The Cheese Stands Alone

I recently enrolled in an online writing class. The class assignments include a requirement to submit two personal essays during the eight weeks of the course. The instructor and other students critique the pieces the participant submits. The student can elect to either submit two separate essays or to revise the first submission based on the class feedback and submit the “new and improved” version for the second opportunity.

For my first submission, I used an essay based on the blog piece I posted here- Sand, Sea, and Sadness ( Sand, Sea, And Sadness – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement )– about my trip to the beach the day after my brother died. There was a lot of feedback from the instructor and the students, which I took under advisement and considered in submitting my second piece- the revision of my first essay. I honestly do not know which version I like better. They are quite different, although they relate to the same event and same family dynamics. It was an interesting exercise.

One piece of feedback that kind of threw me was that the class believed my ending was “too pat” and “too neat and tidy.” The general feeling of the critique-ers was that I suggested that simply remembering the good episode with my brother at day camp allowed me to come to terms with grief and resolve my feelings. If I suggested that, my bad. Of course, one memory and one trip to the beach did not punch my grief ticket. My point in the ending of the blog post was simply that the trip to the beach and the memory allowed me to start the grieving process more elegantly and effectively. I expect that I will be grieving and remembering and processing emotions around my brother’s death for the rest of my life. This is one reason that I have continued to share blog posts about my trip and the misadventures I experienced. The grief process is very much still in my mind and in my heart. Even the blog posts that have a comic framework are a way of working through my feelings about my brother and his death. Maybe I am just not ready yet to relate anything even a little bit profound about this experience. I have not found the profundity of losing my brother in a way I can articulate yet.

However, there is a serious issue related to my brother’s death that I want to share in this blog piece. I am now the last of my birth family standing on this side of the Great Divide. My father died in 1996. My mother died five years ago this past September 2. My brother died on July 28, 2022. My brother’s death was not just about losing my brother. My brother’s death caused a tearing away of the last tangible thread I had to my family of origin, my childhood, the hopes I had for my life that never materialized, my youth. Don’t get me wrong. I have a great life and I am incredibly grateful for everything I have. It is just that my life today is not anything like what I pictured when my world was my parents and my brother and me living on the corner of Cerritos and Perdito in Anaheim, CA. Also, as an adult, I see that the world I knew then was not even the world I thought it was at the time… and now, never can be.

While I was in California, I took a sentimental journey. I drove past the house where I grew up. I drove past the church we attended. I drove past my old elementary, junior high, and high schools. I cruised down the streets where the neighborhood children played late into the evening on extended summer days. I stayed in Hemet, where my brother lived. My mother and father, and later just my mother, lived in Hemet for many years, as well. Everything in Hemet and in Anaheim looked so foreign and far away from any relevance to me. Bars and fences on all the schools. A new addition on the house. The church building looked small and lonely. The storefronts did not look the same as I remembered in either Anaheim or Hemet. Even the mobile home park where my mother lived before she moved to Florida was completely different- new owners, new name, and a new sign. I almost missed it completely as I tooled down the main highway.

Finding yourself the only one left is disorienting. I looked online for some context for what I was feeling and found that my perspective is common, though not discussed very frequently. Society, in general, tends to concentrate more on the grief of widows, widowers, parents, and children. There is an unspoken idea that, somehow, the grief of a sibling is not “that bad.” I do not know about that. I am sure it is more about the emotional relationship than the biological relationship. Besides, as someone once told me, “Comparing is despairing.” Nobody needs to win the misery lottery to suffer with grief. The grief of a sibling is as legitimate as any other. It can be quite complex, as well, because sibling relationships are often fraught with difficult emotions. Spouses choose each other. Parents choose to have children. Children may not choose their parents, but, at the very least, children understand that their parents are necessary to their lives. Friends choose each other. Sibling relationships are the only ones where the parties have absolutely no choice in the creation of the relationship.

When the difficulty of losing a sibling combines with the isolation and disorientation of finding yourself as the cheese standing alone in the world, it can be even more difficult. I found myself struggling with that realization the whole time I was in California. I did a lot of sobbing when I was alone, mourning for everything I saw that was not what I remembered it being. There is a lot I could say about what exactly I was mourning. There is a lot I could say about the regret and guilt. There is a lot I could say about disillusionment. There is a lot I could say about when and how I learned to live as myself instead of simply as the oldest child in the Goodness family. And, certainly, how scared I am that maybe I never did learn that. I am just not sure how to talk about any of that yet. As the people in my writing class pointed out, grief does not resolve so neatly.

This trip was about saying good-bye. Yes, it was about saying good-bye to my brother. But it was also about saying good-bye to the me I used to be, the me I thought I was, and the me I dreamt I would someday be. The good news is that saying good-bye to those “mes” may open the door for greater acceptance and appreciation for who I actually am.

In losing someone close to you, have you ever realized you were losing more than just that person? What was that experience like for you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a fresh start today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Scattering The Ashes

I had a few missions in mind when I went to California after my brother Ernie’s death. The most important and most exotic one involved scattering some of his ashes. I have put off sharing about this because it is the most bizarre aspect of my trip. Grief is complicated and I sure I will be navigating pathways into the emotions for some time. Right now, talking about this last strange service I did for my brother seems a little tender.

The only thing Ernie ever mentioned about life after his death was that he wanted his ashes scattered in the river of the jungle cruise ride at Disneyland. And not in “fucking Florida,” as he called it. He only wanted the real thing- Disneyland in Anaheim. He never quite forgave me or Florida for moving his mother away from him. My sister-in-law and I wanted to honor his last wish, within reason. We knew that scattering all his ashes in the drink at Disneyland was not in the cards, but I thought we could get away with a couple of tiny Ziplock baggies of cremains. Distribution of any amount of ashes is against Disney rules.  However, I learned- when my mother died, and I scattered some of her in multiple locations at Disney World- that it is not so hard to do if one is determined. My sister-in-law and I were determined.

The entire process of scattering ashes at the jungle cruise ride was not an easy one. My sister-in-law has mobility issues with her knees and feet. It is hard for her to walk. My step-niece is developmentally disabled and has difficulty with coordination and with managing the hyperstimulation of crowds. These issues did not portend a smooth Disney experience. I knew that there were going to be tactical challenges, so I tried to devise a plan to minimize the burden. Because that is what I do.

I dropped my sister-in-law and her daughter off at the Uber location the evening of our mission. I suggested that they walk to the entrance of the park while I went to the parking lot and took the bus back. I left them walking down the primrose path from the Uber drop-off to the front gates while I drove down the street about ¾ of a mile to the first parking lot I found. As it turned out, that parking lot was closed, and the cast member directed me to one about three miles further down the road. When I got to that parking lot, I parked in row nine. The bus to the park picked up at row thirty-two. I could not even see the bus stop from my vantage point, but the parking attendant assured me it was “over there.” As I began my trek amongst the vehicles, I thought of a potential problem.  The two tiny Ziplock bags of ashes were in my backpack. It occurred to me that, should Disney security search my backpack, they were going to find two baggies of fine white powder. Probably not a good thing. I took the baggies out of my backpack and stuffed them in my bra.

My sister-in-law called to find out where I was because this process was taking longer than she believed possible. I explained that I was en route to the bus and would see her when I got there. She told me that she and my step niece were at the gates. When I finally arrived at the park entrance, I, of course, could not see them. I called her and asked where they were. She told me they were directly across from the stroller rental. I explained that I was right outside the stroller rental place; if I screamed, I am sure an employee would hear me inside the stroller rental stand and would rush to render me assistance. Then, I thought to ask if she was standing up or sitting down and she replied they were sitting down. I looked around for a bench and, indeed, they were directly across from the stroller rental place- about two hundred yards across from the stroller rental place.

Ultimately, we made it into the park. The timing was less than ideal. The electrical light parade was getting ready to start. Oceans of people were tiding from every corner of the park to wash up on Main Street. We were trying to go from Main Street to Adventureland- obviously going against the current. Pre-parade crowd herding is a special skill that Disney cast members learn early on in their magical careers. The bottom line is that the cast members must make sure people are either gathered in the stationary parade viewing areas or continuing to move consistently down the sidewalks. My sister-in-law was having trouble with the continuous moving part. I had suggested a wheelchair, but she declined. I think she thought better of that decision about ten minutes after we started our trek to Adventureland. Because of her mobility issues, she had to stop and rest every few minutes. My step niece did great, but it was obvious that the crowds distressed her. From the Disney cast members’ perspective, we were something of a hazard. They were extremely nice and polite, but the message was still “Keep Moving.”

With fortitude, we did continue to “keep moving.” Finally, we reached the jungle cruise ride. Since everybody and their great-aunt Matilda was on Main Street waiting for the parade, the line for the ride was blessedly short. We got in line, and all was going fine. Until we arrived at the staircase right smack in the middle of the line. I knew this would be Waterloo for my sister-in-law and step niece. I asked the conveniently located cast member if there was an elevator. She directed me beyond a rope outside the regular line. There seemed to be a second line, which we joined. Another cast member explained that this line was for people with disability passes. He sent me over to the jungle-cruise-disability-pass-issuing kiosk. I left my two companions there and hiked back over to the front of the regular line. The nice lady there tried three times to issue me disability passes and get me a time to return to the “special” line. Unsuccessfully. Finally, she gave up and just escorted me back to the disability line and vouched for me.

As we waited in the disability line, I noticed something disturbing. In the jungle cruise boats, riders sit on a bench that goes around the perimeter of the vessel. There is an additional bench in the middle of the boat to accommodate more passengers. I noticed that the cast members were putting people in the disability line on the center bench. This was messing with my whole strategy. I based my whole approach to this ash-scattering process on a simple principle. I honestly believed that people leave bits and pieces of loved ones on Disney property all the time. I think Disney employees often realize it is happening, but will politely turn the other way as long as the ash-scatterer does not flaunt their actions (or the ashes) in the cast member’s face. I had planned to stealthfully dump a little bit of cremains over the side of the boat when the skipper was too engrossed in his patter to notice. I did not see tossing handfuls of cremains across the boat as being stealth in any way, shape, or form. I think tossing handfuls across the boat would reasonably constitute “flaunting.” Luckily, after they loaded us onto the center bench, they let us move to the perimeter of the boat before loading people from the regular line. We were able to sprinkle our little baggies of ashes without drawing attention… and my brother now has an amazing view of the back side of water for all eternity.

Having accomplished our mission, we needed to reverse the process to get out of the park and back to the car. As we passed the restroom, we made a quick pit stop. When I got out of the restroom, the parade was underway. Tinker Bell was passing by, waving her wand, and smiling at the crowd. I chose to believe she was smiling specifically at me.

Have you ever had an experience that was quite stressful at the time, but was actually pretty comical when you look back at it after some time has passed? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have an adventurous day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

She Who Travels The Fastest Travels Alone

A week or so after my brother Ernie died, a package arrived at my front door. It was a painting created by Robert Holton. I used to go to high school with Robert and he is now a professional artist ( I have a couple of his pieces, but I did not remember ordering anything from him. It turned out that my brother, months ago, contacted Robert about creating something special for me for my birthday in September. He asked Robert to create a painting of the street sign at the intersection where we grew up in Anaheim, California. Robert and Ernie collaborated to design the painting, but Robert was surprised when Ernie stopped responding to him about timeframes and such. When Robert learned that Ernie had died, he completed the painting and sent copies to me, my cousin Raymond (who spent some of his young adult years living with us at the house at this intersection), and my sister-in-law Diane.

I loved the painting, but seeing it cracked the retaining wall around my emotions concerning my brother’s death. The fact that my brother had thought of me and wanted to do something so sweet for me certainly triggered complicated emotions. The biggest takeaway, though, was that he did genuinely love me and appreciate me. When I saw the painting, I could feel sixty plus years of emotion rising in my body. I slowly began to sob. Once I started, it was hard to stop.

Days later…

I left Orange County, Florida, on a plane bound for Orange County, California. My main mission was to take my sister-in-law to retrieve my brother’s ashes from the cremation company, create and emcee a dinner at my brother’s favorite restaurant for some well-loved people (some via Zoom and some IRL), and then scatter some of Ernie’s ashes in an exotic way. I will explain more about how these goals played out in a later post, but I first want to share one noteworthy aspect of my trip.

When I arrived in Orange County, California, there was no sign of my suitcase. I was not the only one searching for luggage and, by the mountain of unclaimed suitcases erected beside the Southwest baggage services office, it had been a bad day indeed for suitcases. I joined the line of people waiting to report a missing bag, congratulating myself on my relative calm. When I reached the front of the line, the assistor advised me that my suitcase was still in Denver. Although I had a layover in Denver for almost two hours and had plenty of time to make my connecting flight, my suitcase apparently did not. The assistor told me that the bag was in Denver and was expected to arrive in around three hours. She said that they would call me when the bag arrived.

I devised a plan on the spot. During this trip, I was going to spend several days in Hemet, which is beyond the delivery reach of the Orange County airport. I planned to spend my final day with my friend Judy in Laguna Niguel, which was only about fifteen miles from the airport. My original plan was to have dinner with Judy before making my way out to Hemet and then would return to spend the last day of my trip with Judy before coming home. I decided to have the suitcase sent to Judy’s. I would skip dinner with Judy that evening and, instead, go to Walmart to purchase three days’ worth of clothes and toiletries, and then go to Hemet. The suitcase and I would be reunited on the last day of my trip when I got to Judy’s… just in time to go home with me.

After I called Judy and explained the situation, I kicked myself for not choosing a different route. Since the airport lady told me the suitcase was expected within three hours, I could have gone to have dinner with Judy and then come back to the airport to pick it up before driving out to Hemet. As it turned out, I am glad this option did not occur to me until I was wandering around Walmart. The suitcase had very different plans.

Buying clothes at Walmart turned out to be more of a challenge than I would have anticipated. At the end of August, summer is over as far as Walmart is concerned. The clothes in prominent display featured long sleeves, denim, and sweatshirt fabric. It was 106 degrees in Hemet. The autumn/winter line of Walmart attire was clearly not going to work. I shoved my way through the clearance racks, looking for items that would fit, would go together, and would not cause me to have heat prostration. I steered myself towards dresses to solve the problem of “going together.” There were clearly no pieces left that went together. It took me about an hour, but I did end up finding three summer weight dresses that I could wear over the next few days. Two of them were the exact same dress in different colors, but I was not being too fussy.

When I reached the hotel in Hemet, the predicted 3 hours to get “eyes on” my suitcase had come and gone with no phone call or email. I was so tired that it didn’t really register with me. The next morning, I checked for phone calls and emails, but there was not a peep from Southwest. When I got out of the shower and dressed in my new Walmart clothes, my phone rang. It was the Southwest rep at Orange County airport, calling to tell me that they had no idea where my suitcase was. What a crappy job. I could hear the poor woman holding her breath, obviously dreading my reaction. We talked about the options and decided to give the suitcase one more day to get to Orange County before giving up and directing it back to Orlando if it was ever heard from again.

That evening, I was sitting in the car with my step niece while my sister-in-law made a quick stop at Target. My phone rang. The person on the other end of the line said, “This is Lily at Southwest Airlines in Long Beach. I was just calling to tell you we still had your bag.” At first, I was ecstatic that Southwest had found my bag, but then I realized there was a subtext to this call. “Uh, okay,” I responded. “So, what do I do now?” Lily answered in a polite if bewildered manner, “You can pick it up at any time of your convenience.”

Hmmm… Long Beach is about fifty miles from the Orange County Airport and about hundred miles from where I was sitting in Hemet. “Uh, no. I am not in Long Beach,” I explained.

It took Lily a couple of minutes and me a minute longer than that to realize what was happening. Lily was not calling in response to the “lost luggage” report I submitted at the Orange County Airport. She was calling because they had this random suitcase sitting at the Long Beach Airport and the baggage claim people had no idea why I had never picked it up after my flight. When we ascertained that I had not been to Long Beach, wasn’t scheduled to go to Long Beach, had no expected layover in Long Beach, and had no plans to go to Long Beach, Lily had a couple of options to explore. She told me that she would have to check to see if their luggage delivery company would go as far as Laguna Niguel to leave my bag with my friend. If not, they would put my suitcase on the next flight scheduled to stop at Orange County (a scant fifty miles away) and then have the Orange County luggage delivery company bring the suitcase to my friend’s house. That option sounded sketchy to me and, also, unlikely to produce my bag before I left to go home to Orlando.

Lily called me back an hour or so later to let me know that the Long Beach luggage delivery company could deliver my suitcase to Laguna Niguel that evening but would be pounding on my friend’s door at midnight to do so. We decided to wait until the next day. All went well after that. I did get to reunite with my suitcase the day before I went home. I barely cracked it open. I don’t know why I bothered with all that pesky packing.

Rudyard Kipling wrote, “He who travels the fastest travels alone.” I don’t think by “alone” Mr. Kipling meant without his suitcase.

My sister-in-law was talking to me about how much she missed my brother’s sense of humor. She said, “like this whole business with your suitcase… it sounds exactly like something he would have done to mess with you.” I thought about that and agreed he did enjoy pranking, but I was still stuck on why Ernie would have reached out from the Great Beyond to send my suitcase to Long Beach, of all places. Then it hit me. Where did we live when we first moved from New York to California? Long Beach.

Robert Holton’s beautiful picture of the street sign of the intersection where I grew up
The actual street sign

So what is your luggage tale of woe? Did Walmart make some money off you, too? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a well-packed day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Mourning With A Side Of Covid

I recently returned home from a quick trip to California to celebrate my brother’s life. It was an intensely emotionally trip. I will share some of what the trip was like and what I learned in future posts. It was wonderful to come home. Even though I came home with Covid.

On my last full day in California, I noticed a slight tickle in my throat. The day before had been about three years of stress wrapped up in a single 24-hour period, so I did not think too much about it. After all, I had navigated some tricky and perilous emotional ground in the preceding two days. It made sense that I would not feel my best. No one could blame me for being physically depleted. I had been vaccinated and boosted twice. I masked during my flight to California. The pandemic has been going on for two and a half years and, although nearly everyone I know has had the disease in at least one of its iterations, I have managed to avoid contagion. I’ve had fairly strong reactions to each of my injections- implying my body was building some pretty kick-ass antibodies. My mindset was firmly set on “I’m freakishly immune to Covid.”

However, by the time I was on the plane coming home, I had a crisis of confidence. It was getting harder not to cough. My throat was officially sore. I wondered if I perhaps had strep, although I had a sneaking suspicion that the Covid germs had finally found a home in me. In addition to the mask, I ate cough drops like peanuts and kept my face as far away from my neighbors as possible. When I finally arrived at my front door, I fell into bed but could not sleep well because the pain in my throat was making me too uncomfortable. Also, it is difficult to cough without waking oneself up.

The next morning, I went to the store, fully masked and holding my breath whenever I saw anyone else. I bought a home Covid test. I took the test and, sure enough, two lines clearly appeared. I had Covid.

Once I accepted this reality, I told Max and suggested we avoid being in the same room for a week or so. I went back to bed and slept most of the day. I felt pretty crummy for two or three days. I isolated for the five days the CDC recommended. I wore a mask in the house if Max wandered anywhere into my line of infection. On the sixth day, I was feeling better. I was still coughing as if I might dislodge a lung and I still tired quite easily, but I definitely felt worlds better. I took another Covid test. Demoralizingly, it was still positive. I read that it is not unusual for Covid tests to have positive results for two weeks and that some people have tested positive for months after having no symptoms, so testing positive on Day Six is not a catastrophe. Still, I felt disappointed and defeated. In retrospect, the extent of my emotional reaction was probably good evidence that my body still had not quite cleared the virus.

I was anxious to get out of Covid jail, so I did make a couple of trips into the world. I had great plans, but found I was getting too tired too quickly to really do anything particularly noteworthy anywho. We went to Starbucks, with my mask tightly fastened across my face. We were gone from home less than an hour. When I got home, I laid down for 30 minutes before I felt recuperated enough to dish out some ice cream. That was another thing- for about a week, I only ate ice cream, sugar free chocolate pudding, and peanut butter. That might have had something to do with the tiredness, too.

It helped that, by some miracle, I seem to have avoided infecting any of my loved ones. My sister-in-law and step niece, with whom I spent most of my optimal contagious time, have repeatedly tested negative. My friend and her husband, whose home I shared my last day in California, have also tested negative. Max tested and he is negative as well. Knowing that I am not responsible for anyone else getting sick (except perhaps my seatmates on the plane ride back from California- I’m so sorry!) improves my emotional and, therefore, physical health, as well.

As I write this, I am on Day 9. I feel much better. No more sore throat. No more dizziness or headache. No more runny nose. I am still coughing a little bit, but I think my lungs are going to stay within my thoracic cavity. The biggest thing that seems to linger is that my “hurry button” seems to be on the fritz. I seem to be completely incapable of propelling myself through the day with any sort of momentum. I still get tired easily, but now I have a little more endurance and have been able to get some exercise. The problem is launching. I seem to be living in fits and starts. It takes a lot for me to get going and my transmission has no gear except “Covid pace.” It is getting better, though, and I am sure that I will improve.

I may even get brave enough to face another Covid test on September 2, when I will hit the two-week mark. I know I am recovering. I know I am likely no longer contagious. Still, it would be heartening to see only one red line on the little plastic test cassette!

Addendum: I couldn’t wait! I tested again on 8/28. I was negative! Such a liberating feeling….

Have you had Covid? What was it like for you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a healthy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Coming Attraction!

Monday, August 22, was my mother’s birthday. She would have been 91 years old. In celebration of her birthday,  I thought this week would be a good time to announce I have a new book coming out on October 22. The book, Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go, is all about my mother. It is the story of how she built her own life in a world where she was just a little ahead of her time. It is the story of her view of family and motherhood. It is the story of her end-of-life journey. It is the story of what it was like for me to accompany her on that journey… and it is the story of what it is like to live in a world she no longer inhabits.

Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go is joyous and wacky. It is funny and inspiring. It is sad and thought-provoking. I know anyone who knew my mother will enjoy it. However, I hope its appeal will be more universal. My mother was the kind of person that everyone enjoyed knowing and everyone loved. If you did not know her in real life, I think you will love getting to love her through Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go.

The book will be available on in both paperback and kindle editions on October 22. I am publishing this book, as I have the past two books, under Terri’s “real name,” Dorry Curran. I will be hosting a launch party on that day. If you are local and would like to come, I’d be happy to have you. Please just let me know. I will also be broadcasting part of the event on Zoom. If you are not local but would still like to be part of the fun, please send me an email and I’ll send you an evite to the party.

Wouldn’t you love to attend the launch party, either virtually or IRL? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. If you would like to attend, please email me at so I can send you the information.

Happy Partying!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Sand, Sea, And Sadness

Something gut crushing happened yesterday. Ernie, my 61-year-old brother, died.

Ernie had happiness in life, but he also struggled. Illness wore him away, deploying one medical challenge after another. After the latest battle, his kidneys stopped working. His body became increasingly bloated. His energy level whispered away, little by little. His heart beat a slow requiem as his blood pressure steadily decreased. He could not get comfortable. He could not communicate. He teetered in and out of consciousness. His body was attacking him. When we at last released him from life support, pain, and fear, he smiled and found his own way out of this world.

My brother and I had a complicated relationship. We loved each other to the core of our hearts, but we also did not understand each other very well.  My perceptions of him (I cannot yet say “memories”) are jagged and awkward. They are pieces of various jigsaw puzzles tangled in the same box together. They are ill-fitting and dissonant. It is hard to make sense of them.

Family dynamics are often fraught. I once read that, in healthy families, the alliances within the family should be generational. In other words, the parents should bond together as  one team and the siblings should bond together as another team. This does not mean “us” against “them,” necessarily. At its best, family provides the opportunity for the teams to work together to nurture a mutually happy life. The point is that different relationships and different affinities are inevitably going to form. The balance of power is best preserved when those connections are generational.

Such was not the case in my family. To me, it always seemed that my parents and I were on one end of the spectrum, with my brother at the other. We were staid and safe. He was wild and reckless. We thought to the future and colored within the lines. He lived hard in the moment and didn’t even realize there were lines. He saw life differently from the three of us. He made choices the rest of us did not understand. I have always felt wistful and regretful about this state of affairs. I felt sad for my brother who was sort of on his own in the family. I felt guilty for not being able to find a way to bring him into the “happy family” fold. I do not know if it ever occurred to me that he might have been happy in the life he was living. He burst his way into life, leaving behind a safety net that consisted of my parents and myself. He had the freedom to live life on the wild side knowing that his protective (although somewhat judgmental) cocoon would be there when the wildness became unmanageable.

As time went on and my parents passed, my role became almost that of a caretaker. I became almost a surrogate parent for my brother. As we settled into these roles, acceptance of who each other was grew but understanding never quite did. I continuously wobbled between annoyance, anger, and hopefulness about his fate.

When I heard that Ernie died, my boyfriend asked me what I needed- what I wanted to do. I told him that I wanted to go to the beach. I wanted to feel sand on my feet. I wanted to taste salt in the air. I wanted to see tiny fish swifter past my ankles in the tide. I wanted to hear the waves slapping the beach. I wanted to smell the gritty brine.

The beach has a kind of magic for me. Being near the ocean has always felt like a hug to my senses. There is something about the whine of the waves and the hypnotic properties of the sea that covers me like a magic protective shield. I have been to many of the most popular beaches in the United States… Waikiki, Huntington, Daytona… and have not felt crowded at any of them. Yes, there might have been other people around but there was always sufficient personal space for everyone.

My favorite memories of the beach involve being alone with my thoughts and the ocean. When I was a little girl, my family used to camp at a state beach about an hour from our house. I liked it best when we went to the beach during the winter. In the early evenings, I would walk down the wooden staircase from the cliff where we camped to the beach below. I counted the steps. Depending on which campsite we occupied, I recall that there were 128 stairs. I have a clear picture in my head of myself wearing burgundy jeans and a grey turtleneck sweater.

When I reached the shore, I’d climb up a ladder to a lifeguard station that was abandoned for the season. In my lifeguard station sanctuary, it was quiet. Often, I’d not see another person the whole time I was there. I’d scrunch myself down to the edge of the platform with a book. I would think and read and watch the sun go down until it was too dark to see. I was literally above it all- not only above the beach but also above all the sadness, anxiety, disappointment, and self-denigration I kept bottled up within me.

These memories of the beach convinced me that I would find some sort of magic properties that would help me cope with my brother’s death. When we arrived at the parking lot for the beach, I jumped out of the car hopefully. As I trudged my way down to the water, my mood unraveled. Lethargy, exhaustion, and disappointment weighed on me. Even the portable chair over my right shoulder and a small beach bag over my left seemed too heavy a burden to carry. The brief walk from the car to the shore seemed almost beyond my capabilities. I panted as I walked. My ankles rolled over the cobbled, pitted pavement, causing sharp perpendicular pains to zip through the meniscus beneath my right knee. The sun glared so fiercely that I checked to make sure I was still wearing my sunglasses. But I soldiered on towards the magic I knew awaited me at the beach.

When I set up my chair and gazed at the horizon, I felt… nothing. I walked down to the water, but the waves did not feel refreshing. They felt cold and sharp. The skittering sand shifted with the tide, creating trenches that captured my feet. I knew those trenches would be oh so easy for me to trip into the next time a wave broke against my body. I tried to move my legs, but the undertow trapped them in the cement sand. As I stood there, all I felt was a rigid band of tightness surrounding my abdomen right below my ribs. There was no magic.

I finally freed my feet from the sand. I decided that moving might shift the band of tightness away from any of my crucial internal organs. I walked down the beach, thinking about nothing and everything. I kept waiting for the magic. It did not come.

I stopped and stared out into the sea, trying to feel something. The magic might not appear, but maybe I could at least find a place within me that would illuminate this strange nothingness. As I looked around, I noticed a group of 20 or 30 children playing on the beach. They reminded me of something.

One summer, when I was about nine or ten, Ernie and I attended Red Rider Day Camp for two months. The camp spent several days a week at the beach, creating a scene remarkably similar to what I was witnessing here in the present. I realized that summer was perhaps the only time in my life when I felt like my brother and I were teammates.

I was a shy child. I inclined towards observation rather than participation. I would often stand on the outskirts of childhood and watch. Other children did not understand my strangeness and disconnection. This strangeness and disconnection led to isolation. I was perfectly happy with a reasonable level of disconnection. However,  it seemed the rest of the world- child and adult alike- were not quite so tolerant of my definition of “a reasonable level of disconnection.” Counselors pushed me to engage. I tried to comply. Children taunted me. I was brave. I pretended not to care. I did my best to enjoy the summer days at camp, but I would have rather been at home alone with a book.

My brother, on the other hand, was an extroverted child. He was funny and loud and friendly. He was most happy when flamboyantly connected with everyone in the same zip code. Even as an eight-year-old, he was an imposing character- both physically and socially. He relished day camp. The counselors could not direct or contain his energy. His personality often burst out unexpectedly when the pitch of his own performance became too high. His roughhousing and arguing and “boys will be boys” tricks sometimes devolved into potentially dangerous activities. He never meant harm when he roughhoused and joked, but not meaning harm does not prohibit harm from occurring.

This introversion of mine was one aspect of our divergent personalities that my brother “got” about me. I remember him patiently involving me in the day camp activities. I remember him drawing me gently into his crowd of joviality. I remember him protecting me from “over connection” when I needed to disengage a bit. When other children said cruel, thoughtless things, he was my fierce defender. We did face the world of the Red Rider Day Camp together. Together, we were more than the sum of our parts. We not only protected each other, but we also impacted other children. My natural quietness and nurturing drew me to children who were also struggling. Ernie’s extroversion, assertiveness, and confidence shielded us all from bullying. My fellow outcasts and I brought purpose to my brother’s energy, which kept him out of trouble. If Ernie was guiding me into the social fabric of day camp, he was much less likely to be capturing another child in an innocent headlock.  

The camp selected my brother and me as the “campers of the month” at the end of our day camping term. They explained they selected us because of the kindness we displayed to each other and to the other children. That was pretty great.

As soon as this memory formed in my mind, I tasted the salt in the air. I smelled the cocoanut scent of sunblock mixed with the brininess of the sea. I heard the whirling, whining sound of the surf. I felt the ever-moving water slip between my toes. I saw the tiny fish playing tag in the shallow water. I giggled when I saw tiny birds perambulating down the shore with the pompous strides of Olympic speed walkers.

The rigid band around my abdomen shifted up my torso. Somewhere in the journey, it reconfigured itself into a sob. Somehow, the tangled jigsaw pieces in my mind sorted themselves out and formed a beautiful memory of the best of my brother.

The beach is magic, after all.

How have you and your siblings worked together in the past? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Hope today is a day at the beach for you!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Three Sheets (And One Lavender Cocktail) To The Wind

I have reported back on a number of facets of my beach getaway with my friend Kathy. I’ve told you about the mystery animal stalking me outside our vrbo rental. I’ve told you about my triumph in finding a perfect crumb bun. There is one more adventure from that trip that I wanted to share.

On the last night of our trip, we went to a restaurant situated right on the beach. I did not realize it when we got there, but some of the “outside seating” was actually picnic tables in the actual sand. Kathy and I had a table on the patio with a lovely view of the ocean. I could smell the salt and feel the sea breeze on my face. It promised to be a terrific way to spend our Last Supper on Amelia Island.

Let me explain a little background information here. Typically, I eat dinner pretty early. I am old. I eat dinner around 5:00pm usually. Because of my diabetes, I am careful to ingest sustenance at regular intervals throughout the day. My feeding schedule tends to put a crimp in my style when I am out of my regular routine. For some reason, I was at sixes and sevens on this trip. We ate big breakfasts in restaurants, which meant breakfast was later and lunch not as demanding. Still, I could not make it all the way from breakfast to dinner without some form of food converting to glucose in my bloodstream. Because we spent much of the middle of the day at the beach,  eating lunch was not terribly convenient. I am pretty adept at juggling my blood sugar, but these beach days were challenges. Nice challenges, certainly. Challenges that were certainly worth the trouble. Challenges, nonetheless. What that meant is that we ate dinner much later than I usually eat.

On this last night, we set out for the dinner after 7 o’clock. When we got to the restaurant, it was packed. I guess most people do not eat dinner at 5:00 o’clock. Either that or the restaurant was also packed at 5:00. We waited for about half an hour for a table because we did want to sit on the patio in the sea air. The hostess seated us, and the fun really began.

I cannot say that the staff was slow. In fact, our server was incredible. She zipped like chain lightning over the patio. The woman never stopped moving. The simple exertion of opening a menu caused me to wilt in the late evening heat and humidity. Our server must have had her ration of Wheaties. She plowed from one table to another, bearing drinks and large platters of food. She maintained her composure, friendliness, and good humor. When I noticed there were patrons at tables out on the sand, I was amazed to see this same server traversing the beach to take care of them. When I first noticed her gait, I thought there was something wrong, but I soon understood that there was a trick to walking rapidly through the sand. That trick involved taking awkward giant steps in a side-to-side motion. Our petite little server galumphed through the sand like she belonged up a beanstalk.

Our server speedily brought my iced tea and my friend’s cocktail. The cocktail was gorgeous. It was a beautiful shade of lavender. It looked like something that pixies would drink.

Despite the speed and efficiency of our server, getting our food took a long time. I think the restaurant was just too busy to be contained. As we sat waiting for our meals, we enjoyed the view. We chatted over the dull whistle of the waves. At one point, we heard a loud crash.

“What was that?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” replied Kathy.

“Was it your drink? Where is your drink?” I surveyed the table for the hefty glass filled with lavender liquid.

“No, I don’t think it was my drink. I didn’t touch it. It was right over…” Kathy looked confused as she motioned to an empty spot on the table. The only trace left of her drink was a ring on the table.

As we looked at each in bemusement, a lady at the next table told Kathy she might want to move her purse. The “ocean breeze” had actually blown her glass off the table, depositing most of the drink on the chair next to Kathy before it crashed to the floor. There were pieces of glass everywhere. The ladies at the next table summoned the frenetic little server.

It took both Kathy and me several minutes to absorb what had happened. The fact that the wind could be strong enough to send a nearly full glass of drink flying just did not compute. To be honest, the whole incident still feels surreal, even in retrospect.

I blame it on the lack of nourishment.

the lavendar cocktail before its flight

What weird and strange vacation adventures can you share with us? Please leave a comment to share your perspective. In the alternative, you can email me at

Happy flying!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Write On!

This week, I started taking an online writing course. Some of you may be saying, “well, it’s about time!” I’m excited about this opportunity, but I am also nervous. I took a few creative writing courses in high school and college, but I don’t think I ever put my heart and soul into them. I think my fear of rejection and being criticized got in the way of me benefiting from the courses in the past. I protected myself. I wrote what I thought others would like. I did not share the work that I truly carved from my soul. I treated the classes as an obstacle course where I had to avoid booby traps instead of a fancy store from which I could buy as many treasures as I was willing to carry. This time, I vow to make a concerted effort to be courageous. I vow to be thirsty for what the class can teach me. I vow to see feedback as a gift, not a punishment.

As one of the first assignments for the class, the instructor asked us to write about why we write. I don’t think I ever considered that before. I always just did. They say that “writers write.” It does not matter if you are making a living at being a writer or if you are even publishing your work. The crucial factor when proclaiming yourself a writer is that you do the work and produce evidence that you have done so.

When I thought about the instructor’s question, though, I realized there was a more definitive reason that I write. There was a more tangible, focused explanation for why I began this worldview as perceived through my own written word.

Writing was always a wonderful experience for me, even as a child. I loved the order and patience the writing process imposed on my thoughts and feelings. I was a “smart kid” in school, but I also had no confidence or faith in my own perspective. I had a tough time telling people what I thought and felt. I was always afraid that someone else would interrupt to dispute my communication and I would not be able to defend my perspective. Perhaps even more scary, I would not get the chance to say everything I wanted to say. When I communicated what I wanted to convey in writing, I could carefully craft and lovingly curate my perspective. I could also galvanize my message in fact, tone, and intensity. There is little that is more satisfying to anyone than finding her voice- even when that “voice” makes no sound other than fingers pecking at a keyboard.

The idea of being a writer always lurked in the wild part of my mind, but I never seriously considered that I might be able to make a living by writing. I was able to feed my writing habit on the job by drafting correspondence, writing employee evaluations, and composing other technical documents. However, that tiny wild hair dream of being a real writer never came to fruition. It stayed confined in the wild pasture side of my mind. It was a free-range dream, but there were still some fences at the boundaries of my brain. Life and making a living got in the way and I never released the dream until I retired from my “real job.”

Retirement is the perfect time for my own little “encore” performance- to do the things I always wanted to do in my life but never had time to do. I wanted to “retire to” something much more than I wanted to “retire from” something. It turns out that the heart of my “to something” has been writing. I began by starting this blog almost seven years ago. I had no idea that I would continue for so long. I’ve published two books and have a third one coming out in a few months. I thought that, once I published the first book, I would bask in the languid afterglow of completing my writing bucket list. I did, but only very briefly. It turns out that it isn’t so easy to turn off the writing machine in my head once I’ve turned it on.

So, I continue. I may not produce a new post every single week, but I do pretty well with creating new content. The blog has birthed the books. I’ve also tried my hand at a novel (and found said hand to be sadly lacking) and I have just finished the first draft of a novella- my first work of fiction to get beyond the most embryonic stage. It is fun exploring. It is fun finding new ways to use that keyboard voice I embraced over 50 years ago. I am not sure why I am gorging myself at this literary smorgasbord or where this experimenting will take me, but, for now… I am content to just write on!

What are you doing in retirement as your “encore?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Use your voice today!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Living In Satan’s Sinus Cavity

I believe I have shown remarkable restraint. It is nearly the end of July and I have not posted my annual summer weather whine. Since I live in a place where summer begins in May and does not conclude until November, I think I deserve some credit for avoiding a meltdown before now.

Time’s up, though.

I reside in Florida, which is pretty much like saying I live in Satan’s sinus cavity during the summer months. It is hot, moist, sticky, and slimy virtually all the time. The air is heavy with humidity. It is so thick with unshed rain and mosquitos; breathing is hazardous to one’s health. Of course, not breathing is even more hazardous, so we soldier on with the aid of life support- air conditioning. I know some people who do not  leave their artificially cooled compartments for months.

Thunder does not rumble; it crashes and pummels. Rain does not pool in my yard; it oceans. So far this summer, we  have been pretty lucky in that we have not yet had multiple consecutive days of catastrophic rainstorms. Often,  we will have thirty rainy days in a row… or more. One summer, I counted sixty-two consecutive rainy days. Even Noah and all those animals only had to cope with forty. People will say, “yes, it does rain every day, but it is only for half an hour in the early evening.” These people are purposely misleading you. To be fair, it does rain for only a brief time on some days. Most days, the rain is much more significant. Some days, I feel like I should not leave the house without a hairdryer… for my clothes and shoes. I will never forget the year I acquired smurf feet because I walked from the car to the grocery store in blue shoes.

Summer is also growing season, which sounds very nice and idyllic. However, growing season in my household simply means weed season. Any plant I try to grow intentionally tends to die in the summer, even if I have kept it alive for months, because the heat is so intense that the leaves incinerate spontaneously. The weeds, however, seem to have no such delicacy. Max and I pull weeds and trim the bushes early every Saturday morning. In the winter, this task means putting on a sweatshirt and leggings. It means about 10 to 15 minutes of easy work. There is little need to bend over or squat because almost all the weeds have succumbed to my weekly Round-up application. In the summer, it is already about a million degrees when we start work at 7:30. The force of the heat and humidity compresses my skeleton into my internal organs as soon as I walk out of the door. Even though I am faithfully applying the Round-up, the summer weeds propagate at such an alarming rate that our task takes easily twice as long than in the winter. I can barely stand outside for five minutes, much less bend to pick weeds, without dissolving into a puddle of gooey, humidity-seasoned sweat.

Satan’s sinus cavity feels infected in the summer. There is something like decay that fills the air. And, speaking of sinus cavities, mine does not do so well in the summer, either. Something about the air pressure or about the humidity or the weeds that grow with wild abandon triggers seasonal allergies I never knew I had until I moved to Florida. I have a near constant headache and raw respiratory system. I test myself for COVID way more than should be necessary, but I want to be sure I am not contributing to a worldwide pandemic. Every time I test, it turns out it is just my sinuses raging against the summer machine.

And, this year, I found a fresh new annoyance in the summer repertoire. Does anyone else get more achy during times of heat and humidity? I thought arthritis was supposed to get worse when it is cold. I am nearly 63 years old. My body is aware of this number. I have my fair share of tenderness and pain in my joints, ligaments, muscles, and menisci during the Days of Wine and Roses (November through April). This year, May welcomed in a whole new level of body aches. The discomfort has increased with the passing (way too slowly) days of summer. It feels like all of the bones around my joints are bound within a ring of calcified bone material that is gradually tightening. I do not want to overstate because I know many people suffer much more than I do from arthritis and other age-related health problems. I am, blessedly, pretty healthy. My point is simply that I did notice a significant uptick in my body’s resistance to age this summer.

When I researched this phenomenon online, I learned that there are studies that suggest that barometric pressure, humidity, and various other summer weather phenomenon do have a negative impact on arthritis. Other studies proclaim that there is no impact at all. These studies suggest that the summer, in and of itself, has no impact. The problem is that the uncomfortable conditions make the patient cranky, thereby reducing their tolerance to pain.

I will not argue with that. Cranky sounds about right.

So what’s the weather like where you are? What season do you find most difficult to endure and why? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have an unsticky day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Independence Day

Our country celebrated its independence this week. It is exciting and humbling to remember the people and events that created a new nation founded on freedom.

I am celebrating a bit of an Independence Day myself.

Most of you know by now that I have been seeing a life coach to help me with the anxiety and other issues that rob me of joy and keep me from being the person God created me to be.

I have reported that the coaching has proven to be effective in dealing with my anxiety. It is difficult for me to really explain how significant the impact has been for me. Last week, I talked about the pervasive fear with which I have grappled most of my life. I have always been afraid of pretty much everything. Being a reasonably courageous person and being a person who puts a high value on having a rich life, I spend a lot of energy trying to overcome fear in order to do the things I want to do… or feel that God has called me to do.

With the help of my life coach Todd Payne, I have been able to fundamentally change the way I manage my fear. I am not going to say that I am no longer afraid. I am, certainly, much LESS afraid that I was. I am also learning not to dread fear so much. Fear is like a rumor. It is information, but it may not be totally true. Sometimes, fear tells me something that is completely false, and I am learning to think critically about that. Sometimes, fear tells me that there is something important underneath the fear that I should explore. I am just trying things out now. I feel a little like a newborn colt. I know how to walk in this new way with fear, but my legs are still pretty wobbly. Most colts do learn to steady their legs and run at some point.

The other huge issue that has haunted me all my life and seriously impeded my life is my image of myself. I have shared some of this with you all before- my certainty that I am unattractive, unsexy, and unlovable because of my appearance. Part of that is body image, but it is more pervasive than that. It is really about virtually every aspect of my appearance, although the weight is the most obvious. I did not think I was ever going to be able to slay this particular dragon. It felt way too entrenched and vicious to ever evict from my spirit.

Todd uses the enneagram model as a basis for his coaching. I am a type six. I had a tough time figuring out that I am a type six. This is hardly surprising because the hallmark of unhealthy type sixes is self-doubt. The way to health for type sixes is to develop the quality of self-determination. In other words, my goal has been to see and assess my worth based on my own sense of self… and then to decide what I want and take steps to make it happen. In the past few weeks, I have started to experience a true shift in my mind and heart. I am saying this very quietly, as I don’t want the feeling to get scared and go away.

It started with a couple of very rough sessions where I came face-to-face with some fairly mind-blowing truths about the way I think about myself. For instance, based on the enneagram, only about 33% of all people even acknowledge any external standard of beauty. In other words, 66% of people do not even think about the vision of acceptable appearance that I grew up with in my head- the beautiful people in the magazines and on tv. About half those people do not expect to be attracted or not attracted to any particular type or standard- they just get attracted based on what appeals to them specifically. The other half are more likely to be attracted to someone based on how that person reflects an appealing place in the grand scheme of things. Theoretically, about 67% of people could be attracted to me, even though I look nothing like the industry standard of beauty by which I have condemned myself my whole life.

In another revelation, I found out that nearly 70% of American women wear a size 16 or above. What size do I wear? A size 16.

The hardest session had to do with my compulsion of looking for external validation for my wants. I never thought I could ask for what I wanted because I did not deserve to want anything. I was barely entitled to my needs, much less any wants. I wanted so badly for my coach to comfort me by telling me I was beautiful and lovable and valuable-  in general, but also in his opinion. The compulsion was so strong that I was in physical pain. I knew he was not going to give me the assurance I wanted in that moment  because it would not help me to develop what I really needed to develop… a sense of self-determination. He has always been supportive, and it is not like he has never gives me any positive feedback. He does. I think we both knew we had reached the point in the coaching process where I had to find that support within myself if I was ever going to crack the ceiling of our progress. I would like to explain how Todd led me through the process that day, but it just feels too private and too complicated and too unique to me. I still do not really understand how a conversation could make me feel so rejected and also so supported. I certainly was not able to explain it that day. I could not even articulate what I felt that day. My brain knew he was doing his job. My brain knew it was the right thing. What my heart felt was an ugly, disoriented, knotty mess of uck.

It was a pretty horrendous fifty minutes that day. We were able to mop up a little before we ended. I was not out on a ledge or anything. I did not feel hopeless. Todd did not leave me distraught, but he did leave me emotionally addled and in deep thought. A few hours later, I began to feel so much better… actually, better than I have in years. My mind opened up and thoughts came trickling merrily through my brain. The fruit of my thoughts seemed so much clearer than they had. I felt such a sense of relief. I decided to live in that relief and rest a bit- not try to motivate myself to do anything I did not want to do, not try to push the revelations any further. I just let my head, heart, and body rest from the workout they received during the session. A surge of excitement flowed through me, getting bigger and bigger with each moment.

A couple of days later, I was sitting in church, and it struck me. I am as appealing and cute as anyone else there. While part of me thought this idea was madness, most of me was actually embracing it. For some people, this may seem like a relatively minor realization. For me, it was HUGE. I have NEVER thought I was as attractive as anyone else. In fact, I  always think I am distractingly unattractive. That I can sit there and believe, at any level, that I am attractive is a miracle. I wondered if it was sacrilegious or disrespectful to be thinking such things at church. But what better place than church to suddenly become aware of a miracle?

A few days later, I attended a meeting that did not go the way I expected it to go. It was challenging. There were a lot of people there who clearly did not agree with my perspective. They were people whom I have been trying very hard to please. I felt their displeasure viscerally at the meeting. A few months ago, I would have shrunk from the encounter and gone into hiding. Now, I could simply say what I wanted to say, understanding that I am entitled to my perspective and there is no catastrophe if others disagree. Just because someone disagrees with me does not make me wrong. I was able to sit in the moment, listen, be curious, and respond productively. It  honestly did not bother me that people were annoyed with me.

Today, I was thinking about what I might want to pursue in my life. The thought came to my head that I am appealing, attractive, and desirable. I have not completely integrated that notion into my sense of self, but I am no longer dismissing it. For now, the notion is blanketing  the top of my psyche. I am hoping it will start to sink in.

So, this is the story of my own personal Independence Day. I am declaring myself independent from the fears and insecurities and pain that have had tyranny over the best parts of me all these years. Just like with our nation’s independence, I know that I can declare it on a specific day but that it will take a lot more than just saying it to make it so. I know it will be a life’s work. And I am okay with that. I honestly cannot think of a better way to spend the rest of my life.

Have any of you come to an important realization later in life that you wish you had known much earlier? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a miraculous day!

Terri/Dorry 😊