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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good job, Body!

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

Have a (body)positive day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Deep Dark Secret

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

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

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

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

On the other hand…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a beautiful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Wild Woman Of Charleston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a wild day!!!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Where Am I, Anyway?

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

The city is named for an English king.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye, y’all… and bless your heart!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Bunnies Are Running 2022

A few weeks ago, I published a post about Lent and my spiritual goals for this time of repentance and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. I am happy to report that my Lenten work is coming along well. In addition to the goals I set for myself, Max and I have been reading and praying along with a program of devotionals that one of my church friends shared. I was, weirdly, looking forward to Lent this year and God is taking me in good places.

Now… for the lighter side of Lent.

You have all heard of Elf on the Shelf. You probably also know that Max and I play Elf on the Shelf each December. He hides my elf, Kringle, each morning and I hunt for him. Some of you may remember last year’s natural extension of this game- Bun on the Run. I have TEN bunnies running loose in my house because bunnies are prolific creatures, and I am unable to restrain myself at Hobby Lobby. The biggest bunnies, Arabella and Archibald are the mommy and daddy bunnies. They are each about the size of an extra-large egg. There are four itsy bitsy babies- Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Mo. These critters are each about the size of a shooter marble. Their slightly older siblings- Wynken, Blynken, Nod, and Tumble- are somewhere in between in size. Each morning in Lent, a bunny goes running and it is up to me to find it. Because Max is a very methodical guy, he rotates the order in which he hides the bunnies. Archibald and Arabella are relatively easy to find because of their size. The four newborns are extremely challenging. Max gives me hints when I get stuck.  Eventually, given enough clues, I am bound to stumble upon a stealth bunny.

For the first time EVER since the elfing and the bunnying has begun, Max stumped me this season. Miney, one of the newborns, seems to be particularly wily in getting himself into mischievous positions. The last time Miney hid, he hid so well that I finally had to give up. I am sharing three pictures here so you can see if you can find Miney.

Tink doll front on view
Tink side view
close up of Tink and Miney, the stealth bunny

Give up? Miney is hiding in Tinker Bell’s wings. Yowza. I am sure I would still be hunting if I had not cried uncle. Max was quite pleased with himself… and Miney’s hiding prowess.

Someday, someone is going to take away my adult card.

What crazy, child-like (or childish) things do you do that might jeopardize your adult card? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Terri/Dorry 😊

Rock of Aged

Max and I went to see a Billy Joel concert the other night with some very good friends. We are all “people of a certain age.” As you might expect, given that the performer was Billy Joel (and Billy Joel is 72 years old), most of the audience were contemporaries of ours. Some were younger, and some were just trying to be younger.

I cannot remember the last time I went to a full-on rock concert in an outside stadium. I think it was probably some time around 1985. Since this was another lifetime ago, I did not expect to know how things worked. Luckily, our friends set the whole thing up- bought the tickets, drove to the venue, and found parking. This relieved me of some of the stress of “being responsible” for everyone’s enjoyment. I could just wait and  see what it would be like to view the concert with 70,000 other fans.

I dressed in my rocker chick chic outfit- black jeans, black boots, and a sparkly blouse. I took great care with my makeup, hair, and jewelry.  I felt a little bit badass.

Our tickets said that the show started at 8:00pm. The doors were supposed to open at 6:30 and the parking lots were supposed to open at 4:30. We, of course, planned to be there very early. We decided not to go out to dinner because we did not want to risk missing anything. We bought Subway sandwiches before we left our neighborhood and decided to eat them in the car in the parking lot. It would be a sort of “tailgate” tailgate party. Another other interesting thing we learned before we went to the stadium were that we could not bring in any normal-sized purse or handbag. Based on the acceptable dimensions on the venue’s website, an allowable bag would be so tiny that even my phone would not fit in it. I decided to go with option 2- a clear plastic gallon-size Ziplock bag. This accessory did not exactly go with my rocker chick vibe, but at least I could carry my essentials.

I do not think having this kind of restriction on bags was in keeping with the demographic of the audience. Most of the women were conditioned, after 50 years of being “pack mule mommas” to fill their purses with every possible thing their children or significant other might need to protect them from catastrophe. Also, given the age of most of the audience, it seemed likely that the only drugs we were trying to hide were prescription arthritis, diabetes, and blood thinner medications. At one point, I thought I smelled weed, but it was probably someone smoking medical marijuana.

The venue also did not permit visitors to bring umbrellas into the stadium. It is freakin’ Florida! Earlier in the day, there had been almost monsoon level rainstorms. We just hit a lucky patch in that the skies cleared by late afternoon. If the rain had come in the evening, when it usually does, an umbrella prohibition would have been serious business.

My rocker chick chic persona did not last very long. I had to zip up my furry black coat against the cold. The temperature was unseasonably cold for central Florida in March, with a wicked wind. I am sure the promoters never expected an arctic blast to descend on the Camping World stadium in Orlando, Florida. We old people in Florida typically travel with sweaters to take off the air conditioning chill in restaurants. Even I, who almost always run hot, was freezing the night of the concert. With my black jacket zipped up, I no longer displayed any sight of my sparkly blouse. I looked like an old lady, which, of course, I am.

Even on the stage, Billy Joel immediately donned a stocking cap over his bald head after his initial introduction. By three songs into his set, he added a woolen scarf. By the second half of the concert, his back-up singer was wearing a towel over her head and shoulders to keep her vocal cords warm.

I figured that the concert would start at 8:00pm, since this was the time advertised. We parked at around 5:00pm and got in line to get into the stadium at around 6:00pm. The process was actually quite easy. Then we sat. And sat. And sat some more. I guess everyone is supposed to know that rockers are just kidding when they state a start time. Finally, at around 8:30, Billy Joel rolled out on the stage. At least, it looked like he did on the jumbotron screens. We had expensive seats, but there was still no way anyone could have identified the headliner without benefit of jumbotron because the distance to the stage was just too great. We could not have seen the actual real live Billy Joel, even with our bifocals on. At first this bothered me. We were paying close to $300 for each ticket. If we were going to watch the concert on a screen, could we not have done something similar sitting at home in front of YouTube?

The fact that the concert was supposed to start at 8:00pm was already problematic for me. I am usually in bed by 9:30. I was never a late-night kind of gal and, in my dotage, the term “early bird special” is my jam. Still, I figured I could handle at 8:00pm start time. I figured the concert would last about 75-90 minutes and we would get home at around 11. I knew I was not going to turn into a pumpkin and figured it would be good for me to clast some icons of my life. However, when the concert did not start until 8:30 and the singing went on until after 10:30, I did feel stressed, I might turn into a pumpkin. We probably would not make it home until after midnight. As it turned out, it was closer to 1:00pm AND it was the “spring ahead” night for Daylight Savings Time. I’m not sure I wanted to clast icons quite that big, but I told myself that, as my life coach says, “I am a person who tries new things.” That phrasing is more palatable than “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Yes, I was out much later than comfortable for me. Yes, the timetable for the concert was hopelessly out of whack. Yes, the cold was cutting into my bones. Yes, I was paying several hundred dollars to watch Billy Joel on a screen when I could have stayed home and watched YouTube. Yes, the whole experience did not seem to match the generational audience it attracted. We were old, cold, anxious about why the event was not starting on time, without the supply of necessities we usually carry in our purses, and up way past our bedtime.

However, by the third song of the set, I was having a blast. I was enjoying the jumbotron screens, which reflected not only the band, but interesting visual effects that enhanced the production. I was enjoying Billy Joel’s relaxed, unscripted banter with the crowd of 70,000. I was singing along and dancing to the beat. I was not worried about getting home “on time.” In fact, I did not even know what “on time” meant.

It was a great evening. It might have been rock for the aged and I might be one of the aged, but the night certainly ROCKED. And maybe I found out that, as aged as I am, I still have a rocker chick inside of me!

What do you do that makes you feel young and wild again?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a youthful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Shopping For A Migraine

It amazes me that more people do not kill themselves at Walmart.

Once upon a time when I lived alone, I used to go to Walmart as Friday night entertainment. I’d get off work, stop somewhere for fast food, and wander the aisles of the supercenter. This era of my life convinced me that a) I have serious emotional problems and b) Walmart sells EVERYTHING! Also, it convinced me that I am programmed to buy almost everything. Walking into Walmart for colorful office supplies usually entailed walking out with a huge cartload of stuff and at least $100 less than I had when I entered.

As my life became more interesting, productive, and busy… and less pathetic, by the way… I stopped looking at Walmart as an entertainment destination. It was like finally leaving an abusive relationship. I stopped going to Walmart except when I visited my mother.

My mother always adored Walmart. When it came to shopping, her catchphrase was, “for $3 or $1.99 or $5 (or whatever remarkably low price something was), why be without?” Walmart was the perfect territory for such a philosophy. I ended up with some truly ugly clothes from Walmart because they were on clearance and… well, you never know. I still remember a powder blue polyester skirt with buttons down the front that I bought, at my mother’s prompting, because it was “only $3, so why be without?” I never wore the blasted thing. It took me years to finally abandon it to the mercies of the Goodwill bag.

As my mother aged and became frailer,  Amazon became a lifeline for her. She could get everything she needed delivered to her doorstep. Still, whenever I came to visit her, she always enjoyed a good outing to Walmart. I did not enjoy Walmart, but I did enjoy my mother. Max was a good sport whenever he was with me. He trailed behind us with the shopping cart while I pushed my mom in the wheelchair.

Once we moved to Florida, the whole mother-Walmart thing was more complicated. For one thing, we live within fairly easy driving distance of several Walmarts, but we are only really close to one of them. Unfortunately, the one to which we live closest, is known as “the bad Walmart.” We heard horror stories about carjackings and robberies and all kinds of sinister associations with that Walmart practically from the day we moved in. I am not the speediest person on my best day. I could probably not outrun a villain under the most ideal circumstances. An escape plan that included me pushing a wheelchair loaded with my mother and our purchases was beyond my imagination. Therefore, the “bad Walmart” was out of the question. That meant we traveled about 40 minutes each way just commuting to a more desirable and less lethal  Walmart… to say nothing of the extended time we spent shopping. Momma always had a list, but she loved traveling up and down each aisle, just to see what they had.

The other thing was that I could not push a shopping cart AND a wheelchair at the same time. My original plan was simply to load up my mother’s lap with the items she wanted to purchase, but I quickly realized that was not going to work. I tried putting one of those plastic grocery baskets on her lap and one on each of my arms. My last trip to Walmart with my mother was in 2016. I think I still have indentations on my extremities from the grocery basket handles. Somewhere about halfway through one of our first visits, I snagged a few reusable grocery bags and slipped them over the handles of her wheelchair. I was a train wreck. Flopping bags, cramped arms, bruised knees, sweat seeping from every pore, and low blood sugar- that was what Walmart meant to me.

One would ask why I did not just take my mother’s list and go to Walmart on my own to get what she wanted. That would not have met my mom’s needs. She loved getting out and feeling part of the world. And I loved my mother. As her body became increasingly fragile, her world got smaller and smaller. There was very little I could do to help her. Her health was declining and was never going to get better. It broke my heart. I could not make her physical health better. I could do nothing to stop her descent into disability. I could, however, inject some pleasure into her life. Going to Walmart was one big source of pleasure for her.

My mother has been gone for almost seven years. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have gone to Walmart in that time. The other day, I made the mistake of going there. I had a list of weirdly diverse items I needed, and I reasoned that Walmart was the only place that might sell all of them. If I avoided Walmart, which every instinct in my soul advised me to do, I would have to go to several other stores. I asked myself, “how bad could it be?” Wrong question.

I left the house at around 9:30. I decided to be brave and go to the “bad Walmart” because it was closest. My plan was to go to Walmart, stop by Ace Hardware if I could not obtain something on my list at Walmart, run into the dry cleaner to pick up our clothes, come home and eat something, and then leave again for my hair appointment at about 12:50. I clearly ingested some sort of alternate reality producing drug.

Actually, I had minimal trouble while shopping at Walmart. I noticed that the aisles seemed tidier than I remembered, and I did not run into too many shopping cart traffic jams. I did search for quite some time for a new outdoor welcome mat. When I asked someone where I could find such a beast, the employee told me to look in the “Home” section. The “Home” section consisted of about ten aisles. I know I walked down each one of them at least once before finding the welcome mats. Still, I was ultimately able to find everything on my list so I would not have to stop at Ace Hardware.

Then, I got on the check-out line. There were three people ahead of me. They all had huge carts of goods. I noticed a self-check area when I entered the store. I briefly considered moving down to that area, but I also noticed that they had ropes like a queue at Disney World to manage the self-check-out crowds. I did not think that was a good sign and I am not that speedy at self-check-out, so I figured I’d let a professional do it. It might have been a mistake to believe that, just because Walmart is paying someone minimum wage, that person can do the job faster than I can.

I waited in line for 15 minutes without it moving once. Finally, the checker finished with the first person in line. The second person was even more of a challenge. She had some sort of coupon that required management approval to input. From what I could glean from the conversation that came down the line from the cash register, Walmart’s system will not accept a coupon that is over some certain dollar amount unless a manager inputs an override code. The cashier would have to call a manager before the transaction could continue. Except the cashier does not “call” a manager at Walmart; the cashier stands helplessly at her register, flailing her arms trying to get the attention of a manager. After another 20 minutes, a manager finally came over to approve the discount. The line heaved a collective sigh of relief… until we learned that there was a second step to the process that required managerial approval.

The arm-flailing started over again. I considered passing a hat to everyone in line to see if we could collect the coupon amount. The crowd was getting ugly, though, and I

 was not sure if it was wise to try to collect a ransom from them. I have heard Walmart sells guns. I do not know if that is still true, but I know they sell knives because I saw them in my scenic trip through the “Home” section. It did not seem worth the risk. Finally, even the shopper waiting to get her coupon realized we had all somehow fallen into the Retail Twilight Zone. She told the checker to just take the item off her bill and she would purchase it somewhere else. The checker tried to do that, but the Walmart register system laughed maniacally and refused to comply.

As I waited in the line, I could feel my blood sugar dropping. I checked the time and realized I was not going to get to either the dry cleaners or home before my hair appointment. I decided instead to stop at a drive-through fast food place en route to the salon and pick up the cleaning after my hair appointment. Fifteen minutes later with no movement on the line, I realized I was not going to have time even to do a drive-through lunch. I also realized that not eating was not an option unless I wanted Walmart to call the paramedics when I blacked out. My guess is that calling the paramedics would have required some sort of managerial intervention, too. God only knows how long that would have taken. Anyway, since I was still in the check-out line, I grabbed a candy bar. I had to take two steps back to reach the shelf. The person behind me said, jokingly, “now you’ll have to go all the way to the end of the line.” I just barely kept from snarling when I replied, “not on your life!”

After waiting in line for 45 minutes with no progress, I surrendered. I moved my cart out of line. My initial thought was to abandon it in mid-aisle and leave, but I hated the idea of wasting all the time I had already invested in this purchasing process. It actually crossed my mind to bolt out the door with the merchandise and make a run for it, but that was the low blood sugar talking. I tentatively maneuvered my way down to the self-check-out line. I was able to access a machine in less than five minutes. I had a lot of stuff and much of it was unwieldy. It was not pretty, but I got her done. I left the store gobbling my candy bar. I just made it to my hair appointment.

Yes, Walmart does sell everything for low, low prices… including migraines and panic attacks.

What has been your worse retail experience? Don’t you think a few extra grams of carbohydrate would have made it more bearable? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a Walmart-free day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Lent

Many of you know that I was raised as a Roman Catholic, spent most of my life worshipping in that tradition, and converted to the Episcopal Church about five years ago. These two denominations are different in some ways that are important to me, but they also share many traditions. Lenten observance is one such tradition.

Lent is the 40-day period before Easter when Christians make a special effort to reflect on their lives and improve their spirituality before Easter. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the day before Lent. Traditionally, Mardi Gras is a celebration of riotous living because it is the last hurrah before the fasting, praying, and abstinence of Lent. Within the Catholic faith, there are specific dietary observances to follow during those 40 days. In addition, Catholics are encouraged to commit to some special activity or to give up some enjoyable indulgence to observe Lent. As far as I know, the Episcopal Church does not have any specific food requirements, like not eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Still, we are encouraged to do something special to enrich our relationship with God during this time of purification.

I take this opportunity seriously. I like to think of doing something that is not rooted in the negative. I like to think of doing something that makes me push me outside my normal view of the world. I like to think of doing something that will allow me to discern a difference in myself and/or others. Last year, I repeated an activity I did 30 years or so ago. Each day during Lent, I mailed a letter to someone in my life who contributed positively to my spiritual development. Some of these letters were to people I interact with virtually every day. Others went to people I have not seen in more than three decades. As I wrote my letters, it was wonderful to revisit the experiences and impressions I had with these people. It brought their place in my spiritual development into sharp focus and, as a result, it brought what they taught me about spiritual development into sharp focus. The response I received was also enormously gratifying. I brought joy to the people I contacted and many of them, in turn, brought joy to me in their replies.

I wish I could say that I always undertake such ambitious Lenten observances. This year, I have been prayerfully considering what activities might be helpful for me. Last fall, I developed and taught a 4-part course on stewardship. It was something that I felt, to the depth of my soul, that God wanted me to do. That feeling is a rare and wonderful thing. It is a special blessing to experience God’s grace and direction in such a confidently powerful way. The whole program ended up being such a fantastic, joyful, affirming experience for me. I thought I might look to that program to see if I could pull anything out that would work as a special Lenten devotional.

One of the key concepts of the class was that stewardship consists of three responsibilities- taking care of the gifts God gives us, using the gifts God gives us wisely, and sharing the gifts God gives us generously. I decided to embrace three observances- one for each responsibility- for this Lent.

Taking Care of the Gifts God Give Us

One of the biggest gifts God gives us is the natural world. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I have not even embraced the most basic conservation strategies of the modern world- recycling. My diet soda and iced tea bottles skip the recycling bin and make their way directly to the trash can. In the grand scheme of things, I know my lack of recycling does not make a dramatic difference to the planet. Still, the fact that I do not bother to undertake this minor task tells me that I am not giving God’s Earth the respect He deserves. As a small token of my desire to change, I am going to start putting my recyclable disposables into the proper bin.

Using the Gifts God Gives Us Wisely

This is an area that I have been fine-tuning greatly in the past year. In the past, I was inclined to downplay my talents and gifts, fearing that they were not sufficient to contribute anything special to God’s work. I have been realizing that God gave me these gifts because He wanted me to do something with them. If they are not sufficient, He will grow them to what they need to be. Sometimes, the act of doing is the mechanism for growing. I learned this as I dove into projects at church- Alpha, Blessed Stewardship, ECW chapter chairperson. It looks like I will be taking on another big project for my church starting in May. Since it is not a done deal yet, I won’t say what it is. However, as I pray about my Lenten observances, I have felt my mind rambling to thoughts about how to administer that project and how to promote it. The project is not something I volunteered for, but I think it is something God wants me to do… if for no other reason than to show me that, with His help, I can. I think His hope for me is that I will trust Him more and start listening to His exhortations about what He wants me to do next in my life. My resolution during Lent is to start organizing the random thoughts in my head to build the framework of a plan.

Sharing the Gifts God Gives Us Generously

I try to be generous all year long. I am so aware of the many ways God has blessed me. I enjoy giving to others. I do not want to just “give more money” because “giving more money” is something that we should do whenever we see need. I want to attach the giving more time, talent, or treasure to some specific action that will be meaningful to my spiritual development. Being a good steward of God’s gifts is more about the benefit to the giver than the benefit to the recipient. This Lent, I am going to concentrate on a project that is close to my heart. I have been wandering around writing my third book. I have started and stalled several times. I recently began a more concerted effort to structure and draft the book. This Lent, I resolve to complete the first draft of this book. The book is about my mother’s life and my journey with her in this world and onto the doorstep of the next. The mental, emotional, and spiritual exploration I am doing in conjunction with the writing of this book is proving to be quite soul enhancing. I know that God is using this process to remind me of His grace. To share the gifts of His grace, the writing talent He has given me, and any treasure that results from the publication, I will give half the proceeds from the book to St. James Episcopal Church. I do not expect that this will fund any major project- heck, I doubt if it will buy pizza for the youth group-  but doing this act is more about the benefit to me than the benefit of the church.

Please pray for me!

Do you have any observance you embrace during Lent? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a prayerful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Apopalypse

Those of you who have been following along with me know that I have something of a Disney obsession. I am not as freakish about it as some people, but I am sure I am in the upper tenth percentile on the spectrum. That obsession extends to Disney merch. I say that part of my Disney obsession comes from my childhood- my parents called me Tinker Bell from birth, and they moved to Anaheim (three miles from California’s Disneyland) before I turned six. I did not have a chance of a normal, healthy relationship to the House of Mouse. On the other hand, purchasing t-shirts, mouse ears, hats, memorabilia, and other souvenir stuff was not part of the program when I was a child. Clearly, something was missing from my childhood Disney experience because it is difficult for me to spend a day at Disney now without coming home with some new over-priced and over-branded item that I do not need.

Lately, I have been trying to be a little more discriminating about what I buy. I have plenty of stuff. I have too much plenty of stuff. My criteria for pulling out my credit card now is a bit more stringent. I can’t just like something anymore. I must love it… whatever “it” is.

Disney makes a ton of money from their version of planned obsolescence. Since what they are selling is, in large part, nostalgia and memories, it does not behoove them to convince you something you bought last year is obsolete or worthless. Instead, they celebrate what you bought last year as memorabilia and try to convince you to buy another one in the series. Popcorn buckets are the biggest example of this strategy. Disney sells plastic popcorn buckets shaped like various characters costumed in a variety of ways to correspond with their festivals- Christmas, Arts Festival, Flower and Garden, Halloween, etc. When you buy one, it is filled with popcorn. You can refill it for a reduced price throughout the day.

I never really got into the popcorn bucket frenzy. I did buy a popcorn bucket shaped like Mickey Mouse in an elf suit one Christmas season. He sits outside my front door like a little greeter every holiday season now. There are people who buy every new popcorn bucket Disney issues. I think some women use them as purses and have a whole wardrobe of them. I never had any trouble drawing the line at one.

Until this year’s Arts Festival at EPCOT… and there begins the Apopalypse.

This year, the popcorn bucket for the Arts Festival is in the form of Figment. For the uninitiated, Figment is a purple and orange dragon who hosts the “Journey into Your Imagination” ride (“Figment of your imagination… get it?) at EPCOT. He was the first EPCOT-grown character at Disney World. I fell in love with him on my very first trip to Disney World in 1982. I was visiting my aunt and uncle who wintered in central Florida. I was extremely poor at the time but did bring $300 in spending money for the week I was there. Since this was an entire fortune to me at the time, I hid it somewhere safe for the journey. Unfortunately, I hid it somewhere so safe, I could not find it. My aunt tried to get me to stop worrying about it by telling me she would make sure I had whatever I needed, but I felt uncomfortable asking for anything that was not absolutely necessary. I eyed the stuffed Figment in the souvenir shop with lust in my eyes but did not want to impose by asking for extra money to pay for him. Weeks after I returned home, I received a package from my aunt. You guessed it. My aunt sent Figment to come live with me. I still have him. It just hit me that my Figment is forty freakin’ years old!!!!

When the Arts Festival started this year, the news on the street was that you could only get a Figment bucket filled with adorable purple, green, and orange popcorn, at one specific festival food kiosks. Disney further stipulated that they would sell no more than two buckets to each purchaser. Disney made the Figment announcement on a Friday. Max and I had reservations to go the next Wednesday. I knew there was going to be a buying frenzy and a massive wait to purchase one of these little suckers, but I still had hope that I could get one on our Wednesday trip.

As the weekend passed, however, my hopes did fade. I kept reading stories of massive lines and fights breaking out over the popcorn buckets. At one point, people were waiting in line for SIX HOURS to acquire the popcorn bucket. I doubt anyone was waiting in a six-hour line to get a refill of multi-colored popcorn, so these must have been people just trying to get their Figment bucket. People posted pictures on Facebook of purchasers wandering around EPCOT with 6 or 8 of the blasted things swinging around their necks. Although each person could only buy two, it was clear that families were stocking up by purchasing two for each member of their party.

By Monday, Disney was out of Figment buckets. It did not really surprise me, but it did disappoint me that I would not be able to get one on our planned Wednesday trip. I looked online to explore the idea of purchasing one in the secondary market. After all, I doubt that all those people with multiple buckets hanging around their necks intended to keep every one of them for the long haul. I checked eBay. People had the Figment buckets available for sale from about $150 up to about $1000. That would be a hard no from me.

Several weeks later, Disney announced they received another shipment of Figment buckets. I was hoping I might have another chance. This time, they were selling them as a mobile ordering item so that people did not have the amazing opportunity to stand in line, congregate without social distancing, spread their germs, and come to blows with each other like too many rats in a cage.

I made two reservations to go to Epcot that week, but did not go either time because the buckets were sold out within 36 hours. I do not think there will be a third shipment of Figment popcorn buckets because the Festival of the Arts is drawing (drawing… festival of the arts… see what I did there?) to a close. I think I am over it, though. I suppose I really do not need to spend $25 for a junky piece of plastic that, honestly, looks more like an alligator than a purple and orange dragon… even if it is filled with multi-colored popcorn!

What is your favorite souvenir from somewhere you’ve traveled? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a poppin’ good day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

My 40-year-old Figment stuffie!

Comments

I am always excited when I see that there are comments on my blog. Sometimes, they are spam or yucky stuff that goes immediately into the trash. I don’t care too much about those because the company that does the web hosting is really good at screening for that kind of thing. Usually, I take no notice. However, I love, love, love getting “real” comments from readers. It helps me remember that there are people out there actually reading what I write and engaging with my work. Thank you all so much for your feedback and thoughts.

Comments tend to travel to me on different avenues. Sometimes, they take the direct route; the reader comments on the blog website. Sometimes, the reader will email me. Sometimes, the reader will leave a comment on my Facebook page when I post that I have published new content. Sometimes, readers that I know IRL will call, text, or talk to me in person. No matter how I get the comments, I am happy to have them.

Recently, I received a comment on the blog in a completely new way. A sweet friend, after reading my two-part blog post detailing my life through flowers, decided to order a book to be sent directly to me. The book is  Flowers Are Forever by Kathy Lamancusa. It is a series of stories and anecdotes, written by people from diverse backgrounds, about how flowers impact their lives. I have flipped through the pages and read a few of the vignettes. They are extremely uplifting and thought-provoking. I look forward to savoring each of the offerings. It also makes me happy that what I wrote reminded a reader of this sweet, lovely, feel-good book. I am sure that my friend had a wonderful, warm experience when she first read the book. I hope my blog brought her back to that precious experience in her memory. Thank you so much, Nancy- my dear, dear friend.

It really is quite a wonderful experience to get comments on the blog. It is a whole new level of wonderful when someone comments on the blog by sending a gift!

They say feedback is a gift. What is the nicest feedback you have ever received and how was it of value to you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Plant a great garden in your heart today!

Terri/Dorry 😊