The Most Thankfulest Time Of The Year

Many of you know that I post on Facebook every Thursday about the five things for which I am most thankful that week. I provide a virtual donut for anyone who joins in and shares a “thankful” to keep the gratitude game going. It is something I have done, in one form or another, for about fifteen years. While the past two years have been especially challenging for many of us, I continue to keep my thankfulness train on the tracks. I believe there is a lot for which to be thankful even in challenging times. I also believe that celebrating the thankfuls increases hope and connection. It may even burn calories. See, celebrating thankfuls DOES increase hope! False hope, perhaps, but that is something. Sometimes, false hope is all that stands between us and despair until we can feel the real hope that truly does exist in the world.

We can look back at the past year with amazement in many ways. As we approached the end of 2020, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We seemed to think that the end of 2020 would somehow magically mean the end of our national troubles- COVID, race relations, violence, divisive political wrangling, supply chain snafus, economic hardship, the disintegration of the family, and the wearing of white after Labor Day. I think we can all agree that we still face all the same troubles. On the other hand, it is heartening to see some hopeful trends foment in 2021.

Since we in the United States celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving tomorrow, I wanted to raise the bar on gratitude. In this post, I am going to share thirty thankfuls I have noticed since last Thanksgiving…one thankful for every day in November- the most thankfulest time of the year!

  1. I am thankful for the COVID vaccine.
  2. I am thankful that COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are decreasing.
  3. I am thankful that we can worship together in person.
  4. I am thankful that we can take what we have learned about virtual training and meetings to supplement in person connections, not to use instead of in person connections.
  5. I am thankful for the return of hugs.
  6. I am thankful that the economy has mostly reopened.
  7. I am thankful for Todd Payne and for his coaching.
  8. I am thankful that Gary and I have grown even closer during the challenges of the pandemic.
  9. I am thankful for the family and friends who love me no matter how neurotic I am.
  10. I am thankful that I was able to spend time with my brother and his family in California.
  11. I am thankful that I was able to visit two close friends in California.
  12. I am thankful that my brother has a treatment plan in place for his health issues.
  13. I am thankful for a wonderful trip to Williamsburg in last spring.
  14. I am thankful that I got to take virtual classes at the College of William and Mary through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program.
  15. I am thankful for a fun girls’ trip to Marco Island.
  16. I am thankful for God renewing and enriching his family through infant baptisms and adult conversions… both of which I witnessed in this past year.
  17. I am thankful for the opportunity to develop and deliver the Blessed Stewardship: A Door Of Opportunity course at my church.
  18. I am thankful for Fr. Tom Trees, Seth Peter Trees, and all the members of the stewardship committee for their assistance.
  19. I am thankful for my family at St. James Episcopal Church and the generosity with which they offer their gifts to benefit God’s people and give glory to His holy name.
  20. I am thankful that Gary and I are worshipping and fellowshipping together.
  21. I am thankful for a fun trip to Las Vegas with good friends.
  22. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit blessed our Alpha class, even in the virtual environment.
  23. I am thankful for good health.
  24. I am thankful for enough material blessings to live comfortably and, with God’s help, give a little more than comfortably.
  25. I am thankful for healthy food, clean water, pure air, and all the necessities of life.
  26. I am thankful for the demise of the rat that was living in my garage.
  27. I am thankful for a birthday blessed with so much love from around the world.
  28. I am thankful I decided to continue my blog this year.
  29. I am thankful for the wise leaders and creative visionaries in my life that help me see a way forward when times seem unmanageable.
  30.  I am a thankful to God for giving me a life blessed with opportunities to learn, grow, worship, and serve as I walk the path He set out for me… and for giving me that life in a free country that allows me to pursue that path without persecution.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Here is one more bonus thankful:  I AM THANKFUL FOR YOU!

For what are you most thankful this Thanksgiving? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Terri/Dorry 😊

Rats!! 2: The Sequel

A few weeks after my unwelcome encounter with the rat in our garage, I received an email inviting me to attend the passholder “squeak peek” of Ratatouille, the new ride in the France pavilion in EPCOT. For some reason, this seemed too good an opportunity for me to miss. Never mind that I live in terror of rat-like tails. Never mind that I had just paid vast quantities of money to rat-proof my home. Never mind that I cannot even watch a movie with rats in it without covering my eyes and cringing. I was not going to miss this very special opportunity to experience Ratatouille before the general public. I love being special. Surely, after facing my fear of an actual rat (well, kind of… the closest I got to the said ex-rat was texting a picture of its lifeless body to the critter control guy), I could sit through a ride depicting a cute cartoon rodent.

Or not. Here’s the thing. I knew the ride was based on a rat. However, I did not expect quite so many rats. I also did not anticipate that, as part of the ride “story,” the rider is supposed to be a rat. We rode in a little plastic rat vehicle through the various vignettes of the ride. Because we were supposed to be rats, the veritable armada of rats on the screens were HUGE. It was terrifying. Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by buck-toothed, mangy-looking giant rats. Maybe to the average rational person,  they were somehow cute.  Truthfully, I could not opine on what reaction normal people might have had. I was too busy keeping my eyes closed and cowering against Max to take in the nuances of what I will now always refer to as the “rat ride.”  At one point, I even screamed involuntarily, 

In retrospect, I could give the imagineers points for the premise and execution of the ride. There were too many rats, but, apart from that, the ride was clever and well-produced. The ride vehicle was innovative. I get all kinds of feels from creativity and the rat ride was certainly creative. Unfortunately, what it created within me was horror.

So, let’s review what I learned from my Ratatouille experience:

Rats are not cute.

One rat is too many rats.

Rats do not belong in a kitchen.

I can manage Mickey Mouse and Cheese, the mouse from the Tinker Bell movies, but Ratatouille is pushing my luck beyond wisdom.

“Special” does not necessarily mean “good.”

Sometimes, it is important to overcome your fears; sometimes it is important to just avoid the rats!

What amusement park ride do you avoid and why? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a magical day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

It May Take A Village, But The Village Gets Something Out Of The Deal, Too

The other day, we had two baptisms during our Sunday church service. One thing that made the occasion especially noteworthy was that the rector was baptizing his own grandchildren, ages two years and about two months. It was All Saints’ Day. The rector gave his sermon surrounded by precocious children, who he asked to help him with his message.

The whole event was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I reacted in such a profoundly joyful way in my deepest soul. It is trite and cliched to say that my heart was exploding or melting, but my heart definitely did SOMETHING quite extraordinary and dramatic during this celebration.

I am certain that part of my reaction had to do with my not having children of my own. I do not get these milestone moments in my individual experience. The regenerating joy of family milestones is one of those empty spaces in my heart. When others are kind enough to share their moments, I enthusiastically… perhaps, greedily… partake.

There is an even more significant reason I had such a profound reaction to the baptisms. The love and grace that God was pouring out that day, as He renewed His Church, was so abundant that it runneth over even the largest cup. As God graced the newly baptized children and their family, that grace overflowed right into my soul. It was a reminder that we are all family through baptism. At least for a time, I become part of the family and piggybacked on their grace. It was also a reminder that all of us in the congregation have spiritual responsibility to support their journeys of growth in wisdom, faith, and favor. In witnessing the ceremony, God also gifts us with grace, and we also take responsibility as members of God’s family.

I am teaching a course on stewardship at my church. Stewardship is about taking care of all the gifts God gives us and using them wisely for the benefit of His people and the glory of His name. We usually think of stewardship in regard to sharing the “three Ts’- time, talent, and treasure. The gifts God gives us are much more diverse than that. The baptisms are a good example.

Most people count their families- perhaps especially their children and grandchildren- as one of their most precious gifts from God. They try to steward that gift well by taking good care of their families. What they may not realize is that is also blessed stewardship when they are generous and thoughtful enough to share their children with the church as our rector’s son and daughter-in-law did. Their decision to share their children and their commitment to God with the community generated more faith-enriching power than they will ever understand.

I hope and believe that these parents also received grace in this act of stewardship. I hope they felt the love, prayer, and support of the community. I hope they felt the special power of God’s grace “when two or three are gathered.”  Some time ago, I posted a piece called Giving is FUN-damental, in which I argued that sharing what we have with others is not only noble, but also darned fun! It feels good to give and God often equips us with an extra helping of grace when we have momentum in giving. I hope that the parents of our two new Christians felt that extra helping of grace!

How do you steward God’s gifts to you? Please share your perspective by adding a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a blessed day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Melodrama In My Mind

In one of my earlier posts, Birthdays, I mentioned that I was engaged in a battle royale with myself to figure out some substantial, long-time “straight edge” issues that cause me a great deal of trouble with my emotional health. I said I would tell you more about these issues once I started figuring them out. As I sit down to write this, I am uncertain as to whether I will publish it. I am not sure that a discussion of the dysfunctional workings of my psyche will be interesting or helpful to anyone. These are all my neuroses and insecurities. Why should you have to struggle with them, too? On the other hand, I did say I would spill the tea and I am a woman of my word. It is a pickle. I decided to write it out and see if my words decide for me.

When I started sorting through all the crap in my brain that forms my decisions and perceptions about myself, I realized that there is one big, ugly, menacing issue that I have been trying to hide from myself and the world for decades. It is ironic that I try to hide from it because it is all about what people see.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, I inextricably linked value with physical beauty. My appearance is the litmus test by which I assess my value and worth in the world. I have never been good-looking. I have never been pretty, desirable, or sexy. I have never even been average-looking. I have always been overweight, under tall, and dowdy. I would say I have no shape, except that round is a shape. I truly have no waist and no neck. The various parts of my body are completely out of proportion. My skin has always been dull and mottled looking. My lips are thin and blend into my face. My eyes are not bad, but my cheeks and my glasses kind of obscure them. I have decent hair, but it doesn’t do what I tell it to do. My measuring stick of worth has become physical appearance. I fall so short, I have trouble feeling worthy of anything.

As a child, other children were often cruel because of my weight and looks. They called me unkind names and yelled at me. There were times when there was even physical bullying. This went on consistently from about third grade through high school. I did not want to upset my parents, so I carried all this hurt on my own back. I have never really downloaded it because I am so embarrassed and ashamed.

For years in my life, I believed I was the ugliest person on the face of the planet. I did make progress. I do not believe that anymore. I just believe my appearance would rank in the lowest one percentile.

I do not say all this because I am looking for pity or asking you to reassure me. It would not help. You could tell me that I am completely wrong about my level of unattractiveness, but I would not believe you anyway. To be honest, I have never really dealt with this issue because no one I have ever talked to about it took it seriously. They tend to not believe the depth and breadth of this belief within me nor understand how painful it is.

The thing is that my looks are not just my looks. I wish I could just accept that I will never be pretty and move on. I have such a sense of shame and unworthiness and fear wrapped up in my perceptions of my appearance. I truly do not want to be overdramatic, but, if I am honest, I think I do many things in my life to “make up” for imposing myself and my ugliness on the world. I want to be as little trouble as possible because my looks already mean that I am getting more than my share of generosity from people. I do not deserve to come first.

My head knows that this perception never made sense. Now, at 62 years old, it makes even less sense. Even the most beautiful people in the world usually do not look like the most beautiful people in the world once they hit their sixties.

I started this whole journey of figuring all this out as part of a coaching process I joined a few months ago. I am working with Todd Payne (Todd Payne, Life Coach (toddpaynelifecoach.com)The process is based on the enneagram. I am not going to try to explain the enneagram worldview because I am no expert. You can get better information from other sources by looking it up on the internet. Todd, the coach who is collaborating with me, is excellent. I do feel I am progressing quite rapidly in overcoming anxiety. It is a very practical approach. It has helped me strategize how to manage many specific situations. I was flying quite high over the whole thing, as I became more proficient in managing myself in stressful situations. However, I think I have just been practicing… and, perhaps, testing the coach and the process… before facing the most powerful negative forces in my life.

I finally broke the wall a couple of weeks ago. Todd asked me to contemplate what in my life has caused me to embrace the unhealthy strategies I employ in managing my life. In other words, how did these strategies occur and how have they served me over time? Truly, many of my life skills do have benefits. It is just when I apply them in an unhealthy way to inappropriate situations that I sink my spirit. Over the week I was thinking about these life situations, I felt awful. I thought of a few things- mostly easy to face- and we talked about them. I did mention the weight/looks thing, but I let it skitter to the corner of the conversation. After the conversation, I still felt unresolved and dodgy. The hopeless feeling was there. I came to a revelation, which led me to a fundamental question.

Obviously, I have struggled with this issue for decades. I believe I have grown and improved. Normally, I am now a pretty happy person. That has not always been the case. There have been times in my life when the melodrama of my mind took place on a dangerously dark stage. Today, after much maturation on my part, I do not walk out onto the dark stage very often. When I do wander onto that stage, however, it is awfully bad. My revelation was that I have not resolved my issues around body image; I have simply learned how to manage the pain they bring. The question I had for my coach was whether it was possible to actually change my perceptions completely instead of just learning to deal with the scarring… and, if fundamental change is a reasonable goal, is it too late for me?

I found the courage to revisit the coaching session, show this very damaged part of me, and ask for help, I felt terrified. It was irrational fear, but that irrational fear refused to listen to reason. I pushed it all away and avoided contemplating it until the night before the next coaching session.

I thought that my coach might try to convince me that I was wrong about how unattractive I was. I thought my coach might try to help me lose weight and improve my appearance. I thought my coach might be flummoxed by the whole issue, as others have been. What he did instead was plot out a course of how we can get me to completely change the measuring stick. Mind blown.

First, he normalized this huge, deep, dark, monster of a secret that lives in my mind by pointing out that the world is going through a huge transformation in trying to see beyond how people look- color of the skin, age, disabilities, ethnicities. He did not say body type, but I could fill in that blank. Then, we spent time talking about inherent value and God’s plan for each of us. Intellectually, of course I could understand what he was saying, but I was still having a tough time kicking the monster to the curb. What really tells the story was when he was asking me about what I wanted to be able to truthfully say about myself, I honestly could not realistically visualize any goal beyond believing I look “fine and not off-putting.”  I am still a work in progress.

We did talk about simple things to do to fight my way into the light when I feel myself pushing onto the dark stage. We also discussed that I will often just need to trust and have faith and step into life without the certainty that I will be okay. One of those things was to produce a prayer, mantra, or system of words that would remind me of my worth completely apart from physical appearance. I was not firing on all cylinders on this activity. Nothing was resonating with me.

That evening, as I puttered around in my brain, I remembered something someone had once said that made me feel very, very good. When I was received into the Episcopal Church, I was talking to the archdeacon who was coordinating the ceremony. She said to me, specifically to me, “You are a precious child of God, and we are so happy you are here.”  I adapted that message to “I am a precious child of God and I bring joy to the world.”  Immediately, I knew this is what I had to tell myself.

The next morning, I woke up feeling even worse than I had been feeling. I was dull-spirited and dull-minded. I felt completely worthless, unlovable, unattractive, undesirable, and hopeless. It did not take me long to go back to bed, where I stared through dull eyes at the walls, with no real trust that anything could ever get any better. Then, I remembered my epiphany of the night before and began to tell myself, “I am a precious child of God and I bring joy to the world.”  I truly did not believe it would work, but I was trying to follow my coach’s advice to do something just on faith.

It did not sink in right away. I said it ten or twelve times before anything changed. When I did feel the change, though, the wave of power and well-being was palpable. As I kept repeating the words, I felt better and better. My eyes were registering objects and motion. They sparked up instead of looking deadly out into space. I am sure my brain chemicals changed.

Maybe hope is possible. Maybe change is possible. Maybe killing the infection instead of just taking aspirin is possible. Maybe I am a precious child of God and maybe I bring joy to the world.

I’m not sure what question to even ask today.  I am feeling wicked vulnerable right now, so please be kind.  If any of you have ever felt the way I do, please feel free to leave a comment or email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. I’d also recommend that you think about contacting Todd Payne if you think you could use some help moving into a more joyful way of living.   

Have a day you deserve!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Rats!

Since Halloween is approaching, I thought I would use this opportunity to tell you a tale of terror that happened at my house recently.

I have always been an animal-lover. As I have discussed in the past, I have spent a lot of money to hold and touch a wide variety of animals. I enjoy visits to animal sanctuaries and zoos. I have owned cats, dogs, fish, and hamsters. To cut to the chase, I paid $100 every couple of weeks for over a year for my dog to get acupuncture treatments. That goes to show you how devoted I can be to Mother Nature’s furry friends.

Something happened recently, however, that makes me question this worldview. A rat moved into my garage.

Let me fill you in on a little of my rodent-related backstory. When I was a little girl in New York, before we moved to California when I was five, we lived next door to a vacant lot. One day, I was playing on the patio, crawling around a bamboo screen that divided the space and held up a ramada. I was enjoying myself and giggling. I think I was pretending I was invisible. I obviously was not paying too much attention to my surroundings. Before I knew it, I placed my hand on a dead rat. I went into full hysteria mode. I screamed and sobbed and could not get my breathe. I also do not remember my parents being particularly sympathetic. Maybe they were just trying to shock me into calmness, like when someone in a movie is screaming and another character slaps her. I do remember them chiding me and telling me that was what I got for crawling around someplace I did not belong.

Their response did not exactly have the desired effect. Yes, I stopped screaming in the moment, but I never stopped being afraid of rats. In fact, my fear grew and became more specific as time passed. I narrowed in on the long, scaly tail. So, you see, my terror was not rodent-related. I was able to happily manage a hamster. It was tail-related. The rat day-mare memory morphed into a fear of any animal with that kind of tail- a rat, a mouse, an opossum, an armadillo. Please do not wrack your brain to come up with any other such animals. I am not sure my constitution can take it.

A couple of weeks ago, Max noticed debris on the floor in front of our washer and dryer. He swept it up, but it was back the next day. Later that night, he went out to the garage and noticed there was a huge pool of liquid on top of the washing machine. We cleaned it up, confused as to what could have caused it. The next day, the same thing happened. Since this was becoming a recurrent theme in our home, we did a little more digging. We found out several exceptionally large holes gnawed into the plastic bottles of iced tea and soda stored on a shelf above the washer and dryer. As much as I did not want it to, the idea that something (probably something with one of those terrifying tales) was in our garage sucking down my beverage supply crept into my brain. As that kernel of an idea grew bigger and bigger, I panicked. I began to shudder and cry. I raced into the bathroom to be sick.

In horror, I remembered the last garbage pick-up day in our development. As I dragged our large trash bin back into the garage, I noticed a hole on the top lid. At the time, I thought the waste disposal folks had just damaged the bin with the lifter-upper equipment they use. Now, it was beginning to occur to me that I might have transported a creature (one with a large and powerful mouth) into my home.

I called a critter control company and the owner blithely told me we had rats. Plural. Terrific, I replied. He chuckled and explained that almost no one had one rat. He also said they were the smartest animal in the South. Apparently, our particular rat was the smartest animal in the South, including me. I had been facing growing indications of a rat renter (who did not pay rent!) for at least a week without it ever occurring to me that

I was housing one of the scaly-tailed monsters.

I took a deep breath, scooted into my car, and pulled the vehicle out into the driveway. After that, I refused to go into the garage for any reason. Max was terrific. He did the laundry. He shadowed the Pied Piper of Central Florida who came to address the problem. He took the trash out. He checked the rat traps every day. He took the photo of the rat. He bagged the deceased beast and threw him in a dumpster behind the gas station. I was having none of it. I was the Vichy government of rat tyranny. I was terrified. Max, on the other hand, was the rat resistance. He was super-pissed at that rat.

The good news is that there was only one rat. Luckily, because of the sequence of events and the extent of the debris, Mr. Pied Piper confirmed that our rat was a lone wolf… or lone rodent. Setting the traps remedied the problem within a few days. The rat is no longer suffering in this life. I should feel bad about that, but I DO NOT.

The bad news is that, after the rat was dispatched, we were having our attic reinsulated because, apparently, the house did have rats once upon a time long before it had us. Things were a bit of an ancient shitstorm up there. Blessedly, this work was to be done the week I was going to be out of town on a girls’ trip with friends. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Both partners in the critter control business contracted COVID, probably before they came and breathed on us. I had spent very little time with them, so I probably was not at any risk. Max, however, had walked the grounds with them, so there I was quite concerned about the possibility that he would develop COVID. HE did not, so that was a huge relief. At the same time, the company that was supposed to redo the attic had difficulty with their equipment and they postponed our appointment at least twice. I was nauseous the entire time there was any rat-related tasks hanging over my head. Max flew into a higher gear than I knew he had to get it done while I was out of the house because he loves me. Also, I figure he believed I would go berserk and end up in a padded room if the rat tale got extended much longer.

We are now rat-free and have a brand-new attic. The air is fresher, and I am sure we are in a healthier environment. At least, I hope we are because it cost a lot of money to remove the rat juju. It almost didn’t matter how much it cost. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Is there something that freaks you out? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a rat-free Halloween!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Wisdom

They say wisdom comes with age. I do not know if that is true. I seem to keep getting older, but I am not so sure I am getting any wiser. I would love to be able to understand myself, the world, and the world’s reaction to me with much more wisdom than I have accumulated over the past 62 years. When I was a little girl asking questions about God, faith, and life, I remember being told (probably more often than was theologically necessary) that the answer to my question was that “it” was one of the great mysteries of the Catholic faith. Maybe all these things that I struggle to understand now are also some of those great mysteries. I do not know. Nothing has happened so far to stop me trying to figure them out, though.

My birthday was the latest in this long string of “bigger thinks than my mind can manage.”  I had the most wonderful birthday ever. I did not have a lot of plans. Max and I were scheduled to go to Disney Springs for a meal at The Boathouse. We were just going to wander around, get some exercise, shop a bit, and try to score some Walt Disney World 50th anniversary merch. While this sounded like a very pleasant day, there was nothing super “birthday” about it. Our plans were similar to outings we do several times a year.

What really flipped the script, however, was the overwhelming tidal wave of affection I received from people all over the world. I am not sure what prompted such attention. Maybe it was because the last blog I published was about how I love my birthday as an opportunity to celebrate me. I had texts, phone calls, Facebook messages, cards, and presents all day long. It was not just that I received the “happy birthday” greetings. Most of the greetings were heartfelt, specific, loving, and hyperbolic in their effusiveness. I have been going through a rough patch recently, as I alluded to in my Birthdays post. I am being courageous as I navigate the crap in my cranium. I am making good progress in figuring it all out and banishing the demons… maybe for good this time. Still, it is exhausting, painful effort. The special, super-duper birthday love made such a difference. It infused me with purpose and belief in my own worth.

My peeps- including you all- are nothing short of miraculous.

I am so deeply grateful for this wonderful birthday gift, but I have to say that I am completely bewildered by it. I honestly do not understand what prompts all this emotion fixed on me. I absolutely appreciate it- maybe even need (don’t tell anybody I said that) it- but I do not understand what it is about me that motivates it. I know this positive outpouring is genuine. People wanted me to feel loved and special because they honestly believe that I am loved and special. The messages were too sincere and specific for me to think people were just being polite.

I truly believe I am nothing special, except in the way that everyone is unique and precious in God’s eyes. I feel like I have managed to fool a large number of people into believing I am something that I absolutely am not. I feel a little guilty and, also, scared. Someday, the people I have been fooling will figure out that I have duped them, no matter how inadvertently. They will remove their love, support, and respect. I will be alone with myself, exposed and ashamed. This world of love, kindness, and support that you wonderful people have created for me is an emotional Garden of Eden. Once you find out that I am not who you think I am, I will be expelled into the cruel, cold, fallen desert that is my psyche.

Yes, I am laying it on all a bit thick, but the idea is there. I wish that I had the wisdom to understand what about me is lovable. On the other hand, perhaps it is enough for now to simply believe that I am lovable. Is lovable, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? And, even if I one day find myself bereft of love and support from the world, I must remember that God’s love will always be there. Even when He removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He kept them safe in His merciful Providence.

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

Have a lovable day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

See Ya Real Soon!

I cannot let another week go by without acknowledging the 50th birthday of Walt Disney World. On October 1, 2021, a baby laughed, and my happy place was born. Oh no, wait, that is what happens when fairies are born.

Well, whatever, Walt Disney World opened its gates on October 1, 1971. I was just 12 years old. Because I lived in California (Anaheim- Disneyland’s hometown- as a matter of fact,) my family saw no great need to sojourn across the country to a swamp in central Florida to visit the new House of Mouse. In fact, there was always a certain, imperceptible disdain for Disney World amongst us original Californian Mouseketeers. We had the “real thing.”  Why would we want to go to the eastern imitation?

At least, that was my parents’ take on things. I think, deep down, I really wanted to see Disney World for myself. When I was in my twenties, my New Yorker aunt and uncle bought a mobile home in central Florida and began to winter in a town about an hour from Disney World. At that time, Disney World only included two parks- Magic Kingdom and Epcot. I went to visit my aunt and my uncle and, nonchalantly (not really) also went to visit Disney World.

I did enjoy the trip very much. I agreed with the party line in my house that the Florida Magic Kingdom was not quite as good as Disneyland in California. Epcot, on the other hand, was so wonderful. I also loved the Lake Buena Vista shopping area. It was not a perfect trip by a longshot. My aunt and uncle were not superfans. We did not eat at any of the restaurants or stay to watch nighttime fireworks and shows. I had brought $200 worth of cash with me (remember, it was the eighties and I was poor. Two hundred dollars was a veritable fortune to me). I remember hiding it somewhere safe. Unfortunately, that was as much as I did remember. Where that something safe was did not make it to the long-term memory banks. My aunt and uncle were fine lending me whatever money I needed or wanted, but every time I drew from that loan account, my aunt made a notation in her ledger (yes, an actual ledger). As a result, I was very aware of the money issue and ended up scrimping on everything. If I did not absolutely NEED it, I did not want to impose on my aunt and uncle. Luckily, I did finally end up finding the money in the airport on the way home, hidden safely away in an eyeglass case.

So, with this background, you will understand when I say that I finished my trip to Disney World with a sense that something was missing. It was a nagging feeling that I missed something. It was not FOMO (fear of missing out.) It was COMO (certainty of missing out.)  I knew my experience, while very fun, was not the experience it could have been.

Shortly after my trip, I began the descent into darkness into my marriage and divorce. Life happened personally and professionally. Other trips, expenses, experiences took precedence over my desire to take an “all in” Disney Vacation. I visited Disneyland and, later, California Adventure at least once a year. I watched all the television specials about the expansion of the Walt Disney World experience with longing but did not do anything about that longing for many, many years.

Finally, in 2003, Max and I made our first trip to Walt Disney World. It was supposed to be our “once in a lifetime” trip. We spared no expense. If we wanted to do something extra, we did it… a character breakfast, a horse and carriage ride in Port Orleans, a hotel with a phenomenal water recreation area. We planned every detail. I obsessed about doing it “right” and not missing anything important. I think the only reason I survived that planning process was that I had a friend who had just spent a couple of weeks on Disney Property when I started the planning process. It was calming to tell her what was going through my head and validate whether my thought process would line up with reality. I made such a big deal over this trip; I became almost convinced that there was no way it could live up to all my self-induced hype.

It did. And more. I cannot describe the feelings that I experienced on that trip. It was nostalgia over a place I had never been. It was a childhood I never allowed myself to have. It was a brainstorming board of exquisite creativity. It was a glitz-a-thon beauty pageant for the senses. All of the feels I had every time I went to Disneyland came rushing over me in some super-sized fashion. The tears fell down my face. My heart expanded throughout my body, settling in an awkward yet familiar place around my appendix. I know Disney pumps in various fragrances to give guests the sense that they can smell comforting aromas like chocolate chip cookies baking. Part of my brain (the part that was not impaired by joy drunkenness) wondered if they were also pumping in some nitrous oxide variant.

After our “once in a lifetime” trip, we made four more trips from California to the Most Magical Place on Earth. On the last trip, in 2012, I bought a very special souvenir. Some people buy t-shirts. I bought a house. When I retired in 2014, Max and I pulled up stakes and moved to Florida. Mickey and his friends are now our neighbors. We visit them often with our Florida resident weekday passes. I know that Disney World has enriched me in many ways. My spirit is always rejuvenated by a day at Disney. My heart is always more hopeful. My mind is more carefree. There is nothing I do not like about going to Disney World- except maybe the trip from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom. Really, the imagineers knew enough in California not to build a huge moat around the main attraction! Ferry rides aside, Disney World has certainly enriched me. I am also certain that I have enriched Disney. The Disney Corporation leaders are no fools. They sell me a ridiculously cheap annual pass, which is in essence a license to purchase. I have way more than my share of Disney swag.

At any rate, I have to say, “Happy Birthday, Disney World!”  And many more!

Who else out there is a Disnerd? Any noteworthy experiences from the 50th birthday celebration? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a magical day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Birthdays

Tomorrow, I turn 62 years old. It is my second birthday in the Land of Oblivion (otherwise known as the worldwide pandemic.)  I cannot really complain. Both birthdays have occurred in COVID “cautiously optimistic” periods. Last year, we were beginning to find ways out of lockdown and back into some semblance of life outside the home. This year, though I live in Florida, which the media portrays as a swamp of COVID infections having a rave party, the peak of the deadly delta variant cases is behind us. The numbers of new cases are still significant, but they have been declining by about 25,000 each week for the past several weeks.

I was able to celebrate my birthday at the Magic Kingdom last year. It was an oddly empty Magic Kingdom because of substantial capacity limits. Still, it was even more exciting than usual because of the deprivation of the previous five months. Also, I enjoyed being able to amble and genuinely see things that I might have missed in the past because of crowds and momentum. My expectations were extremely low that day. I frequently found myself marveling and giggling in delight over the creative ways that Disney adapted to social distancing requirements so that the magic was still there. It was just quieter magic. I’m never one to complain about quiet.

This year, we are going to Disney Springs for my birthday. As it happens, Walt Disney World is also celebrating a birthday this week. Disney World will be 50 years old on October 1, 2021…the day after my birthday. I toyed with the idea of going to one of the parks but decided the magic might be a little too loud for me right in the belly of the beast. I decided instead to buy myself a 50th anniversary magic band and have a nice dinner at the Springs.

Birthdays are big for me. Typically, I never put myself first. In fact, I put myself last. I don’t say this to sound like a saint or a martyr. I am not mad about it. In fact, it is a strategy that has worked well for me, for the most part. The problem is that when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work. I have some straight edge issues that tend to cut unbearably deep when my “put yourself last” strategy fails to hold them at bay. Right now, my brain is engaged in a battle royale about why this is so and what I can do about it. I do not intend to be mysterious. I am sure I will enlighten you further about the fascinating topic of the workings of my psyche in another blog post when I figure stuff out. For the time being, let us just say that I tend to put myself last in most situations and do not mind it.

My birthday is different, however. It is the one day of the year that I let it be all about me. In fact, I kind of insist it be all about me. I can be rather annoying about it. For many people, aging ceases to be a cause for celebration after retirement. I think growth is worth celebrating at any time. It has been critically important to me to continue to grow in retirement. Each year marks the completion of a twelve-month course on living life. I endeavor to read the textbooks, but also do the lab work so that I do feel like a birthday marks another year of a self-improvement. If I sometimes get a bit down over the aging process, I also celebrate my annual graduation to the next grade in the School of Life.

The other reason I value my yearly birthday celebration is even more important. Everyone is a unique person…” fearfully and wonderfully made,” as Psalm 139 tells us. If I am not celebrating another year of age, I can at least celebrate the wonder of my creation and the exquisite elegance of God’s plan. Even on the days when I do not see any wonder in my specific creation, I hold fast to the knowledge that God does. When I celebrate me on my birthday, I am celebrating, thanking, and glorifying my amazing Creator.

How do you celebrate your birthday? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a happy birthday or happy un-birthday, as the case may be!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

A Nice Cup Of Tea, Anyone?

I am not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, I am a cup of tea in a coffee-drinking world. And that’s okay.

The key to appreciating my oddi-tea is the willingness to play with me. This is ironic in that I did not learn how to play until I was well into adulthood. I was always a too serious, too responsible kid. I never intentionally went out to have fun. If I had fun, it was a pleasant byproduct of doing whatever was required or routine.

It was not until after my husband separated from me that I started to intentionally play. I would go to the beach and walk. I would go to amusement parks. I would craft Christmas presents for my employees. I would think up interesting and quirky themes for classes and meetings. I sang boldly (and incredibly unharmoniously) where no person had sung before. I played Toto in a skit for work comparing the three pillars of my agency’s business goals with the Wizard Of Oz. I had a Tinker Bell inspired Bippity-Boppity-Boo makeover. I have paid rather large quantities of cash to touch sloths, giraffes, rhinos, flamingos, dolphins, sting rays, elephants, skunks, tigers, and lions. I have acquired more stuffed animals, all appropriately named, than most children will see in a lifetime. At Christmas one year, I asked my brother to dig me up a large bucket of big rocks from his backyard as his present to me. Let me also say…I engaged in all of these activities without benefit of alcohol. I think that is pretty impressive, but not everyone aspires to be a four-year-old child in an elderly woman’s body.

This aspect of my personality is a bit of a disconnect for people do not know me well or who only knew me from my work persona. I am very introverted and can present myself as stodgy, timid, and ordinary. When I break open the shell, it can be a bit jarring to people around me. It is like the first time you see your grade schoolteacher in the supermarket or the first time you see your dad cry. It is just so unexpected; it seems a little suspicious.

Throughout my working career, I do not think anyone would have thought of me as an “outside the box thinker.” Most people would say that I have always been the poster child for conventionality. I would go to incredible lengths to make whatever round peg I encountered fit into the carved-in-cement square hole that existed because it always had. I remember one time when I was asked to evaluate a new process on the job. The man who oversaw implementing this new process (I’m looking at you, Geoff!) met with me to explain the goals and challenges of the new program. One of the points he made was that the computer I had was not powerful enough to do all the steps of the process. I thought for a moment and produced a radical work around that likely would NOT work around. He looked at me for a moment in disbelief and then suggested quietly, “or we could just get you a new computer.”  The idea that there might be a solution beyond the status quo was so foreign to me, I never considered the easiest answer. In those days, I found it better to stick with what I knew and make it “kinda sorta” work than to build a better mousetrap.

I am risk averse and underconfident. When the stakes of looking stupid or going off-script was the potential loss of my livelihood, I was the queen of coloring inside the lines. I did not even know that I wanted to color outside the lines. Even if I had wanted to, I do not think I would have had the faintest idea of how to begin. I was lucky enough to share friendship with several people who inspired me. I began to want to think bigger, and experiment more creatively than my normal persona allowed. It was scary to try new perspectives and activities in the tight-lipped, squinting bureaucratic world in which I worked. The seed was planted in my brain, though.

Once I retired and started recrafting my life to be more in line with my genuine self, I did start practicing with innovative ideas and new activities. I started the blog. I published two books. I produced a series of Alpha dinners for people exploring the Christian faith. I converted a curriculum designed for in-person presentation to a virtual environment. When my living did not depend on me getting everything right, it was amazing how liberating it was to “play” with new ideas.

The problem happens when I invite others to come out and play with my new ideas. Once people get to know me, I think some are tolerant and forgiving of my quirkiness. They may enjoy it. Some seem to react less positively. They view my perspective of the world as suspicious, threatening, and silly. I am okay with the “silly” part, but I put my back up over the “suspicious” and “threatening.” People can see who I am and what I propose as so revolutionary, it can feel a little threatening. I have sometimes been baffled and hurt when others try to tear down my ideas and suggestions. I cannot understand the reaction. I’ve always understood that not everyone will want to play in the sandbox with me. That is fine. What I do not understand is why people feel they must pour water in my sandbox in order to justify their desire not to play in the same way I am playing. I am okay with others playing in their own way in their own sandboxes. Often, I will join them for a time just to be sociable. It dismays me when they do not reciprocate.

I confess that, since I do not see myself as revolutionary at all, I sometimes do not manage the transition from “mild-mannered ordinary person” to “outside the box thinker” in a very graceful way.

I am learning how to set the stage, anticipate reactions, and manage the responses more effectively. I am trying to be better about acknowledging my quirks upfront and empathizing about how others will likely react. In the face of pushback, I am learning to pause and live in the discomfort of disagreement rather than to rush to convince, negotiate, or manipulate others into accepting my perspective. The biggest lesson in tea-drinking I am learning is that it is healthy to live in my own way and not allow the insecure reactions from others to make me insecure. Just because someone else thinks I am wrong in pursuing a certain course of action does not automatically mean that I am wrong in pursuing that course of action. Their reaction can be speaking much louder about how they feel about themselves than about the merits of my plans.  Or maybe they just don’t like tea.  That’s okay.  Coffee is a perfectly acceptable beverage of choice. 

Have you had the experience of feeling like you must defend yourself because your ideas are just a little off the beaten path?  How do you deal with that situation?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you may email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a total-tea wonderful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Living The Dream

I have a dream that has been recurring since I retired.  It is so vivid and realistic that I often awake in a confused, distressed state.  It takes me a minute to realize that it has been a dream and not reality.  I retired nearly seven years ago, but the dream keeps on coming several times a year.  I do not understand it.

I dream that I retired, as I did, in 2014.  However, in my dream, I decide to go back to my job shortly after retiring.  I have the sense that it is supposed to be a temporary thing.  It is not a financial decision.  I am not sure why I go back to work.  It does not feel like a completely voluntary thing.  I feel like I go back to the job because someone asked me to return “for a little while” to help with something.  The big problem is that I seem to forget that I am retired and, suddenly- months or years later- I realize I do not have to work anymore and forgot to retire again.

My feelings about the dream mystify me. Even typing these words sends a wave of terror surfing over my gut.  None of this, in the big scheme of things, is so terrible.  Say I really did go back to work for a “little while” and then kept working.  It could not have been that bad a situation because, if it was, how could I forget that I did not have to continue doing it?  All the same, the dread, grief, and fear associated with the dream are visceral.  I actually become a little sick to my stomach after the nights I dream of this scenario.

I do enjoy my retired life.  I feel liberated to be my most authentic self, warts and all.  Because I feel that liberty, I am free to acknowledge the weaker parts of myself (as well as to celebrate my own brand of joy in who I am).  What one can acknowledge, one can explore and change.  I believe I have grown more emotionally in the seven years since my retirement than in nearly any period of my life.  I am active physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I am gradually finding ways to express my creativity and pursue the activities that I really enjoyed in my old job.  There is certainly a deep fulfillment that I have found in retirement that I do not think I ever experienced.  It is not that I disliked my job or felt that my years of employment were wasted.  There were certainly aspects of my job that I found richly rewarding.  I believe my natural talents were well-used.  I learned a lot about nearly every aspect of life.  I met people who have been friends for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime.  I have no regrets.  Still, it is sort of like my work life was a long on-the-job training for the real work of my life- becoming the person God always intended me to be. 

I wish it had not taken so long for me to get to the place I am now, but it did.  I often think it would have been so much easier if I had been able to employ some of the skills and traits that have blossomed since retirement while I was still working.  My job was hard.  Objectively, my job was hard.  Subjectively, though, it was harder because of who I was and how I reacted to the world in which I worked.  For some reason, I never realized that I could change the way I reacted to the world in which I worked while I was working in it. Today, I think I have nurtured some of the skills that I had budding deep within me but that I never had the time or energy to cultivate while I was earning a living.  Maybe I’m just a slow learner.  Or maybe God just intended that I build my spirit and my relationship with Him at the speed that I have.  Whatever the answer, I am grateful for the building. 

So, going back to my dream… can anyone take a crack at what it means?  I think that, if I can figure out what is prompting me to have this recurring nightmare, I can get it to stop.  I have thought and thought.  Nothing I come up with quite rings the bell for me.  Maybe one of you can offer an explanation that will make sense. 

One of the principles I’ve tried to develop in my later life is to ask for help when I need it.  It occurred to me today that I can definitely use some help with this and that I have a perfect platform to ask for it.  So, I’m asking… what do you think my dream means?

Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a dreamy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊