Vacationing To Versus Vacationing From

Some time back, I posted a blog piece discussing the concept of vacationing after retirement.  You can review it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/vacations/.  I asked whether you can still call it a vacation when you no longer have a job from which to vacate.  After considering the routine of my post-employment life and the activities I enjoyed on a couple of trips Max and I took after retirement, I concluded that the word “vacation” is still appropriate.

Recently, we visited Williamsburg, Virginia. There is something about the whole vibe of Williamsburg that relaxes me, reduces my physical and mental pace, and delights me.  Max and I have been there together three times now. Each time, we have highlighted different sights and experiences.  We repeat some activities, but, for the most part, each visit has been different. This time, we experienced a rather impressive number of new adventures.

If I had to put a label on the theme of this trip that made it different from prior visits, I’d probably say that this trip focused on “immersive” experiences.

We went to a reenactment of an actual colonial trial.  We’ve done that in the past. This time, though, I volunteered to play the part of the plaintiff. As wild and madcap and uncharacteristic as it was for me to willingly put myself at the center of attention, I actually enjoyed myself.  And I did a really good job.  Just ask my new agent.

In the colonial city, we also participated in three “nation-builder” talks.  Three fantastically smart and incredibly brave historic interpreters channeled George Washington, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson.  These gentlemen spent some time “introducing themselves” to explain who they were and into which specific time period we present day tourists had stumbled. Then, unbelievably, they took questions- any random questions from anyone in the audience (I know because I raised my hand and asked one).  It was mindboggling how much these guys knew.  What was even more incredible was how deftly they molded the massive quantities of data that must be filed away in their brains into coherent, conversational, and seamless answers to questions they didn’t know the audience would ask.  I was in awe.

Not only were these presentations impressive exhibitions of historical prowess, they were damned entertaining.  It was more than a mite chizzly in Williamsburg when we were there. The temperatures were in the upper 40s during the nation-building presentations and there was a less-than-gentle “brrrrr…eeze.” We sat in the cold and wind for 45 minutes for each of the talks. We were so mesmerized, we barely felt the blood freeze in our veins.

We ate dinner in one of the colonial taverns for the first time on this trip. We went to Christina Campbell’s, which is a restoration of George Washington’s favorite restaurant in Williamsburg.  I say that I have the eating habits of your typical four-year-old.  If a four-year-old won’t eat it, I probably won’t either.  At Christina Campbell’s, I even pushed the boundaries of my non-adventurous eating.  I tried the spoonbread.  I didn’t like it, but I got into the spirit of the thing and tried it.

Our “immersive experiences” did not stop at the colonial city.  We also visited Busch Gardens.  Our main objective for this excursion was to go on two special animal tours. During those tours, we interacted with Clydesdales, border collies, sheep, and wolves. What made the tours even more special was the fact that Max and I were apparently the only two people in the park more interested in animals than roller coasters.  On both tours, we were the only two participants.  We had private Clydesdale, collie, sheep, and wolf training lessons.  I got to pet a Clydesdale, shake hands with a border collie, feed a sheep, and play tetherball with a wolf.  It was all pretty terrific, but I have to admit that asking a wolf to jump for her ball and throwing her hot dogs when she did so was over-the-top cool.

This trip really was very different from our other trips.  When I think about it, I realize it wasn’t different only because of the activities we enjoyed.  The concept of “immersion” went deeper than that. I felt more engaged and connected with the entire experience.

I think my “immersion” experience had to do with the whole work versus retirement thing.  When I was working, I looked forward to vacations with almost the same intensity of a dialysis patient waiting for a kidney. The fun of a vacation generated at least as much from what I was escaping as it did from the trip itself. I had to spend a sizeable portion of the vacation bailing work-related stress out of my saturated brain before I could notice the delights of what was actually going on around me during the vacation.  Then, there was the period at the end of the vacation when I was reigniting to go back to work.  Those periods at the beginning and end of the vacation were not unpleasant.  They were helpful and regenerating.  It was a personal and professional advantage to take that time to reset my brain.  The thing is, though, that it didn’t really matter where I was or what I was doing when engaged in those “decompress and regenerate” cycles.  My focus was on the process of resetting my brain, not on the process of experiencing new places, people, and activities.  Those new places, people, and activities were really just a backdrop to my own attempts to renew my brain.

Even after I retired, I think I still had the “vacationing from” mentality rather than the “vacationing to” mentality.  Taking care of my mother, even before she suffered the stroke, replaced my “regular” job.  I didn’t work as many hours at this “new job,” but I invested all my love and energy to create as beautiful an experience as I could for her.  In creating that beautiful experience for my mother, I also created one for myself, but doing so required energy and focus.  When I went on vacation during the time I was caring for my mother, I had as much need to concentrate on renewing myself as I did when I had a paying job.

I think this trip to Williamsburg might have been my first vacation that was really about the vacation itself.  It is kind of ironic that, after grappling with whether a pleasure trip is still a vacation after you retire, I should come to the conclusion that post-work vacations may be more pure vacation than those trips during career life.

Now that I no longer have to focus on renewing my worn-out brain during vacations, I find myself much more able to throw myself into the experience of the vacation itself. A vacation is now an event instead of a respite from events.   I can immerse myself in the novelty of the experience.  I can participate more fully in the “only on vacation” moments- the activities, the sightseeing, the food, the environment, etc.  Everything about the vacation seems somehow more “in focus” than when I took a vacation while I was working.  It feels like I was experiencing vacations in 2D when I was still working and now I can perceive the vacation third dimension because the part of my brain that shut down to destress while I vacationed from work is now available to process a richer, more complete experience.

I don’t know whether I would say that vacationing after retirement is “better” or “more fun” than vacationing while one is still working, but it certainly feels different to me.

What do you think?  Are vacations different after you retire?  What has your experience been?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Please also email me if you would like to join the launch party for my book,  Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In RetirementThere are still lines available for the conference call.  

Also, if you would like to get an early copy of the book, you can go to https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2076  to order.  If you use the promo code terri, you will receive a 15% discount.  Those of you who are attending the launch party, either virtually or in real life, may want to wait as I will be offering a larger discount for party participants.

Finally, Happy Mothers’ Day! I’ve been working on a Mothers’ Day post, but it just wasn’t coming together as quickly as I had hoped.  I decided I would rather do it just-ice rather than just-in time, so terrilabonte.com will be celebrating Mothers’ Day at some future date.  For those of you living in the real world, though…. have a warm, wonderful celebration of motherhood whether your mom is in this world with you or not.

Phew!!!!! Hope I haven’t exhausted any of you.  Please try to get some rest today, after reading this marathon!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Cranes In My Cranium

Recently, I wrote about my feeling that the “circle of life” might be more of a curved line in my case because I don’t have any children. Mona, one of our faithful readers and commenters, shared her perspective on the “circle of life” from her experience working in a hospital. She said that there were always new babies in the nursery when someone died elsewhere in the hospital. Her comment really resonated with me. It was a timely reminder that everything isn’t always about me all the time. Imagine my surprise and dismay! Still, even when reality is a bitter pill, it can have the power to heal.

A few days after I posted that piece, the Universe brought Mona’s point into even sharper focus for me. As I was driving through my community, I nearly drove off the road because of cuteness distraction. I saw my first baby Sandhill cranes of the season. Those of you who have been reading the blog for some time will understand my reaction. By the way, if you haven’t been following every blink of my rapid eye movement for the past couple of years, where have you been? If you would like to jump on the Sandhill crane express now, you can read http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/cranes/ .

Sandhill cranes are a bit of nature’s serendipity to me. I never expected to fall in love with them when I moved to Florida, but they never fail to lighten my mood. Over the past several weeks, I’ve had my eyes open because Momma and Daddy Sandhill cranes usually start prancing their new offspring around the development right about this time each year. Even with my keen anticipation, the sight of these new fluffballs on stilts flipped my equilibrium when I saw them. It was only by the grace of God that I did not flip my car as well.

The sight of those newborn cranes filled my heart with effervescent delight. I felt as bubbly and fizzy as champagne all morning. I was operating under the influence of baby cranes, a condition which surely must alter the state of the mind. In fact, by the afternoon, I didn’t think my day could get any more whimsical and entrancing.

But wait, there’s more. Later in the day, I was driving down a highway to a doctor’s appointment. I turned off the main road onto a smaller street to get to the medical building parking lot. Almost immediately, I noticed a very official-looking sign on the side of the road proclaiming, “CAUTION! BABY CRANE CROSSING.”

I know, right?

I parked the car and walked over to get a better look at the sign. Apparently, the question is not only why does the baby Sandhill crane cross the road, but where. Somebody was taking no chances with baby Sandhill crane safety. There were at least five such cautionary signs spaced out along the road. It was pretty charming.

When I saw the doctor, she asked me how I was. I told her I was wonderful and related my Sandhill crane sighting stories with great delight. She looked at me rather oddly and suggested that perhaps it was time to cut back on the anti-depressant.

Today, I was running errands and happened to notice another Sandhill crane family parading around a schoolyard I was passing. The momma, daddy, and two baby cranes were promenading in perfect unison. They instinctively adjusted their strides to form perfect lockstep ranks and files. I wish I had been a crane when I was in the junior high school marching band.

What a wonderful day! The sight of those cranes put a soft, slippery smile on my face that has been there ever since. It is a smile that suggests I have a precious, heart-filling secret.

I do have such a secret. My Sandhill crane friends have taught me something. My life is not a circle. And that’s okay. My life is a small dot on the circumference of a much huger continuum. And that continuum is the circle- the circle of life.

What about you? Does Nature ever put you in your place and make you realize that there is more to the world than just you? Won’t you tell us about your experience? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a beautiful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I am kind of surprised that I have only heard from a couple of people about a spot at the virtual launch party for Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. Of course, I know that you all have lives that do not revolve around me and the publication of my book. I understand if you cannot join us or if you just don’t want to participate. A couple of my friends suggested, though, that some of you might not have a good understanding of what you would be getting into if you come to the virtual party. When I was working, I swear it felt like I existed more in virtual life than in real life. I guess I forget that not everyone spent thirty plus years with a phone growing out of his or her ear. I thought I’d give you some more info on what to expect if you come to the party.

Step #1: Email me at terriretirement@gmail.com to let me know you would like to attend. I will reply to you with a telephone number you can call from any phone, toll-free, a little before 4:00pm EDT on Saturday, 5/19/18. I will also give you a participant code.

Step #2: At party time, you will call the phone number I’ll provide you in my response to your email. An automated voice will prompt you to enter the participant code. Once you do that, you will be on a phone call with the other virtual guests, me, and the folks attending in real life. You will be on speaker phone, but I will give you instructions on how to mute your line at the beginning of the call, if you would prefer.

Step #3: Enjoy! We will have a couple of drawings for REAL prizes- no virtual teddy bears! I will do a reading from the book and field questions from the participants. During the event, one of my lovely assistants will be emailing you photos and coupons and information on how to purchase the book. If you don’t wish to get the emails, all you need to do is let me know. You are still welcome to join us.

There is no charge to you for the party and the process for joining is simple. I am limiting the number of spaces for virtual guests because of budgetary reasons- and also just to make sure it doesn’t become a crazy free-for-all. Right now, neither of these issues should be a problem, so please email me today at terriretirement@gmail.com if you would like to join us so that I can give you the call-in info and get you on my list.

A Day To Par-tay!!!

I recently told you that my book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement, would soon be making its world debut.  I’m happy to announce that you will be able to order your very own copy starting on May 19, 2018.  You can get your hands on this hot commodity by visiting my direct-to-reader sales website.  I will give you the address when the website is up and running. The book will be available in paperback and electronic editions.

You can also get the paperback and electronic versions at the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, but I hope you’ll go to my direct-to-reader site and order there because then I get to keep more of your money!  I have spent a lot of time trying to think of a graceful way to say that, but, as you can see, I have failed.  In addition to my greed, the other good reason to go to my direct-to-reader sales page to buy this masterpiece is because I will be offering you, my far-flung blog friends, a special discount code to use when ordering.

My book release is a momentous event in my life and I want to celebrate.  More specifically, I want to celebrate with you. I will be hosting a launch party on Saturday, May 19, 2018, and would like you non-local folks to join us virtually.  The event will be from 4:00pm-5:00pm EDT.  If you would like to join us, please send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.  I will provide you with the information you need to call in and celebrate with us. I also plan to have my lovely assistant take photos during the party and send them out to you in real time.  Please let me know in your email if you are okay with me providing your address to said lovely assistant so she can include you in the photo frenzy.   I have some activities planned that everyone in the room and everyone on the call should enjoy.  There will also be an opportunity to win a fabulous prize.  Well, kind of fabulous.

There will be limited phone lines available for the virtual party, so please email me your interest as soon as you know you want to attend.

I hope that you will be able to participate.  Please stay tuned to my blog for the website and discount code to use when ordering book copies.  Because I am incredibly socially awkward and insecure, I will be offering an extra discount for those people who attend the launch party.  I am sure that will incentivize crowds of crazed fans to participate! Or, maybe, at least one or two people who are mildly fond of me.  Either way, I’m good.

As always, thank you all for your support and encouragement.  In addition to celebrating the launch of Changing My Mind, the party will celebrate all my friends- all of you- because, even if you are miles away, you are all close in my heart!

What do you think about the idea of a virtual launch party?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  If you would like to attend the virtual launch party, please email me soon to receive the call-in info!

Have a day worth celebrating today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Hide And Seek

This week, I’ve run away from home. I’ve left behind my day-to-day routine and am bending my reality. I didn’t want you all to think I’d forgotten you, so I figured I’d stop in at the blogsite and say “tag…you’re it!”

Yes, I thought we’d play a game this week. Let’s see if you can figure out where I am. I’ll give you a couple of clues. I spy with my little eye….

A palace
A pillory
A part-Percheron

Where do you think I am wandering? Please take a guess! Everyone who gets it right will win a virtual “prize.” I use the quotation marks purposely. Don’t expect anything of any real value. Let’s not get carried away. This is for just for the fun part of “for fun and profit!”

Where oh where has Terri LaBonte gone? Please share your guess by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an playful day!  I’ll be back next week with news about how you can get in on the Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement  book launch celebration!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

I’m baaaaaack!  I saw:

Governor's palaceme in a pillorytwo percheron mix horses

 

Okay, I’ve been working on this for more time than I wanted to invest and have still not been able to get the pictures to stand up straight.  Heavy sigh.  Anyway, I saw the Governor’s Palace, a pillory, and a pair of Percheron mix horses in Colonial Williamsburg!!!!

 

 

 

Writer’s High

I previously told you that I’ve written a book. I call it Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. The book is based on this blog, but there is some new information and I’ve structured the content in a new, more effective way. The bottom line is that the book chronicles my observations about navigating the transition from work life to retirement. I poke fun at the comical moments. I vivisect the sad moments. I offer practical tips for thriving during reinvention. I think it will be available for purchase by May 19, 2018. I’ll keep you posted and give you more information when we get closer to launch date.

The reason I am not certain about timetables and purchase sources at this point is that this is all very new to me. I am learning the process as I go through it. The folks at the author services company have been helpful, but there are numerous steps to climb to reach the point where the book will be completed and available for purchase. Each step has its own estimated timeframes, so the total time is going to be highly variable depending on how well each step goes. I am just starting the marketing and distribution piece of this project. The people at the author services company tell me that everything should be done before May 19. Still, I’m not sure I completely believe that. Either I can’t quite conceive that this is really happening after dreaming about it my whole life or I just have trust issues.

I’m not really writing this to educate you on the publishing process. Nor am I writing it to get you revved up to buy a book when they become available (although it would be great if you did get revved up to buy a book when they become available.) I am writing this to report on a momentous milestone.

Throughout the production portion of the book project, I have been making numerous design and stylistic decisions. I’ve also had several rounds of proofreading and editing. I’ve read the typeset version of the book many times and approved the final copy to send to the printer. I’ve worked with the cover designers to select front cover art and produce a compelling back cover. I was incredibly psyched when I signed off on each step. It felt so real and important, somehow. Then the realest and most important thing ever happened. I received the first actual copy of my book to approve for distribution.

When I opened the box and saw my book, I think I discovered a new form of exercise. I wasn’t aware of moving any part of my body, but my physiology sure seemed convinced that I was. I think my pulse rate increased. I immediately felt endorphins explode inside me. I’m sure I was actually burning calories just looking at the book. There is no way that my body was behaving remotely like my usual “at rest” condition. I’m sure I was exceeding the maximum daily allowance of giddiness. My body could barely contain itself. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t concentrate on anything beyond the fact that I was actually holding MY book in my hands!!!. Two weeks  later, I am still having a hard time trying to keep my overheated psyche stuffed inside my skin. My excitement and energy just push out from inside me so firmly, my face cracks open into a ragged tear of a grin, even when I don’t know I’m even thinking about it.

Changing My Mind is beautiful. I love it. I hope other people will love it, too. On the other hand, even if no one else loves it, I have to say that I feel something kind of miraculous just knowing that I’ve created this lovely little bit of me. I always say I am an expert at nothing except examining my own navel. The thing is, everyone has a navel and I guess one navel looks very much like another. Hopefully, my navel-gazing musings ring true for other people as well.

So, what do you think?  Do I need to just chill out or is this as exciting as I think it is?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a creative day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

The Half-Circle Of Life

My blog post about how my life has been very different than what I imagined in my misspent youth inspired a lot of conversation.  I’m glad that so many of you could relate to my observations and commented on them.  It made me feel like a less of an oddball. Not that there is anything wrong with being an oddball, but sometimes it is nice to know I am not the only ball rolling around at a different angle than everybody else.

I think most of the conversation generated from my musings about my childless state.  Many of you seem to contemplate what your life would have been with children, without children, with more children, or with less children.  I guess that is just one of those things about which we all wonder.  In general, it doesn’t bother me too much.  I think of my lack of children to be part of my overall existence.  I don’t know what my existence would have been like if I had children, but I do know it would have been different…. And I’m pretty happy with the life I have.

One aspect of not having children that I think still does bother me has to do with my mother’s death.  I wonder if people who are not parents generally grieve differently when they lose a parent. I did some googling to see if I could find any studies or research to suggest that this is an actual “thing,” but came up empty.  Still, just because no one ever studied something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Truthfully, just because I may be the only one to feel it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I’ve talked to some other women about it.  I asked women with children and women without children.  No one seemed to have experienced what I described.  Many offered the perspective that perhaps women with children have a more difficult time with mourning in some ways than women without children.  Women with children often have to put the needs of their children over their own need to grieve in their own way.  Women with children are often much busier than women without children.  Women with children may not be able to spend as much energy on their relationships with their own mothers at the end of life, which may lead to more regrets after the fact.  I think all those points are valid and true.  I’m not saying women with children grieve in less pain.  I’m just saying that the grief may be different.

Being without a next generation myself, I sometimes feel I lost not only my mother, but the entire mother-child dynamic.  I’m sure the women who have children often feel a huge change in the shape and balance of the mother-child dynamic when they lose their own mothers, but that dynamic still exists.  I remember, very clearly, the day my mother’s mother died.  I was six years old.  When I came home from school, my mother told me that Nana had died. She sat in the rocking chair my father bought her when I was born. She pulled me into her lap.  In the same way as she must have done when I was a baby, she folded me into herself and rocked me as I cried.  I remember that rhythmic rocking and the soothing sensation.  I also remembered that, on the day my grandmother died, my mother and I were crying together for the first time in my young memory.  Even at that young age, I could feel the transfer of emotion in that rocking.  I could feel her being comforted by comforting me.

When my mother died, I had no daughter to take on my lap and rock.  There was no little person to drain off some of my sadness and to remind me that life goes on and motherly love goes on.  Even seven months later, it is difficult to face the reality that my mother-child relationship in this world is gone.  It is also difficult to face the fact that, when it is my turn to leave this world, there will be no daughter loving me through that transition.

They say that a parent’s death is part of the natural order of things.  Of course, that is true.  The implication is that one generation passes and another rises. They call it the circle of life.  My circle is incomplete though.  Instead of a circle, my life is simply a curved line.

I try not too be too sad about that curved line.  Even though I don’t have any little circle-makers of my own, I still know that life really does go on and motherly love is forever. And I am lucky to have had it abundantly.

What do you think?  Do people without children grieve differently when they lose a parent than people with children?  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  🙂

Easter Eggs

I’ve always enjoyed a good Easter egg hunt.  I have a picture of myself at age seven in which I am climbing to the upper branches of a tree in search of an Easter egg…. Sort of like the Easter egg that shows up quite obviously in the picture at the fork of the tree. Talk about people unclear on the concept. I would have had to actually climb over the Easter egg in the fork of the tree to reach the position where I was.  In the picture, I am hanging upside down from a tree branch at least twice as far from the ground as the egg.  I have no idea how I ultimately managed to get down from that tree.  And I have no idea why anyone was taking a picture rather than untangling me from the treacherous tree branches.  You see, I have never done things the easy way.  Why collect the egg that is right in front of your face when you can risk life and limb (mine and the tree’s) to look for one that may or may not exist?

Anyway, this story simply demonstrates that Easter egg hunting and I go way back.  Still, it has been many years since I participated in the sport.  Last week, I decided to get back in the game.  Max and I went to Epcot to hunt up some eggs.

The Epcot Eggstravaganza is a really cool activity.  The magic-makers at Disney hide large plastic eggs decorated to look like different characters in locations around the park. You can purchase a set of stickers that correspond to the egg characters and a map of the area.  When you find one of the hidden eggs, you affix the correct sticker onto the map indicating the location where you found that particular character egg. After you complete your quest, you can take the map to Egg Central and get a prize- a miniature plastic egg decorated like one of the eggs hidden in the park.

You may think that a miniature plastic egg decorated to look like Minnie Mouse is not that great a prize for an activity that took Max and me about two and a half hours to complete.  Maybe.  The egg was cute and it is sitting on a little knick-knack shelf in my living room to remind me of my fun day pretending to be seven again.  Still, this prize itself certainly does not merit the excitement I put into the event.

As it turned out, the real prize of the Easter Eggstravaganza was the egg hunt itself.  In searching for the twelve eggs, we wandered all over the park slowly and deliberately.  Instead of rushing along with the crowds or obsessing about FastPass reservations, we were looking at everything.  We saw things that we had never seen before, despite MANY trips to Epcot.  The hunt was a little challenging, but not hard enough to be frustrating or demotivating.  Max and I both got into the chase.  When one of us spotted an egg, both our faces exploded with smiles.  We were absurdly giddy each time we posted another sticker on our map!  We found all twelve eggs with only one little hint for the one hidden at the Mexico pavilion (SPOILER ALERT:  It is inside the building!!).  When we took our map to Egg Central, I proudly claimed my little Minnie egg and we took pictures of the completed map and prize.

Of course, as a Christian, I don’t normally believe that Easter has all that much to do with eggs.  For me, Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection.  We remember the all-loving sacrifice of our Savior and His triumph over death.  It is our acceptance of the Redemption that His love won for us.

Still, as I thought about our Easter egg hunt experience, I began to think that maybe God has His own Easter egg hunt planned for each of us.  The life he provides is often filled with divine Easter eggs- little miraculous nuggets of total comprehension, joy, inspiration, or faith.  They are the moments of clarity and bliss in which we learn something absolutely true about ourselves, our God, or our world.  We don’t know where God’s Easter eggs are or when we are going to encounter them.  Often, it seems that we most often find them in our desert moments when we really need something to heal us.  Maybe something has happened to trouble us or hurt us or make us feel that we are lost.  Then, we hear something or think something or see something that serves as an electric bolt of love striking directly to the core of our very selves.  That might be one of God’s Easter eggs.  And maybe they don’t really happen mostly in the desert moments.  Maybe that is just when we are most open to finding them.

God’s Easter egg hunt has a prize, too.  His prize is much, much, much more wonderful than any little plastic Minnie Mouse.  It is more wonderful than any prize you could ever imagine.  When we get to the end of our hunt, we will bring Him our lives with all our little Easter egg moments attached.  In return, He will give us an eternal life in His precious love.

In the meantime, as we go through life, we should rejoice when we find our Easter egg moments.  Happening upon these hidden messages from God is sure to enrich our lives.  These moments are sure to expand our ability to demonstrate faith, hope, and love.  God’s Easter eggs certainly merit a measure of giddiness.

There is something else about God’s Easter egg hunt.  The Easter bunny at Disney can only hide so many eggs.  God can hide an infinite number of His eggs in our lives, if we just keep looking for them.

 

Sorry about the hair; it was very windy that day!!!

Have you ever experienced one of God’s Easter egg moments?  Please 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 wonderful Easter!  Blessing to you all!!

Terri/Dorry

 

The Wild Life

A few weeks ago, I was driving down the main artery of my housing subdivision and noticed a flock of spectators standing at the side of the road.  They were staring into one of the many large heritage oak trees that grace our community property. I have to say these oaks are pretty impressive, but I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a crowd gathering just to stare at one before.  The people must have come from far and wide to view this spectacle, whatever it was, because the crowd included pedestrians and bicyclists.  Many stood motionless, cell phones in hand, breathlessly ready to snap photos. 

As I approached the band of sightseers, I slowed my car and peered at the tree as I passed.  Then I saw what was captivating the crowd.  There were three fuzzy, feathery faces peeking from a messy nest in the fork of the tree.  These little puffballs with eyes were baby owls. Obviously, a worthy tourist attraction.  I made several trips back and forth over the next couple of days.  It was pretty easy to tell when the baby owls were making a personal appearance by the throngs of admirers gathered beneath the oak branches. The owlet view never got old. To be honest, I was gurgling and chortling with the best of them every time I drove by and saw…  WHO? The young ‘uns, of course! 

Once, I saw the mama and daddy owls.  I’m not sure if an owl can actually be self-satisfied, but the avian parents sure seemed to be gloating over their breeding prowess.  They stared out of the nest, languidly eyeing the fans below.  I guess they deserved to exhibit a smidgeon of smugness.  Those babies are quite an accomplishment!   

Some days, all I saw was the nest. Before I saw the baby owls, I probably would have been excited just to see the nest. Now a collection of twigs and leaves woven into a bird condominium fails to impress me.  I crave the whole baby owl experience.   

About a week ago, I drove by and noticed that someone had secured an area around the owl-occupied oak tree with yellow police tape.  Apparently, the hordes of admiring fans and cell phone paparazzi freaked out the baby owls.  In the interest of wildlife conservation, someone decided to give them a little space.  Not privacy exactly, because crowds still gather regularly to gape at the nestful of adorableness. Owl baby pictures are splashed all over the covers of Facebook.  Still, now the owl aficionados have to maintain a respectful distance from the owl nursery.  The cordoned off perimeter is sort of like an ecological restraining order.  The owls are able to get their forty winks (and don’t owls just seem like they wink a lot anyway?) without worrying about a crazed birdwatcher committing some manner of nest invasion crime against them.   

I like living in a community where yellow police tape means “please don’t disturb the owls” instead of “please don’t disturb the evidence!”

With the coming of the owlets, I guess spring is officially here!  What makes spring official for you?  Please share your perspective by adding a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Sorry about the early post this week.  I have to be out and about early tomorrow morning, so thought I’d post tonight.

Have a hoot of a day! 🙂

Terri/Dorry

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t take this picture.  A kind soul shared it on Facebook.

Christmas Pancakes

Last December, I went Christmas caroling. In my community, there is an activity group that sings carols and brings holiday cookies to neighbors who are housebound or experiencing some sort of crisis during the festive season. I’ve wanted to join the group since the very first year we moved to Florida, but something got in the way every year. Last year, I finally donned my bedazzled holiday t-shirt and fa-la-la-la-la-ed with the best of them.
The Christmas caroling was a hoot (random owl reference alert- please tune in next week for an explanation of why I have owls on the brain.)

We had about 30 houses on our list of people to serenade. The mission required more tactical coordination than simply gathering and walking door-to-door. To make sure we covered the entire development and visited all our planned neighbors some time before the break of dawn, we divided into three separate groups of eight golf carts. Yes, golf carts. Decorated golf carts. If Santa Claus lived in central Florida and not at the North Pole, he would have 86ed that sleigh years ago and repurposed a golf cart into a holly-jolly jalopy. We had golf carts festooned with wreaths, reindeer ears, jingle bells and Christmas tree lights. Heck, it wasn’t just the golf carts… WE were festooned with wreaths, reindeer ears, jingle bells, and Christmas tree lights. When our golf cart parades set off on their assigned routes, it was quite the holiday spectacle. I think we might end up on one of those television shows on the Discovery Channel about strange and unusual Christmas traditions around the world. You know… Christmas gone wild in the rare and exotic central Florida senior citizen culture.

Not only were we a sight for sore eyes, we were a sound for sore ears. Contributing to the general wackiness of our traveling Christmas concert was the fact that there was no requirement that the singers actually be able to… well…. sing. Let me point out that I tried out for the fourth-grade glee club and was rejected. How bad does a kid have to suck to be banned from the fourth-grade glee club? The experience scarred me for life. I consider it to be one of God’s biggest jokes that I love to sing but have a voice that apparently scares young children… or at least the teachers of young children. I continue to taunt the Jonas E. Salk Elementary School Glee Club by going through life singing whenever I darn well please. I make a joyful noise unto the Lord on a regular basis, but I never have any delusions that I am actually any good at it. The holiday carolers embraced me and my crummy voice into their fold. I am sure I was not the only one in our merry band of carolers who brought joy and enthusiasm to the experience, if not an abundance of musical talent.

As it turned out, our outrageous spectacle and our less-than-fourth-grade-glee-club-worthy vocal ability made no difference at all. We had fun and, more importantly, the people we visited had fun as well. We were pretty good at stirring up the ho-ho-holiday spirit. When we deposited our cookies and finished our caroling, I felt like everybody’s hearts were a little more merry and bright than when we started.

Now, this is a pretty inexpensive activity. It doesn’t require a lot of money to pull off an evening of Christmas caroling. For the price of some cookies, some platters and cellophane, and forty photocopies of the words to a few a Christmas carols, we can make a little Christmas miracle. Sweet volunteers provide cookies, but there is still a small amount of expense for the accoutrements.

Which brings us to the pancakes.

In our community, there is a big pancake breakfast once a month. A group of volunteers does a terrific job of organizing the breakfasts. They prepare food and coordinate supplies. They sell tickets. They have a wonderfully orchestrated master plan for presenting the event, which usually draws 70-120 hungry breakfasters each month. The breakfast group solicits other activity groups in the community to help throughout the year. The group that assists on a given month makes some money to supplement their activity. The assisting group also gets the opportunity to introduce the larger community to their mission and projects. The volunteers from the activity group of the month act as servers and help with setting up the auditorium and cleaning up after the event. Last month, it was our turn to help. We crazy Christmas carolers hauled out the holiday t-shirts and prepared to get our pancake on.

I have never been a waitress in my life. It wasn’t a career I thought I would start in my fifties. Still, I was game. After all, if my lack of singing skill did not disqualify me from being a caroler, surely my lack of waitressing skill wouldn’t disqualify me from helping to serve breakfast to 100 hungry people.

Little did I know. In actuality, the breakfast group lady in charge of us temporary volunteers had her eyes on me. As I mentioned, the breakfast club folks have a tried- and-true, finely-oiled master plan for producing this event. That plan has a lot of rules and contingencies and fine points. I have no doubt it works very well and I tried very hard to follow it, but I still kept making errors. Luckily, the breakfast group lady was there to correct me. Often. In fact, I think I did more things wrong in the two hours I was there than I have in the past two weeks put together.

At first, I felt kind of bad about myself and my serving incompetence. Then, I realized something. Just like singing badly during Christmas caroling, making mistakes in the serving procedure made no difference. The people I served were happy and content. They were having fun. We were laughing and enjoying each other’s company. I even tried using my high school Spanish to communicate…badly… with a couple who just moved to the community from Peru. This motivated another gentleman at the table to start speaking in Hawaiian pidgin English to see what I would do.

At the end of the breakfast, we caroling servers thanked everyone and concluded the event with a Christmas carol. I tell you, there is nothing like a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells to get you in the holiday spirit. In March. Oh well, only eight more months till Christmas!

In the meantime, Marchy Christmas to all and to all a Good Spring!

Have you ever celebrated Christmas when it wasn’t Christmas?  Tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

In the meantime, have a very merry in-Christmas!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Presents

I kind of suck at living in the moment. I am much more talented at rerunning the past in my brain and worrying about the future. I realize it would be much healthier to live with the “what is” instead of trying to change the past or control the future, but I just don’t seem to have the skills.

The toxicity of my general approach hit me square in the face during my mother’s illness. I spent so much energy thinking about the “what ifs” in the past and the future, I pretty much went down for the ten-count on a regular basis. Getting up off the mat became more and more difficult as time went on. Not only was I giving myself an emotional concussion, I wasn’t doing my mother any favors either. It is hard to be present and attentive and loving for someone who only has the now when your heart is so unpracticed at living in the moment. I realized pretty quickly that the quagmire I created in my mind out of “if onlys” and “what will I dos” was nearly as debilitating as the actuality of the situation.

I knew I was making things more difficult for myself by dragging my feet through the past as I rushed to the future. I tried very hard to rewire my neurological synapses. I worked at concentrating on the present that was in front of me. Sometimes I was able to redirect my brain and keep it from straying into the unhealthy paths, but I usually failed. It isn’t any big surprise that I fared so poorly. Over fifty years of conditioned brain activity doesn’t change easily, even when one makes a concerted effort to learn a different way. After all, one does not go directly from Drivers’ Ed classes to whooshing around the track in the Indy 500. I was learning the most elementary lessons in the art of living in the present. Yet, I was challenging myself to do so in the most difficult situation of my life. The circumstances pretty much doomed me to failure. I decided to find other contexts in which I might practice my ability to live in the now.

As a result, I decided to make a deliberate effort to live in the present as I explored the idea of joining the Episcopal Church. I thought, if there ever was a situation suited to releasing control and luxuriating in the moment, surely it must be a spiritual journey. I gave myself the gift of not justifying or creating a situation but simply living one. I didn’t force myself to commit or engage. I didn’t obsess about saying or doing something wrong. I took advantage of learning opportunities that occurred organically, without trying to tick off boxes to complete an established process. I observed and learned at my own pace…. My pace and God’s pace for me, I suppose. The whole process was about pace in many ways. It was restful… and beautiful…. not to have to make things happen.

When the time came for the bishop to visit our parish and perform the ceremony to accept me into the Episcopal Church, I was out of town. I was fine with waiting. I felt very peaceful about the whole thing. I was perfectly okay with being received a year or more later the next time the bishop visited the parish, but our parish priest arranged for me to go to a service at the diocesan office. At first, I was a little wistful that I wasn’t going to celebrate the service with the members of the parish community I had come to know, but I firmly and gently redirected my brain to the peace of the present. I know there would have been certain blessings to have had the service with the parish community, but I experienced different blessings by going to the diocese office. My first friends in the church were also away the day of the bishop’s visit to the parish. Because of my delay, I was able to have them as sponsors to present me to the bishop at the diocesan office. We spent the day together and, through this shared experience, became friend-family for one another. I met the staff at the diocese office. They showed me the heart of the greater Episcopal Church beyond the doors of my parish.

Clearly, my decision to let things be and live in the moment as I explored my spiritual path reaped manifold benefits that I might not have appreciated had I not allowed myself to stay in the now. A success in living in the present. It was a small, safe success. But it was still a success and a success is a better foundation for future growth than failure.

The present is a present. Yes, it can be the type of present that you want to regift or return to the store. On the other hand, if we take the time to really appreciate it, the present can be a beautiful surprise we never knew we wanted until we live it.

Have you ever experienced a time when you encountered a special “present” because you were living in the moment that you might not have noticed had you been focusing on the past or the future? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

May you be gifted with a beautiful present today!

Terri/Dorry 😊