The Pink Cupcake- Wayback Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarred for life.

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

Have a shiny pink day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Just Plain Growing Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe aging is not that bad.

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

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

Have a youthful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Closing The Loop- But Not The Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day!!

Terri/Dorry 😊

What To Do; What To Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a metaphysical day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Year That God Hit Pause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a contemplative day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Christmask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a holly jolly day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Smuggling And Other Homemaking Skills… Wayback Wednesday

This is one of my “Wayback Wednesday” articles I discussed in my post of 10/14/20 (Wayback Wednesday – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement.)

I was never domestic.  God knows I wanted to be.  I tried to be.  It was my fantasy of me.  Still, when striving to develop certain talents, one must consider the raw materials.  I came from a home where the “good china” meant heavy-duty paper plates and cleaning house meant company was coming. Most people have a junk drawer in their homes.  We had a whole junk room.  It was supposed to be a den or spare bedroom, but nobody ever ventured in there except to dispose of something we could not find a place to put.  Every now and then, an overnight guest would come to stay.  This spurred a massive campaign to clean out the den.  It was not a pretty sight. My mother served Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner. When it came to sewing, hemming a skirt was only about as far as things got.  I suspect they only got that far because everyone in my family was below normal height and above normal girth, so clothes were always too long.  Occasionally, my mother did attempt to sew a simple outfit for me when I was a child.  I thought they were wonderful, but my mother would rarely let me out in public wearing one. 

Our somewhat less than Ozzie and Harriet life did not bother any of us.  It might have been somewhat chaotic and unorthodox to the uneducated eye, but it was our life and we loved it.  Unfortunately, as children always learn, the world does not stop at the door to our homes.  My time of revelation came when I was forced to take 7th grade Homemaking.

Seventh grade Homemaking did not initially appear to be the devil’s work.  The curriculum ignited my burgeoning domestic desires.  We would learn everything that all twelve-year-old girls need to know- cooking, babysitting, and sewing.  I had big plans. I would cook elaborate meals for my family that did not come out of a box.  Never mind that I was an incredibly picky eater who drew the line at “chunky” peanut butter.  I would learn skills I could use to be a well-qualified babysitter.  It did occur tome that every other little seventh grade girl would have the same intensive course of study under her belt, but I was going to be different.  I was going to pay attention.  As for sewing, I was going to reverse a trauma I suffered in grade school.  My school held a mother-daughter fashion show each year.  We always attended, but I nursed a secret desire to be in the show.  This was not to be because the fashions had to be handmade and nobody in my family would be handmaking anything.  Now, things were going to be different.  I was going to be able to make a dress myself!  Even though I was doubtful that I could still appear in the grade school fashion show, I knew I would feel somehow vindicated.

We started with cooking and I soon learned that something out of a box invariably tasted better than anything I could make.  After much practice at home, I finally produced some decent baking powder biscuits.  Pillsbury far surpassed me efforts, however.  The rest of my attempts were even less successful.  The final straw occurred when our teacher insisted we make “golden nugget scrambled eggs.”  This was a bizarre concoction of eggs and orange juice scrambled together.  Even for someone with a strong stomach who actually LIKED eggs, this was a stretch.  As usual, the teacher insisted we eat what we made.  I tried to explain that I could not abide eggs, but she was having none of it.  She adamantly insisted that I at least taste the finished product. Taking a deep breath, I took a gulp.  Unfortunately, the mouth was willing, but the stomach rebelled and up came the golden nugget scrambled eggs.  The teacher, who decided that this was an obvious ploy to express my rebellious nature, took a strong dislike to me from that moment on. 

I was delighted to see the end of the cooking segment of our Homemaking class.  The next unit was babysitting.  I was chagrined to learn that most of the babysitting segment consisted of decorating and filling a “babysitting box.”  I used wallpaper samples to cover a cardboard box that I filled all kinds of treasures- a sock puppet, picture books, blocks, and other fun things little children might enjoy.  Strange though it may sound, the existence of this babysitting box did nothing to improve my earning capacity that I could see.  In my older and wiser days, I questioned why my babysitting box did not include band-aids, bactine, and snakebite anti-venom.  Still, the babysitting segment of the class was a benign respite in my pre-pubescent hell of 7th grade Homemaking.

The final straw in my homemaking career was the sewing unit.  It was during this unit that I first discovered my difficulty with visual reasoning.  Let me digress a moment while I rail about the misunderstandings people have about gender stereotyping.  Some people think that when a girl-type person says she isn’t mechanical, she is succumbing to sexism and is just not mechanical because society has determined that mechanical jobs are “men’s work.”  Not so.  Mechanical things can also be “women’s work.” Take, for example, sewing.  Please.  Take sewing and throw it in a river.  The basic skill necessary to “being mechanical” is good visual reasoning.  The mind must be able to get around the concept of what stuff is supposed to look like and how it compares to pictures and what might happen if this piece is shifted from here to there.  Laying out pattern pieces on fabric is definitely a mechanical activity.  Try as I might, I could not figure out what to do with these diaphanous pieces of tissue to recreate the pictures on the pattern instructions.  Heck, forget laying out the pieces of the pattern.  I could not get past how to fold the material.  People demonstrating and telling me to “do it like this” were of no use to me.  I stared miserably as my hands, as if they were somehow divorced from the rest of me and I had no power to manipulate them.  It was as if someone were to ask me how to read Shakespeare in Portuguese.

Somehow, I eventually got the cloth folded, the pattern laid out, and the pieces cut for the mandatory gathered skirt with the elastic waist.  I suspect there was Divine Intervention.  The next challenge was negotiating the actual use of a sewing machine.  Four little twelve-year-old girls were assigned to each sewing machine.  It strikes me that twelve-year-old girls are not known for their ability to work cooperatively to the mutual good.  While twelve-year-old girls tend to run in packs, their loyalty is to the pack, not to any Miss Nobody the teacher tries to incorporate into the pack.  The concept that four little girls would each get a chance to operate the sewing machine during a 45-minute class period just was not realistic.  If you figure that there was a five-minute timeframe to start the class and a five-minute period to wind down the class, that left 35 minutes to actually sew, or 8.75 minutes per girl.  It might have been an opportunity to teach the beauty of teamwork and collaboration, but instead it was an opportunity to teach outright bitchiness.  Not being a very assertive child, I did not often get the opportunity to use the machine at all.  Also, I do not mean to come across as a conspiracy theorist, but it seems suspicious to me that the bobbin always needed to be threaded when I finagled a turn on the sewing machine.

Day after day passed excruciatingly and unproductively.  My skirt remained two fragments of neon green cloth, printed with happy faces that stared up at me accusingly (in was, after all, the ‘70s!) in mute reproach.  Every morning, I would tell myself that this was to be the day that I would succeed in sewing the pieces together.  Every afternoon, I left school in a deflated and dejected state.  As the due date for the project approached, I became more and more morose. I was positive my entire academic career would be ended right there in seventh grade.  I could see myself being denied college admission for failing Homemaking.  I considered throwing myself on the teacher’s mercy, but I was quite sure that, after the golden nugget scrambled egg incident, she would not be likely to cut me any slack.

At home, I was overcome with what a disappointment I was to my family.  I was sure I would be inflicting massive humiliation on my parents.  After all, who wants to tell people that your daughter flunked out of school because she could not sew a gathered skirt with an elastic waist?  I fussed and worried each night about how I was going to break the shameful news of my imminent failure. 

One night, my mother heard me crying in my room.  She asked what could possibly be so wrong.  In my own dramatic fashion, I blurted out the whole story.  Curiously, my mother did not seem to understand the gravity of the situation.  She suggested I bring the skirt home and let her help me with it.  When I explained we were not allowed to take the project out of the classroom, my brilliant mother came up with another idea.  She suggested we go to the store, buy some more of the hideous happy face fabric, and make a whole new skirt.  For the first time in weeks, I thought I had a prayer of making it through the seventh grade.

The next night, we bought the new fabric and began work on the skirt.  After only a few moments, my mother saw how impossible the situation was. While she was too kind to scream in frustration or hint at her dismay, she was a very bright woman and I have to believe she recognized that the skirt would never be completed if she allowed me to keep working on it.  She took over the project.  She is a woman of conscience, so felt compelled to explain every step to me.  I nodded a lot and gratefully tried to look like I was learning something. 

The next hurdle was to decide how to get the skirt into class the next day.  As I was not supposed to take the unfinished garment out of the classroom, how was I going to get the finished garment into the classroom?  My mother stuffed the skirt into a brown paper bag and told me to just take it to class.  The next day, I contemplated how to do this surreptitiously.  I ended up wrapping the skirt and my jacket around each other into a ball and furtively separated them when I got to my seat.  No one paid any attention.  Now, I realize my mother was much wiser than I.  She knew no one else would either notice or care.  She suspected, quite correctly, that even the teacher would be relieved and grateful that the problem was solved. 

Even though I did not learn to sew in seventh grade Homemaking, I learned many other lessons.  First, I learned how to smuggle.  Secondly, I learned that there are many ways to approach problems and that there is more virtue in succeeding with someone else’s help than failing on your own.  Thirdly, I learned that it is okay that there are tasks that some of just are not cut out to do and we rarely rise or fall in life based on the ability to do one thing.  Lastly, and most importantly, I learned that my mother loved me very much.  I never did learn to learn to sew in the years of my life, but I have never forgotten how much my mother loved me.

So how do you like Wayback Wednesdays?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a wistfully wonderful Wednesday!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Growing Old Together In The Old South

Recently, Max and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in Savannah, Georgia.  Neither of us had been there previously, so it was a new chapter in our book of shared adventures.  In fact, we have never visited a place channeling the antebellum south before this trip to Savannah.  We both love history, but we have never been south of Williamsburg, Virginia. 

But wait, you may say… don’t you live in Florida?  Is there anyplace in the USA that is more south than Florida?  Before I lived in Florida, I would have had the same reaction.  In fact, it used to confuse me that the Miami Dolphins do not play in the AFC South division.  Again, how much more South can you get than Miami?  And every team that is in the AFC South division plays in a city north of Miami.   The Dolphins do play in the AFC East division, which I guess makes the same argument.  How much more East can you get than Miami? 

In reality, I think that the traditional South is a bit suspicious of Florida.  We Floridians are a different breed.  When you think “Florida,” I am not sure you think of sprawling, lazy plantations and oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.  I am okay with that.  I am not sure that the residents of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, or the Carolinas necessarily are.  Those of us who live in Florida must work harder to get a southern card. 

But I digress.  This blog is about our trip to Savannah, which is probably the most culturally southern city in the nation.  It is beautiful. Just being in Savannah was soul food.  Even though we did not invest substantial time on our trip visiting tourist attractions or engaging in outdoor recreational activities, we definitely vacated real life and lived in a different world for a few days.  The mood and atmosphere of Savannah is enriching.  The city just drips with culture and history like fresh biscuits drip with honey.  Walking around the squares and riding around on a sightseeing trolley is enough to allow that honey to stick Savannah to your fingers. 

It was different kind of trip for us.  Typically, when we vacation, we go to amusement parks, visit museums, see shows, and immerse ourselves in scheduled activities unique to our destination.  We have a great time, but we are definitely tourists.  I think we rarely experience much of our vacation destination’s real life.  I’m okay with that.  I like being a tourist. Max and I are not very adventurous, so it is comforting to fold ourselves into a planned and scheduled tourist culture when we travel rather than risk the trials and tribulations of real life.  We both also tend to be rather anxious people, concerned about making sure we do the “right” things and get the most out of a trip.  If we live as true tourists while we are in a strange city, we will probably manage to experience all the “important” famous sights.

On the other hand, sometimes it is better simply to be than to do.  In Savannah, we rented a beautiful old Victorian mansion from a private owner instead of going to a hotel.  We walked down the block several mornings to a popular local coffee shop for a beverage and pastry.  We went to a normal regional mall the day the weather torpedoed any kind of outdoor activity and compared the department store in Savannah to the same one in the mall in our town.  We strolled around Forsyth Park, petting neighborhood dogs and smiling at babies enjoying outings in jogging strollers.  One of my favorite stops on our travels around the city was a local jewelry store.  It was not famous.  It was not a traditional tourist attraction. I did not even buy anything except a Christmas tree decoration, as the store was too rich for my blood.  I still spent a very pleasant hour or so there- looking at pieces, trying them on, chatting with the friendly store manager.  In another situation, in another location, I might have felt awkward about the encounter as soon as I realized that I would not be purchasing any of the beautiful pieces the manager showed me. I am sure that the manager realized, after seeing my reaction to a few price tags, that I was not a serious buyer.  Still, she seemed to genuinely enjoy spending time with me, talking about our shared taste in jewelry, and examining the artistic, one-of-a-kind items.  She was more like a museum curator, passionate about sharing her collection with a visitor, than a salesperson.  I almost sent her a thank you note when I got home. 

Then there was the food.  Of course, we do enjoy dining out on every vacation.  Rarely, though, do I think of the food as a major factor in a vacation.  For one thing, I am a picky, unadventurous eater so unique regional food does not thrill me.  For another thing, we are usually so busy on vacations that we tend to eat around other planned activities rather than building our day around a restaurant.  In Savannah, food tended to be a marquis attraction each day.  From our coffee shop to the famous diner featured in the movie Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, we ate superbly satisfying food.  The diner, though famous and able to attract customers because of its movie association, still had a healthy local trade… because the food was absolutely delicious.  I never knew pancakes could taste so heavenly.  We had our anniversary dinner at The Old Pink House restaurant.  The whole place was gorgeous and sublime.  The service was remarkable.  The food absolutely pole-vaulted over any expectations I might have had.  The first thing I noticed about the food was that it was like I had died and gone to Bread Heaven.  They served three different kinds of bread fit for royalty.  I would have been over the moon if I had just eaten bread.  I did not just eat bread, however.  I ate way more yummy salad, fried chicken, and green beans than my capacity to consume calories could handle.  Then, just because, we had dessert.  It was some sort of unlikely concoction of praline candy woven into a basket, filled with ice cream, caramel, guava jelly, and berries.  It was a burst of joy in my mouth.  I would say we only ate about a quarter of what was put in front of us, despite how wonderful it was.  There was just that much food. 

All in all, it was a fantastic way to celebrate our twenty-five years together.  Our twenty-five years together has been special and satisfying and sweet and spectacular in many ways.  Part of what has made our time together so mutually rewarding and supportive is the comfort that our traditions and shared memories provide.  We fit together well because we do approach things, even vacations, in similar ways most of the time.  Because we do tend to be a bit anxiety-prone, we love that we can enjoy sameness together.  Going on vacations that are planned, scheduled, and familiar helps us keep anxiety at bay and allows us to enjoy ourselves without stress. 

On the other hand, after twenty-five years, it is good to shake things up a bit.  I don’t see us ever falling off our foundation, but it is good to know that we can survive and thrive while exploring new adventures in new ways.   As we celebrated a milestone anniversary, marking a quarter of a century of shared history with each other, in Savannah, I realized that our couplehood is more versatile and adaptable than I realized.  Growing old together in the old South showed me that sometimes you must ease the grip on old memories to make new ones. 

Do you tend to go to the same places on vacation or are you more apt to pick a new place each time? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternate, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Me standing outside waiting for the trolley in Savannah
fountain at Forsyth Park
gazebo in one of Savannah’s beautiful squares
St. John the Baptist cathedral
All I could afford at the beautiful jewelry store I visited

Have a bright shiny new day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

A Turkey Of A Year

As Thanksgiving approaches, it might be a little hard to get our thankful on this year.  With a worldwide pandemic dogging us since the end of 2019, civil unrest, economic crisis, a hurricane season that appears to be never-ending, fires and other natural disasters scorching the earth, and all the accompanying tragedies, it might seem tempting to cut our losses and just forget about the holiday this year.  Giving thanks might take a little more grace than usual this Thanksgiving.

Undoubtedly, the holiday will be different for many people this year.  Many people will not be gathering with family face-to-face, as they usually do.  Many traditional venues for holiday celebrating may be closed or operating much differently.  Many families who have suffered financial hardships this year may be struggling to provide peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, much less turkey dinners with all the trimmings.  Many people have lost beloved family members and friends to the coronavirus.  Others have lost good health.  We have all lost a certain measure of stability and security about what our world looks like and how we should live in it. 

While it may seem more natural to question the dismal state of the world than to give thanks, it may be that living through a period of crisis actually increases our need to give thanks.  I do not suggest that the coronavirus or any of the deeply troubling events of the past year are good or necessary.  I do not believe that there is an intrinsic goodness in hardship.  I do not subscribe to a “Pollyanna” school of thought, believing that people who are suffering should just “try to see the bright side.” I believe that hardships, gut-wrenching grief, and brokenness are real.  It is disingenuous to suggest a person can just “positive” them away.  These difficulties occur for a variety of reasons in the natural world.  Sometimes, these painful events are the consequences of the actions of people.  Sometimes, they are normal experiences that are natural processes happening in the circle of life.  I do not think we will ever understand the reasons for all the hard times we must face.  I do believe, however, that God takes the hardships of our lives and brings some good from them.  Without these momentary flutters of divine grace in the midst of our pain, we might not be able to bear the most fractured moments of this life. 

I have seen some divine grace moments over the past months.  They are like fleeting twinkles of stars in a dark, gloomy sky.  This year has sometimes felt like we were each all alone in the dark.  Having even a momentary twinkle is enough to keep me hoping for morning. 

Here are some of my twinkles this Thanksgiving:

  • I am thankful for the creativity, innovation, and hard work many people exhibit to help us live more comfortably and communally in a world that closed up shop.
  • I am thankful that people have used the time of separation to touch base with others.  It may be that some of the people we have been nurturing during the quarantine may be people who are often lonely and sad, even before the virus threat.  It is counterintuitive, but it is possible that the coronavirus connected us more than it separated us.
  • I am thankful for the generosity of people to those who have suffered financially during this past year.
  • I am thankful that the need to stay home gave me the time to publish a new book.
  • I am thankful for the quiet and comfort of my home. 
  • I am thankful that I was able to clean out all my closets and drawers.
  • I am thankful that the treatment protocols for COVID-19 have improved and that vaccine progress is hopeful.
  • I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in faith who hold me close to their hearts and inspire me with their journeys.
  • I am thankful for the internet, Zoom, email, texting, Facebook, and other virtual communication methods.
  • I am thankful that I will have a Thanksgiving dinner, even if it is not exactly like previous years.
  • I am thankful that God gave me blessings to share with others.  I am so much more aware of how much fun it is and how happy it makes me to sow God’s grace. 
  • Most of all, I am thankful that I am a beloved child of God. I can rely on his all-consuming love to comfort me in the heartbreaks of this life and to lead me to eternal joy in His presence when I am finished with the work He has for me to do. 

It certainly may be that giving thanks will take a little more grace this year.  The good news is that God always has more grace to provide.  Anyone want a second helping?

I don’t know if you caught that I was thankful that I had the opportunity to publish a book this year. If television commercials are to be believed, it seems the entire month of November is “black Friday” this year. In that spirit, I respectfully suggest you go to Amazon.com and buy many copies of Random (A)Musings by Dorry Curran to give as holiday gifts!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Terri/Dorry 🙂