From Sea To Shining Sea

I have been fortunate throughout my life to visit many historic places in the United States. From an early age, my parents took me to see sites they thought were important for Americans to see.  I’ve continued these pilgrimages throughout my life. 

  • I’ve seen the site where Pocahontas married John Rolfe.  While the stories about her saving John Smith’s life during the development of the Jamestown colony may be apocryphal, it is clear that she did contribute to the success of the Jamestown colony.  She provided food, comfort, and safety for the colonists.  She also was a sort of “public relations” icon for support of the American colonies in Britain. 
  • I’ve worshiped in the church where Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other members of our founding families attended services.
  • I’ve gazed at the doors of Independence Hall and remembered the brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence. 
  • I’ve surveyed the field where a representative of General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown.
  • I’ve thrown a rock into the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers at Harper’s Ferry where Lewis and Clark first began their Western exploration.  This was to be the first step in many that would lead to great progress in the expansion of our nation.
  • I’ve seen the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, which inspired our country’s national anthem.
  • I’ve been to Sutter’s Mill and thought about how the 1849 California gold rush helped forge civilization out of frontier outposts.
  • I’ve walked the battlefields of Antietam and Gettysburg, imagining the tactics and actions that helped preserve our union and end slavery.
  • I’ve toured the Iolani Palace in Hawaii and remembered that our nation has many backgrounds.
  • I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty and imagined how the immigrants who came to our country must have felt when they landed on our shores.
  • I’ve stood next to the grave of Woodrow Wilson in the National Cathedral, paying tribute to an intelligent man of principle who held peace as his ideal. 
  • I’ve seen golden Oscars, ruby slippers, exquisite handmade movie costumes, and scripts from early movie productions.  I’ve even read a telegram to Rin Tin Tin in which the studio cancelled his contract because the moving picture industry was converting to talkies and “dogs can’t talk.”
  • I’ve viewed the rusty remnants of the USS Arizona beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor. I’ve stood on the USS Missouri where Japan surrendered to the United States, ending World War II. 
  • I’ve seen the Greensboro North Carolina lunch counter where four courageous African American students sat on February 1, 1960, to protest the “whites only” service policy. 
  • I’ve felt a moon rock.
  • I’ve walked the Halls of Congress, toured the White House, and admired the dignity of the Supreme Court building. 

In addition to these momentous sites, I have also visited many locations of “everyday history.”  The fabric of our history is not just made up of keystone moments and famous people.  Everyone who came before us is also part of that history, no matter how seemingly pedestrian his or her life. These lives also inspire me as an American.

  • I’ve seen Native American petroglyphs on the rock walls of river gorges.
  • I’ve walked the streets of St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States.
  • I’ve struggled to chime the bell in a New Hampshire Congregational Church tower.  This church is the progeny of the early Puritan churches that formed the first cornerstone of the New England colonies. 
  • I’ve visited a Daoist temple in Northern California that was built for the influx of Chinese immigrants who came to the United States in the late nineteenth century to work in the goldfields and on the railroad construction. 
  • I’ve been to living history museums in New England, Virginia, Texas, Florida, and California where I observed demonstrations of arts and industries that were key components to life in days gone by. 

As we celebrate the birthday of the United States of America on the Fourth of July, I am grateful and proud to be part of this country. I believe my travels across the nation and my visits to important historical sites increase my appreciation of my country. I am proud of the wonderful accomplishments and advancements that have taken place in my country’s history. I don’t think it is a blind or jingoistic pride. We do live in a wonderful country and we are a wonderful people. 

However, for every achievement or momentous moment I’ve mentioned above, I know there is a darker side.  For instance, the founders of the nation who wrote the Declaration of Independence were all white men and declared “all men are created equal.”  The westward expansion of the United States led to the oppression and slaughter of native peoples.  The memories of military victory in World War II also generate memories of a time when we, as Americans, confined other Americans to internment camps. The people who drive our governmental systems do not always do so efficiently, fairly, and altruistically. 

I am still proud to be an American, despite all that.  To me, one of the specific reasons I am so proud to be an American is that I know about these darker sides of our history.  In many nations, history that doesn’t conform to the government’s vision of itself would be hidden and rewritten.  I would be ignorant of the less admirable parts of history in such a culture. I certainly would not be able to write about them.  I believe the American people, culture, and systems of government are uniquely suited to identifying problems and working towards progress.  We are willing to face our flaws, recognizing them and working together to improve.

Change and growth is very difficult. Sometimes we disagree about what the changes should look like. Sometimes, we stumble. Sometimes, we take sidesteps.  Sometimes, we even make missteps.  It often takes generations to accomplish positive change, but we keep moving forwards.  I can look at the political, social, and cultural landscape of the country, even over my own lifetime, and see how we keep developing.  It can sometimes seem like we are moving backwards, but the key to really appreciating all we are and all we have accomplished is to look at net progress from a distance of time.  I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to fuel the engine of that progress and keep it speeding, straight and true, over the tracks of history. We are all part of our history.

History is not only what was.  One day, history will be what is now. 

Have you ever visited someplace that increased your appreciation of your heritage? Tell us about it! Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Have a spectacular Fourth Of July!

Have a patriotic day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Artistry

You may remember my “once in a lifetime” trip to Discovery Cove two years ago.  If not, you can read about it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2017/05/my-date-with-the-dolphins/ andhttp://www.terrilabonte.com/2017/05/school-of-dolphins/  You might also remember my second trip to Discovery Cove last year, when I returned to make sure it was as wonderful as I thought it was.  You can read about that trip at  http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/07/discovery-in-the-cove/



I just made a third “once in a lifetime” visit.  It is time to stop kidding myself.  It is time to start calling it what it is…. My annual retreat to Dolphinland.

Some people go to monasteries or retreat houses for their yearly spiritual sojourns.  Not me.  I say there is nothing wrong with going to Discovery Cove to take spiritual inventory and commune with God.  I think God was definitely there. 

I spent a wonderful day frolicking with the dolphins, swimming with the rays, winding my way down a lazy river, wading past otters and marmosets, and examining the vibrant feathers of numerous bird species.  I also cuddled with a kinkajou, who stuck her arm in her mouth while I was petting her, much as a human baby might suck her thumb.  I faced my fear of rodents with long, scaly tails, when I interacted with a young three-legged possum named Ricky.  I also ate a lot of rice crispy treats and soft, hot pretzels.  I relaxed, rested, warmed my bones in the sun, listened to God, and prayed.  Maybe the most important thing I did was just observe.

The animals at Discovery Cove are real.  Of course, Discovery Coves busses them in from various places around the world.  Orlando is not even remotely close to a sea or a rain forest, so most of the animals I visited are not to be found in nature anywhere in the greater metropolitan area.  Ricky, the three-legged possum, was the exception.  He was a three-legged possum precisely because he was run over by a car in a local populated area.  My other new animal friends, however, were strangers in a strange land in Orlando.  That doesn’t make them any less real.  The plant life in Discovery Cove is also largely imported, but it is beautiful and lush and abundantly real. 

Spending the day at Discovery Cove forces me to forget the world I know intimately and enter the natural world the Busch Entertainment Company has built in the shadow of the Central Florida roller coasters.  The act of observing this manufactured natural world with all my senses frees my soul in a way that is as real as the surroundings.  Maybe this Discovery Cove natural world is assembled by human beings and maybe those same human beings are manipulating my soul to feel free in a way that isn’t quite organic.  I don’t really care.  Experiencing that world, losing myself in it, and imprinting it on my memory is very, very valuable.  And human beings may have assembled this magical self-contained world, but God created the components. 

So I refuel and retool- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually- during my dolphin retreat.  Something actually changes about the way I see the world.  I began to notice things that I never saw before because I was so incredibly present.  I was living in the moment and observing the moment and analyzing the moment instead of just getting through the moment and going on to the next one. 

For instance, after taking a last lap through the snorkeling reef, I settled myself on a quiet island in the middle of the reef.  I snuggled down into a rope hammock and closed my eyes.  I could smell the scent of jasmine.  I could taste the salt water on my lips.  I could hear breezes rustling the palm fronds, punctuating the impossible quiet of a theme park in Orlando. It was more than pleasant; it was healing.  I opened my eyes and noticed a cloud shaped just like the face of the kinkajou I snuggled earlier in the day.  I watched, fascinated, as the shape flattened and distorted and slipped away.  I also noticed colors.  If you had asked me to describe leaves before my retreat of observation and discovery, I would have told you that they are green.  When I looked around from my vantage point in the hammock, I saw many, many colors of leaves- greens and yellows and reds and fuchsias and pale pinks and oranges.  Also, did you ever realize that the sky is not sky blue?  In fact, the sky is not blue at all.  It is most definitely blueS.  I saw a swath of sky that melded sections the color of stone-washed denim and the color of Wedgewood and the color of lapis lazuli and the color of robins’ eggs. 

Maybe, in addition to enriching my body and soul, my dolphin retreat developed my senses, too.  Maybe my discoveries about color and perspective mean that I had a moment of artistic inspiration.  Maybe I was seeing the world through the eyes of an artist.  And God is a pretty amazing artist. 

How about you?  Where do you go for your spiritual retreats?  Where do you find God and do you think it is weird that I find him in a central Florida amusement park?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have an artistic day discovering God and yourself!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Me dolphin surfing with Thelma!



kisses for Thelma

Dolphin delight!
petting a kinkajou

So many colors of leaves!

Decisions, Decisions

When I was working, I taught leadership classes and helped people develop their resumes for management positions.  I learned a lot about the qualities and skills needed to be a great leader.  My agency evaluated twenty-one “core competencies” when considering a person’s leadership potential.  Two of these core competencies were decision-making and decisiveness.


When I first learned about this competency model, I was confused as to the difference between decision-making and decisiveness. I always thought they were the same thing.  Not so.  Decision-making has to do with weighing the options and assessing the relative risks and rewards to make a sound decision.  Decisiveness means creating a viable strategy to implement your decision and acting on it.  In a perfect world, leaders would be good at both competencies.  They would be able to use good judgment in coming to a conclusion, figuring out what to do about a problem, and acting to enable the outcome they seek.  You don’t want to place your trust in someone who goes off half-cocked at the firing range, but you also don’t want someone who is the victim of paralysis by analysis.  You want to follow someone who is thoughtful and wise and who also has the courage of her convictions to actually act on what she decides is right.

I don’t know that I am very good at either competency.   I’m an excellent ditherer.  I can cover the same mental territory over and over again in my attempts to make the perfect decision.  It doesn’t seem to matter if the decision involves the fate of the nation or the fate of my breakfast cereal.  I can entertain myself endlessly with improbable scenarios until I’ve “what iffed” myself into a fight or flight neurological response.  I key myself up so much trying to make a decision, I can’t stop making it.  Max is the same way, except perhaps worse.  He is an impressive purveyor of unlikely scenarios, even by my standards.  On the other hand, once he has made a decision, he is the most decisive person I have ever met.  He plunges ahead in action, absolutely convinced that he is doing the right thing and never looks back.

Me, I can’t ever stop looking back.  In fact, I rarely get to the point where I have anything to look back to.  I find that avoiding any action at all is often the most comfortable psychic state.  Even when I finally believe I have considered all the data that is likely to EVER be available and make a decision, I often back pedal or couch what I do to allow for an escape hatch.  Or maybe it is just that I am constantly looking for deniability.  If I do actually act, I spend a lot of mental energy considering the road less traveled.  Often, it isn’t that I sit around mired in regret, it is just that I seem to be incapable of detaching from the mental process of making a decision.  Mulling the “might have beens” is a kind of hobby. 

I spent a lot of effort working on my decision-making and decisiveness when I worked as a leader in my agency.  I knew it had to be frustrating for my employees, customers, and senior managers to have to deal with my eye-crossing lack of commitment.  People did like me and respect me, but it was not uncommon for someone to look at me in despair and sigh, “can’t you just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” Yes. No, I mean no.  Well, sometimes. 

You get the idea.

In looking back over my life, I do see why it can be so hard to make and act on decisions.  They are often so complex and fraught.  I sometimes think about roads I took that maybe were not the most satisfying. It strikes me that I’ve experienced wonderful offshoots of those roads that I would never have seen if I had not been going down that particular less-than-satisfying path.  For instance, I don’t know that becoming a tax auditor at age 21 was the career of my dreams.  Nor do I think I was very good at it.  It might not have been the best fit for me- a person who ponders over what color of thumb drive to purchase from Amazon- to take a job that required me to make decisions about what people deducted on their tax returns 20-25 times a day.  If you consider my introversion and my inborn tendency to want to make people happy along with my issues with decisions, it is remarkable that I survived six months on the job, much less a successful 30+ year career in the tax field.

Still, I marvel at the ways God blessed me that I would have missed had I taken another path.  Some of the best people I have ever known came into my life through work. My much-loved friend Judy may have actually saved my life.  If she didn’t actually save it, she certainly provided a spark of motivation for me to continue living and trying to find my way out of the shadows.  I never would have met her and we never would have become sisters by selection if I had been in a different job.  Knowing her is one of the most satisfying experiences in my life, born out of a work experience that…wasn’t.

My marriage is another example.  For reasons too melodramatic to go into, I decided it was a good idea to marry before I ever had a chance to live my own life or see what the world had to offer me.  Both my husband and I were ill-suited to the partnership and I ended up very miserable.  I was scared a lot of the time.  I was financially vulnerable.  My heart was broken and scarred beyond recognition before our first wedding anniversary. Let’s just say that things did not get better.  We stayed married for another six years of so.  Finally, my husband, seemingly out of nowhere, left me. I dithered my way through months of waiting for him to figure out what to do. Finally, he told me he wasn’t coming back and I decided to file for divorce.  The fact that I waited five months for him to declare his intentions before doing anything shows you just how slow my decision-making transmission is.  When people asked what was going on during those five months, I kept saying I didn’t know because my husband hadn’t told me what he wanted to do.  They all seemed baffled, as I am now, as to why it never occurred to me to decide what I wanted to do.  At any rate, both the decision to marry and the decision to divorce seemed to be imbued with pain, heartbreak, and tragedy. I was sure my life was effectively over. 

Still, when I think back to my marriage, separation, and divorce, I have to admit that I gained some things I never would have if I had never gone down the aisle.  I became smarter, stronger, and more self-reliant.  I became a better judge of other people. I became a better judge of myself.  I learned how to indulge my potential for joy in a way that I would never have been able to accomplish without going through this crucible time in my life. I discovered that I was stuck in a sort of arrested development. I gave myself permission to grow up at my own pace, with my own interests at the center of my growth.  It wasn’t easy and it has taken many, many years, but I am convinced that I am a much better person than I would have been if I have never married my ex-husband or if we had stayed together. 

So, it is understandable that decisions are difficult.  There is so much at stake.  On the other hand, maybe there really isn’t all that much at stake. There may not be all that much point in stewing over decisions. No matter which decision we make and no matter how boldly we implement it, life will go where it wills.   And wherever our decisions lead our lives, there is always the potential for both pain and joy.

I hope that I look for the joy, even in the pain.  I believe God can make spaghetti sauce even out of over-simmered tomato soup.

Do you have trouble making decisions?  Is it more difficult to come to a decision once you are retired and don’t necessarily have the same pressure to move through the decision-making process?  How do you make a decision and not dwell on the “might have beens?”  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Decide to have a great day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

It’s Not The Heat; It’s The Humidity

Summer has different associations for everyone. Some people think of beaches, vacations, school being out, longer days, picnics, or the smell of fresh peaches.  I sometimes think it is my goal in life to change your core association with summer.  When you think “summer,” do you think “time for Terri’s annual whine about the Florida weather?” Yes? Then I’ve succeeded.

The other day, I saw a post on Facebook that said, “Lord, whatever you are baking out there- it’s done.”  It seemed highly appropriate.  The temperature zipped up to the mid-nineties this past week, with little fanfare or buildup. The term “baked” was spot on.  It was more of a California kind of a mid-nineties heat than a Florida heat.  The sun glared. It took little or no time to start to feel hot as Max and I tramped around an outdoor shopping mall.  Strangely, the weather seemed really bearable to me, though.  It was dry and quiet.  The sky was clear and clean.  It was easy enough to feel immediate relief from the heat. All we had to do was simply step out of the sun into the shade. 

The day is coming, any time now, when this will all change.  The sky will darken, the air will sog, and the moisture in the atmosphere will be impossible to escape.  At any given moment, the angry, painful-looking clouds that are obscuring the sky will crack open and furious rain will accompany the heat.  There will be thunder so loud you have to shout to be heard over it.  Chain lightning will be a daily occurrence.  People who try to make the best of things will tell you that the rain is really good because it brings the temperature down.  That may be accurate, but I’m not sure.  The temperature may go down, but the humidity is so heavy you can’t really tell.  In fact, it is sometimes difficult to know when a storm has passed because the rain is followed by steam.  The only clue that the storm may be over is that you no longer have to yell over the sound 0f rain brutally assaulting the roof.  

This past week’s heat has been dry and clean, like a towel fresh out of the dryer.  No one likes a towel fresh out of the dryer being stuffed over her nose and mouth, impeding the ability to breathe.  If the weather gets so hot that you can’t draw air without scorching your lungs, then that isn’t a good thing.  However, I think there is a pleasantness to having that warm towel close to my face.  It harkens back to childhood and safety and helps when I have a sinus headache.  On the other hand, a towel dipped in super-heated water stuffed, sopping wet, into my personal space, is not my idea of a good time. I think we are getting ready to take the towels out of the washer very soon now.  Breathing in dense, wet, terry cloth has absolutely nothing to recommend it.  Breathing the hot, humid summer air in Florida is pretty much like that. 

You see, its not the baking; it’s the boiling that is the problem with Florida summers!

Update:  I wrote this a couple of weeks ago.  Rest assured that, since then, we are out of the frying pan and into the crock pot.  God is making a big tasty batch of Florida soup and I fear it is going to be simmering nonstop until November.  Any suggestions on how to stay comfortable while slow-cooking in a pot of soggy atmosphere?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alterative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Hope you stay out of hot water today!

Terri/Dorry 😊

P.S. I seem to be a week ahead of myself.   When I posted last week’s piece, I was convinced that Fathers’ Day was on June 9th.  I learned I was wrong last Friday.  Therefore, I’d like to wish all you dads a happy Fathers’ Day NOW that the correct day is this coming Sunday.

Daddy

As Fathers’ Day approaches, I realize I’ve written about my mother many times on this blog, but have not shared much about my father.  I don’t like to leave the impression that my father was not part of my life or that I somehow don’t appreciate my father.  He lived his life for me, my brother, and my mother.  I am who I am partly because of him.  He died in 1996, at the relatively young age of 72.  

Like many little girls, I went through a period of hero worship with my father.  I clung to him.  He fascinated me.  He was bigger than life in my eyes, even though he wasn’t a particularly large man.  When I think of him, I think of him singing or making something or teaching me how to do something.  He called me Dooley, for some unknown reason.  For years after he died, I would see him when I was out walking my dog and would hear him call me by that ridiculous name.

My father knew lots of songs and he had a beautiful voice.  He used to sing when we were in the car or when he was working around the house.  Some of the songs were not the most appropriate for children, but I thought they were funny.  Navy drinking songs might be a strange choice for entertaining a seven-year-old, but I didn’t care.  I just loved to hear my dad sing.  My mother always used to try to get him to join the church choir, but he never did.  I don’t think he liked the idea of having to “measure up.”  I think he got a lot of confidence from his family and from his ability to take care of us.  Outside that family unit though, I think he felt somewhat insecure about his abilities.

My father was the oldest of six children.  He was born a couple of years before the stock market crash of 1929.  By the time his siblings came along, the Great Depression had the world firmly gripped in its jaws.  I think most people in the 1930s saw working together as the only way of surviving this financial monster.  Individual hopes and dreams did not mean as much as banding together with family and friends to make sure everyone came through safely.  My father’s childhood and, also, his young adulthood, was structured in such a way that others came first.  He helped raise his younger siblings.  He helped his parents during the lean years. He enlisted in the Navy upon graduation from high school to fight in the war.

 He did not get to pursue a college education or go to drafting school or learn to play the piano.  These were all aspirations that he one day told me he wished he had been able to fulfill.  When the time came in his life when he could have pursued these interests, I think he was too afraid of failing to embrace them.  I wish he had felt surer of his ability to reinvent himself.  It was almost as if he was resigned and reasonably satisfied with what he had accomplished and was afraid that he would fail at a new pursuit.  He felt that such a failure would erode what he already had. I think my father’s life was full of accomplishment and success and there is nothing more he could have achieved that would make him any “more than” in my eyes.  I just hope that now, in Heaven, he is fulfilling all of his dreams deferred.

My father was inventive and creative.  Some artists write.  Some artists paint.  Some artists compose music.  My father’s artistry used a different medium.  He built me a purple baby doll bassinet when I was four.  He built me a playhouse with a fort on top for my brother when I was seven.  He worked with me on a science project when I was nine, building a device that demonstrated how primary colors could be combined to make secondary colors. 

My father kept me safe.  When I proved myself inept at using a pogo stick, he rigged up a rope on the limb of a sturdy tree in the backyard.  He attached the pogo stick to that rope and I was free to bounce without breaking.  When all the other kids at school knew how to swing from one end of the monkey bars to the other, I couldn’t even get from ring one to ring two.  Daddy took me to the schoolyard on the weekend and practiced with me until I confidently flew from ring to ring as competently as any lemur.  He taught me to swim.  He taught me to drive.  He taught me to sacrifice, not just by example but by noticing when I did something unselfish and recognizing me for it. 

When I was a little girl, I think I was my father’s princess.   I think he marveled that I was his creation.  He couldn’t imagine that there could ever be any fault in me, which is why he tended to overreact when I did something that clearly demonstrated that I do have faults in me.  He told me once that he was sorry for sometimes being too hard and too harsh on me when I was young.  He said it wasn’t ever because he wasn’t proud of me.  It was actually the reverse.  He said that I seemed to him to be so wondrous and miraculous, he couldn’t imagine me being anything less than perfect in any way. Therefore, when I did something wrong or churlish or immature, it was a shock and he didn’t always show good judgment or patience in his response.

The very first thing I ever wrote that I tried to publish was an essay about him.  A national teen magazine was holding an essay competition and asked contestants to write about the world’s best father.  I submitted my essay and never heard back (which should have been a clue to my future in publishing).  My father found a copy of my essay and read it.  I remember how touched he was.  I remember him looking at me in amazement and saying, “thank you, Dooley.”

I do think my growing up scared him.  We went through a lengthy period in my adolescence and young adulthood during which he didn’t really understand how to relate to me.  I think the notion that I was moving away from being his little girl made him believe I was moving away from him.  It took some time for us to figure out how to be special to each other in our new roles… father and grown-up daughter.

Even when we gingerly settled in to a new, deeper, more mature understanding of each other, I was still his cherished little girl. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I probably needed the daddy that still saw me as the princess in a tower who needed his protection.  To everyone else, I was strong and in charge and capable.  To Daddy, I was precious and deserved a knight in shining armor.  It was more valuable than I can say to have had a father who I knew was willing to fight my battles, even though I was completely capable of fighting them for myself.

Happy Fathers’ Day! What memories do you have of your father? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a wonderful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Memory Superbloom

Last week, I talked about the beauty of the spring superbloom in Southern California this year.  During my recent trip back to visit my old homeland, I realized that I forgot how uniquely beautiful the desert can be when the wildflowers carpet the terrain.  It was heart-stoppingly gorgeous.  However, I also realized it was heart-stoppingly dangerous, as the flowers will soon fade and die and become fuel for the wildfires we so dread in Southern California. 

The flowers were not the only thing that bloomed on my trip.  Nor were they the only things that can be dangerous.  As I prepared for the trip, I subconsciously steeled myself for the impact of a superbloom of memories.  The southwest is where I grew up.  It is where I lived most of my life.  It is where most of my conscious memories were born.  My family lived together in New York until I was almost six, but I was so young that most of those memories are lost.  The only home where my immediate family formed memories together was California.  My schooling was there.  My career was there. The crucible of maturity that was my marriage and divorce was there.  I raised my fur child there.  I met Max there and we built a together life there. 

Most of these memories are happy ones.  Still, I have learned, over several trips back to California after moving to Florida, that exposure to the site of my memory banks is not necessarily a completely pleasant sensation.  I’ve found that sticking my toe in the California memory banks can be a complicated, confusing experience.  I’ve enjoyed my time visiting California in the past.  It has been wonderful to spend time with my friends and do activities that were part of my entertainment life when I lived there.  Still, there has always been this sort of nagging gray haze hanging over me when I was there.  I put it down to the idea that everything is so familiar to me that it doesn’t really feel like an adventure or an exotic vacation, but nothing is still familiar enough to me to make it feel like home.  It is very disorienting.  I don’t let it impede my enjoyment of the trip.  I just kind of go with it, but it is a weird feeling.

I was more hesitant about this trip than about other ones, oddly enough.  It was not that I didn’t want to go, but I did feel a certain apprehension.  This time would be my first trip back after my mother passed away, except for last January when I went back to scatter her ashes.  That trip was kind of all about her, even though she wasn’t with us in this life any more.  This time, the trip was about Max and me.  In my anticipation, though, I was more afraid of the memories than I have ever been. 

It might have been because we were going to Laughlin during this trip.  Although Max and I used to go to Laughlin now and then when we lived in California, it was more a place that was part of my history with my mother.  We made several girls’ trips there.  We would pack up the car, head east, and spend a few days just hanging out.  We would eat, sit by the pool, go to an occasional show, shop, ride the water taxi on the river, and just bask in some “us” time.  My mother enjoyed Laughlin and she enjoyed being with me.  I think a lot of the reason she enjoyed our trips to Laughlin so much, though, was a real “mom” reason.

You see, my mom always thought I worked too hard, became too tightly wound, and lived at a pace that was much too rapid.  She was probably right, but I’m not sure there was any alternative to any of that while I was still employed.  She was wise enough to know that nothing she could say was going to change any of it.  She had a sneaky little plan to lure me away from that fast-paced world once a year or so.  She would simply suggest a trip to Laughlin. She knew I would agree to take her because I loved her and wanted to make her happy.  In her mind, if I took her to Laughlin, I’d be forced to slow down and ease up.  Manipulating me into spending two or three days with her by the river, living at the much slower pace required by her age and infirmities, was her strategy for nurturing me.  Truth?  It worked. 

Laughlin reminds me how much I was loved. I was afraid that going back to Laughlin would remind me that the love is gone. 

The trip turned out to be great.  For the first time, I did not get that sense of disorientation that I’ve had every other time.  The gray haze was gone.  Nothing felt sinister or wounded.  I remembered the happy times with real pleasure.  For the first time, I felt like I could be part of the California world and the Florida world without experiencing a psychotic break.  Max had a lot to do with that.  He is always good to me, but he seemed to be making it his particular mission to take care of me during this trip… to find ways of delighting me and making the time special. 

And Laughlin was wonderful.  I thought often of my mother. I re-experienced the warmth and joy of our memories together at the river.  As I looked out of our hotel window at the river, I could feel her smiling at me.  I cried once or twice, but I was so happy.  I felt such overwhelming gratitude to have had those times with my mother and to be able to relive them in my mind and heart.  I learned there is nothing to fear from my memories of being loved so much.  That love is not gone, after all.

Is there a particular place that spurs memories for you of a deceased loved one? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a memorable day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Ugly Side Of Pretty

It isn’t hard to remember that Southern California is basically a desert. Much of the topography is chronically brown and dusty. The last ten years I lived there, the state was undergoing a massive drought, so the color palette of the geography was a rhapsody in beige- except for the fire-scarred black patches. Irrigation- water sucked from the Colorado River and the mountain snowpack in the northeastern part of the state and managed by manmade dams and reservoirs- creates a deceptively lush landscape in populated areas like Los Angeles and Orange County.  It can be jarring when one drives through the Inland Empire and over the mountain into the Land That Water Forgot.  The adjective that comes to mind is “scraggly.”  Everything is dusty and bare.  Anything that does actually grow does so in tired, uneven patches of angry-looking brush.  The ground looks like a brown dog with a bad case of mange. 

Yet, there are people who love the desert.  They maintain that the desert is beautiful in its own harsh and primitive way.  My own parents were desertphiles. I never really understood that perspective, I have to say.  We often camped in various “desert parks” (an oxymoron in my book) when I was a little girl.  Hallucinogenic heat by day, cold so chilling you avoided moving inside your sleeping bag by night, and tarantulas in the public restroom never inspired me to wax poetic about the delights of the Mojave Desert.  The desert, in my mind, was always something you endured until you once again entered the world of water politics in an oasis like Las Vegas or Laughlin.  Such places are still desert, but have the advantage of air conditioning, swimming pools, and frozen cocktails.  I like my deserts properly cooled and hydrated, thank you very much. 

During our recent trip to California, we included a road trip into said desert.  We drove from Orange County to Laughlin, Nevada.  Laughlin in a small resort/gambling/water sports mecca on the Colorado River. It is across the river from Bullhead City, Arizona, and a few miles north of Needles, California.  I feel ridiculous attempting to explain where it is by referencing such thriving metropolises as Bullhead City and Needles.  Suffice to say that there isn’t much of anything out there except the river and six or seven hotel casinos.  We like it because it tries so hard to capture the kitschy glamour of Las Vegas in a location completely devoid of glamour.  For as long as I can remember, there has been a hand-lettered sign on the side of the road as you enter a corner of Nevada that proudly proclaims: “BABY FERRETS FOR SALE.”   You just have to admire the pluck of the place.    

As we prepared to climb over the mountains on our way out of Orange County, there was a noticeable lack of brown all around us.  The drought went on for so many years, I honestly forgot that there is a rumored “wildflower season” in the desert.  Old wives tell tall tales of brightly-colored patches of blooms cropping up in undeveloped Southern California areas after a rainy season.  I never put much stock in such yarns because I never truly believed there was such a thing as a rainy season. 

During the past winter, though, Southern California did experience a rainy season that would have worried Noah.  As I drove into the desert, I learned that the old wives did not lie about the wildflowers that bloom in the wake of the winter storms.  It wasn’t just “patches of color,” either.  It was whole hillsides draped in bright yellow mustard flowers.  It was miles and miles of pink, purple, white, and orange ribbons of blossoms running alongside the desolate highway.  The news called it the “spring superbloom.” I’ve never seen anything like it.  The beauty was gob smacking.  I think I drove the entire 280 miles from Laguna Woods, California to Laughlin, Nevada with my mouth hanging open.  I couldn’t get enough of it. 

I couldn’t get much in the way of pictures. I was driving on a basic two-lane highway through the middle of nowhere with no place to stop.  There are no “scenic viewpoints” because, usually, there would be nothing remotely scenic to view.  I did take a picture of a mustard flower covered hill from a Walmart parking lot.  It isn’t great, but try to view it with the eyes of someone who has never seen that hill dressed in any color but brown. 

You would think that so much beauty would make me happy.  Initially, it did.  Then, I started thinking about what comes next.

You see, that glorious beauty foretells a dirty little secret. The wildflowers, gorgeous though they may be, are still just weeds at the end of the day.  In about six weeks, they will wilt and die.  They will leave vast fields of dry detritus in their wake.  The world will not long remember the wonder that was the spring superbloom, but its summer aftermath will lie in wait.  The dead foliage will get drier and drier until it spontaneously combusts.  All it will take is a heated argument or a smoldering look and the superbloom remnants will burst into flames. Wildfires need fuel and the wildflower superbloom is indeed super fuel.  Fire season will harvest the dried, dead superbloom and scar the hillside.

Then, if the rains come again next winter, the newly barren hillsides will saturate and slide dangerously into oblivion.    At first, they will ooze slowly out of their topographically boundaries, dissolving into a trail of goo covering roads and towns.  Then, the volume and the speed will increase, causing a rushing river of muddy destruction.

All that beauty generating all that disaster… hard to believe, although I know it is true.  Pray for the firefighters and first responders in Southern California over the coming months.  They are the ones that will be dealing most intimately with the ugly side of pretty.  They will need all the strength, skill, and luck they can get to stay safe.  Yes, please pray for them.  They will need all the super grace we can summon.   

Do you have any experiences of “the ugly side of pretty?” What are some examples?  What seems beautiful, but camouflages a more sinister side?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a completely pretty day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The hill in the background that looks kind of light green is actually covered with yellow mustard flowers. Sorry it isn’t a great picture. If anyone has a better picture of the superbloom, please post in the comments!

An Overabundance Of Love

I used to think there was no such thing as too much love.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Maybe what the world needs now is love, sweet love, but I think it can do without any more lovebugs.

Before we moved to Florida, many people questioned me about whether or not it would be inordinately buggy in my new home.   I believe we were all thinking about mosquitoes.  I know I always did picture Florida as having more than its share of mosquitoes.  In truth, I haven’t really noticed much of a mosquito problem.  Yes, I have had a few encounters over the past four years that have left me itchy and swollen and pretty grouchy.  In general, though, mosquitoes have not been an issue.  Maybe it is because I am rarely out after dark, but I have no major mosquito complaints. Truth be told, my issues with mosquitoes are not peculiar to Florida.  I’ve come away on the losing side of mosquito interactions in California, as well.  What can I say?  To mosquitoes, I am delectable…coast to coast!

I have to learn to think bigger when someone mentions “bugs.”  Clearly, mosquitoes are not the only insects that populate Florida.  It is lovebug season and I am a lovebug natural disaster. My car is speckled with dead lovebug guts. I could feel bad about all the lovebug tragedy I leave in my wake, but I really don’t.  I just think the world has more than enough lovebugs and we don’t need any more. 

I don’t think the lovebugs got that particular memo, though.  In fact, lovebugs seem to have only two purposes in life- to mate and to crash into cars… often simultaneously.  For a few weeks each year, the lovebugs swarm all over like locusts in the Bible.  They spin through the air in a frenzy of copulation.   The sky is gray with them.  They fly, two by two, in passionate embraces, towards their doom.  That doom is usually the windshield or grillwork of an oncoming car.  You can see them mating through your windshield and they are obviously pretty into each other because they are completely oblivious to the fact that their love is going to be very short-lived. 

Lovebugs don’t bite or sting or hurt people in any way.  I’m not afraid of them.  They just make me feel icky.  They are so prevalent in the air around me, I am constantly fighting off the disturbing conviction that I may have just swallowed one (or more than one because they are not exactly loners).  Also, their guts contain some horrible chemical compound that eats into paint, chrome, and even windshield glass.  You are supposed to get your car washed immediately when you see the acid rain that runs through the lovebugs’ veins splattered on your vehicle.  I’m sure the carwash places thrive more than the actual lovebugs during lovebug season.  Unfortunately, unless you stop driving completely for two weeks and leave your car in a hermetically sealed garage, you might as well never leave the carwash during the height of the bugginess.

You do hear a lot of complaining about the lovebugs.  They are inconvenient and a bit aggravating.  But isn’t that true of everything, even love itself, sometimes?

Kidding and minor annoyance aside, the lovebugs are not a big deal.  First of all, they are a self-limiting problem.  In a couple of weeks, they will be gone.  If I swallow them, well, I guess a little extra protein isn’t a huge problem.  If their self-destructive behavior in the midst of coitus causes your children to ask awkward questions, I guess it can be a teaching moment. 

Yes, even if the lovebug goo causes some problems with my car’s paint, I guess I can live with that.  What I can’t live with is a world without love.  Maybe having lovebugs take over the planet for a couple of weeks each year is worth it if it reminds us that love is all around us!

What is your experience of lovebugs?  Do you think they serve some metaphorical purpose or are they just plain annoying?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com 

Have a loving day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Hug A Mom Today

I saw a Facebook post the other day that said, “A mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.”  So true.

My mother died almost two years ago.  She wasn’t able to physically hug long before that. I can still feel her hugging me.  There is no other feeling like it.  It might be the most powerful energy force in this world.  I think, when God wanted to give us a little taste of how it feels to be loved by Him, he invented the mother’s hug. 

I realized something about physical interaction between a mother and child when my mom was in the various care facilities. Because of her frailty and cumbersome mobility assistance devices, it had been many years since I could easily hug or kiss her.  I was always afraid that I’d fall into her if I leaned over and around enough to get to her.  We talked about loving each other and demonstrated it, certainly.  Still, physical affection, like many other aspects of her physical life, deteriorated more and more as she became more and more infirm.

When she was in the care facilities, it was much easier for me to reach out to hug her and kiss her and hold her. The barriers that helped her balance and move were not necessary anymore because she wasn’t balancing or moving.  There was no need for me to lean awkwardly or worry about falling.   That ability to connect physically was very nice for me and I think it was for her, too.  Being able to reclaim physical affection was a gift we received during her final months. 

I don’t think either of us realized how much we had been missing touch.  One time, I was sitting by her bed, holding her hand, when I decided to leave because her roommate had a whole army of people visiting.  I had difficulty loosening my hand from hers. Although she could no longer express herself well enough verbally to let me know how much she was loving my touch, she was communicating that message by clutching my hand.  Now, I wish I had stayed right there holding her hand; army of visitors be damned. 

You see, a daughter’s hug lasts long after she lets go, too.  I hope my mom can still feel me hugging her now, even in Heaven.

Happy Mother’s Day!  How are you celebrating?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a wonderful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Stage Fright

I recently performed in a play at church about women in the New Testament.   I played The Woman Caught In Adultery.  There were no auditions or anything like that.  Basically, the very talented lady who authored the play just asked for volunteers.  Many of the volunteers said they would be happy to play any part… except The Woman Caught In Adultery.  People even cheerfully volunteered to play Mary Magdalene…just not The Woman Caught In Adultery.  Maybe they had a certain amount of respect for someone who, at least, demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit in a time when there weren’t a lot of career options for women.  The Woman Caught In Adultery seems to have abandoned her moral principles simply for the sake of giving the milk away for free. 

Anyway, I was cast as The Woman Caught In Adultery not based on talent but on my general guppiness. I’m pretty much willing to do whatever anyone asks me to do to help (well, maybe not actually commit adultery), with or without the scarlet letter. In this case, there was no scarlet letter… just a vibrant banana-yellow head scarf.  It is safe to assume that the respectable women in the community would be able to see me coming. 

It was kind of fun preparing for the play.  We rehearsed each Thursday night for about a month.  I enjoyed working with the other women.  I juggled inflection and volume with my lines, trying to ascertain what combination of emoting produced the most effective result. I liked experimenting with makeup. We thought it likely that women in Biblical times would be too busy to just sit around and talk.  The director asked us to each find some sort of hand work we could do while we reminisced about our experiences with Jesus. I taught myself to knit using a YouTube tutorial.  Mind you, I didn’t learn how to FINISH knitting, but I did manage a rather mangled stretch of congealed blue yarn.  I felt quite accomplished.

I wasn’t even particularly nervous about the play.  At least, I wasn’t even particularly nervous about the play until the day before the performance.  Then, the goblins in my gut started dancing around with torches.  My insides felt skittish.  I had a couple of dizzy spells the night before and the day of the play.  None of this is surprising.  What is surprising is that it took so long for the stage fright to set in.  I tend to experience a pretty high level of anxiety just living normal life.  The other surprise is that the show went on and everything went well.  Nobody died.  There was no blood on the floor.  Contrary to all the good wishes I received, I did not break any actual body parts.  I’m not joking.  Between my long robe, ascending a couple of steps, and doffing my glasses (apparently, no one wore glasses in Biblical times…. although, it seems they did wear a rather alarming amount of makeup), I was kind of a danger to myself and others. 

This experience led to me to think about the concept of stage fright.  Can you still have stage fright, even when there is no stage?  I wonder how often in my life I have resisted doing something because of anxiety or fear of failure.  As I mentioned, I live right on the edge of manageable anxiety most of the time.   I can remember times, especially as a younger woman, where I talked myself out of activities and experiences because of that anxiety.  The anxiety meter slipped over the line into the red and I shut down.  I missed out on meeting new people because I was always sure that I was a waste of their time.   There were times I drove to events and then could not go inside.  There were times when going to school on a given day was impossible for me.  I missed a free trip to Ireland because I couldn’t get past the idea of traveling with people I didn’t know very well.  I am sure my career progression was slower and more painful than it would have been if I had been able to check my anxiety at the door.

I’m not sure what has changed over the past few years.  Maybe it is retirement.  Maybe it is maturity.  Maybe it is figuring out that EVERYONE (even me) has a right to pursue happiness.  Maybe it is my ever-increasing awareness that the clock is ticking and I want to make the most of all the time I have left.  Maybe it is the Holy Spirit.  Maybe it is a combination of all those things.   I still wrestle with the anxiety and insecurity, but it is no longer the battle royale that it used to be. Most of the time, I win the battle.  My “play” is going pretty well, despite the stage fright. 

I am learning that, despite the jitters, everything will probably be fine if I step out of the shadows.  Everything might even be BETTER than fine.  In general, nobody cares what I look like or how badly I perform when I try something new.  I’ll either get better or I won’t.  I’ll either enjoy something or I won’t.  I’ll either be a blessing for someone or I won’t.  God will still keep the earth turning on its axis. 

Maybe Shakespeare was right and all the world’s a stage.  If so, that might explain my anxiety. Stage fright is normal, but it doesn’t have to cripple me. 

Have you missed out on things because of “stage fright?” How do you manage anxiety?  Do you find it gets easier or harder to overcome as you get older?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a brave day!

Terri/Dorry 😊