for the job than I am.

When I heard about Alpha at our church’s ministry fair, I was interested.  I read somewhere that ministry is the place where a person’s skill and passion intersect with a need of the people of God.  When I was working, I taught leadership classes on a fairly regular basis.  I loved it and I was quite good at it, if I do say so myself.  From what I understood of Alpha, the approach and techniques sounded very similar to what I employed in my leadership classes.  The content and objectives were different, but the overall strategy seemed similar.  In both situations, the idea is to help people explore important questions.  Both experiences try to grow understanding and confidence in an environment that encourages trust, openness, and experimentation.  I volunteered to help with Alpha.  I thought I could assist with facilitating small group discussions or something like that. 

During our initial Alpha team organization meeting, our administrator mentioned that we needed someone to take care of the hospitality aspects of the program (Hospitality Princess is my self-proclaimed title).  When he described the less tangible needs, like transforming an institutional parish hall to evoke comfort and coziness, my mind harkened back to more of the techniques I used when teaching the leadership classes. He also described some of the more tangible needs, like providing meals.  The closest thing to providing a meal I ever did when teaching leadership courses was supplying the occasional box of donuts.  I didn’t want to subject our guests to my weaknesses, especially one as profound as cookery.  On the other hand, I didn’t want to avoid volunteering if I was the only one willing.  I said I would coordinate the hospitality elements, if no one else wanted to do so.  I explained the limited skills I brought to the table, and disclosed the areas in which my talents were subterranean. 

No one else volunteered.

Fast forward several weeks and I am in the midst of the Hospitality Princess revelries.  Despite my many deficiencies, things are going well. Let me tell you about it.

I am not artsy-crafty.

While I will never be artistic, I relied on my prior experience to create what I believe is an appropriate environment.  When I was working, I had this theory about décor for classes and celebrations.  I called it The “Essence Of” Theory. Instead of obsessing and spending a lot of money trying to create specific effects, I made do with the “essence of.”  Hospitality didn’t have to look like what I had in mind, it just had to evoke that idea.  For instance, if you can’t have champagne in a federal government workplace, you can have sparkling cider to make people think “champagne” and “celebration.”  If you want to decorate a room to suggest a beach theme, it might not be practical to import sand, but you can place buckets and shovels strategically on a beige bedsheet in a corner of the room.  I once taught a lesson about the qualities of a good leader.  Part of that lesson involved an analogy from the Wizard of Oz.  My colleagues and I acted out part of the story.  I played Toto.  I did not wear a dog suit, but I arranged my hair into two scruffy ponytails sticking up out of my head. I didn’t look like a dog, but I was the “essence of” Toto and I evoked the associations people had with The Wizard Of Oz. 

I don’t really cook.

During session three of Alpha, I cooked dinner for over 50 people and no one needed a trip to the emergency room.  Not even me.  I have another dinner planned in a couple of weeks.  My bar for success for that meal is that I once again avoid poisoning anyone.  I have reasonable confidence that I will meet that admittedly low standard. I do intend to declare victory.  I have individuals or groups signed up to handle the other ten nights of dinners.  I am certain that these meals will prove much more satisfying to everyone involved. My role will simply be to support these folks in their food preparation efforts and applaud. 

I don’t believe in ironing.

I found out, to my relief, that the tablecloths beneath my non-poisonous dinners are permanent press.  I’ve laundered the tablecloths several times.  They seem to come out of the dryer clean.  There might be a few suspicious wrinkles, but they smooth out when I put the cloths back on the tables for the next session.  One could argue that I really don’t need to launder all the tablecloths every week.  However, if I didn’t bring the tablecloths home to wash, I’d have to hang them in the linen cupboard of our parish hall.  There is a specific, origami-inspired technique for folding the tablecloths over hangers.  It terrifies me. 

I am about as far from extroverted as you can get.

Here we have it.  Nothing has changed on that front.  I am still about as far from extroverted as you can get.  I do have an overactive sense of duty and a genuine heart for people.  As a result, my extreme introversion sometimes takes a back seat to showing people how much I value them.  I am still incredibly introverted, but I see it as my job to make our guests feel welcome and comfortable.  I am still incredibly introverted, but I honestly want our guests to feel loved and wanted…wherever they are in their journey.  If I do not engage with them, they will never know what is in my heart.  Such engagement is sweet, but also takes a lot of energy out of an introvert.  I am still incredibly introverted, which means I am incredibly tired.  On the other hand, things seem to be going incredibly well. 

So, I’ll ask again.  How did I ever get to be Hospitality Princess?  All other considerations aside, how did the person with the highest level of introversion get to be the person whose most important task requires the highest level of engagement? 

I still didn’t get it.  Then, our rector’s wife and my friend, Sunny (some of you might remember her from my post at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/05/growing-grown-ups/) told me about something she experienced months before Alpha started. She said she had been praying about the program and wondering who would be willing to coordinate the hospitality elements.  It had been on her mind and on her heart for days.  Then, one night, she felt that God was just telling her “Terri will do it.”  She knew nothing about my background.  She didn’t even know me very well.  She just felt that God had the whole thing sorted.  I would be the Hospitality Princess, no matter how unlikely. No one ever mentioned this to me until several weeks into the program. 

How did I ever get to be Hospitality Princess?

I think I am beginning to understand.  Something our rector said in his sermon last week seems to apply.  God does not call the qualified.  He qualifies the called.  It seems that God is qualifying me- turning me inside-out, upside down, and sideways.  And so, the reinvention continues….

Have you ever had an experience that you believe is God “qualifying” you?  Tell us about it! Please leave a comment to share your perspective.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a hospitable day!  And be a princess (or prince) if you are so inclined!

Terri/Dorry 😊

herbed chicken
Alpha decor

Early Bird Special

I live in an age-restricted, 55+ community.  “Nocturnal” comes early here.

I used to think it was a fallacious stereotype that people over 55 ate dinner at 4:00pm and went to bed before the sun did.  Now, I see that it might be a stereotype but it is not necessarily fallacious.  I often go to restaurants before the evening news.  For years, bedtime in our house has been inching ever earlier.  Nowadays, it is not unusual for me to be in bed by a quarter past nine.  As we’ve established in previous posts, I don’t usually sleep, but I do lay down on my bed and pretend.  I was astonished this New Year’s Eve when midnight came and I was still conscious. 

You would think, given the number of years that I rebelled against going to bed early and rising at the crack of yesterday to get to work, I would be embracing retirement as an opportunity to stay up late and sleep until noon.  In retirement, I could reinvent myself into a night owl.  The thing is, I don’t think my natural inclinations ever tended towards “night owl.”  I wasn’t really an “early bird” either. I was always more whatever kind of bird it is that flits about from ten in the morning till three in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, working for a living required a peak activity period of more than five hours a day.  Therefore, I forced my biorhythm into the “early to bed, early to rise” model most appropriate for my working hours.  Now, when I can indulge the limited ebb and flow of my energy, I find that my body is unable to slide into standard Terri time. 

Besides a sleep button that is permanently faulty, I also struggle with eating at reasonably regular intervals.  Again, during my work life, I often ate poorly because I was always too busy to eat during the work day.  It was always a challenge to balance the needs of employees, customers, supervisors, time-zoned challenged conference calls, and that feeling of desperation I got when my diabetes reminded me that I would pass out without an infusion of nutrients. Now that I don’t work for a living, you’d think I’d be able to better regulate my eating.  Despite my best efforts, I still struggle with finding an appropriate meal schedule. We often go to a movie in the middle of the day (don’t even get me started on why we must attend movies that start before 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon.)  Typically, we’ll share a pastry at Starbuck’s before the movie and I feel fine when the picture starts.  Then, when we leave the theater, I feel like I can and will eat anything that doesn’t eat me first.

I know I am not the only one that is experiencing this day-shifting phenomenon as I age.  All I have to do is look around me, especially in the winter months, to see that my timing is trending.  Honestly, one of the biggest reasons we go to dinner so early is because restaurants in this senior-centric area get ridiculously crowded by 5:00pm.  The choice is to be there by 4:30pm or give up on eating until 7:00.  I get too hungry for dinner at eight (or seven, for that matter), so we go with 4:30.  Going to a grocery store before 10:00am is an enlightening experience.  Clearly, the shoppers have been up with the chickens and are making good use of their time by doing the marketing.  Navigating a shopping cart along aisles filled with people, walkers, and electric scooters can be perilous.  There is also gridlock to consider… aisles are often blocked with one too many lanes of cart traffic.  I often wander aisles where there is nothing I want to purchase, just to be able to make my way from the back of the store to the front.  In the afternoons, grocery shopping is much more leisurely.  I’m sure that going to the store after dark is like visiting a ghost town…. not that I would know.

Recently, I found further evidence that seniors have their own time zone.  The wildlife in our community is adhering to daylight senior time.  When we saw the jaguarundi in the backyard, my first thought was that it was odd that a wild cat would be up and about in the daylight.  I always thought cats were nocturnal.  I checked Google and found that, while most wild cats are night-dwellers, jaguarundis are diurnal.  They are often up and at ‘em at about the same time that the local grocery stores bustle with energy. This makes my community the perfect environment for them.

I didn’t think too much about this correlation at first.  Then, shortly before Christmas, we came home from doing errands at around 4:00pm.  We happened to look out the window and saw three raccoons digging for worms or whatever raccoons do in backyards.  I named them Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer in honor of the season.  Santa’s raccoons have visited us a couple of times since, always at around 4:00pm. 

Google is clear on this point. Raccoons are definitely supposed to be nocturnal.  No self-respecting raccoon should be out in broad daylight.  I felt bad for them, thinking they must be kind of backward.  I thought they might need remedial raccoon lessons.  I still didn’t draw any particular conclusion from their appearance. 

On Christmas Eve, Max and I were driving around the development looking at holiday decorations.  At 6:00pm- the witching hour, apparently, in a senior subdivision- we saw a coyote running along the side of the road.  Coyotes are nocturnal.  They are some of the shyest, most people-averse creatures on the planet.  Living their lives in the dark of night meets their needs.

Yes, at 6:00pm the sun was down… just barely.  Still, I don’t think you could really call 6:00pm “night,” could you?  In most places where people are still working for a living, 6:00pm is a busy, crowded, vibrant time.  People are getting off work and going home.  They are picking up children from soccer practice.  They are preparing to go to a movie or concert or whatever other evening plans they have.  For most people, their “real life” for the day is just beginning.   

In my 55-and-over development, 6:00pm might as well be the “dark of night” and, apparently, the coyotes know it. 

Do you find that the rhythm of your life is changing as you age?  Is the “early bird special” dining and sleep schedule for senior citizens just a stereotype or do you think there is truth in it?  If so, why do you think that is?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Terri/Dorry 😊 

Social Anxiety

I am a Luddite.  Practically everyone I know has been on social media for what seems like a lifetime.  My brother and several friends pestered me about my Facebook unfriendliness.  My mother and Max were on the other side of the argument.  In fact, I don’t think I exaggerate much when I say that Max has always thought that Facebook leads down the road to perdition.  Max may not be the best measuring stick of reasonableness when it comes to internet privacy, but I have to say that I was not too far behind him when it came to social media.  I can’t say exactly what about Facebook bothered me, but something about it just did not feel right to me.

Finally, alone in my bedroom one night, I succumbed to peer pressure.  I signed up for a Facebook account.  As soon as I did it, my gut seized up.  It felt like I was doing something clandestine and dangerous.  I tried to do a couple of things, just to see if the feeling went away.  It did not, so I deleted the account as secretly as I had created it.  Even in those split seconds, people found me and were confounded when they tried to contact me and found I had disappeared. 

A few months after my midnight tryst with Facebook, I published my book.  I decided that, if I was ever going to face my social media demons, promoting my book was a good reason to do so.  I took a deep breath, had a glass of wine, and reactivated my account.  All of a sudden, I had a social media presence. 

I don’t think I’m the only person on the planet who has been reluctant to join Facebook.  Now that I’ve been wandering around in the nooks and crannies of Facebook for some time, I thought I’d share some lessons learned.

Facebook is fun.

All in all, I like Facebook.  Color me shocked.  I enjoy connecting with people from my past and finding family members that I can barely remember.  Facebook is a reassuringly low-pressure way to relate to people… especially people with whom I’m not sure I want an ongoing relationship.  I love seeing people’s pictures, playing the silly little quizzes and trivia games, marveling at the cute videos of precocious animals, and pondering pithy quotes.  Facebook is a quick way to share pictures with friends and keep them updated about my adventures.  It is also a useful tool for promoting my book and my blog.  I’ve joined a couple of Facebook groups that have been helpful in enriching my real life. 

Facebook is seductive.

I’ve spent way too much time pretending to live a life on the internet.  When I first began to engage with the Facebook community, I found myself weighing in on virtually anything anybody asked and wondering at the wisdom nuggets manufactured for Facebook consumption.  I couldn’t seem to detach myself from my phone.  At night, I spent many what-should-not-have-been-waking hours trawling around the Face-o-sphere.  I found that watching cute animal videos and stalking people I used to know did nothing positive for my sleep problems.  Facebook was addicting.  I was always afraid that I was going to miss something exciting if I put down the phone and went to sleep. I did start to balance things better as the novelty wore off. The bloom was a bit off the rose.  I still seem to be an active poster and I admit to sometimes rifling through the latest tidbits way past the time I should be asleep.  However, I did find that the originally time suck effect does dissipate.

Facebook encourages frenemies.

I was raised to be a polite, kind person.  I was the little girl in elementary school who the teacher asked to help the child having a hard time fitting in with the others.  I am a shy, introverted person, but I also have a heart for befriending others. I can’t bear to leave anyone out, hurt anyone’s feelings, or create any kind of unpleasantness.  In other words, my skin is not nearly thick enough nor is my temperament anywhere near callous enough to be trusted with a Facebook account.  It is not that I am naïve or gullible.  Well, I am naïve and gullible, but my internet paranoia is sufficient to keep me from arranging physical meetings with IRL strangers and sending thousands of dollars to Nigeria. 

Still, there are stranger dangers that have nothing to do with physical safety.  Within hours of signing up for Facebook, I was getting numerous friend requests from people all over the world. Many of these requests were from strange (likely in more ways than one) men. At first, I was accepting these requests and engaged in some initial conversations. My profile reveals that I am in a relationship and I always made it clear from the start that I had a boyfriend with whom I am very happy. Such details did not seem to deter them.  The “conversations” were stilted and grammatically challenged.  There was something kind of “off” about the language.  When I explored around their Facebook offerings, I noticed that there were some troubling inconsistencies.  Many seemed to come from cities that don’t exist.  They often had no friends or all their friends had names and pictures that seemed completely different from the image of themselves they were portraying with me. When I asked my new friends how we knew each other or why they had reached out to me, the responses were flattering and highly improbable.  It took me a hot minute, but I soon learned to delete these new “friends” and to stop accepting such requests.

There was no harm done by these “friendships,” except to my self-confidence.  It didn’t take long for me to wonder how pathetic my pictures on Facebook must look to inspire so many men to think me desperate enough to be catfish bait. It took a little bit of soul-searching before I came up with a satisfying response to my insecurity demons.  That response?  I really don’t care what Facebook strangers think of my looks.  People I care about love me anyway.

Facebook shows you a new side of people you thought you already knew.

At first, it was a little disconcerting to meet the Facebook personas of people I know and love in real life.  It turns out that I do know these people.  I know who they are with me.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I know who they are with others.  There were a few friends who seemed to have a very different dynamic when relating to other folks in their life.  It wasn’t that they showed a sinister side of themselves or that I discovered anything unpleasant.  It was just a bit disorienting to realize that I did not know them as holistically as I always thought I did.  While this made me uncomfortable at first, I soon realized that I was getting the opportunity to form a deeper, more dimensional relationship with these friends.  It also reminded me that everyone has many sides to his or her personality and manner of relating to the world.  I think knowing this makes me a more empathetic, curious person. 

Facebook is not for the faint of heart (or the thin of skin).

For me, one of the less pleasant aspects of Facebook is that it is a battleground for drama.  People post all kinds of things.  Some people are mean-spirited.  Some espouse views to which I could never subscribe.  Some have no idea what they are talking about and just spread urban legends.  Some get offended very easily and make no secret of their hurt feelings, which just starts another sortie of firestorm amongst posters.  It can be exhausting and emotionally dangerous. It is best to learn early not to take anything anyone posts too seriously. It is also best not to assume anyone’s intent based on how they come across on social media.  Posting on Facebook lacks many of the subtleties of polite society- nuances of expression that help to enrich our communication.  Therefore, the message that a person is intending to send can be received very differently.  It is usually best to emerge from the relative safety of the Facebook trenches and engage personally with a poster if you feel hurt by a particular post.  If you find that you regularly feel annoyed, hurt, or any other unpleasant emotion, consider changing your privacy settings and limiting your circle of “friends” to those people who bring positivity to your interactions. 

Facebook is no longer cool.

As much as I want to believe that engaging with Facebook means I am teetering  on the cutting edge of communication technology, that is not the case. Remember when email was the hippest way to communicate?  Now, people barely look at their email.  And I don’t know why anyone even bothers with a telephone call any more.  The only way to be sure you relay critical information to anyone is to text.  The same is true for Facebook. It figures.  I finally stick my toe in the Facebook water and they close the “cool pool.”   Even though I am just starting out in this brave new world of cyberspace communication, all the cool kids are using Twitter and Instagram.  I am still a Luddite.

What do you think about social media communication?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a social day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Heart-y

As Valentine’s Day approaches, this old woman’s fancy is lightly turning to thoughts of love.  To me, a life must have love to be healthy and hardy.  Without love, I think our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being suffers.  Our spirits become pale, weak, puny little things that fail to thrive.  With love, our lives are robust, multi-faceted, and always growing. 

This will be the sixtieth Heart Day I have spent on the planet.  They haven’t all been happy.  I haven’t always had a special valentine of my own.  I haven’t experienced any of those “rom com” Valentine’s Days filled with flowers, surprises, and perfect proposals.

Over all, though, I’ve been pretty lucky in the love department.

To begin with, I have God.  As St. John says, “God IS love.”  How can any Valentine’s Day exist… or any day at all exist, that doesn’t include a celebration of the abundant love of my Lord?  I am wondrously and robustly blessed.  My life can be nothing less than a love letter from and to God. 

I have always had the most supportive and loving family and friends.  They’ve always laughed with me, held me up when I’ve been drowning in sorrow, made me feel special, and pointed me true north when my internal compass wobbled in wild wonkiness.  Even in times when I was without a romantic relationship and felt desperately unloved and unwanted, I have always been loved and wanted.  I was just too much of a goose to realize it.  Max and I have been binge watching Downton Abbey again recently.  In one episode, the cook, Mrs. Patmore sends an anonymous Valentine’s Day card to her assistant, Daisy.  Mrs. Patmore is sure that one of the footmen is going to send a card to the other kitchen maid and she wants Daisy to have something to open as well.  After much ado, Mrs. Patmore finally confesses to Daisy that she sent the valentine and apologizes for instigating an unintended drama.  Daisy thanks Mrs. Patmore, responding that she might not have a young man, but she has a friend and “that is something.”  It certainly is, Daisy.  In fact, it is a great deal more than “something.”

Actually, Valentine’s Day has not been a very big deal in my holiday hierarchy.  I send cards, but that’s about it.  Even when I was in romantic relationships, my beaux have always approached the most romantic day of the year as little more than a Hallmark holiday.  The first guy I dated after my divorce asked me why I didn’t get him anything for Valentine’s Day, although I had, in fact, sent a card.  The irony, apparently quite lost on him, was that he had done nothing at all for me for Valentine’s Day.  Another fellow, who I dated for several years, did get me a valentine gift one year.  It was a rain gage.  Yes, a rain gage.  I think I can claim the distinction of having received the least romantic gift of all time.  I know everyone has a different language of love, but I think it is safe to assume that lovers don’t speak “rain gage” anywhere. 

Max and I have always acknowledged Valentine’s Day, but in a pretty low-key way. We exchange cards. I always get him the extremely sentimental gift of a renewal of his AAA club membership.  I know it isn’t a rain gage, but we can’t all be crazy romantic fools. Honestly, he would be very disappointed if I did not renew his membership.  His gift to me is usually rolled into whatever “big” gift has been burning a hole in his present budget.  For instance, last Christmas, he got me a tanzanite ring that represented Christmas, birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s birthday for three years.

We don’t drag out the trumpets and play a fanfare.  It always feels like we “should” do something special, but we usually don’t.  Neither one of us really like to go out for dinner or anywhere traditionally romantic because everything is so crowded and expensive. It is a bit galling to realize you are paying more for an experience that you could have much more pleasantly on any other day of the year just to be able to say you are doing it on Valentine’s Day.  It is kind of the New Year’s Eve of love.  Hardened partiers call New Year’s Eve the amateur night for drinkers.  Maybe Valentine’s Day is the amateur night for people who are trying desperately to be good at being in love. 

There certainly are times when I fantasize about receiving a grand romantic gesture, especially at Valentine’s Day.  For the most part, though, I am happy to take my love as I find it, on any day of the year.  Our Valentine’s Days are not exploding with passion like a fireworks show.  I would rather know that I am loved and cherished each and every day than point to one specific moment in time when the valentine fireworks ignited.  Our Valentine’s Days are sweeter and less flashy, like savoring hot chocolate. 

Max and I understand each other.  We nurture each other. We enjoy each other.  We have a lot of the same interests and preferences. We introduce each other to different fancies that become shared eccentricities.  For instance, how many 68-year-old men trail after their girlfriends visiting Tinker Bell in Pixie Hollow?  And delight in it? 

We may not always admire the other person’s less-than-pleasant personality quirks, but we admire the totality of the other person.  The quirks are just part of the package.  Max loves me enough to do just about anything for me, if I tell him it is important to me. He doesn’t try to convince me why it isn’t important, he just trusts that it is.  In exchange, I love him enough not to play the “important” card unless it really is.  I don’t ask him to do things that I know he won’t want to do unless it truly is important to me.   

Yes, I am well-loved.  And, because I am, my life is heathy and heart-y!

Do you have a special valentine wish you would like to send?  Please feel free to reach out to your loved one with a heart-y message by leaving a comment.  If you would like to email me, you can do so at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a love-ly day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The People Have Spoken

Recently, I asked you for your feedback about whether or not I should host guest bloggers.  Your comments were so flattering and encouraging.  I appreciate your support more than you can know.

Most people who responded enjoy the blog the way it is, but were also open to guest bloggers if I decided to go in that direction.  The clearest message I got was that I should do whatever my heart told me to do.  My heart is still unsure.  I want to branch out, but I am reluctant to let go of the tree trunk.  Since this metaphor is the story of my life and has usually meant that I cling to the trees with an iron grip, I want to be sure I am not missing an opportunity to do something that will ultimately make me even happier.

I really liked Reader Bonnie’s suggestion about making guest blogs interactive.  I could give the guest blogger a series of questions to address in writing.  Then, I’d read the responses, ask follow up questions, consider the replies, and then cobble together a post that includes the back-and-forth… sort of like a written interview.  This will likely cause me more time and effort than just writing the blog piece myself.  However, this structure might help me release control more gingerly than just haphazardly farming out the blogging duties on a given week.  It wouldn’t be as much of a jolt to my system.  Bottom line is that I’m not sure if it would work, but I’d still be the one deciding if it worked or not. 

Well, you never know until you try.  I may explore this path in the next few months. It makes me feel nervous to even contemplate this, but I also think it could end up being a very good thing.  Maybe every few months, I’ll collaborate with someone who actually knows something about something or with someone who I think is fun and quirky enough to entertain us all. 

After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  I could fall out of a tree?

Are there any topics that YOU would like to see me explore with a guest blogger?  What fields would you be interested to cultivate?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a collaborative day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Damn The Ma’am

Okay, I’m traumatized.  I have been stewing over an incident that happened a few weeks ago. I’ve decided to go public with my story, in the hopes that sharing my experience will mend my scars. Also, if I can save one senior citizen from the tragedy I experienced, the pain of reliving it will be worthwhile.

I traveled to Orlando to see my endocrinologist.  That wasn’t traumatic.  Everything was fine.  He said, as he always does, “You are too healthy to come here.”  I decided to visit a store near the doctor’s office that sells bulk products.  They have barrels of loose goods, like nuts and grains, that they sell by weight.  You simply pick what you want, fill a bag with as much as you desire, and attach a tag with the item number on it.  They always have interesting things. I appreciate being able to buy a little of several different items. 

Still, no trauma.  I filled a few bags with goodies and went to pay. I chatted with the cashier while I dug out my credit card.  My transaction completed, I gathered up my purchases, credit card, and handbag.  My car keys were laying on the counter. 

That’s when things went south.

“Ooops,” I laughed.  “I won’t get very far without these,” referring to the car keys on the counter.  “I just have too many things in my hands to keep track of, I guess.”

The cashier, who looked like she was about twelve or maybe twenty-two (if you squint), smiled at me.  I thought she was going to laugh with me about how easy it is to get scatterbrained when you are busy and have to juggle numerous items.  Instead, she gazed at me with a kind, concerned, condescending expression on her face.  Then, she struck the fatal blow.

“Never mind,” she simpered.  “I just think it is great that you can get out and be active and vibrant as you get older.” 

I wanted to smack her.  I consider it a sign of incredible self-restraint that I did not.  If I had, could you really have blamed me?

I am 59 years old.  I am younger than approximately 24% of our nation’s presidents were when they took office.  Only 10% of the American workforce retires before age 60, so it follows that somewhere around 90% of people my age in the United States are still doddering around at a job.  

When did I get to be so old that going to a bulk goods store qualified as active and vibrant? 

I knew I was getting older, of course.  Still, I didn’t think I’d entered another demographic quite yet.  It is easy to forget your advancing age when you live in a community where the average age is much older than yours.  I look fairly young.  I feel very young.  In fact, I feel younger now than I did when I actually was young. 

I should have known the jig was up, though. It started innocently enough.  When people started addressing me as “ma’am,” I had my first twitch of antiquity.  I always felt that being a “ma’am” was a hallmark of old age.  When anyone called me “ma’am,” I felt vaguely embarrassed as if I had been caught masquerading as someone much more grown-up than myself.  I don’t think I’ve EVER seen myself as a “ma’am.” In my head, I am still that fresh-faced, naïve kid that first stepped into the adult workforce in 1981. That was when people started to call me “ma’am” occasionally.  It always felt artificial.

The “ma’ams” started multiplying when we moved to Florida.  At first, I was able to rationalize them away as being a “southern thing.”  And indeed, it is a “southern thing.”  Everyone female, even a two-year-old, is a “ma’am.”  After four years of living in Florida, I, too, am pretty footloose and fancy free with the term.  I kind of like that people here use the terms “ma’am” and “sir” as routinely as they call perfect strangers “honey,” “darling,” and “sweetie.”  It feels gracious, cozy, respectful, and intimate all at the same time. 

Still, after my experience with the cashier at the bulk goods store, I wonder if there isn’t some insidious connection between the ever-increasing number of “ma’ams” I am generating and my ever-increasing age.  Rather than being a gentle and gentile southern convention, maybe the “ma’am” is a slippery slope to old age. 

I’ll never know for sure because my active and vibrant self might break a hip if I ever slid down a slope.

Have you ever been taken aback by the way someone reacted to you because of your age?  What was that experience like for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a vibrant day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Public Service Announcement

Most of you know that I published a book last spring.  The book is called Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.   If you didn’t already know that, I must not have been doing my job publicizing it.  It feels like I’m mentioning it every time I open my mouth. 

Few people are good at tooting their own horn and I am no exception.  I’ve been extremely uncomfortable trying to hawk my book, but I’ve given it my best shot.  That isn’t to say that I’ve given it the best shot anyone could possibly give it.  Considering who I am and where my strengths lie, I gave it my best shot for me.  It is one of those “push pass your comfort zone” kind of things.  I’ll never be able to say that I am an expert marketer or brand developer.  In fact, I am not a brand.  I am just Terri.  All right, I am just Terri and Dorry, if you want to be technical.  Let’s just say that I don’t have the expertise, inclination, confidence, or sufficiently thick skin to promote my book in a way that will make it fly off the shelves.  I’m not good at selling anything, least of all myself. 

Still, I’ve tried very hard to get past my insecurities and weaknesses in this area, so as not to cheat myself out of the complete experience and opportunity on this book publishing journey.  I’ve brainstormed ideas on how to promote the book.  I’ve been proud of myself for following through on many of them.  Some of the marketing seeds I have sown may still bear fruit down the line.  A local newspaper recently published a feature story about me and my book, some six months after I originally contacted her.  I’ve overcome my shyness to talk to people who might be able to publicize my book. I bring it up in the blog and in conversations with people waaaaay more than I feel comfortable doing. 

All this may have been good for my moral fiber and character development, but I don’t think it has really resulted in actual sales.  To be honest, I’ve been a little surprised that the sales have not been at least a little higher than they have been.  Since I launched the book last May, I’ve sold about 100 copies.  I’d say at least half of those have been to close personal friends and family members.  Heck, Max bought two copies.  I’m not demoralized or sad or disappointed or anything.  For me, the act of producing the book truly was the pay-off.  I’d love to have made money or at least broken even, but I was not counting on it.  I look at the money I spend on this blog and on the publication of the book the way some people might look at the money they spend playing golf.  I am spending the money for my own enjoyment.  I just thought, with the blog readership, I might have sold a few hundred copies.  I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty.  This is a curiosity, not a complaint. 

I mention money because I am coming up on my renewal date for the author services I contracted.  I’ve had to make a decision about to what extent I want to continue them.  I pay a flat fee for the distribution of both the electronic and paperback editions of the book. I also pay a fee for servicing returns, since no bookstore will stock a book unless it is returnable.  As you probably know (unless I have completely failed in the publicity department), I also maintain a direct-to-reader sales page (https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076) where people can purchase the book.  The direct-to-reader sales page has the advantage of allowing me to offer buyers a discount on the sales price of the book.  The other advantage is that I get a MUCH bigger royalty from books purchased on the direct-to-reader sales page than I do on books purchased through third parties like Amazon. 

Maintaining that direct-to-reader sales page is fairly expensive, so it doesn’t seem worth the cost.  The vast majority of the dozens of books I’ve sold have been purchased either directly from me personally or from online retailers such as Amazon.  Therefore, I’ve decided not to renew https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076 when it expires on March 26, 2019.  If you would like to order a copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement on that website and get a 15% discount, please do so before the middle of February. Use the promo code terri to claim your discount.

I will still be offering the book on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other online retailers for at least the next year.  I am also paying for the returns service for another year because the local Barnes and Noble has agreed to feature me in their next “local author” signing event and the book needs to be returnable for them to order copies.  No one can tell me when that event will be, so I’m not sure when/if this will come to pass, but I thought it was worth a shot.  If any of you live near The Villages in Florida and would like to attend a signing, please contact Ashley at the Lake Sumpter Landing Barnes and Noble.  Maybe that would speed things along. 

At any rate, thank you all for your continued support. I just wanted to let you know that the sales website will be going away in a few weeks so you could jump on the opportunity to order discounted books before it was gone.

See?  Told ya I was bad at self-promotion!

Anyone who has read the book care to comment?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a proudly horn-tooting day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Snakes. Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

Some of you may remember my serpent-related panic the first year we moved to Florida.  You can read all about it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/07/the-great-snake-chase/

Time passes.  I have seen a snake here and there over the past several years and we have firmly dispatched all of them- one way or another- to a place (either physical or metaphysical) far away from our house.  Since that first snake, none have made it inside any location within my residence.  They have all been tiny and, I believe, non-venomous.  In fact, they have been basically harmless except for severely increasing the amount of cortisol in my bloodstream.

This all changed the other day when I was out spraying Round-up on the weeds around the house.   Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a colorful strip of evil incarnate poised at the doorway to our lanai.  It was about 16 inches long and made up of bands of red, black, and yellow.  When it realized I was close by, it slithered away towards the wetland behind our house.  I was relieved to see the back end of him without having to actually confront him.  The thing is that this snake was either a coral snake or a king snake.  Both are similarly colored.  Both are found in Florida.  The difference is… wait for it… the king snake is harmless and the coral snake is deadly. 

Since moving to Florida, I have heard all kinds of adorable rhymes composed to help hapless souls like myself know the difference between king snakes and coral snakes.  One popular one is “Red on black, okay for Jack.  Red on yellow, kill a fellow.”  I remembered that one when I spotted the alarming serpent, but I have to admit that I didn’t really understand to what it referred.  I have since learned that the colors mentioned in the rhyme refer to how the colored bands on the snake are arranged. If the red bands touch only black bands, it is a king snake and harmless.  On the other hand, if the red bands touch yellow bands, it is a coral snake and is extremely poisonous. 

It didn’t really matter that I didn’t understand the context of the snake mnemonic rhyme.  I wasn’t getting close enough to analyze the bands of color.  I also didn’t have the presence of mind to process exactly what I was seeing. Also, I don’t think I would have trusted the rhyme anyway. Who relies on something that sounds suspiciously like a nursery rhyme for their personal snake safety?  All I knew was that I had a visceral, loathsome reaction to the beast.  I made a very odd, guttural sound the second my brain registered the fact that I was standing less than 2 feet from a snake.  It was something between a gurgle, scream, and hiccup.  

Later in the day, after I stopped shaking, I consulted Google to try to identify the snake.  Unfortunately, I had not thought to take my phone out of my pocket and take a picture when I saw the snake.  I think I was too intent on not taking my eyes off it for even the instant it would have taken me to fumble around with the phone.  Still, I thought if I saw pictures of king snakes and coral snakes, I might recognize the band pattern on the sinister reptile by my lanai.  Unfortunately, my mind must have been so frozen by fear that it turned off automatically. I had no powers of recall. I did learn that coral snakes have extremely poisonous venom, but they also have an extremely inefficient venom delivery system.  Apparently, a coral snake doesn’t inject venom with its bite in the same way most snakes do.  One source indicated that a coral snake would basically have to gnaw on me like a dog with a bone to kill me.  That was a little bit comforting, but it also left me with a disturbing image burned into my brain. 

In my research about coral snakes, I learned that they are very solitary and reclusive creatures.  I learned that, far from wanting to gnaw me to death, they want nothing so much as to get away from me.  It is the old “they are more afraid of you than you are of them” axiom.  I seriously doubt that, but I get the idea.  The venom can kill a person, but nobody has died from a coral snake bite in the United States since the development of the anti-venom many decades ago.  Many hospitals don’t actually have the anti-venom on hand, but it apparently takes about two hours for the poison to get into a person’s bloodstream.  I guess that is why God invented helicopter medivacs. 

All in all, it isn’t a great idea to get bitten by a coral snake.  Still, I learned that it is unlikely that I will get bitten by a coral snake if I keep my eyes open and don’t go around stepping on them.  Should I suffer a coral snake bite, it is even less likely that I will die of it unless I ignore the whole incident.  I’m pretty certain I would not be ignoring a coral snake bite.  Or any snakebite, for that matter. I tend to be a bit dramatic about such things. 

I don’t know why I have the reaction I do to snakes.  This is an argument I have had with myself frequently. I love animals.  I love interacting with domestic animals.  I even love observing and interacting with wild animals, in a respectful and safe way.  There just seem to be certain animals that I can’t help but loathe.  Snakes, rats, and mice are at the top of that list.  So, basically, snakes and snake food.  I know it makes no sense whatsoever to discriminate between animal species in my level of attachment.   

I know I can’t be the only one who animal loves with such irrationality.  I used to listen to a radio talk show in California that featured two hosts who frequently discussed various absurdities of life, politics, and human nature.  This question of why we react much more sympathetically to some species of animals than others came up now and again on the show.  The hosts agreed that there is definitely a hierarchy of animals, though no one can really give any logical basis for it.  I tend to agree.  The snakes, rats, and mice have to be pretty low on that particular totem pole.

Maybe it all boils down from that fall from grace in Eden.  Genesis 3:15 tells us God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

I’m a pretty passive, nonconfrontational person for the most part.  I’m not usually known for having enemies or crushing heads.  However, when I see a snake, I’m afraid I definitely feel the enmity.

How about you?  Are there any animals that you make your skin crawl?  Why do you think it is that we can coo over a bunny, yet shrink from a rat?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a cuddly day!

Terri/Dorry 😊